Scarlet Knights’ quarterback Gary Nova finished the night completing 22-of-39 pass attempts with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
While several areas can be blamed for the breakdowns, defensive coordinator Greg Mattison knows the exact reason the numbers were so staggering against his group.
“When you give up six big plays and you understand our stance on big plays has always been that we can’t have that to be a successful defense,” Mattison said. “I don’t ever remember giving up that many big plays and one of them was for 80-yards I believe, another was for 50 something. The numbers will add up pretty quick when that happens.
“The quarterback had a great game. He made some really great plays. We busted on a couple we didn’t keep the ball inside and in front and when that happens, 30-yard gains could become 50 or bigger.
“And we’ve got to get that corrected and that’s me. That’s up to me to make sure that doesn’t happen again, we get that corrected, and we start on it right away.”
“It was a team defense,” Mattison said. “It’s never one player. It’s like you’re playing really good and then something happens like that and then you get back to doing it again and again.
“Sometimes the first down that is third and 10 is as big as a 50-yarder. And it all seems to be the same things where you’ve got to make a tackle, where you’ve got to keep the ball inside and in front, where you try to pressure and you pressure and then all the sudden hit one and it’s a 60 yarder.
“So, it’s a matter of different things, six big plays and different things at different times that we’ve got to get corrected.”
One play that stands out, not necessarily a big play from a yardage standpoint, but one that did change the game was toward the end of the first half.
Standing over the middle of the line, Frank Clark was sent on a blitz directly up the middle, coming free and unabated to Nova, unable to make the play though as Nova scrambled away from it finding John Tsimis for a seven yard touchdown with just 22 seconds left in the second quarter, giving Rutgers the lead back at 19-17.
While Mattison did say he was encouraged by the defense pressure because of the amount of times Nova was forced to move out of the pocket, he did lament about the lack of execution in several key areas.
“I don’t think it is the scheme of the coverage,” Mattison said. “I think it’s a different person not executing the coverage. I think it’s a different person not getting the sack when he had a stunt that said that this was going to happen and you do it and we got one.
“It’s never a corner, it’s never a safety, it’s never a defensive end, it’s never a linebacker, it’s everybody. And that’s what your job is, is to make sure you get that corrected and that handled.
Perhaps the biggest breakdown of the game came on an 80-yard pass completion and touchdown to Andrew Turzilli.
With Blake Countess in coverage on Michigan’s sideline, Turzilli came wide open over the middle on a huge miscue.
“We called a defense where a safety would be lower than usual to be able to help with the run and we didn’t get inside enough with another defensive back,” Mattison said.
“And knowing the whole scheme of the defense, knowing where you’re a little bit weak. Whenever you call a defense there’s always somebody that has a little bit more on his plate than somebody else, otherwise you’re going to run just straight, generic defenses all the time.
“It’s just a matter of everybody all being focused in at that time to say ok, I’m the one that can’t do this, I can’t bite on this out route right now, I can’t bite on this route because we’re a little bit weaker here. And they happened to have the perfect call, they called a play action pass, we bit on it and they hit.”
Bottom line, Mattison feels anger knowing Michigan’s offense put enough points on the board to beat Rutgers but the defense couldn’t finish the job.
“It really frustrates me cause I thought our offense, and I’ve said it all along, our offense has done a great job as far as trying to improve, they get better and I see them every day,” Mattison said.
“We had the game won, bottom line. And if you’re a great defense you do what you have to do in that game to stop them and you win. It may not be pretty, but you win.”