PASADENA, Calif. — The Wolverines knew the Trojans would
be blitzing left and right against them. The problem was, even with
the knowledge, they still had no answer. John Navarre barely had
enough time to drop back before one of Southern Cal.’s
linemen was breathing down his neck. Michigan’s quarterback
was sacked nine times, but as Southern Cal. coach Pete Carroll
said, the Trojans “could have sacked him 12 times.”
“We couldn’t handle the pressure,” Lloyd Carr
said. “We gave up way too many sacks, and that was the
difference in the game.”
Southern Cal.’s dominance on the line was a combination of
timely blitzing and winning the one-on-one battles at the line. The
Wolverines admitted that they were anticipating the corner blitz,
but they didn’t expect to see it so much.
“There was more pressure than we expected,” Navarre
said. “They’ve shown (the corner blitz) before, but
they brought it a little more than they’ve shown on
This became evident early on in the second quarter when Southern
Cal.’s Will Poole ran from across the field away to sack
Navarre from behind. The play took ages to develop, as Navarre went
through his progressions, but found nobody open and was forced to
take the sack. The Wolverines could do nothing to stop it.
The sacks were only the beginning. There were several plays
where Navarre was able to escape from near sacks or was hit hard
immediately after releasing the ball.
“It took us out of our rhythm and we were never able to
get in sync,” Carr said.
As if the blitzing wasn’t enough to handle, the
Wolverines’ offensive line couldn’t contain Southern
Cal.’s defensive line — better known as “Wild
Bunch II.” The men up front were faster and more physical
than anything the Wolverines had ever seen before.
“This was my greatest fear going into this game,”
Carr said. “They have an extremely quick and athletic front
The Wolverines had allowed just 15 sacks the entire season
before coming face to face with Southern Cal. Even though Michigan
had dealt with blitzing teams and heavy defensive fronts against
the likes of Purdue and Michigan State, nothing could have prepared
them for the onslaught Southern Cal. brought.
Carroll’s defensive game plan seemed flawless. Although
the Wolverines were able to move the ball at times, they had
difficulty breaking into the endzone. Michigan’s opening
drive and its drive at the end of the third quarter both fizzled
out just outside of the red zone. Southern Cal. made key stops
whenever it was necessary, and its constant pressure didn’t
allow the Wolverines to do anything creative offensively.
The Trojans had Michigan’s offense read so perfectly that,
at times, it seemed as though they knew what play was coming before
it was run.
“They kept us on our heels and they kept us
guessing,” senior offensive linemen Tony Pape said.
“They changed it up on a lot of plays. They had great speed
around the edge. They have four great players up front, and I have
a lot of respect for them.”
The Wolverines also saw some brand new defensive schemes that
seemed to catch them completely off guard. Carroll said he tried to
do some different things with his defense to get to Navarre, but
would not say exactly what he did or why he knew it would work.
“I was a little surprised that it worked so well,”
said Carroll of his team’s blitz packages.