Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and Nebraska coach Scott Frost will walk tall into their Big Ten Conference matchup Saturday.
After recent months of ridicule, doubts and even calls from irate fans that both should be fired, there is reason for hope with both programs.
Both Harbaugh and Frost were expected to elevate their respective alma maters to heights seen during glory days, but despite still not meeting those expectations, No. 9 Michigan and Nebraska are trending in the right direction entering the game at Lincoln, Neb.
Unranked to start the season and with lower-than-usual expectations, Michigan (5-0, 2-0 in Big Ten) is coming off its most impressive performance of the year.
The Wolverines went on the road and dominated Wisconsin last week, leaving with a 38-17 win and feelings they could finally make the conference championship game at the end of the season for the first time in program history.
“This group is different,” Harbaugh said. “They don’t flinch.”
Through its first four games, Michigan used a dominant rushing attack to earn victories, but the win over Wisconsin showed the Wolverines can have success through the air as well.
After throwing just 53 total passes in the first four games, Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara went 17 of 28 for 197 yards and two touchdowns against the Badgers.
“We really believe in our quarterbacks,” Harbaugh said. “We believe in our receivers and tight ends. We believe we can throw the ball well and we believe we can run it well. We can do both.”
Having similar balance will be essential against Nebraska, which has seemed to find itself on both sides of the ball after a slow start.
In their past three games, the Cornhuskers (3-3, 1-2) played unbeaten Oklahoma tough on the road before losing by a touchdown, outplayed unbeaten Michigan State on the road before mistakes on special teams led to a 23-20 overtime loss, and then destroyed Northwestern at home 56-7.
“We’re a lot better team than we have been,” Frost said. “We have a lot of work to do still. (Northwestern) was one game. This is a world of exaggeration and hyperbole. This was one game. But this is what I know this group can do.
“We have talented guys in a lot of places. It’s a good first step, but we still have a lot of work to do. We can still get better.”
Saturday’s game will feature the top two rushing offenses in the Big Ten.
Michigan enters No. 1 in the conference at 255.0 rushing yards a game, while Nebraska is right behind at 237.5 yards, but they’ve had success in different ways.
Michigan has ridden the tandem of Blake Corum (521 yards, seven touchdowns) Hassan Haskins (373 yards, six TDs), while Nebraska relies on dual-threat quarterback Adrian Martinez, who has rushed for 412 yards and nine TDs, whole also completing 66.7 percent of his passes for 1,463 yards and six TDs.
The last meeting between the teams came in 2018, when Michigan walloped visiting Nebraska 56-10.
–Field Level Media
Cade McNamara passed for two touchdowns and No. 14 Michigan capitalized on turnovers for a 38-17 victory over host Wisconsin on Saturday in the Wolverines first victory at Madison since 2001.
The Wolverines (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten), playing on the road for the first time, pulled away from a 13-10 halftime lead. Michigan turned two fumble recoveries and an interception into 14 points.
Wisconsin (1-3, 0-2), which also lost to No. 4 Penn State and No. 9 Notre Dame, opened 1-3 for the first time since former coach Barry Alvarez’s first season in 1990, when the Badgers finished 1-10.
McNamara had touchdown passes of 34 and 13 yards to Cornelius Johnson, and also hit Johnson with a two-point conversion. J.J. McCarthy ran for one score and passed 56 yards for Michigan’s touchdown.
Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz left after being sacked on the first series of the second half and did not return. Starting tight end Jack Ferguson also left with an injury.
The Wolverines, who had lost five straight at Wisconsin, opened a 20-10 lead with a 59-yard drive on their first possession of the second half. McCarthy plunged over from a yard out on fourth down.
Michigan turned a fumble by backup quarterback Chase Wolf into a 48-yard field goal by Jake Moody for a 23-10 lead with 12:21 remaining. Daxton Hill intercepted Wolf on the first play of the ensuing series at the Wisconsin 35, setting up McNamara’s 18-yard touchdown pass to Johnson.
Wolf threw a 25-yard touchdown pass in the closing minute.
Michigan passed for 253 yards, but also rushed for 112 yards on 44 attempts, against Wisconsin’s top-ranked run defense, which entered allowing 23 yards per game on the ground.
After Moody’s 47-yard field goal put Michigan up 13-3, Wisconsin took over on its own 37 with 25 seconds left in the half. After a 9-yard run, Mertz hit Chimere Dike for 36 yards and then on an 18-yard touchdown pass.
Michigan took a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter when McNamara capped a 59-touchdown drive with a 34-yard pass to Johnson.
–Field Level Media
Undefeated Michigan hopes to reignite its ground game against the nation’s top-ranked run defense when the 14th-ranked Wolverines look for their first victory at Wisconsin in 20 years on Saturday.
Michigan (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten), heading on the road for the first time this season, has lost the last five encounters to the Badgers in Madison since a 20-17 victory in 2001 on a field goal in the final minute.
Wisconsin (1-2, 0-1) dropped out of the Top 25 with a 41-13 loss Saturday to ninth-ranked Notre Dame, despite holding the Irish to 9 yards rushing. The Badgers have been plagued by costly turnovers, but they allow just 23 yards per game rushing.
“A solid, physical, athletic defense that really knows the scheme,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said of the Badgers. “They’re very dialed in.”
The Wolverines averaged 350 yards rushing and 47 points in their three nonconference victories but had just 112 yards on the ground in a 20-13 victory over Rutgers on Saturday. Michigan led 20-3 at the half but managed just two first downs in the second half.
“Defensively, we’re going to be challenged differently this week,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. “Obviously playing a really good Michigan team, a team that’s talented and really well-coached and I think playing really good football right now.”
Wisconsin unraveled in the fourth quarter against Notre Dame at Soldier Field in Chicago. The Badgers took a 13-10 lead on a field goal early in the final quarter, then allowed a 96-yard return for a touchdown on the ensuing kickoff.
Badgers quarterback Graham Mertz then had two fourth-quarter interceptions returned for touchdowns. The sophomore finished with four interceptions and lost a fumble.
In Wisconsin’s 16-10 opening loss to No. 4 Penn State, Mertz threw two fourth-quarter picks in the red zone.
The Badgers, who were ranked 12th in the preseason poll, have turned the ball over nine times, while Michigan is the only FBS team without a giveaway.
“There are no offensive turnovers,” Harbaugh said. “Now, some other things. Playing on the road, keeping your poise in the noise, all things that the team is learning and growing. So far, they’re picking them up and they’re retaining them, and this will be a big task this week, playing against a really tough team on the road.”
The Wolverines rushed 15 times for 64 yards on their 74-yard opening touchdown drive against the Scarlet Knights but struggled after that with their rushing offense.
Blake Corum leads the Wolverines’ ground game with 475 yards and seven touchdowns, and Hassan Haskins has 322 yards and six touchdowns.
Quarterback Cade McNamara has completed 33 of 53 passes for 534 yards and three touchdowns. Cornelius Johnson has a team-high eight receptions, averaging 24.8 yards per catch.
While the Badgers’ offense has struggled, the defense has been stingy, especially against the run. Even before holding Notre Dame 0.3 yards per carry, Wisconsin held Penn State to 50 yards on 18 carries and Eastern Michigan to 16 yards on 18 attempts.
Mertz has completed 54 of 95 passes for 566 yards with one touchdown and six interceptions. Defenses have keyed on all-conference tight end Jake Ferguson, who has 13 receptions for 80 yards but no touchdowns. Wideout Danny Davis III has a team-best 16 catches for 193 yards.
Although the Wolverines lead the series 51-17-1, Wisconsin has won the last two, 35-14 at Madison in 2019 and 49-11 last season at Ann Arbor.
–Field Level Media
Hassan Haskins scored two first-half rushing touchdowns and 19th-ranked Michigan held off Rutgers 20-13 in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Saturday.
Blake Corum had 68 rushing yards and Haskins added 41 for the Wolverines (4-0 overall, 1-0 Big Ten) in their conference opener. Cade McNamara completed 9-of-16 passes for 163 yards for Michigan, which was held scoreless in the second half.
Noah Vedral completed 18-of-31 passes for 156 yards and a touchdown for the Scarlet Knights (3-1, 0-1).
Michigan grabbed a 20-3 halftime lead.
The Wolverines opened with a methodical 17-play, 74-yard drive that took 7:36 off the clock in the first quarter. Haskins finished it off with a 1-yard run.
Rutgers had the ball for 13 plays on its first possession but had to settle for a 40-yard field goal from Valentino Ambrosio.
Michigan required only four plays to drive 71 yards on its next possession. The big play was a 38-yard completion from McNamara to Roman Wilson. Haskins finished it off with a 3-yard run.
The Wolverines extended their lead to 14 points with just over four minutes left in the half on Jake Moody’s 32-yard field goal.
The Scarlet Knights tried to convert a 4th-and-10 from Michigan’s 44 in the final minute. It failed and the Wolverines took advantage. A 51-yard pass from McNamara to Mike Sainristil set up Moody’s 20-yard field goal.
Michigan gained just 14 yards and failed to pick up a first down in the third quarter. Meanwhile, Rutgers put together a 91-yard drive to cut the Wolverines’ lead to 10.
A roughing the passer penalty moved Rutgers inside the Wolverines 20-yard-line. Vedral then found Aaron Young wide open on a 14-yard scoring pass.
Ambrosio’s 25-yard field goal during the opening minute of the fourth made it 20-13, but he missed a 29-yard try with 9:38 remaining.
The Wolverines finally picked up a first down with 3:44 remaining on a face mask penalty. Moody missed a 47-yard field goal try with 1:49 left.
David Ojabo forced a Vedral fumble two plays later, and Junior Colson recovered to clinch Michigan’s win.
–Field Level Media
Blake Corum rushed for 125 yards and three touchdowns as No. 25 Michigan found the end zone on its first nine possessions in a 63-10 romp over Northern Illinois on Saturday at Ann Arbor, Mich.
Donovan Edwards gained 86 yards and scored twice, while Hassan Haskins added 56 rushing yards and two scores. The Wolverines (3-0) had 373 rushing yards on 48 carries.
Cade McNamara threw an 87-yard touchdown pass to Cornelius Johnson and also scored on a quarterback keeper.
Northern Illinois quarterback and Michigan State transfer Rocky Lombardi was limited to 46 passing yards with a touchdown and an interception. He led the Spartans to a road victory over the Wolverines last season.
Michigan led 35-3 at halftime.
After Northern Illinois (1-2) failed to pick up a first down on its opening possession, the Wolverines drove 48 yards on seven plays. Corum’s 16-yard run set up McNamara’s 1-yard plunge for the score.
The Huskies drove 72 yards the next time it had the ball but settled for a 21-yard field goal by John Richardson.
Michigan then drove 75 yards in nine plays, capped by Corum’s 1-yard run.
Following another 3-and-out for the Huskies, Michigan scored once again on Haskins’ 1-yard run to make it 21-3.
Haskins scored from 5 yards out with 6:15 remaining in the half. That 10-play drive featured a 23-yard pass from McNamara to Erick All.
After a Northern Illinois punt, McNamara hooked up with Johnson on the 87-yard pass play. Johnson got behind his defender, caught the pass near the right sideline and raced into the end zone.
The Wolverines scored 28 third-quarter points.
Corum scored on a 51-yard run within the first two minutes of the second half. He also scored the Wolverines’ next touchdown on a 1-yard run.
Lombardi was picked off by Gemon Green to set up Michigan’s next touchdown, a 4-yard run by Edwards.
Edwards broke loose for a 58-yard touchdown run later in the quarter.
–Field Level Media
Blake Corum and Hassan Haskins combined to rush for 326 yards and four touchdowns as Michigan defeated visiting Washington 31-10 Saturday night in a nonconference game in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Corum carried 21 times for 171 yards and three scores, including a 67-yard run in the second quarter that gave the Wolverines (2-0) a 10-0 halftime lead.
Haskins added 155 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries as Michigan kept to the ground without star receiver/kick returner Ronnie Bell, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in a 47-14 victory against Western Michigan last week.
The Wolverines’ defense did the rest, keeping the Huskies (0-2) off the scoreboard until Peyton Henry kicked a 28-yard field goal with 5:54 left in the third quarter to make it 17-3.
That was Washington’s first score since its opening drive last week, when it was upset 13-7 by visiting Montana, a Football Championship Subdivision school.
The Huskies finally reached the end zone on a 22-yard pass from Dylan Morris to Terrell Bynum with 12:04 remaining.
Corum’s long touchdown run came one play after the Wolverines successfully converted a fake punt, with Michael Barrett rushing up the middle for three yards on fourth-and-1 from their own 30-yard line.
Michigan took the second half kickoff and marched 73 yards in eight players, capped by Corum’s 7-yard touchdown run, to extend its lead to 17-0.
Haskins scored on a 6-yard run with 13:56 remaining to make it 24-3 and Corum capped the scoring on a 4-yard run with 1:48 left.
Without Bell as a target, Wolverines quarterback Cade McNamara was just 7 of 15 for 44 yards.
Washington’s Morris completed 20 of 37 passes for 293 yards. Taj Davis made six catches for 78 yards and Bynum had five receptions for 115.
The Huskies gained just 50 yards rushing, with Richard Newton leading the way with 24 yards on 12 carries.
Receiver Giles Jackson, making his return to Ann Arbor after transferring from Michigan to Washington in the offseason, had three catches for 49 yards and three rushes for nine yards.
— Field Level Media