Michigan has been tough to beat in 2nd half

BY foxsports • October 11, 2011

Michigan is undefeated, and it's easy to see why.

The Wolverines have owned the second half.

Michigan scored 28 unanswered points in the second half of a 42-24 victory at Northwestern on Saturday, continuing a season-long trend.

''We made some big adjustments,'' defensive end Ryan Van Bergen said Monday.

They've been doing that a lot.

Wolverines defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, who is earning the hefty contract he got to leave the same job with the Baltimore Ravens, shifted linebackers from the inside to the outside to slow down bubble screens that helped the Wildcats take a 24-14 lead.

''We have tremendous confidence in coach Mattison and all of our position coaches,'' Van Bergen said.

Michigan's success in second halves has become so consistent it doesn't seem to be a fluke.

The 11th-ranked Wolverines are outscoring teams 114-21 after the break, including blanking two straight teams and four this season.

Their defense is giving up fewer than two touchdowns a game after allowing more than five a week in Rich Rodriguez's final year. They have forced 17 turnovers - two more than they did all of last season.

Michigan's second-half dominance and unblemished record will be tested this week.

The Wolverines (6-0, 2-0 Big Ten) will travel to play No. 23 Michigan State (4-1, 1-0) on Saturday, trying to avoid matching a school record with a fourth straight loss to the Spartans.

''Obviously, the guys know what the history has been,'' Michigan coach Brady Hoke said.

Michigan State has won three in a row for the first time since 1965-67 and is shooting for four in a row for the first time since 1959-62.

Before the current losing streak, Michigan won 30 of 38. Its last victory in 2007 is remembered because former running back Mike Hart referred to Michigan State as a little brother.

One of the rare setbacks during the stretch came in 2001 with Hoke on the sideline as one of Lloyd Carr's assistants. That game is infamous - or famous depending on rooting interest - with T.J. Duckett catching the game-winning pass with a disputed second left on the clock.

Hoke remembers the game for a different reason, blaming himself for playing a role in Michigan's setback during the final drive.

''Somebody was in charge of substitutions on defense and we had a penalty that helped them get down the field and that was me,'' Hoke said. ''We had too many guys on the field.''

Despite Michigan's 6-0 record, Hoke insisted he's not happy with how his team has played.

Denard Robinson's nine interceptions, which Hoke argues haven't been all his fault, and the team's slow starts in some games are among his concerns.

''We can't be satisfied with anything,'' he said. ''And after every game, I tell them, `It's great to win, but there's always a bug.' And they know that. They have been around long enough now. We would like to get perfection.''

Michigan is perfect through six games for the first time since 2006. That team lost its last two games of the season, against Ohio State in the season finale and Southern California in the Rose Bowl.

Hoke is the third coach since 1901 to win his first six games in charge of the Wolverines, joining Fielding Yost and Bennie Oosterbaan, who is the only other leader at the school to win his first two Big Ten games.

The winner of Saturday's game at Spartan Stadium will be the Legends Division leader, ahead of the loser and Nebraska. Also at stake is the Paul Bunyan Trophy, a 4-foot wooden piece of hardware both programs covet.

Michigan senior tight end Kevin Koger, who hails from Toledo, Ohio, hasn't seen the burly trophy since his freshman year.

Koger hopes to have it again, but said the rivalry means more to Wolverines from Michigan.

''Coming from Ohio and the Ohio State rivalry, I hear it all the time when I go back home,'' Koger said. ''I can only imagine what the in-state guys hear about the Michigan State game.''

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