Michigan’s recent trend of starting slowly and improving as the game progresses has been something of a mystery, and it hopes to solve it in time for Saturday’s game at Ohio State.
In their last five games — all wins — the Wolverines have been outscored in the first half 61-54, only to outscore their opponents in the second half 106-53.
“It’s been a problem all season,” tight end Tim Massaquoi said. “We haven’t gotten off to the right start that we wanted to. We try to emphasize that, but it just hasn’t been working out.
“But I think the main thing is how we finish the game, and we finish the game playing really well offensively.”
In particular, its been Michigan’s offense that has waited until halftime to really get going. With teams adding new wrinkles to rattle quarterback Chad Henne, the Wolverines have often found themselves making adjustments on the offensive line.
“We need to get off to a fast start, and I think we will,” redshirt sophomore Steve Breaston said. “The freshmen have been learning a lot as the season goes on. The entire team has been getting better and better and I think it just builds up.”
Although the Wolverines have developed confidence in their ability to rally to victory, they know that doing it at Ohio Stadium is another story. Two years ago in Columbus, Michigan was trailing 14-9 after a late touchdown, and had a tough time on offense dealing with the crowd noise. On its last two drives, Michigan moved the ball past midfield but was unable to punch it in.
“It’s going to be real tough to come from behind,” Massaquoi said. “That’s why we don’t want to be in that situation. We want to be in a situation where the game is in our hands. We don’t want to have to come back at Ohio State. That’s really tough.”
Although neither matches up to Ohio Stadium, Michigan has faced two tough road tests thus far this season. In its second game of the season against Notre Dame, Michigan settled for three first-half field goals, and then allowed 28 points in the second half and lost. Against Purdue, the Wolverines struggled to get to the endzone, but won on a late field goal.
“All we’re doing is preparing ourselves for a dogfight in a hostile environment,” senior receiver Braylon Edwards said. “We’ll have loud noise going all week in practice so we can kind of simulate what goes on in their stadium. We’ll just have to have a strong week in practice from all of the guys. The veterans have to tell the young guys what it’s all about.
“That’s what this week is all about.”
Big play Ginn: After losing its first three conference games, Ohio State rebounded to win three straight before taking a step back Saturday against Purdue.
A significant reason for the Buckeyes’ turnaround is the play of freshman Ted Ginn Jr. In their 32-19 win two weeks ago against Michigan State, Ginn scored touchdowns on a reverse, a punt return and a catch. He was expected to play cornerback this season, but has been a much-needed weapon for Ohio State’s otherwise lackluster offense.
“He’s like our Steve Breaston,” Roy Manning said. “He’s fast — he can probably outrun anybody on that field on Saturday. We’re going to have to do a good job of keeping him inside the defense. Also, on special teams, I know he’s a punt returner, so we have to get downfield. We’re going to have a challenge Saturday.”
Michigan’s defense, which tends to be overly aggressive and fall out of position, has been susceptible to big plays. In its last two games, it allowed touchdown runs of 72 and 64 yards to Michigan State’s DeAndra Cobb and 68 yards to Northwestern’s Noah Herron.
Injury notes: On Monday, Carr said he was “very optimistic” that linebacker Scott McClintock would play Saturday. The redshirt junior did not play in the Northwestern game due to illness.
Backup safety Willis Barringer, who was carted off the field on Saturday with a leg injury, isn’t expected to play.
Final three: Senior Braylon Edwards was named as one of the three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award for the top wide receiver in the country, along with Purdue’s Taylor Stubblefield and Ball State’s Dante Ridgeway.