Wildcats Shutdown Michigan in Second Half

The Michigan football team dropped another game that the Maize and Blue led at halftime, this time a 21-14 setback to the Northwestern Wildcats on Senior Day Saturday afternoon in Ann Arbor. U-M led 14-7 following the first half of action, but the visiting Wildcats outscored Michigan 14-0 in the decisive third quarter.

ANN ARBOR -- It was a back-and-forth battle that saw lead changes, turnovers and momentum swings in each of the four quarters. In the end, momentum ended in the purple and white. Again the Wolverines, built a halftime lead, just as they did against Utah, Illinois, Toledo, Penn State, again they were not able to hold on. Northwestern outscored the Wolverines 14-0 over the final 30 minutes, sending Michigan to 3-8 on the season with a 21-14 loss on Senior Day in Ann Arbor.

"It was a very similar scenario to a lot of games this year. It is very frustrating. I thought we took a step forward in the first half today and then took a step back in the second half. Guys are playing and competing, we just have to come up with more plays when it counts," said Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez.

The visiting Wildcats took control right from the get-go in the second half. A quick three-and-out from the Michigan offense, which recorded an abysmal 28-yard output in the third quarter, led to a partially blocked Zoltan Mesko punt. Starting on Michigan's 40-yard line, Northwestern quickly cashed in to tie the game, for the second time of the game it came on a third-and-long situation. Facing third-and-goal from the 17-yard line, Wildcats quarterback C.J. Bacher found side receiver Ross Lane over the middle for a score.

Michigan went three-and-out on its next drive, and four plays later the Wildcats went on top for good. Starting on their own 38-yard line, the Wildcats moved the chains with a third-and-three conversion near midfield. On 1st-and-10 Bacher found wide receiver Eric Peterman on a busted coverage right down the middle of the field for the decisive go-ahead score.

"In the second half, they kind of bunched things up a little bit. They knew that we were playing man a lot so they wanted to get guys open in space. So we zoned up a little bit and they picked us apart a little bit," said sophomore defensive back Donovan Warren. "Also, they ran a little bit of a hurry-up offense to try to get us off-balance and confuse us and it worked for the most part in the third quarter."

The Wolverines had chances in the final quarter to tie the score. Warren picked off a Bacher pass at the Wolverines 40-yard line and returned the ball to the end zone before being ruled out of bounds at the Wildcats 44. Then, after driving inside the Wildcats 25, a Steven Threet, in relief of Nick Sheridan, pass sailed over the head of tight end Mike Massey and was intercepted in the end zone by Northwestern defensive back Jordan Mabin.

The Wolverines got the ball back twice more, the first time with just less than seven minutes left on the clock, but the drive stalled at the Wildcats 34-yard line. One last hurrah failed as Sheridan, back in for an injured Threet, threw four straight incomplete passes to effectively end the contest.

Michigan had the first scoring threat just minutes into the game. Safety Stevie Brown stepped in front of a C.J. Bacher pass on the Wildcats first possession of the game, and returned the ball inside the Northwestern 10-yard line before being pushed out of bounds. Michigan was unable to punch the ball across the goaline, however, and K.C. Lopata's 23-yard field goal was blocked to keep the score at 0-0.

Instead, it was the Wildcats that capitalized on Michigan's first turnover of the game. A live ball fumble off the leg of punt returner Martavious Odoms gave Northwestern the ball back inside Michigan territory after a Northwestern three-and-out. Then, on the verge of stalling once again, facing a 3rd-and-18 inside the Michigan 25, running back Omar Conteh took a draw up the middle from the 23-yard line, broke a tackle, and made his way to pay dirt and a 7-0 Northwestern lead.

Michigan's lone offensive touchdown of the first half came on 3-yard keeper from Sheridan on the Wolverines final possession of the first quarter. Starting on their own 39-yard line, the Michigan offense marched 61-yards on 11-plays, 36 of them behind the legs of Carlos Brown. Brown, who finished with 74 first half rushing yards had scampers of 17 and 11 on the drive, plus pushed through the pile for a critical fourth-and-one conversion at the Northwestern 40-yard line.

The Wolverines took their first and only lead of the game of the game with 6:30 left in the half. After forcing another Northwestern three-and-out, Michael Williams blocked a Stefan Demos punt, and Wolverine walk on Ricky Reyes scooped up the ball and rumbled three-yards for the score.

Carlos Brown led the U-M offense with 115-yards on 23 carries. Michigan quarterbacks Nick Sheridan and Steven Threet combined to finish just 12-of-36 passing for 88-yards and an interception.

The Wolverines conclude the 2008 season with the year-end battle with the Ohio State Buckeyes next weekend in Columbus, Ohio. The Wolverines haven't beaten the rival Buckeyes since the 100th game in Ann Arbor back in 2003.

The Michigan Insider Top Stories