That was domination. More so than any other game this season, that felt like Michigan truly dominated the team across from them. Despite winning by 24+ points against every other team on the schedule, it seemed like Michigan had gone through some rough stretches, including being down early against Rutgers and struggling for a while with Bowling Green. But right from the start, it seemed like Michigan just had way too much for Nebraska to handle. The #2 rushing defense in the country gave up 249 yards rushing to the Wolverines at 4.9 yards per carry. Punter Tommy Doman was only needed once – other than holding on kicks – and boomed his 1 punt for 65 yards. The only thing preventing Michigan from having a 45-0 shutout was a late 74-yard run by Joshua Fleeks, who sliced through a bunch of backups. Credit to him and Nebraska for not giving up, but it was indeed a garbage time score.
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Hello, Josaiah Stewart. Early in the season, it seemed as if Josaiah Stewart might end up being another Cam Goode, a player who looked a little spicy on paper but ended up bland on the field. Stewart kept getting manhandled in the run game, and when it came to the pass rush, he was offering very little. Nebraska’s offensive line is nothing special, but he finally showed up with a good game, notching 5 tackles and 2 sacks. The pass rush was a bonus, but if he can learn to play the run like he did on Saturday, then he might end up being a solid contributor. His size is what it is, so he has to play with good technique and discipline.
The running game seems to be gearing up. Blake Corum (16 carries, 74 yards, 2 touchdowns) had a solid, consistent, relatively ho-hum game. Former linebacker Kalel Mullings seems to have hit his stride the past couple games running the ball, showing some nifty feet and good vision. He ended up with 5 carries for 43 yards and 1 touchdown, a 20-yarder. All five of his carries came on 3rd or 4th down, and he earned one touchdown and four first downs. At 6’2″ and 239 lbs., he’s a bulldozer with some extra speed. I really like what I’ve seen from him this year, and I think Mike Hart deserves some credit for getting him prepared. When Mullings converted to running back late in the 2022 season, he was running tentatively and upright with very little vision. An entire off-season devoted to honing his footwork, vision, body lean, etc. seems to have helped him realize some of the running back potential he had coming out of high school, when he was recruited by the likes of Wisconsin to be a running back. Meanwhile, Donovan Edwards (14 carries, 48 yards) continued his uninspiring start to the season and had the lowest yards per carry (3.4) on the team, except for backup quarterback Jack Tuttle, who ran 1 time for 0 yards. I think Michigan needs Edwards down the stretch so he can be a big-play threat, a trick play threat, and a receiver, but perhaps he might start ceding some carries to Mullings.
Michigan lacks speed on the back end. There aren’t many gripes to be had in a 5-0 season where Michigan is blowing everyone out, but one thing I wonder about hurting Michigan down the line is a lack of great makeup speed at defensive back. Michigan’s safeties and corners all have good-not-great speed, with the possible exception of Mike Sainristil. But Sainristil plays in the slot and isn’t often challenged deep. Josh Wallace, Keon Sabb, and Quinten Johnson all have so-so speed, and Rod Moore seems a half-step slower this year, perhaps because of the injury. There’s no D.J. Turner with 4.26 speed to chase people down on the back end, and I wonder if that will hurt Michigan at some point. Nebraska wide receiver Marcus Washington had a 56-yard catch, but he’s nothing special in the speed department and Michigan had a tough time tracking him down.
Big man pick! It’s always nice to see a defensive lineman come away with an interception, so it was a beautiful thing to watch 6’4″, 339 lb. Kenneth Grant’s meaty hand reach out and grab a deflected ball for an interception. Of course, this came a week after Grant was in the spotlight against Rutgers, when he tracked down QB Gavin Wimsatt on Sainristil’s interception return to throw a clean-but-not-quite-necessary block. Defensive end Braiden McGregor batted the ball into the air, and Grant did a nice job of tracking the carom to reel it in for the turnover.
Nebraska doesn’t have much. Nebraska has some average players, but there’s nobody who really scares you. I actually like quarterback Heinrich Haarberg’s running ability and he would be interesting as a runner, but his feel for being a passer is very rudimentary. His footwork needs work, and he’s not good at moving in the pocket to avoid pressure or find throwing lanes. He would be fun as a change-up QB to come in and run some option stuff, but he’s just not ready to be a full-time player yet. Nose tackle Nash Hutmacher is an interesting player and linebacker Nick Henrich is solid, but I’m not sure there’s a single player in Lincoln who would be starting at Michigan.
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