Quinn Nordin is a kicker, and he has been about the only consistent aspect of the Michigan offense this season.
Yes, Donovan Peoples-Jones’ 79-yard punt return for a touchdown on Saturday was gorgeous.
Ty Isaac was Michigan’s brightest spot on offense, though his day ended with less than 7 minutes left in the fourth quarter after medical personnel tended to him at the 35-yard line. He finished 11 yards shy of his third 100-yard rushing game.
Those, however, are three separate pieces of the bigger picture of Michigan’s offense.
That offense is no Picasso. To put it bluntly, it’s a Monet. Cher Horowitz said it best in the 1995 movie Clueless.
“From far away it’s okay, but up close, it’s a big old mess.”
Michigan got the job done and accrued a utilitarian 359 yards in its 29-13 win Saturday against Air Force.
But dig deeper.
Look for consistency. Look for the close-range touchdowns.
Keep looking. Those weren’t there. Michigan’s offense still needs to help itself.
With the Big Ten schedule starting next week, simply getting a job done isn’t going to cut it against Penn State, Ohio State and Wisconsin. Michigan is supposed to share the same solar system with them.
The Wolverines barely earned a gold star in Saturday’s win against Air Force.
Michigan must establish consistency on offense as it prepares for Purdue and its Big Ten schedule. Three games should be enough to figure it out. There shouldn’t be any excuses, whether it was because Air Force held blitzes or used simple trickery inside the red zone, where Michigan went 0 for 4 when it comes to touchdowns.
Michigan’s offense remains, at times, incomprehensible, but here’s a caveat: Don’t put that all on quarterback Wilton Speight. He didn’t rebound with a fabulous “I’ll show you” kind of game that great quarterbacks and great athletes have when they’re extremely motivated.
He did the job. But an effective offense is the sum of its moving parts.
“It’s hot and cold,” Speight said. “We started with Florida and started last week with Cincinnati with two long touchdown passes. And it didn’t show today. But, yeah, that’s just something as a young group that we’ve got to keep learning and keep building on and getting better.”
When asked about his offense’s ability to create a rhythm behind Speight and Peoples-Jones, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh gushed about Peoples-Jones, who scored his first collegiate touchdown on a special-teams play.
He didn’t say anything about the offense as a whole until a few minutes later.
“The run blocking, the protection has been really good,” Harbaugh said. “That was a big question coming into the season, coming into camp, what our offense would look like, what our offensive line would look like, replacing four starters. That’s been really good. The backs have been strong, quarterback’s have been strong. He’s quarterbacking the seventh-ranked team in the country, a 3-0 record. He’s quarterbacking the winning program in all of football, the history of it. It’s good to be Wilton Speight.”
Harbaugh has to be complimentary. Optics are key.
But when asked how to describe his offense right now, Karan Higdon hesitated for a moment, and took a deep breath, as to ponder.
“Courageous,” said Higdon, who scored Michigan’s only offensive touchdown with 1:02 left in the fourth quarter. “Our offense is very courageous. Don’t give up. We won’t be denied, no matter what happens in a game. We believe in each other. We have faith in each other. We know we’re going to have to come around and make things happen.”
That has to be soon. No, better yet, that has to be now.
Finding your offensive stride late in the fourth quarter won’t cut it.