On the third play from scrimmage on Saturday, senior viper Jordan Glasgow blasted past Nebraska?s left tackle, forcing quarterback Adrian Martinez out of the pocket in seconds.
Martinez recognized the pressure and escaped to his right, firing a downfield prayer into the arms of wide receiver Stanley Morgan.
For the rest of the afternoon, Michigan?s pressure on the quarterback persisted. Martinez?s ability to turn it into positive yardage did not.
On the very next drive, Glasgow?starting in place of junior linebacker Khaleke Hudson, who was suspended for the first half?again found himself in the Cornhuskers? backfield. This time, he tossed Martinez to the turf with ease, forcing a three-and-out.
From the moment Morgan came down with the football in Wolverines? territory to when the halftime whistle blew, Nebraska tallied negative-31 yards of offense.
?Pass rush was really good today and the discipline in the rush lanes was evident,? said coach Jim Harbaugh after the game. ?They didn?t run by the quarterback or let the quarterback get out scrambling.?
Martinez didn?t even get the chance to test Michigan?s beleaguered secondary after that initial deep ball. When it wasn?t Glasgow, it was Rashan Gary, who tallied the Wolverines? second sack on the next drive, or Chase Winovich and Devin Bush, who got to Martinez on consecutive plays in the second quarter to force a 4th-and-30.
Often, it was all four, with Martinez regularly being converged on from all angles and being forced to throw the ball out of bounds or into smothered screen plays even when he escaped sacks.
?Getting more sacks,? said fifth-year senior defensive lineman Lawrence Marshall when asked about the line?s biggest area of improvement through four weeks. ?After the first game, we only had one sack so just getting more sacks, getting to the quarterback more.?
?It?s so fun to be a part of a defense that has speed, that?s aggressive,? said linebacker Josh Ross. ?Everybody?s making plays, everybody has talent so it?s just such a blessing to be a part of.?
That aggressiveness has been a pitfall for this team, with Josh Metellus being ejected for targeting in the season opener and Khaleke Hudson picking up targeting calls in back-to-back games.
But it?s also what makes the Wolverines? defense so fearsome. Because for all the talk about Shea Patterson and a revamped offensive line and a deep receiving corps, Michigan?s identity is in its front seven that makes it one of the most intimidating defenses in the country.
If you want proof of that, just ask the offense that has to square up against it every week in practice.
?If you?re not fundamentally sound, it?s impossible to block (Gary and freshman defensive end Aidan Hutchinson),? said senior tight end Zach Gentry.
Added redshirt freshman quarterback Dylan McCaffrey: ?We?re playing against one of the best defenses in the country every single day. Definitely get frustrated some days but it helps so much in the long run just playing against good competition.?
Fortunately for Gentry and McCaffrey, they only have to face that pass rush in practice. Twelve other offenses this year aren?t so lucky.