Highlights: Michigan 27, Northwestern 19 (3 overtimes)

Tag: Northwestern

19Nov 2013
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Michigan vs. Northwestern Awards

Jake Butt’s one-handed overtime touchdown (image via MGoBlog)

Let’s see more of this guy on offense . . . Derrick Green. I thought Green (19 carries, 79 yards) looked pretty solid in his first career start. He will never be the fastest back around, nor will he make many people miss. But what he’s always done well is hit the hole hard. On Saturday night, he appeared to be less worried about finding the hole and less preoccupied with holding onto the football, and as long as he can do those things successfully without overthinking, he should be a good alternative to Fitzgerald Toussaint down the stretch. Those two should be splitting carries next week if Toussaint is healthy.

Let’s see less of this guy on offense . . . nobody. I was happy with the wide receiver rotation, the tight end rotation, and the running backs. Even Graham Glasgow had an error-free day snapping the ball.

Let’s see more of this guy on defense . . . Jehu Chesson. Okay, okay, I’m not suggesting that he move to defense . . . but I have been very impressed with his physicality through ten games. Whether he’s blocking or on special teams coverage, the guy hits people and is a solid tackler. Brady Hoke mentioned at the beginning of the year that Chesson almost moved to cornerback at one point last year, and I would not mind having his clone in the defensive backfield.

Let’s see less of this guy on defense . . . Keith Heitzman. I was in support of Heitzman early in the year, but the more I’ve seen of all these guys, the rotation right now seems to be pretty good. With Jake Ryan back at SAM linebacker and Cam Gordon a very athletic backup there, Beyer looks to be a more natural fit at defensive end with Chris Wormley playing rotation snaps. Even when Heitzman’s broken hand is fully healed, I think he’s a third-stringer – but if he’s your third string defensive end, you’re in pretty good shape.

Play of the game . . . Brendan Gibbons’s game-tying 44-yard field goal to send the game to overtime. You know the story already, but here it is again: Jeremy Gallon was tackled with about 11 seconds remaining after a 16-yard reception. He promptly got up, got the ball to the official to place on the right hashmark, and the field goal unit ran onto the field. While the blockers got set, wide receiver Drew Dileo came sprinting in from the opposite side of the field after running his own route, tapped the ground, and took the snap from Jareth Glanda with barely 1 second left on the clock. Gibbons hurried through his steps to knock the ball through the uprights. Honorable mention goes to Jake Butt’s one-handed touchdown grab from Devin Gardner in the first overtime.

MVP of the game . . . James Ross III. I came really close to picking Gardner (24/43, 226 yards, 1 touchdown; 17 carries for 19 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 two-point conversion), but Gardner had an off day throwing the ball. He was undoubtedly a tough competitor after getting beaten up the previous two weeks and working through five sacks in this game alone, but Ross was a big reason Michigan was able to hold down Northwestern’s potent, multi-pronged rushing attack. Ross ended the game with 13 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 1 sack; his tackles were the most by a Wolverine in any game this season, and he now leads the team with 75 tackles

17Nov 2013
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Michigan 27, Northwestern 19 (3 overtimes)

Freshman running back Derrick Green saw his first significant Big Ten action and responded with 19 carries for 79 yards

Fire Brady Hoke? Okay, I would probably never call for a head coach’s firing based on one play, but I have rarely been angrier at a single in-game decision than Hoke’s call to go for it on 4th-and-2 down 9-6 with a little under six minutes remaining in the game. You have an offense that can’t run the ball consistently or protect the quarterback, a chip-shot field goal begging to be taken, and you . . . run a quarterback bootleg? Don’t get me wrong – that might be the best run play to call in that situation, keeping the ball in the hands of your most dynamic runner. But take the 3 points. Theoretically, a field goal in that situation ties the game at 9-9 and turns the last-second field goal into the game-winner. It all worked out in the end, but that’s still the wrong decision by Hoke at that point.

Brendan Gibbons must have hated Rich Rodriguez. Ever since Brady Hoke arrived in 2011, Gibbons has been about as good as anyone could realistically ask a kicker to be, aside from the four overtime game against Penn State earlier this season. Gibbons was 4/4 on field goals in this game and 1/1 on extra points, but the most impressive kick was a 44-yard field goal from the right hash with no time on the clock to send the game into overtime.

The offensive line is fixed! The Wolverines are back to having a dominating offensive line after allowing just 5 sacks and allowing the team to rush for 139 yards on 44 carries, a 3.2-yard average. That’s a marked improvement from the average of 7 sacks and -34.5 rushing yards per game for the previous two weeks. On a serious note, folks, I still think I saw Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield both whiff on pass blocks that turned into sacks, which seems to support the idea that Michigan’s offensive linemen are regressing or at least remaining stagnant. The positive rushing yards were a step in the right direction, but Northwestern has a small-ish defensive front that creates plays using quickness and blitzing frequently. Perhaps a game like this will give the offensive line a tiny bit of confidence in their abilities as a unit, but people said the same thing following the Indiana game.

There may or may not be a running back controversy. Fifth year senior starter Fitzgerald Toussaint dressed but did not play in the game, allowing freshmen Derrick Green (19 carries, 79 yards) and De’Veon Smith (8 carries, 41 yards) to take all of the running back carries. Green in particular looked solid because he hit the hole hard, unlike earlier in the season when he looked tentative and preoccupied with not fumbling. He also finished runs nicely once he got in the open field by lowering his shoulder and punishing tacklers. If Michigan could open holes consistently and get him on second- and third-level defenders more often, those hits would start to take a toll and turn into some even bigger runs. In addition to his 23- and 22-yard rumbles, Smith tossed in a nifty 16-yard run up the gut. I still believe Toussaint is the more explosive back because of his ability to make people miss and accelerate, but he’s not strong enough to run through tackles of first-level defenders . . . and the offensive line isn’t good enough to keep those first-level defenders from getting their mitts on him.

Al Borges’s creativity goes in spurts. I’ve noticed in offensive coordinator Al Borges’s three years at Michigan that he tends to get ideas that last two or three weeks, and then he eventually abandons them. This was one of those weeks that he got creative, so we’ll see how long it lasts. Hopefully, he can beat Iowa with these types of plays and then come up with some new wrinkles for Ohio State. This game featured numerous bubble screen pump fake draws to Derrick Green, which seemed to open up some running lanes. As soon as I saw Devin Funchess line up in the slot to the left in overtime, I thought to myself, “Okay, it’s about time to actually run the bubble,” and Devin Gardner promptly whistled it out to Funchess . . . who gained about 4 yards before fumbling (and luckily recovered his own fumble). Michigan doesn’t throw it often or well enough to make the draw a staple of the offense every week, but they can still pull it out once or twice a game and hope to have some success. Additionally, Borges decided to strategically rotate his running backs, using Green and Smith in the I-formation while sending in redshirt sophomore Justice Hayes and fullbacks to help out in shotgun formations. I thought that mitigated the pass rush a little bit, even though Gardner still went down 5 times; he had more time to throw than in past games, but the wet and windy weather combined with a good coverage team caused him to hold onto the ball a little too long.

Michigan’s defense is coming along nicely. They allow too many short passes, but I think defensive coordinator Greg Mattison is finally settling in with which players on his team can do what. There seems to be more situational subbing and guys moving around as the year goes on, which makes it difficult for the offense to get a bead on what the defense is doing. Nose tackle Quinton Washington had his best game of the year, and I thought Joe Bolden had a quietly solid game, too. Michigan also moved around guys like Jibreel Black and Taco Charlton; blitzed the inside linebackers quite a bit; and sent corners and safeties at times, something he has rarely seemed to do. There’s no Mike Martin up the middle, and Jake Ryan isn’t quite back to his former self, but it’s a good unit across the board.

Wet weather woes. Overall, it was probably a good thing that the field and ball were wet, because Northwestern dropped a bunch of potential interceptions. But the same issue plagued a couple Michigan receivers who are normally sure-handed in Drew Dileo and Jeremy Gallon. Meanwhile, Gardner short-armed and airmailed some throws on the way to a 24/43 day for 226 yards and 1 touchdown. It was a pretty ugly football game to watch because of a lack of big plays, but the good guys won so I’m temporarily satisfied.

How good is Northwestern? The Wildcats are 4-6 after having won their first four games of the year. That six-game losing streak has to be frustrating. Quarterback/running back/slot receiver Kain Colter has obviously been their star, but they’re one or two players away from being a serious contender in the Big Ten. They obviously miss running back/returner Venric Mark. If he were healthy or if quarterback Kain Colter could hand off the ball to running back Kain Colter or throw the ball to slot receiver Kain Colter, Michigan probably would have lost this game and Northwestern would be 7-3 or 8-2. I feel like this has often been the story with Northwestern throughout the years – they have one good player surrounded with a bunch of so-so players, which just isn’t enough to get them over the hump. Last year with Colter and Mark healthy, they looked like a team on the verge of a breakout. Unfortunately for them, their recruiting hasn’t allowed them to have two studs at the same time. But they’re doing a good job with their 2014 recruiting class (I really like RB Justin Jackson and WR Dareian Watkins), got a good quarterback in 2013 with Matt Alviti, and seem to have things going in the right direction. Northwestern is not going away anytime soon.

16Nov 2013
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Preview: Michigan at Northwestern

I apologize, but it’s been a crazy week and I haven’t had a ton of time to put together a preview. Here’s a drive-by. Hopefully things will have settled down by next Friday to get a good preview of Iowa.

Rush Offense vs. Northwestern Rush Defense
Michigan: #97 at 135.33 yards/game
Michigan: #111 at 3.25 yards/carry
Northwestern: #70 at 168.56 yards allowed/game
Northwestern: #60 at 4.11 yards allowed/carry
Advantage: Northwestern

Pass Offense vs. Northwestern Pass Defense
Michigan: #30 passer rating at 148.62
Michigan: #95 at 12 interceptions thrown
Michigan: #108 with 26 sacks allowed
Northwestern: #33 passer rating defense at 118.83
Northwestern: #1 with 18 interceptions
Northwestern: #56 with 19 sacks
Advantage: Northwestern

Rush Defense vs. Northwestern Rush Offense
Michigan: #13 at 107.67 yards allowed/game
Michigan: #12 at 3.20 yards allowed/carry
Northwestern: #47 at 188.89 yards/game
Northwestern: #62 at 4.46 yards/carry
Advantage: Michigan

Pass Defense vs. Northwestern Pass Offense
Michigan: #31 passer rating defense at 118.15
Michigan: #23 with 12 interceptions
Michigan: #61 with 18 sacks
Northwestern: #63 with 131.29 passer rating
Northwestern: #64 with 9 interceptions thrown
Northwestern: #120 with 32 sacks allowed
Advantage: Michigan

Roster Notes

  • Players who held scholarship offers from Michigan include DT Greg Kuhar, DE Ifeadi Odenigbo, OT Eric Olson, WR Kyle Prater.
  • Defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz played SE, TE, and LB at Michigan from 1966-1969. He had 14 receptions for 171 yards and 1 touchdown on offense, returned 2 kickoffs for 19 yards, and made 4 tackles in his career. He was also a graduate assistant under Bo Schembechler from 1970-1972.
  • Offensive graduate assistant Scott Hamel was a walk-on running back at Michigan from 2004-2005.
  • Freshman RB Godwin Igwebuike was Michigan freshman TE Jake Butt’s high school teammate last year.
  • Sophomore WR Cameron Dickerson’s brother is Garrett Dickerson, a 2014 TE/DE target from New Jersey


  • Michigan comes out with guns blazing on offense, allowing Devin Funchess and Jeremy Gallon each to go over 100 yards receiving.
  • Devin Gardner throws 2 interceptions.
  • Michigan actually looks ready to defend a dual-threat quarterback for once.
  • Cameron Gordon scores a touchdown on a fumble recovery.
  • Michigan 28, Northwestern 24

Last Time They Played . . . 

  • Michigan won in overtime by a score of 38-31
  • Devin Gardner threw for 286 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 pick.
  • Roy Roundtree caught a bomb to put Michigan in scoring position.
  • Kenny Demens made the game-sealing tackle in overtime.