The Michigan football defense has to play a “perfect game.”
That is the message defensive coordinator Don Brown gave to his unit this week.
“As a defense, we’ve been doing alright,” said sophomore defensive end Rashan Gary. “But we got to step it up. As you’ve seen, mistakes were made.”
Tuesday, Gary said that Brown emphasized how important it was for the defense to stick to its fundamentals — running to the ball, playing physical, making tackles.
But statistically, the Wolverines’ defense is playing far better than “alright,” as Gary said.
The 17th-ranked Wolverines (1-1 Big Ten, 4-1 overall) boast the nation’s best defense in yards allowed and have given up an average of just 2.8 second-half points this season.
It’s clearly a better defense than its own players are giving it credit for, but that is just the mindset the Wolverines will take to Indiana this weekend.
The defense is not frustrated with the offense’s struggles, focusing only on what they can contribute to the team.
When Gary was asked about what he expected to see from the Hoosiers, he focused on their fast-paced offense.
“A lot of tempo,” Gary said. “We’re getting ready for that throughout the course of the week.”
Added sophomore linebacker Khaleke Hudson: “They’ve got good, nice, big receivers, so they can throw the fade. Ultimately, they’re a good team. We’re going to treat them as a good team.”
The Hoosiers (0-2 Big Ten, 3-2 overall) have a lot of depth at the receiver position — an offensive dimension the Wolverines have yet to see from an opponent.
Having faced Florida’s multi-quarterback system, Air Force’s triple option and Purdue’s trick plays, the Wolverines are accustomed to preparing for new offenses week after week.
Add to that list a spread-style system that regularly lines up with four or five wide receivers.
“We’re ready for any offense that anybody throws at us,” Hudson said. “So that’s not going to be a challenge, going from a two-tight end or three-tight end set that Michigan State was running to a spread offense which Indiana runs. That’s not going to be a challenge for us.”
Leading the Hoosiers’ offense is wide receiver Simmie Cobb Jr., who has three touchdown catches and 370 receiving yards. Meanwhile, tight end Ian Thomas also has three touchdowns and has tallied 254 receiving yards.
Indiana has split time between its two quarterbacks, Richard Lagow and Peyton Ramsey, but it was the latter that took all the snaps last weekend in the Hoosiers’ win over Charleston Southern. Ramsey excelled in his first start, completing 78 percent of his passes for two touchdowns and 321 yards.
Ramsey and Lagow have utilized all their receiving options, as five different players have made touchdown catches.
It’s a given that Michigan’s defense will see more passes, and if Brown wants them to play a “perfect game,” a lot will rely on the defensive line pressuring Lagow and Ramsey, and even more will rely on Michigan’s secondary staying disciplined in coverage.