Most of Michigan football shined in win over Washington, but there's one big concern
Free Press sports writer Michael Cohen breaks down Michigan football’s 31-10 win over Washington and looks at few players who helped or hurt their stock Saturday at Michigan Stadium:
K Jake Moody: It’s always a good sign when the head coach goes out of his way to praise the kicker in his postgame news conference. Moody rewarded Jim Harbaugh’s show of faith by blasting a 52-yard field goal to open the scoring for Michigan midway through the first quarter. With a 10 mile-per-hour wind at his back, Moody’s career-long kick sailed high through the uprights and might have been good from 60 yards or more. Prior to Saturday, Moody had missed both of his attempts from 50-plus yards at Michigan: one as a freshman in 2018 and one as a sophomore in 2019. The successful kick continued a perfect start to the year for Moody, who is 3-of-3 on field goals and 9-of-9 on extra points following a rough display in 2020 when he missed 75% of his field goal attempts.
Offensive line: Bolstered by the full return of right guard Zak Zinter, who played a supporting role in the opener while dealing with a broken hand, the offensive line outdid itself in a throwback performance channeling the Michigan teams of old. The first choice quintet of LT Ryan Hayes, LG Trevor Keegan, C Andrew Vastardis, RG Zinter and RT Andrew Stueber owned the trenches by relentlessly firing off the ball before Washington’s defensive linemen could cross the line of scrimmage. Offensive coordinator Josh Gattis dialed up 48 combined rushing plays for tailbacks Blake Corum and Hassan Haskins, only one of which resulted in negative yardage. Seventeen of Michigan’s 20 first downs were achieved via running plays as the Wolverines plowed forward time and time again.
LB Josh Ross: Other than outside linebacker Aidan Hutchinson, the Wolverines lack a second edge rusher capable of consistently rushing the passer. David Ojabo, Mike Morris and Taylor Upshaw have all shown flashes of their ability in a timeshare, but none have stepped forward to take control of the starting spot opposite Hutchinson. Instead, Ross is emerging as the team’s second-best pass rusher from his inside linebacker spot. One week after generating three pressures and two quarterback hits against Western Michigan, Ross upped his output with five pressures and 11 total tackles against Washington. A fearless playing style and keen anticipation of snap counts make Ross a problem for opposing offensive lines, especially when defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald uses him as a blitzer on the interior.
RB Hassan Haskins: The senior tailback set new career highs in carries (27) and rushing yards (155) against Washington while bludgeoning the Huskies’ defense for 10 first downs. And while his longest run was only 20 yards — compared to 67 for his running mate, Corum — Haskins ripped off five carries of 10 or more yards compared to four such rushes for Corum. Nearly 48% of Haskins’ rushing yards (74 of 155) were earned after first contact with a defender in a remarkable display of strength that demonstrates just how difficult he is to tackle, according to Pro Football Focus.
WR Mike Sainristil: A week ago, Sainristil only caught one pass for minus-3 yards on a failed wide receiver screen. What kept his performance respectable, though, was a tremendous showing as a blocker on the perimeter and excellent work on special teams highlighted by Harbaugh in a news conference. This week, Sainristil again caught a single pass and again saw it result in negative yardage (minus-1). Though he did make a terrific tackle on special teams to stop Washington punt returner Trent McDuffie after 4 yards, Sainristil failed to redeem himself as a blocker by whiffing an assignment on a swing pass to Corum that resulted in a loss of 3. It’s unacceptable for a wide receiver averaging 21 snaps per game to have -4 yards after the first two weeks of the season without major contributions elsewhere.
CB Gemon Green: Even with all the struggles Green and fellow corner Vincent Gray had defending deep passes last season, Gray assured the media they were eager to prove themselves in that department this season. The early returns haven’t been great for Green, who yielded 18 yards per catch to Washington’s receivers, according to PFF. Green was targeted five times by quarterback Dylan Morris and allowed four completions for 72 yards and an NFL passer rating of 118.8 — worst among Michigan players with at least 20 snaps in Saturday’s game, according to PFF. Most concerning was the 45-yard completion late in the fourth quarter on a deep ball down the left side line. Morris connected with wide receiver Terrell Bynum while Green had his back to the quarterback, totally unaware the pass had been thrown. It looked all too familiar to his problems from last season.