Following a Northwestern 52-yard scoring drive to open the second quarter, Michigan trailed by 17 points. Through slant routes and coverage penalties, the Wildcats made the Wolverines stout defense look like it was 2007 again.
That drive would inevitably be the last one that ended in Northwestern points. Michigan’s defense forced seven consecutive punts over three-and-a-half quarters. The only drive that didn’t end in a punt, ended in a sack — it was the final play of the game.
After a 105-yard first quarter, Pat Fitzgerald’s team tallied just 97 yards. The Wildcats had 28 total rushing yards and couldn’t handle a Michigan front that posted six sacks and 10 tackles for loss.
A performance that initially looked like a disaster became an overwhelming success. Of course, to Michigan fans, this game wasn’t the start-to-finish stonewall defense it’s been privileged to root for since Don Brown’s arrival in 2016. After all, the defense has been ranked inside the top three nationally for three consecutive seasons.
While the defense’s dominance wasn’t a four-quarter-show, it’s thanks them that Brown’s unit finds itself atop the nation’s defensive ranks.
Now allowing an average of 232.6 yards per game, the Wolverines are the No. 1 total defense in the country. Washington State, Iowa, Kentucky and Washington round out the top five.
Here are some more numbers on Michigan’s defense: Pass defense (4th); Rushing defense (4th); Points per game (8th); 3rd down conversion percentage (32nd).
Michigan’s defense will be tested with another no-huddle attack from Maryland’s No. 32-ranked scoring offense on Saturday.