Michigan receiver Roman Wilson makes impact in win over Wisconsin

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Madison, Wis. — Michigan sophomore receiver Roman Wilson has been known as a speedy player waiting for a breakout performance.

He had that at Wisconsin.

The 6-foot, 180-pound Wilson led the Wolverines in receiving with six catches for 81 yards in the 38-17 win at Wisconsin on Saturday. He now has nine catches for 145 yards this season.

On Michigan’s third drive, on third-and-14, Cade McNamara connected with Wilson for a 12-yard gain, then, on fourth down, Wilson converted with a 6-yard reception. Michigan scored on the next play, a 34-yard pass to Cornelius Johnson, to take a 7-0 lead.

Michigan's Roman Wilson tries to get past Wisconsin's Alexander Smith during the first half on Saturday in Madison, Wis.

Wilson made another game-changing play on the Wolverines’ first drive of the second half, converting on third-and-10 with a 38-yard reception with Wisconsin’s Caesar Williams draping him in coverage. That gave Michigan the ball at the Badgers 10-yard line and on fourth and goal backup quarterback J.J. McCarthy scored from the 1-yard line.

The 38-yard reception equaled his career-best which he had last week against Rutgers.

“I don’t know how much you can tell just looking at somebody’s eyes, but his demeanor and he’s catching the ball,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said of Wilson. “Getting open, catching the ball, blocking. His blocking has improved so much. He’s growing leaps and bounds, as A.J. Henning has.

“This is a pretty young team. It’s almost like some of those X-Men movies where the little kid or the teen-age X-men finds their power. Now they know they have it, and they’re using it. That’s really exciting to watch as a coach.”

More: Niyo: Wolverines' defense crashes Badgers' party, steals their 'juice'

Wilson started chuckling when Harbaugh’s comments about X-men were referenced.

“It was a good game for me,” Wilson said. “The catch I made, Cade threw a good ball. It builds my confidence. It gives me a good idea, things I’m going to expect leading on further into the season. Feels like it (makes) me more comfortable in the situations we were in.”

Johnson, who had two touchdown receptions, said he was happy to see Wilson have success against the Badgers.

“He was finally able to get out there and when you’re number’s called and the ball’s in the air, we want to put something on tape that shows what we can do to the best of our abilities,” Johnson said. “Seeing Roman do that, that’s really special to see. I’m really happy for Roman Wilson.”

Getting aggressive

Michigan was 4-of-5 on fourth-down attempts, and McNamara said it's doing whatever it takes to win, especially on the road.

“Whatever the game plan is, how diverse it is, whatever it is, everything we do, we’re trying to win,” McNamara said. “As we’re getting into Big Ten play, there’s no reason to hold back now. We’re going to be aggressive on offense, whether that’s going for fourth downs or playing smash-mouth football or taking shots, we’re going to do it.”

Harbaugh said they were sending a message with the go-for-it approach on fourth down and said it had something to do with the vibe he picked up from the players after they arrived at the stadium.

"Was going to give them every chance to attack," Harbaugh said. "Wanted to bring that to life."

Being tricky

The Wolverines took a 7-0 lead on the 34-yard pass from McNamara to Johnson on a flea-flicker, more evidence they were making an effort to be aggressive.

“The flea-flicker is something we’ve been practicing through fall camp and September,” Johnson said. “It was something we had to bring out of our bag. We had to dig into our tool kit and take out the right tool for the right moment, and that one we were able to execute.”

He wants to hit

Safety Dax Hill was second with six tackles against the Badgers and was credited with a half-sack when he and linebacker Josh Ross sacked Graham Mertz.

Mertz left the game with what was called a “chest injury” and was later taken to the hospital for evaluation, Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst told reporters. Hill said he’s enjoying his new role in first-year coordinator Mike Macdonald’s defense and the opportunity to get after quarterbacks.

“That’s something new for me, but whenever I get that call, I get excited a little bit,” Hill said. “I go out there and try to make an impact whether it’s blitzing or covering.”

Quotable

David Ojabo had a team-high 2½ sacks: “It feels good to finally contribute to smacking the quarterback.”

achengelis@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @chengelis