Michigan safety Tyree Kinnel talks about the defense's ability to score after the win against Cincinnati. Angelique S. Chengelis
Ann Arbor — Michigan’s defense is finding multiple ways to score.
Tyree Kinnel took an interception return 28 yards for a touchdown to make it 14-0 in the first quarter, and with 4:21 left in the game, Lavert Hill added a 24-yard interception return for Michigan’s final score in a 36-14 victory.
Michigan’s defense has scored more touchdowns than it has allowed this season. The Wolverines’ defense also scored in the opener when Noah Furbush landed on a fumble forced by Chase Winovich in the end zone. Meanwhile, the defense gave up its first two touchdowns, a 1-yard run by Mike Boone and a 10-yard reception by Kahlil Lewis, to the Bearcats.
“Running to the ball fast again I thought,” Kinnel said, reiterating what Michigan Jim Harbaugh said earlier in the week that this was the fastest he’s seen this defense run to the ball since he’s been coach.
Kinnel said the defense is not feeling additional pressure while the offense continues to find its footing.
“We just stay calm,” said Kinnel, who led the team with nine tackles, including a sack. “We believe in our offense. We just try to stay together as a group and play for each other. We can only control the controllables. We came out and kept going and tried to fight our way through it.”
Devin Bush was second on the team with seven tackles, equaling this team-leading total in the season opener. He also had a sack and a pass breakup.
Khaleke Hudson led the Wolverines with two sacks
Change in return game
Harbaugh decided to have Grant Perry return punts after Donovan Peoples-Jones waited too long on a return late in the first quarter that led to a fumble and Cincinnati’s first touchdown.
Perry had three returns for 19 yards.
“Just felt the decision to not catch the ball was coming too late and was allowing too many of our guys to be around the ball,” Harbaugh said. “We’re going to have to keep coaching that up. Guys doing it for the first time, there’s a point where you have to come off blocking your man as you get closer to the returner, that 10-yard distance away.
“You’ve got to find the returner. It’s not easy to do. You’re trying to block a man, you’ve got to find the returner and have that awareness. (Ben) St-Juste at one point was getting blocked into the catch spot and saw that was one Donovan needed to, he wasn’t going to be able to make the play. He was going to run into his own man. There’s experience that needs to take place there, and we felt I wanted to go with a guy who had a little time on task, a little more experience.
“Donovan will be really good, but he needs more experience. If you have a couple things go bad, you’re not confident, so that was the decision to change at that point.”