Michigan defense answers 'wake-up call,' stifles Iowa offense

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — There were plenty of single-digit numbers in the box score that defensive players and coaches love to see.

Aside from holding Iowa to a field goal in Michigan’s 10-3 victory on Saturday, the Wolverines had eight sacks of Nate Stanley three interceptions and one fumble recovery. Oh, and for good measure, they held the Hawkeyes to 1 yard rushing thanks in large part to the 65 sack yards.

From left, Michigan defensive linemen Michael Dwumfour, Michael Danna and  Aidan Hutchinson celebrate after a sack late in the fourth quarter.

Michigan’s defense swarmed and stifled an Iowa offense ranked 29th nationally in total offense averaging 465 yards. The Hawkeyes were also ranked 29th in rushing, averaging 217.5 yards.

“Obviously that was a defensive masterpiece,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said.

“(Defensive coordinator) Don (Brown) during the week said he might jump off a tall building if some of those isolation plays worked, because they really thought they had them. And really felt the players had a great week of practice and knew exactly what to do, how to do it and did it with great intensity and great effort. To hold a team to 1 yard rushing, that’s a masterpiece.”

Khaleke Hudson, who plays the viper in Brown’s defense, had a game-high 11 tackles. He said Brown challenged the defense to disrupt Stanley, who entered the game having thrown 136 passes without an interception.

“He challenged us if we could get two interceptions,” Hudson said, smiling, “so we got three.”

But the plan first and foremost was to stuff Iowa’s run game.

“We knew they were going to try to pound the ball down our throat,” Hudson said. “They’re a similar type of offense to Wisconsin, so we knew they were going try to do the same plays they did.

“We knew we wanted to be stout in the run game. That’s the first thing you want to do is stop the run and force them to throw. The results talk for themselves. We sacked him eight times and we had three interceptions. Everything we’ve been practicing for came up in the game. We didn’t let them determine what plays we were going to do, we determined what plays they were going to do. We put them in situations they were backed up in third and long and had to pass the ball. That’s how we want to be every game.”

Defensive ends Kwity Paye, Aidan Hutchinson and Mike Danna accounted for 4 1/2 sacks — Paye had 2 1/2 before leaving the game with an undisclosed injury to his left thigh. Linebackers Jordan Glasgow and Cam McGrone were in on 3 1/2 — Glasgow had two sacks.

“We came out very motivated because of that Wisconsin game,” said cornerback Ambry Thomas, who had a fumble recovery and interception. “I’m pretty sure no one that’s with us wants that feeling again.”

Michigan was outplayed in every phase in a 35-14 loss at Wisconsin to open Big Ten play. The Wolverines scored a shutout over Rutgers last week, 52-0, and the defense followed that performance by holding Iowa to 261 yards and a field goal.

“It was a wake-up call,” Hutchinson said of Wisconsin. “We had to get our stuff right and play as hard as we can and do our job and that’s what happens.”

Hutchinson, a sophomore, has become one of the most fiery of the Wolverines’ defensive players. The Wolverines talked last week about having the proverbial chip on their shoulders after the loss to the Badgers, and Hutchinson seems to embody that and plays with a swagger and speaks with an edge to his tone.

“We all just played our (butts) off on the defense,” Hutchinson said. “We knew it’s the power Iowa, the big dogs who run it down your throat, so, yeah, we showed (Stanley) what kind of run defense we have.”

Brown showed his defense film of Stanley and pointed out he hadn’t thrown any interceptions. They identified his vulnerabilities.

“You see he never really got hit,” Hutchinson said. “We smacked him and that showed what happens when you apply pressure on that guy.”

The Hawkeyes reached the Michigan 44-yard line on their final drive, and Stanley threw four straight incompletions, including the last that essentially ended the game when, in the clutches of Hudson, Stanley switched the ball to his left hand and attempted a pass.

“When the game’s on the line, that’s what we wanted,” Danna said. “Everybody on the sideline had juice, the coaches had juice. It was all about our energy, and that’s what we wanted. We wanted our backs against the wall, and we had the opportunity and came out on top.”

Hutchinson said it was a “smooth” performance by the defense.

“I had no doubt our defense was going to get it done,” he said, “Three points, I’ll take that every single day of the week.”