This game was much more entertaining to break down via the eye test, just look at the vines, but as always the stats explain where the contest was won and lost. Here's the key numbers from Northwestern vs. Michigan:
Northwestern actually rushed for negative yardage on Saturday. The team finished with negative nine yards on the ground, and Justin Jackson only accumulated 35 rushing yards on 17 carries. Of course, NU doesn't finish in negative yardage without Trevor Siemian getting taken down multiple times. Michigan had six sacks totaling 59 lost yards. Plus, the Wolverines sniffed out a reverse to Tony Jones for a loss of another five yards. For the first time since September, Justin Jackson didn't near 100 yards, and the ground game was nonexistent.
Trevor Siemian had a solid statistical outing against Michigan. Siemian completed 32 of 49 passes for 273 yards and one touchdown. He had two interceptions, one of which was a very poor decision, and his 5.57 yards per attempt is right in line with his season average. He was sacked a handful of times again too. However, the run game wasn't opening up anything in the secondary, and overall it was a good performance for Siemian.
Northwestern and Michigan each scored on two of four red zone opportunities. The Wolverines' two unsuccessful trips came in the second quarter, ending on an interception and a failed fourth down attempt. In the third quarter, Northwestern went scoreless twice in the red zone. First, Jack Mitchell missed a 36-yard field goal attempt. Then, a failed reverse play and intentional grounding pushed NU back from the UM 15 to the 43. Of course, they had to punt, another area NU struggled in mightily. Chris Gradone and Hunter Niswander averaged 34.8 yards per punt, as the woes pervaded through both sidelines.
Northwestern's longest run and pass plays were 6 and 19 yards, respectively. It's becoming a bit of a broken record, but NU is really hurt by its dearth of big plays. A long run of six yards is pitiful, and no plays of 20+ yards may be even worse. Trevor Siemian found some success in intermediate passing. Kyle Prater and Cameron Dickerson both averaged at least 10 yards per catch, and they had eight and four receptions, respectively. Yet, they were two of just three NU players with a reception longer than 9 yards.
Lost in all the suck was the performance of the Wildcat defense. They only allowed the Wolverines to convert one of 12 third downs and forced three turnovers. Devin Gardner struggled passing the ball, and Michigan totaled just 256 total yards. De'Veon Smith's 6.7 yards per carry were the only thing the Wolverines had going offensively. Northwestern followed up the let down at Iowa with an amazing performance, and a decent showing from the offense would have led to victory.