In what was supposed to be a game that would help answer questions about Michigan’s struggling offense and thrust Michigan toward the conversation of Big Ten-championship contention, more questions were posed as Harbaugh and his team are left searching for a solution.
“We were outplayed. Out-prepared, out-coached, the whole thing,” Harbaugh said. “Both offensively and defensively, it was thorough. You know, we knew it about their team, and they have the ability.
“They’re good enough, if they play good enough, they are good enough to beat you thoroughly, and that’s what happened today.”
The Wisconsin defense shut out Michigan’s offense in the first half and took a 28-0 lead, which was the first time the Wolverines trailed by 28 or more at halftime since Oct. 18, 1958, when they trailed Northwestern 43-0. The Wolverines only had nine yards rushing, and quarterback Shea Patterson couldn’t find the time to make an accurate throw, with pass-rushers in pursuit all game.
Patterson was replaced by backup Dylan McCaffrey after the first half, but McCaffrey left the game in the third quarter with what Harbaugh said was a concussion, after taking a hit to the helmet that was called a targeting penalty.
“I won’t comment on it,” Harbaugh said. “But it seemed like it was clearing up for him [after the game].”
The offense had a bye week to prepare itself for this game after struggling with turnovers and issues moving the ball in Week 2 against Army. The bye week was supposed to help iron out those problems, but it was evident they are long-term issues rather than easy fixes.
So much so that tight end Nick Eubanks believes the team, including the offense, has yet to find its identity.
Four weeks into the season and two poor performances, the offense that lacks an identity finished this game against Wisconsin with 40 rushing yards and 259 passing yards. The Wolverines ran the ball only 19 times, with nine yards as the longest run of the game.
“I believe our offense is not as consistent as we hoped it would be,” Eubanks said. “But through the next few practices, we’ll find that identity and find that rhythm.”
It isn’t just the offense the needs to find that identity, though, as the defense allowed Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor to run all over the field, racking up 143 rush yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter alone.
Led by star RB Jonathan Taylor, the Wisconsin Badgers jump out to a 28-0 lead en route to a dominant win over the Michigan Wolverines.
Defensive end Aidan Hutchinson was visibly upset in the postgame news conference after the defense’s performance and vowed the team would improve.
“Right now, we’re at the point in the season, we had our first Big Ten game, we lose it, so now we got our backs against the wall,” Hutchinson said. “We just gotta fight to get out of this position we’re in, and we’ll do it. I’m confident.”
Michigan has a tough slate ahead with Iowa, Michigan State, Penn State, Notre Dame and Ohio State still on the schedule and will have to put up more than a fight to get through that gauntlet.
The Wolverines are now 4-11 against top-15 teams under Harbaugh after this loss, including 0-8 in road and neutral site games. To finish the way this team is hoping, Michigan is going to have to find the answer and find it quickly.
“It’s up to us to find our identity, even though we have a game coming up next Saturday,” Eubanks said. “We have to find it quick. We know the type of season, it’s a long season. It’s a gut check, but we have to be able to capitalize on it.”