The Wolverines knew what they wanted to do. The offense trotted out and senior quarterback Shea Patterson took the ball himself, running for the first down. Two plays later, Michigan was in the end zone.
After a win over Iowa, Michael Dwumfour texted his defensive coordinator.
“Coach, I jumped some gaps,” he said, according to Don Brown. “It won’t happen again.”
That’s just how Dwumfour is. The redshirt junior defensive tackle is always hungry for improvement, even after demolishing his opponent the way he did against the Hawkeyes, when he mauled Iowa’s vaunted offensive line in a game Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh called a “defensive masterpiece.”
Peters was once anointed Michigan’s savior, coming into a 2017 game against Rutgers to raucous cheers after it was clear John O’Korn would no longer cut it. It seemed like Peters could finally be the quarterback the Wolverines had been missing. The feeling lasted for three fleeting games. Then Peters suffered a concussion against Wisconsin, could only watch as O’Korn was dreadful in a loss to Ohio State and looked utterly pedestrian in a bowl loss to South Carolina. That April, Shea Patterson was granted an instant-eligibility waiver and Peters’ entire career was thrown into flux.
Early this week, Don Brown offered his defense a challenge.
Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley had thrown eight touchdowns and zero interceptions on the season. The Michigan defensive coordinator told his guys to try for at least two picks.
But when sophomore defensive end Aidan Hutchinson dug into the film, he noticed something else: Stanley rarely got hit. With ample time in the pocket, of course his throws were clean. So Hutchinson and the rest of the pass rush vowed to pressure Stanley and force him to make plays.
In all likelihood, No. 19 Michigan’s true capability as a team is somewhere between the one that got run out of Camp Randall Stadium on Sept. 21 and the one that shut out Rutgers last Saturday at the Big House. But where on that spectrum it is will determine the direction of its season. Can the Wolverines achieve the goals they’ve spent the last two weeks saying are still attainable? Or is this a team ticketed for 7-5?
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In the fourth quarter, up 38 points, Michigan went for it on fourth down.
The Wolverines’ latest scoring drive had been courtesy of third-string quarterback Joe Milton and fourth-string running back Hassan Haskins. Facing fourth-and-goal at the one-yard line with the game all but over, Michigan could’ve been forgiven for mailing it in and kicking the field goal. Instead, Milton ran a bootleg, scored a touchdown and mocked ripping open his shirt, a la Superman.
Ten months later, Kelly Bertoni still remembers the conversation.
The drum major for the Michigan marching band stood at the doors of Revelli Hall, the band’s rehearsal space, helping then-Director of Operations Maggie St. Clair bag up bananas and bagels and granola bars for their trip to Ohio State last Nov. 24. St. Clair, decked out in maize and blue, turned to Bertoni.
Neither of those things guarantee that Michigan will do the same this year. After all, the Wolverines looked much worse against Wisconsin on Saturday than they did in their previous early-season losses. But Michigan players still remember that they’ve rebounded before, and going forward, the only thing left to do is believe they can do it again.