Michigan Wolverines: Perspective on Northwestern win


Much of the game looked like this, with Michigan’s defensive not allowing Northwestern to do anything on offense until the fourth quarter. Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

I have something to admit. When Pat Fitzgerald sent out his offense to attempt a two point conversion, I breathed a sigh of relief. Despite the fact it meant the Michigan Wolverines could potentially lose, I just wanted the game to end. It was a punt fest that featured a complete lack of competence from both offenses, an event that was a sad signifier for how far the Big Ten has fallen. I was anxious for it to end, so I could move on with my day. That’s when Frank Clark came flying off the edge, Trevor Siemian slipped and fell, and I had a brief moment of joy for the win.

Michigan’s inability to put away an inferior Northwestern team is eerily reminiscent of last year. In that game, there were 18 points scored in regulation. In this year’s rendition, there were 19 points. Unlike last year, the football gods decided to be merciful and keep the game from going to overtime.

That’s where the problem with year’s team lies. Fans only watch because they support Michigan the institution, the players of Michigan, and he winged helmet. In years where Michigan fields a good squad, fans watch out of excitement and not of obligation. I don’t think there were many fans that would have preferred to watch Northwestern and Michigan than the much more interesting Auburn and Texas A&M game that was on at the same time.

Game Implications

Michigan has now reached 5 wins, and only needs one more to become bowl-eligible. The best chance for that win comes on November 22nd, when the Maryland Terrapins make their first visit to the Big House as members of the Big Ten. The Terps are a mediocre team, but they boast a winning record, something Michigan doesn’t have. The other opportunity is The Game, where Michigan could play spoiler to an Ohio State team that is looking to remain in talks for the inaugural college football playoffs. Columbus will play host, so Michigan would have to go into hostile territory for that 6th win if they lose to Maryland.

Notes on the Offense

Devin Gardner is a shell of the man who took over for Michigan when Denard Robinson went down with an elbow injury. That Devin Gardner utilized his pocket-passer stature and quick feet to terrorize opponents. Gardner, after multiple injuries and several coordinator changes, now has a difficult time making simple reads, completing under half of his passes and tossing two interceptions. He even looked hesitant on his runs, blown plays that the old Devin Gardner would have turned into something. Michigan fans have to hope he can turn his play around and give himself a chance to go out on top.

The running game held up well, with De’Veon Smith running for over 100 yards. The power back has legs that are constantly pumping, and it hard to bring him down. He stays up for a couple extra yards, a trait that helped him get a touchdown midway through the third quarter. Hometown hero Drake Johnson came back to earth after last week’s breakout game, and was held to only 30 yards.

Amara Darboh proved to be a valuable asset yet again, and was Michigan’s leading receiver on the day. Devin Funchess suffered a series of drops and only had two catches throughout the game.

Notes on the Defense

When a team is held to negative yards rushing, it’s usually a pretty good indication that the other team has a solid rush defense. Michigan’s front four pushed around the Northwestern offensive line all day, with Frank Clark and Ryan Glasgow breaking through multiple times. Michigan also did well on pass rushes, tallying six sacks on the day. Mario Ojemudia led the way with two, followed closely Clark and Willie Henry.

The secondary still leaves a bit to be desired, but they were no doubt tired from being on the field all day. Minimal damage was done up until the 4th quarter, when Northwestern put together  95 and 74 yard drives. The secondary will be without Jabril Peppers for the rest of the year, who will take a medical redshirt.

What’s Next?

No one is sure. Some think a combination of Brady Hoke getting to a bowl, beating Ohio State, and winning the bowl will save his job. Others swear he is a lame duck, just there to preside over the rest of the season. The AD search has not quite started, according to Michigan president Mark Schlissel. Jim Harbaugh might be interested in the head coaching position. A lot of uncertainty is swirling in the air around Michigan football, but the team has a bye week. They play next on November 22, agains the Maryland Terrapins.