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No. 14 Michigan traveled to Madison to take on the Wisconsin Badgers on Saturday. The Wolverines haven’t won up in Madison since 2001.
All streaks must come to an end. The Wolverines won their first game at Camp Randall in 20 years with a final score of 38-17.
In the first half, Michigan came out dominating, especially on the defensive side. The Badgers had four straight three-and-outs to start the game. The Wolverines led the game 13-3 with 20 seconds left in the second quarter, but the Michigan defense apparently fell asleep, and Graham Mertz threw a couple of long passes — with one of them being a touchdown. The maize and blue went into the locker room up 13-10 at halftime.
The second half started out just like the first half begun Michigan dominance — but it stayed that way the rest of the game. The Wolverines defense was constantly getting pressure on Mertz and Chase Wolf where they had zero time to make good throws. The defense forced two turnovers in the second game en route to a big Michigan victory.
We even got to see a touchdown run and pass from JJ McCarthy in this blowout victory against the Badgers.
Here are three things we learned after the Michigan win.
Ronnie Bell is missed, but Roman Wilson had a coming out party
Oct 2, 2021; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Michigan Wolverines wide receiver Roman Wilson (14) is tackled after catching a pass during the first quarter against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
It seemed when star-receiver Ronnie Bell went out after week 1 with a season-ending injury, Michigan had enough playmakers that it would be fine.
While the Wolverines do have a ton of fast and athletic wide-outs, and players that could be that No. 1 guy, the first half looked like Ronnie Bell was severely missed.
While Cade McNamara didn’t play a fantastic first half against Wisconsin — some of his throws weren’t right on target — the receivers didn’t give him much help.
There were a handful of drops or catches that should have been made. College-caliber players, especially at a school like Michigan, need to catch the ball when they get two hands on it.
But the second half came and his weapons looked much better — especially sophomore Roman Wilson.
Roman Wilson really stepped up on Saturday and had a career day — he had six catches for 81 yards. At one point in the third quarter, McNamara just threw a deep ball up for grabs, which resulted in a spectacular catch from Wilson. That catch allowed the Wolverines to punch in touchdown a few plays later from JJ McCarthy.
This could have been a big coming-out party from Wilson — one that Michigan really needs.
Michigans defensive line is the anchor
Oct 2, 2021; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Graham Mertz (5) is sacked by Michigan Wolverines linebacker David Ojabo (55) during the second quarter at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Mike Macdonald has obviously helped bring the Michigan defense back to dominance.
The new scheme appears to fit the majority of the defensive players that the Wolverines have and Macdonald is able to mix things up to confuse the opposing quarterback.
It all starts with the defensive line though.
The Wolverines haven’t been able to get to the quarterback on a consistent basis this season, which has been the only knock on them, but the line has been very dominant overall.
The Wolverines line play was superb against Wisconsin on Saturday.
Michigan sacked the Badgers quarterbacks six times, one forced fumble by David Ojabo, and it stuffed the running game from the Badgers. Wisconsin had 43 yards of rushing, the maize and blue had Mertz and Chase Wolf — who replaced Mertz in the third quarter — running for their life the entire game.
Aidan Hutchinson, David Ojabo, and company are playing with a chip on their shoulders and it’s showing with each passing game.
Michigans offensive line is really, really good
Oct 2, 2021; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Michigan Wolverines running back Hassan Haskins (25) is tackled with the football during the first quarter against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Michigan has the No. 5 rushing attack in all of football for various reasons: the great running backs and the physical offensive line are good starting points.
Since there really aren’t many stats on the offensive line, the big guys up front don’t get the legit love that they should.
The Wolverines were going up against the No. 1 rushing defense and the No. 2 team for total defense on Saturday in Wisconsin.
The maize and blue offensive line have yet to allow McNamara to be sacked, and it didn’t happen once again on Saturday. McNamara had plenty of time in the pocket, and when the pocket would collapse, he had lanes to get away from damage.
Not very many teams can say that their starting signal-caller has never been sacked through five games, but Michigan can.
The other big thing to note about the Michigan offensive line is they carved a path for Michigan to rush for 112 yards. The Badgers were allowing the opposing team to gain 23 yards on the ground on average. All season the Wisconsin defensive line has punished the opposing line, but not on Saturday.
A big key to this game was the trench play, and the Wolverines easily won that against a very aggressive defensive line.