Offense Notes: Michigan Comes Alive In Second Half Of Win Over Northwestern
Michigan football made some crucial mistakes in the first half of its 33-7 win over Northwestern Saturday afternoon, primarily in the red zone and near the goal line.
The Wolverines started slow, combining to run 13 plays on their first two drives, both of which ended in punts. They began to move the ball, though, but failed to punch it in the end zone on two straight possessions to end the half, with the first one resulting in a 20-yard field goal and the second ending when sophomore wideout Mike Sainristil lost a fumble at the 2-yard line on third down.
"Offensively, I thought we really played extremely well," head coach Jim Harbaugh said. "Obviously, we left some meat on the bone, shot ourselves in the foot a few times especially when we got inside the 5-yard line."
That made it a 10-7 game at the break, much closer than many expected.
The Maize and Blue then exploded for 17 third-quarter points, and leaned on their bread and butter — the run game — while doing so. For the second time this season, both second-year freshman Blake Corum (119 yards) and redshirt sophomore Hassan Haskins (110 yards) surpassed the 100-yard rushing mark, running behind an offensive line that was without starting left guard Trevor Keegan (shoulder) and right guard Zak Zinter (lower body). Corum and Haskins each had a pair of touchdowns
After the break, the Wolverines attempted just eight pass attempts and ran it 25 times, amassing 148 yards on the ground (5.9 yards per carry) to pull away to victory.
"The two of them, they’re both great running backs, and then there’s something about the dynamic of Hassan one play, Blake the next — the difference [between the two stylistically]," Harbaugh said. "They’re both great but have some slight differences that make them both really special and hard to defend, I would think."
All told, Michigan ran for 294 yards on 54 carries with four touchdowns. The Wolverines scored on four of their final seven drives, and also had one missed field goal in that span.
Michigan Football 'Forced' A Few Deep Balls
The Wolverines' passing game featured a high completion percentage (71.9) but managed only 5.1 yards per attempt. Redshirt freshman signal-caller Cade McNamara mostly threw shorter passes, with the exception of a couple missed deep balls in the first half — one to Sainristil and another to sophomore Cornelius Johnson.
"I think the deep passing game, we probably forced that a little bit today," Harbaugh said. "Their safeties were playing back and 16 [sophomore Brandon Joseph, a 2020 first-team All-American] is a really good safety, so I think that was the case there. Maybe forced that a little too much with how they were playing."
"I saw one-on-one opportunities and I took them, and I think those are plays that we need in our offense," McNamara said. "They were called, and I did my best to execute them."
But overall, the Wolverines were pleased with their aerial attack, with McNamara finishing 20 of 27 for 129 yards and freshman J.J. McCarthy connecting on 3 of 5 attempts for 34 yards.
"Straightforward, yes, I thought Cade had a very good game," Harbaugh said after being asked multiple times if he was pleased with the signal-caller's performance. "I thought the receivers played extremely well. Protection was very good."
Michigan yielded just one sack — just the second McNamara has taken this season — and distributed it to the pass-catchers evenly. Sophomore tight end Erick All led the way with career highs in catches (five) and yards (34), while Sainristil and Johnson totaled 33 and 30 yards, respectively.
"Great to see Erick All and the tight ends really get into the game planning," Harbaugh said. "I think six targets for Erick, six for C.J. [Johnson], six for a couple other guys. That was good."
Miscellaneous Michigan Football Offense Notes
• Second-year freshman wide receiver Roman Wilson, who wore a protective wrap on his left hand/wrist, made his return after missing the last game at Nebraska with an injury. He notched two receptions for four yards.
• Today's performance marked the first time Corum ran for 100 or more yards in a Big Ten game. It was his fourth 100-yard outing of the season, while Haskins hit the century mark for the third time. It was the sixth time under Harbaugh that two backs have produced 100-plus rushing yards.
• The Wolverines had just two negative rushes in the game — Haskins was dropped for a loss of one once and McNamara's sack went for a loss of 12 yards.
• Freshman running back Donovan Edwards lost a fumble late in the game. This contest marked the first time the Wolverines had two turnovers this season.
• Michigan's 294 rushing yards are the fourth most it has produced all season and its four rushing touchdowns are tied for the second highest amount. The Wolverines have now rushed for 290-plus yards in four contests.
• After stalling on the first two possessions, the offense produced scoring drives on three of the next four possessions, resulting in scoring marches of 79 yards (touchdown), 55 yards (field goal) and 74 yards (touchdown).
• Michigan held the advantage in time of possession — 39:19 to 20:41.
• The Maize and Blue have scored points in 23 of 28 quarters this season and three out of four today, after being held scoreless in the opening stanza.
• Michigan is 7-0 for the second time under Harbaugh and fifth time since 1980.
• The Wolverines have now beaten Northwestern seven straight times and lead the all-time series, 59-15-2.
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