Amid this week?s falling sky it seems a distant memory but only three days ago, a new season beckoned on the horizon, with a healthy dose of optimism swirling around Ann Arbor. The reason? Defense.
Two drives into the season, that optimism lay in serious doubt. Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush spent those drives ripping the Michigan secondary apart and making its pass rush look like a non-factor. Safety Josh Metellus was ejected for targeting as the Irish offense drove 75 and 96 yards respectively to go up 14-0 and send the Wolverines into panic mode.
A few drives later, Notre Dame went up 21-3 as Wimbush evaded the pass rush with seven rushes en route to another 75 yard touchdown drive.
The second half, though, was a different story for the Michigan defense, with just one Irish drive going for more than 13 yards, despite the loss of Metellus and an injury to linebacker Devin Bush.
?We just had to come together and know that we had to focus,? said linebacker Devin Gil.
Cornerbacks shut down opposing receivers as they were anticipated to and the pass rush began to break through, allowing the Wolverines to surge back into the game, though they ultimately fell short.
Among the keys to the turnaround was Michigan coming together as a defense and finding an ability to feed off each other in the second half.
?No matter what happens, we?re always going to be there for each other,? Gil said.
When Bush went out in the first half, that mentality became key for the Wolverines.
?I know that I got Josh Ross next to me (after Bush went out) and we?re both vocal enough that we both can contribute halfway and he does the other half,? Gil said. ?So I know that I had trust in him.
?We both fed off each other. If I made a bad play, he?ll give some pointers (and vice-versa). It just kept going back and forth because we knew that we?re all a unit and we?re gonna be together no matter what.?
Added Ross: ?The way (Gil and I) communicate. We kinda feel the same way on certain plays. But it?s weird, I love having a guy like that in the linebacker corps and being able to talk to him.?
For the linebacker corps, that bonding began in camp before making its way to South Bend.
?We were competing the whole camp,? Ross said. ?I love Devin Gil, he?s a great guy. Being next to that guy and learning from each other and just learning our position and talking to each other, it was beautiful and I?m so glad we both went through that.?
Added Gil: ?We both feed off each other, no matter what, regardless of (who?s in).?
They may not be as heralded as Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich on the defensive line or cornerbacks Lavert Hill and David Long but for the Wolverines? defense to match its lofty expectations, its linebackers will need to repeat Saturday?s second half.
For that to happen, they?ll need each other.
?You can really get better off of each other,? Ross said. ?So to have guys like that (next to me), it?s beautiful.?