Ann Arbor — The Michigan players spoke confidently all week, saying they relished the opportunity to kick off a tough three-game stretch against always-tough Wisconsin on a big prime-time stage.
ESPN’s "College GameDay" was here to tell the college football world this was a big game, but the Wolverines already knew what this game meant.
The 12th-ranked Wolverines have won six straight since dropping the opener at Notre Dame, after walloping No. 15 Wisconsin, 38-13, Saturday night before 111,360 at Michigan Stadium. Michigan is 6-1, 4-0 Big Ten, while Wisconsin falls to 4-2, 2-1.
“Every game is a statement victory,” said linebacker Josh Uche, who had one of Michigan’s two sacks. “It’s win or go home from here on out to the end of the season to the championship game, so we’ve got to win every game. Every game is a big game.”
Uche was asked if the team had something to prove against the Badgers.
“We don’t listen to the public,” he said. “We focus on what’s in our facility, what our coaches tell us. We don’t worry about what everyone else is saying. Everyone has their own opinion. We’ve just got to continue to focus on what our coaches tell us.”
Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson was 14-of-21 for 124 yards and had 90 yards on nine carries and scored on a 7-yard run, his first rushing touchdown at Michigan and second of his career. Early in the second quarter he had an 81-yard run, the second longest by a quarterback at Michigan since Denard Robinson dashed 87 yards against Notre Dame in 2010. Patterson’s run set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Karan Higdon.
It was a designed run and tight end Sean McKeon gave him a tremendous block to help spring it. Patterson smiled and said it was “surprising” to him.
U-M quarterback Shea Patterson on his 81-yard run The Detroit News
“Coach (Ed) Warinner and the offensive staff put those runs in,” Patterson said, adding he had never run that far in a game. “We trusted in the game plan all week, but it’s just when it actually happens and there’s nobody in front of you, it’s exciting.
“I didn’t know it was going to open up that way. I kinda ran out of gas there at the 10, 5-yard line. I thought I could have cut back and made him miss. But that was an adrenaline rush.”
Higdon had 105 yards rushing on 19 carries and scored a touchdown. It was his fifth straight 100-yard rushing game and that was his sixth touchdown of the season. Cornerback Lavert Hill added an interception returned 21 yards for a touchdown. Quinn Nordin made three of five field goal attempts — he missed a 54 yarder just before halftime, and backup quarterback Dylan McCaffrey ran 44 yards for a touchdown.
Even without starting defensive end Rashan Gary for the second straight game because of an issue with his right shoulder, the Michigan defense shut down the Badgers.
Badgers’ running back Jonathan Taylor, who entered the game leading the nation in rushing, averaging 169.8 yards a game was held to 101 yards on 17 carries.
“He’s a heck of a good back,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. “It’s getting off of blocks. Our linebackers were swarming. It was that kind of mentality. It was going to take multiple guys getting to the ball to contain a back like Jonathan and did it well. It’s really tough to shut somebody completely out when they’re that good. I thought we did a heck of a job.”
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh discusses quarterback Shea Patterson's running ability. The Detroit News
Wisconsin scored a late touchdown on a 3-yard pass from Alex Hornibrook to A.J. Taylor ending a 75-yard drive. Hornibrook had 12-straight incompletions but ended that during the drive. Hornibook was 7-of-20 for 100 yards and had two interceptions, including one to Josh Metellus returned 31 yards.
The Badgers were 2-of-11 on third down.
Michigan carried a 13-7 lead into the second half and on its first series took advantage of a roughing-the-snapper penalty that kept the drive alive. Michigan drove 75 yards on 11 plays, including a 25-yard gain from Higdon to the Badgers’ 16-yard line. Patterson scored on a 7-yard run and then made the two-point conversion on a throw to Nico Collins for a 21-7 lead.
The Wolverines added three scores in the fourth quarter, first on a 35-yard field goal by Nordin — he also had field goals of 42 and 33 yards — then the Hill interception return and the McCaffrey run.
Michigan linebacker Josh Uche said the defense never stopped "pounding" the Badgers. The Detroit News
Patterson and Higdon heaped praise on the offensive line, which made adjustments at halftime and gave them more room to run in the second half. The Wolverines finished with 320 yards rushing, including 237 in the second half.
“We really felt like we were grinding them down through the game and the running game really clicked in the second half,” left guard Ben Bredeson said. “Just switching up some blocking techniques. As an offensive line we did a good job finishing this game.”
For the Wolverines, this was one down in the three-game challenge. They play at in-state rival Michigan State next Saturday.
“We knew coming into this game that everything was ahead of us and we control our own destiny,” Patterson said. “It was a huge win for us tonight. It was a statement game. We came out and kinda gave it to them a little bit. We didn’t just win, we kinda dominated them. So we wanted to come out here and make a statement and keep attacking every single week the same.”