3 things we learned about Michigan football after defeating Northwestern

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ANN ARBOR, Mich — Michigan has won its’ last six meetings against Northwestern, and it hosted the Wildcats on Saturday for the first time since 2018.

The Wolverines continue their winning ways against NU on Saturday after they won, 33-7, as Michigan took home the first-annual Jewett trophy as well.

Michigan was favored by 23.5 points going into the game, and this was no sleep-walk for the maize and blue. If you didn’t watch the game and look purely at the stats, then it was domination, but Michigan looked as if it had a hangover in the first half after the bye week. The offense looked extremely lethargic out there and the defense allowed quite a few big-yardage plays.

Luckily, the players came out a little more fired up in the second half and outscored the Wildcats, 23-7. The offense showed a little more heart with better execution, and we even got to see JJ McCarthy do some razzle-dazzle with a few nice carries. Then defense stepped up and created a couple of turnovers to set up fantastic field position for the offense.

Like in the first few games of the year, Michigan was able to run wild –294 yards to be exact. Both Blake Corum and Hassan Haskins rushed for over 100 yards and they both had two rushing touchdowns in the game — they were beasts.

Michigan remains undefeated at 7-0 and the big in-state showdown awaits next week with Michigan State. Here are three things we learned about Michigan after it defeated the Wildcats on Saturday.

List

Predicting every Big Ten football game in Week 8

Defensive line reaffirms how good it is

Photo by: Isaiah Hole

Let me start by saying, the defensive line had one bad play this game, one. The line allowed a 75-yard run up the middle by Evan Hull, which was the only form of offense the Wildcats had all game.

The defense is led by Aidan Hutchinson, and he was a monster once again on Saturday. The stat sheet may not pop out when you look at Hutchinson’s stats, but let me tell you, he was disruptive. The future NFL player had one sack on the day and a fumble recovery, but was a terror off of the edge — Ryan Hilinski had to get rid of the ball quick all game.

Hutchinson had help though, David Ojabo was also credited with a half sack on Saturday and was a key-piece off of the edge against the Wildcats.

It seems with each passing game, the defensive line is growing and growing before our eyes. It went from being a possible weak spot into being a top unit in the Big Ten. As a unit, the defensive line is the heart and soul of the Wolverines defense and this defense will go as far as the defensive line takes it.

The deep ball is still an area of concern

Photo by: Isaiah Hole

The inconsistency of the deep ball was an issue once again on Saturday for Michigan.

Cade McNamara missed all four of his throws down-field — more than 20 yards — in the first half: two to Cornelius Johnson, one to Mike Sainristil, and one to Luke Schoonmaker — which would have been a touchdown.

The wind could have been a factor on the first two passes, he was going against the wind, but they are still passes the Wolverines need to execute.

McNamara continues to excel in the short to intermediate throws — he completed 19-20 of those in the first half –, but the lack of connecting on the deep shot is starting to get worrisome.

The Wolverines were able to run the ball down the Wildcats throat in the second half, so McNamara didn’t even need to throw the ball much at all — he didn’t attempt any passes down field.

So for the game Michigan was 0-4 for anything more than 20-yards down the field. This is something that really needs to get addressed and worked out by next weekend against Michigan State. It’s hard to believe the Wolverines will have this kind of rushing attack against the Spartans defense, so McNamara will need to hit those deep balls, especially when his receivers get some separation.

The red zone struggle remained real -- in the first half

Photo by: Isaiah Hole

It’s been an issue all season, and it doesn’t seem to get much better — too many drives stall in the red zone for the maize and blue.

The first half on Saturday was the same problem. On the fourth drive for the Wolverines, they got the ball inside of the 10-yard line, but in three efforts of punching it in, Michigan found itself short one the two-yard-line. The coaching staff thought it was best to get points, so Michigan kicked the field-goal to get three, but no touchdown.

Then the big problem came on the last drive of the first half, after a 75-yard touchdown run by the Wildcats, time was dwindling, but Michigan was moving the ball fairly easy. The Wolverines get inside the 10-yard line, but Mike Sainristil fumbled the ball on the three-yard line, and Michigan turned the ball over.

In the second half, it was like a light bulb turned on for execution. The Wolverines went three-for-three scoring touchdowns in the red zone in the second half.

We need to start seeing the play calling and execution to look the way it did in the second half. These red zone woes are going to start meaning a lot more starting next week against Michigan State. The maize and blue really need to do a better job at getting six points to end drives, not three or zero.

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