The Michigan football team has given up 17 points in each of its first two games, but the feeling about the defense after last Saturday’s game against Notre Dame is much better than it was one week before.
That’s because, against the Huskies, the Wolverines’ defense gave up a whopping 419 yards to go with the 17 points. At the Monday press conference after the season opener, Michigan coach Lloyd Carr was not happy with what he saw on the game tape.
“We’re just not where we need to be, and we need to play harder,” Carr said. “We need to play more physical, and that is our intent.”
This came after a win, so one would assume that Carr would be even harder on the defense after Michigan’s loss to Notre Dame last Saturday. But this was not the case.
“Defensively, I thought we played hard, I thought we played physical, and I thought, as the game went on, we got better and better,” he said. “I thought we really came out of that game feeling like we can have a good defense.”
As a unit, the defense gave up just 244 yards – a third of which came on the Irish’s first drive. On Notre Dame’s opening push, it used a no huddle offense that fooled the Michigan defense and affected substitutions.
“Looking back on New England (where Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis was an offensive coordinator), in particular, every week they came out with something new,” junior LaMarr Woodley said of the Irish’s game-opening drive. “You expect (something new) a little bit, but at the same time, you don’t.”
The Notre Dame staff and players were not surprised with the results of the first drive. They wanted to catch the Wolverines by surprise and take the fans out of the game early.
“It obviously was a key,” Notre Dame junior quarterback Brady Quinn said. “I think that sent a message to start the game like that.”
Said Weis: “I wanted to take the crowd out of the game. This was a no-huddle offense, but this was not a hurry-up offense. They’re two different things. This was so that I didn’t have to have guys not hear the play in the huddle. It was just so that we could take the noise out of the game.”
But after the opening drive, the Wolverines kept the Irish offense in check, limiting them to just 10 points the rest of the game. More importantly for Michigan, the defense continually played aggressively, even though it was in a hole for most of the afternoon.
Defensive coordinator Jim Herrmann displayed a more attacking unit, featuring blitzes from all over the field. Herrmann was not afraid to send his defensive backs into the Irish backfield, and he got results. Cornerback Leon Hall had two sacks and strong safety Bradent Englemon added one as well.
“I just hope that we will play like that the rest of the season because that’s the way you want to play,” Carr said.
Heading into the Eastern Michigan game, the Wolverines are looking for both the offense and defense to bring their best games – something that hasn’t happened yet this season. But the defense is confident that the team will come together and play better this weekend.
“Offense, defense – that’s what makes a team,” Woodley said. “We should be on the same page next week.”