Football: Disastrous first half dooms Wildcats against Michigan

Coach+Pat+Fitzgerald+stares+onto+the+field+during+Saturdays+loss+to+Michigan.+%E2%80%9CWe+got+beat+by+a+very+good+team+today%2C+and+we+didn%E2%80%99t+play+well%2C+and+we+made+them+look+better%2C%E2%80%9D+Fitzgerald+said.

Sophie Mann/Daily Senior Staffer

Coach Pat Fitzgerald stares onto the field during Saturday’s loss to Michigan. “We got beat by a very good team today, and we didn’t play well, and we made them look better,” Fitzgerald said.

Huzaifa Patel, Reporter

ANN ARBOR, Michigan — No. 13 Northwestern (5-1, 1-1 Big Ten) sputtered out of the gate Saturday in Ann Arbor, falling behind 21-0 in the first quarter en route to a 38-0 loss. No. 18 Michigan (5-1, 2-0) out-gained the Wildcats 213 yards to 95 in the first half.

Michigan was already on the board before either team ran a play from scrimmage, as Wolverines receiver Jehu Chesson took the opening kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown.

After a quick Northwestern 3-and-out, Michigan drove the ball 59 yards in under four minutes for another quick score and the Cats were already down 14-0 with over ten minutes left in the first quarter.

NU responded well to start their next offensive drive, the key play being a 19-yard third-down conversion from redshirt freshman quarterback Clayton Thorson to junior receiver Austin Carr, but a questionable field-goal call on 4th-and-1 at the Michigan 25 yielded no points and momentum back to Michigan.

The Cats’ offense was unable to get anything going on the ground, averaging just 1.5 yards per carry and putting Thorson in too many 3rd-and-long situations. NU was just two-for-eight on third down in the first half, including an avoidable Thorson interception on a 3rd-and-9 that was returned for a touchdown.

“I thought that was a great throw,” Fitzgerald said. “It looked like it went right through (receiver) Mike (McHugh’s) hands.”

The entire first half was marred by sloppy play from the Cats, who were penalized five times for 39 yards, making matters worse for NU.

“(Michigan) executed on some of our miscues, and they just played a great game,” senior defensive end Deonte Gibson said.

NU’s defense, which had previously allowed just seven points per game, gave up 14 points on defense in the first half. It wasn’t exactly a terrible performance, but Michigan controlled the ball and the chess match scheme-wise, catching NU off guard with fullback runs and timely play actions.

“(Quarterback Jake Rudock) understood our lane discipline and how to manipulate us when we were too aggressive and when we were too conservative,” Gibson said.

Ultimately, the Cats were outmatched and outclassed in all three phases early in the game and never gave themselves a chance.

Email: [email protected]northwestern.edu
Twitter: @huzaifapatel95