The Michigan football team appears to have left its defense back in Ann Arbor while traveling to Evanston.
In a shootout reminiscent of the 54-51 game between these two schools in 2000, Northwestern leads Michigan 24-14 at halftime Saturday night. The Wolverines and Wildcats have combined for 564 yards of total offense, with defense being almost an afterthought.
Whatever strides Denard Robinson appeared to have made in the passing game last week versus Minnesota have regressed thus far at Ryan Field. Robinson has thrown three interceptions to go with two touchdowns in the first half. He’s completed 10-of-18 passes, as Michigan went away from the short passing game it employed against the Golden Gophers, opting for longer throws down the field.
The deep passing game has worked for Michigan in getting the ball down the field, but poor reads by Robinson — especially in the red zone — has prevented the offense from putting more points on the board. Junior Hemingway leads the team in receiving thus far, with 105 yards on four receptions. Jeremy Gallon added 57 yards and a touchdown on four catches. Tight end Steve Watson has the other TD catch for Michigan in the first half.
Offensive coordinator Al Borges has also called Robinson’s number more in the running game, with the quarterback running 10 times for 46 yards on several designed keeper plays. Fitzgerald Toussaint is the team’s second-leading rusher in the first half, with 21 yards on six carries.
Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa has been as effective as many Wolverine fans (and coaches, surely) feared, completing 16-of-24 passes for 196 yards. The Wildcats have also shown the Michigan defense a few different looks, bringing in Kain Colter to run the option.
Mixing in the option has worked well for Northwestern, which ran for 101 yards in the first half. Adonis Smith leads a balanced rushing attack for the Wildcats with 26 yards on five carries. But four other Wildcats have 12 yards or more on the ground.
To the frustration of Brady Hoke and Greg Mattison, the Michigan defense hasn’t generated much of a pass rush on Persa. The Wolverines have no sacks at the half. Though Persa has gotten rid of the ball quickly on most plays, Michigan also hasn’t pressured him very often. The defense tried to blitz Persa early in the game, but got burned for long passing plays and have stuck with a safer scheme since then.
Michigan gets the ball to begin the second half.