Story by Sam Webb
On a college football weekend where there were a number of eye-popping scores, Michigan’s shutout of an explosive BYU team was certainly among the most impressive.
The Cougars arrived in Ann Arbor boasting an offense averaging 432.3 yards of total offense (310.7 through air), 21 first downs, and 30.3 points per game. Keeping that kind of potency in check would have been enough convince most pundits that Michigan’s defense is pretty good. But the Wolverines did better than simply keeping BYU check.
Much better in fact.
In shutting BYU out the Maize & Blue held the visitors to 105 yards of total offense (55 through the air) and just eight first downs. It was the third biggest shutout (by margin of victory) of a ranked team in the last 30 years. Setting the tone for that performance was a Michigan secondary that didn’t flinch in the face of the Cougars’ stable of statuesque pass-catchers. Unlike in past weeks where teams fell victim to BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum’s huge arm and his receivers’ ability to sky over the defense, the Wolverines blanketed their opponents all day long.
The only real blemish was a pass that went right through Channing Stribling’s hands and into those of a BYU receiver.
“The game-plan for us was get to the quarterback up front and trust the DBs to do what they do back there,” Mario Ojemudia said afterward.
“Whenever I get a sack I know it’s because in the secondary nothing was open. I definitely tip my hat to the secondary. No big plays. Should have gotten the interception… that’s what I want to see from them… but they got us some sacks. They played great.”
As the pressure up front mounted, the precociousness that Mangum had shown in his first few games as college football player seemed to dissipate. And with his big play magic stymied the Cougars couldn’t sustain drives long enough to mount any serious scoring threats.
“We scored the first five times we had the ball offensively, and four (of those) times the defense had three-and-out possessions,” Jim Harbaugh said. “And then to start the second half it was one (three-and-out) right after the other against a very good football team on both sides of the ball.”
While pleased with that obvious sign of growth, and definitely that of a defensive backfield that had plenty of question marks heading into the season, Harbaugh is quick to pump the brakes on any talk that his team has arrived.
“It’s going good, (but) we’re not getting out in front of our headlights and patting ourselves on the backs yet,” he said. “But it has been good. It felt like the secondary has really been coming on… playing with so much more confidence. Stribling, (Jeremy) Clark who moved from safety from corner, Jabrill Peppers is a phenomenal player, Jarrod Wilson is a terrific player and leader, Delano Hill is an outstanding player.. Jourdan Lewis is as competitive and as good as I think you’re going to find. I really really really really like the talent in our secondary. They’re playing really well together. It’s competitive, but it’s not self-centered at all. Michael Zordich and Greg Jackson are both doing a great job coaching in the secondary. D.J. Durkin, Greg Mattison… we couldn’t have better coaches. They’re playing really good as a team. Really good as a team."
" It’s been good, but it’s a little too early to start patting ourselves on the back too much.”
“Just keep doing what we’re doing. Great preparation during the week, and competition.”