Michigan's elite defense can help this team make a statement, too
Football is the ultimate team game, and those good teams become great when one group picks up another when they’re down.
With the spotlight shining so brightly on Michigan this fall, that scenario certainly is playing out in Ann Arbor. We’ve seen a touch of it already in each of the two weeks of this season.
And we’re going to see plenty more in the weeks and months to come.
What we knew about Michigan coming into this season was that the potential was there for good things to happen. They were talented enough to compete in the powerful Big Ten East and some — yes, hand is raised — even picked the Wolverines to win the Big Ten.
We did that because we knew Michigan’s defense was elite and the offense had to potential to be good if new quarterback Shea Patterson was as good as advertised and the offensive line could show improvement.
And then the Notre Dame game happened.
Michigan’s great defense allowed two long scoring drives right off the bat, and just like that, less than eight minutes into the game, Notre Dame was ahead 14-0.
Michigan’s offense wasn’t ready to pick up its defensive brethren. With issues of their own, they couldn’t battle all the way back and the Wolverines were stuck with a season-opening loss. They couldn’t pick them up when they were down.
Flash forward to Week 2 and the impressive 49-3 win over Western Michigan. In that game, both sides were clicking and playing the way they’re capable of playing.
When one unit shines, the other loves it. That’s where we are now, and that’s what will matter down the road when the big games come. Michigan’s defense can be elite, and they might still need to carry this offense now and then. But it also helps a lot when the offense is clicking.
The defense can play differently, with more confidence in knowing one mistake won’t kill them.
“Across the board, the coaches are calling plays that they think will work not being scared of giving up a touchdown and defensive players are out there just having fun,” Michigan defensive end Chase Winovich said. “We’re just playing football. We’re not worried about, ‘What if I do this? What if I mess up?’ It kind of takes that weight you might have and tosses it to the side.
“That’s another thing further down the road I think it will be more important than anything. I don’t think there were as many adjustments that needed to be made otherwise we might lose. It wasn’t that pressing at any point. It definitely does help and will help us down the road.”
It showed. A week after Western Michigan put up more than 600 yards against Syracuse, Michigan allowed only 85 passing yards and held a good Broncos running game to just 3.1 yards per attempt. That’s elite on both counts.
Vinovich and Rashan Gary have been dominant along the front, and that group will get even better when Aubrey Solomon and Lawrence Marshall return from injuries. There’s no timetable for their return, and they don’t need to be rushed with the schedule the way it is.
This defense will be great, and they’ll need to be in those big conference games. Getting help from the offense is a huge plus, too.
“I’d be lying to you if I said it wasn’t good watching the offense move the ball and scoring how they were scoring,” Gary said. “It makes it more fun for us. We go off the field and do our defensive adjustments and now we get to watch, see good plays made, see good reads happen.
“They score, ‘OK, let’s get another three-and-out to give them back the ball and watch the show.’ It was great watching the offense doing that. The offense is only going to get better because everybody getting into their groove now.”