Borton's Blog: Defending defenders
Somebody always has the answer to every loss, or every pride loss (See: UMass). That proved true this time as well, with a long-time Michigan follower providing the real reason the Wolverines' defense didn't (and won't, in his mind) hold up.
"Tell Rodriguez to get an offense that protects the defense," went the refrain. "Those guys were out there for 35 minutes."
Actually 37:38, but who's counting?
The idea behind the frustrated mini-rant has been put forth many times before. nfl jerseys
Those who insist the game is all about ball control, and that the best defense is the one sitting on the sidelines, laud such a stance. Those who hold that the best way to help a defense is to pile up as many points as quickly as possible, deride the notion.
Either osition represents an oversimplification. And the biggest misread of all involves the fact that Michigan's offense now is incapable of helping protect the defense.
In the first two games, Denard Robinson & Co. protected their defensive brethren like a suit of armor. They didn't turn the ball over once, they controlled it for 36:52 and 34:09, respectively, against UConn and Notre Dame, and they piled up a combined 58 points in the process.
Meanwhile, the U-M defense made some big plays when it needed to, getting itself off the field. That didn't happen in Game 3, rendering 42 Michigan points barely enough to win.
With that in mind, here are seven deadly help-the-defense moments that didn't materialize versus UMass…
• UMass takes the kickoff and drives 53 yards for a field goal, chewing up five minutes off the clock. Michigan's defense fails to stop the Minutemen on third-and-seven and later third-and-eight, surrendering a pair of Kyle Havens completions with confused or too-soft coverage.
• Michigan's offensive response featured two plays, with Robinson Colts jersey
getting picked off for the first time all year. So instead of balancing out the time, and the score, UMass gets it back. U-M holds the ball less than one minute out of the opening 8:14, further putting an already struggling defense on its heels.
• Robinson reveals a little more mortality early in the second quarter. On the same series, he bobbles a shotgun snap and takes a seven-yard loss, then suffers his first sack of the season, an eight-yarder. Instead of a strong response to a nine-play UMass scoring drive, the Wolverines hand it right back, keeping the snowball rolling.
• Michigan's furious response to a 17-7 deficit puts U-M head, 35-17, late in the third quarter. Ball game, right? It should have been, before the lapses creep in again. A would-be three-and-out turns into a chains-mover when Havens connects over the middle for a nine-yard gain on third-and-eight.
• Latr in that same drive, Massachusetts faces fourth-and-nine. Havens again cashes in, this time rolling to his left and finding a receiver for 12 yards. The Minutemen move on in for a touchdown, on their way to boosting the opponents' conversion percentage on fourth down to 62 percent (5 of 8) on the year. It's a respectable 34 percent (14 of 41) on third downs, but not in this game (6 of 12).
• The backbreaker for the hopes of subs waiting to get in arrives with just under 10 minutes left and Michigan leading, 42-24. Cam Gordon picks off a pass, runs it back a few yards, then puts it on the turf, with Massachusetts recovering. Not only is the ball out of Michigan's hands (albeit for Gordon's stolen seconds) from the 11:57 mark until the 5:15 mark, the Minutemen score and build some hope.
• Michigan's offensive response involves a three-and-out, a Cowboys jersey
dropped snap by freshman punter Will Hagerup, and a frantic finish, with the Wolverines barely hanging on.
Offense, defense and special teams - everyone contributed, even on a day when the Wolverines put up 42 points. Michigan's defense has to be better, more focused, more intense, etc. It also has to get more help, just like it did the first two weeks of the season.