Baby Shark (Michigan 63, NIU 10)

The word you're looking for is "satisfying"

Photo: Zoey Holmstrom

Is there anything better than having any doubts you might have about the outcome of a game like this be completely vanquished by the end of the first quarter? Well, I'm sure there are better feelings one could think of when it comes to Michigan football outcomes, but for this team, us fans, these's tough to top what we saw on Saturday.

Absolute dominance. That's what this game was. This was dominance unlike what we've seen over any opponent in a long time.
This just felt...satisfying. Maybe better than satisfying. Saturday was satisfying with an extra side of relief. Relief in that it legitimized the notions we had after the convincing WMU and Washington wins. Satisfying in that Michigan has gotten better, in all 3 phases, each week. I've always said that my first live Michigan game way back in 1992, a 61-7 blowout of Houston, spoiled me forever, and set the tone for how I gauge every Michigan win versus a heavily inferior opponent. This felt like that. This was Michigan doing what you're supposed to do against a MAC school with a Michigan State transfer at QB.

It was over on NIU's second drive when the Huskies opted to kick a field goal on 4th and 2 from the 3 yard line. That was the white flag. They don't kick that field goal last year. Michigan also doesn't then go on to score 56 unanswered points last year either.

NIU head coach Thomas Hammock after the game...
"What I see, they built their team to beat Ohio State,” Hammock shared.

“You’re not going to out-athlete Ohio State and so they said, ‘We’re going to get dirty.’ And you know what? Credit to them because they stay committed to that. They have a good team.”
Is this bait? Yeah, it's bait. It's also September and we're not going there right now. 

Although, I think Rutgers is also built to beat Ohio State at the moment, so let's just pump the brakes and see how this all plays out.

Lombardi added...
“They run a completely different scheme. They looked better on film than they did last year. The scheme helps them out. They’re much softer now in coverage. They don’t like to give up many deep shots."

“They do a lot better job this year of disguising things. They’re not a very blitz-heavy team. When they do disguise, I think they do a good job because they play base so well.”
For Michigan, what's clear through 3 weeks is that on both offense and defense, this is not last year.

Somehow – whether through assistant coaching changes, a renewed focus on Ohio State or just plain hard work (or all three) – this is a whole new team.


Check out our NIU game photos here!

I could go on and on and on and on listing stats from Saturday's thorough de-pantsing of Northern Illinois, but it's already been a few days and, by now, you've heard or read about all of that. The offensive stats were simply gaudy...mostly on the ground but also through the air, which was nice to see after the heavy ground-attack we saw against the other Husky team Michigan played a week ago.

For me, the biggest takeaways were... 
  • 9 touchdowns on first 9 drives 
  • Only six 3rd downs
  • NIU was 1 for 13 on 3rd down 
  • No turnovers through all 3 games
  • Henning returning punts will be a game multiple times this season
  • The OL is biggest strength of this team
From the very first play of the game for the Michigan offense, a 14-yard strike from McNamara to Baldwin (don't think for a second that wasn't on purpose) it was clear that Michigan knew they had to get the ball down the field through the air. And they did. Now, sure, Northern Illinois' secondary is not the best Michigan will see all year, but when it comes to gauging Michigan's improvements from last year to this year, I don't think it matters who they're playing. You can see it on the faces of the players and coaches, you can feel it in their energy...this is not 2020.

What's impressed me the most this season, other than the overall attitude of the team and the confidence they're playing with, is the play of the offensive line. They have been dominant through all 3 games. And sure, some of that comes with playing overmatched competition, but who cares? Maybe that's what this team needed to get to the level they need to be? You know, a little confidence never hurt anyone, especially a bunch of 18-22 year olds. They're playing the way they should be playing against overmatched defensive fronts. 

After 3 convincing non-conference wins, I think I can safely say that Michigan is ready for the B1G schedule. Now, this schedule isn't ask daunting as it looked 3 weeks ago, but it's still probably the toughest division in college football right now. But Michigan seems well prepared for it...maybe as well prepared as they've ever been. 

I don't want to get ahead of myself here though. There's still a long way to go before we crown anyone, and it starts with a suddenly dangerous looking Rutgers team this week. Between this matchup and the trip to Madison next week, I think we'll find out very quickly what this team is made of and if they're ready for prime time. It's one thing to look dominant against lesser teams at home, but on the road on hostile environments is another animal. They're off to a tremendous start, but it's about to get a lot tougher very quickly.

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