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Michigan 48, Rutgers 42 (3 OT)

Michigan 48, Rutgers 42 (3 OT) Ace November 22nd, 2020 at 12:39 AM
when you're not getting fired on the tarmac [BTN screencap]

Congratulations, you just survived the late-night sickos version of the 2010 Illinois game, or the Jersey Shore version of the 2013 Penn State game, take your pick.

For those who went to bed early or chose to do something worthwhile with their Saturday night, Michigan came back from a 17-7 halftime deficit, blew a late eight-point lead, and pulled out a triple overtime victory—at Rutgers. Until one accounts for those last two words, perhaps there'd be some flicker of hope coming out of this, but the overwhelming feeling for Michigan partisans watching this game was wanting it all to be over: the game and this coaching regime.

Quarterback Cade McNamara's five-touchdown (four passing, one rushing) performance in relief of a scuffling Joe Milton gave life to the proceedings and the Wolverines offense. Michigan's overall play, however, was plagued with issues. It took an impressive effort from the running backs, particularly Hassan Haskins, for the team to squeeze out 4.0 yards per carry. The offensive game plan seemed to get scrapped at halftime again, though at least this time it changed for the better.

The passing defense was a disaster, allowing 378 yards on 8.8 YPA to Noah Vedral, whose previous career bests in games with at least 20 attempts were 252 and 7.4, respectively, both of which he posted last week against Illinois. Vedral entered today's game averaging 5.5 YPA with 5 TDs and 7 picks this season; he threw three touchdowns against a lone interception on the game's final, desperation snap.

This game probably didn't move the needle for you. If you thought this coaching staff had run its course, this was a brutal exercise in watching the reasons for that play out in a long, competitive game against freakin' Rutgers. If you thought Harbaugh deserves more time, a win is a win, and perhaps he found a quarterback. (What it says about the coaches that this happened midway through game five is perhaps a point in the former group's favor.)

With this, uh, bounce back to 2-3, Michigan enters next Saturday with a chance to get to a level .500 against a winless Penn State program in a similar state of disarray. Kickoff time is to be announced. Please, you animals, don't put this one under the lights.

[Hit THE JUMP for the box score.]

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El Jeffe

November 22nd, 2020 at 12:42 AM ^

Welp 

Profile picture for user BlueinLansing

In reply to Welp  by El Jeffe

BlueinLansing

November 22nd, 2020 at 1:04 AM ^

should have locked the thread here.

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In reply to Welp  by El Jeffe

Clarence Boddicker

November 22nd, 2020 at 1:07 AM ^

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m83econ

November 22nd, 2020 at 12:43 AM ^

Hey Ace - you must be in the former group. right?  More grist for the mill.

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Catchafire

November 22nd, 2020 at 12:43 AM ^

Half the team injured, transferred, or just gave up... This is a young team.  This win builds character, shows that we are scrappy and won't give up.

Let's go beat an 0-5 PSU team.

Profile picture for user Hannibal.

In reply to Half the team injured,… by Catchafire

Hannibal.

November 22nd, 2020 at 12:51 AM ^

LMAO.  Jesus christ.

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In reply to LMAO.  Jesus christ. by Hannibal.

SMart WolveFan

November 22nd, 2020 at 2:33 AM ^

You're right!

It is kinda of a funny coincidence that Jesus was (allegedly) "scrappy and won't give up".

In reply to Half the team injured,… by Catchafire

Detroit Dan

November 22nd, 2020 at 1:00 AM ^

Absolutely!  That's entertainment.  Michigan wins a game that could have gone either way, with the 3rd string QB going into the season.  McNamara was BRADYESQUE.  IOW, he was almost perfect.  The defense was down its 2 best players (Hutchison and Paye), and then lost 2 more of its better players -- Magrone and Hawkins -- yet managed to stop Rutgers and win the game.  That was a great team effort -- credit Harbaugh, Brown, and Gattis.

In reply to Absolutely!  That's… by Detroit Dan

alablue

November 22nd, 2020 at 5:11 AM ^

Credit Harbaugh and Brown?!?!?!  Are you on drugs??? Brown will never shut down a good offense. Harbaugh had Cade sitting on the bench. ID10Ts

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In reply to Half the team injured,… by Catchafire

BlueinLansing

November 22nd, 2020 at 1:05 AM ^

I mean, he's not wrong. but.....c'mon man

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In reply to Half the team injured,… by Catchafire

TheCube

November 22nd, 2020 at 2:59 AM ^

The delusion is real... Year 6 and we're fighting off Rutgers to stave off being the dregs of the Big Ten... yikes. 

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Rick Grimes

November 22nd, 2020 at 12:43 AM ^

It is great that Michigan won, but count me in the camp that believes change is still needed on the coaching staff. 

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stephenrjking

November 22nd, 2020 at 12:44 AM ^

There may be no such thing as a moral victory, but there is such a thing as a moral defeat.

The good: The team showed some fight. They didn’t quit, even when things were bad, as they quit last week. And, in that context, there’s some legit stuff to defend here: Dax Hill was out there, but every other star defensive player we were counting on this year—every one of them—was out. We’re missing THREE starters on the offensive line, and Chuck Filiaga is quite clearly the starter in which the staff had the least confidence entering the season.

And Cade looked great.

The bad: Well, the defense. The offensive playcalling much of the game that wasn’t Cade’s rampaging TD drives. The OL. Etc.

Here’s the thing about the play selection: for a good bit of the game, it was plainly terrible. And then Cade comes in and hits passes… AND the plays make sense. Michigan isn’t just running on first and second downs anymore. Actual WR flare screens. That kind of thing.

People are tempted to blame Gattis, and they’re tempted to blame Milton. Why doesn’t Gattis call that stuff all the time? Why didn’t he in OT? Why does the offense work worse with Milton? Why does he miss some of those passes? Why aren’t the coaches starting the CLEARLY better player?

C’mon, guys. We’ve seen this play before. We’ve seen it for years. Yes, it’s possible that Gattis just has massive blind spots in his playcalling. But given what we’ve seen from other offenses under Harbaugh, under multiple “OC” types, it seems like Harbaugh’s influence is visible here. He wants the ball on the ground. He doesn’t want to get away from the run. And he doesn’t really think much of reads, because offenses that have read looks built into them under both Pep and Gattis keep getting away from their reads. 2-minute drills are always a disaster, and the 2nd-and-long run play continues to be a staple. Is it a huge coincidence, or is there a common thread that remained the same between their tenures?

The simple explanation is that when Cade went in, the basic gameplan that was assembled early this week, the gameplan Harbaugh would be in meetings about, perhaps dropping suggestions that he wants a good run-pass ratio, that he wants to establish the line of scrimmage and so on, got thrown out the window. And suddenly Gattis was calling the plays he wanted to call with a QB who could hit the passes. And when the passing game worked, the defenders could no longer count on Michigan tipping runs and had to back off, and Michigan’s running game looked considerably better.

Sounds like Harbaugh is the issue here.

Regarding the Milton – McNamara issue: people are always eager to anoint the backup. What has history shown us? Every QB Harbaugh has coached here except the first one, Rudock, has gotten worse in their tenure. Speight. O’Korn (remember when he came in as a backup against Purdue? He looked great! Then he was the starter and Harbaugh starts focusing on him and…). Peters. Shea. Not just, not improved. They’ve gotten worse game over game and year over year. They get tentative, miss passing reads, look confused. Now, Milton the same.

I don’t believe McNamara was clearly the better QB in all facets in preseason. And Milton does still appear to be a better runner, which is theoretically what you want in a run-based offense that I think Harbaugh expects, which helps explain his role as a starter.

But Cade is clearly the guy now.

Now that he’s the starter, Harbaugh can get his claws into him. I expect Cade to regress over the rest of the season. I’ll be happy if he doesn’t, but saddled with the Harbaugh-influenced gameplan and Harbaugh’s QB coaching, he’ll become less decisive. He won’t be given many RPOs or run reads. Defenses will learn what Michigan likes to do, again, and tee off on it, again. And people will attack the OC, again, as they attacked Drev, as they attacked Pep, as they now attack Gattis.

But it’s Harbaugh’s team. Harbaugh is the common thread of the last four years of failed offenses. Harbaugh is the common thread with the QBs through multiple supposed offensive coordinators. It’s Harbaugh’s way. It will be until he leaves. He simply doesn’t know another way to coach.

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In reply to There may be no such thing… by stephenrjking

NashvilleBLUE

November 22nd, 2020 at 12:53 AM ^

Now that’s going full BPONE. The worst part, I think you’ve convinced me to come with you.

*hands you a fake goatee*
 

evil Blue and evil Stephen 

*slap slap*

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In reply to There may be no such thing… by stephenrjking

ShittyPlaceKicker

November 22nd, 2020 at 12:54 AM ^

You nailed it man, couldn’t have said it any better myself. I can’t wait till we finally move on from Harbaugh. He is poisoning the well of this program.

In reply to There may be no such thing… by stephenrjking

bronxblue

November 22nd, 2020 at 1:10 AM ^

I know the base assumption is that Harbaugh is the source of every problem, but it's been pretty clear that Milton wasn't quite ready to start, even against Minnesota and MSU when he looked acceptable.  He was throwing bad passes and struggling to read defenses even then but he was bailed out by bad defense and a better offensive line.  If anything I think the playcalling these past couple games was intended to protect Milton as he struggled with teams game planning against him.  We'll see if that continues with McNamara.

I do think people are underrating the differences between the two QBs.  Milton coming out of HS was a slab of meat with a cannon but also someone who didn't complete 50% of his throws or run well.  McNamara threw for 146 TDs who was the #7 QB in the country.  He wasn't some scrub, and it makes sense that he'd be able to pick up the offense and execute it.  

As for the "nobody is a good QB under Harbaugh", guys like Speight and Peters looked competent under Harbaugh and decidedly not elsewhere.  Patterson was basically the QB he was at Ole Miss except he didn't light up a couple of awful defenses to make his numbers look better.  Harbaugh has not become the QB whisperer we all expected but this idea everyone regresses under his tutelage feels a bit revisionist.  

Anyway, I'm sure there will be massive coaching changes this offseason.  I wouldn't be shocked if Harbaugh was gone as part of it.  But I reject this idea he's some gremlin who secretly sabotages the team until they somehow overcome his own ineptitude.

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In reply to I know the base assumption… by bronxblue

stephenrjking

November 22nd, 2020 at 1:31 AM ^

Bronx, Harbaugh has been at Michigan for six years. It's not the coaches. And it's not the QBs, all of whom except for Shane Morris and Wilton Speight being guys he wanted to bring in to town. It's him.

He was a QB and he knows just enough about QBing and offense to be problematic. He thinks he knows enough to get it done, and... the results speak for themselves. His players do not improve. Five years of bad QB play are not just bad luck. One or two players? Sure, they could be misses. But every player gets worse.

Here's the 2017 Purdue UFR. O'Korn wasn't perfect, but Brian was gushing about him, and his performance was legitimately good. And O'Korn got worse and worse to the point where he had to be yanked for a RS freshman who wasn't really ready to go (in fairness, Cade looks worlds better than Peters ever did, but again he came in as a backup here). You'll also note Brian's remarks about Wilton's notable regression compared with the year before. 

If it is, somehow, just bad luck with QBs, Harbaugh's the one getting them on the roster (his roster management is execrable, between recruiting errors and running off an inordinate number of quality players). If it is, somehow, just bad luck with offensive coaches, Harbaugh's the one hiring them. 

Bronx, the alternative here is that Cade was CLEARLY the superior player pre-season and Harbaugh just played Milton because he had been around longer. That's what some people actually argue. Do you really think that? I think it's absurd, but even if it's actually the case... we're back to Harbaugh again.

This is his team. 2-3, barely escaping Rutgers. 

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In reply to Bronx, Harbaugh has been at… by stephenrjking

antonio_sass

November 22nd, 2020 at 2:05 AM ^

We suck now and obviously the coaches should be fired, etc etc. I won't argue that. 

But it's weird to just ignore Rudock's trajectory, to ignore how well an undefeated Speight played in 2016 before his injury, and even Shea's improvement (he was setting Michigan passing records at the end of last year).

Has it been good enough? Or course not. Not even close.

But the idea that somehow Milton and Cade were operating completely different game plans (the good one run by Gattis and the bad one by Harbuagh) is super weak analysis. They were running the same plays. Cade was simply running them better and making the easy throws. 

I suppose Shea vs MSU and Indiana last year was Gattis? But versus Army? Harbaugh. Versus Alabama? Harbaugh. MTSU? Harbaugh. Maryland and Rutgers? Gattis. 

It's weird that Harbaugh just takes the reins in seemingly arbitrary games and then the offense shits the bed. And Gattis doesn't quit and everyone keeps it a secret.

2016? All Jedd Fisch. Except Iowa and Wisconsin ... Harbaugh? OSU? Fisch, except for the interceptions which were Harbaugh. 

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Michigan 48, Rutgers 42 (3 OT)

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