Eleven games into the season, the Michigan Wolverines put together the type of performance that Brady Hoke and his coaching staff has surely wanted to see all year long.
Michigan dominated on both sides of the ball, a dual effort that resulted in a surprisingly dominating 45-17 win over Nebraska at Michigan Stadium on Saturday.
Denard Robinson threw for two touchdowns and ran for another pair, while racking up 263 yards of total offense. Michigan’s quarterback looked like the sort of double threat that many hoped he could be all season. Overall, Robinson completed 11-of-18 passes for 179 yards, while throwing an interception in the second quarter. He also rushed for 84 yards on 23 carries, which was important against strong Nebraska pass coverage.
The Wolverines moved the ball well on the ground, too. Fitzgerald Toussaint continued his breakout season, rushing for 134 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries. Several times, Toussaint made Nebraska defenders look silly with sharp cuts to change direction. He also showed strong balance, staying upright after taking some hard hits.
But the most impressive aspect of Michigan’s win was the performance of its defense.
Quoting Lou Holtz is probably never a good way to go, but as he said during halftime of the ESPN telecast, if Rich Rodriguez had this kind of defense, he’d still be the head coach of Michigan. Of course, he never came close to putting together a good defensive staff or roster, which is one of the major reasons he’s an analyst for CBS College Sports this year.
Greg Mattison’s defensive game plan worked wonderfully against the Nebraska offense, with well-timed blitzes that rattled Taylor Martinez throughout the game. But the Michigan defensive line also deserves most of the credit for pushing hard off the line of scrimmage, giving the Cornhuskers little room to run.
Nebraska compiled 256 yards of total offense on the day. Rex Burkhead, who rushed for 130 yards against a presumably better Michigan State defense, managed only 36 on nine carries. Martinez added 51 yards.
Michigan was also helped by excellent play on special teams.
The Wolverines recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff of the second half, eventually converting that into a touchdown and 24-10 lead. A fake field goal on a 4th-and-2 from the Nebraska 6-yard line resulted in a first down. Robinson ran for a one-yard touchdown on the next play. Michigan recovered another fumble on a kickoff early in the fourth quarter, but weren’t able to capitalize on that Nebraska mistake.
With the win, Michigan improves its record to 9-2. Beating Nebraska also helped Michigan State to clinch the Legends Division championship and a bid in the Big Ten’s championship game. Up next for the Wolverines is Ohio State to close out the season..