Observations on the win over #13 Northwestern, 38-0
Jehu Chesson gave us all the points we needed on the opening kickoff with a 96 yard romp. Defense stoned the Wildcats for their 3rd shutout in a row, first time since November 15, 1980 when we whitewashed Indiana, Wisconsin, and Purdue. We gained 3 red zones, and converted all three for 21 points; defense scored 7 points off one Northwestern turnover.
Offense had 21 first downs, 380 net yards with 201 on the ground, and held a 14 minute time of possession advantage which resulted in 11 more offensive plays. Jake Rudock was 17 of 23 for 179 yards, and ran 6 times for 11 yards and a TD; he was 8 of 15 on 3rd and 4th down conversions. DeVeon Smith had 8 carries for 59 yards plus caught 3 passes for 19 yards; he left after re-injuring his ankle, and never returned. Drake Johnson only carried twice, but one was for a TD. Derrick Green had 12 carries for 47 yards, and a TD. Joe Kerridge got two carries for 35 yards. Karan Hidgon saw his fiirst action with 8 carries for 16 yards, but one can see why Harbaugh took him off redshirt; he gives the team great speed and quickness. A.J. Williams had 4 catches for 48 yards. Jake Butt had 3 catches for 40 yards. Jehu Chesson, Amara Darboh, and Drake Harris all had two catches each.
Defense was rock solid! The Wildcats had 168 net yards and only 13 first downs as the Michigan defense forced them into 8 punts and a turnover. Clayton Thorson was 13 of 27 for 106 yards, and ran 3 times for -4. Justin Jackson carried 12 times for 25 yards. Jarrod Wilson had 7 tackles to lead the defense. Desmond Morgan and Joe Bolden had 6 tackles each. Willie Henry has 2 sacks, Ryan Glasgow, and Taco Charlton also had sacks.
Special Teams were also solid! Chesson rolled to a 96 yard TD on kickoff return. Kenny Allen and the kickoff coverage team continue to be great. Jabrill Peppers looks like a veteran fair catching the punts. Blake O'Neill punted 5 times for 2 touchbacks and three downed inside the 20. The Wildcats missed a field goal the only time they crossed midfield.
Bring on the Spartans! Go Blue!
Pat Fitzgerald's Wildcats are undefeated when they come to Ann Arbor with the Big Ten's #1 scoring defense. Northwestern beat Michigan in Ann Arbor in 2008, 21-14, which was Rich Rodriquez' first season. The last time before that was 1995 when the #7 Wolverines (9-4) were upset by the #8 Wildcats (10-2), 13-19, as they won the Big Ten Championship and went to the Rose Bowl. The previous last time was 1959 when the Wolverines lost to the Ara Parsegian's #2 Wildcats, 7-20. Bo Schembechler coached the Wildcat defensive line in 1956 and 1957 before returning to Ohio State in 1958. The Wildcats feature the Big Ten's Top Rushing attack led by Justin Jackson who averages 127 yards per game; they average nearly 250 yards per game on the ground as a team. Their kicking game is solid with field goal specialist, Jack Mitchell (10 of 13), while leading the Big Ten in kickoff returns with dangerous Solomon Vault. Northwestern has the Big Ten's top scoring defense led by Anthony Walker who has 20 tackles for loss, a solid pass defense, and one of the best red zone defenses in the conference; the Wildcat defense is still coached by former Wolverine, Mike Hankwitz, from Ludington in his 45th season of coaching. On defense, we will have to stop the Wildcat running attack. On offense, we will have to gain time of possession advantage with solid 3rd down efficiency and win the turnover battle; in either case, it will be another low scoring affair like last season's, 10-9, nailbiter and the triple overtime win in 2013, 27-19, after a 9-9 deadlock in regulation. In 2012, we beat the Wildcats, 38-31, in overtime. Pat Fitzgerald is 1-6 against Michigan with his only win in that 2008 game. This is the first time since 1971 that both #13 Northwestern and #18 Michigan are meeting as Top 20 opponents; in 1971, #4 Michigan beat #20 Northwestern, 21-6, in the season opener. In 2005, #25 Michigan defeated #21 Northwestern, 33-17.