It was not shocking that Wisconsin beat Michigan 35–14 at Camp Randall Stadium Sunday.
What was shocking was how thoroughly UW manhandled the Wolverines, by some accounts the Big T1e4n preseason favorite.
Wolverine fans were in an ugly mood, reported by Elaine Sung:
On Saturday, the rumble in Camp Randall Stadium was “Jump Around.” The sounds everywhere else? Screaming, cursing, howling, spitting and shrieking from Michigan football fans.
The No. 10 Wolverines and Jim Harbaugh, who was hired in December 2014 to lead his alma mater to unprecedented greatness, just lost to Wisconsin, 35-14.
The game wasn’t that close. At halftime, the No. 14 Badgers were up 28-0, supremely confident with efficient and steady drives.
Social media got revved up pretty early. Michigan fans expressed outrage, fueled by each incomplete pass. Then it became scorched earth as Wisconsin kept adding the points.
The mocking contingent came out. Khaki pants were not spared. Talk about poking the bear …
DISCLAIMER: If you are offended by foul language, don’t look at the first tweet here.
If you are offended by bad football, we empathize …
You know there was going to be an Ohio State element in here somewhere:
Can you hear the people sing … Urban Meyer in blue and maize?
This is subtle, calm, reasoned and … cold.
This is even colder:
Some fans aren’t even mad now. They’re just sad.
Here we are, weighing in from South Florida:
I think Justin Bieber would be upset by this:
And the khakis, as always, take a hit:
Two weeks and a bye later, the Michigan football team’s offense looks no closer to figuring things out.
And it’s defense, well, they appear to have problems, too.
The 11th-ranked Wolverines were manhandled in their Big Ten opener on Saturday, losing 35-14 to No. 13 Wisconsin while coming up on the wrong end of every major statistical category out there.
Michigan (2-1, 0-1 Big Ten) was out-gained by an extraordinary 487-299 margin, watching as the Badgers opened the game with a 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. And it just got worse from there.
Ben Mason, who converted to the defensive line this season, fumbled the football away on his first carry of the season, on Michigan’s first drive of the game. Then the Wolverines had a long pass play to Ronnie Bell reviewed and called back on their second drive.
Jonathan Taylor, an All-Big Ten running back and Heisman Trophy candidate, gashed the Michigan defense from the very beginning. Taylor (23 carries, 203 yards, 2 TDs) had eight carries for 51 yards on Wisconsin’s first drive, then broke a 72-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter.
By that point, Wisconsin held a 14-0 lead and had momentum on its side. The Wolverines were never able to recover. They totaled just 15 first downs in the game, were 0-for-9 on third down and only possessed the football for a total of 17:45.
Meanwhile, while the Badgers found success on the ground, quarterback Jack Coan (13-16, 128 yards) was able to turn to the pass as well. He completed two passes of more than 20 yards as part of a 15-play, 80-yard second-quarter touchdown drive.
Wisconsin possessed the football for more than 41 minutes in the game, limiting the Wolverines’ opportunities for drives.
Michigan’s quarterback, Shea Patterson, was unable to replicate his big game of a year ago. He finished just 14-of-32 for 219 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He also fumbled the football, for a third straight game, in the fourth quarter as Michigan tried to draw closer.
Complicating matters, the Wolverines were never able to establish a ground game: rushing for just 40 yards, with starter Zach Charbonnet (2 carries, 6 yards) appearing limited.
After No. 13 Wisconsin throttled No. 11 Michigan 35-14 on Saturday in Madison, the narratives were much different for each team.
The Badgers (3-0) are being regarded as a serious threat in the Big Ten after racking up 359 rushing yards and forcing three turnovers on defense.
Meanwhile, the Wolverines (2-1) continued to be criticized for their inconsistent play through the first three games of the season.
Even former Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson had harsh words for his alma mater on FOX’s postgame show.
“This does not look good,” Woodson said. “Right now, I don’t even know how to talk right now. What I could say wouldn’t be the right thing to say because it would be my emotions. What I am telling you now is kind of what I see on the surface. When I get home, I’m going to say some different things, but right now, I am sick about how Michigan football looks.”
That wasn’t a football game.
That was Waterloo.
Forget national playoffs, forget challenging the elite programs, forget even moving the bar higher than last season. The Michigan Wolverines on Saturday looked as bad as they’ve looked since Jim Harbaugh arrived, not losing as much as surrendering a critical Big Ten game for which they had two weeks to prepare.
There’s no excuse. Worse, there’s no explanation. Where would you begin to explain this 35-14 beatdown by Wisconsin — which wasn’t remotely as close as that score suggests? The offensive line got crushed like walnuts. The defense gave up 143 yards to a running back — in the first quarter! The endless series of mistakes, miscues, missed assignments and missed chances stacked so high, watching it was like squinting into the sun.
I watched it, as many of you did, at home, and was left, as many of you were, stunned. Stunned at the lack of preparation. Stunned at the apparent lack of inspiration. Stunned at the execution, errors and ineffectiveness of the Wolverines in areas they used to be known for, like an offensive line, like a running game, like a defense.
The defense. Oh, Lord. What happened there? The strong suit of the Wolverines with Don Brown directing looked like some weak impostor wearing maize and blue. There were more players out of position than a chessboard overturned by a dog. Wisconsin was all but laughing at the lack of resistance, and went for a fourth down on its own 34-yard line to prove it.
They made it easily.
Jonathan Taylor, the star running back for the Badgers, had such an easy time gaining yards Saturday, he looked like the NFL and the Wolverines like high school. Taylor had 203 yards on just 23 carries — and missed a big chunk of the game with cramps!
As for the Michigan offensive line? Wow. The area once the pride of Bo Schembechler was the shame of the Michigan game film Saturday. It allowed the U-M quarterbacks to be hit or rushed on nearly every play. It opened so few holes, the Wolverines recorded a paltry 40 yards rushing, barely averaging two yards per carry.
And yet for all the terrible performances, the origin of this debacle was, once again, mistakes. As it has been since the season started.
And that, for a program under a coach as accomplished as Harbaugh, is head-shaking.
Let’s just list some of the early mistakes. You’ll see how quickly they add up to disaster.
- On the Wolverines’ first drive, they hit a huge pass-and-run, then promptly fumbled four yards from the goal line on a handoff to a fullback, Ben Mason, who hadn’t taken a handoff all year. That was their ninth fumble of the year.
- On the Badgers’ third drive, the Michigan defenders were out of position, allowing Taylor to race 72 yards for a touchdown.
- On the next drive, U-M drew a pass interference call, but followed it with a foolish unsportsmanlike penalty by Donovan Peoples-Jones. Shea Patterson missed two receivers he could have hit, and the Wolverines wound up punting.
- In the second quarter, on a fourth-and-3, Wisconsin quarterback Jack Coan again found Michigan defenders out of position and hit a 26-yard over-the-shoulder pass to Quintez Cephus.
- On the Wolverines’ next drive, Patterson threw an interception.
All that was in the first 25 minutes. I could fast-forward to the final quarter, when Michigan blew a great punt with an illegal formation penalty, or got called for offensive pass interference, or ended its offensive day — and I do mean offensive — with an interception by the third-string quarterback Joe Milton.
But I’m stopping now, before you break something valuable.
Well, we’re not. John Niyo:
There are big questions and then there are smaller ones.
But for now, for Jim Harbaugh and those toiling inside his football program – and possession is at least nine-tenths of the law in college football, in case you hadn’t noticed – there’s no choice but to focus on the latter.
Everyone else will take care of the former after another nationally-televised debacle for the Wolverines Saturday, a 35-14 thrashing at Wisconsin that was worse than the final score indicated. And bad enough that it left one of Michigan’s all-time greats doing some finger-pointing of his own afterward.
“I’m sick about how Michigan football looks right now,” said Charles Woodson, the Heisman Trophy-winning star of the Wolverines’ 1997 national championship team, making his debut on Fox Sports’ studio show Saturday.
Flanked by none other than Urban Meyer, the former Ohio State coach who retired last winter with an unblemished record against Michigan, Woodson wasn’t done preaching to the choir, either.
“I came here with high expectations for how my team was gonna look, in front of you guys,” he said. “And I’ll be honest with you, man, I’m embarrassed. I’m embarrassed about that.”
He’s far from the only one. As another of his ex-teammates, Hall of Famer Steve Hutchinson, tweeted Saturday, “I think I can speak for a lot of former UM players when I say, forget about winning. How about we just compete?”
And while Harbaugh betrayed few, if any, such emotions after another humbling loss Saturday – that has strangely become the norm the last couple years — he has to know that promises made aren’t being kept.
Sure, he’s 40-15 in four-plus seasons as Michigan’s head coach, and like it or not, job security probably won’t be a real issue in Ann Arbor unless fans stop showing up to games or off-field issues pile up. (It’ll certainly take more than a disgruntled fan painting “#FIRE HARBAUGH” on the “The Rock” at the corner of Washtenaw Avenue and Hill Street.) But Harbaugh’s teams are now 1-6 on the road against ranked teams in his tenure, with half of those losses by three touchdowns or more.
And as Meyer noted on that same Fox postgame broadcast, there are myriad problems for Michigan’s coaching staff to dissect before they can even think about changing that narrative.
“You lift up that hood and you’re not gonna like what you see,” Meyer said. “But you better get that fixed fast.”
How, though? And why? That’s what everyone is left wondering, and not just because Michigan was coming off a bye week and facing an opponent that hadn’t really been tested yet in season-opening routs of South Florida and Central Michigan.
As Woodson said, “It looked like they had never watched Wisconsin football before.” Or if they had, they’d simply forgotten what they saw, because the mistakes started piling up immediately after kickoff for Don Brown’s defense.
Michigan has allowed 1,482 yards and 138 points in its last three games against ranked opponents. And it didn’t take long to sense Saturday would fall right into that pattern. When junior defensive end Kwity Paye got caught diving inside late in the first quarter, allowing Wisconsin to turn a counter play into a 72-yard sprint to the end zone for All-America running back Jonathan Taylor, you could see where this was all headed.
Taylor had 143 rushing yards by the end of that quarter. And by halftime, Wisconsin had made it clear it owned the line of scrimmage, piling up 200 yards on the ground and converting three fourth-down situations with ease, the latter a quarterback keeper that saw Jack Coan dive into the end zone almost untouched.
Out-coached, out-prepared, outplayed? Check, check and checkmate.
Because on the other side of the ball, the Wolverines simply look lost. There’s no other way to describe it after three games and these results.
Michigan finished Saturday’s game with just 40 yards rushing on 19 carries, four more turnovers – that’s nine now for the season – and a stunning 0-for-10 on third-down conversions, something the Wolverines haven’t done since at least 1995.
Where to start, though? That’s the most troubling part for Michigan, and perhaps the reason why the players seemed to be at such a loss to explain what had just happened in Madison: Their head coach was, too.
“We were outplayed,” Harbaugh said at his postgame press conference. “Out-prepared, out-coached, outplayed. The whole thing. Both offensively and defensively, it was thorough.”