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Michigan: Five things we learned vs. Ohio State

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Tight end Zach Gentry's inability to hold onto a low pass mirrored a colossal number of third-quarter miscues by Michigan.

Five takeaways from Angelique S. Chengelis of The Detroit News following Michigan's 62-39 loss to Ohio State on Saturday.

If not now, when?

This felt like the year Jim Harbaugh had a team capable of beating Ohio State in Columbus. Boy, was everyone who thought that (hand raised) wrong. How does one handle the autopsy of this season, though? Does the 10-game winning streak get overlooked because of the beatdown at Ohio State? No. Sure, the argument can be made about the Big Ten being down, but those are games Michigan should have won and did.

The point is, Michigan hasn’t beaten Ohio State, and Notre Dame, now a national championship contender, for that matter, and until that happens, and happens with regularity, the Wolverines will remain on the fringe, an almost-elite team. Here’s a thought — hire an offensive coordinator, someone not named Jim Harbaugh who will handle the play-calling, certainly with input from the head coach and the rest of the offensive staff. Be more innovative with said play-calling, especially when you have a quarterback like Shea Patterson who is capable of being a game-changer, and use your talented receivers like Donovan Peoples-Jones, Nico Collins and Tarik Black more. Still, 39 points should have been enough to beat any team.

Lacking adjustments

During a train wreck, there’s no time to alter the course. Perhaps it’s possible to lessen the severity of damage, but there’s no stopping it. The Ohio State offensive train, ranked No. 2 nationally, scored so relentlessly on Michigan’s top-rated defense it had that feel.

“I don’t remember a play where it just got out of hand,” Michigan safety Tyree Kinnel said. “It slowly devastated us throughout the game and knowing all the yards they were putting up and how easily they were scoring, it was tough, extremely tough.”

Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown has been lauded for his ability to make in-game adjustments, but even then, Kinnel said Ohio State was able to throw something else at the Wolverines to confound them. Ohio State undoubtedly looked no further than Indiana’s game plan against Michigan a week earlier. And Indiana probably borrowed from Northwestern’s first-half against Michigan when the Wildcats built a 17-point lead to shape the Hoosiers’ offensive attack that featured crossing routes. Indiana gained 385 yards of offense, the most Michigan had allowed all season and Ohio State toppled that total with 567 yards.

As a friend of mine described, that was Indiana’s game plan on steroids and with better receivers. Most puzzling was the lack of pressure on quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who was untouched as he threw for 396 yards and six touchdowns — totals, for the record, that were adjusted Sunday morning. Where was the pass rush? A train wreck is a train wreck. Brown is left with the pieces and a few weeks to get the defense righted before the bowl game.

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Protection issues

There is no debate that Michigan’s offensive line has improved under coach Ed Warinner. But in the two biggest games of the year — the season opener at Notre Dame and the season finale against Ohio State — the protection needed to be better. Maybe it would be fair to not focus on the Notre Dame game because that was the first time this group had played a game together. But against Ohio State, more was expected of them.

Quarterback Shea Patterson finished with 187 yards and three touchdowns, and there were passes dropped, but he also often didn’t have time to breathe. He took three sacks and felt the Ohio State heat on multiple occasions. No one thought this offensive line was elite and no one thought it was going to go down as a great Michigan line. What it is, is improving. What happened was a setback. This message is going to get monotonous but it’s all about where the line goes now these next few weeks of bowl prep.

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Special teams corrections

Ohio State had a critical blocked punt against Michigan that was returned 33 yards for a touchdown and the score went from a manageable 27-19 to 34-19. That was big. Michigan gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown against Maryland and there was the snap issue at Notre Dame in the opener. Quinn Nordin has had his shares of kicking issues, missing four of his last seven field-goal attempts. Nothing will be more glaring than that the OSU block and what a swing that was.

Ice in his veins

Freshman Jake Moody handled the kicking for the second straight game and he remains perfect overall. He made kicks of 39 and 31 yards after making all six of his attempts in his debut against Indiana. Discovering Moody can make these kicks is a good thing, of course, but why he had to get the call that many times against the Hoosiers was a result of red-zone issues and not being able to score touchdowns. So the lesson today is — Finding a kicker you can rely on, good. Needing to use a kicker that much, not great.

Twitter: @chengelis