Story by Sam Webb
After Oregon State’s first drive of the day Saturday it seemed like it was going to be a long day for the Michigan defense. The Beavers went 79 yards in seven plays that stretched the Wolverines horizontally and then vertically in much the same way Utah did successfully last week. By the end of the first quarter the visitors had racked up 136 yards and a touchdown.
Then the Wolverine defenders clamped down, holding Oregon State to two net yards and zero points the rest of the way.
“The defense… what can you say,” Jim Harbaugh said afterward. “D.J. Durkin and his staff did a tremendous job. “The players going three and a half quarters no points (were) tremendous on sudden change. We turned the ball over on our end of the field, and they get a turnover… Joe Bolden plucks one out of the air. I thought that was a huge play in the game.”
According to Jarrod Wilson it was about the defense getting its bearings.
“They scored on us with things we already were expecting,” the senior safety said. “Guys just had to settle down and play football. So once we got out there after the fumble we just were all calm and ready to play, and caused a turnover.”
The sudden increase in effectiveness caused many observers to wonder if the Durkin had implemented some schematic changes. In this instance, though, the change wasn’t anything complicated.
“Guys had to settle in and just play with good technique and fundamentals,” Wilson reiterated. “It was the home opener so a few of the younger guys were out there excited to play and messed up on a few assignments.”
“Not really (many) adjustments. I think guys just loosened up and started to play fast and have fun with the game “I think we did a pretty good job with that.”
The Wolverine defenders also did a good job keeping track of the Beavers mobile quarterbacks.
“With a scrambling quarterback the main thing is pursuit and effort to the football,” said Wilson. “I think we did that well today.”
“We got some pressure on the quarterback,” added Harbaugh. “I thought that was the difference between the first quarter and the long drive they made and some other drives that they had. We started getting some pressure on the quarterback. Wormley got a big sack and backed them up to their two yard line.”
Now the key for the Maize & Blue is to carry this effort over into the next contest.
“It’s only the second game,” Harbaugh stated. “We got a long season and lot of work to do. That’s what we’ll be focused on.”