Recapping the top moments from college football’s Week 1 action, which include Maryland’s upset of Texas and how Ohio State fared without coach Urban Meyer.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — For all the talk about Michigan’s “new” offense under quarterback Shea Patterson, it looked awfully familiar and weak.
For all the talk about all the changes — the new coaches and new strength coach — the Wolverines had more cramps than touchdowns.
For all the talk about Michigan’s “great” and “feared” defense — yikes, Notre Dame just scored again.
For all the talk about Michigan’s “improved” offensive line — uh, no. Don’t even go there.
The Wolverines came out and fizzled on Saturday night, cramping up with fatigue and mistakes, mounting a late charge but losing against Notre Dame, 24-17.
Once again, the Wolverines couldn’t run the ball.
Once again, the Wolverines couldn’t find a spark. Not until a late fourth-quarter push.
Once again, the Wolverines couldn’t find enough big plays when it mattered the most.
And once again, Michigan couldn’t beat a ranked team on the road. Stop me if that sounds like a broken record.
This, obviously, is on Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh. His preparation failed. His changes have yet to work. And Michigan isn’t new and improved. It looked beaten and broken for most of the game, until a late push in the fourth quarter.
“It’s not the end,” Harbaugh said. “It’s the beginning for us.”
Actually, it felt like a continuation.
The story of this game wasn’t Patterson.
The story of this game was Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush.
A year ago, Wimbush completed less than half of his passes, but he came out firing against the Wolverines. Wimbush, who is known as a running quarterback, hit five of his first seven passes for 115 yards and a touchdown.
Just when you thought the Wolverines had him sacked, he would slip away and hit somebody for a first down.
Just when you thought the Wolverines had the Irish in third-and-long, he sneaked up the middle and picked up another first down.
“He played a heck of a ball game,” Harbaugh said. “I thought we limited that in the second half.”
Notre Dame scored two touchdowns on its first two possessions and it was like a gut punch that left the Wolverines looking stunned and gasping for air.
Wait a second.
The Irish did that to Michigan’s vaunted defense?
The Wolverines had the third-ranked defense in the entire nation last season, allowing just 27 touchdowns in 13 games.
And Michigan returned nine starters.
But the Irish gashed the Wolverines quickly.
“I didn’t feel they dominated us,” Michigan captain Chase Winovich said. “They made plays.”
Meanwhile, Michigan didn’t.
That’s the story of this team in the Harbaugh era.
The Wolverines had several costly mistakes and penalties.
Josh Metellus, a safety, was ejected for targeting.
And Winovich, a fifth-year senior, made a costly play with four minutes left in the second quarter. On third down, he lowered his helmet and hit Wimbush late and in the back.
On the next play, Notre Dame scored a touchdown, taking a 21-3 lead.
It was a four-point blunder. Add in a botched field goal, and the Wolverines hurt themselves.
“There are improvements to be made,” Harbaugh said. “Mistakes were made.”
Ah, you can say that again.
This game marked the debut of Patterson.
He did some good things — hitting nine of his first 11 passes. And he did some bad things — like, forcing an interception, and taking a sack to get out of field-goal range, and losing the ball when they had a chance late.
To his credit, Patterson was quick to blame himself.
“I thought he competed well,” Harbaugh said. “I thought he was doing the things we were asking him to do. For a first time out, with his new team, I thought he did a good job.”
At times, Patterson looked smooth, rolling out and hitting receivers in rhythm. He spread the ball around, hitting five different receivers in the first quarter.
Then, he overthrew a receiver while under pressure.
He showed off his arm strength, hitting Nico Collins on a 52-yard heave, which set up a field-goal attempt. But the Wolverines mishandled the snap, which would have made it a one-possession game.
“There’s a lot of room to grow,” Patterson said. “We have so many weapons.”
Late in the second quarter, Michigan looked dead. The Irish had a 21-3 lead. And if it weren’t for an Ambry Thomas kickoff return for a touchdown, it would have been far worse.
Overall, Michigan made mistakes that it can, presumably, clean up. My gut says the defense will play better. After the early miscues, the defense played better.
And Michigan showed some life late.
But that offensive line is beyond troubling.
And the lack of explosive plays is beyond concerning.
On this night, it looked a lot like last year.
When the Wolverines won just eight games.
And that’s on Harbaugh.