The Michigan football team left no doubt with a 46-point win over Nebraska. The Wolverines dictated both sides of the ball throughout Saturday, racking up nearly 500 yards while collecting 14 tackles-for-loss defensively.
It makes it easy to forget what could’ve been.
After a 32-yard pass play early in the first quarter, the Cornhuskers fooled senior VIPER Jordan Glasgow with a read-pass-option, leaving receiver J.D. Spielman completely uncovered on a slant pattern. A completion might’ve gone the distance with Glasgow so out of position.
But just as Adrian Martinez set to throw, fifth-year senior defensive tackle Lawrence Marshall stuck up his left arm and batted the pass into the hands of junior safety Josh Metellus. It was a critical play — Michigan turned a potential defensive miscue into a touchdown drive shortly thereafter.
“I read it was a pass, and (defensive line coach Greg) Mattison always says ‘get your hands up,’ ” Marshall said during Tuesday’s press conference. “I got my hands up, got a piece of the ball — wish I had gotten the pick.”
Though Marshall didn’t get his wish, it was one of the most significant plays of his long but limited time with the Wolverines. Briefly a four-star Ohio State recruit before committing to Brady Hoke’s staff in 2013, Marshall had just 11 career tackles at the end of last season. And after undergoing a move from defensive end to the interior, his future at Michigan seemed murky.
But in the loss of Maurice Hurst, Marshall saw an opportunity.
“I felt like with Mo Hurst (graduated) the spot was open,” Marshall said. “I wasn’t gonna walk away. A lot of guys second guess their skills, and they go someplace else in a lower division. I told myself, ‘I can play here. There’s no doubt in my mind.’ ”
Naturally however, Marshall did have his moments of doubt.
“You really be like, ‘Man, am I really good?’ ” Marshall said. “Or you really start thinking and second guessing your skills. For myself, I just kept going through it, trying to get better and better.”
Marshall said he’s adjusted to defensive tackle by remembering what Hurst did in his Michigan tenure — in addition to watching Hurst’s current tape with the Oakland Raiders. That, combined with an entire summer dedicated solely to refining interior line technique, has Marshall feeling more confident than ever.
“I really started feeling comfortable this year,” Marshall said. “Fall camp (is) when I really got my feet wet. Last year, I understood it, but I didn’t know how to play it right.
“I know the game much better now. Just looking at how Mo played and just coming off the ball fast, reading my keys and knowing what the offensive line’s gonna do. I’m looking at the splits. I can tell if it’s a tight split, most likely you’re gonna get double-teamed.”
The work paid off when Marshall received his first career start at Notre Dame. Rotating with juniors Carlo Kemp and Michael Dwumfour in the absence of sophomore Aubrey Solomon, his group has become more productive by the week.
Marshall hasn’t had the career he probably expected when committed to Michigan. But six years later, his efforts are finally getting rewarded with consistent snaps.
“I didn’t play my freshman or sophomore year, barely played my junior year,” Marshall said. “Really started to see the field my senior year. It’s just perseverance — just keep going through it. I started my first game my fifth year.
“It’s amazing really getting the chance to play. Showing my skills on the field is a great feeling.”