Michigan Football: What in the World Is Wrong with Wolverines' Run Game?

Andrew CoppensContributor INovember 9, 2013

Nov 9, 2013; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines running back Derrick Green (27) runs the ball against the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the second quarter at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Rushing for negative yards in one game? OK, chalk it up to a bad day and move on. 

Doing it in back-to-back games? That's pause for some serious concern; and that's exactly what should be going on in Ann Arbor these days.

After going for minus-48 yards in the loss to rival Michigan State last weekend, the Wolverines followed it up with a minus-21 yard rushing performance against Nebraska. 

Nebraska is no Michigan State defensively, as the Cornhuskers entered Saturday giving up an average of 160.0 yards per game on the ground, compared to the Spartans' average of 43.4, per Sports-Reference.com.

The Huskers have also allowed 13 touchdowns on the ground this season. 

Expecting Michigan to at least gain some positive yardage in the run game shouldn't be too much to ask.

Yet, in back-to-back weeks, not a yard has been gained.

Some have been quick to point to playing three first-time starters—all underclassmen—as the reason for Michigan's struggles in the run game. 

Nov 9, 2013; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback Devin Gardner (98) is taken down by Nebraska Cornhuskers safety LeRoy Alexander (18) and defensive end Randy Gregory (44) in the second quarter at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Os
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

It's an area of concern for not only fans, but for some in the locker room as well. 

"We're young up front and sometimes we don't target the right people," Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner said after the game. "It's growing pains, you know? We have young guys and they're fighting as hard as they can. I can't really ask for much else but for them to give their all like I am and like the rest of our teammates are."

But is it really all on a young offensive line, or do the backs have some of the blame to shoulder as well? 

No running back is averaging more than 3.5 yards a game, and between Fitzgerald Toussaint and Derrick Green, they have a total of 717 yards through nine games. 

The holes aren't there, but Fitz and Green also aren't making holes for themselves at times. 

It all adds up to confusion and frustration for a team that's supposed to be built on running the ball well first and foremost. 

On Saturday, it was the pressure Nebraska was able to get that made the difference, just like MSU the week before. 

"We did a lot of good things, we moved a lot and blitzed a lot," Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini said in his postgame interview. "We brought a lot of different pressures. I thought we had a pretty good mix today and to do that you have to execute."

Execute they did, as the Huskers not only forced the run game to negative yardage, but they also put up seven sacks on the day. 

That is the second straight week of such totals against the Wolverines offense. 

Michigan, who had never lost at home under Brady Hoke until Saturday's 17-13 defeat, can look squarely to a run game that hasn't produced enough for why it now sits with three losses in it's last four outings in Big Ten play. 


Andy Coppens is the lead writer for the Big Ten. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.