Tuesday, September 24, 2019 - 9:08pm
Senior left tackle Jon Runyan was disappointed in his inability to lift the level of play along the offensive line in his return.

With the root cause of Saturday’s debacle pinpointed, Harbaugh didn’t shy away from outlining his plan for this week’s practices.

“Emphasis on physicality, emphasis on toughness and emphasis on hustle,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll make that part of the practice plan more and also playing the players that are dedicated and playing physically at all times. Get those players in the ballgame.”

Sunday, September 22, 2019 - 11:19pm
Nico Collins was targeted just once in the first three quarters against Wisconsin, before finishing with 66 yards.

MADISON — Tarik Black stopped on a dime, situated himself between two defensive backs and spotted Shea Patterson’s high-arching long ball. As it fell, he leapt to wrestle the ball from both defenders, securing a 32-yard gain and moving Michigan into Wisconsin territory.

It was exactly what the Wolverines had envisioned all offseason, using their physical, talented receiving corps to invigorate a dangerous downfield passing game.

One problem: Michigan trailed 35-8 with seven minutes left, and any hope of escaping Madison with a respectable result had long since dissipated.

Saturday, September 21, 2019 - 5:12pm
Michigan's defense allowed 487 total yards in its loss to Wisconsin.

MADISON — Ten days ago, Don Brown stood in front of reporters, flashing his trademark energy and easily consumable sound bites to appease an apprehensive fanbase.

Amid his playful acts and positive reinforcement, the criticism came. Michigan had given up 21 points to a pair of unranked teams at home so the question naturally followed: How are you going to stop Wisconsin?

Thursday, September 19, 2019 - 10:34pm
Senior offensive guard Ben Bredeson grew up a Wisconsin fan, but ended up playing at Michigan, where his brother, Jack, played on the baseball team.

So before Ben Bredeson became a two-time all-Big Ten left guard at Michigan and before Jack’s four years as pitcher for the Wolverines’ baseball team, Camp Randall was the dream, if only by default.

The conscious part was that they would play football together — Ben on the offensive line and Jack at defensive end, where he played in high school. Wisconsin was just the world they came from.

“All Ben and I knew growing up was Wisconsin, Wisconsin, Wisconsin,” Jack said.

Five years later, Ben is careful to note that coming to Michigan was not a joint decision. Going to college together was a childhood dream, but once the recruiting process became real, it dissipated, with each of their personal paths leading them to Michigan separately.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019 - 10:39pm
Junior defensive lineman Donovan Jeter is fully healthy ahead of Michigan’s matchup with Wisconsin.

Don Brown let out a sigh and a trailing “you know” before pausing. Standing in the Schembechler Hall lobby last week, he had just been asked for his assessment of his defense through two weeks. The indecision in his initial reaction continued throughout his answer as he shuffled between positives and negatives, resistant to any grand declarations. The evidence for each came naturally. In its first two games, every regulation touchdown that Michigan’s first-team defense allowed came off a turnover. And yet, the Wolverines were 50th in Division I with 21 points per game allowed despite not facing a Power Five team. All of that, though, was before the bye week. “We haven’t been playing the best football we can play,” said senior safety Josh Metellus. “And we know that we’ve got guys in this building whose potential is way up here. We’re not reaching that.” A bye week, of course, isn’t some magic cure. Wisconsin had one of its own and was off a start in which it outscored opposition, 110-0. Still, it’s an opportunity for Michigan to look itself in the mirror and diagnose what went wrong in its underwhelming start. The Wolverines will hold most of that diagnosis close to their chest until Saturday, but junior defensive tackle Donovan Jeter’s return to full health is one piece of the puzzle that can’t be hidden.

Thursday, September 12, 2019 - 7:27pm
Junior center Caesar Ruiz is among the offensive linemen who committed avoidable penalties against Army.

As Cesar Ruiz assessed the state of Michigan’s offensive line earlier this week, he was careful not to label any struggles as “growing pains.” The implication accompanying that term is that the Wolverines’ inconsistency on the offensive line is a result of Josh Gattis’ new offense. The junior center knows that isn’t the case.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019 - 8:01pm
Fully healthy for the first time in two years, Tarik Black already has 104 yards this season.

Black stands at the center of the Wolverines’ offensive dichotomy. When Michigan’s offense was at its best in its 27-point first half against MTSU, he was its standout performer, notching 80 yards before halftime. Late in the second quarter, he missed a drive with cramps — a product of not having a full workload in two year. Since then, he has just 24 yards on three catches.

Sunday, September 8, 2019 - 6:46pm
Freshman running back Zach Charbonnet saw an expanded role on Saturday.

Michigan’s running game wasn’t supposed to look this way.

All offseason, coaches posited that it would be a three-headed committee. When running backs coach Jay Harbaugh spoke to the media three days before the start of the season, he listed five names in consideration for touches.

And for one week, reality bore that out. Then Saturday afternoon arrived. The final carry split: Zach Charbonnet, 33; Christian Turner, 3; Ben VanSumeren, 1.

Saturday, September 7, 2019 - 4:56pm
.

Tarik Black laid on the 15-yard line, face buried in the turf as Shea Patterson’s pass attempt hit the sideline beyond him.

If Army’s final drive of overtime had gone a little differently — ending with the Black Knights streaming into the south end zone rather than the Wolverines into the north one — it would have been the perfect summation of Saturday afternoon.

Thursday, September 5, 2019 - 6:48pm
Michigan's defensive line must stay disciplined in its rush lanes against Army's triple-option offense.

Brian Smith remembers the first time he saw Army on the schedule. The reaction, naturally, was dread. Now the defensive coordinator at Rice, which lost 14-7 to the Black Knights last week, that’s what happens when he thinks about preparing his defense to face the triple option.