INDIANAPOLIS, In. — For the first time ever, Michigan traveled to Indianapolis to take on the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Big Ten Championship Game.
And Michigan also won its first Big Ten Championship since 2004 by a final score of, 42-3, after a second-half offensive clinic. What a time for Michigan football.
The Wolverines had two stellar drives — one of those drives only taking one play — and the rest of the Michigan possessions didn’t amount to much. Cade McNamara threw his fourth interception of the season, and JJ McCarthy threw an interception as time expired in the first half — just an ordinary hail mary attempt. The defense, however, was as stout as it could be. Iowa had three three-and-outs and all that the Hawkeyes could muster was three points. The maize and blue went into halftime with a 14-3 lead.
The Wolverines got the second half started on the right foot. The defense forced a punt right out the gate, and then Michigan went right down the field on the Hawkeyes in 10 plays that ended with a Hassan Haskins 4-yard score. Michigan completely shut down the Hawkeyes in the second half and stopped Iowa on a fourth-down play in Michigan territory. The offense scored four total touchdowns in the second half, and the Wolverines are off to the playoffs.
Here are three things we learned.
Michigan is the king of the Big Ten
Photo by: Isaiah Hole
There was something in the air in Indianapolis, heck you could feel it in the air for most of the games this year. There was an energy and an aura surrounding the team as they came out for early warmups. Cade McNamara came out pumping the crowd up, and the crowd — boy did the fans come to support their Michigan Wolverines. Every time the team left or entered the field during pregame warmups, it seemed to be a home game for Michigan — there was that much electricity in the stadium.
Michigan was here to play, to compete, and to win.
It may not have been the flashiest game the Wolverines have played in this year, nor the cleanest game that Michigan has played, but the maize and blue did absolutely everything they needed to do to win the Big Ten — and it put up some nice style points.
Every unit was prepared and ready for Iowa and the extremely tough Hawkeye defense — the 9th-ranked Iowa defense. The Wolverines scored plenty of points to win, but the Michigan defense stuffed Iowa and countered anything it tried to do.
After 60-minutes of football, the Michigan Wolverines have been crowned Big Ten Champions, and it sure was an emotional win. Some people labeled this game as a ‘trap game’ after the Wolverines dominated the Buckeyes last game, but the coaches and players left that game in the past and had full focus on winning a championship.
The Michigan Wolverines are officially playoff-bound, and most importantly, the Wolverines have a killer instinct.
Michigan is still emptying the playbook
Photo by: Isaiah Hole
Michigan had an offensive explosion the last two weeks against Maryland and Ohio State. We’ve seen Josh Gattis get a little more creative — especially in the red zone — and it has made the Michigan offense prosper.
The Wolverines only scored 14 points in the first half, but man, they sure had some dazzling plays.
It started off with an outside run to Blake Corum that went for 67-yards for a score, but there was a key element that made that score a thing of beauty — other than it being a 67-yard run. JJ McCarthy was in at quarterback on the handoff, and he ran step-by-step with Corum and made a crucial lead block that propelled the touchdown. That speaks volumes when your backup quarterback makes a play like that.
The possible play of the year came on the next drive. It was just a one-play drive, and it sure was perfect. Gattis called a simple pitch to Donovan Edwards, but it wasn’t a run, instead, it was a running back pass. Edwards, effortlessly, floated a bomb to Roman Wilson for a 75-yard touchdown. The pass was so good you would’ve thought that Edwards was the quarterback.
There were some nice reverse plays, bubble screens, and a dart to Schoonmaker in the third and fourth quarters — you know, basic stuff. There was also a flea-flicker in the fourth quarter, when the game was well over, to Erik All for a 38-yard gain — who ended the drive with a one-handed five-yard touchdown.
Michigan may not have gotten out to an offensive explosion early, but the Wolverines offense sure came alive in the second half. While the offense got hot, the defense remained ferocious and both units got the job done on Saturday.
The point is, Josh Gattis keeps coming up with new stuff, and it’s the 13th game this year. It should be interesting to see what he pulls out when the playoffs roll around.
Defense was as elite as ever
Photo by: Isaiah Hole
The Michigan offense has been on a tear as of late, and attention has been turned to the Wolverines high-flying offense.
We can’t forget about the 8th-ranked defense that Michigan has.
Iowa has one of the worst offenses in football, but credit still has to be given to the Michigan defense. The Wolverines were flying around on the field, and Spencer Petras and Alex Padilia faced pressure all game long. It was Aidan Hutchinson — who is now up to 14 sacks on the season –, Kris Jenkins, David Ojabo, Junior Colson, and Daxton Hill getting pressure on the Iowa passers.
The Hawkeyes gained 279 yards total, and the running game could only generate 104 yards on the ground. Michigan took away what the Hawkeyes wanted to do — run the ball — and it left Iowa without any answers.
Whoever Michigan faces on New Year’s Eve in the playoffs, the defense will need to answer the bell and continue to play at a high level.