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Takeaways from Michigan’s win over Northwestern

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There’s a lot to digest after that whirlwind of a comeback

Michigan v Northwestern Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The thrill of victory , the agony of defeat.

Fortunately for No. 14 Michigan (4-1) they ended up on the good side of the sentence above.

Trailing 17-0 in the first-half at Northwestern, the Wolverines somehow got things turned around enough to win this one 20-17 in the final minutes of the game.

After witnessing such a crazy game, we have some takeaways from it.

Penalties continue to be a problem

Let’s be clear, there were a couple absolutely atrocious penalties called against Michigan, most notably a holding call on running back Karan Higdon on a read-option play where a linebacker literally tackled Higdon. The penalty made no sense.

That issue aside, the bigger issue is Michigan giving itself self-inflicted wounds on both sides of the football. We saw defensive holding, defensive pass interference, illegal formation, illegal block in the back, false start, holding, and other penalties called against Michigan that were in fact legit penalties.

In all, Michigan had 11 penalties for 100 yards. There’s no doubt the coaches are going to drive this issue home and attempt to get it corrected as early as next week versus Maryland.

Started off slow

Football is a game of four quarters, and just like a boxing fight, the better fighter won when the final bell sounded at the conclusion of this one. However, Northwestern came out fast and furious on both sides of the football, the aggression worked for them enough to go out in front to the tune of a 17-0 lead.

Michigan had multiple three and outs on offense, the defense let Northwestern march down the field for multiple scores, but then things changed.

Michigan can adjust

For all that say Don Brown can’t adjust and is set in his ways, “Doctor Blitz” really started to mix things up after the first quarter and started confusing the hell out of quarterback Clayton Thorson.

Northwestern had 105 total yards on offense in the first quarter, but only 97 the rest of the game. Yes, a defense allowing a few quick scores to put the team in a hole isn’t good, but the way they shut the Wildcats down the rest of the game was impressive.

The way Michigan’s defense shut down the Wildcats after trailing 17-0 was absolutely needed. Without turning it around on D, Michigan would have lost.

Patterson is clutch

This wasn’t Shea Patterson’s best game as Michigan’s quarterback, he missed some throws today. Some passes sailed on him and and a couple bullets were dodged.

But when it really mattered, Patterson was on point, picking Northwestern apart with his arm and his legs.

Look no further than the drive in the waning minutes of the game to give Michigan the lead; Patterson converted a huge 3rd & 6 by scrambling, and then threaded the needle on a couple sizable gainers to Zach Gentry.

This was clutch.

Because of Patterson’s efforts it led to Michigan punching it in on a Higdon rush from five yards out.

We can sit here and say Northwestern isn’t a very good team, that they’re now 1-3, but regardless of that perception, a 17-0 hole to claw back from isn’t easy to do on the road at a sold out venue.

Patterson faced some adversity today and he responded to it well. Michigan’s big hopes are still alive, albeit with lots of improvements that need to be made.

Kwity Paye and Chase Winovich are relentless dudes

The d-line play of Paye and Winovich was impressive. Winovich played like a man possessed with Michigan trailing big, like a guy who didn’t come back to Michigan for another season to see them lose a game they should win. Winovich wasn’t having it.

Winovich is the leader of this Michigan defense and his attitude radiates with the other guys on the unit. Winovich recorded 9 tackles (8 solo), 3 for loss, and 1 sack while Paye had himself 2 sacks.

The emergence of Paye as a legitimate threat opens up more one on one matchups for Rashan Gary and Winovich.

Higdon has heart

With Chris Evans out and Michigan trailing, Higdon had 30 carries while No. 2 RB Tru Wilson had just 1. In all, Higdon rushed for 115 yards and 2 TD’s. This was a physical effort from Higdon, as a lot of plays didn’t go for much yardage at all or he had to really fight and use his might to gain an extra couple yards. It was a grind of a performance from Higdon that showed his endurance and toughness should be respected.

A win is a win is a win

This is not how Michigan wanted to perform today, but it could have been worse. The situation they put themselves in can potentially build the character of the team, it could make them realize the importance of starting out strong both at home and on the road. It may not do any of those things, but there are positives to take away from this game despite it being a nail-biter, despite it being frustrating at times for fans to watch.

The question is, will Michigan grow from this comeback win?