UM first-half observations: Offense rusty, hold slim 10-7 lead vs. Wildcats

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — Michigan entered its game against Northwestern not having played for two weeks, and it showed early as the Wolverines knocked off some rust.

Michigan leads at halftime, 10-7, at Michigan Stadium.

Michigan vs. Northwestern action in first half of Saturday's game at Michigan Stadium.

Receiver Roman Wilson, who did not travel to Nebraska because of a right-wrist injury, is back and playing with a wrap on the arm, but guard Trevor Keegan is out and guard Zak Zinter (ankle) is dressed and on the sideline but not playing.

Haskins carries the offense

Running back Hassan Haskins has been carrying the offense – literally.

Haskins had an 19-yard gain during Michigan’s first scoring drive in the second quarter, but it was how he gained the extra yards that was impressive.

Haskins looked to be stopped but the pile kept moving because Haskins kept moving to the Northwestern 48-yard line.

That is the type of hard running that has come to be expected from him this season, and that was an exclamation point on his abilities. Haskins also spun to keep alive a run in the first quarter for a 14-yard gain.

Later in the scoring drive, Black Corum made two defenders miss on a strong 11-yard run and scored one play later from a yard.

Michigan entered the game ranked seventh nationally in rushing averaging 246.5 yards a game. Haskins has 72 yards on 12 carries, and Corum had 63 yards on 12 carries and has the touchdown in the first half.

Oh no you don’t

The defense was first to shrug off the rust from not playing a week ago and came up big in the first half.

After giving up an opening 29-yard pass play by Northwestern, Michigan’s defense clamped down and held the Wildcats to 19 yards the rest of the first quarter. Edge rushers Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo each had a pass deflection in the first quarter.

Hutchinson is the heart of the defense and in the last three games since Wisconsin has been complemented by Ojabo, who has emerged as another pass-rush threat.

The two combined on a sack of Ryan Hilinksi in the second quarter. Hutchinson now has six this season and Ojabo has five.

Michigan held Northwestern to two three-and-outs, but with 2:34 left in the half, the defense allowed running back Evan Hull to run 75 yards in 11 seconds for a touchdown.

Being guarded

Michigan’s offensive line combination was intact the first five games of the season, but injuries have forced the Wolverines to tweak, particularly at guard.

At Nebraska two weeks ago, Chuck Filiaga started at right guard for Zinter (leg injury), and during the game, five different players played at guard.

Against Northwestern, Michigan’s regular starters at guard, Keegan on the left side and Zinter did not start. Keegan is out with a shoulder issue, while Zinter is in uniform and on the sideline.

The ability to plug-and-play on the offensive line has been a source of pride for the position group this season.

There is depth but this also is a function of having players taking reps at guard and tackle during camp and throughout the season for these just-in-case scenarios.

Twitter: @achengelis