Wolverines lean on the defense against the Hawkeyes, gaining a much-needed win

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Wolverines lean on the defense against the Hawkeyes, gaining a much-needed win

The Big House is packed with students and football fans on a Saturday morning.

The Big House is packed with students and football fans on a Saturday morning.

The Big House is packed with students and football fans on a Saturday morning.

The Big House is packed with students and football fans on a Saturday morning.

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On Sept. 21, Jim Harbaugh and the rest of the Michigan Wolverines left Camp Randall Stadium in disarray. The Wolverines were embarrassed by the Wisconsin Badgers 35–14, which was more lopsided than the scoreboard may suggest.

The defense was especially dreadful, considering the Wolverines were one of the top-ranked defenses in 2018 when they held the Badgers to a mere 13 points. This massive change shocked many Wolverine fans, including former Heisman Trophy-winning safety and Wolverine alumni Charles Woodson.

“I’m sick about how Michigan football looks right now,” Woodson said.

The Wolverines followed this game against a 1-2 Rutgers Scarlet Knights team, which is considered to be a bottom-tier team in the Big Ten. Though the Wolverines blew out the Scarlet Knights 52-0, there were still many questions regarding if the team could compete with elite teams and contend for a Big Ten championship.

On Oct. 5, the Wolverines hosted the 14th ranked Iowa Hawkeyes, with a chance to finally silence the critics. It was a gorgeous 62 degrees at the Big House when the ball was kicked off. Shea Patterson and the rest of the Wolverine offense took the field first, but after converting a first down Patterson threw three straight incomplete passes, forcing a punt on the opening possession.

The Hawkeyes took the field following the punt on their own 21-yard line. The ball was handed off to running back Makhi Sargent when the ball came loose. Cornerback Ambry Thomas immediately recovered the football for the Wolverines, setting the offense up tremendously on the Hawkeyes’ 18-yard line.

The offense was not able to fully capitalize on this turnover, having to settle for a Jake Moody field goal. Still, the Wolverines took the lead 3-0 with over 12 minutes remaining in the first quarter.

Following a three and out by the Hawkeye offense the Wolverines had possession from their own 30-yard line. The Wolverines came out on first down with a play-action bomb from Shea Patterson to wide receiver Nico Collins. This time they didn’t have to settle for a field goal. Instead, the Wolverines were able to increase their lead to 10, via a 2 yard touchdown by runningback Zach Charbonnet.

The score was 10-0 just seven minutes into the game and the crowd was electric. The offense was finally looking as good as it had been hyped to be and the Big House was rocking.

The Wolverines defense would keep the Hawkeyes scoreless through the first quarter, courtesy of an intercept by defensive back Josh Metellus. The second quarter began with the Hawkeyes already in Wolverine territory and driving. Eventually, the drive was halted at the Wolverine’s four-yard line, with the Hawkeyes being held to only a field goal.

The Wolverine offense remained stagnant following their hot start, and the Wolverines leaned heavily on their defense. Although the Hawkeye offense advanced past the Wolverine 35 yard line on its next two possessions of the second half, the defense held them scoreless, thanks in part to another interception for the Wolverines, this time by cornerback Lavert Hill.

The second half began with more of the same as the defense would again bend but not break. On fourth and 3 on the Wolverines 36 yard line, another intercept was made, this time by cornerback Ambry Thomas.

Both teams would have many chances with the football, but due to offensive struggles and defensive pressure, the game ended with the Wolverines victorious 10-3. The game may not have been the highest-scoring, but the Wolverines were able to grit out a win against a ranked opponent, which is nothing to sneeze at.

Although the team won, the offense is still a major concern. The Wolverines will have much more difficult games in their near future, and an offense that can only score ten points with a defense that gets four turnovers needs to improve. Whether its a quarterback change, a change to the game plan, or something entirely different, a change needs to be made if Wolverines are to truly contend for a Big Ten Championship.

The defense was a major positive of the game and as the team will travel to Champaign, Illinois, they hope to continue to dominate, as the fighting Illini are a team they should beat handily. The offense will look to turn it around against the 2-3 Illini, before a grueling six-game stretch to finish out the regular season.
The next Wolverine home game will not be until Oct. 26, when the currently ninth ranked team in the country, Notre Dame Fighting Irish will come to Ann Arbor. Until then, the Wolverine team hopes to build momentum and resolve these offensive struggles, to finish out the year on a strong note.

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