There’s hardly an excuse for the way Michigan’s rushing offense
performed.

Janna Hutz
Michigan fans came prepared to taunt their opponents. (BRETT MOUNTAIN/Daily)

It was nothing but predictable.

In fact, there was nothing innovative about the offense at
all.

The Wolverines kept running and running and running.

And by the end of this inexcusable, predictable and unoriginal
offensive performance, the Wolverines had racked up 398 yards and
five touchdowns on the ground en route to a team win of 50-3 over
Houston. This came as the Wolverines managed just 144 yards in the
air, even though they began the game trying to establish an aerial
attack.

“We just have to be patient, and we do things for a reason,”
offensive tackle Tony Pape said. “There was a reason we were
passing for the first couple series, because we wanted to spread
out the defense so we could get that running game going. I think we
just have to be patient with our offense.”

It also seemed like anyone with the tailback label next to his
name had a big game in terms of yards per carry.

Chris Perry kept up his pace from the Central Michigan game with
184 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries. David Underwood carried
for 108 yards and scored one touchdown on 12 carries – his first
100-yard performance as a Wolverine. And back-ups Jerome Jackson,
Pierre Rembert (who had two touchdowns) and Tim Bracken combined
for 101 yards on 11 carries.

In a game where Michigan’s ability to rush the ball was its
biggest plus, it was on the other side of the ball where the most
questions were answered. After giving up 300-plus yards to Central
Michigan (over 200 yards on the ground), there were some questions
to whether the defensive front seven could recover and show the
dominance that it is usually associated with it.

One safety, six sacks and 11 tackles for loss later, it is safe
to say that the Wolverines’ defense is back – especially after
giving up just 108 yards to the Cougars all of Saturday.

“They were really determined,” Pape said of the defense this
week in practice. “They had a great week of practice. They were not
going to let what happened to them last week happen again.”

But there was some concern with the passing game, as John
Navarre completed just 13-of-30 passes for 136 yards.

Navarre’s longest pass came on a 45-yard tight end streak down
the middle of the field to set up a Garrett Rivas 38-yard field
goal to put the Wolverines up 15-0 early in the second quarter.
Tight end Tim Massaquoi was one of the few receivers that Navarre
was able to complete a pass to over the middle.

For most of the game, Houston left a safety sitting in the
middle of the field and controlled anything between the tackles.
But on this play, Massaquoi split a cover-2 defense, Navarre made
the read, and completed the pass less than a second before Houston
safety Will Gulley – who had a game-high three pass deflections –
could recover from the right side of the field.

“They were going in and out of cover-2 and cover-3, and that’s
the read we’ve gotta make if they play that certain coverage,”
Navarre said. “Tim had a great route and we had a great play-action
to hold the linebackers underneath, and he just made a great catch
and a great play.”

Some of Navarre’s struggles early on came from not being able to
hook up with his top wide receiver Braylon Edwards. Though they did
connect late at the 13:02 mark of the fourth quarter for a
touchdown to put Michigan up 36-3, the duo’s first few attempts to
connect read: Broken up pass, overthrown/drop combo, one-handed
drop and overthrow. But in Michigan’s final drive of the first
half, the play calling became simpler, as Navarre hit Edwards with
an 11-yard out to the left and a 16-yard out to the right.

“You want to establish a rhythm every time you’re out there,”
Navarre said. “If you don’t get the deep balls and the big plays,
you still want to run your offense. You want to get sure
plays.”

Some of the sure plays early on, much to the disapproval of some
fans, were avoiding flashier long-distance plays and just going to
what the defense was allowing in the flats to Perry – who led the
team in receptions with five (all in the first half).

“They got in a defense where they took away our primary reads,
then you’ve gotta make a play: Either get it down to the back,
scramble or throw it away,” Navarre said. “Chris was just in the
area, and we just made a completion that the defense didn’t want on
that play.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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