All of Michigan’s preseason goals are still in front of it. Whether the Wolverines are good enough to achieve those goals is still very much up in the air.
The 19th-ranked Wolverines jumped out to an early lead over No. 14 Iowa at home on Saturday, and managed to hold on for a 10-3 victory.
It wasn’t pretty. The Michigan offense scored all 10 points in the game’s first seven minutes, but wouldn’t get back on the board for the rest of the afternoon. Meanwhile, Iowa’s offense would advance to midfield or better seven times, but routinely shot itself in the foot under the pressure of the Michigan defense.
The bad vibes for Iowa’s offense began early when Mekhi Sargent fumbled on the Hawkeyes’ first play from scrimmage, setting up a short field goal for Michigan. From there, it wouldn’t get better. Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley threw three interceptions on the afternoon, including two in Michigan territory, and was sacked a whopping eight times.
Iowa’s second-to-last drive on offense pretty much summed up the afternoon. As the clock ticked inside the six-minute mark, Stanley threw his best pass of the afternoon, a 31-yard dime to Tyler Goodson to the Michigan 25-yard line. But between that big gain and Iowa’s punt from its own 49-yard line on fourth-and-36, Iowa was flagged for two holding penalties, an ineligible man downfield and a false start before losing 12 yards on a sack.
Iowa’s offense got one final shot to force overtime, but the Michigan defense got yet another stop to seal the victory.
What does this mean for Michigan?
Well, let’s start on a positive note. A win is a win, and this win came on the back of the Michigan defense.
Two weeks after getting completely dominated at the line of scrimmage in a blowout loss at Wisconsin, Michigan was on the other side of that equation this week. Iowa’s usually stalwart offensive line was overwhelmed all afternoon with UM getting pressure in Stanley’s face and ultimately forcing four turnovers. That’s an impressive turnaround for Don Brown’s defense after getting manhandled by the Badgers in Madison three weeks ago.
But the offense, on the other hand, still has a lot of question marks. Shea Patterson was only 14-of-26 for 147 yards and an interception. Patterson’s best throw was a 51-yarder to Nico Collins to set up the game’s only touchdown, but he continues to underwhelm on a weekly basis.
The running game wasn’t much better. The Wolverines mustered only 119 yards on 33 attempts, an average of just 3.6 yards per rush. In all, Michigan was limited to just 267 yards and was forced to punt eight times. Some of that is the product of a stout Iowa defense, but it does not look like the Michigan offense has taken any steps forward as the season has progressed. The struggles that existed early in the year are still present, even if Harbaugh doesn’t think they are.
“I think we’re hitting our stride” — Harbaugh on the offense— angelique (@chengelis) October 5, 2019
If Michigan wants to realistically compete in the Big Ten East, it’s going to take a pretty miraculous turnaround on offense. The Wolverines have a trip to Illinois next weekend in what should be a pretty easy win. But the following two weeks — a trip to No. 12 Penn State and home game against No. 9 Notre Dame — will likely set the tone for the rest of the season. And maybe even Harbaugh’s future with the program.
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