Outside of the turnover issues, the running game was clearly one of the problem areas the offense will need to fix. The Wolverines only managed to gain 76 yards the ground on 29 carries with a 2.6 yards-per-carry average.
For a team that clearly wanted to establish the run during the game, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done.
Who exactly is to blame for the lack of production, the offensive line or the running backs?
Harbaugh said both groups are partially to blame for the slow start. However, he saw signs of improvement in the second half to take some positives from.
“It was both and it improved, especially in the second half and that was good to see,” Harbaugh said after the game. “I thought we were playing a little bit tentative in the first half and not coming off the ball like we need to or as confidently we need to. We did miss some holes and we missed a couple in the second half. It’s all things to grow and improve from and I thought we did that as the game went on. Our team was growing in confidence in what they needed to do. So that’s a positive.”
That second half improvement came courtesy of halftime adjustments the offensive staff made. Harbaugh credits offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Tim Drevno for coaching up his offensive line at halftime.
“We came up with some ideas that we thought would be good,” Harbaugh said. “We had a few adjustments on the line, we thought we were coming off a little too tentatively. There was some movement in the defensive line that I think was causing that in our players’ minds. Coach Drevno coached them and our guys listened and got better.”
Despite not showing flashy stats on the box score, U-M junior running back De’Veon Smith was the workhorse for the Wolverines. Carrying the ball 17 times, the plan was to run Smith hard during the first half, according to Harbaugh.
According to his head coach, Smith answered the challenge.
“We ran De’Veon hard the entire first quarter and then gave him a break, that was the plan,” Harbaugh said. “We were going to play with De’Veon until he needed a blow and Ty Isaac added some good things. Then in the second half De’Veon was benefited from the line, playing better and coming off the ball better. He was running hard.
“De’Veon Smith is a hard-running back and that was good to see. No choice, got to, and he did it – he answered.”