Friday, Jun 22, 2018
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For Michigan, chatter matters on the field

Wolverines defensive coordinator says communication fell short at Nebraska

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    Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez fumbles the ball for a turnover after being tackled by Michigan's Desmond Morgan (48).


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    Michigan's Russell Bellomy (8) was picked off three times during the Wolverines' loss on Saturday. Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison says the defense didn’t live up to UM standards. 



Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez fumbles the ball for a turnover after being tackled by Michigan's Desmond Morgan (48).


ANN ARBOR — Greg Mat­ti­son be­lieves there’s a cer­tain stan­dard that’s set for Mich­i­gan’s de­fense.

In Satur­day’s 23-9 loss at Ne­braska, Mich­i­gan’s de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor said his team failed to live up to that stan­dard, de­spite the fact that Ne­braska didn’t put up gaudy of­fen­sive num­bers.

In­stead, Ne­braska picked off quar­ter­back Rus­sell Bel­lomy three times, in­clud­ing P.J. Smith’s third-quar­ter in­ter­cep­tion that helped set up the first of Brett Ma­her’s three field goals, and Daimion Staf­ford’s in­ter­cep­tion that set up Ameer Ab­dul­lah’s fourth-quar­ter touch­down.

Mat­ti­son pointed to the the root of the break­down as Mich­i­gan’s de­fen­sive com­mu­ni­ca­tion — or the lack thereof.

“I’ve said this for­ever,” Mat­ti­son said. “Great de­fenses, they sound like a board­room of a great com­pany when you’re out there. Check right, watch out for this, make sure you’re wide enough … great de­fenses, that’s when you re­ally feel it.”

Mat­ti­son didn’t feel it in the loss to Ne­braska. Now that area quickly needs to be rec­ti­fied for this week­end’s Leg­ends Divi­sion game at Min­ne­sota, a team that earned its first Big Ten win last Satur­day at home against Pur­due as fresh­man quar­ter­back Phi­lip Nel­son threw for 246 yards and three touch­downs.

The lack of chat­ter in the loss to Ne­braska wasn’t a by-prod­uct of the vol­ume level at Lin­coln’s Me­mo­rial Sta­dium. Mich­i­gan’s play­ers said it was an ef­fect of Ne­braska’s high-tempo of­fense.

“That’s our main goal for this week, to keep work­ing on com­mu­ni­ca­tion and get the calls to ev­ery­one,” cor­ner­back Ray­mon Tay­lor said. “When (Ne­braska) was in hurry-up, we didn’t get the calls to each and ev­ery one. Ba­si­cally, we were out there, just lost.”

Even though Mat­ti­son has seen co­he­sive­ness among his de­fense through­out the sea­son, even in the hours lead­ing up to what was con­sid­ered a piv­otal game last Satur­day for the Wol­v­er­ines, se­nior safety Jor­dan Kovacs summed up the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of that lack of com­mu­ni­ca­tion for the Wol­v­er­ines (5-3, 3-1 Big Ten Con­fer­ence).

“If we don’t com­mu­ni­cate, we don’t get lined up, and you’re not ready to play,” Kovacs said. “And that’s what hap­pened to us.”

While Mich­i­gan is tied for first in the na­tion with Ala­bama on pass de­fense, Mich­i­gan coach Brady Hoke pointed out an­other de­fi­ciency — the rush de­fense.

“I think peo­ple are run­ning it a lit­tle more, to be hon­est with you,” said Hoke, whose team has al­lowed an av­er­age of 145.13 rush­ing yards, tied for 46th na­tion­ally with Boise State. “We don’t re­ally like that, ei­ther. We’re not a great pres­sure team, we’re not a great man team. We’ve prob­a­bly been for­tu­nate a few dif­fer­ent times through the year.”

Kovacs pointed to an­other fac­tor in play for the suc­cess of the pass de­fense — Mich­i­gan’s op­po­nents.

“Air Force didn’t throw the ball a lot, and Ala­bama didn’t have to,” the Clay grad­u­ate said. “There were some open re­ceiv­ers the last game that [Ne­braska quar­ter­back Tay­lor] Mar­ti­nez didn’t see and there were a cou­ple blitzes that we ran, and we had a guy run down the mid­dle of the field wide open, and we can’t let that hap­pen. We’ve been for­tu­nate that they ha­ven’t hit them yet, but we’ve got to get those cor­rec­tions made or else we won’t be as suc­cess­ful.”

Con­tact Rachel Lenzi at: rlenzi@the­, 419-724-6510 or on Twit­ter @RLen­ziBlade.

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