Penn State will face UM's 'extremely multiple' defensive looks

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown is called “Dr. Blitz” because of his attacking, all-out blitzing defense.

Ann Arbor – Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown arrived to meet with the media on Wednesday before practice, his hair slightly disheveled giving him that eccentric defensive scientist look.

His appearance was fitting, and his comments suggested that Dr. Blitz – his official mad scientist name – will continue to tinker with his defense and combine different elements to make it as combustible as possible to opposing offenses.

As the fourth-ranked Wolverines prepare to open Big Ten play against spread, no-huddle Penn State, Brown made it clear he has no intention of being basic, nor does he plan to play into the hands of any offense, especially a spread.

“These spread teams, what they want you to do is they want you to line up in one or two looks. And that’s exactly what I’m not going to do, OK?” Brown said, getting fired up. “So let’s get that straight. We’re going to be extremely multiple. We’re going to stay on the aggressive side and that’s how we’re going to go and we’re going to learn it.

“And trust me, we’ve made significant improvement in that area. So let’s get that straight. These guys want you line up in quarters and a static front and kick your you know what. We’re not doing that. If it is, it will be over my dead body. We’re going to stay aggressive, we’re going to stay focused and we’re going to stay multiple. What it will turn into is this – who’s controlling the tempo now?”

Michigan is coming off a 45-28 victory over Colorado, after the Wolverines gave up some chunk plays and trailed by two touchdowns. The Wolverines yielded 195 yards in the first quarter and allowed a battered, injured quarterback to connect on a 70-yard touchdown in the third.

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Brown, in his first year as Michigan’s coordinator, made clear that any blame should be directed at him.

“We gave up two big pass plays. Those are issues,” Brown said. “Obviously we have to do a better job, gotta clean it up. Worked really hard in the run game obviously coming off the UCF performance (the Knights gained 275 yards rushing), maybe too hard.

“I also attribute, we’re still learning how to play this style of defense. The good thing, I think our guys have understood enough concept we’re able to adjust as the game goes on and played much better in the second, third and fourth quarters. Really disappointed with a fundamental coverage mistake we made.”

He pointed to a portion of the game where the Wolverines’ mistakes were glaring.

“I thought there was a 10-play period during the course of the game where we need to do a better job tackling,” he said. “Like I (told) the kids yesterday, all the mistakes belong to me. So if anybody wants to point the responsibility, I doint want them to have any. It’s right here. That’s the way we handle it.

“It was a 10-play segment and there were three missed tackles. We were fortunate because the one that resulted in a 48-yard gain, we were able to find a way to get off the field.”

Brown was pleased with how his defense made adjustments and played after that first quarter, however for the second straight week Michigan gave up a touchdown early in the second half.

“Our goal is a third-quarter shutout,” Brown said.

He thought Colorado was faster than UCF which was sometimes no-huddle and was up tempo, and that has helped prepare the Wolverines for Penn State. And they have done this without defensive linemen Taco Charlton and Bryan Mone, both injured in the season opener.

“We’ve made significant improvements in terms of our sense of urgency to get lined up and get ready to play,” he said. “We just need to play better during stretches.”

Michigan is ranked 24th nationally in total defense (296.0 average) and 16th in pass defense (156.0). The Wolverines are 11th nationally in sacks and second in tackles for loss and first in red-zone defense and third-downs allowed.

Brown was particularly happy with how they got after the quarterback against Colorado.

“Twenty three quarterback knockdowns Saturday,” Brown said. “Twenty three. I don’t know if I’ve ever had 23 in a game. And I count them, every one. That’s a lot.”

Penn State at Michigan

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor

TV/radio: ABC/WWJ

Line: Michigan by 18½

Records: Penn State 2-1 (0-0 Big Ten), 4 Michigan 3-0 (0-0)

Series: Michigan leads 12-7 (Michigan 28-16, Nov. 21, 2015)