Why the Decisive Win Over Wisconsin Should Drastically Change Michigan's 2018 Narrative

karan higdon michigan running back

Why the Decisive Win Over Wisconsin Should Drastically Change Michigan's 2018 Narrative

Football

Why the Decisive Win Over Wisconsin Should Drastically Change Michigan's 2018 Narrative

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Heading into the fourth quarter, down 21-7, Wisconsin had just 192 yards of offense and was particularly struggling in the pass game, with just 25 yards through the air.

As the waning minutes of the game went by, and Michigan had a commanding 38-7 lead, those numbers artificially ballooned, as Badgers quarterback Alex Hornibrook connected on some deep, yet irrelevant passes.

The story going into the game was could Michigan actually beat a worthwhile team — with Wisconsin being considered one, ranked No. 15 coming into the Week Seven matchup. Yet, even when the game was relatively close, it was Michigan not finishing on its end, more so than the Badgers keeping the Wolverines from doing what they wanted to do.

So now, after the game, the story is: how good are these Wolverines really? In a good way.

The loss to Notre Dame to open the season strongly tempered expectations. But the Irish are now winless and ranked No. 5 — and assured to move up now that No. 2 Georgia lost to LSU. And Michigan’s sole blemish comes at the hands of that Irish team.

Now sitting at 6-1, this Wolverines team looks like a different one than the unit that took the field in South Bend. Something that the players seem to agree on.

“Every week I just feel like we get better and better,” third-year strong safety Josh Metellus said. “Learn from our mistakes, different adversities, build us, bringing us together as a team. I feel like the bond’s getting closer and closer, and when that happens, stuff like today happens.

“I think everybody on the team got criticism early in the season,” quarterback Shea Patterson said. “I mean, that’s something we expect. We really try not to pay attention to that noise and control what we can control.”

So what happens now is up to Michigan more than anyone else.

Next on the docket is in-state rival Michigan State, which just beat Penn State on the road. But the Spartans have been incredibly inconsistent, taking down a top ten team, but losing to two unranked foes through the six games it’s played. Penn State now has two losses and doesn’t look quite as formidable as it did early on — not to mention the defense hasn’t been nearly as good as last year’s outfit. Similarly, Ohio State can put up numbers on offense, but the Buckeyes’ defense has been middle-of-the-road — at best.

But still, Michigan had to take care of business in the type of game people say Jim Harbaugh can’t win before getting to those other matchups.

The Wolverines were favored by 10 points by the time kickoff started against Wisconsin, but that didn’t make the Badgers rollovers. Yet, Michigan made the Big Ten West foe tap out before the game was done, punting despite being down 31-7 late in the game.

It was incumbent upon the players on the field to change the perception, the on-going narratives that surround Michigan football. Things that were perpetuated following the Week One loss to Notre Dame.

That the offensive line is no good, and not Michigan caliber. That the run game is non-existent in big games.

The truth is that in all of the losses to higher-caliber defenses, Michigan did struggle in the run game — averaging less than 3 yards-per-carry in each loss. On Saturday, the Wolverines made a statement, getting to 6.7 yards per carry, decimating a run defense that was 43rd in the nation and allowed just 130 yards-per-game. The maize and blue gashed that, getting 320 yards on the ground.

According to team captain and senior running back Karan Higdon, Michigan has turned that corner that many said was eluding it.

“This was more of a personal game for us,” Higdon said. “A lot of people have a lot of questions about who we are as a team. Our offensive line, our run game — we don’t show up in big games. I think we laid that to rest today.

“I think we came out, got the job done. There’s no further question that we’ve got the best offensive line in the country.”

“We knew coming into this game that everything was ahead of us and that we control our own destiny,” Shea 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. And we didn’t just win — we kinda dominated them.

“We wanted to come out here and make a statement and keep attacking every week the same.”

Time will tell if the narrative has changed in earnest. On Monday, we very well could be hearing about how this wasn’t last year’s Wisconsin team, et cetera, which — yeah. And this isn’t last year’s Michigan team.

So you can can the narrative, the talk, the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately’s of it all, at least, in Jim Harbaugh’s eyes.

This win isn’t a vindication of his coaching prowess. It’s just what happens when preparation and talent meet opportunity. If he has it his way, it will be the same result next Saturday in East Lansing.

“Hardened by it? That’s irrelevant to me,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll do what we’ve been doing, enjoy this win tonight and then get onto our preparation for our next opponent Michigan State.”

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