Across the ball

Wolverines still seeking a complete game on defense

By The Columbus Dispatch  • 
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TONY DING | ASSSOCIATED PRESS
“We haven’t played a complete game for a full 60 minutes,” said Michigan senior defensive tackle Jibreel Black, left. “Our mindset is to put that together.”

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — As Michigan’s offense has endured a downward spiral in recent weeks, the team’s defense has not escaped scrutiny. After allowing 17 unanswered points in a 24-21 loss to Iowa last Saturday, the Wolverines are charging their defense with one key task: Finish the game.

“All we’re trying to do is be as good as we can be and try to get 60 minutes, try to go every play, not just three quarters or three quarters and so many minutes,” defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said.” That’s what we haven’t done, is to be able to go a complete ballgame. It doesn’t matter if you have 75 snaps or 50 snaps, you’ve got to step up and do what you’re supposed to do, and that’s be a defensive player and keep somebody out of the end zone.”

Overall, Michigan’s defense ranks in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten. The Wolverines’ average of 25.1 points allowed is seventh best, and their 353.0 yards allowed per game is fifth best.

Senior tackle Jibreel Black said the unit remains a work in progress, but added that Michigan is 10 points away from being a 10-victory team.

“We haven’t played a complete game for a full 60 minutes,” he said. “Our mindset is to put that together. Whether it’s a play here or there, I think the biggest thing has been execution. We’ve missed on a lot of opportunities.”

Although the Hawkeyes were only 4 of 15 on third-down conversions, Michigan is eighth in the Big Ten in third-down conversion defense. Opponents are converting 38.4 percent of their third downs, a number that could grow with Braxton Miller under center for Ohio State.

“You’ve got to get some negative plays, try and get some balls on the ground and try to steal a couple of possessions,” coach Brady Hoke said. “You’ve got to get off the field on third downs, which has been hard for a lot of people because of Braxton’s ability to tuck (the ball and run).”

Mattison said the defense has not been asked to do more as the offense also struggles for consistency.

“I’m telling them they’ve got to be a Michigan defense, and a Michigan defense does whatever it has to do to win,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if we start on the 1-yard line coming out or the 40-yard line going in. If you’re a Michigan defense, you relish that. You want to go out and play to that.” 


ajardy@dispatch.com

@AdamJardy

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