Michigan was slow out of the gates, and Northwestern took advantage. The Wildcats took a 17-0 lead on the Wolverines and lead Michigan by a score of 17-7 at halftime in Evanston.
Northwestern got off to a good start by having the defense force Michigan off the field on a three-and-out to start the game. After getting the football close to midfield, Clayton Thorson completed a short pass to JJ Jefferson, who then used his speed to break free for a big gain down to the one-yard line. Thorson pushed it in from there on the next play for an early touchdown.
Northwestern would continue to take advantage of a slow start by Michigan by forcing another three-and-out and tacking on a field goal to extend the lead to 10-0. The lead grew to 17-0 early in the second quarter with John Moten IV picking up a short touchdown run at the end of a nine-play, 52-yard drive.
Needing a big drive by the offense, Shea Patterson and Karan Higdon responded. The ensuing possession started with a jolt provided by Donovan Peoples-Jones with a 25-yard gain on the ground. Patterson completed a few passes and Higdon finished the drive with a short touchdown run one snap after ripping off an 18-yard gain.
Michigan has gotten called for some costly penalties in the first half as well. The Wolverines lined up for a fourth down play just across midfield late in the half, but a false start penalty forced Jim Harbaugh to change his decision and send out the punt unit instead. The Wolverines were flagged six times for a total of 65 yards.