Tracking the defense
The Michigan defense limited Penn State to minus 14 yards rushing on Saturday and it continues to lead the nation in rushing defense this season. The defense has yielded a mere 32.6 yards per game to the opposition. On the season the opposition has carried the ball 166 times for a paltry 228 yards (1.4 yard/avg.) and two rushing touchdowns in seven games.
One of the major reasons for the defense's success this season is the play of team co-Captain LaMarr Woodley. At the Monday press conference, Coach Carr called Woodley's performance against Penn State "his best game at Michigan." Woodley had a season-high five tackles, three tackles-for-loss, two sacks, and one forced fumble against the Nittany Lions. Woodley's outstanding effort earned him the Big Ten Conference Defensive Player of the Week award.
Michigan is tied for for 32nd nationally (of 119 D-IA schools) with 14 forced turnovers (8 fumble recoveries & 6 interceptions) in 7 games. However, 10 of those forced turnovers occurred in the first three games. During the four Big Ten games that Michigan has played thus far it has forced only four turnovers. The defense earned two of those turnovers (two interceptions vs. MSU) and the punt cover team earned the other two turnovers (two fumble recoveries- Wisconsin and Penn State). Thus, the Wolverines' defense has only forced two turnovers during its Big Ten conference play. As fantastic as Coach English's defense has been this season, the Wolverines need to step up and start making more plays on defense to force turnovers during the season's final five games.
On the offensive side of the ball, the "protect the ball" mantra of coaches Carr and DeBord is paying off as the Wolverines are tied for the lead in the nation in fewest turnovers with five (one fumble, four interceptions). The low turnover rate has helped establish the Wolverines as second in the Big 10 and sixth (6th) in the nation in turnover margin this season.
Defensive Rankings through seven games
- Scoring Defense: 13.6 avg.; 3rd in Big 10; 14th in NCAA
- Total Defense: 241.3 avg.; 2nd in Big 10; 7th in NCAA
- Rushing Defense: 32.6 avg.; 1st in Big 10; 1st in NCAA
- Passing Defense: 208.7 avg; 6th in Big 10; 74th in NCAA
- Pass Efficiency: 106.9 avg; 3rd in Big 10; 23rd in NCAA
- Tackles for Loss: 7.43 avg; - in Big 10; T13th in NCAA
- Sacks: 3.43 avg; 1st in Big 10; 8th in NCAA
- Third Downs: 27.5%; 2nd in Big 10; 7th in NCAA
Third Down Defense
The Wolverines' Defense is always tough but it is particularly stingy on third down. Michigan's defense ranks seventh in the nation in third down defense percentage as opponents have converted just 28/102 (27.5 %) of their third down chances this season. Go Blue!
*Note: Photo of LaMarr Woodley by John T. Greilick/The Detroit News