Michigan 38, Wisconsin 13

Michigan 38, Wisconsin 13


October 14, 2018

Josh Metellus (image via Detroit News)

So…uh…how about that offensive line? It hasn’t been often that we have said this over the past few years, but the offensive line play was excellent. The Badgers’ defense isn’t as good as it has been in some other recent seasons – the linebackers aren’t as good, and the defensive line was banged up. But it’s still a well coached unit, and the linebackers are solid. This offensive line would have still been mauled in recent years, but Shea Patterson had oodles of time to throw, and Karan Higdon had good enough run blocking to bounce some runs to the outside for big chunk gains. The coverage on the back end was good for the most part, so Patterson still had to scramble (and tried to do too much at times), but there weren’t many mistakes up front. Credit goes to the players, obviously, but I think the Ed Warinner Effect is becoming more and more apparent.

Hit the jump for the rest of the recap.

Michigan’s secondary is firstary. We have all complained or heard the complaints about the safeties, but the safety position didn’t give up any big plays against Wisconsin. The coverage on Saturday night was stupendous, leaving quarterback Alex Hornibrook barely anywhere to throw the ball. He has been very accurate this year, but the defensive front put pressure on him, and the defensive backfield was all over his receivers. Wisconsin doesn’t have great talent at wideout right now, but Brandon Watson and David Long were locking down their guys. I think Brandon Watson is one of the best stories on Michigan’s football team, and he rarely gets much press because guys like Chase Winovich, Rashan Gary, and Shea Patterson get so much screen and print time. Watson is one of the most athletically limited cornerbacks to play at Michigan in a long time, in my opinion, but he’s doing a great job right now because of savvy play and physicality. I’m really glad he’s not one of those guys who decided to grad transfer in his fifth year and stuck it out, because he’s playing better than presumed starter Lavert Hill. (I know Hill had an interception return for a TD, but I think he got a bit lucky on that play and then had some mistakes later.) Wisconsin QB Alex Hornibrook’s stats: 7/20, 100 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT.

Shea Patterson can run?!. We’ve all seen the scrambles this season, and we saw the zone read against Northwestern (KARAN HIGDON, WHY DID YOU HOLD?!?!?!?!). I thought Patterson might be the type of guy who could break off some 20- or 30-yard runs this year, but I didn’t think he would be going for 81 yards. Nonetheless, there he went on a “swipe” play that Michigan broke out. On some zone read action, tight end Sean McKeon came across the formation, sealed the force defender inside, and Patterson kept it to the outside, outrunning everyone for 81 yards until a cornerback finally tracked him down. It was the longest run – by any Michigan player – since Denard Robinson’s 87-yard touchdown against Notre Dame in 2010.

Dylan McCaffrey can run!. Backup quarterback Dylan McCaffrey came in late in the game, ran a zone read to the opposite side, and broke off a 44-yard touchdown. (Earlier this year, he had about an 80-yarder called back because of a penalty.)

Joe Milton can run. Okay, this is getting old. In his first action of the season, Joe Milton showed up to take two snaps. One was an early-game QB counter than went nowhere. The second was a late-game option run where he kept the ball, got shut down, reversed field, and gained 23 yards.

The QBs can run. To recap, Michigan played three quarterbacks, who had long runs of 81, 44, and 23 yards, respectively. This is a far cry from the Michigan quarterback talent we had seen under Gary Moeller, Lloyd Carr, Brady Hoke, and Jim Harbaugh for the vast majority of their combined careers. (Notable exceptions: Scott Dreisbach had a 72-yard TD run against Illinois in 1996, and Brady Hoke played Rich Rodriguez’s leftover speedy QB recruits like Denard Robinson and Devin Gardner). Wilton Speight, Alex Malzone, and Brandon Peters couldn’t make the runs that the signal-callers did on Saturday night.

I’m looking forward to Michigan State. Michigan State has lost a couple games to iffy teams this year (Arizona State, Northwestern), but then they upset #8 Penn State yesterday. They’re not going to be pushovers. Luckily, both teams had good opponents this week, rather than Michigan playing Wisconsin while MSU played a patsy. They both focused hard on this week’s opponent, so it should be a good battle of seeing who can prepare best over the next seven days.

26 comments

  1. DonAZ
    Comments: 397
    Joined: 8/12/2015
    DonAZ
    Oct 14, 2018 at 7:37 AM

    I did not get to see the game. The big fear going in was the lack of depth on the defensive line. But I read this morning that Dwumfour and Solomon played. Overall, how did the defensive line — the interior in particular — play?

    Very happy to read that the offensive line is maturing to a point of being good enough to provide adequate pass protection.

    I see no stats for Ben Mason … did he play?

    • TriFloyd
      Comments: 30
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      TriFloyd
      Oct 14, 2018 at 8:28 AM

      Defensive line played great. I think Wisconsin could have continued to wear them down more, but–for some reason–WI opted to try to pass more in the 2nd half or make dumb “game theory” decisions (e.g., WI should have went for it on 4 and short instead of punting it). Instead, it was MI’s OL that wore down WI’s DL throughout the course of the game, such that the 2nd half saw bigger holes open seemingly due to fatigue and the complexity of the game calls (e.g., Shea’s keeping the ball on RPOs).

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 3827
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Oct 14, 2018 at 11:30 AM

        If I’m a Wisc fan I’m putting this one on Chryst. Wisc had one area where they had a clear advantage and they failed to leverage it.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 3827
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Oct 14, 2018 at 11:21 AM

      I think they played well. Helped having 5 guys. Mone and Kemp seemed most present to me, with Kemp making some impact plays. Dwumfour and Marshall rotated in. Dwumfour put some heat on Hornibrook. Solomon played but I didn’t notice him much.

      Wisconsin was pretty dominant on the ground for much of the game. I don’t know how much that was on the DL getting pushed around. Wisc OL is good and I didn’t see obvious failings from the DTs but this has been a weakness for Dwumfour in the past. Paye’s probably not the run defender Gary is, but when I noticed him he was usually doing good things.

      Oh – and there was an eye-popping play where Uche (working at DE) went THROUGH the Wisc OT on a POWER rush. Not sped around him. Dude is weapon on pass-rush. I think he’s going to be huge in helping to replace Winovich next year. If he can put on a bit of weight and learn to stay disciplined in the run game he might even be the next Chase.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 3827
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Oct 14, 2018 at 11:29 AM

      Mason did play. He got snaps at both RB and FB.

      As against ND, Michigan spread the field and went away from snaps under center. The FB was far less relevant than when Michigan was trying to grind their lesser opponents with a traditional run game.

      The empty backfield sets (5 wide) utilized TEs and RBs who have receiving skills.

    • Comments: 962
      Joined: 1/19/2016
      je93
      Oct 14, 2018 at 11:55 AM

      All DTs played, and gave up a lot of ground in the first half, but held up as the game went on. Not sure why Taylor didn’t get more carries, but it helped us a ton
      OL had a great second half, and the sacks we took were mostly on Shae holding the ball too long and not throwing it away. Shae was great last night, except in that area
      Mason played. He was in on the AThomas sweep, and against RB later, but didn’t seem much of the game plan

      Great win all around, very impressive!

  2. TriFloyd
    Comments: 30
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    TriFloyd
    Oct 14, 2018 at 8:32 AM

    Brandon Watson has apparently mastered the art of stealing the momentum of the crossing receiver by tugging at the receivers hips. This enables him to slyly simultaneously slowdown the receiver and pass him up. It allowed a pass breakup v. WI and a pick-6 interception v. NW. It’s sly and hard to call by refs, but clearly apparent on TV replays.
    Also, I think we played more zone in this game, which countered/confused Hornibrook’s attempts on crossing routes. A few times a LB (e.g., Bush) was there reading the play, forcing Hornibrook to make a better/adjusted throw.

  3. Comments: 229
    Joined: 12/24/2016
    INTJohn
    Oct 14, 2018 at 8:49 AM

    Remember what ND did to Michigan?
    Pound the middle and throw deep. Wisconsin only applied half of this game plan and it played into Michigan’s hands. I was surprised when Cryst wouldn’t let Hornibrook throw deep while continually pounding the middle – even when behind by 3 scores. They must have really been afraid of Michigan’s secondary.
    I felt the Badger running back would get some yards on Michigan’s defence but keep it limited to bits & pieces; and that the key was really Hornibrook and whether or not he could beat Michigan. This answer is obviously No!

    MSU is up next and Dantonio’s style isn’t much different from Cryst’s except Lewerke is allowed to both run & throw but Sparty doesn’t have Taylor.
    Good Win! Next up a trip to EL.
    Go Blue!…………..INTJohn

  4. Comments: 27
    Joined: 11/17/2015
    funkywolve
    Oct 14, 2018 at 10:43 AM

    Nice write up. Another noteable exception to the slow qb with Moeller, Carr, etc. is Henson.

  5. Lanknows
    Comments: 3827
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Oct 14, 2018 at 11:06 AM

    Agree on all fronts. A great night for this team and us the fans.

    OL improvement was evident in the second half. But, before anybody goes off declaring this possibly the best OL in Michigan history, it’s worth remembering this was a statistically mediocre defense (at best). They had 5 sacks on the year and got 3 yesterday. Michigan’s RBs were below 4 ypc in the first half before they started hammering the soft edges of the Wisconsin DL (per Harbaugh).

    The secondary was dominant. They played great. But the context was helpful. Wisconsin lacks any threatening receivers and didn’t pass to Taylor. Nobody understands why Wisconsin decided to pass on 3rd and short when they were grinding Michigan to a pulp on the ground. Chryst played right into Michigan’s hands in the second half.

    This was one where all the breaks went Michigan’s way. The roughing call was a joke that Michigan fans will forget about the next time they’re cursing Jim Delaney. There’s another version of this game (probably on the road) where Wisconsin sticks to running over Michigan on the ground and there’s a lucky bounce and call that go the Badgers way. I don’t know if it’s enough to make Wisconsin win the game but certainly enough to make it a nail-biter. But fortunately, not this time. We celebrate.

    Great to see the QBs used on the ground. We need that element.

    Does it mean anything for MSU, PSU, OSU? Well, it’s a start. We’re 1-1 in ones that matter. Michigan has played pretty well in both. The 3 that REALLY matter are coming up.

  6. Comments: 848
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    WindyCityBlue
    Oct 14, 2018 at 1:33 PM

    Nobody has mentioned one of the best pieces of news of the day..only 1 penalty for 15 yards. Winning games we should win is so much easier when we don’t screw ourselves.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 3827
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Oct 14, 2018 at 5:35 PM

      mmm this home cookin.

      Might be less about what Michigan did or didn’t do and more about what was called. I wouldn’t expect a repeat in East Lansing or Columbus.

      • DonAZ
        Comments: 397
        Joined: 8/12/2015
        DonAZ
        Oct 14, 2018 at 6:09 PM

        Total penalties in the game were very low:
        o Michigan: 1 for 15
        o Wisconsin 2 for 30

        Even the national leader is avoiding penalties (Northwestern) averages 2.8. The national average is somewhere around 4 or 5 per game. I suppose low-penalty games can occur, but it makes me wonder if the referees allowed it to be a lower-than-normal game?

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 3827
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Oct 15, 2018 at 12:38 PM

          I seem to remember a few getting declined. I don’t think those were included in that tally.

      • Comments: 848
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        WindyCityBlue
        Oct 14, 2018 at 9:10 PM

        Is there any actual evidence that road teams get more undeserved penalties than home teams? Or is this just another perpetuated but unsupported meme, like “stats go out the window in rivalry games”?

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 3827
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Oct 14, 2018 at 5:43 PM

      Best news of the day:

      We won!
      Decisively.
      QB run game hello.
      Solomon, Dwumfour, Kemp, Marshall all back.
      Dominant pass D, regardless of level of difficulty.

      Worst news of the day:

      Gary not dressed and no timeline for return.
      Run D struggles (1st half).
      3 sacks given up to a terrible pass rush.
      Kinnel carted off.
      Trick plays that don’t trick anyone.

      • Comments: 962
        Joined: 1/19/2016
        je93
        Oct 14, 2018 at 7:03 PM

        Agree on the “trick plays,” but the sacks are on our passing scheme (Jim & Pep), and either WRs/TEs who couldn’t get open against a depleted secondary, or a QB holding onto the ball too long. The protection was there for 3sec or so. That has to be good enough for games like this

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 3827
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Oct 15, 2018 at 1:00 PM

          I give credit to Shea for running away from pressure. Opponents lately have not had good pass rushes and/or played conservatively. Wisc had 2 NTs and walk-on on their DL. We can praise the OL if we want for that but it’s not exactly OSU.

      • Comments: 848
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        WindyCityBlue
        Oct 14, 2018 at 8:51 PM

        Gary could come back any time in the same condition he was, but our defense is doing fine without him, so the coaches will probably roll the dice and keep him out until PSU, hoping for improvement.

        Run D was facing one of the best Olines and running backs in the country. Struggling for only one half with a somewhat banged up interior Dline is not a huge cause for concern.

        Unfortunate about Kinnel, but he has not been killing it. he is a piece we can cope with replacing.

        Trick plays get some people excited, but we won’t lose any games we should win by not running them at all.

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 3827
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Oct 15, 2018 at 12:54 PM

          I read some speculation that this is not an injury that heals in a short time frame FWIW. Given his NFL stock as a sure fire 1st rounder he may not be in a position to risk it. Wisc had one of the best rush attacks in the country so if you’re ever going to sit him out optionally – this is what not the game to do it.

          At this point I just hope he’s back for OSU.

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 3827
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Oct 15, 2018 at 12:55 PM

          Run D locked down in the second half in large part because Wisc stopped running it.

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 3827
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Oct 15, 2018 at 12:59 PM

          Disagree about Kinnel. The safeties are playing really well as evidenced by the lack of big plays.

          In general, the tackling has been excellent on this team. Safeties have really led here.

          I buy the idea that year 3 of Don Brown has the system up and running and so you’re seeing a lot more reliability resulting in fewer big plays than in 16 and 17.

          Going from Kinnel to Hawkins is a downgrade in reliability and that could be really impactful against MSU/PSU playmakers.

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