Thoughts on Wisconsin
I guess the game can really be thought of as 2 distinct halves that didn't resemble each other in the least. In the first half, Michigan shot itself in the foot too much on offense and missed a few assignments on defense. The Badgers took advantage and got to halftime with the score tied at 10. Then what happened? I'm guessing Lloyd Carr said something impressive to the team. The defense came out sky high and obliterated the Wisconsin offense for the rest of the game. There were less than 5 minutes left in the game when the Badgers avoided a 3 and out for the first time in the 2nd half. They literally went 1-2-3-punt for 25 minutes. Punt? Did you say punt? Yeah, Steve Breaston got a workout and racked up a career high with 116 punt return yards giving Michigan great field position over and over. The offense was a little better in the 2nd half putting together 2 nice TD drives and then a FG to make it 27-10. Then they put in some backups on defense and switched to a prevent and the Badgers drove down the field for a field goal and the final tally of a 27-13 game. And who predicted 27-13? Yep, I'm the man.
There were some other little meaningless "controversies" such as Brett Bielema calling a TO with less than a minute left. Lloyd Carr responded by having Henne chuck it deep on 3rd and 8 against a defense stacked to stop the run they knew was coming. It ended up getting picked off and UW tried to get into scoring position as time ran out. There also was the little matter of a Badger on the punt cover team taking a real cheap shot at Steve Breaston by grabbing ankle and giving it a big twist well after the play was over in plain sight of the ESPN camera. I'm not losing sleep over any of these things that essentially turned out meaningless. I mean who really cares?
So what did I like from the game?
- Umm, the defense? Have I mentioned that they are pretty damn good? They entered as the nation's #1 D against the rush allowing only 21 yards per game. Yeah, well Wisconsin helped the cause by only managing 12 yards for the game on the ground. Alan Branch was an absolute beast and his partners on the DL weren't far behind. I'm a little hesitant to go overboard with my praise for Ron English and the defense just yet, but it's obvious that they are good. I'll refrain from comparing them to any particular defense from Michigan's until a little later in the season (let's hope it isn't the 2000 defense).
- Chad Henne. Sure he threw 3 picks. I'd call 1 of them his fault. The last was absolutely meaningless and would've been a great pooch punt if Manningham could tackle. I tell ya, that Manningham kid really needs to improve. But back to Henne, he was 18/25 for 211 yards and 2 TDs. This is the 2nd game in a row he has been phenomenally accurate with his passes. If he keeps throwing lasers, this offense will be very good.
- Mike Hart. Just another boring Mike Hart game. What was it, 92 yards and a TD against a great rushing defense? Would've been over 100 if Lloyd didn't give him the last 8 minutes off. He hardly ever loses yardage and is always going forward. Plus he's a sure bet to make at least 1 or 2 defenders a game look silly as he cuts on a dime.
- Special teams. Phenomenal turn around by the kick coverage unit that entered the game ranked 99th in the nation. They repeatedly stuffed Wisconsin inside the 20 and laid some big hits. Also got 2/2 on field goals and some great punt returning by Breaston.
- Super Mario Manningham. No, he can't tackle. But this poor tackling wide receiver did manage to rack up his 2nd straight offensive player of the week award in the Big Ten. 113 yards and 2 TDs isn't a bad day at the office. First Michigan player since Big Play Bray to hit consecutive 100 yard receiving games (I'm looking at you Avant). He is now tied for the national lead in TD catches with 6 including 5 in the last 2 weeks.
4-0, 1-0 in conference and off to the Gopher Dome looking to regain the Little Brown Jug and finish off September undefeated. I can't bring myself to recap last year's disappointment when our defense just collapsed on Minnesota's final drive as they tried to run out the clock. It's Jug Time!