ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Another Saturday, another Michgian victory.
The Wolverines continue rolling through their competition and this time, Michigan State became Michigan’s eighth victim. The maize and blue dominated their way to a 29-7 victory over their in-state, bitter, rival.
Michigan gained 443 yards on the ground against Sparty compared to MSU gaining 252. The Wolverines recorded 27 first downs to the Spartans’ 11. It was a butt-whooping, but the scoreboard should have been even more lopsided than it was.
The Wolverines have had a red zone issue that has been surfacing in the last few weeks and it looks to be a real issue. Michigan had the ball inside the red zone five times on Saturday night against the Spartans but the Wolverines kicked three field goals. Two of those drives reached the MSU five-yard line and instead of gaining yards, Michigan went backward.
After the game on Saturday, Michigan has now scored touchdowns in the red zone 28 times out of 44 attempts. The maize and blue score touchdowns 63% of the time they have the ball inside the opposing 20 — not great.
At times, it seems as if the offense tightens up when it gets inside the red zone. The Wolverines choose to run the ball up the middle with very little creativity. There are never any fades to talented Michigan receivers, screens, or almost anything other than a run up the middle.
J.J. McCarthy acknowledges there is an issue. The sophomore quarterback says there is a lot to unpack from this game and he knows the offense will be focusing on its red zone woes.
“There’s multiple factors, just basic execution, and scheme,” said McCarthy. “Like there’s so many things that we just got to unpack and unravel. And really get into the film where we really understand what and why, like, why aren’t we getting in there? And don’t have any answers for that right now. But it’s just all of the above. I mean, we’re going back-to-back weeks without finishing, and this — this game shouldn’t have been as close as it was. Should have been a blowout. And that’s all just based on a red zone.”
Blake Corum says that Michgian won and that’s all that matters. He is right, the Wolverines defeated — dominated — a big-time rival on Saturday. But even the junior back, who ran for 177 yards and scored two touchdowns, says that this game should have been a blowout if Michigan could’ve scored more touchdowns.
“You know we got the win,” said Corum. “You know, you want to win, you win by one, you win by one, you know, you just want to win. So yeah, I would say we got out of it when we wanted to. But we got to score, you know, I want to blow them out. This should have been a blowout. But you know, not gonna make no excuses, man, we got to get better at the red zone. And we will, you know, that’s what’s so good about this team. You know, we see some bad, you know, we go back to the table. We’re gonna work on the red zone.”
Even with kicking five field goals on Saturday, Michigan still won by 22 points. That was largely due to the Wolverines’ second-half adjustments that were made. In the first half, MSU racked up 189 yards of offense and the Spartans were throwing jump balls to Keon Coleman for 20-plus yards.
Michigan has made a living at making crucial adjustments at halftime to slow the opposing team down. The first three drives of the second half from the Spartans were three-and-out. MSU ended the second half with 63 total yards of offense. The Wolverines were able to get more of a pass rush against Payton Thorne and did a better job of giving safety help against Michigan State’s tall receivers.
McCarthy says that the team loves those last 30 minutes of a game. He believes the team thrives playing in the second half of games, and so far, the sophomore is right.
“All those fourth-quarter finishes,” said McCarthy. “We live for that, all the chips are on the table, you got 30 more minutes to show what you can do, and leave it all out there. We want that we want that. And we thrive in that. So it’s just something that we’ve been building up over the offseason for months and months, and it’s just where we thrive.”