In Saturday night’s 42-24 win against Northwestern, the Michigan football team was faced with a scenario the Tune Squad from Space Jam could relate to.
The Wolverines trailed at halftime and something needed to change.
But unlike the Tune Squad, who put together an incredible second-half comeback to beat the hated Monstars, Michigan didn’t need a drink of “Michael’s Secret Stuff” to get itself going.
All the Wolverines needed was good coaching — and they got it.
“We’ve made some big adjustments at halftime,” said fifth-year senior defensive end Ryan Van Bergen. “(At halftime on Saturday, defensive coordinator Greg) Mattison and all the defensive coaches sat us down by position, and we went through some different things and simplified our defense.
“I don’t know what it is about this season, but we don’t give up many points after halftime.”
The Michigan defense held the Wildcats scoreless and forced two turnovers in the second half.
In a 35-31 win against Notre Dame earlier this season, the Wolverines still gave up 14 points in the final two quarters after trailing 17-7 at the half, but the offense stepped up in the second half — just as it did against Northwestern.
According to Michigan coach Brady Hoke, sometimes it takes time for the offense to adjust to the several different looks that opposing defenses are throwing at them.
“I think we see something different pretty much all the time in how people defend us and really defend (junior quarterback) Denard (Robinson),” Hoke said. “I think (the offensive coaches) all do a tremendous job of getting together and talking during the course of a game or the first half, putting their ideas down and making the appropriate adjustments or changes.”
Those adjustments led to 28 second-half points against the Wildcats and the Fighting Irish.
Although the Wolverines would like to start hot from the beginning, knowing they can come back from a deficit has its benefits, too.
“I really think you gain some confidence because of how you stay together and how you respect each other,” Hoke said. “Probably the most significant thing I’ve seen out of our guys is the respect they have for each other — the respect they have for their opponents.”
COUNTESS’S IMPACT CONTINUES: Freshman Blake Countess’s coming-out party continued in Evanston on Saturday. After the cornerback tied for a team-high in tackles two weekends ago against Minnesota, he recorded five tackles and one pass break-up against Northwestern.
Countess originally stepped in for injured fifth-year senior Troy Woolfolk, who has been battling hand and ankle injuries all season. Though Woolfolk appeared to be healthy against the Wildcats, yet Countess was given the majority of the playing time.
“Blake’s a young guy who plays at a high rate,” Hoke said. “Watch him go down on kickoff. He plays fast. Fundamentally he’s pretty sound. Good change of direction and those things, and he has a burst to him.”
Hoke did mention that Woolfolk has been “beat up,” but didn’t specify whether that was the main reason that the freshman was given the nod over the fifth-year senior, or if it was because Countess has outplayed Woolfolk.
THE SHAW REDEMPTION: Prior to Saturday’s game, senior running back Michael Shaw saw limited playing time in important situations.
Against Notre Dame, he had just two carries for minus-three yards. But in Evanston, Shaw played his biggest role yet this season, carrying the ball six times for 25 yards.
Hoke teeter-tottered in his rationale for Shaw’s increased role on Saturday.
“I think some of it’s situational,” Hoke said. “I think he’s fought himself back into playing a little more and has been more physical.
“He just practiced better. We evaluate every day.”
QUIET, PLEASE: With Michigan State week here, the Michigan players have already been bombarded with questions about the Spartans.
How will your preparation change? Does it feel different? What does it mean to you?
So far, the Wolverines have steered clear of giving Michigan State bulletin-board material — and that’s just how Hoke likes it.
Hoke was asked if he coaches his players to make sure to not reveal any information about the Spartans.
“They are excited about playing a great football game,” he said. “I think at times, people will take advantage of that because they’re 18 to 23. So the answer is ‘Yes.’ ”
BARNUM UPDATE: Since suffering a leg injury three weeks ago in a 28-7 victory over San Diego State, redshirt junior offensive lineman Ricky Barnum hasn’t seen the field.
According to Hoke, Barnum “ran around” on Sunday night, but his status for Saturday’s game against Michigan State is still uncertain.