Apologies for the lack of communication that made this late. We, like the defense, can always get better, except in this case that is in fact possible.
And you can't have one without the other...
WHO'S GOT IT BETTER THAN US?
As dusk descended upon Ann Arbor, the crowd roared.
"DE-FENSE. DE-FENSE. DE-FENSE."
Michigan fans weren't urging the defense to make a critical stop in the fourth quarter. They were urging them to finish the shutout. For the third straight game, the defense finished.
Michigan is the first FBS team since 1995 to shut out three consecutive opponents.
— Colleen Thomas (@colleenthomas_) October 10, 2015
"I wouldn't say any emotion," said Jabrill Peppers, asked if the defense fed off the chant. "This is what we expect to do."
"When we're out there, we don't want to give them anything."
The Wolverines allowed 168 yards; only 38 of those came on the ground against a Northwestern team that relied on its run game and its strong defense to win its first five games. One could easily argue the pass defense was even better than the rush defense. Jim Harbaugh said DJ Durkin called a "near-flawless game," adding "A-plus-plus." It would be much harder to argue that point.
One of the stars of the defense helped Michigan to the game-winning points—on the first play of the game. Peppers had an inkling Northwestern would kick the ball away from him, electing instead to boot it towards Jehu Chesson.
"If they kick it to you, just follow me, follow my block," Peppers said he told Chesson.
A lane opened up, Peppers walled off two Wildcats, and Chesson streaked down the west sideline for Michigan's first kickoff return touchdown since Darryl Stonum against Notre Dame in 2009.
The defense forced a three-and-out on the ensuing possession, one of three they'd record in the first half. The offense held up their end of the bargain, with big plays by a healthy looking De'Veon Smith and Jake Butt setting up a touchdown plunge by Drake Johnson. Michigan led 14-0 just 4:40 into the game, which was effectively over, save for the extended beating.
Jake Rudock, who had his best game at Michigan, threw for 179 yards on 23 attempts and extended the lead to 21 on a two-yard quarterback keeper late in the first quarter. His favorite target on the day was AJ Williams, whose four receptions all went for first downs. Hail all the Harbaughs.
Jourdan Lewis had the play of the afternoon in the second quarter, stealing the ball from receiver Austin Carr, who looked for all the world like he'd made a first-down catch, and streaking 37 yards the other way in front of a befuddled Northwestern sideline and a delighted Michigan Stadium crowd. The Wolverines wouldn't need any more points, but they got some anyway on a 47-yard Kenny Allen field goal and a late four-yard touchdown run by Derrick Green. The latter score meant Michigan and Northwestern hit the over. The Wolverines required no contribution from the Wildcats.
"Pretty much every phase you look at, it was humming today," said Jim Harbaugh. "Congratulations, it was impressive. Next. Onward."
Next is Michigan State. Onward, indeed.
By Heiko Yang
Let’s review the last four times Michigan played Northwestern:
2011 – Michigan 42, Northwestern 24. Michigan struggles to run the ball against an aggressive Northwestern front seven and falls behind early to Chicago’s Heisman Candidate but compensates by hurling bombs to Rich-Rod smurfs. The effectiveness of this offense enrages the football gods, who sentence Michigan to downfield impotence in future seasons. Devin Gardner fills in admirably after an ominous arm injury sidelines Denard Robinson in the second half and scores on a designed waggle run to the right pylon.
2012 – Northwestern 31, Michigan 38 (OT). Michigan trades blows with Kain Colter and unstoppable throw-god Trevor Siemian, but Gardner’s second game as full-time starter after Denard’s right ulnar nerve finally betrays him sees Gardner throw a critical interception deep in the fourth quarter. Down three points with less than a minute left to play, the Michigan defense forces a punt on 4th and 19 at midfield, which Jeremy Gallon returns 34 yards for a rare Michigan special teams coaching victory. This sets up Roy Roundtree’s circus catch and a Brandan Gibbons field goal for overtime. Northwestern proceeds to act like it’s never seen the Gardner waggle, Greg Mattison deploys Jedi mind tricks, ball game.
2013 – Michigan 27, Northwestern 19 (3OT). The saddest competitive game of football ever played (until next year) that will be remembered forever for the 3-second-drill field goal for a 9-9 tie that Michigan pulls off at the end of regulation without being penalized, shockingly. Other things happen that are of note: Pat Fitzgerald has a sad after a punt goes for seven yards. Michigan nets positive rushing yards for the first time in three games. Northwestern decides to field 11 guys all named “Courage”; Courage completes 66% of his passes for 159 yards and an INT before getting sacked on the final play of triple overtime, at which point Fitzgerald has another sad.
2014 – Michigan 10, Northwestern 9. #M00N.
If anyone had a claim to most cursed Michigan opponent, it would be Northwestern. That is some bad juju. Losing to the 2011 Michigan? Fine. Chalk it up to poor timing to play Michigan while Brady Hoke hadn’t yet run out of golden poop. Losing to 2012 Michigan? That’s like having managed to strike down the Balrog but then getting snared by its whip as it’s falling into the depths: horrible luck, although you probably shouldn’t have let your guard down. Losing to 2013 Michigan is like coming down with strep throat on a snow day, and losing to 2014 Michigan is like not finishing your antibiotics and oops now you have rheumatic fever.
You could say that the recent series has been a constant refrain of “Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better)” where Michigan is Annie Oakley and Northwestern is Frank Butler. No matter what the Wildcats do, the Wolverines find a way to trump it. 2015 is no different. Northwestern’s “top-ranked” defense is bested by Michigan’s defense in advanced stats and eye test. The Wildcats boast one shutout; the Wolverines have two. Michigan’s plodding and inconsistent offense seems ever so more robust than whatever Northwestern has. Pat Fitzgerald is a master tactician with a fiery sideline presence? I would like you to meet Jim Harbaugh.
The streak will continue, and without the boneheaded coaching decisions that have made the last four contests closer than they should have been, today’s result will at least be less painful to Northwestern fans. This won’t be another Michigan game that got away; this will be the one they never had in the first place.
Northwestern 3, Michigan 28
By Nick RouMel
It was 1978. My friend Bruce and I had graduated from UM and had the same plan: travel the country. We loaded my ’73 Pontiac Catalina and decided our first overnight stop would be Evanston.
There was supposed to be a youth hostel somewhere on campus. We came upon a group of co-eds. There was something odd about them, but we couldn’t place it. We asked directions of one. She looked at us and said nothing. We asked another – silence.
Eventually we found our destination and a party, some knock-off of Otis Day and the Knights. Learning we were from Michigan, there was some awkward football conversation. The Wolverines were headed to their third straight Rose Bowl; the Wildcats were destined to do even worse than their previous two 1-10 seasons, finishing 1978 without a win. Football was, to them, a joke. Maybe that’s why the silence – except on the dance floor.
It was 1995. Punt Classic and I had scored passes to the press box for a tilt against Miami of Ohio. It was our first trip to this Valhalla, featuring free doughnuts for us real journalists. It was also former walk-on Brian Griese’s first ever start, replacing an injured Scott Dreisbach who had led Michigan to a 4-0 start. Griese engineered a lopsided victory, which was only significant because that same Miami of Ohio team had beaten our next opponent, Northwestern, earlier in the season. We figured Northwestern would be a tuneup.
The 1995 Northwestern team was somewhat improved, however. Gary Barnett was in his 4th year as coach, and though he was coming off three seasons in which he’d not won more than three games, he opened ’95 beating Notre Dame on the road. They blew a big lead against Miami the next week, but won their next two games handily, and came into Ann Arbor with a little swagger, led by the triumvirate of QB Steve Schnur, tailback Darnell Autry, and a sparkling linebacker named Pat Fitzgerald.
Counterpunt was worried. I saw a once in a lifetime, Brigadoon-type season.
I wrote about a shocking upset. I wrote about the press box atmosphere, and concluded my article, “I see the press corps eating their doughnuts in stunned silence, unable to believe the final score: Northwestern 19-Michigan 16.” I was off by three points, as Griese had a horrid, turnover-filled day that could not overcome Tshimanga Biakabutuka’s 205 yards (on his way to a Michigan record 1818 yards in a season). Northwestern went on to the Rose Bowl; Michigan lost three more, ending the season losing in the Alamo Bowl to Texas A&M.
I worry that Jake Rudock will have one of those Brian Griese lines: 14-34-96-0-2, and a fumble. If he does, our defense will not overcome that.
Back to those silent co-eds. We learned at the party that it was a sorority rush ritual; they were not allowed to speak to anyone, much less two skinny, frizzy-haired lost souls from Ann Arbor.
Silence all around, except in Evanston.
NORTHWESTERN 14, MICHIGAN 13
Weekend Visitors: Three Uncommitted '16s To Take Officials
While next weekend's Michigan State game will be a bigger recruiting event for Michigan, there are a few notable visitors coming in for tomorrow's game. Allen Trieu has a free overview of the three uncommitted official visitors set to be at the game tomorrow; those prospects:
- Three-star NJ WDE Quayshon Alexander, a Nebraska commit. While Michigan is sitting pretty for four-star CO WDE Carlo Kemp, they're still making a strong push for guys who could project to the BUCK spot, and Alexander fits the bill.
- Three-star FL TE Jacob Mathis has been near the top of M's board at tight end for a while. Florida appears to be the main competition. One advantage for the Wolverines: former M kicker Garrett Rivas is Mathis' high school coach.
- Three-star TX WDE Levi Onwuzurike hasn't let on much about his recruitment, but he could be another option at BUCK.
Several current commits will take their officials this weekend, including a crew from New Jersey—Brad Hawkins, Ron Johnson, and Ahmir Mitchell—who'll likely work on recruiting Alexander.
This late-breaking news also seems worth mentioning:
— Marc Givler (@MarcGivlerBG) October 9, 2015
Walker had significant interest in Michigan before the Hoke era drew to a close; he committed to Ohio State in January, when Jim Harbaugh was desperately cobbling together a full 2015 class. Walker visiting Ann Arbor is a sign there's still legitimate interest. Steve Wiltfong reports it will be an official visit ($).
This even-later-breaking news, reported by Wiltfong, will also be of interest:
247Sports has learned that Top247 linebacker Devin Bush Jr. will visit Michigan this weekend for the Northwestern game.
It's an unofficial visit.
That is especially intriguing since Bush is paying his way for a visit from Florida, leaving open the opportunity to visit again on an official visit. Michigan looks to be in very good shape with one of their top remaining targets on the board.
According to 247's Steve Lorenz, several 2017 in-state targets will also be in attendance: TE Carter Dunaway (commit), OT JaRaymond Hall, WR/CB KJ Hamler, WDE Corey Malone-Hatcher, OLB Josh Ross, and RB/CB Allen Stritzinger. Hall's 2018 teammate Marquan McCall, a talented offensive lineman, will also be on campus, as will a pair of promising 2019 quarterbacks in Southfield's Sam Johnson and Belleville's Dwan Mathis.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
|WHAT||Northwestern at Michigan|
Ann Arbor, MI
October 10th, 2015
|THE LINE||Michigan –7.5|
|WEATHER||sunny, chilly AM, mid 60s gametime, 0% chance of rain|
Picture at right posted in a spirit of genuine love and admiration for Bo Cisek.
Run Offense vs Northwestern
Anthony Walker is not to be confused with Antoine
This has been up and down for the Wildcats. They've hampered Stanford and Minnesota (a combined 3.5 YPC after sacks are removed), but both Duke and Ball State gashed the Wildcats for more than five yards a carry, nearing 200 yards each. Duke's output was their best of the year on a per-carry basis; they just rushed for under a yard per carry in a 9-7 win(!) over Boston College. Ball State also just rushed for under a yard per carry against Toledo. They did not win.
So this is very different than Michigan's run D. It's not exactly bad. But it's not amazing. Northwestern is 44th in YPC allowed, and that's after facing the #35, #39, #83, and #109 rush offenses plus an FCS team. That is average performance against an average schedule. (For comparison, Michigan is fifth against #21, #32, #41, #84, and #115. IE: on another level entirely.)
Northwestern has a much more extreme version of the linebacker dichotomy Michigan does. Anthony Walker has been heroic this season, with a typical statline of 18 tackles, 3 TFLs, one baby saved from a burning building, and a PBU. Ace:
MIKE Anthony Walker flew under the radar heading into the season, but it's hard not to notice him now that he's amassed 44 tackles and 8.5 TFLs through five games for one of the most surprisingly strong defenses in the country. While he's a tiny bit undersized at 6'1, 235, he's got great athleticism for an inside linebacker, and his ability to read and react only makes it easier for him to shut down plays in a hurry:
Walker is at his best going sideline to sideline but he can also shed blocks and make plays between the tackles; he's also a solid cover linebacker.
The rest of their linebackers are nowhere near his level; I have seen them make weak tackle attempts in many games, get out of position, etc. After Walker, Northwestern's next two leading tacklers are the starting safeties. Only then do the other starting LBs come. Get Walker blocked and you can get to the secondary.
The Northwestern defensive line is fine. They're solid. They execute their assignments. They have something of a playmaker in Dean Lowry (4.5 TFLs). Ace compared him to Ryan Van Bergen and I think that's on point. I really liked RVB's game, but he's not Joey Bosa or Yannick Ngakoue. I am more optimistic about Michigan's ability to pound out yards against this defense than Ace is; the numbers for the season aren't great, and Minnesota's infinite offensive problems probably inflated the assets of the Northwestern D.
As for Michigan, Steve Lorenz is reporting Michigan should have De'Veon Smith back for this game. I have heard similar; I expect he will be available but maybe not 100% depending on his pain tolerance level.
Smith's projected return is a major boost. Michigan's anger back had his most impressive outing of 2014 in the #M00N game:
One particular third and short conversion was whistled dead despite Smith still inching forward with two different Wildcats hanging off him like 300-pound Christmas ornaments.
This is much the same crew he's going up against; if he can duplicate that performance Michigan has gone a long way towards winning.
That is somewhat likely. While Northwestern's taken a step forward on defense, it hasn't shown up too much in the run game; meanwhile this is basically the same Michigan rushing offense with a much better coaching situation. Consistent production is likely.
KEY MATCHUP: DE'VEON SMITH versus THE FLAILING ARMS OF THOSE WHO PLEAD FOR HIM TO STOP HIS BLOODY REIGN OF TERROR
[Hit THE JUMP for a SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE and a SIGN THAT NORTHWESTERN IS ALWAYS THEMSELVES]