- Chantel Jennings, ESPN Staff Writer
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Here are three things we learned about the Wolverines in their triple OT win over Northwestern:
1. The offensive is still in a bad place. With an emotional win and some big plays made down the stretch, the knee-jerk reaction to the game might be something along the lines of content and happiness. However, quarterback Devin Gardner was 24-of-43 and five or six of those incompletions could have been intercepted. And then, he was sacked five times, which yes, is an improvement for the offensive line from the previous two weeks in which he was sacked seven times each game, but it is still too high of a number. Michigan was 3-of-17 on third-down conversions and couldn't even get into the end zone after Northwestern's punter gave the Wolverines a gift of a eight-yard punt from his own end zone. Michigan needed to go 10 yards to get into the end zone and it ended up settling for a field goal. This offense -- even with this win -- is in a bad place right now.
2. "Put me in, Coach, I'm ready to play." The Wolverines played two true freshmen at running back and gained 120 yards on the ground between them, which was way more effective than anything Fitzgerald Toussaint has done of late. True freshman tight end Jake Butt caught his first TD pass of the season (and the Wolverines' only touchdown of the game) in a game in which Jeremy Gallon had his fair share of drops. The Michigan coaching staff has been very loyal to its upperclassmen but there is definitely some talent in the young guys on this team and throughout the season it has emerged more and more. It'll be interesting to see how much attention these younger players get over the next few weeks.
3. The defense showed the improvements Greg Mattison has been talking about. The Michigan defense has been talking about playing a complete game, about the difference between almost making a play and making a play, about the defense they want to be -- and for the most part, that's what it produced against Northwestern. The Wolverines recorded two sacks, including a huge 14-yard sack in triple overtime from Jibreel Black. That sack led to Michigan's one interception, a play made by Thomas Gordon. And the Wolverines accounted for six tackles for losses. It wasn't a perfect game, but it was far closer to what Mattison has been preaching than anything we've seen recently.