Football

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.

Senior quarterback Shea Patterson has lost three fumbles in 2019 -- but he's not responsible for Michigan's lackluster play.

It makes sense to be alarmed right now — to see the need for change. The Wolverines are lucky to have won their first two games despite both coming against clearly inferior teams. They’ll go to Wisconsin after the bye week, seemingly unready to win a game of that magnitude, and with Michigan’s schedule, a loss in the third game of the season means you might as well wrap the whole thing up. It doesn’t make sense to bench Patterson as a result of that alarm. He isn’t the problem. Everything else is.

Michigan's successful fake-punt conversion led to one of two regulation scores Saturday.

In his postgame press conference Saturday, Army coach Jeff Monken emphasized one play more than any other.

It wasn’t any of his team’s three touchdowns or three fumble recoveries. It wasn’t the clinching play of the game, where his quarterback was sacked and fumbled. It wasn’t the Black Knights’ missed game-winning field goal attempt, either.

Monken wanted one play back: Michigan’s fake punt.

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“They’re going to be teammates and most of them are going to go straight into a combat zone. So what they’re building here will stand in a good stint for the next 40 years. He and I have been classmates for 40 years — ‘78,” said Chuck Dimeco, a former Army football player, before the game, gesturing to the man seated by his side. “That, I think, is different than what you get at a regular university. These guys have a reason for being there other than being on the field.”

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

Senior quarterback Shea Patterson has fumbled four times in two games.

Patterson wasn’t available a week later, after the Michigan football team’s 24-21 win over Army in double overtime Saturday. But his words echoed through the press conference nonetheless.

I gotta take care of the football.

Michigan wins 24-21 against Army at the Big House Saturday.

Michigan escaped an upset bid, pulling out a 24-21 double-OT win over Army, moving to 2-0 in a game that could have derailed its season before Big Ten play even started.

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.

Shaun Nua brings experience against the triple-option, having coached defensive line at Navy from 2012-17.

Shaun Nua remembers the last time he beat Army. That December day in Philadelphia four years ago, Nua was on the sidelines, coaching defensive line at Navy — the Black Knights’ fiercest rival.

Army's triple-option offense poses a unique threat, but the Black Knights scored just 14 points last week against Rice.

After reviewing the tape, though, Michigan might be able to identify a few unexpected weak spots. Here are five thoughts from Army's win last weekend, and how the Wolverines might approach the matchup with that in mind.