It wasn't decisive.
It wasn't impressive or thorough.
But Michigan's 34-10 victory Saturday over Miami (Ohio) was a start. Of what? Well, that'll be evident next week when the Wolverine host Utah, a team that's rang up 50-plus in each of its wins.
Saturday's win over the Red Hawks could have been a sign of great things to come, or it could have been four quarters full of red flags.
This is what I see
Hoke praised the "perimeter guys" after his win over Miami (Ohio). Lewis snagged his first pick of the year--and it was Michigan's first defensive turnover of the season.
The defense is going to be the strength of Team 135. Forget about the 31-0 slashing by the Irish and remember how Michigan gave up just 54 yards on the ground. Then remember how it gave up 33 to Miami, which averaged 1.4 yards per touch.
Yeah, the secondary's been spotty, which has been a surprise. But it'll improve. It has to. There is no other option for Jourdan Lewis, who had a pick Saturday, Blake Countess, Raymon Taylor (DNP), Jarrod Wilson (DNP) and the rest. Once Jabrill Peppers gets his bearings, there should be another level of noticeable improvement evident among the defensive backs.
Joe Bolden, a linebacker, made a big-yard-saving play. Jake Ryan played well. The D-line pressured Red Hawks quarterback Andrew Hendrix, and it even applied some to Notre Dame's Everett Golson.
More sacks. More TFL. Problem (almost) solved.
Michigan is 2-1 with a horrid offense that shows up once every blue moon and a defense that was ragged on by fans for the past week. If that's not reason to at least hope for better, there isn't one.
Wolverines followers expect more. But what they have is a rag-taggish team with so much talent that it hurts to watch it underachieve. But it's 2-1, and it hosts a bunch of Utes who pride themselves on going pedal-to-the-metal on offense.
If Michigan can stop the Utes, it can probably hit nine wins. Should Team 135 put together a complete game, fans could find themselves laughing about how they thought the Notre Dame game was the end of the world.
Again, don't discount Utah. It may not be a bluebood of college football, but it's a worthy opponent that'll push Michigan--perhaps the furthest thus far--to the limits.
This is what I don't see
Where is the real starter?!
Devin Gardner isn't where he needs to be at this point of his career. Not even close. He's turnover-prone. He hasn't been accurate, and I'm not confident that he can shoulder the mental and physical load.
Sounds harsh, and it is. But it's not an attack on Gardner's character. It's a question of his ability. He's a pleasure to speak with. He's a great athlete and shining example of what it means to be an academic football player.
But he isn't proving that he's the ideal guy for Michigan. He sometimes strikes me as a temp until the staff finally decides to roll with Morris.
That could be this year, or it could be next. Brady Hoke is a loyal coach, and I don't see him ousting Gardner unless it gets much worse. A loss to Utah could do that. Gardner barely survived the Red Hawks, who entered Saturday with losses to Marshall and Eastern Kentucky.
Again, Gardner's a nice guy. He's a team player who says all the right things. But he doesn't always make the wisest choices on the field. With that being said, I wouldn't be mad if he proved me wrong and played up to his star potential.
Running backs...still waiting on those guys.
It's the same song each week. The backfield, despite churning out a few yards and touchdowns, hasn't blown me away. I expected more out of Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith. Green had 22 carries for 137 yards and two touchdowns, but he wasn't dominant.
Smith looked rusty, but he broke loose for a couple of nice runs.
It's taking too long for things to get rolling. Michigan didn't hire Doug Nussmeier to head a meager offense. Where is the muscle? Where are the down-field shots?
The O-Line...I don't want to write about it right now. It was OK. Gardner didn't get whacked Saturday, but he still ran for safety more than I like seeing.
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