Michigan defeated Wisconsin, giving Jim Harbaugh the 1st win as an underdog
MADISON, Wis. – Between the third and fourth quarter they danced away their demons.
Twenty long years had passed since the Michigan soccer team traveled to Wisconsin and victoriously escaped Camp Randall Stadium – not since a field goal in the waning seconds of 2001 secured a victory. Classes of Wolverines had come to Ann Arbor and were tormented by the badgers. and blowout losses over the past two seasons (in Madison and Ann Arbor) created legions of skeptics who assumed this trip would be the same.
How wrong the doubters were when Michigan shredded Wisconsin, 38-17, to give coach Jim Harbaugh his first win as an underdog in Michigan. The program kicked in Saturday 0-12 when opponents were favored.
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With the iconic song “Jump Around” at the start of the fourth quarter, it was Harbaugh’s team that danced to the rocking tune in the stadium. UM players from all positions flocked to the field with towels waving over their heads, enjoying a tradition that has become iconic for this Wisconsin fan base.
“We put an emphasis on it,” said Safety Daxton Hill. “We wanted to be up there (on the scoreboard) for the entire game. As soon as that happened, that would be our juice. We wanted to steal their juice.”
At this point, after wide receiver Cornelius Johnson hit on a flea, after kicker connected Jake Moody on all three field goal attempts, and after the defense destroyed almost every type of game the Badgers called, the Wolverines had a 10 -Points lead that felt more like 30. They had kicked starting quarterback Graham Mertz from the game and stoned UW’s ongoing attack. They had taken advantage of their favorable field position and played another dead game (before the final minutes when reserve quarterback Alan Bowman threw a meaningless interception).
Michigan (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) stormed through Madison and left the field unbeaten as 20 years of demons were wiped out and so much was still to be achieved.
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Defense flips the script
A week after the Michigan offensive went three-and-out in a narrow win over Rutgers on four consecutive holdings, the Wolverines defense matched that feat with an assertive performance that stunned Wisconsin. Perhaps encouraged by a desire to overwrite the nightmarish bleeding against the Badgers in 2020 and 2019 – when Wisconsin and Michigan players respectively spoke about Ad-Nauseum during the week.
The Badgers failed to score a first down on their first four ball possessions on Saturday as Michigan’s defense front, who saw the game as the benchmark against a program notorious for mangling opponents, refused to be postponed. With a near-perfect mix of backbone against the barrel (Wisconsin’s longest carry of the first half won 9 yards) and waves of pass rushes to pester revenue-prone Mertz (who entered three games with six interceptions), the Wolverines almost gave in nothing in the first 20 minutes as the Badgers won minus 2 yards on attack (although they were only 13-10 behind).
“Everything is based on our brotherhood,” said external linebacker David Ojabo. “We believe in each other. No matter who faces us, we preach it. Faceless opponents. Nameless opponents. As long as we have each other’s backs, man, we don’t worry about whoever is on the other side. “
Your performance was impressive from the start. Harbaugh acted aggressively after getting the opening start by leaving his offense on the field for two fourth attempts in his own half of the field. The first was successful, but the second flopped, with Hassan Haskins’ jam being stuffed on the defensive by Matt Henningsen. Wisconsin took over at UM 46 when a questionable coaching decision left the defense in an awkward position and continued a trend from last week.
But Macdonald’s unit never withered, undercutting the Chez Mellusi jam with gains of 3 yards on the first and second floors to set the tone. When the Badgers attempted a screen on third-and-4, Mazi Smith scraped the ball out of the air for an incompleteness. The Badgers were forced to toss in a harbinger of what was to come – player Andy Vujnovich was called eight times – as Michigan built a lead that would never give up.
“I thought we had a lot of really good push in the middle, which was great to see,” said Harbaugh. “And then the edge print came home. I thought we did a really good job of masking those lightning bolts. We had some lightning simulators in there that simulated the lightning, but we don’t flash. I thought Mike named it a great game . ” regard.”
The second half came on defensive takeaways, arguably the only area Macdonald’s unit had underperformed this season. A series of lightning bolts from Hill, who fell victim to a touchdown pass at the end of the first half, culminated in a vicious strike against Mertz, who had knocked him out of the game with a chest injury. Wisconsin’s backup quarterback, Chase Wolf, displayed the same self-destructive habits of his predecessor by losing a fumble restored by defensive tackle Chris Hinton and throwing an interception to Hill.
Wolf’s pair sales added up to 10 points for Michigan as the game dissolved into a bleacher clearing blowout. Wisconsin finished 3-for-14 in third place, with only 210 yards offensive.
“I feel like we’ve twitched enough over the past few years,” said Hill. “We didn’t want to feel that way anymore.”
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Find a role for McCarthy
Michigan had to regain momentum after a Badgers touchdown in their last significant possession of the first half and revealed a new crease by putting backup quarterback JJ McCarthy on the offensive.
McCarthy, a former five-star recruit fans longed for, made brief appearances against western Michigan and northern Illinois when Cade McNamara led an efficient offense. And while McNamara’s efficiency remained the same – Michigan scored six of its eleven ball possessions – the coaches changed their stance on McCarthy and shuffled him onto the field a couple of times in the second half, starting with UM’s inaugural possession.
“He’s pretty athletic,” said Harbaugh. “We thought we’d have some looks for him so he could pull the ball and try to get the ball to the edge. He’s got one that he had a nice win on.”
A 38-yard close from McNamara to wide receiver Roman Wilson on the right sideline positioned the Wolverines with a goal-to-go situation and Harbaugh sent McCarthy onto the field to finish it off. The real newbie handed the ball to Haskins on the third down before smuggling it over the goal line himself on the fourth down, extending the lead to 20-10.
Fleeting appearances by McCarthy on an afternoon when McNamara (17-on-28, 197 yards) fought with accuracy, Harbaugh and his staff will present a new question to Harbaugh and his staff during the upcoming media sessions, even if the former never tried to find one before the game Pass play has been secured. McNamara failed on eight of his first 16 passes against the Badgers, some of which came off low, short, and generally crooked. Without the 34-yard touchdown against Johnson on a beautifully executed flea, McNamara would have finished the first half 11-for-21 for 83 yards.
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But as Harbaugh and Quarterbacks coach Matt Weiss have noted several times this season, McNamara remains productive in key parts of the job: avoiding fluctuations and orchestrating scoring drives. McNamara played flawless football again and contributed 31 of his team’s 38 points.
Those stats alone should be enough to keep McCarthy at bay for a while, but McCarthy’s 56-yard touchdown pass to recipient Daylen Baldwin in garbage time will keep fans in suspense.
“He’s also very good at throwing the ball,” Harbaugh said of McCarthy. “We’re just trying to get him in as far as possible.
Contact Michael Cohen at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @ Michael_Cohen13.