The University of Michigan Football team opened up their 2019-2020 season on Saturday with a 40-21 victory over Conference USA foe Middle Tennessee State (8-6 & 1st in C-USA East Division in 2018) at the Big House.
All eyes were on senior quarterback Shea Patterson and Michigan’s new hybrid offense, which borrows elements of the pro-style, spread and up-tempo offensive systems, under first-year offensive coordinator Josh Gattis. The Wolverines received the kickoff to start the game, and the senior quarterback and his offensive teammates trotted out on the field ready to unleash their “speed in space” scheme.
It didn’t exactly start off as expected, though.
On the first offensive play from scrimmage, Patterson fumbled the ball over to the Blue Raiders while scrambling to escape the MTSU pass rush. It seemed as if all air was sucked out of Michigan Stadium, and on the ensuing possession, Middle Tennessee State QB Asher O’Hara would escape three Michigan tacklers in the backfield and scamper for 18 yards into the end zone to give his team a 7-0 lead early in the game against the heavily favored Wolverines.
“A win is a win, but I don’t think anyone in that locker room felt like we played up to our standard.” Shea Patterson
Michigan would straighten things out, however. After a Jake Moody field goal to make the score 7-3, Patterson found a wide open Tarik Black in the end zone for Michigan’s first touchdown of the season.
Despite some sloppiness on both sides of the ball, Michigan had the game relatively in hand for the rest of the night after Black’s touchdown catch. Patterson tossed two more scores on the night, one to wide receiver Nico Collins and another to tight end Sean McKeon. Jake Moody added to the scoring, tacking on another field goal, and both backup junior quarterback Dylan McCaffrey and running back Ben VanSumeren ran their way into the blue-turfed end zone. A failed two-point conversion after the McCaffrey touchdown would leave the Wolverines with the 40 points that concluded their scoring for the night. Blue Raider quarterback Asher O’Hara would go on to throw for two touchdowns, including one coming in garbage time with just over a minute left to play, to bring us to the final score of 40-21.
Shea Patterson did not seem to be completely pleased with the Wolverine’s performance:
“A win is a win, but I don’t think anyone in that locker room felt like we played up to our standard,” said Patterson after the game. “We’ve got to play better. I’ve got to play better.” Questions were raised by fans and media members about the quality of Patterson’s play both during the game and after, but fifth-year head coach Jim Harbaugh seemed to provide an explanation during postgame interviews:
“I thought Shea (Patterson) played extremely well. He was working through a little something, he was being evaluated at halftime. I was keeping a close eye on him. (Patterson) Had some quarterback runs designed in the third quarter that I prefer to see Dylan (McCaffrey) running because I didn’t want to make Shea’s issue worse. Made some great plays, did a great job.”
The Wolverines obviously suffered through some growing pains in their first game under the new offensive system.
Despite that, Harbaugh was optimistic and said that he had seen a lot of good things, but admitted, “we’ve seen in practice (that) we can operate cleaner…That’s what we’ll strive for this next week. This is a new offense, and for a first time out, it was good. Could it be better? Yeah, sure, and that’s what we’ll be striving for.”
Nobody knows how deep Josh Gattis delved into his playbook on Saturday night, but despite the shakiness, he did enough to spark excitement from a lot of the Michigan faithful.
Michigan’s defense, for the most part, looked promising. Like the offense, they faced some adversity, and still have a lot of room to improve. They gave up 301 total yards and three touchdowns, but also forced a fumble and an impressive interception by junior Ambry Thomas. Don Brown is in his fourth year as Michigan’s defensive coordinator, and it is expected that the Wolverine defense will be a bright spot once again this season.
The Michigan football team continues their season next Saturday at the Big House in what could be a dangerous trap game vs. the Army Black Knights at Noon ET. Army runs the triple option like Navy and Air Force, which is an offense that has been known to give even the most talented defenses trouble. However, all eyes will still most likely be on the Gattis-run offense.