Wolverines receiver discusses what his group has to do to improve passing attack. Angelique S. Chengelis
Ann Arbor — File this in the not-breaking-news folder, but Michigan has not been a big-play offense this season.
For multiple reasons, it’s been difficult for the Wolverines to get any sort of consistency, in particular, with its passing game in terms of making those plays. As Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has said repeatedly this season, there always seems to be a breakdown in one aspect of each play, and with that breakdown, small as some may have been, it has cost big gains.
The offensive line hasn’t been ideal in pass protection and is among the nation’s worst in sacks allowing 23, so the quarterback hasn’t had time to deliver the ball. John O'Korn took seven sacks last week at Penn State. At times, the quarterback has had time but has miscalculated the throw, and at times his receivers haven’t gotten separation or they’ve dropped passes. Michigan also lost it starting quarterback, Wilton Speight, and leading receiver, freshman Tarik Black, to injuries.
Michigan (5-2, 2-2 Big Ten) faces Rutgers (3-4, 2-2) at Michigan Stadium on Saturday.
“We just need to finish plays,” receiver Eddie McDoom said. “A lot plays are there to be made. We need to run through the catches, protection needs to be a little better, routes need to be a little better, and we need to finish.
“We just have to finish routes, finish big plays. It’s right there to be made. We’re not there yet. We don’t get to the spot we need to be. Sometimes the ball is overthrown, underthrown. Sometimes we drop the ball, so we’ve just got to be able to finish.”
John Niyo and Angelique Chengelis are joined by Chris Howard and Matt Charboneau to talk about Michigan's issues and Michigan State's 6-1 season. Detroit News
Michigan is ranked 97th nationally in passing offense, averaging 187.7 yards a game. That’s 11th in the Big Ten. In a victory at Indiana two weeks ago, quarterback John O’Korn threw for 58 yards, while the Wolverines rushed for 271.
McDoom says there is a light at the end of the tunnel for the offense.
“I just think we’re a young team,” he said. “We just need to work harder. We need to focus more. We know the task at hand, and we know how close we are, and we need to buckle down and get the job done.”
He has been especially impressed by freshmen receivers Donovan Peoples-Jones and Nico Collins, who got into the Penn State game last Saturday night. Peoples-Jones’ workload increased not long after Black’s injury.
“I feel like Donovan is already up there with us,” said McDoom, a sophomore. “He’s been maturing fast. Nico, he’s been getting on the field, and he’s looking for us to guide him through the process, and he’s doing a great job. He’s a different animal. He listens, he gets the job done, he’s explosive, and he’s mature.”
The team works on “scramble” drills, McDoom said, all the time, but because the pass protection hasn’t been there this season, it seems they’re more important.
This has been more worthwhile the last few weeks since O’Korn, who rolls out more than Speight, has been the starter.
“When the play breaks down and the quarterback is rolling out, we have techniques and things we do to get open,” McDoom said. “For most guys, it shouldn’t be instincts, it should be something we worked on, it’s a habit, but if it’s a close game or if you’re just playing football, then yeah, it can be instincts sometimes that come into play.”
It seems all the receivers have dropped catchable passes this season and McDoom has not been exempt. He dropped a critical pass late in the Michigan State game. If he had caught it, the Wolverines would have been in scoring position.
All players talk about having a short memory, and McDoom said he has moved past that play.
“It wasn’t tough,” he said. “We’re football players. Drops happen. The greatest players drop the ball. It was a big game, it sucked, but you’ve got to go on to the next one. If you dwell on that play, then you’re not going to catch the next pass, so it’s on to the next one.”
MICHIGAN VS. RUTGERS
When: Saturday, noon
Where: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor
TV / radio: Big Ten Network / WWJ 950
Records: Michigan 5-2 (2-2 Big Ten), Rutgers 3-4 (2-2)
Line: Michigan by 24