For first-year Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez, the key to a successful second game is for his players to hit their spots.

“We got to be able to execute better,” Rodriguez said.

Against Utah, missed assignments by linebackers in pass coverage led to big gains. Fundamental errors on the offensive line led to blown running plays. Misreads in the passing game caused incompletions and an interception.

Tomorrow’s opponent, Miami (Ohio) (0-1), doesn’t have the BCS hype Utah does, but that doesn’t mean the RedHawks can be taken lightly — despite a season-opening loss to Vanderbilt.

They return the majority of their defense, including three linebackers named to the Butkus Award Watch List.

When Rodriguez addressed the media, on Monday, he spent more time addressing mistakes his team made last week as he did on Michigan’s upcoming opponent.

“I know they’ve got nine returning starters on defense, but we’ve got to get better ourselves, or we won’t win games,” Rodriguez said. “Some of the assignments we blew were some of the things that we repped the most but didn’t quite execute. We addressed that with the team, playing more physical, not thinking too much.”

Last week, Michigan showed it can be its worst opponent.

Players looked tentative making the adjustment to game speed in the new system. Rodriguez attributed this to inexperience.

On the defensive side, Michigan (0-1) played lights out in the second half, but that was after allowing 22 points and over 300 yards in the first two quarters.

“We feel like if we execute our plays, it doesn’t matter what the (opponent) is doing,” redshirt sophomore middle linebacker Obi Ezeh said. “We can handle them.”

The first half against Utah showed what could happens when the defense doesn’t execute like it can. Even Ezeh, who was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week last week after registering 15 tackles and an interception, listed numerous personal miscues.

The second half revealed some of this unit’s potential.

“You can’t come out and play one half of football and expect to win a game,” Ezeh said. “I think it’s critical that we get some wins early, especially for some of the young guys.”

With tough matchups against Notre Dame and Wisconsin on deck, tomorrow’s game is a must-win for the Wolverines.

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