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First-half observations: Wolverines hit rock bottom with dreadful opening vs. Badgers

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse — wait, you did think that, right? Or did you think Michigan had more room to reach rock bottom after back-to-back losses to Michigan State and Indiana?

The Wolverines found bottom quickly in the first half against Wisconsin, a team that had missed the last two games because of COVID-19 issues and played without a handful of starters Saturday night at Michigan Stadium. Wisconsin went into halftime with a 28-0 lead.

Michigan tight end Erick All can't hold onto this pass while under pressure from Wisconsin cornerback Donte Burton in the first quarter.

Missing starting defensive ends Aidan Hutchinson and Kwity Paye — Hutchinson is out for the season with a broken ankle and Paye missed the game with an undisclosed injury — and starting offensive tackles Jalen Mayfield and Ryan Hayes, who missed their second-straight starts because of injuries, there were problems across the board for Michigan.

Turnovers galore

Michigan entered this game having given up one turnover, on an interception, through the first three games. But on the Wolverines’ first possession against the Badgers, quarterback Joe Milton was intercepted when the ball deflected off the hands of intended receiver, tight end Nick Eubanks, into the hands of Scott Nelson.

Wisconsin started its next drive at the Michigan 33-yard line and scored four plays later to take a 7-0 lead. The Badgers built a 14-0 lead after picking off Milton again, this time on a third-and-16 play. At that point, Michigan had one yard of offense and possessed the ball 1:49.

Where’s the defense?

No Paye and no Hutchinson certainly hurt the defensive line, and Michigan got zero pressure on Graham Mertz. The Wolverines had no sacks and no tackles in the first half. Meanwhile, the defense was on the field far too long. Wisconsin had the ball 18:16, taking advantage of the two turnovers, and gained 227 yards, including 143 rushing.