Michigan has put on a clinic rushing the ball through their first two games of the season, and yesterday against Northern Illinois was no different.
Jim Harbaugh's Wolverines scored on nine straight possessions in their 63-10 win over the Huskies while rushing for 373 yards. The running game dominated, with three running backs reaching the end zone at least twice.
NIU head coach Thomas Hammock, who previously spent seven seasons as an assistant in the Big 10 with stops at Minnesota and Wisconsin before leaving for the NFL, had high praise for Harbaugh's squad.
How high? Well he believes Harbaugh has engineered the team and schemes to beat Ohio State.
"What I see, they built their team to beat Ohio State,” Hammock shared.
“You’re not going to out-athlete Ohio State and so they said, ‘We’re going to get dirty.’ And you know what? Credit to them because they stay committed to that. They have a good team.”
You can bet that quote is going to be in the locker room in Columbus.
One player with an intimate knowledge of the Wolverines was former Spartan quarterback Rocky Lombardi, who led the Spartans to a victory over the Wolverines in 2020 before deciding to enter the transfer portal, and ultimately landed at NIU.
Lombardi had the following to share on the new-look Wolverines on the other side of the ball.
“They run a completely different scheme. They looked better on film than they did last year. The scheme helps them out. They’re much softer now in coverage. They don’t like to give up many deep shots."
The changes brought in my new defensive coordinator Mike McDonald (whom Hammock worked with in Baltimore) are a far cry than the scheme Don Brown had employed over the last several years in Ann Arbor - schemes that Ohio State and Ryan Day clearly had the answers to the test on.
“They do a lot better job this year of disguising things. They’re not a very blitz-heavy team. When they do disguise, I think they do a good job because they play base so well.”
It's far too early in the season to be coming to conclusions on what type of team Michigan, or anyone else is for that matter, but it's tough to ignore the good buzz that the Wolverines have built up early in the season, so we'll see how that momentum is able to build heading into that season final matchup with their rival.
Meanwhile, in Columbus, Ryan Day's squad is going through a defensive identity crisis. The defensive side of the ball had struggled in their last several meetings, including an early season loss to Oregon, and Day handed off the defensive play calling responsibilities to secondary coach Matt Barnes in their win over Tulsa yesterday.