Ronnie Bell's clutch catches ring above din of Michigan's offensive woes

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — Michigan’s offense struggled to get into a good rhythm for most of the game against Army, before eking out a 24-21 victory in two overtimes.

Quarterback Shea Patterson had two fumbles, but in the passing game, he was better, going 19-of-29 for 207 yards, including some critical strikes to sophomore receiver Ronnie Bell.

Bell finished with team highs of seven catches for 81 yards — not eye-popping numbers by any means, but the impact was more when Bell’s catches came. Four of the receptions came on third-down plays, helping the Wolverines extend their drives, including a 9-yard catch on third-and-6 in the first overtime period that helped set up the tying score.

Michigan wide receiver Ronnie Bell picks up a first down during the Wolverines' fourth-quarter scoring drive to tie the game.

Michigan was a 22-point favorite and that Army stayed close the entire game was one of the big takeaways, even with defense needing to make a big play at the end to secure the victory.

“It was good for the team to handle the adversity the way we did and battle throughout the whole game,” Bell said. “We knew coming in the game was going to be tough and Army was going to come with everything they had — and that’s exactly what they did.

“The whole team responded very well and handled the adversity.”

It was something of a breakout game for Bell, who had two catches for 18 yards in the opening win over Middle Tennessee State and totaled eight receptions for 145 yards last season as a freshman.

Coach Jim Harbaugh credited the offensive line in creating time for Patterson to make some of the big plays and though things weren’t always crisp, they

“Some of the big third-down conversions were by pass and Ronnie Bell, every one of his receptions were big catches,” coach Jim Harbaugh said. “Shea had time to throw and the protection was good in that sense.”

Without standout receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones, who didn’t play, the Wolverines needed a boost in the receiving corps and Bell provided it. Patterson and the offense didn’t find a good rhythm, with only two rushing touchdowns by Zach Charbonnet in regulation.

Patterson missed Bell on a long pass play in the first half that likely would have been a touchdown, but Bell brushed off the miscue and questions about there being issues with chemistry.

“The wind took it. He saw me and we’ve been clicking all camp and practice and we’ll definitely get on that one,” he said. “Just make it happen, at the end of the day. The two (passes) were right there and it’s a little bit more length by me to make that catch.”

More: 'We did what we do': Michigan defense saves its best for the final play

With the bye week looming, there’s still time to make adjustments before playing at Wisconsin on Sept. 21.   

“(No rhythm), not today. Just offensively handling every way that adversity went was the biggest thing, not just the rhythm but the team chemistry and trusting one another,” Bell said. “Everybody on the field has great trust for one another and we know what everybody is capable of and going to do.

“At the end of the day, coach is going to make the right call and put us in the right position. It’s going to come down to us making it happen.”

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard