RAPID REACTION: Wolverines display championship-caliber defense

Take a breath Michigan fans. It’s just one game.

But, yeah, that was impressive. Maize impressive.

Forget the offense for a second because there are some issues there that need to be fixed – and fixed they will – but this defense is the kind of defense that wins championships as the D led the Wolverines to a convincing 33-17 win over the Florida Gators on Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

I know, I didn’t take a breath.

Erase the two pick-six interceptions, and this game was a rout. And for us who sat back and spent Saturday afternoon with their favorite college football team this game was a rout regardless of the final score. Even after Florida returned two picks for touchdowns to grab a 17-10 lead and a 17-13 halftime advantage, Michigan still seemed in control of this game.

That’s the kind of confidence Jim Harbaugh has brought back to the Michigan football program. In the seasons before he arrived, it would have been, “here we go again.” But not anymore.

Cincinnati is next with Air Force on deck – and both in the Big House. Harbaugh and company are preparing for the Big Ten season opener against Purdue and they won’t have a ton of work to do on the defensive side of the ball. But this defense will only get better heading into Lafayette on Sept. 23.

This wasn’t Bowling Green or Indiana. This was against Florida, a program that hasn’t lost a season opener since 1989. The Gators may not have the firepower on offense they are a custom to (a few less suspensions might help) but the Wolverines deserve some of the credit. |

Michigan’s front four was suffocating against the run – allowing just 11 yards on the ground (on 27 attempts) – and shut down the pass by using their speed to create havoc in the back field.

Devin Bush was all over the field making plays. The freshman linebacker from Florida had seven tackles in the game and was impressive in his Michigan debut. He looked quite comfortable in that Maize uniform.

Michigan had the best third-down defense in the nation last year but lost quite a few players on that side of the ball. Didn’t matter on Saturday. The young and inexperienced Wolverines held Florida to just 2 of 13 on third down.
And a lot that third-down success was set up because of strong play on first and second downs, forcing Florida into long-yardage situations.

Defensive Coordinator Don Brown seemed to push all the right buttons and a few of those buttons – Bush, Rashan Gary and Mo Hurst to name a few – delivered big plays at big moments as Michigan outgained Florida 433-192. While Brown was bringing the pressure all game, his secondary locked down on receivers, limiting the options of Florida’s two quarterbacks.

On offense, Wilton Speight started and threw two interceptions that were both returned for touchdowns. The first pass was a little high and could have been caught. The second was too high for Wilt Chamberlain standing on the shoulders of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

While Speight, who finished 11-of-25 passing for 181 yards and a touchdown, clearly established himself as the starter expect to see Harbaugh continue to also use John O’Korn over the next couple of games. We have to trust Harbaugh with the quarterbacks. He knows a little something about the position and the positives and negatives of using two QBs.

An impressive opener for the Michigan defense. A solid start for the offense despite the two high passes. It adds up to a win against Florida on the road.

All Hail 1-0.

 

 

 

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