Bob Wojnowski and Angelique Chengelis break down the Michigan-Iowa game Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News
Ann Arbor — Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh says he has evidence, but apparently it’s for him and his coaches and players to know what specifically he is seeing from his offense to generate such a positive commentary publicly.
Even after reviewing the Wolverines’ 10-3 victory over Iowa last Saturday, Harbaugh reiterated his postgame comments — generalities — that he feels the offense is hitting its stride, on Monday during his weekly news conference.
Michigan is 4-1, 2-1 Big Ten and travels to Illinois this weekend.
“As I said after the game, I feel like we’re very close offensively, very close to hitting the stride of hitting on all cylinders,” Harbaugh said. “I have really good evidence to back that up and also what I see.”
What he sees and what he shares publicly are two different things. Where has this evidence been generated? As he said after the game, in every area, a comment he repeated Monday. The evidence anyone can access is the NCAA statistics. Michigan is tied for 93rd in total offense, averaging 367 yards a game, is 102nd in rushing (128.4), 73rd in passing (238.6) and 74th in scoring (28 points).
These are not the numbers anyone expected in the first year of offensive coordinator Josh Gattis’ no-huddle pro-spread, "speed-in-space" offense.
“In all areas — run game, pass game, protection, quarterback, receiver, running backs, it’s an evolving, improving group,” Harbaugh said, using his broad paintbrush. “I’ve seen them be at a really high level in practice consistently and at a really high level in games.
“Getting that consistently high level in both games and practice is what I feel, what I see coming. After really looking at it on tape and reviewing it, first of all, came away with the feeling Iowa has a really good defense. Really good. Gotta give the Iowa defense a lot of credit.”
Michigan has played two of the nation’s top five-rated defenses in the first five games, including Wisconsin, currently ranked No. 1, and Iowa, which entered the game at No. 5. The Wolverines lost 35-14 at Wisconsin in the Big Ten opener.
“I think it’s coming. I think it’s showing,” Harbaugh said. “Top defense in the country in Wisconsin, one of the top defenses in Iowa, (so) there’s a point where you actually say, ‘Good job. Well played. That was a good game,' recognizing the efforts of the opponent and your own players. I feel with our team, the effort is great, off the charts, at the highest level. And when you get that, then you can get everything else.”
Starting left tackle Jon Runyan said Monday the team has practiced well and faced an Iowa defense that is disciplined in a system that has been in place for years.
“Iowa was able to clog holes we thought we had,” Runyan said. “They’re really good at getting to the quarterback. I think we did a good job keeping Shea (Patterson) upright. The back end of the defense played good, as well, and we weren’t able to take our shots.”
Runyan said the bottom line is, Michigan got the win.
“People were talking about this as one of those most pivotal games for Michigan this year,” he said. “If we win this game, people are going to say, ‘Oh, whatever. It doesn’t matter, it’s Iowa.’ We lose this game, it’s the worst thing ever. At the end of the day just happy to come out with a win.”
Receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones said the offense has “a lot of work to do.”
“Definitely getting better,” Peoples-Jones said. “Definitely executing a little bit better.”
On several occasions, Peoples-Jones was asked how the offense has improved and what evidence he has seen the offense is taking strides. He came back to the bottom-line response each time
“We did enough to win,” he said.