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Michigan’s offense couldn’t quite put Wisconsin away late in Saturday’s game at Michigan Stadium, so the defense — Jourdan Lewis specifically — did it instead.
Michigan, ranked No. 4 nationally, went ahead 14-7 on a 46-yard touchdown pass from Wilton Speight to Amara Darboh with 7:56 to go. From there, Wisconsin, ranked No. 8, had three shots to tie it. On those three drives, the Badgers gained a total of 14 yards.
The first drive was a three-and-out. The second of those drives ended when Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook, making his second career start, was intercepted by Channing Stribling.
Hornibrook, a redshirt freshman, struggled all day long, completing 9-of-25 passes for just 88 yards. He looked cool, calm and collected last weekend at Michigan State. Against the Wolverines, things were different.
His last throw of the night, after the Badgers regained possession at their own eight-yard line with 2:46 to go, was intercepted on a seam route by Lewis. It was one of the best interceptions you will ever see.
Here’s another angle of Lewis, who somehow leaped and brought the pass in with just his right hand, like he was palming a tennis ball. Here’s another angle:
From there, Michigan was able to run out the clock and hold on to a 14-7 win to stay undefeated.
From the start, this was a classic Big Ten defensive battle. Neither offense could establish any sort of rhythm. The teams combined for eight first half punts and the only points came on a one-yard touchdown plunge from Michigan’s Khalid Hill on the first play of the second quarter.
Michigan was able to move the ball a bit against Wisconsin’s stout front seven, but failed to add on to its lead because of two Kenny Allen missed field goals — one from 31 yards and another from 43 on back-to-back drives.
Wisconsin’s offense was finally able to put some points on the board midway through the third, but only after a turnover from the defense. Five plays after Derrick Tindal picked off Speight in UW territory, the Badgers evened things up on Hornibrook’s best throw of the night, a beautiful 17-yard touch pass on a wheel route to Dare Ogunbowale out of the backfield.
Michigan, Ryan Tice this time, missed another field goal on its next drive, but the Wisconsin offense just could not pull ahead.
The Badgers mustered just 159 yards of offense on the afternoon, leaving the door open for the Wolverines to finally re-take the lead. They did just that when Jim Harbaugh dialed up a play-action pass and Speight found Darboh behind the defense for a 46-yard score.
The UM defense took care of business the rest of the way, and the Wolverines were able to keep pace with Ohio State atop the Big Ten East.
Michigan’s defense is the real deal, but this game could leave some concern about the Wolverines offense. Wisconsin, even without star linebacker Vince Biegel, has one of the better defenses in the country. There aren’t many teams that would have success against the Badgers. It may not show on the scoreboard, but the Wolverines still managed 349 yards of offense. That’s the most UW’s defense has given up all season.
Moving forward, the Wolverines travel to lowly Rutgers next weekend before a bye week.
On the other side, Wisconsin proved it can play with the big boys, but Hornibrook just didn’t seem ready for that type of environment. Paul Chryst elevated Hornibrook to starter over fifth-year senior Bart Houston last week. It was the right move, but the Badgers will need improved play to reach their potential.
It won’t get easier for Hornibrook and company, either. Next week, the Badgers host No. 2 Ohio State.
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