Wolverines defensive lineman talks about the importance of getting off to a strong start against Rutgers. Angelique S. Chengelis
Ann Arbor — As Michigan defensive lineman Maurice Hurst spoke to a group of reporters after the game, Rashan Gary dropped in to share his thoughts.
“Best D tackle in the nation, hands down. Period. Mo Hurst,” Gary said, smiling before heading off to do some interviews.
Hurst set the tone for Michigan’s defense in the Wolverines’ 35-14 victory over Rutgers at Michigan Stadium. He sacked Giovanni Rescigno on the Scarlet Knights’ first play of the game for an eight-yard loss. Michigan had five sacks.
“I was hyped. I was pumped up,” Gary said of Hurst’s opening sack. “That play, it was a read zone to me and then the back chopped me. I’m like, ‘Damn,’ then I look up, I’m like, ‘Mo got him. Yes! Let’s go.’ And then you get the belly rub, and you know Mo gone when he gets the belly rub, so I’m like, ‘Aw, let’s go, it’s one of those games.’”
Hurst rubs his tummy after a big play and has become his trademark.
“It’s always nice to start things out the right way on defense,” Hurst said. “I think we did the same thing coming out of the half. It’s really important to get the defense started, and I think we did a good job with that.”
Michigan forced a three-and-out on Rutgers’ opening drive in the second half that was credited with minus-four yards.
After losing 42-13 at Penn State the week earlier and giving up two quick touchdowns, Michigan’s defense, which fell from the No. 1 ranking nationally to No. 5, needed to rebound in a big way. The Wolverines held Rutgers to 195 yards, including 94 rushing. They had 11 tackles for loss.
“This whole week was about going out to practice, practicing as hard as you can, everything full speed, making no mistakes,” said Gary, who had a sack. “Everybody was zoned in and ready to go this whole week.”
Hurst and Gary stood out on the defensive line against Rutgers, as they have much of the season.
“We always try to get the best out of each other,” Hurst said. “We play on the same side so there’s a lot of communication that goes on between us. A lot of the stuff I’ll see and I’ll let him know. Sometimes we’ll switch some of our patterns for blitzes just because what I see and what I think Rashan can do, so it’s just great communication between me and him and coach (Don) Brown and coach (Greg) Mattison.”
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh knows the defense has been the most consistent group this season, despite the overall performance at Penn State.
“Just keep admiring how hard they play,” Harbaugh said. “Our guys are really competing, really working, straining when they’re out there. That really showed up defensively. Hard-working unit and they played very well today.”