by Mark Edwards
Michigan’s defense is ridiculously young, elite and athletic. However, the thing I marvel at week after week is that the defense KNOWS that they have to play at a level that most defenses cannot ever reach just to keep the opponent down. Why? With Michigan’s struggles on offense, Michigan cannot spot a team 14 points and realistically expect to win.
On a cold, windy day in Madison, the defense lasted as long as they could. This week’s pressure is a great example of a relentless effort to get to the quarterback. Regardless of the situation, we’ve seen effort like the one below all season. That is something that should be enjoyed and celebrated as we look at this season. I know Jim Harbaugh and Don Brown would say this is the expectation but as fans, we still need to appreciate it. It’s rare in this world of college football.
THIS WEEK’S PRESSURE
SITUATION: 2nd & 15, Wisconsin ball on their own 7 yard line
TIME: 10:20 left in the third quarter
WHY THIS SERIES: While the offensive red zone struggles were continuing, the defense had Wisconsin backed up and quarterback Alex Hornibrook was shaky. This series was where most Michigan fans thought, “If we can hold them here and get the ball in good field position, we can take the momentum.”
OFFENSIVE FORMATION: Pro Right I (The tight end is to the right along with the flanker. The split end it to the left.)
MARYLAND PERSONNEL: 21 (2 running backs, 1 tight end)
DEFENSIVE BASE: 3-3
MICHIGAN PERSONNEL NOTES: In a second and long situation, Michigan is in a 3-3 personnel package and alignment. The defensive front is DE Rashan Gary (#3) in a 4I-technique (inside shoulder of tackle) while DT Maurice Hurst (#73) is at nose and DE Chase Winovich (#15) is in a 5-techjnique to the top of the screen. Viper Khaleke Hudson (#7) is in an “over” alignment, which is outside shoulder of the tight end. Cornerbacks David Long (#22) and Brandon Watson (#28) are in press alignment. LB Mike McCray (#9) is stacked behind Winovich while middle linebacker Devin Bush Jr. (#10) is aligned over the right guard. The key is LB Noah Furbush (#59) who is stacked behind Gary. He will be moving pre
snap to join the five-man pressure. Safety Josh Metellus (#14) is eight yards deep and responsible for the tight end in pass coverage.
What is Wisconsin doing here? It is still before the snap but they are going to run a screen pass into the boundary (top side of the screen).
What has changed: Furbush (#59) is coming down in between Hudson and Gary.
Michigan’s pressure: This is a five-man pressure from the strength of the formation. In a pro formation, the strength is determined by which side the TE lines up on. Metellus (#14) has also moved a yard closer to the line of scrimmage.
What is Wisconsin doing here? Both wide receivers and the tight end are vertically releasing, as is customary with a screen pass. The fullback is fitting into the middle of the line so that he can release to the top of the screen after the defensive line passes him. The offensive line is take a vertical pass set. The left guard & left tackle will end up climbing to level two to the top of the screen.
What has changed: You now see Metellus and safety Tyree Kinnel (#23) in the screen. Linebackers Mike McCray and Devin Bush Jr. are dropping into cover zone coverage. Michigan is playing man-to-man outside with the WRs while they have a they have the linebackers covering each running back. Metellus has the tight end in man coverage.
Michigan’s pressure: Hudson is on the attack. Functionally, he is a “ghost 9” and is rushing to the depth of the QB. Furbush is blitzing through the right tackle. Gary has ripped to the A gap on the tight end side while Hurst has ripped into the other A gap. Winovich is an outside rusher to the top of the screen.
What is Wisconsin doing here? Badger RB Jonathan Taylor has taken a poor path to block Hudson. You can see the left guard and left tackle leaking out to the left. The fullback is in the middle of the offensive line.
What has changed: Hornibrook knows (and feels) that he’s going to have to evade the rusher to throw the ball. Michigan has changed their pass coverage responsibilities as Metellus is covering Taylor while Bush Jr. is running with the tight end.
Michigan’s pressure: Michigan is very disciplined in this pressure. Besides Hudson’s pressure, Winovich has done a nice job setting the edge of the pocket.
What is Wisconsin doing here? The fullback screen is set up but Hornibrook is throwing it too early due to pressure.
What has changed: The play is actually set up. If not for the pressure, you are looking at a nice play for Wisconsin.
Michigan’s pressure: Hudson, Hudson, Hudson.
Incomplete pass. The ball was thrown into the ground.
FINAL THOUGHT: I thought Michigan’s defense played a really good game and showed that a power-run approach by an opponent is not a great idea. Wisconsin scored 7 on special teams and hit two passes. With the exception of Penn State, it’s not been the run game that hurts this team.