First Quarter

Michigan started with the ball against Northwestern on Saturday, and junior quarterback Devin Gardner was under center, continuing to fill in for the injured Denard Robinson.

Sophomore running back Thomas Rawls got the start for the first time since the season opener against Alabama, and he picked up the first first down of the game. But that was as far as Michigan would go on the first drive, and the Wolverines punted on the next set of downs.

On Northwestern’s first drive, the Wildcats marched down the length of the field and found the end zone in 10 plays. The Wolverine front seven was porous, as nine of those plays were runs — junior quarterback Kain Colter threw the ball just once, complete to Christian Jones for 19 yards. Seven plays later, running back Mark Venric fell into the end zone from three yards out for the first score of the game.

When the Wolverines got the ball back, they began taking advantage of Northwestern loading the box to defend the run, and Gardner took some shots down the field. On second-and-long, he found fifth-year senior receiver Roy Roundtree on the right side of the field, and he escaped the defensive back to pick up yards after the catch, good for 32 yards.

On the next two consecutive plays, Northwestern penalties brought Michigan into the red zone. And two plays later, Gardner kept the ball on a play-action bootleg and dove for the pylon successfully, tying the score at 7-7.

The Michigan defense forced a quick three-and-out before the first quarter ended, and the offense had the ball on its own 46-yard line as the clock ticked to zero.

Second Quarter

On the second play of the quarter, redshirt junior running back Fitzgerald Toussaint took a handoff up the middle and shed a couple of tackles for a 50-yard gain, but he coughed up the ball at the Northwestern five-yard line, and the Wildcats recovered.

Toussaint would be relieved by the Michigan defense, though. After Northwestern running back Venric Mark brought the Wildcats to midfield, Michigan linebacker Desmond Morgan wrapped up Colter in the backfield, forcing a fumble that was recovered by fellow linebacker Joe Bolden.

Ten plays later, the Wolverines converted the turnover to a score, as Rawls bowled into the end zone on a second effort from one yard out. Michigan took a one-touchdown lead.

Northwestern got the ball back on a punt with two minutes left in the half, and the Wildcats led a very efficient drive to tie the score at 14 apiece with just under 30 seconds left. Sophomore quarterback Trevor Siemian, in relief for Colter, hit is target on a beautiful back-shoulder fade pass, right by the pylon on the left side of the end zone.

Gardner took a knee after the kickoff, and the teams went into the locker room.

Third Quarter:

It wasn’t a good third quarter for the Wolverines, but they were able to salvage some momentum at the end.

Northwestern opened the second half by marching right down the field, an easy drive punctuated by an even easier touchdown pass by Colter to a wide-open John Vitale. Michigan’s defense continued to have no answer for the elusive Wildcat quarterback, which was most evident on a 3rd-and-12 play on the drive that saw Colter elude two tacklers on a blitz and still complete a long pass for the conversion.

In response, Michigan promptly went three-and-out. Gardner had his shakiest throw of the day on a ball that should have been intercepted.

And the Wildcats came right back and drove the field again. The Wolverines, though, stiffened int he red zone, and a sack from senior defensive end Craig Roh helped force a field goal. The home team finally answered Northwestern’s points the next possession, thanks to a 28-yard catch-and-run by Toussaint. The quarter ended with the score 24-21 Northwestern, with the Wildcats on the move once again.

[View the story “Michigan faces Northwestern” on Storify]

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