The Wolverine

November 2016

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 32 of 83

NOVEMBER 2016 THE WOLVERINE 33 up big against the Badgers. All four backs, too — Evans, Isaac, Smith and sophomore Karan Higdon — have av- eraged at least 5.5 yards per carry, led by Evans' incredible 8.3-yard average. "When we get in, you're trying to make the most of your opportunities, whether you're De'Veon, me, Chris, Karan, whoever rolls in," Isaac said. "I don't know if there are set roles for anybody — it's just go in and do your job. "You know there are high expecta- tions within the room, not just from the coaches, but I expect a lot from ev- erybody that goes in, just like De'Veon or Chris or Karan expect a lot from me when I go in … everybody's expected to go in and produce." The Wolverines managed only 14 points in a seven-point win over the Badgers — but that was due in part to three missed field goals — and suf- fered a critical loss when sophomore left tackle Grant Newsome went down with a season-ending knee injury in the second quarter. The right half of the Michigan line — fifth-year senior guard Kyle Kalis and fifth-year senior tackle Erik Mag- nuson — along with junior center Ma- son Cole have been playing at a very high level, but the left side remains in flux. Fifth-year senior left guard Ben Braden has struggled with injury and split time with freshman Ben Brede- son, while redshirt sophomore Juwann Bushell-Beatty has been thrown into the fire at left tackle. "My concern if I had to point to one would be the left side of the offensive line," former Michigan All-Big Ten offensive lineman Doug Skene said. "The right side is playing really good football. Kalis and Magnuson are hav- ing nice years, as they should. They are fifth-year guys; they've played a lot of football. "But the injury factor on the left side of that line with Newsome out, Bush- ell-Beatty coming in, Bredeson work- ing in there and Braden … if you had to point to one part of our team and say, 'Boy, I wonder about that against some other matchups down the road,' I would have to say that's our spot for biggest area of improvement. "But I think they can. Braden is play- ing better football. Bredeson is a re- ally nice young lineman, and Bushell- Beatty started his first game and in pass protection looked really nice. At other times he got a little out of bal- ance there, but that's not unusual for a first-time starter who has kind of been thrown into the fire. "The capability is there on that side. Now you just want to see the consis- tency come along." The same can be said of the kick- ing game, which was only 4 of 9 on field goals through six games. Fifth- year senior Kenny Allen had a tenu- ous hold on the job heading into the second half of the season despite con- verting only half of his eight attempts, but Harbaugh was confident he could turn it around and regain the form that helped him make 81.8 percent a year ago. All in all, the Wolverines appear ready to make a run at a Big Ten ti- tle and possibly more. Road games at Michigan State and Iowa seemed much less daunting after both teams struggled during a pair of disap- pointing home losses in the early go- ing — the Spartans lost to BYU and got shellacked by Wisconsin at home, while the Hawkeyes fell while hosting Northwestern and Football Champi- onship Subdivision competitor North Dakota State — leaving the Buckeyes looming as the biggest potential road- block to a title … the way it's been in the past and probably will be going forward. ❏ Michigan's Defense By The Numbers Michigan led the country in a number of defensive categories through six games in defensive coordinator Don Brown's first season, meeting the preseason hype as one of the nation's best units. Head coach Jim Harbaugh knew he hired a good one when he took Brown from Boston College in the offseason, but he probably didn't know the defense would be this good. The veteran coordinator has some outstanding veteran personnel to work with, but he's also proven to be as good as advertised … and then some. "Don Brown is an amazing coach. I know I've been saying that a lot, but it's obvi- ous to everyone," Harbaugh said. "It is to our team and to our whole defensive staff. It's pretty spectacular, what they're doing defensively." A quick look at the numbers, through Oct. 21, backs that claim. Michigan ranks: • No. 1 nationally in scoring defense (10.3 points allowed per game) • No. 1 nationally in total defense (212.8 yards allowed per game) • No. 1 nationally in pass defense (113.7 yards allowed per game) • No. 1 nationally in third-down defense (10 of 82, 12.2 percent) • Tied for No. 1 nationally in sacks (4.0 per game) • No. 2 nationally in tackles for loss (10.0 per game) • Tied for No. 5 nationally in opponent's red-zone scoring percentage (66.7) • No. 6 nationally in fewest plays of 10 yards or more allowed (49) • Tied for No. 12 nationally in turnover margin (+1.0 per game) • Tied for No. 19 nationally in opponent's red-zone touchdown percentage (50.0) — Chris Balas Under first-year coordinator Don Brown, Michigan's defense ranked first nationally in five major categories as of Oct. 21. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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