Across the Border: Wisconsin

Massey from Buckeye Commentary offers his take on Michigan’s win over Wisconsin. And hey! He actually watched the game this week.

What I saw…

Wow. I will tell you what I saw – an entirely different team appearing from the locker room after halftime. Let’s focus on the action after halftime. No need to dwell on that first half.

That was an impressive turn around considering their performance for the previous 6 quarters. They never quit and even stepped up their play. The team obviously believes in Rodriguez and continues to play hard for him. I am not sure what a galvanizing win is supposed to look like, but a new Wolverine team has showed up in the second stanza. At the very least, the players have to feel good about their performance and believe that execution will lead to more victories. I think this win is more important to the program at large than this particular season.

I also saw: Michigan overcome horrible field position in the second half. Do you realize their average starting position was their own 20-yard line?…I also saw Threet run farther without being tackled than I ever thought I he would. I loved the two hands at the end…Speaking of Threet, how about that jump pass on the first possession of the second half. Tebow-esque?…For the most part, Wisconsin did not cross midfield in the second half until their penultimate drive. Their opening drive made it into Michigan territory for a few plays, another started at Michigan’s 46 (because of a penalty) and went backwards, and one other drive made it to the Michigan 49-yard line. Wisconsin never sniffed a scoring opportunity until they were desperate.

What I didn’t see…

Those underachieving Michigan linebackers I keep reading about online. I know Beckum was out, which helped their cause, but the Michigan defense (and linebackers) played well. Hell, they even scored a touchdown. They gave up 19 first half points but you can thank the turnovers for that. Wisconsin only gained 145 yards on their five scoring possessions. If a team like Wisconsin only has to average a 30-yard drive to score, they are going to get points. In the second half, the Badgers went nowhere for 25 minutes.

I also did not see: Nick Sheridan, which was somewhat surprising considering Threet’s halftime stat line…Wisconsin’s ability to cover the intermediate routes. (Mathews dropped the two long pass attempts I can remember.) Give Michigan’s coaches credit for using those routes over and over…Wisconsin jump the snap. Michigan seems to snap the ball in the same rhythm each play – about one second after Threet claps…Any reason not to go for two after the interception return. I understand there is some debate on that point, but a successful try takes pressure off the defense.

Who I watched…

I have to admit, I did not watch anyone in particular. There was not much to watch in the first half and by the time the scoring burst was over, I had been transformed into your basic fan. I was the purest of spectators, without agenda or analytical bent. I was just watching a great finish.

What I expect next week…

Let me play Captain Obvious for a moment and say that a performance similar to their second half will make for a close game. Vegas has the Wolverines as the favorites, so they appear to be counting on that continued performance. Michigan’s offense should look improved against Illinois, but can the defense slow down Juice. I doubt it, and I think Michigan will need to score 30 points to win the game. That means that the offense will have to take some chances early in order to avoid having to play catch-up for a second straight game…I also expect that the boos will be gone for a while. The crowd for the Illinois will be far less timid after that comeback and well be ready to go from the beginning.

What this game tells me about The Game…

Michigan is capable of stringing first downs against a legitimate defense when they do not engage in a fumble festival. We know Ohio State has struggled with spread attacks in the past, so Michigan may be able to move the ball if they continue to improve on offense. It is difficult to speak with certainty regarding their response to adversity since this was a home game (see Notre Dame for opposite road reaction) but I think this win can provide the confidence that was sorely lacking. I have to admit, I have a renewed interest in watching this team. I was really getting bored after four games.

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