Michigan takeaways: Concentration lapses pose problems

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Five takeaways from The Detroit News' Angelique S. Chengelis after Michigan's 42-25 victory over Illinois.

Focus can drift

A week after Michigan’s defense played its most complete game and pummeled Iowa with eight sacks and three interceptions, it decided to take a third quarter off at Illinois after the Wolverines took a 28-0 lead. Linebacker Cam McGrone said the Wolverines lost their “edge a little bit” and suddenly, the Illini had pulled to within 28-25. Maybe the Wolverines got a little bored. Maybe they started thinking about playing at Penn State on Saturday on a much bigger stage at night. Yes, they pulled it together and finished off Illinois, but this is a team that can’t afford to lose its edge. Ever. Wake-up call? Maybe, but with this upcoming six-game stretch, they’re not going to have time to take a play off and drift, not with Penn State on the road, Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State at home and certainly not at Maryland or Indiana.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh talks with Ben Mason during the first half.

Room to run

It looked like Michigan was trying to prove a point from the start at Illinois that the run game is just fine. Not that proving that against the Illini’s porous run defense deserves a gold star, but it was important to have a good showing when it was there to take. The Wolverines finished with 295 yards rushing on 48 carries, including five carries for 17 yards by quarterback Shea Patterson. The rest were handled by four backs, and it was the Wolverines’ best rushing performance of the season since gaining 233 yards in the season opener against Middle Tennessee State. Hassan Haskins had 125 yards and a touchdown and Zach Charbonnet had 116 yards on 18 carries, marking the first time since the Minnesota game in 2017 that Michigan had two, 100-yard rushers. Michigan opened the game with five straight run plays for 65 yards and a touchdown. The next three plays of the second series were runs with Charbonnet gaining 18 the first play and 16 the next. Two plays later, Patterson attempted his first pass. Michigan’s first eight plays, all runs, averaged 12.75 yards per carry.

Two better than one?

Jim Harbaugh likes the two-kicker rotation, and special teams coordinator Chris Partridge said not to overthink what Michigan is doing with Jake Moody and Quinn Nordin and this interesting kicking rotation. But is this really working? With this rotation, Moody has had the most work, going 5-of-6, his only miss a 33-yard attempt against Iowa. But Nordin is now 0-for-3, including a miss from 34 yards at Illinois. Nordin, though, has been asked to attempt a couple of long field goals and missed both — from 58 yards against Iowa and a 55-yarder against Army. Moody and Nordin each made three extra points against Illinois.

Is this really working when one kicker has missed all three attempts and two of them are from long distance? The coaches seem to think so but it may be worth rethinking heading into this extremely tough stretch of games.

Feisty Glasgow

Jordan Glasgow never talks about himself, but he had no choice after the Illinois game in which he affected so much. The linebacker had 11 tackles, a fumble recovery and a punt block that gave Michigan the ball at the Illinois' 7 early in the second quarter and one play later, Zach Charbonnet scored giving Michigan a 21-0 lead. Harbaugh has called Glasgow one of the hardest-working players on the team, and there was plenty of proof of that at Illinois, his home state. Glasgow enjoyed the punt block but addressed it as he usually does by shifting his comments to the team. “I’ve come close to punts in the past, but they always seem to kinda go by arms,” he said, smiling. “I was surprised when it hit and then it bounced 30 yards backwards. Every week we see something we think we can exploit It turned out really good for us this week.”

Ringing the Bell

Ronnie Bell continues to be a favorite target of quarterback Shea Patterson. He led the team with 98 yards on three receptions at Illini, but the touchdown receptions went to tight ends Nick Eubanks and Luke Schoonmaker and receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones. Bell leads the team overall with 20 catches for 361 yards, but he does not have a TD. Bell has been a productive option for Patterson but going forward this second half of the season, Peoples-Jones, now healthy, Tarik Black and Nico Collins, who missed the Illinois game with a “minor” injury will have to be more utilized targets.


Twitter: @chengelis