The defense rests: Michigan offense gives Brown's bunch a boost
Piscataway, N.J. – If it seems the Michigan defense hasn’t been on the field that much late in games, that’s because it hasn’t.
The Wolverines (No. 4 AP and CFP) are experiencing the benefits of an offense and defense complementing one another, and that includes allowing the defense a chance to breathe and remain fresh. Part of the reason is because Michigan is fourth nationally in time of possession, averaging 34:42 minutes.
Michigan has won eight straight since a season-opening loss at Notre Dame and is 8-1, 6-0 Big Ten, as the Wolverines prepare to face Rutgers at HighPoint.com Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
In the first five games of the season, Michigan’s opponents averaged 65 plays a game. Notre Dame ran 69 and Western Michigan 75 the following week. But in the last four games, opponents have averaged 49 plays. In that stretch of games, Penn State, which Michigan beat 42-7 last week, had only 47 plays.
“Notre Dame was around 60-70 snaps, now we’re around low-50s,” safety Tyree Kinnel said. “We see it, we feel it on the sideline. We feel like we’re on the sideline a lot more than usual. That’s good for us. With the offense managing the game like that and running plays and doing as well as they’re doing, we feel really good about that. We do feel a little bit fresh.”
That’s important in a late-season push for wins and a shot at the Big Ten title and beyond. Michigan has three remaining regular-season games – Rutgers, home against Indiana and at Ohio State.
In a 21-7 victory at Michigan State, Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown said recently there were some moments in the game when he just sort of stood there on the sideline, arms crossed with nothing to do. He mentioned one time when he had linebackers Devin Bush and Khaleke Hudson around him.
“And I’m like, ‘Dude, that’s five minutes off the clock,’” Brown said. “That’s huge when you can go out there and sell your soul to get off the field and you’re rewarded by the offense just dominating the clock. That’s a big deal. Don’t have to score but field position and giving you the rest so you can be 100 miles an hour, that’s a big deal.
“I did this study last year on us and when we are below 70 snaps, in the 60s, we’re pretty good. When we get into the high 70s, low 80s, that’s when trouble starts. That’s when fatigue’s (a factor), concept is all out there and it’s a bad deal. We haven’t been there very often (this season). Pretty happy. Just a heck of a deal. If you asked a couple Big 12 defensive coordinators, they’d take it tomorrow.”
Michigan at Rutgers
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. Saturday, HighPoint.com Stadium, Piscataway, N.J.
Records: Michigan 8-1, 6-0 Big Ten; Rutgers 1-8, 0-6
Line: Michigan by 39