Consistently Inconsistent

The Michigan football team is yet to put together a complete game on the offensive side of the ball. Following the Wolverines 45-20 blowout loss to the Illinois Fighting Illini, coaches and players alike talked of the Maize and Blue's offensive struggles. What's going wrong offensively as Michigan continues to have quarter long offensive droughts? U-M coaches and players talk about this.

Michigan's offense has been far from good. That's no secret. Despite brief spurts of what could be, the Wolverines have yet to put together an entire game. Putting together two consistent quarters has still been a struggle. Five games into the season, questions still linger on what needs to be done.

Against Illinois on Saturday at Michigan Stadium, those questions became more pronounced. A week after failing to score a single first half point against Wisconsin, a half in which the team moved the ball to the tune of just 21 first half yards, the team looked to have its problems behind them. A pair of first quarter touchdowns had people believing.

"We were executing well. We weren't beating ourselves," Michigan quarterback Steven Threet commented on Saturday evening. "We were making some plays that obviously were there. That wasn't an issue, but then we just had mistakes that killed drives."

One mistake that's consistently killed Michigan drives all season long has been turnovers. A year ago, a year in which Michigan entered the season with lofty expectations before having an early season meltdown, the Wolverines turned the ball over 27 times in 13 games. Thus far in 2008? 16 in just five games, 11 fumbles and five interceptions.

"We have some young guys, but at the same time, we've got to make some plays that are there," Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said. "We've got to make sure we get the fundamentals right, and we've got to stop dropping the dang ball and give ourselves a chance."

Dropping the ball cost Michigan a chance for a critical road win in South Bend, Ind., just under a month ago. It was the beginning of the Wolverines turnover problems. In their next game, the Wolverines come-from-behind win against Wisconsin, the team turned it over five times in the first half. It was a near miracle that the Wolverines were able to overcome the problems for a dramatic 27-25 win.

Against Illinois the team wasn't as fortunate. Trailing 24-14 in the third quarter, it was a miscue on a read handoff that eventually buried the Wolverines in a 17-point hole. Driving into Illinois' territory for the first time since the first quarter, Threet and running back Michael Shaw coughed the ball away and back to Illinois, who scored shortly after.

"It was just a fumbled exchange," Threet said. Running backs coach Fred Jackson elaborated further.

"You know what, it is the same thing that happened in the Utah game, same play. He and (Sam) McGuffie, I don't know if it was (Nick) Sheridan or whatever, but it was the same read play where he was reading and Shaw probably didn't think that he was getting it. Until you see the film you don't really know. In the previous game we thought it was a fumble by McGuffie, but when you look at it on tape, it is a bad read, a misread. Its both of their faults regardless of how you look at it, but the backs will always be the one to take the blame for it. I thought he was ready to play. I thought Shaw was ready to play, I really did. He looked like he was ready to play and when those kinds of things happen, you just can't continue."

The team never recovered, and despite climbing within 11-point one final time, Illinois scored the final 14 points of the contest winning the game going away.

"I think it was, like I said, mistakes like us and adjustments by them. You know they weren't going to keep doing the same thing and letting us keep driving up and down the field on them but at the same time we got to execute better," Threet said.

"You can't turn the ball over, and even if you do go thee and out, you have to just play smart. You can't turn the ball over like we did today," Greg Mathews added. "I knew we could go out there and score a lot of points and the thing that stopped us was ourselves. Like I said, we shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times and the defense was trying to help us out. Try to stay positive."

Michigan returns to Michigan Stadium this Saturday to try and improve to 3-3 on the season. Game time is scheduled for noon on the Big 10 Network as the Wolverines host the University of Toledo Rockets.

Other Quotes:
Question: Has the rate that you have installed your offense during the season….has it been about steady, has it been increased or decreased?
Rod Smith: "We have pretty much did a lot in the front end, the beginning. We game planned some things with some people. We just got to keep working on doing what we do and just keep getting more precise with it, obviously. I think at times you see times where it is pretty good and other times you see the rust and the youth still, so we just got to keep working, keep banging."

Question: Are you confident that you guys are going to get it together?
Fred Jackson: "You almost say that you know you're going to get better, you know you're going to get it together because you see signs of it, it is just the consistency within the signs have to improve and I think we are definitely going to be a lot better as we go, but growing pains hurt man, they hurt. Some of the things, I thought we had gotten the kickoff return together and then we had a fumble. That is something that we had done before, but I thought we had got to the point where were looking pretty good at it and then one play makes a difference. So every time you make a mistake it looks like it magnifies everything else."

Questions: Let's talk about the challenge moving forward, what was Rich Rodriguez's message to you guys in the locker room?
Martavious Odoms: "His message, every man, every play. That is the message, every man, every play and if we do that and play Michigan football, we'll be okay."

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