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What we learned Week 7: Cute plays can kill drives

Cute plays kill drives, the defense can shut down a good team, and this secondary may be the most underrated in the country

Wisconsin v Michigan Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Michigan Wolverines catapulted all the way up to No. 6 in the country after a 38-13 bulldozing of the Wisconsin Badgers. The crowd in Ann Arbor was on their feet the entire game as the Wolverines never let up, even after putting in second and third string players.

After I criticized this offense for not having an identity last week, they proved me wrong by showing a spread power run the Badgers defense just couldn’t handle. The defense was equally impressive holding the Badgers’ top-10 offense to just seven points.

Let’s dive a little deeper into what we learned this week after a huge win over Wisconsin.

Cute plays killed important drives Saturday night

There were two play calls that have been stuck in my mind over the last few days that forced this offense to be halted.

The first was a questionable call on the first drive of the game. The Wolverines moved the football almost the length of the field into Wisconsin territory. On first down, Harbaugh switched quarterbacks and put in true freshman Joe Milton who ran a draw play for a one-yard loss. He brought Patterson back in the following play, and eventually were forced to kick a field goal, which Quinn Nordin missed.

A similar situation happened at the end of the third quarter where Shea Patterson and Dylan McCaffrey were in the game at the same time. McCaffrey came in motion from the wide left to the running back position, clapped his hands and motioned back out left. Then Patterson threw to Chris Evans on a screen play for a loss of a yard. The next play was an incompletion and the drive ended on a punt just two plays after the trick play attempt. This came when the Wolverines had only a 21-7 lead.

The fact of the matter is this offense was a machine all game, and Bucky Badger had no way of slowing them down. It was utter domination by the Wolverines through the air and on the ground. I was puzzled why Harbaugh tried to get cute twice, especially after it failed so miserably the first time. These two plays can be brought to the reason why Michigan didn’t score on either of those drives.

Those were two of the four drives the Wolverines did not score on. I understand the want to throw in something different, but better timing may have been more sufficient. The first drive of the game has been horrifically bad for this offense so far this season, and to put in a play that even has a chance of ruining the drive can put a huge damper on a game.

If the game had ended up being closer, we would be talking a lot more about these two plays than what has been said so far. I love the offense I saw on Saturday, but the two trick plays were inexcusable because of execution and timing.

The Michigan defense can shut down a good team

We all know the Michigan defense is capable of putting a beat down on a lot of teams, and they have showed that over the past three seasons. However, this is one of the few marquee games we will look back on and revel in how much the defense dominated this game.

The best running back in the country, Jonathan Taylor, was slowed down to only 101 yards in the game despite having 5.9 yards per carry. The defensive line was great in exploding off their blocks and getting to Taylor in this game, despite not having their most explosive player in Rashan Gary. Likewise, the linebackers were also sure to not ever let Taylor break into the secondary.

Potentially even more notable was how foolish this Michigan defense made Alex Hornibrook look. My key for a Wolverine victory was to force Hornibrook to throw the ball, and that is exactly what they did. Hornibrook was 7-for-20 for 100 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. His total QBR was only 0.7.

I’m not sure we have seen a defensive performance as dominant as the one we saw on Saturday. It is the best defensive game we have seen against a top-25 team in the Harbaugh era.

This secondary is the most underrated part of the team

After raving about how talented the defense was, I didn’t focus as much as I should have on the secondary. This has been a trend throughout the season because of how talented the front seven is in this defense.

Josh Metellus has arguably been the most improved player on the team this season. Last season, he received a lot of scrutiny as being a hole in the Michigan defense allowing big plays and racking up penalties.

This year started in a similar way after picking up a targeting call in the first quarter against Notre Dame.

However, he has turned the tides on his career at Michigan. Metellus racked up his third interception of the season Saturday. Although he still does have some penalty issues, he is putting himself in a position to succeed.

Another young man who no one seems to talk about is David Long. Here are some PFF statistics on Long that show just how great he has been.

Long has given the lowest passer rating when targeted, by far.

He also has the fewest yards allowed.

The Wolverines will be tested yet again this Saturday as they face the No. 24 ranked Michigan State Spartans in the battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy. Kickoff is at noon.

For more quality and up to date information on the Michigan Wolverines follow @MaizeNBrew and @DanPlocher on Twitter.