At some point you just wanted it to be over. That’ll happen when a game lasts nearly 4 hours and players start dropping with injuries and everyone in the stadium is thinking about next Saturday in Columbus, Ohio.
That’s where Michigan football‘s regular season ends. But where the rest of the season starts for your Wolverines.
Win there, and it’s on to Indianapolis for the Big Ten title game.
Win there? And it’s likely on to the College Football Playoff.
It’s all out there now. No more worrying about Michigan State or Penn State or Rutgers or Indiana. Thank the Hoosiers for a nice little test Saturday — U-M won, 31-20 — and wave goodbye.
Then say hello to the Buckeyes. Because it’s about time the Wolverines beat them.
The game — THE GAME! — might not hold the same national buzz because of the Buckeye’s uneven play and oddly zoned-out coach — hello, Urban Meyer? — but this is still Michigan-Ohio State, with everything at stake, especially for the Wolverines.
It’s here. It’s about time.
Troubles in the red zone persist
Despite U-M’s improvement on offense, the unit struggles to finish drives. The Wolverines kicked six field goals against Indiana.
Let me repeat that: six, against a middling defense. But then U-M struggled in the red zone against Rutgers, too.
It doesn’t make sense. The Wolverines have tight ends with good hands, height and athletic ability. They’ve got speed on the edge in their receivers. They’ve got an offensive line that gets a push. They’ve got Patterson, whose mobility should be an asset close to the end zone and who can extend plays with his vision. They’ve also got Karan Higdon, a Maxwell Award finalist at running back.
Harbaugh tried using them all. He mixed up his run-pass sequence and mixed in several kinds of plays. You might quibble with the play calling because it wasn’t working, but execution of the play is critical, too.
For U-M to get where it wants to be, the inefficiency in the red zone must change. The Wolverines won’t get as many trips there as the competition stiffens.
Clean up the miscues. Now.
U-M gave away three easy points to end the first half. Against Indiana, it didn’t matter. But against Ohio State or Alabama?
At this point in the season, clock mismanagement is inexcusable.
With 93 seconds left in the half, the Wolverines got the ball on their own 39-yard-line trailing by two points. Patterson hit Chris Evans for 4 yards on first down. The next play, Patterson hit Zach Gentry for 42 yards to move the ball to Indiana’s 15.
At that point, U-M had one timeout. There was roughly a minute on the clock.
Evans ran for 5 yards on first down. The clock kept ticking. On second down, he ran for three more yards.
With 24 seconds left, Harbaugh finally called a timeout. He ordered a run to Ben Mason. The fullback got the first down, setting up first-and-goal at the 3-yard-line.
The clock stopped long enough for the officials to place the ball on the line of scrimmage. U-M hustled to set up. Instead of spiking the ball to stop the clock and give U-M a chance to either call a pass play or attempt a field goal, Patterson snapped the ball, hoping to catch the Hoosiers off guard.
It didn’t work. Patterson completed a short out pass to tight end Sean McKeon, who was tacked at the 2-yard-line. Time ran out before U-M could run another play.
At the minimum, U-M should’ve scored three points. Whether it was a miscommunication between Patterson and Harbaugh or an ill-designed sequence, teams with championship dreams can’t give away points in the red zone because of a bungled clock.