Michigan put on a clinic Saturday, bombing Nebraska 56-10 in Scott Frost’s first Big Ten game as a head coach. The win moves the Wolverines to 3-1 on the season and drops Nebraska to 0-3.
Here are the biggest takeaways from the game.
Nebraska Is Very Bad
There no way to sugarcoat it, Nebraska is a terrible football team.
Michigan bullied the Cornhuskers in every phase of the game for the entire 60 minutes. U-M nearly scored as many points (56) as Nebraska had total yards (82), held Nebraska to just 21 yards rushing, forced Nebraska’s starting quarterback, Adrian Martinez, to the bench at halftime because of how often he was getting hit by Michigan’s defensive front (only for the backup, Andrew Bunch, to get injured on his first play, he would later return), forced two Nebraska turnovers, scored a touchdown on special teams and dominated Nebraska in the trenches.
The way things look right now, Nebraska belongs in the Big Ten basement with Rutgers (which was blown out at home by Buffalo) and Illinois. (Side note: Can we kick Rutgers out of the conference yet?)
Michigan Is Set At Backup Quarterback
After Michigan got out to its monster lead, Jim Harbaugh opted to enter redshirt freshman backup quarterback Dylan McCaffrey. In his first drive, he dashed down the field for what appeared to be a 75-yard touchdown run. However, wide receiver Oliver Martin was called for holding and the play came back. McCaffrey then led the offense down the field for a field goal.
He would still find a way to get his long touchdown though, finding freshman wide receiver Ronnie Bell for a 56-yard touchdown on the following drive.
He finished the day by completing 3-of-8 passes for 86 yards and a touchdown. He also ran twice for 23 yards.
The outing has to leave U-M fans feeling confident that if something were to happen to starter Shea Patterson, McCaffrey would be a quality fill in.
Offensive Line Plays Well
Michigan’s big men up front played their best game of the 2018 season. The unit provided huge holes for running back Karan Higdon early in the game, gave Patterson enough time to find his receivers, allowed just one sack and consistently got the better on Nebraska’s defensive front on short yardage plays.
It’s nice to see improvement for the group that has been (and still is) the team’s biggest weak spot. It has to serve as a confidence boost for the players and should give fans at least a little hope that the work new offensive line coach Ed Warinner is doing is paying off. I’m not going to sit here and tell you everything is great and the line is fixed, but improvement has to start somewhere.
Michigan as a team ran the ball 45 times for 285 yards and four touchdowns. It did so without second string back Chris Evans, who was out with an injury. Higdon had 136 yards, while fullback Ben Mason recorded three touchdowns.
Late in the game, the Wolverines got freshman Christian Turner on the field, where he ran 10 times for 55 yards.
It’s Time To Change The Targeting Rule
The targeting foul was implemented into college football to help rid the game of violent hits to the head. That sounds nice, and the general idea behind the rule is good for player safety, but it’s time for the rule to be changed.
For a full explanation of the rule, read here.
There are several ways to make targeting simpler and more effective.
One way is to eliminate the ejection. Another is to change the rule so it only applies to helmet-to-helmet hits. A third is to add an incidental targeting foul that is a five or 10-yard penalty for hits that target the head but are not done intentionally.
A pitcher in baseball isn’t ejected for throwing a pitch at a batter unless it’s done so intentionally.
Ejecting a player for a hit that may or may not be targeting is extreme. There shouldn’t be any feeling that the call could go either way when a player is ejected. It needs to be clear that the hit was excessively violent. Unfortunately, that’s not the way targeting is called.
Khaleke Hudson was ejected for a second straight game for targeting, and will now again miss the first half of next week’s game. The call may have been correct based on the way the rule is written, but replay showed a hit that didn’t appear excessive. There has to be some common sense put back into targeting. So, sure, Hudson probably shouldn’t have been in the game in the fourth quarter of a blowout, but he shouldn’t have been ejected either.
The targeting rule was created with good intentions, but it needs to be implemented better.
The 3-1 Wolverines will go on the road to Northwestern next week in a game that suddenly seems less challenging than it would’ve been a few weeks ago. The Wildcats have struggled mightily this fall.
It will likely be a more entertaining game than what we saw Saturday, but Michigan should cruise to its first road win of the season.