Michi­gan rid­ing into UW game with re­newed con­fi­dence

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - - SPORTS - Jeff Potrykus

MADI­SON – Min­utes af­ter his team closed out the month of Oc­to­ber with an em­bar­rass­ing 42-13 loss at Penn State, Michi­gan coach Jim Har­baugh was asked what the fu­ture would hold.

The Wolver­ines were 2-2 in the Big Ten, seem­ingly al­ready out of the East Divi­sion race, and 5-2 over­all.

“We en­dure and be bet­ter,” he said. “We are go­ing to re­group and come back.”

Af­ter three con­sec­u­tive vic­to­ries, the Wolver­ines (8-2, 5-2) ap­pear poised to spoil the play­off hopes of Wis­con­sin (10-0, 7-0), which is 10-0 for the first time in pro­gram history.

But is the Wolver­ines’ win­ning streak the re­sult of im­prove­ment across the board or largely the re­sult of play­ing Rut­gers, Min­nesota and Mary­land?

Those teams are 7-14 in Big Ten play and 13-17 over­all.

“All the fo­cus is on Wis­con­sin,” de­fen­sive tackle Mau­rice Hurst told the Detroit Free Press af­ter the Wolver­ines ex­tended their win­ning streak to three games with a 35-10 de­ci­sion over host Mary­land last week. “That’s a huge game on the road.

“We want to keep things rolling, make sure we’re prac­tic­ing hard and do what we’re sup­posed to do.”

Michi­gan’s for­mula in the last three weeks hasn’t been com­pli­cated:

Run the foot­ball. Give the quar­ter­back safe, high-per­cent­age throws. And let one of the bet­ter de­fenses in the na­tion ter­ror­ize the op­po­nent.

Michi­gan rushed 51 times for 334 yards (6.5-yard av­er­age) and four touch­downs in a 35-14 vic­tory over Rut­gers.

Michi­gan rushed 37 times for 371 yards (10.0-yard av­er­age) and four touch­downs in a 33-10 vic­tory at Min­nesota.

Michi­gan rushed 38 times for 160 yards (4.2-yard av­er­age) and three touch­downs in the 35-10 vic­tory over Mary­land.

“I re­ally think this might have been our best ball­game,” Har­baugh said af­ter the vic­tory over Mary­land. “All three phases, there was so much good.

“Three-and-outs by our de­fense. Spe­cial teams blocked a punt . ... Of­fen­sively pretty sound. No turnovers. We were able to make the big play. Very ef­fi­cient.

“Ef­fort was great and we were fin­ish­ing down af­ter down. It was re­ally solid foot­ball.”

Red­shirt fresh­man Brandon Peters has given the Wolver­ines solid quar­ter­back play dur­ing the streak.

Michi­gan lost starter Wilton Speight to in­jury in Week 4 at Purdue and backup John O’Korn was in­con­sis­tent. He was 3 of 6 for 13 yards, with an in­ter­cep­tion, early against Rut­gers when Har­baugh made the move to Peters.

Peters com­pleted 10 of 14 passes for 124 yards and a touch­down against Rut­gers and has started the last two games.

His pri­mary job at Min­nesota was to hand off and watch his backs run through cav­ernous holes but he com­pleted 8 of 13 at­tempts for 56 yards and a touch­down. He was 9 of 18 for 145 yards and two touch­downs at Mary­land.

Penn State rolled up 506 to­tal yards in the vic­tory over the Wolver­ines but the Nit­tany Lions’ scheme is dra­mat­i­cally dif­fer­ent from UW’s.

Michi­gan has al­lowed a com­bined 699 yards dur­ing its three-game win­ning streak, an av­er­age of 233 yards per game.

UW’S NEXT OP­PO­NENT: MICHI­GAN (8-2, 5-2)

Wis­con­sin plays Michi­gan at 11 a.m. Satur­day at Camp Ran­dall Sta­dium. Here’s the scout­ing re­port on the Wolver­ines:

Of­fense

The Wolver­ines have rushed for a com­bined 865 yards and 11 touch­downs in their three-game win­ning streak and en­ter the game No. 3 in the Big Ten in rush­ing at 207.8 yards per game.

But will the Wolver­ines have all their backs avail­able Satur­day?

Karan Hig­don, who leads the team in rush­ing yards (854) and rush­ing touch­downs (10), suf­fered an an­kle in­jury against Mary­land. Ty Isaac (548 yards, two touch­downs) has missed the last two games. That left Chris Evans (569 yards, six touch­downs) to carry the load last week. He car­ried 15 times for 80 yards and two scores. The Wolver­ines are at their best when they can ro­tate their tail­backs.

Red­shirt fresh­man quar­ter­back Brandon Peters is set to make his third con­sec­u­tive start. Peters (28 of 46 for 349 yards) has been given safe throws. Tight end Sean McKeon leads the team in catches (25) and is se­cond on the team in re­ceiv­ing yards (256).

De­fense

Ten starters de­parted af­ter last sea­son and the Wolver­ines still field one of the more stingy units in the Big Ten un­der co­or­di­na­tor Don Brown.

The Wolver­ines are se­cond in the Big Ten in to­tal de­fense (254.8 ypg) and third in scor­ing de­fense (16.4 ppg) and lead the Big Ten in op­po­nents’ third­down con­ver­sion rate (23.7%)

The front four is led by end Chase Wi­novich (seven sacks, 13 1⁄2 tackles for loss), tackle Mau­rice Hurst (4 1⁄2 sacks, 12 1⁄2 tackles for loss) and end Rashan Gary (three sacks, eight tackles for loss).

The lineback­ers are fast and phys­i­cal. Devin Bush leads the team in tackles (82) and passes bro­ken up (eight). He is one of three play­ers with at least five sacks and one of five with at least nine tackles for loss.

Fel­low line­backer Mike McCray also has nine tackles for loss and is se­cond on the team in tackles with 61. Khaleke Hudson leads the team in tackles for loss with 14 1⁄2 and has two in­ter­cep­tions. He had a Big Ten-record eight tackles for loss at Min­nesota. Can UW’s block­ers get clean shots on the mo­bile lineback­ers? If not, UW’s ground game will strug­gle.

Spe­cial teams

Quinn Nordin has made 14 of 19 field­goal at­tempts but those num­bers in­clude three con­sec­u­tive misses. He missed his only at­tempt at Mary­land, from 31 yards.

Michi­gan’s most ex­plo­sive re­turn man is Dono­van Peo­ples-Jones. The fresh­man wide re­ceiver is av­er­ag­ing only 8.5 yards per re­turn but he had a 79-yard touch­down re­turn against Air Force and re­turns of 17 yards against Rut­gers and 14 against Min­nesota. With field po­si­tion ex­pected to be crit­i­cal, ev­ery yard will count.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.