Slow starts have been an issue for Michigan through the first three games.
Against Hawai’i, Wilton Speight threw an interception on the first offensive play of the season. The next week against UCF, the Wolverines ran three plays and lost a yard on their first possession. But the first two possessions of those games didn’t make a huge impact, as Michigan went on to outscore the two opponents 114-17.
The early woes paid a visit to Ann Arbor again on Saturday. This time it putting the Wolverines in a much more vulnerable position.
Michigan ran just four plays before punting on its first possession. On the next possession, a sack-fumble was scooped up by the Colorado defense and resulted in a Buffaloes touchdown. Not even four minutes into the game, the fourth-ranked team in the country found itself down 14-0.
When the first quarter finally came to an end, Colorado was holding a 21-7 lead, with the only score for the maize-and-blue coming from a blocked punt that was returned by Grant Perry.
Everything came together in the second quarter. Michigan scored 17 points, Speight threw for 121 yards, and Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh were finally beginning to separate themselves from the Colorado defense. The Wolverines took a 24-21 lead into half.
The Buffaloes would regain the lead early in the third before the Wolverines flexed their muscle and their superior talent and athleticism prevailed to a 45-28 victory.
But the slow starts – particularly ones similar to what happened on Saturday – can’t happen as B1G play approaches. If Jim Harbaugh wants to keep his team competing for a division crown and a conference championship, Michigan has to be better from the opening kickoff.
Moving the football early and establishing an offensive presence is going to be essential moving forward, especially with an important two-game stretch coming up, facing Penn State and No. 9 Wisconsin.
The first three weeks of the season haven’t mattered much. The difference in talent levels has given the Wolverines a cushion to recover from those mistakes. But that won’t be the case much longer.
Penn State has better players. Wisconsin has better players. Michigan State and Ohio State have better players. Those first quarter cushions are going to start losing some of the padding.
Scoring on opening drives isn’t essential. Picking up first downs and gaining some momentum is imperative.
Michigan found itself in a dog fight against a team it could’ve blown away. Sure, Colorado is a much better team than what it had seen in the first two weeks of the season, but this should’ve been another easy win in Ann Arbor.
Thanks more first quarter stumbles, it came a little tougher than expected.
Now that the conference schedule is about to begin, the Wolverines are going to have their hands full, trying claim their first division title since the B1G expanded in 2011. It can make life a little easier if they can move the football and get into a rhythm earlier in the contest.
We’ll see if they get those issues corrected next week when Penn State comes to town.