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August 31, 2008

Michigan running game a disappointment

RELATED: Healthy playmakers key for Utah offense

ANN ARBOR, Mich. Michigan knew its quarterbacks wouldn't turn into Brian Griese, Tom Brady or Chad Henne overnight. The lackluster performance of the running game, though, was unexpected.

New coach Rich Rodriguez's first preseason depth chart listed four players as co-starters at tailback. He will need another week to sort out the mix after the Wolverines rushed for only 37 yards in Saturday's 25-23 loss to Utah.

"The running game was a huge disappointment," Rodriguez said. "Our offense didn't give our defense much chance for a rest. We couldn't establish any long drives because we weren't running ball effectively. A couple of times, we were probably close."

Don't point fingers just at the new running backs, though; it was a group effort.

With just one returning starter, the offensive line struggled all day. Carlos Brown, one of two veterans in the backfield, was limited with a shoulder injury. Starter Sam McGuffie and Michael Shaw are true freshmen. Rodriguez will use this week to try to work out the problems as his team prepares to play host to Miami University on Saturday.

"(Offensive line) is a group where you really have to watch film to see where the breakdowns were and how they got better and if they got better in the second half," Rodriguez said.

The final rushing stats were dismal: Junior Brandon Minor led the team with four carries for 22 yards. He also had the longest run of the game for 21 yards. McGuffie finished with eight carries for 9 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown. Brown and Shaw combined for three carries for 4 yards. Quarterbacks Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan combined for nine carries for zero yards, and freshman wide receiver Martavious Odoms had one carry for 2 yards.

The running backs' best plays were in the passing game. McGuffie took a short pass for a 23-yard gain, and Shaw caught an 8-yard touchdown pass.

"We never could get something going," offensive coordinator Calvin Magee said. "We would do something and then put the ball on the ground. We would do something and one guy would have a missed assignment. We had an exchange problem. When you have that, you can't get a rhythm."

If there's a silver lining, it might be that Miami University allowed Vanderbilt to run for 269 yards Thursday.

Judging by the performance against Utah, the Wolverines need all the help they can get.

"When you have a lot of new starters and a lot of new players, you expect some of this," Magee said.

RELATED: Healthy playmakers key for Utah offense

David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com.

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