Ann Arbor — While Michigan’s offensive players soaked in the victory that include 300-plus yards of rushing and touchdowns passes to receivers for the first time since almost exactly a year ago, the Wolverines’ defensive players were feeling good about themselves despite giving up a late field goal.
The defense held the Broncos to 208 yards, including 85 passing. But they were 4-of-17 on third down and 2-of-5 on fourth down.
That felt awfully good for a defense that self-destructed in the early part of the Notre Dame game and gave up two quick touchdowns.
“(It was more) self-inflicted mistakes than what Notre Dame offense was doing to us,” defensive end Rashan Gary, who had six tackles including a sack, said. “Going into Week 2 we just had to focus on not hurting ourselves, just getting back to playing Michigan defense.”
Jordan Anthony also had a sack and Noah Furbush had an interception.
But putting a stranglehold on third and fourth down that held significant importance for the defensive players.
“We want to be the best defense in the nation, (so) you’ve got to separate yourself from the rest,” Gary said. “On fourth down, third down, that’s what we do. There’s nothing that really goes into, we just know what we need to do. We’ve got to stand strong and do what we need to do.”
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh singled out several players on defense.
“Making the big play on the interception. He was really sound on the edge,” Harbaugh said of Furbush. “Played the run game really well. They had a big tight end, big fullbacks, he was able to condense the edge. Khaleke Hudson (who also blocked a punt) played extremely well. The corners played really well, David (Long), Brandon (Watson) and Lavert (Hill). Also, (linebacker) Devin Bush was flying around again. His speed was evident all game long. Rashan put in a full day’s work. We had a lot of success stopping the run.”
Gary was particularly pleased with the way the second group of linemen looked when they got in, and that includes freshman Aidan Hutchinson, who had four tackles.
“At times, we were subbing out, the play was the same. There was no drop off,” Gary said. “Aidan Hutchinson, Kwity Paye coming, Michael Dwumfour coming in, also Carlo Kemp, I loved it. Just shows the work we put in in practice it shows in the game that everybody is ready to go when somebody needs a blow, next man up and same level of play. (Bryan) Mone, (Donovan) Jeter, a lot of people come in.”