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For the second week in a row, the Michigan offense came up with a big response

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This time, though, it actually ended in a win.

Notre Dame v Michigan Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

While most of Michigan’s goals for the season are unfortunately out of reach, there are still plenty of things to play for over the final month of the year. If things do turn out well for the maize and blue down the stretch, people will look back at halftime of the Penn State game and recognize where exactly everything started to change.

Is it great that it took five and a half games for the team to wake up? Obviously not. The defense was smacked in the face during both losses and the changes on offense took way too long to come together. But if Michigan wants to build from this year at all — and that is probably the most important goal for the remainder of 2019 — then seeing positive changes mid-season is huge.

Powering through, even when it comes up a little short

The Wolverines came out of the locker room a different team in Happy Valley, starting the third quarter with three dominant defensive possessions. The offense then took the ball 65 yards down the field to improbably tighten the score to just 21-14, somehow bringing Michigan back into the game.

Upon receiving the ball back, the Nittany Lions quickly struck back to regain their 14-point cushion, thanks to another defensive breakdown on a 53-yard KJ Hamler touchdown. It would have been easy for Michigan to just call it there, losing another big game on the road to a top opponent.

That is not what happened, though. The Wolverines immediately responded, this time driving 75 yards to make it a 28-21 game. That drive included key third-and-4 and fourth-and-goal conversions and featured a confident and decisive Shea Patterson that has rarely shown up this season.

The defense forced another three-and-out on the ensuing possession, giving the offense a chance to tie the game. For the third-straight drive, Patterson and company drove straight down the field and looked like the offense Michigan was supposed to have from the first day of the season. While the comeback ultimately fell short, the response here by the Wolverines was something to build off of.

Slamming the door, again and again and again

Against the Fighting Irish, Michigan simply picked up where the Penn State game ended. The Wolverines carried a 17-0 lead into halftime and were giving up absolutely nothing to the Notre Dame offense in the first half. The second half started exactly the same with back-to-back three-and-outs.

The Irish’s third drive of half looked to be even rougher, with Brad Hawkins hauling in an interception against Ian Book. As is well-documented by now, the takeaway was negated by perhaps the most baffling pass interference flag ever thrown, and Notre Dame drove down the field to narrow the lead to just 10 points.

With the rain (and maize towels) falling from the sky, the Wolverines were determined to not let this bogus call set them back. Patterson carried the offense the length of the field before hitting Donovan Peoples-Jones on a great sliding catch in the end zone to regain Michigan’s cushion and effectively slam the door at 24-7. The teams traded punts before Michigan said enough is enough, closing out the game on the following possessions:

  • Touchdown, 31-7
  • Touchdown, 38-7
  • Touchdown, 45-7
  • End of game

Good teams find ways to fight through the challenges. Some, like allowing Hamler to bust through the defense, are self-inflicted, and some, like ridiculous penalty calls, are just part of the game. Regardless of how they come about, teams cannot let these setbacks define them.

For an offense that has been criticized as much as Michigan’s, it was impressive and unexpected to see this unit dig deep and produce two key response drives in crucial situations. It would have been nice for Patterson to find his groove much earlier in the year, but the Wolverines will certainly take his play right now. While some may have expected Michigan to just call it a year, this team is showing it has quite a bit of fight left in the tank.