The Michigan Wolverines played an exquisite game on Saturday against the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Michigan came in as 18 point favorites, but played much better than that. The Wolverines exploded to 39 first-half points, and the defense was a brick wall allowing only 12 first downs and 132 total yards; most of which came in garbage time after the huge lead was gained. The final score wound up being 56-10 in dominant fashion by Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines.
Here is what we learned throughout this game:
Michigan is capable of putting a complete game together
This game was the best game we have seen in the Harbaugh era in Ann Arbor. Although the Wolverines came in heavily favored, they showed they should be taken a little more seriously. They dominated every portion of this football game, even from special teams.
They threw the ball well as Shea Patterson racked up 120 yards on 15-22 attempts. Karan Higdon’s return bolstered the running game as he picked up another 136 yards on 12 carries. Nebraska couldn’t even stop Michigan’s backups as Dylan McCaffrey led the second string team to yet another touchdown drive on the season.
The offensive line played their best game of the season and seemed to drastically improve. They allowed only one sack on the game, and only five tackles for loss. There were also times where they created huge holes in the line for Higdon to burst through for big gains.
The key for the game was the utter dominance by the maize and blue in the trenches. The defense enforced their will forcing two turnovers and tallying four sacks and 14 tackles for loss. It also held the Cornhuskers to only 39 rushing yards on 30 attempts. With a mobile quarterback like Adrian Martinez, that is an incredibly efficient rate of shutting down the run.
Josh Metellus picked up his second interception in the last two games. While Devin Bush was an absolute animal tallying six tackles, a sack, and two tackles for loss. This was the first game of the year that the defense looked completely unmovable. A large part of this was because according to several Michigan defenders the Cornhuskers’ gave up. When you can force a team into that mentality, you know you are imposing your will as a defense.
Special teams also had their best game of the season, led by an incredible return by Donovan-Peoples Jones:
How many yards do you think @dpeoplesjones covered on this @UMichFootball punt return TD? pic.twitter.com/UpLbnzsJLC— Michigan On BTN (@MichiganOnBTN) September 22, 2018
Quinn Nordin was also 2/2 in his kicks, including a 50 yards field goal that could have been good from 60. Overall, there was lots to praise about this Michigan team on Saturday.
Penalties continue to be an issue
Despite having a tremendous day on Saturday, there are still quite a few issues to be weary of. First off is that Nebraska did one thing better than the Wolverines on Saturday, and that is avoiding penalties. Michigan racked up 10 penalties for 79 yards, including Khaleke Hudson’s second targeting penalty in as many games. Hudson will once again miss the first half of next weeks game, this time at Northwestern.
The yellow flag has been on the field too much for the Wolverines this season, especially on the defensive side of the ball. There have been countless mistakes in the secondary leading to holding and pass interference penalties. If they cannot sort this out, it could be a huge issue for the team going forward.
Aidan Hutchinson will not be red-shirted
The true-freshman defensive end has been a weapon for Don Brown thus far. He is yet to record his first sack, but seemingly every play this kid is breaking through the line of scrimmage and forcing a rushed throw by opposing quarterbacks, or reinforcing outside contain for running backs. He made one of the plays of the game on Saturday which led to a safety on Nebraska:
These instincts are something that he has shown in the three games he has appeared in so far this season. He is simply too valuable as a backup to redshirt him this season. Fans should be very excited for what this guy will bring in the future.
Fullbacks are a lot of fun
The final lesson of the day is another great one. Fullbacks are a lot of fun still. Ben Mason was an absolute wrecking ball against the Cornhuskers and we saw him utilized like no other fullback in the country on Saturday.
Harbaugh lined Mason up about 5 to 6 yards from the line of scrimmage to gain momentum, and run through anyone that is stupid enough to get in his way. Re-watch some of these highlights:
Coach Harbaugh on what went into the decision to give Ben Mason more carries today: "Inertia"— Michigan Football (@UMichFootball) September 22, 2018
Here are your @benchmason42 highlights from today's three-touchdown performance. #GoBlue pic.twitter.com/qsgYZBXuTh
Mason would finish the day with six carries for 18 yards and three touchdowns. He could prove to be a huge redzone threat as the season continues.
Michigan will continue their Big Ten play this Saturday when they face the Northwestern Wildcats in Evanston at 4:30 ET.
For more quality and up-to-date information on the Michigan Wolverines, follow @MaizeNBrew and @DanPlocher on Twitter.