I’ve written about the Michigan defense before- from their inability to slow down opposing offenses on third down to being incapable of stopping opposing offenses from piling up hundreds of yards. After watching this past weekend’s game, in which they pulled out a victory with a score of 67-65, yes, SIXTY SEVEN TO SIXTY FIVE, I’m at a loss for words.
Now, the Illini had been no offensive slouch coming into the Big House this past Saturday, averaging 350 yards of offense a game as well as putting up 31 points per game. Clearly, the offense was licking their chops coming into the game against one of the worst defenses in Division I, having allowed an average of almost 34 points per contest.
Illinois piled up 561 yards against Michigan on Saturday. Granted, these statistics were enhanced by way of the three overtimes. However, the Michigan defense still allowed 45 points in regulation, failing again and again and again to make a stop whenever they needed. Interestingly enough, the game was decided when Michigan threw an all-out blitz on quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase on the two-point conversion attempt, forcing him to chuck the ball out of bounds in a last ditch attempt to avoid the sack. However, this continued pathetic display of defense has left me wondering what the rest of the season will look like.
Luckily, the team has a dominant offense. Without Denard Robinson, Michael Shaw, and Roy Roundtree, this team would be at a supreme loss for wins. However, this is no way to get back into college football elite. When later that evening I watched the LSU-Alabama game, it was like I was watching a different sport. First downs came at a premium. The teams tackled well, made stops most of the game, limited big plays, (save the one 75 yard touchdown), and in general, played outstanding football. I don’t expect Michigan to defend like two of the best college football programs in the best conference in the country; however, at least showing up on the field would be refreshing.
It’s sad that I’m rejoicing the fact that Michigan has (finally!) become bowl eligible again. It’s been a long three years, especially for a program used to such high standards. I don’t know what the last three games of the season hold for this team. I do know that if they intend to be serious players on the national picture in the next couple years, Rich Rod needs to put as much effort into improving his defense as he did into making his offense one of the most electric in the country. As I’m sure he’s finding out, a good offense doesn’t mean a whole lot without a stout defense to go alongside it, and had the offense not bailed him out Saturday, he would have been staring at one of the most embarrassing loses this program has seen.
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Written by Curt Bell