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Inflection Point: Wisconsin 2018

Cameron Cheeseman is better than Wisconsin cheddar. Also, last night is possibly a turning point for the Michigan offensive line.

Dustin Johnston

Michigan’s 13-7 halftime lead felt like a missed opportunity, perhaps one that would hurt later.

Quinn Nordin missed two field goals. Michigan settled for one after Josh Metellus returned an Alex Hornibrook interception to the Wisconsin 15-yard line. Other promising drives stalled after coverage sacks on Shea Patterson.

Jonathan Taylor and the Badger offense ran for 101 first-half yards at six a pop, exacerbating fears surrounding recent injuries on the interior defensive line.

Bo Schembechler always used to say that the team who scored first in the second half typically would come out on top. With Karan Higdon fumbling out of bounds on third down to start the half, the Wolverines looked to relinquish that chance to Paul Chryst’s offense.

Sometimes, officials call J.T. Barrett for a first down. Sometimes, they slap Joe Bolden with an erroneous targeting penalty against Michigan State.

Sometimes, however, they do this.

By the way, this happened against Wisconsin in 2016, as well.

Straight from the NCAA rulebook: “When a team is in scrimmage kick formation, a defensive player may not initiate contact with the snapper until one second has elapsed after the snap.”

Definitely under a second. It breathed permanent new life into the run game.

Three runs for 34 yards set up Shea Patterson’s seven-yard scamper for the two-score lead. Overall, Higdon, Chris Evans, Tru Wilson and company amassed 238 rushing yards in the second half.

When the dust settled, Pep Hamilton’s attack racked up 25 unanswered points in the half to clinch a 38-13 beatdown in the Big House.

After weeks of pounding lesser teams, last night also serves as a turning point for the offensive line’s season.

Ed Warinner currently has his 300-pounders on the same trajectory as his 2014 Ohio State unit.

In his Coaching Spotlight from this summer, there’s a clip of him discussing line development with BTN’s Gerry Dinardo.

Watching future NFL guards such as Pat Elflein and Billy Price beef twists from Navy, or fail on double-teams against Virginia Tech, it’s hard not to recall the early struggles from this year against Notre Dame.

Now, Michigan ranks No. 28 in sacks allowed with just 1.33 a game. The three sacks from Saturday night were on the receivers failing to get separation. Patterson was able to scan the secondary for multiple seconds each time.

Warinner’s 2014 Buckeye front eventually paved Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon in three straight games to seize the College Football Playoff.

After 320 yards rushing — against the S&P No. 52 rush defense, in fairness — he’s producing similar results in Ann Arbor.

For years, Michigan has failed to produce on the ground in big games. There are countless examples of games with less than three to two yards a rush — Penn State 2017, Ohio State 2016, Michigan State 2015, to name a few.

Last night, when Jim Harbaugh’s program desperately needed to make a statement to the nation, they did so emphatically in the most smash-mouth way possible.

The true test awaits against the nation’s No. 1 unit in East Lansing next Saturday.