Sunday, October 11, 2015

Defense stars again in Michigan's 38-0 rout over Northwestern

            Photo Credit: Geno Green

What do BYU and Northwestern have in common?

The answer is simple. Not being able to get into the redzone throughout regulation and finishing on the wrong end of shutouts courtesy of Michigan.

No. 18 Michigan (5-1, 2-0 Big Ten) forced No. 13 Northwestern (5-1, 1-1 Big Ten) into eight punts in Saturday's 38-0 victory in front of 110,452 fans at Michigan Stadium.

For the first time since 1980, the Wolverines defense finished three consecutive games with a shutout and
coach Jim Harbaugh felt the emotion the  brought throughout the game and complemented the coaching staff.

"All three phases of the game were at the highest level today," Harbaugh said. "D.J. Durkin and the defensive staff had a tremendous week of preparation in calling a near-flawless game. That's an A++."

Even in the shutout, cornerback Jabrill Peppers kept the perspective at an even keel with in-state rival Michigan State on the horizon on Oct. 17.

"There's still room for improvement," Peppers said. "We have a lot of talented guys that take pride in what they do. When you have 11 guys that are hungry to our job, then the sky's the limit."

With all of the hype coming into the game about Northwestern and Michigan being locked in a defensive battle for four quarters, all of the conventions went out the window on the game's first play.

On the opening kickoff, Wolverines wide receiver Jehu Chesson followed his blocks and went 96 yards down the sideline to open the scoring in the first 13 seconds of the game.

After Northwestern went three and out on its first drive and Michigan starting at its own 41 yard line, Rudock's 32-yard pass to Jake Butt set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Drake Johnson to put the Wolverines ahead 14-0.

Northwestern's second drive produced three first downs, but Jack Mitchell's field goal attempt from 42 yards out would go wide left as it stayed in a 14-0 deficit at the 5:46 mark.

Joe Kerridge's 34-yard run and Chesson's 27-yard reception set up Rudock's keeper from two yards out to put Michigan ahead 21-0 with 2:35 left in the first quarter.

In the late stages of the second quarter after Peppers dropped a sure interception, the next play saw cornerback Jourdan Lewis snatch away a sure reception from Wildcats wide receiver Mike McHugh and returned the ball 36 yards for a touchdown to put the Wolverines ahead 28-0 at halftime.

"[Mike] was trying to brace his fall and I snatched it out of his hand and I didn't think I had it at first," Lewis said.

Placekicker Kenny Allen opened the second-half scoring for Michigan on a 47-yard field goal to go ahead by 31 with 10:14 left.

Michigan's James Ross was ejected for targeting on Dan Vitale at the nine-minute mark of the third quarter and as a result can not play in the first half of next week's home game against Michigan State.

On the final play of the third quarter, cornerback Matthew Harris took a knee to the helmet and layed motionless for several minutes. Harris would be able to get up on his own power, but with help from Northwestern trainers. 

Derrick Green's run up the middle from four yards out with 2:14 left in the regulation gave Michigan its highest single-game point total of the season.

Game Notes:

Northwestern's Matthew Harris passed the preliminary concussion test after being carted off late in the third quarter.

"He was doing prety well in the locker room," Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said.

"Most of that was for precautionary measures. He does have a little bit of a laceration that they cleaned up, but it looks like preliminarily everything will check out well."

Northwestern finished with a season-low 38 yards rushing- its lowest total in a single game this season, while Michigan dominated with 201 on the ground.

Looking Ahead:

Both teams return to action on Oct. 17 as Northwestern returns home to play Iowa at Noon ET at Ryan Field on ABC or ESPN2, while Michigan hosts in-state rival Michigan State at 3:30 p.m. on ESPN.

Social Media:

Follow Geno Green on Twitter @GenoSportsguy.