Holy moley, folks. Phew. Wow. Welp.
The above were the only notes I could take at the end of this absolutely wild game in Ann Arbor, which saw Army take the seventh-ranked Michigan Wolverines to two overtimes before finally coming up just short.
Credit to the Black Knights - they walked into The Big House unaffected by the atmosphere, and put together the kind of performance that showed why their 10-game winning streak was the longest of any active team besides Clemson coming into the weekend. One gets the feeling there could be another 9-10 win season for Jeff Monken’s crew coming this season.
But what does this mean for the Wolverines? What should we be taking away? And how close to the panic button should we be holding our finger two weeks into the season?
Let’s break it down…
Fumbles… fumbles… fumbles…
My goodness - what is happening to the footballs in Ann Arbor?
After fumbling twice last week, Shea Patterson had two fumbles in the first quarter to kick off a day in which Michigan coughed up the ball four times (and lost it on three of them), and just couldn’t seem to really “lock in” at any point against the Black Knights.
They stalled over and over and over again throughout the day - including three turnover on downs - and you just got the sense that they were waiting for Army to go away, instead of actively imposing their will throughout the day. Shea Patterson’s stat line was more than a little disappointing; the senior’s 207 yards through the air came with the aforementioned fumbles, no touchdowns, and -18 rushing yards mainly due to the four sacks he took on the day.
Despite adding one of Michigan’s fumbles, Zach Charbonet (who we highlighted in our preview) was the absolute lynchpin on the offense - going for 100 yards and accounting for all three UM touchdowns. Without him, I don’t think Michigan comes away with this one.
This is now two weeks in a row where the new offense has looked a bit… shall we say… unconvincing? And despite all of the changes, it’s a familiar tune for Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan team that will need to be turned around quickly, especially as conference play looms.
The defense did its job… right up until the end
On the plus side, another familiar aspect of Michigan has been a defense that picks up the slack for its offense, and that was on full display once again for the Wolverines.
Don Brown’s defense held the pesky triple option to 200 yards on 61 carries. Want an even more fun stat? That 3.3 yards per carry average is the lowest mark by an Army team since December 2015.
The three turnovers they forced are also the most committed by the Black Knights since 2017, but it was also the timing of those turnovers that was so key. An interception straight out of the gate in the third quarter stopped a drive that almost certainly would have ended in points, while the last of those turnovers - in a sweet turn of poetic justice - was a forced fumble by Michigan on Army… securing the victory for the Wolverines.
As we predicted when the year began - despite the new batch of names stepping into larger roles this season, Brown and this Michigan defense appear ready to just keep dominating in 2019.
Looking ahead to the conference season
Through two games, Michigan hasn’t exactly performed like the balanced, attacking team we expected them to be - and that’s not good news heading into B1G play.
Granted, Army and MTSU both were unique challenges in their own rights, especially for Patterson and the offense. They were both well-coached teams with disciplined defenses that we knew wouldn’t simply let Michigan walk all over them. Perhaps this was all part of the plan for Harbaugh - if nothing else, it’s allowed him and his staff to see exactly where the holes lie in the scoring unit.
But all roads in the B1G East lead Michigan to a Penn State team that seems to have a higher ceiling than most anticipated, and an Ohio State team that, coming off a downright frightening beatdown of Cincinnati this past weekend, looks like a team that could challenge the country’s top brass.
And more immediately, Michigan will have a bye week to turn its sights on a road match-up against Wisconsin before hosting Iowa just a few weeks later.
Put simply: they’ve got to turn around their offensive slump. Fast.
The Wolverines will be trying to find their groove in Ann Arbor this season - but they need you there cheering them on!
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