With Victory Over Wisconsin, Michigan Making Steps in the Right Direction

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With Victory Over Wisconsin, Michigan Making Steps in the Right Direction

Finally.

That was all I could think as a good friend of mine and I stumbled to the DC train stop. With an ear-to-ear grin plastered on my face, full of beer and good food, all I could do was repeat that word, ever so beautiful to our die-hard Michigan ears.

Finally, Steven Threet emerged as a capable leader on offense.

Finally, the defense played to its potential and won us a game.

Finally, my Wolverines showed some guts and poise facing a superior opponent.

Finally.

Before I get ahead of myself, I should follow proper Michigan protocol and point out our numerous mistake

First of all, they have got to stop turning the ball over. Five turnovers in the first half and no points against a team as talented as Wisconsin should have sealed the deal.

Second of all, they need to throw it deep a lot more than they are right now. While Martavious Odoms, Daryll Stonum and Greg Matthews are all very capable mid-range passing threats, defenses know they can move their safeties a good 5-7 yards closer to the line of scrimmage.

The vast majority of Michigan’s plays are option pass/QB keepers or zone-read runs. On the occasion that they throw the ball more than five yards down field, it is to tight ends or flankers on drag routes.

Add a rare mid-to deep-out route, and that is the Michigan offense in a nutshell.

For some reason, Rich Rodriguez doesn’t like sideline fades or seam routes, and it is almost as though he will run one or two a game just to show that he isn’t afraid to, not because he thinks they will work.

Long story short, the offense does not stretch defenses out, which limits the amount of mismatches that Michigan can take advantage of.

Third of all, Threet needs to learn how to handle a snap from a shotgun set. While I do not condone the debacle in South Bend, I will at least concede that it was pouring rain (interestingly, this did not seem to affect the Notre Dame players at all). On Saturday, it was absolutely beautiful in Ann Arbor. No excuse.

And finally, the return game needs to find someone who will not muff every single kick. End of story. It is almost as though they are cursed.

I can understand Boubacar Cissoko and Donovan Warren fumbling; they are young and need to learn how to deal with the pressure. Morgan Trent’s fumble was definitely more surprising.

But for crying out loud, Greg Matthews?  He was put in there to secure the football and nothing more. It was as shocking as watching Bennie Joppru drop a 10-ten yard pass.

That being said, now I can focus on what I liked about Saturday’s game.

While Threet still has miles to go, he made the most important step to help this Michigan team down the road. The kid stepped up.

Facing an extremely talented Badgers defense, facing a 19-point deficit to start the second half, having withstood the boos of an unhappy Michigan crowd (I have attended countless home games and the only other time I heard the crowd boo was during the shellacking Oregon put on us a year ago), the kid played an important role in engineering one of the greatest comebacks in Michigan history.

And I might add, it was the most improbable comeback. Wisconsin’s team is built to win when they have the lead with a stout defense and a bruising run attack.

Michigan played mistake-free in the second half. I am not sure what the problem is, but simply put, they have not been executing.

Fumbled snaps, muffed kicks, missed reads, missed blocks, you name it, they have done it (several times). I do not know what Rich Rod said to them at halftime, but it worked and my hat goes off to him for that.

While Threet stepping up and the team playing without mistakes was crucial, the game ball without question goes to the defense. This defense showed in the first three games that it can play well enough for Michigan to win. On Saturday, it showed that it can win a game by itself.

The Wolverine defense shut down Wisconsin star running back PJ Hill, limiting him to 70 yards on 22 carries and the entire Badgers team to 3.5 yards a carry.

The defense also held the Badgers to only one touchdown until the last minute of the game, with four takeaways and a touchdown on an interception by John Thompson.

Brandon Graham emerged as a fierce pass rushing threat with three sacks and two forced fumbles, and Stevie Brown made up for the Notre Dame debacle by finishing his hits with wrap-ups.

The forecast for the rest of the Big Ten season got a whole lot brighter on Saturday, and I have no reason to believe this Michigan team can’t win six or more games. Saturday’s game answered a lot of questions, but most importantly that this team matches up much better against traditional grind-it-out Big Ten teams than it does against the spread.

Wisconsin’s team is much like Michigan State, Iowa, and Ohio State; a physical defense and a one-dimensional offense. After seeing my Wolverines take down the Badgers against all odds, I am beginning to like our chances against the rest of the Big Ten.

 

 

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