Why Michigan Was So Stout Defensively Against Western

chase winovich michigan defensive end

Why Michigan Was So Stout Defensively Against Western

Football

Why Michigan Was So Stout Defensively Against Western

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — It might have been only two weeks of Michigan football, but in its second week, it finally feels like the Wolverines are back in action, after having started out the season losing at Notre Dame.

There was a big reaction (and overreaction) the Week One loss, partially because the Wolverines started out slow on the defensive side of the ball — something of a shock to the system after two years of which Michigan was especially lock down. Notre Dame managed to complete a handful of 50/50 balls and seemingly drove down the field with ease, particularly converting on third down, time and time again.

Basically, the opposite of what’s become the expectation in Ann Arbor.

Well, Week Two marked a return to normalcy, with the maize and blue nearly shutting out Western Michigan, only giving up three points on the defensive side after the reserves came in for the last drive of the fourth quarter.

Some prognosticators questioned whether Michigan had it this year, despite returning the bulk of the defense. Western Michigan came in with a seemingly hot offense, having put up 621 yards and 42 points against ACC opponent Syracuse in Week One.

But, the Wolverines stymied the Broncos offensive attack, only allowing WMU to gain 208 yards total — the worst single game output in a calendar year.

While it was a potential sign that things have returned to normal for this Michigan defense, senior defensive end Chase Winovich says that the expectation was more in line with what happened this past Saturday — not what took place the first half in South Bend.

“It’s encouraging, but our defense is held to such a high standard,” Winovich said. “Syracuse is a great football team – we just don’t hold ourselves to that standard. We hold ourselves to right here (puts hand above head), so anything less than that – and that’s just how we’re taught. We’re probably going to go back and look at all the flaws. You kind of gloss over all the good stuff and you just break down what needs to be improved and try to do that in practice.”

Michigan was able to keep Western from doing anything it wanted to do, really, all day in the home opener. The Broncos were only able to muster 123 yards rushing and 85 yards passing — the third lowest and second lowest totals, respectively, since Week Two in 2017 when WMU faced Michigan State.

One of the reasons why the Wolverines were so dominant, however, is because they had WMU figured out pretty early on, Winovich says.

At all costs, Western seemed intent on protecting Jon Wassink, which ended up allowing for Michigan’s pass defense to really take control.

“This is my personal opinion – I thought they were pretty predictable in the stuff they did,” Winovich said. “Their offense, going into the game – I’d have to go back and watch – but they came in, and they basically said, ‘Whatever happens, we’re just gonna try to not give up any sacks.’ A lot of max protection. A lot of chipping on both sides. I mean, it’s a way to play football. Obviously, you see the results. We had 200 some yards of offense (allowed).”

Now, Michigan moves on to face an SMU team that’s been struggling offensively, despite offensive guru Sonny Dykes in his second year of leading the charge. The Mustangs, who have played at North Texas and have hosted No. 15 SMU, are 126th of 130 FBS-level teams through two games, offensively.

The Wolverines approached this last game well aware that they had lost four games in a row, and after they broke the streak with a win, Coach Harbaugh acknowledged that the team had to play with their back against the wall every week, Winovich said.

But, in a way, that’s no different than in weeks previous, given the circumstances the team has found itself in dating back to Week Twelve of 2017.

“It’s kind of interesting, because I didn’t think our mindset was radically different, because we’ve already lost four games in a row, so we’ve already been in that mindset in a sense,” Winovich said. “It wasn’t like all of a sudden. But I just think the expectation we have for ourselves and then meeting with ourselves with the loss to Notre Dame, it was a little different this time. We knew had to get it out, and we knew this was the week to get the bad taste out of our mouth. We’re just moving on to SMU now.”

Michigan will host SMU at The Big House on Saturday with a slated 3:30PM kickoff.

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