Takeaways from UM’s win: Defense stifles BYU

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

What went right

The defense, plain and simple. Michigan’s defense dominated No. 22 BYU Saturday in a 31-0 victory to improve to 3-1. The Wolverines held the Cougars to 105 yards – BYU’s worst output since 1974 – 4-of-15 on third down and they forced eight three-and-outs. BYU freshman quarterback Tanner Mangum, who became a national sensation after back-to-back Hail Mary throws gave the Cougars wins over Nebraska and Boise State, was 12-of-28 for 55 yards and took sacks by Michigan’s Mario Ojemudia, Maurice Hurst Jr. and Willie Henry. He was 0-for-4 until his first completion, which looked like Channing Stribling’s second interception in two games. The ball deflected off Stribling into the hands of Devon Blackmon who converted on third-and-12. Michigan is now ranked No. 2 in total defense, allowing an average 203.8 yards a game.

What went wrong

Michigan was scoreless and had 131 yards in the second half, but Harbaugh’s silver lining was that two of the five second-half possessions went 11 plays each and used nearly 12 minutes. There also was the curious decision by punter Blake O’Neill in the third quarter when Michigan went three-and-out at fourth-down and 16. O’Neill ran for nine yards.

Key developments

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh wants this offense to control the clock and that’s what the Wolverines did. Three of the five first-half scoring drives each went 10 plays and consumed just more than 14 minutes. For the game, Michigan had the ball for 38:38. This is a byproduct of Michigan wanting to establish the run. All the backs had carries against BYU, and quarterback Jake Rudock, looking his most comfortable through four games, ran for touchdowns of three and 17 yards. All the tight ends were involved in the receiving game, and Jake Butt’s 41-yard reception was the longest Rudock has completed this season. The feel-good story line of the game was receiver Amara Darboh, who leads the team with 242 yards on 20 receptions and has two touchdowns. He had a highlight-reel, stunning right-handed grab of a 21-yard reception on third-and-5. Three days earlier, he officially became a U.S. citizen. “It was a great week,” Darboh said. “And a great way to end it.”

Most telling quotes

Harbaugh on the Wolverines through four games: “I’m starting to know our team, and I’m liking what I’m knowing.”

BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall: “By far the best team we’ve played in the four games. They're a big, physical, tough football team. The strategy is sound, the execution is good. They have enough players to get the matchups they want. They're asking their quarterback just to do enough in the right settings, and they can rely on their defense while all that happens."

Harbaugh on Michigan after four games: “I’m starting to know this team and what stands out the most. They like to work. They like to work during the week. It’s a good, fun team to coach, because they come out and work every day.”

What’s next

Michigan opens Big Ten play at Maryland in a prime-time game Saturday. The Terrapins (2-2) gave up 601 yards of offense in a 45-6 loss at West Virginia and were intercepted five times and fumbled once. Starting quarterback Caleb Rowe was 10-of-27 for 67 yards and four interceptions, including two in the end zone. Backup Daxx Garman, the transfer from Oklahoma State, threw for 86 yards and an interception and a touchdown. Maryland coach Randy Edsall said after the game he still expects to start Rowe against Michigan. Senior tailback Brandon Ross had 130 yards on 15 carries,but most eyes will be on returner/cornerback William Likely, who leads the nation in punt returns. Likely has 337 yards and two TDs on 12 punt returns and set a Big Ten-record with 233 punt return yards in its opener against Richmond.