Tanner Mangum bounced from teammate to teammate in the huddle — shouting and clapping along the way.
It was 3rd-and-8 for No. 22 BYU late in the second quarter, and the Cougars were already down, 28-0, to Michigan. What would normally appear as encouragement from the BYU quarterback was instead desperation obvious for all 108,940 fans in attendance.
But those with the best view were just across the line of scrimmage. Like sharks, the Michigan defensive players silently waited for their chance to attack. They saw in the water, again.
BYU had already attempted 15 pass plays, and Mangum — against a pass rush unlike any he had seen all season — took two sacks, scrambled three times and managed just two completions.
Then, Wolverines brought a steady rush again, and forced Mangum into his ninth incompletion of the afternoon.
With its third-straight three-and-out, BYU might as well have given the game to Michigan for good with the ensuing punt. But if you ask the rapidly ascending Wolverine defense, they’d tell you the game was over much sooner.
“We sensed blood in the water from the first snap of the game,” said senior defensive end Mario Ojemudia. “They looked good on film, they’ve played some good teams and had a lot of good games, but we came out (in practice) and prepared well. Everything we saw in the game, we saw in practice.
“We executed very well, we got the goose egg and I’m very proud of that.”
Mangum regressed toward the mean in the second half, finishing 12-for-28 for 55 yards. Nonetheless, the Cougars were shut out for the first time in 143 games, mustering a measly 105 yards of total offense.
After looking otherworldly at times to begin his career at BYU, Mangum looked like a freshman against the Wolverines.
Whether it was the pass rush swarming the backfield, forcing Mangum to roll out early, or the suffocating man coverage in the secondary that left the sideline as the most appealing receiving target, Mangum’s magical start drowned in the sea of maize at Michigan Stadium.
Dialing up the pressure up front, and sticking to BYU’s highly touted receivers downfield, Michigan used a team effort to earn a shutout it had wanted since almost getting one last week against UNLV.
“It’s great to be a part of a shutout,” said Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh. “Everybody did a great job — players, coaches, everybody. When you only give up 105 yards, that’s really special. We were outstanding in so many areas.”
Added Ojemudia: “We pressured a little more this game. The game plan for us was to get to the quarterback up front, trust the DBs to do what they can do. … Our mindset going into the game (was to have) no drives relaxed.”
One-third of the way into the 2015 season, defense has been the crown jewel of the Wolverines, who rank 10th nationally in tackles for loss and were 13th in scoring defense before Saturday’s shutout.
Even after the shutout, Ojemudia said he had hoped his unit could force more turnovers. Because with eight returning starters and three current or former defensive coordinators on the coaching staff, the expectations are not only high, but enforced.
“You have so many great minds out there on our coaching staff, and they expect the most out of us,” Ojemudia said. “They expect shutouts every game, and if we don’t live up to that, we’re not living up to our expectations.”
Added senior defensive lineman Ryan Glasgow, who led the team with two tackles for loss and a quarterback hurry: “You always feel good after a shutout, but we have expectations we’ve set for ourselves that we haven’t come close to meeting yet.”
The defense tasted blood Saturday, and even reached its ultimate goal of preying on the playmaking Mangum. But like sharks in the water, the Wolverines are hungry for more.