Michigan Wolverine Defense: Week 1

By Doug Ross

With the focus shifting to Notre Dame tomorrow, I first want to talk about the stout Michigan defense from last week.  Even though both teams essentially equaled each other’s yardage, Michigan’s performance was much more impressive.  Outside of Western Michigan’s first drive of the game, which they displayed the ability to run it down the opponents’ throat, the Wolverines halted their attack.  Alex Carder only threw for 5.9 yards per attempt, and the running game amassed under 4 yards per clip.

If you think the time of possession told the story (25:18 WMU/ 18:15 UM), then you are surely mistaken.  Michigan only held onto the ball for 18:15 minutes because their defense did a lot of the scoring.  Brandon Herron, linebacker, scored on interception and fumble returns.  That amount of defensive touchdowns is one fewer  than Michigan had in the Rich Rodriguez era (3).  It is also the first time a player had two defensive touchdowns in a game since the 1940’s.  Charles Woodson never even did it during his Heisman campaign.  All toll, Michigan had three forced turnovers.

Herron was the player of the game, but there was an unsung hero, Jordan Kovacs.  The second half started, and Kovacs went off.  He had two sacks, one that led to a forced fumble that was returned for a Herron touchdown.  Kovacs truly runs like a cornerback and hits like a linebacker.  He was a revelation for Michigan fans.  The scheme benefitted the Wolverines in a big way.  In the past the Wolverines sat back, and hoped that bend but don’t break defense would prevail.  Not this year’s version of the squad.   The plan is to attack, attack, attack, and when that fails, attack some more.  On the fumble recovery for a touch down, the two players who were instrumental on the sack/fumble recovery weren’t even linemen.  Kovacs, a safety, and Herron, a line backer, came flying in to make the plays.

The tone was also set early in the game.  Troy Woolfolk had a play where he covered a bubble screen.  Initially he was playing off the receiver, but immediately after the ball was hiked, Woolfolk ran in and leveled the WMU receiver.  The message was sent that even if you are going to get only two yards, you are going to get hurt doing it.  It was a nice change of pace from the previous Michigan defenses, and if they can keep it up against Notre Dame, nobody is going to want to go over the middle against this feisty bunch.

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