The history books will show that the Michigan Wolverines cruised to a 40-21 victory over Middle Tennessee State. Unlike last year losing to Notre Dame the first week, Wolverines fans at Michigan Stadium witnessed a comfortable win. But, the Michigan Wolverines offense is a work in progress, despite the victory.
All eyes were on the Wolverines offense, now being led by offensive coordinator Josh Gattis. At times, it showed glimpses of brilliance moving the ball down the field. But for the majority of Michigan’s home opener, the offense fell short of expectations. It appeared experimental, a unit still searching to find its identity.
It is only the first week but as Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh alludes, there are facets that require improvement.
“We’ve seen in practice that we can operate cleaner,” said Harbaugh. “This is a new offense. I thought for a first time out, it was good. Could it be better? Yeah, sure. And that’s what we’ll be striving for.”
Michigan Wolverines Offense Is A Work In Progress
It is coming up to a year since Michigan got routed against their archrival Ohio State Buckeyes 62-39. In the subsequent Holiday Bowl, the Wolverines offense failed to generate scoring, only putting up 15 points in defeat against the Florida Gators.
Harbaugh and the coaching staff knew that change needed to occur. With their stout, physical defense slowing opposing offenses down (2nd in pass defense, 2nd in total defense in 2018), the Wolverines offense needed to match that consistency and production. Particularly if Michigan wanted to compete for a spot in the College Football Playoff as Big Ten Champion.
Enter Gattis, who was the co-offensive coordinator for the Alabama Crimson Tide last year. He alongside fellow offensive coordinator Mike Locksley fuelled an offense that was third in the country in points per game (45.6) and sixth in total offense (522 yards).
The new role of Gattis is simple. To transform the culture of the offense to make Michigan a championship contender. His “pro-spread” offense puts an emphasis on up-tempo schemes, focusing on playmakers and getting the ball into their hands for big plays.
Given his previous record of successfully working with receivers at Western Michigan and Alabama, Gattis is expecting the Wolverines pass offense to move the chains consistently.
“We’re going to get the playmakers the ball every single time,” Bredeson said. “If we can get these playmakers the ball enough out in the open where they can make a guy miss, we can turn these 7-yard plays into 70-yard plays and stretch them.”
Michigan Wolverines Need Offense To Improve
Gattis’ tenure calling plays for the first time as an offensive coordinator got off to a rocky start. The first drive of the game, the Middle Tennessee State defense strip fumbled the ball out of the hands of Wolverines quarterback Shea Patterson. The Blue Raiders would get an ensuing touchdown on their offensive possession.
Experimentation and trying different things were the ingredients to Michigan’s offense last night. Both Patterson and junior quarterback Dylan McCaffrey got looks last night under center. McCaffrey was critical in Gattis’ zone read-option packages, where he ran for 42 yards on eight carries and one rushing touchdown.
Despite the strong offensive statistics that Michigan generated (439 total net yards), the growing pains were certainly felt transitioning to Gattis’ spread scheme. The passing game went cold in the second half, only generating 23 yards on one of eight completed passes. The option plays with two-quarterbacks appeared disconnected and disjointed.
On third down, Michigan only went 5 of 13, where Patterson did not execute the plays to move the chains. Couple this with eight penalties and you have an offense permeated with miscommunication.
“We’re not taking a deep long bow,” Harbaugh said. “We know we can play better.”
Michigan’s first big test comes this coming week against Army, who only gave up seven points in their victory over Rice. The Army defense is much quicker and physical than Middle Tennessee State’s. They will look to pressure Shea Patterson and exploit the Wolverines offensive line.
There is time to improve the newly-implemented Wolverines offense. Despite at times looking exploratory, Gattis was able to release a multitude of different looks on offense. For Harbaugh and company, it is time to execute and build off of the performance the Wolverines displayed at home.