Coming off a stunning loss to Michigan State, the mood around the Michigan football team isn't quite what it was a week ago.
"There’s a feeling of disappointment around the program," offensive coordinator Josh Gattis told the Stoney & Jansen Show. "It’s nothing we accept or settle with."
Now the Wolverines are preparing for a trip to No. 13 Indiana -- the highest-ranked Hoosiers team since 1987. Gattis said preparation on offense will be crucial a week after it wasn't up to snuff.
"I did not think that our preparation was up to par, up to the standard that we need it to be, and that falls on me," Gattis said. "That’s my job as the coordinator to make sure that we’re getting the very best out of our young men. We’re demanding the very best and I have to do the best job to put them in positions to be successful."
Michigan scored six offensive touchdowns and averaged 8.5 yards per play in its season-opening win over Minnesota. It managed two touchdowns and 5.3 yards per play against Michigan State.
"I think the biggest adjustment in Week 2 was getting used to a normal practice plan where you only have three to four days to prepare for an opponent, compared to two or three weeks that you have leading up to your first game," Gattis said. "I think the challenge for our guys on offense is, we have a lot of inexperienced players, a lot of first-time players who have to be able to handle success and be able to prepare in three to four days for their next opponent in a normal game week."
Michigan's inexperience was maybe most obvious on its final possession of the game. Needing a quick drive to cut into a 10-point deficit with about five minutes to go, the Wolverines failed to get out of bounds on several occasions and didn't score until there were 37 seconds remaining.
"That two-minute drive was obviously disappointing on our end," Gattis said. "It took 18 plays and almost five minutes. I think it was a learning lesson for our offense because we take tremendous pride in being prepared in situational football. We do two-minute, I believe, more than anyone in the country.
"Whenever you’re in a two-minute scenario you’re battling against the clock, so you gotta do a great job of getting first downs but also getting out of bounds. That was a teaching moment."
On the play-calling side, Gattis made a couple questionable decisions late in the first half when he opted for back-to-back wildcat plays near the MSU goal line. Joe Milton had just led the Wolverines 64 yards on six plays, but Gattis lifted him from the game to let running back Hassan Haskins take the next two snaps.
On the first, Haskins ran for a one-yard gain. On the second -- 3rd and four from the five -- he missed an open receiver in the end zone and the Wolverines were forced to kick a field goal. It proved to be the difference in a three-point loss.
"The first wildcat, ran the same play we scored the previous week out of the same formation," Gattis said. "We just had a mental mistake by a blocker up front. If not, it would have been a walk-in score just like it was from the same down and distance the week before.
"Then the second play, obviously in any type of situations as a play-caller, any time you use some type of trick play or whatever it may be, it’s genius when it works, it’s dumb of you when it doesn’t. Obviously the play was open, there’s no blame to go there. That’s on me. That’s a critical call in a critical situation and I accept the results. Had it worked it would have been a brilliant play call. It didn’t work so it’s a dumb play call."
Milton's inexperience was also evident after the game when he was asked about Michigan State linebacker Antjuan Simmons, who produced a game-high 11 tackles. Milton said he didn't know who Simmons was -- another apparent indictment of the Wolverines' preparation.
"I think anytime you have young men that have never been out in front of the media before after games, it’s very tough to answer questions in critical moments," Gattis said. "One of the things we would like to encourage out of our own guys is just continue to talk about us and not necessarily mention opponents.
"But in those situations, the game goes by and especially for a quarterback, you’re not necessarily caught up in the numbers as you are in the schematic things in the game. Joe’s obviously aware of the players on the opposing team. I just think after the game sometimes (answers) can come out certain ways on opponents, especially when we’re frustrated in our own moments."
On the bright side for Michigan's young offense, Gattis has been pleased with what he's seen from a trio of true freshmen: wide receivers A.J. Henning and Roman Wilson and running back Blake Corum. Henning and Corum were two of the team's top three recruits in 2020.
"Those guys have stepped up as true freshmen and displayed a skill set that’s only going to make us better as a team and make them better in the future as they continue to grow with game reps," Gattis said. "It’s our job just to put the best players on the field, and those three guys have done a tremendous job as true freshmen coming in and learning the system and going out an executing at a very high level.
"We’re really excited about the future and development of those three. Obviously there’s still a lot of football left in their career so they’re only going to get better and better, but we’ve been very pleased with their performance so far."