By JERAMY STOVER, Sports Editor
In the last year and a half under head coach Jim Harbaugh, we know a few parts of the game that the Michigan Wolverines have difficulties with.
One is a consistent running game, another being defending high-tempo spread offenses. But the Wolverines showed flaws on Saturday that we haven’t seen in the Harbaugh era. That’s because it’s unlike a Harbaugh coached team to have these problems.
Michigan had six penalties against Wisconsin and would’ve had nearly a half dozen more had Wisconsin not declined a few penalties. When the Wolverines were trying to punt late in the second quarter, they committed two consecutive false start penalties that backed them up 10 yards. That’s rare for any football team, but even more uncommon for Michigan.
Then early in the third quarter, the Wolverines were called for illegal motion during a punt, forcing them to punt again. They were then bailed out by a personal foul penalty on Wisconsin that gave them an automatic first down. But three penalties when trying to punt in one game is troubling.
Harbaugh didn’t sound too worried about the penalties after the game. And like most coaches do, said he thought the opponent didn’t get a couple penalties he thought they should’ve.
The second main problem the Wolverines had on Saturday was the kicking game. Michigan left nine points on the board by missing three field goals.
After missing his first two, senior Kenny Allen was substituted out for sophomore Ryan Tice who would go on to miss a field goal of his own.
Allen is now four-for-eight this season on field goals. Last year Allen made 18-of-22 kicks including some clutch field goals in critical moments. Everyone knew Allen would be the field goal specialist going into the season. But no one expected him to struggle the way he has as we sit five games into the season.
After the game, Harbaugh said right away that the Allen’s job is now up for grabs.
“Obviously we left nine points off the scoreboard, you got to put those points on the board, those points on the board really matter. So we’ll have a little kicking competition this week and be an opportunity for Ryan Tice and see if we can make them next time,” Harbaugh said.
The Saline native Tice is in his first season with the program. He had never attempted a field goal before Saturday. But it appears he has a great opportunity to become the No. 1 kicker for the Wolverines.
It won’t be easy for Tice, as he is going up against a fifth-year senior who has a year of experience. It might just be a mental problem for Allen, which if it is, could be solved sooner than later, but no one knows for sure.
Michigan will need to figure out their kicking problems — and that has to happen sooner than later. Leaving points off the board didn’t cost Michigan on Saturday, but that doesn’t mean it can’t cost them in games down the road.