Halftime reactions to Michigan vs. Rutgers

Here are the three big takeaways after a sloppy first half for the Wolverines who found themselves trailing Rutgers 17-14 at the end of the half.

Rutgers Pulling Out All The Stops

While their first offensive drive ended in a three and out, Rutgers found their first score on a blocked punt, scoop and score in the first quarter. As former Michigan TE Jake Butt called out on the broadcast, Michael Barrett missed his assignment and allowed Max Melton a free pass to Brad Robbins.

On the following kickoff, Rutgers went with an onside kick up the middle, but Michigan was able to recover. Still a gutsy call with the Scarlet Knights looking for any potential advantage to pull the upset.

In the passing game, Rutgers has not been afraid to take shots. After a double reverse flea flicker that found the grass, thanks to coverage from Mike Sainristil that Greg Schiano felt was interference, the Knights went back to the air again with a deep ball high-pointed over DJ Turner.

Near the end of the half Rutgers went with a 4th down call that got Rutgers into the red zone. On the next play, Sean Ryan made a back-shoulder touchdown grab despite being held by DJ Turner to take the lead 17-14.

Rutgers is playing physically on defense, creating pressure, and getting lots of solid hits on JJ McCarthy. In the same drive, we saw Ronnie Bell and Luke Schoonmaker take hits that had them taking their time getting up as well. We always say Michigan gets the best from each of its opponents and we are seeing it in the first half against Rutgers.

Red Zone Touchdowns, But…

No secret the Michigan red zone offense has been a top topic of conversation the last few weeks with the Wolverines settling for FGs far too often. The biggest criticism, aside from not scoring touchdowns, has been the creativity of the playcalling.

The start of this game won’t make any of that go away. Michigan’s first 12 plays in the red zone were all runs up the middle, including 8 runs inside the 5 where the Rutgers defense was able to hold before finally cracking on 4th and inches, once to Blake Corum and later to JJ McCarthy.

The Michigan offense looked flustered after those touchdown drives, unable to sustain drives since. Michigan went 5 plays and punted, 9 plays with a missed 50-yard FG from Jake Moody,

Letting JJ Throw, Looks Uncomfortable

Many thought this would be the game where Michigan took the theoretical leash off JJ McCarthy in the passing game. On the first play of the game McCarthy connected with Ronnie Bell on a 35-yard pass, we also saw him connect with Andrel Anthony early but unfortunately missed the sophomore receiver on a deep shot a drive later.

3 of McCarthy’s first 4 throws were over 20 yards, but he only connected on the one to Bell. There is a good reason coaches tend to start the game with nice easy throws for the quarterback, to build confidence and get the QB in rhythm. The first few throws for JJ did not do that, and we’ve seen JJ as uncomfortable as we have seen all season, starting 3-8 for 55 yards. Rutgers is getting pressure and JJ is forcing the ball into coverage.

The Wolverines will need to calm down their gunslinger and allow him to get into his game. The deep shots are there, and McCarthy has to start connecting on them, but you can’t force them at the expense of what McCarthy has been good at all season.

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