All week, I kept referring back to this line in my season preview of Michigan football:
Michigan is loaded again in 2023, and the conversation has shifted from “can Jim Harbaugh ever match up with Ohio State” to now “can Jim Harbaugh win a national title?”
As the line dropped to 17 points, I had to wonder what I was missing. From my perspective, it should have been in the 20s...maybe even 30. Well, it didn’t take long to realize that I didn’t miss anything. Maybe a half quarter or so.
Michigan football is good. Nebraska isn’t right now, especially considering the Huskers were missing their starting quarterback, I-back and top linebacker. And Michigan physically dominated the Huskers, running 28 more plays and over 38 minutes of time of possession. Michigan didn’t gash the Huskers; in fact, Nebraska had the three biggest yardage plays of the game. Michigan was just methodological in consistently generating four or five yard gains on the ground, keeping the Blackshirts on the field all afternoon (in the record heat) with drives of 11, 9, 8, 11, 13 and 10 plays. No huge plays, just a constant, relentless pummelling.
In the offseason, I think most Husker fans had already written this game off. Did Nebraska underperform those low expectations? Yep. But wins and losses are black and white; it doesn’t matter whether you lose by three or 30, when it’s all said and done. It’s just one loss, and as long as the hangover doesn’t linger into future weeks, it’ll only count as one loss.
With that, it’s on to the report card, and as always, your feedback is welcome in the comments.
QB: Michigan feasted on Heinrich Haarberg’s sidearm throwing motion; is that why former offensive coordinator Mark Whipple buried Haarberg on the depth chart? My biggest takeaway is that, other than the batted down passes, Haarberg actually was fairly effective throwing the ball. (Certainly more effective than the ground game.) Grade: C-
I-Back: No running room whatsoever. Didn’t create any either, though. (Until Josh Fleeks broke free during garbage time.) My only thought here is that Marcus Satterfeld needs to figure out a way to employ the backs in the passing game to open things up. Grade: D
Receivers: Billy Kemp had a nice game, and Marcus Washington had chances to make this game much more competitive. But after Michigan started substituting liberally, I couldn’t understand why Nebraska wasn’t trying to get young players into the game. Jaylen Lloyd did have a nice catch and run in the closing 30 seconds, but Nebraska needs these youngsters to step up and show something. It doesn’t help the discussion at all to see former commit Omarion Miller torch Southern Cal for nearly 200 yards. Grade: D+
OL: They were dominated, pure and simple. Like many of you, I had been holding out hope that Teddy Prochazka would get back in shape to replace Turner Corcoran, but arguably Prochazka performed worse than Corcoran to close out the game. Sad to say that Corcoran is Nebraska’s least-worst left tackle. Ben Scott also had a badly misfired snap; officially, that became a fumble charged to Haarberg since he touched it...but it was so wide left, it’s not reasonable to say that was the quarterback’s fault. Grade: F
DL: Cam Lenhardt missed this week’s game, but the front seven was pushed around by Michigan. To be fair, Michigan’s offensive line has been the nation’s best the last two seasons, and this year’s might be even better. Grade: F
LB: It didn’t help matters any to have Luke Reimer unavailable to play in this game due to a medical issue. They were pushed around, and tackles were frequently made well down field. Grade: F
Secondary: Michigan didn’t really need to throw the ball Saturday, and so didn’t really didn’t try to. In fact, I think they were trying NOT to, in order to send a message to the rest of the football world that was starting to question the Wolverines. McCarthy completed 75% of his passes, and probably could have trounced Nebraska harder on the scoreboard and stat sheet if desired, but that wasn’t necessary. They had command of the game once the score got to 21-0. Grade: D-
Special Teams: Tristan Alvano joins the Husker kicker circle of dysfunction with a missed field goal. Seeing Chase Contreraz succeed at Iowa State makes me wonder if there’s a Pelini jinx that’s sabotaged Nebraska’s special teams. Fortunately, Brian Buschini seems to be immune from this. But what the f*c* is up with trying an onsides kick, down by 38 late in the game? And frankly, it’s time for Ed Foley to waive the white flag and tell the kickoff return team to fair catch anything inside the ten. Just take the da*n ball at the 25 instead of fighting to get it to the 19. Grade: D
Overall: F It only took listening to about 10 seconds of non-official sports talk radio after the game to realize that this is going to be one of those ugly, noisy weeks that runs the risk of magnifying one awful game into a downward spiral of negativity. Don’t do that, folks. Give Matt Rhule and his coaches space to build this program the way they feel is necessary. The Illinois game on Friday isn’t some sort of referendum on Matt Rhule; it’s just the next game on the schedule.
How would you grade the Huskers performance against Michigan?
This poll is closed
A - I’m a Michigan fan
B - I’m a Michigan fan, but don’t want it to be that obvious.
C - Could have been better
D - Disappointed
F - Failure all over the field
0 - Nearly failed to score