Free Press writers Orion Sang, Nick Baumgardner, Shawn Windsor discuss U-M’s win over Indiana, give their initial thoughts on OSU game, Nov. 17, 2018.
Nick Baumgardner, Freep
Free Press sports writer Nick Baumgardner looks at which Michigan football players/position groups helped or hurt their stock in Saturday’s 31-20 win over Indiana at Michigan Stadium:
DE Rashan Gary
If Chase Winovich is hurt, U-M has to have the best Rashan Gary has to offer. On Saturday, Gary — in his third game back from a shoulder injury — racked up nine tackles (1½ for a loss) with 1½ sacks. He was active, on the field a lot and relied upon to make plays. This was the most productive game of Gary’s season and his most productive game since racking up 11 tackles and two sacks against Ohio State a year ago.
LB Devin Bush Jr.
Bush showed his first-round NFL draft potential when he exploded across the field to run down an Indiana fake punt attempt in the second half. He finished the game with 11 tackles (1½ for a loss) and continued to establish himself as the best defensive player on this team. He might be the best linebacker in college football. Bush also registered a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry and, as usual, was all over the place for four quarters.
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QB Shea Patterson
Patterson did throw his first interception in more than a month. But he also finished with 250 passing yards and a touchdown. He also got back into the run game with 68 yards on nine attempts. It’s important to remember that U-M, for the most part, went away from a large portion of its offense the last two weeks when it actively tried to limit the number of times Patterson took hits in the zone-read game. It’ll be empty-the-bag time next week in Columbus and Patterson will be fully involved in every wrinkle Michigan has to offer. That’s a really large list, by the way.
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Indiana consistently tried to motion Bush out of the middle of the field in order to attack it. That worked far too many times Saturday and could be an issue next week against an Ohio State passing attack that loves to target the middle third. Michigan has to be stronger up the middle and cognizant of crossing patterns in space. Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins is not as mobile as Peyton Ramsey. But if U-M’s leaving large lanes, trouble could be on the way.
Winovich is one of the best players on this team. Jim Harbaugh sounded somewhat encouraged about Winovich’s injury situation after the game, as all initial tests came back negative. Suggesting there’s at least a chance he’ll be in uniform next week. A limited Winovich is better than no Winovich at all. But if he can’t play, it’d be a massive loss for Michigan in the biggest game of the year.
U-M scored on seven of its eight trips into the red zone. But the Wolverines had to kick six field goals Saturday, a program record. These lengthy drives that continue to fizzle out in or near the red zone will come back to haunt the Wolverines in a game like Ohio State. The easiest way to blow a game is by leaving the door open. This has been Michigan’s biggest offensive issue all season. It has to go away now.
Contact Nick Baumgardner: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.