Bob Wojnowski and Angelique Chengelis break down the Michigan-Iowa game Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News
Five takeaways from Angelique S. Chengelis of The Detroit News following Michigan's 10-3 win over Iowa on Saturday.
Kwity Paye-ing off
Before defensive end Kwity Paye left the game early in the second half — he appeared to have an issue with his left hamstring — his influence was deeply felt. Just ask Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley.
Paye had a game-high 2.5 sacks and two quarterback hurries and leads the team this season with 7.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. Did anyone see this type of performance coming from Paye, who a week earlier was second on the team in tackles with six against Rutgers and had 3.5 tackles for loss?
Paye got valuable experience last season, an audition of sorts, filling in for Rashan Gary when Gary was out with a shoulder injury, and that’s paying off now. Gary, a first-round NFL draft pick, finished his three-year Michigan career with 10 sacks, and Paye has 7.5 so far, and it appears he’s getting better and better.
Speaking up, standing out
Shortly after the loss at Wisconsin, safety Josh Metellus and defensive end Aidan Hutchinson spoke during the post-game news conference. Metellus, always the voice of reason, assured that one game doesn’t define a season and the Wolverines would make improvements. Then, Hutchinson addressed the media and expressed his thoughts with a controlled anger.
Linebacker Devin Bush was the heart and soul of Michigan’s defense last season. End Chase Winovich was fierce and had a motor that never stopped, but Bush set the tone, and there was some question who might take over that role. Five games into the season, it appears Hutchinson and Metellus have become the emotional leaders on defense, with Hutchinson showing his snarl more publicly, even in media settings. Metellus had an interception against Iowa, and Hutchinson had his second forced fumble. He now has five tackles for loss on the season and 1.5 sacks.
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh on the “Inside Michigan Football” show said it was not their “best day” on special teams against Iowa, and no one is arguing.
In the first quarter, Donovan Peoples-Jones went 36 yards on a punt return then fumbled and Gemon Green recovered. Punter Will Hart has made it look automatic, but his punt with about seven minutes left in the game went 35 yards to the Iowa 23 and resulted in a 10-yard return. Still, he averaged 45.6 yards on eight punts and had two touchbacks.
Michigan was 1-of-3 on field-goal attempts. Jake Moody made the first, a 28-yarder in the first quarter, but Quinn Nordin, who had only one previous attempt this season (a 55-yarder against Army that missed), missed on a 58-yard attempt at the end of the first half. In the fourth quarter, with a chance to expand the lead to 10 points, Moody missed just wide right on a 34-yard attempt.
Just say no to gimmicks
It could be interpreted as, well, they didn’t work so those were poor play-call decisions. But no, that’s not it. Michigan’s offense needed something, a spark, even with a 10-3 lead early in the second quarter. But, instead of dialing up a gimmick, it seems that five games into the season, the Wolverines’ offense needs to iron out details and find consistency, and this wasn’t the time to be tricky or cute.
On 2nd and 10, Michigan went to a direct snap to Zach Charbonnet. The play yielded one yard. OK. Moving on. But then the play with Donovan Peoples-Jones late in the third quarter where it appeared he was searching for a receiver and instead lost nine yards, followed by Shea Patterson getting sacked on the next play, just buried Michigan on that drive.
Jim Harbaugh made a fine point earlier in the season that you can pick apart any failed play and say, well, why did you run when you could have passed there, and vice versa. Fair enough. And if either of these plays had worked, sure, there would have been a buzz. But the thing is, there was a lack of sizzle and consistency in the offense against Iowa, and it felt like the football basics should have been honed first.
Establish a run game
Everyone knows an offense clicks when all facets work hand in hand. It’s a complicated thing, of course, made even more complicated when a new system has been installed, as is the case at Michigan. But a basic tenet of a fluid offense is a consistent run game. And that’s been lacking for the Wolverines.
They seem to be bound to a running back by committee approach, and certainly the coaches have their reasons why. Freshman Zach Charbonnet had his second double-digit carries since the Army game — when he famously rushed 33 times and then was “limited” the next two games — and had 13 carries for 42 yards and a score against Iowa. That is not to be undervalued against a defense that was No. 10 against the run. But after gaining 31 yards on nine carries in the first half, he was scaled back to four carries for 11 yards in the second.
Defenses have to respect Michigan’s run, and it just doesn’t seem like it’s there yet, but if the Wolverines can develop a more consistent run, think what that opens up for the quarterback and receivers. Josh Gattis’ speed in space never meant this offense would be all about and only about the receivers. Running backs coach Jay Harbaugh said in the spring that Michigan would still be a “run-first team” and that the “runs we’re running aren’t that much different.” As the Wolverines head into a brutal final six-game stretch after playing at Illinois on Saturday, finding a consistent, productive run game is going to be of the utmost importance.