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Michigan: Five things we learned

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Jabrill Peppers, from the wildcat formation, hands off to Ty Isaac in the third quarter against Wisconsin.

Michigan is good at defense

Remember last week, when Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh mentioned that Jabrill Peppers is “good at football”? He might try a new twist on that. Something like, “We’re good at defense.” In a defensive fistfight, Michigan held Wisconsin to 159 yards. Harbaugh praised defensive coordinator Don Brown, who now has three key players back in the last two weeks – linemen Bryan Mone and Taco Charlton, and cornerback Jourdan Lewis. UM is fifth nationally in total defense, averaging 247.6 yards, sixth in scoring defense (12.4 points) and second against the pass (135.4 yards).

Kicking issues

Michigan missed three field-goal attempts and has made only one of its last six tries. Kenny Allen attempted two and Ryan Tice one against the Badgers. “We’ll have a little kicking competition this week,” Harbaugh said. “Will be an opportunity for Ryan Tice. See if we can’t make them next time.” Harbaugh has said all along that having one kicker handle all the duties – field goals, kickoffs and punting – is a challenge. Allen was solid last season, going 18-of-22 on field goals.

Wildcat Peppers

Jabrill Peppers made a couple appearance in the wildcat formation. In the third quarter on consecutive plays, Peppers handed off to Ty Isaac. Isaac gained 10 yards on the first and five on the next. Peppers no doubt is a distraction for the defense. “They should be nervous,” Isaac said. “If they give him that window of opportunity, he’s going to take full advantage of it. If they play conservative like they should, it’s going to open everything else up. If you don’t respect him being back there, he’s going to gash you. You could kind of tell, they seemed like they were more on their heels when he was in, as opposed to other players.”

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Big OL loss

The offensive line had gone virtually unchanged this season, a big thing for a position group that thrives on consistency. But sophomore left tackle Grant Newsome, a first-year starter and the only new member of the line this season, suffered a leg injury that likely will require surgery, Harbaugh said. Juwann Bushell-Beatty replaced him during the game, but it’s unclear if he will be the permanent replacement.

Watershed moment

Michigan proved it can not only win a tight game, but it can win a tight game against a top-10 team, something that’s been lacking in the program since the Wolverines last defeated Wisconsin in 2008. The program has been starved for a win over a top-10 team. Michigan got the go-ahead score with about eight minutes left in the game, and Jourdan Lewis made a spectacular interception that ended the Badgers’ last hope.