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For all intents and purposes, the No. 3 Michigan football team dominated Nebraska defensively all Saturday afternoon. They held the Cornhuskers to just three points and the numbers beyond the scoreboard were even more impressive. 

The Wolverines allowed just 146 total yards, gave up just 8 first downs and pitched a second-half shutout — their third straight week accomplishing this feat. 

But despite the assertive performance, the defense still left the game unsatisfied. At the standard it holds itself to, though, it’s hard to imagine it’ll walk away without some self-criticism. 

“We’re trying to be a perfect defense,” sophomore linebacker Junior Colson said. “We’ll never get there but that’s kind of the image (we envision) so every day we’re striving for perfection.”

Prior to the season, the defense had a lot of question marks surrounding it. It had a difficult act to follow, with last year’s unit boasting the the domineering presence of Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo, who both departed the program. 

The concerns about who would fill those voids were valid. But as the defense has proven over and over again this season, there wasn’t one player that needed to step up. It’s been a group effort where every player on the field believes they can make a stop — instead of leaning on a star to bail everyone else out. 

“Our mindset is to just dominate whoever is in front of us and just make them remember us by the time they’re done,” Colson said. “We’re trying to be the defense out there so it doesn’t matter who we play, we’re always going to give them our best shot.”

Saturday, Nebraska entered the game at a disadvantage after making the trip without starting quarterback Casey Thompson, putting backup Chubba Purdy at the helm. But Michigan’s defense didn’t take that deficiency lightly, instead rolling it into the game plan. A backup quarterback under center meant there would be a more limited playbook for the Cornhuskers to operate with, one that primarily featured draw plays and short crossing routes. 

The on-field results spoke for themselves. But when asked about the team’s execution in the post-game press conference, senior cornerback Mike Sainristil had to start with some critiques. 

“I felt like there were some issues early on in communication and not lining up,” Sainristil said. “…We just got to do a better job of starting fast and staying that way.”

Purdy sustained an injury in the second quarter, putting third stringer Logan Smothers under center. The Nebraska offense was facing some hurdles but Michigan didn’t give it an inch. The Wolverines displayed an impressive array of in-game adjustments once again, allowing just 15 passing yards and a zero on the scoreboard in the second half. 

Starting with the Indiana game, the Wolverines have allowed just three total points in second halves. It’s a weekly stranglehold they’ve come to expect — which has simultaneously allowed the offense to pull away coming out of the locker room. 

They haven’t been facing the strongest competition but stacking second-half shutouts is not an accomplishment that can be taken lightly, especially in the grind of conference play. When a defense is set on perfection, though, it’s just part of the job. 

“We pride ourselves during the week on not giving anybody anything in the second half,” Sainristil said. “We just want to continue having second half shutouts. We know that going into the second half it’s a 0-0 score and we want to win every half. The adjustments that we make are phenomenal by the coaches and they put us in the best position possible.”

The attention the Wolverines have received this year has mainly spotlighted junior running Blake Corum and the offense. But the consistently dominant efforts of the defense haven’t gone unnoticed, either, especially inside Michigan’s locker room. 

“They get a lot of attention inside our program,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. 

And if performances like Saturday’s continue, that national attention will follow as well. It hasn’t been one player, it’s been a full-scale effort to break the will of their opponent. But as  impressive as those efforts may seem, the Wolverines will always be nitpicking, always looking to get better. 

That’s just what happens when perfection becomes the expectation.