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Rapid reaction: Northwestern trounced by No. 6 Michigan 33-7

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At least the first half was close?

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — For a moment, it looked like it could be Northwestern’s day. That was before a 17-point third quarter for Michigan, of course.

In the end, the Wolverines would cruise to victory, winning handily 33-7. Northwestern finished with just 232 yards of total offense, while Michigan ended with 457. Evan Hull had some big plays for the ‘Cats, finished with six carries for 81 yards and two catches for 27 yards. Meanwhile, Ryan Hilinski closed the game with just 14 completions for 129 yards and one interception. Michigan’s two-headed rushing monster of Blake Corum and Hassan Haskins ended with 119 yards on 19 carries and 110 yards on 23 carries, respectively. Each of them finished with two touchdowns as well.

The day began on a high note for the Wildcats, with Hilinski finding Stephon Robinson Jr. for a 29-yard gain on NU’s first play from scrimmage. However, the ‘Cats were unable to capitalize on the play and ended up having to punt, which led to Derek Adams pinning the Wolverines on their own two-yard line.

On Michigan’s first drive of the game, however, Northwestern’s defense held firm, quickly getting the Wolverines to third down. While Michigan converted initially, a huge sack by Brandon Joseph made it third-and-17 on the next set of downs, and the Wolverines would end up punting the ball right back. Of note, both Samdup Miller and Adetomiwa Adebawore were injured during this possession, but both walked off the field under their own power shortly after.

After a second consecutive punt by the Wildcats, Michigan’s offense briefly began to show signs of life, with a 14-yard rush by Hassan Haskins setting UM up well on their own 47-yard line. But after two deep-ball incompletions by Cade McNamara, the Wolverines failed to convert on a third-and-10, and ended up punting for a second time. By the end of the first quarter, neither team had scored, but Michigan was driving and threatening to end M00N part two.

As the second quarter began, the Wolverines started pounding away with their run game. A combination of jet sweeps and draws up the middle, as well as some scary jukes by Corum, set UM up on Northwestern’s one-yard line. Corum punched it in from there, giving Michigan a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter.

On Northwestern’s next possession, an incomplete pass to Trey Pugh and a one-yard rush up the middle by Evan Hull had the ‘Cats in a rough third-and-9 situation. Hilinski was promptly sacked by Aidan Hutchinson and Adams punted it away.

Michigan continued to keep it on the ground, with Corum and Haskins leading the charge. The Wolverines marched the ball right down inside Northwestern’s five-yard line, but the Wildcats’ defense held strong, forcing Michigan’s Jake Moody to attempt a chip shot field goal and make the score 10-0.

Northwestern’s next drive wasn’t much of a drive at all, considering it went for just one play. After a fair catch on the kickoff, Hull rumbled 75 yards to the house on a run right up the middle, silencing the Big House getting the ‘Cats on the board at 10-7.

However, the half wasn’t over just yet. With the Wildcats’ defense gassed, Michigan drove deep into Northwestern territory on a few solid runs by Corum and some checkdown completions by McNamara. UM would be held scoreless, though, as a huge fumble forced by Coco Azema was recovered by Chris Bergin, ending the half at 10-7. By the end of the first 30 minutes, Michigan had outgained Northwestern by 154 yards, yet held a miniscule lead.

To open the third quarter, the Wolverines were quickly forced to third down, but a defensive holding penalty on Rod Heard moved the chains for Michigan. A few strong runs from Corum, a pass interference call on A.J. Hampton and multiple missed tackles from NU led to Corum trotting in from five yards out to make the score 17-7.

It would only get worse from there.

On the Wildcats’ first offensive possession of the second half, things looked grim for Northwestern after Hilinski fumbled the first snap. However, a slip screen to Hull went for 26 yards to convert on third-and-16, and another screen to Jacob Gill gave the ‘Cats another 13 yards. They were further helped by a pass interference call on Michigan’s DJ Turner, yet the drive still culminated in a missed 39-yard field goal by Charlie Kuhbander.

Michigan and Northwestern then traded three-and-outs in rapid fashion. On the Wildcats’ punt attempt, though, Adams fielded a very low snap and his punt was blocked by Michigan’s Cornelius Johnson. The Wolverines, already in solid field position, proceeded to march in on a 13-yard run by Haskins, putting them up 24-7.

After yet another Northwestern punt, UM went on the move again. A 13-yard rush from change-of-pace quarterback JJ McCarthy set Michigan up in a position for a 44-yard field goal attempt from Moody, who promptly converted to put the Wolverines up 20 points as the third quarter drew to a close.

To open the fourth, Hilinski’s pass attempt to JJ Jefferson was tipped and picked off by Turner, who returned it to Northwestern’s 15-yard line. Haskins soon found paydirt again to make the score 33-7, but Michigan’s two-point conversion attempt failed.

From that point forward, gameplay stalled. Both teams traded fumbles while Michigan attempted to run out the clock. The Wolverines attempted one final field goal that sailed wide right. The ‘Cats gave their backups — most notably Marcus Cisco and Jake Arthurs — a few reps before the game drew to a close.

Northwestern returns home next week when they take on Minnesota at 2:30 CT on Big Ten Network.