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Posted on Sat, Nov 19, 2011 : 6:55 p.m.

Michigan football team's thumping of Nebraska shows it's peaking at right time

By Kyle Meinke


Michigan junior Jordan Kovacs celebrates a fourth-quarter play. "I think this is the best win we’ve had since I’ve been on the team, just because it’s so late in the year," he said.

Melanie Maxwell |

The Michigan football team is playing its best football of the season. It's playing its best November football in years.

It's saving its best act for last.

If ever you needed evidence the Wolverines have turned a corner this year — and you shouldn't, after their defense's rise to prominence — this is it: They bludgeoned a Nebraska football team that, outside of Michigan State, is the most complete team they've faced all season.

Yet, with 6 minutes to go in an impressive 45-17 blowout of the No. 17 Cornhuskers, the focus already had turned elsewhere.

"Beat O-hi-o!," 113,718 fans chanted throughout the waning moments of the fourth quarter.

That's a nod to coach Brady Hoke, whose reluctance to follow "Ohio" with "State" has endeared him to a fan base that has not seen a beating of Ohio since 2003.

With Michigan surging, though, and the 6-5 Buckeyes floundering, the Wolverines don't just have a chance to change that. They should change that.

Players know that.

"As the game was winding down, the last minute-and-half when we were kneeing the ball, I think everyone was thinking that in the back of their head," safety Jordan Kovacs said.


Michigan fans were chanting, "Beat O-hi-o" by the end of the game Saturday.

Jeff Sainlar |

The win comes with an odd twist, as it helps rival Michigan State clinch the Legends Division title and a berth in the Big Ten championship game after its win against Indiana.

No. 20 Michigan (9-2, 5-2) still has a lot to play for, though, as it prepares to face archrival Ohio State next week with more than pride on the line for the first time in a long time.

Michigan already is guaranteed to go to at least the Outback Bowl, but a win against the Buckeyes likely would secure the Big Ten's second-best bowl bid — including a possible berth in a BCS game.

In fact, a representative from the Fiesta Bowl attended this game. What he saw was a Michigan team peaking at the right time.

"I think this is the best win we’ve had since I’ve been on the team, just because it’s so late in the year," Kovacs said. "I don’t think we’ve had a game this late in November that really meant as much as this one."

It's been eight years since Michigan won a game so deep into the season. That 2003 victory also happens to be the last time the Wolverines beat Ohio State.

The Wolverines were 3-8 in November games the past three years. They looked overmatched and underprepared.

This year? They're 2-1 and at the top of their game when it matters most.

Quarterback Denard Robinson accounted for four touchdowns against Nebraska, and pulled into a tie with Tom Brady on the career passing touchdowns list. It was his finest overall day of the season, and perhaps the best of any Big Ten game in his career.

Tailback Fitz Toussaint rushed 29 times for 138 yards and two touchdowns, and has eclipsed the 100-yard mark three out of his past four games.

The defense was its normally-stout self (still weird to say, right?). A week after holding Illinois without a third-down conversion in its first eight tries, Nebraska whiffed on its first seven.

Michigan finished with nearly as many rushing yards (238) as Nebraska had total yards (260). That bodes well for the Wolverines' chances again next week when they face another mobile quarterback in Ohio State's Braxton Miller.

"Coach Mattison is establishing an NFL defense here," Kovacs said. "We do a pretty good job of disguising and giving the quarterback something to think about. But the offense helps us a lot. Any time you're not on the field as a defense, they can't score too many points on you."

Most improved this week, though, were the special teams. The Wolverines recovered two fumbles on kickoffs, blocked a punt, flipped a fake field goal into a touchdown and turned a Nebraska roughing the kicker penalty into another score.

Oh, and that all came in the second half, turning a 17-10 game into a rout.

"It's probably as well as we've played in all three phases," Hoke said.

Down at That School in Ohio, the Buckeyes continue to flail away. They lost 20-14 on Saturday to Penn State, following a loss to Purdue last week, and are now 6-5. The Wolverines, meantime, haven't had a record this good going into that game since 2006 and will be the certain favorite.

It seems the tables have turned in this great rivalry — at least until Urban Meyer is wooed to Columbus in a couple of months or so.

Former coach Lloyd Carr would know better than anyone. He was the last Michigan coach to beat the Buckeyes, but also lost to them the final four seasons of his career.

On hand for the Nebraska game because of his honoring before kickoff, Carr couldn't help but say what everyone is thinking.

“Here we go, into the last game of the season, with a lot to play for — and great momentum,” Carr said. “This team is starting to believe in itself.

"It was a loud statement."

That statement: Bring on Ohio.

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.



Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 6:21 p.m.

Being a numbers geek, I've been digging into <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> They have a really cool &quot;split stats&quot; feature ... ranked vs. unranked, conference vs. non-conference, etc. An interesting comparison of this year to last: Scoring Offense 2010 vs. ranked = 16.5 points 2010 vs. unranked = 40.0 points 2011 vs. ranked = 31.3 2012 vs. unranked = 34.5 This year's offense not as good as last years? That 2010 ranked vs. unranked split is hard to ignore. Scoring Defense 2010 vs. ranked = 42.8 points 2010 vs. unranked = 31.9 points 2011 vs. ranked = 25.3 2012 vs. unranked = 12.0 Compare scoring defense against ranked (42.8pts) against scoring offense against ranked (16.5pts). Check out the month-to-month progression of scoring offense vs. scoring defense, 2010 vs. 2011: 2010 Sept ... Offense=41.0, Defense=23.0 Oct ... Offense=29.5, Defense=37.0 Nov = Offense=32.3, Defense=41.5 (67-65 Illinois game in November that year ... remove that and average drops to O=20.6 , D=33.7) 2011 Sept ... Offense=32.0, Defense=12.8 Oct ... Offense=37.5, Defense=16.5 (58-0 Minnesota game was in October this year ... remove that and average drops to O=30.6 , D=22.0) Nov ... Offense=30.7, Defense=18.3 The numbers seem to indicate the 2011 Wolverines are more consistent month to month and ranked vs. unranked. The offense/defense split in 2010 explains the late-season collapse and indicts the offense as being &quot;potent&quot; only against lesser teams.


Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 2:54 a.m.

@heartbreakM -- I to pull the 1st half / 2nd half scoring numbers from 2010 and 2011 looking for some obvious sign of that adjustment advantage. I agree it's there. But the numbers at the surface don't scream it ... at least based on season averages. I'm still thinking about how to crunch on the raw numbers to maybe show some sign of that. @MRunner73 -- Notre Dame is ranked now, but were they at the time we played them? The &quot;splits&quot; numbers at that stats site are, I think, based on ranking at the time the game was played.


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 11:06 p.m.

Good stuff...Here's one breakdown of the breakdown: Notre Dame is ranked so we have to include their 31 points to the mix on scoring defense. Oh Well, a lot can be said about the ND ranking but it cuts both ways, it does help our strength of schedule.


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 10:17 p.m.

Great stuff Don Az. Thanks for doing the research and finding those stats. What is most impressive to me, though, is that in nearly all of the games, the second half is better than the first half. That is quite the opposite of the last 3-4 years when adjustments were just not made. And like Bo in his first year, who was gearing his team up to face Ohio and getting more solid performance in the last month, it seems that Hoke is doing the same thing. Saturday will tell the story, but the signs are looking good right now.


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 7:24 p.m.

Thanks numbers Geek ! quite interesting !!


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 7:21 p.m.

@GoBigBlue ... yeah, I know ... but it was fun compiling the numbers. The &quot;ranked vs. unranked&quot; split is somewhat imprecise because the rankings themselves are somewhat imprecise. Still, it's a general proxy for &quot;good&quot; vs. &quot;less good&quot; teams. Agree with your last paragraph ... and the improvements are not *just* year over year but also month to month. This team is getting better as the season rolls on.


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 7:18 p.m.



Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 7:14 p.m.

Another great post Don. Unfortunately, as Ghost has mentioned in the past, the naysayers/RR slappys will likely not be swayed by even the most factual eveidense to support the idea that the offense is actually better and more balanced this year than last. With the emergence of a running back and with a ball controlling/huddling offense we have seen improvement in virtually every area of this team.


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 2:45 p.m.

Yes, Michigan is peaking at the right time. How long has that been? Maybe 2006 or maybe 2003, the last time Michigan beat the buckeyes, which was in Ann Arbor. The noise in the stadium was great against NE. It will be much more than that come Saturday, can't wait...GO BLUE!!!

NC Wolverine 20

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 1:53 p.m.

If I recall correctly, the original quote from President Kennedy was: &quot;I went to Harvard, which is the Michigan of the East.&quot;


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 1:29 p.m.

I believe the preferred acronym for the team from Columbus is &quot;TSIO&quot;, and in conversation be sure to stress THAT School in Ohio, out of respect for their traditions. Oh, and we are called by others &quot;The Harvard of the West&quot; because we deserve it, just as That School In Ohio deserves being called TSIO.


Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 3:25 a.m.

HOD- Harvard of Detroit


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 10:52 p.m.

Maybe the harvard of Detroit?

Matt Patercsak

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 12:44 p.m.

I was upset to see hopkin's run get called back, i was happy for the big fella!! but, its good to have a hungry fullback going into OSU week. I am so excited. this team hasnt played ball at this level in 4 years. and folks, our D is still so young, they are going to get better, and better and better. and im sure brady will make them compete with the incoming freshman to keep them on their toes. I wanna see braxton millers nose in the dirt saturday!!! ughh, i have 9 years of trash talking to get out of my system. come on boys ball security men


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 2:29 p.m.

As we said in the 80S, word.

1st Down

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 3:52 a.m.

&quot;The defense was its normally-stout self (still weird to say, right?).&quot; Not was pretty much the norm for at least 40 seasons prior to 2008.


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 3:25 a.m.

Michigan will dominate ohio. Look forward to a crazy atmosphere in the big house! Michigan 31-10. BCS, here we come! ohio will end up in Motor city bowl and msu will end up in the outback bowl after a beat down by Wisconsin in a couple weeks.


Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 3:23 a.m.

Donaz, That's a bald face lie. Meyer said he was &quot;not offered the job. And I certainly haven't accepted a position&quot; He did not say he hasn't talked with OSU. meyer is an ESPN reporter. If ESPN is wrong don't you think they would know? By the way your beloved is also talking about it. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Paste that to your browser there buddy. I know you are worried that's why I posted it.


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 5:45 a.m.

@rightmind250 - &quot;You did see that Urban Meyer is going to be the next coach at OSU?&quot; Not confirmed, just &quot;sources&quot; based on ESPN report. Meyer himself flat denied any conversations about the OSU job in the pre-game before Michigan-Nebraska. He was quite unambiguous about it. If tomorrow he confirms, then he's a bald-faced liar. And that's not how you want to start out with a new coach.


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 4:16 a.m.

You may wanna wait for your sanctions to come down before you count on Meyer leaping onto a sinking boat! Pretty sure that is what he's gonna do. Maybe you could get Joe Pa to come right the ship. I hear he's available...

1st Down

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 3:53 a.m.

lol... whatever. No one fears Meyer going to Ohio. No one. Our #1 ranked class for 2012 is locked up. Keep dreaming and have fun in the Pizza Bowl, if they take you.


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 3:46 a.m.

You did see that Urban Meyer is going to be the next coach at OSU? He WILL raid UM's 2012 recruiting class. He will start with Kalis and take anybody else he fills meets the caliber of player he wants at THe Ohio State University. By the way Hoke, Ohio is in Athens, 100 miles south.


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 2:15 a.m.

the osu. . . the fact that you are on a MICHIGAN site after your heart breaking loss to PSU proves that you have a serious inferiority complex. loser's are always attracted to winner's! GO BLUE. . . BEAT ohio!!!!!!!!!!!!


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 1:39 a.m.

GOLDENBLUE: Once again, Michigan elitism raises its ugly head. Yes, Nebraska fans have a long tradition of being courteous. In fact, at home, they applaud the visiting team when the enter/leave the field. However, your post (incorrectly) implies that Michigan fans behave likewise and are somehow superior to Buckeyes or Spartans. You're just looking down your nose at land-grant institutions again. Personally, I think you guys have a serious inferiority complex. Why else would a school refer to themselves as, &quot;The Harvard of the midwest&quot;? Maybe all FB fans could learn something from Husker fans. Just don't forget to include yourselves.


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 2:42 p.m.

Too much trash talk. This is a much better Michigan football team. Your team has to come up to the Big House where our fans will be the 12th man. Your team lost at home to PSU. Confidence is down in Columbus, no doubt about it. It bothers you because the fan base here has the some optimism about the next oppenent for the first time since 2006 and our rivalry game since 2003. It is good to see but I won't get overly excited until the 60th minute of game and scoreboard shows Michigan with the lead. GO BLUE!!!


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 4:23 a.m.

I won't agree with a lot you say, but I agree with your last 2 sentences. The reality is most fans are very courteous and just want to root for their team. It's just that the jerks on all sides seem to get all the attention. Sometimes they are blatantly making complete @sses of themselves, and sometimes they are just prejudiced because they've been ridiculed too many times by the other team's jerk-fans. It's rough, because it causes a cycle of stupidity. It's akin to an argument on the playground in elementary school.


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 1:20 a.m.

Great win today.I cant wait till next saturday.Its great to be a michigan Wolverine! I was at the game today and msu and osu fans could learn a lot from Nebraska fans .They are a step above both of those schools.


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 1:05 a.m.

Impressive, impressive win today. Now, let's put this behind and move onto the most important task of all...BEAT OHIO!!!!!


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 12:50 a.m.

It Michigan Week! Here's how things will play out... Ohio State 23 Michigan 14 The Buckeye &quot;D&quot; will rise to the occasion and contain DR and the Blue &quot;O&quot; to just 2 TDs. Yes, our offense is struggling and is led by a true freshman QB who is just getting started. Two TDs is all we'll muster. However, special teams will be the deciding factor. Punting will help keep the game played in Michigan territory. As a result the Buckeyes will claim 3 FGs. Blue can't match that. You read it here first.


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 2:56 p.m.

yawn ²


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 2:22 p.m.

The way we are playing, I don't anticipate a letdown for a game like this. The game will be played the 26th at noon, so stay tuned. Big blue has come to far to not win this game, and as of now I think we not only have the talent and coaching advantage, but our fans are the 12th man that will make the difference.


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 3:54 a.m.

azwolverine, If it realy comes down to a dogfight, then UM better go find a couple pitbulls, because the last &quot;dogfight they got into MSU kicked there butt. If I remember right, UM is still whinning about getting punched in the mouth.

1st Down

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 3:54 a.m.



Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 1:09 a.m.

I have no doubt ohio will come with all they've got. It's THE GAME, after all. It's about time that fans on both sides can actually have high expectations for their team heading into it. As they say, you can throw records out the window...I'm expecting a dogfight.


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 1:06 a.m.

Let's hope for a good game ... few mistakes, no bad calls, just intense Big 10 rivalry football. And then ... let the best team on the field that day win.

Theo's Brother

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 12:33 a.m.

Once again Kyle, thanks for picking against us again. You're 2 for 2 the last couple weeks! Appreciate you! GO BLUE!

Kyle Meinke

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 8:03 p.m.

Theo's Brother, all I got to say is .... You're welcome!


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 1:43 a.m.

Kyle: Please, please, PLEASE pick Ohio State to win next week.

Theo's Brother

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 12:46 a.m.

And I mean this in a light-hearted way. You're an excellent writer Kyle!