Observations on the win over Northwestern, 33-17!

1-We converted 5 red zones for 23 points, and one big defensive fumble recovery for a big play TD. Northwestern converts 2 red zones for 3 points, and comes up with 2 big plays for TDs; however, it wasn't enough against our stellar defense.

2-Defense comes up with a huge second half stopping the Wildcat offense on every second half possession, and holding them to zero points in the second half. They had only 4 first downs in the second half with 94 yards on 29 plays. They were only 2 of 15 in 3rd and 4th down conversions for the game. Backup Shawn Crable comes up with a huge sack on Basanez and blows up a screen to end another drive. Prescott Burgess leads the defense with 7 tackles, Leon Hall has 6 including a forced fumble that he picks up for an 83 yard TD. Pierre Woods spells Woodley with 5 tackles. Gabe Watson forces their center into two holds that ruined Northwestern drives as the Wildcats are caught for 6 penalties for 60 yards, and at least 3 or 4 of the penalties were holds. Brandon Harrison and Grant Mason come up with big interceptions, and we converted the 3 Wildcat turnovers into 10 points while they were turned away by our defense when they took 4 Michigan turnovers into zero points. We put 7 quarterback hits on Basanez: 3 by Branch, 2 by Jamison, and one each by Crable and Woods.

3-Henne was 17 of 30 for 174 yards, 1 TD, 3 interceptions and 1 sack. Avant had 5 catches for 67 yards, and no catches in the second half. Great job by Northwestern in coverage! Breaston had 3 catches for 24 yards. Ecker, Massaquoi and Grady had 2 catches each for 65 additional yards. How about Mike Massey catching his first TD as a Wolverine?

We had 22 first downs, and were 6 of 19 in 3rd and 4th down conversions (3 of 12 in the second half) for 427 yards in total offense in 88 plays. The major thing our offense did was possess the ball for 16 minute time of possession advantage that gave us a 22 play advantage, and kept our defense fresh.

4-Jerome Jackson had 24 rushes for 105 yards, and Kevin Grady added 20 rushes for 64 yards. Manningham caught 3 tosses for 35 yards, and Breaston caught 3 for 29 yards. Offensive line allowed no sacks after the first play of the game, and we gained 253 yards in 53 rushing attempts. Stenavich left early, but returned to play most of the game. Kraus went out with a sprained knee, and didn't return. Hart dressed, warmed up, but didn't play; hopefully, he'll be ready for Ohio State on November 19. Will Paul gets his first start at blocking back, but didn't look good on the two dropped passes in the red zone.

5-Basanez was 26 of 49 for 326 yards (62 in the second half), 2 TDs, 2 interceptions, and one sack. Philmore had 9 catches for 139 yards and 2 TDS. We held Philmore to 3 catches for 2 yards in the second half. We did a nice job containing Sutton, he had 10 rushes for 50 yards and 6 catches for 56 yards. Most importantly, he never saw the end zone with the ball, and he is was the nation's leading scorer heading into this game. Herbert had 8 catches for 91 yards. Roberson had 4 rushes for 42 yards. We forced them into 8 punts, and 3 turnovers. Tim McGarigle led their defense with 21tackles and the second half interception.
6-Ryan did a tremendous job on kickoffs nailing 7 of 8 attempts for touchbacks. Ryan also had all 3 punts fair caught. Rivas made all four field goal attempts (2 in each half) and three extra points. Breaston helped us start drives in the second half in great field position, but we did a poor job of capitalizing. Overall, he had 5 returns for 53 yards. Our special teams was great and it made a big difference in the game.

7-I hope this defensive effort silences the Jim Hermann critics. He had a great game plan, and the defense executed it well and adjusted to their offense. Our first priority was to stop their running attack, and we held them to 89 yards in 17 attempts.

8-This team has really improved defensively and we'll be 7-3 going into the November 19 home game with the Buckeyes. It should be a low scoring affair, and our offense sure has a lot of improving to do if we are to win it to finish 8-3 and get a chance for the Outback Bowl. Penn State hosts Wisconsin next week, and that game should decide the BCS bowl bid and the Capital One Bowl selections. If we lose to the Buckeyes, made your reservations for San Antonio's Alamo Bowl.

Observations on the first half with Northwestern, 27-17!

1-We have converted 4 red zones for 20 points, and one big defensive fumble recovery for a big play TD. Northwestern converts 2 red zones for 3 points, but comes up with 2 big plays for TDs to trail by 10 at halftime.

2-Henne is 12 of 20 for 139 yards, 1 TD, 2 interceptions and 1 sack. Avant has 5 catches for 67 yards. Breaston has 3 catches for 24 yards. We have 13 first downs, and are 3 of 7 in 3rd down conversions for 273 yards in total offense in 46 plays. The major thing we did was dominated time of possession for a six minute advantage, and that gave us 9 extra plays.

3-Jerome Jackson has 10 rushes for 38 yards, and Kevin Grady has 9 rushes for 39 yards. Offensive line is not doing a good job establishing the running game, and red zone dominance with 26 rushes for 126 net yards.

4-Basanez is 16 of 27 for 264 yards, 2 TDs, 2 interceptions, and no sacks. Philmore has 6 catches for 137 yards and 2 TDS. We must stop Philmore in the second half. We have done a nice job containing Sutton, he has 6 rushes for only 15 yards and 3 catches for 29 yards. Herbert has 5 catches for 64 yards. Roberson has 3 rushes for 38 yards. Overall, we have done a nice job against them although they have 321 yards on 37 plays, but we'll have to do better in the second half if we are to prevail. Prescott Burgess leads the defense with 4 tackles, one for loss. David Harris and Brandon Harrison have 3 tackles each. Interceptions by Harrison and Mason, and a fumble recovery+forced fumble by Hall led to a defensive score and a red zone opportuntity.

5-I can't believe we went for a field goal on the last red zone opportunity rather than going for a TD. The coaches really need to examine their contribution with poor play calls in the red zone. We can't execute on critical downs when dumb play calls are made by the coaches.

6-I can't believe that we threw the ball not once, but twice to Will Paul, a defensive lineman playing blocking back, in the red zone of all places. This is a perfect example of Michigan's coaches using horridly dumb play calling in critical downs.

7-We should be ahead at halftime by 31-10, but instead it is 27-17. We'll need to play better on offense to keep the ball away from the dangerous Wildcat offense and convert our offensive opportunities if we are to win this game. I think we need at least 40-45 points, and this means we are involved in a "shootout."

Northwestern Preview: When we went to Evanston in 2000, we lost a shootout 54-51! One thing for sure, we don't want to get into a shootout game with the Wildcats. Northwestern had gone from being the conference "doormat" to being one of the most respected programs in the conference due to head coach, Randy Walker who also built success at Miami-Ohio. They are led by versatile senior quarterback, Brent Basanez, who is currently the Big Ten leader in total offense averaging over 350 yards per game. The Wildcats rank 16th nationally in scoring offense, and 3rd in the Big Ten. Their offense averages over 528 yards per game. Basanez averages over 308 yards of passing offense per game, and has a high 3rd down conversion rate above 47%. Basanez' favorite targets are Junior Shaun Herbert with 54 catches, 4 for TDs and Senior Jon Fields with 38 receptions. They throw a lot of short passes and spread the field with their highly effective spread offense.

Their rushing offense averages more than 215 yards per game and is anchored by Freshman phenom, Tyrell Sutton, who was the Ohio player of the year in 2004. Sutton averages over 143 yards per game on the ground and another 28 yards per game in the air. Sutton leads the conference in scoring, and is tied for 3rd in the nation. This dangerous offense generally dominates time of possession because they cause defenses fits in containment. Their offensive line is led by senior tackle Zach Strief, and former Chelsea standout, Joe Tripoldi, is a starter at Left Guard. They protect Basanez well, and have only given up 5 sacks all year. Basanez is deadly accurate only being intercepted twice all year.

On defense, they are anchored by senior inside linebacker and Butkus semi-finalist, Tim McGarigle. He averages over 13 tackles per game, 2nd in the Big Ten, including 2 sacks per game. Junior cornerback Marquise Cole leads the conference with 3 interceptions, and their defense leads the conference in turnover advantage. Junior linebackers, Nick Roach and Adam Kadela, are also solid players as is senior free safety, Herschel Henderson. They have let up an average of 35.7 points per game, but they seem to outscore their opponents. Their only losses have come at Tempe losing to Arizona State, and at home barley losing to Penn State. They beat Wisconsin at Madison.

On special teams, Northwestern boasts the worst net punting game in the Big Ten with senior punter Ryan Pederson so we have a chance to capitalize if Breaston has a great game. They also let opponents get 35 yards per kickoff return which is 11th in the conference. On the flip side, they are the #1 team in the conference in punt returns averaging over 21 yards per return. Cornerback Marquise Cole averages 27 yards per return on 8 returns. Freshman Gerard Hamlett is their kickoff return specialist, and he averages nearly 25 yards per return. They also average 54 yards in penalties per game, 9th in the conference. Junior Joel Howells is 8 of 15 on field goals, but perfect on extra points.

Michigan must keep the football away from their potent offense by maintaining time of possession advantage; we must also win the turnover battle. The Wildcats forced the Spartans into 4 turnovers and converted 5 of 6 red zone attempts. Northwestern gives up 189 rushing yards per game and 508 yards in total offense per game, 10th in the Big Ten. Michigan survives another scare, and ruins the Wilcat homecoming! Happy Halloween!

Michigan 28 Northwestern 24