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.
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