The Michigan Wolverines ran the Wisconsin Badgers off the field on Saturday night at the Big House to move to 6-1 on the season heading into a rivalry week against Michigan State. As much of a drubbing as it was, it probably could have been even worse, if we’re being honest.
Here’s the takeaways from tonight’s game.
Offensive line continues to point upward
People were disturbed by the performance against Notre Dame in Week 1, but that feels like it was lightyears ago despite being only six weeks behind us. Ed Warriner is doing a hell of a job with this group and they had their best showing of the season against a front seven that was depleted. However, it did not matter. Michigan was the hammer all night long and their guys in the trenches opened up some of the biggest holes of the season against the best team they’ve been up against since Week 1.
I think the biggest compliment I can pay this team is that their blowouts haven’t been by explosive plays or anything. It’s been methodical and death by 1,000 papercuts.— Anthony Broome (@anthonytbroome) October 14, 2018
The Wolverines would finish the night with 320 yards rushing on 48 carries. Death by 1,000 papercuts, indeed.
Defense suffocated a one-dimensional offense
Wisconsin is known for running the ball and that’s what they tried to establish against the Michigan defense.
Good luck with that.
Jonathan Taylor got his with 101 yards on 17 carries and the Badgers were able to have success on the ground with 183 yards as a team on the night, but the passing game was non-existent and Alex Hornibrook probably played the worst game of his career. He would finish the evening with 100 yards with one touchdown and two picks, one of which went for a score, but most of that damage came in garbage time. He simply could not make some of the plays that helped the Badgers beat Michigan last year.
The secondary was leaky early on in the season, but they have fortified things on the back end and both Lavert Hill, Brandon Watson and David Long made big plays, with Hill nabbing an interception for a touchdown to put this one way out of reach for Wisconsin.
Shea finally kept the ball
Michigan has been setting up the zone-read play that Shea Patterson ripped for an 81-yard run all season long and he finally kept the ball and made the defense pay. This was really the first game where Patterson was arguably even more dangerous with his legs, which only sets this offense up for bigger things down the road. We’re starting to see Jim Harbaugh open up the offense a little more each week and use Patterson as more than just a passer. The long run felt like something ripped right out of the playbook from his days in San Francisco with Colin Kaepernick.
No Gary? No problem
Rashan Gary did not play in Saturday night’s game, but Michigan’s defense responded without him. Josh Uche and Kwity Paye, both players who were lower-recruited than some of their other stars, continue to shine as gems and get better every single week. It’s not that they do not need Gary, but is is very encouraging to see what they can be when he is not on the field and what their potential is in terms of depth when all of the bodies are available to play.
A lot of people seem to be waiting for the other shoe to drop with this team and for them to deliver another dud like what we witnessed in South Bend, but they have gotten better every week (perhaps with Northwestern aside) as the competition they go up against each week improves. And their development has come at every level of the team, whether it be quarterback, offensive line, their playmakers, and the defense as a whole.
Harbaugh preaches being better today than yesterday, etc., and this team has done just that in the six weeks since the season-opening setback. There are still questions, but based on the current body of work and not looking ahead, it has been positive steps forward every week.
at. Michigan State
vs. Penn State
Test one of the three-game gauntlet is complete which went down as a Michigan victory. It does not get any easier in the next two games.
Michigan State did the unthinkable on Saturday and went to Happy Valley and upset Penn State. That can be blamed on James Franklin as much as anyone, but it is yet another example of Mark Dantonio pulling a fast one when nobody expects him and his program to.
The Spartans will be ready next week. They would have been whether they beat Penn State or not. Now, they know they can beat a good team and they get one in their own building. Michigan has started slow on the road this year and cannot let that happen in East Lansing next week. As thorough a beatdown as this was on Saturday night against Wisconsin should be what they plan to bring to the table in a rivalry game.
The question as to whether or not Harbaugh and Michigan can win a big game will subside for a week, but the takes will go nuclear once again if they cannot get it done against MSU. Based on what we have seen, anything less than finishing this stretch 3-0 would be unacceptable, especially with a flawed Penn State team coming to town in your own building a few weeks from now.
Wisconsin may not be as good a team as they were expected to coming into the season, but the Wolverines pulled their pants down in front of a national audience on Saturday night. Their statement was made, and they claim there are more to come.