Michigan allowed 146 yards in the first half to Northwestern on Sept. 29 at Ryan Field.
The second half – just 56 yards.
The key to Michigan’s 20-17 victory over Northwestern halftime adjustments on the defensive side of the ball.
Defensive coordinator Don Brown let loose on the players at the break, describing multiple instances where the Wolverines failed to contain Clayton Thorson and Northwestern’s offense.
Sophomore backup defensive end Kwity Paye was a force especially in the second half, finishing the game with four solo tackles, two tackles for a loss, two sacks and one quarterback hurry.
“At halftime, (Brown) let us know what stats they had,” Paye said. “He told us their run game stats, like how many yards they got. He wanted to prepare us for the same type of plays in the second half.”
Thorson was 10-of-14 through the air for 109 yards at halftime. Meanwhile, running back John Moten IV had a touchdown on nine carries for 19 yards.
One of the main issues from Michigan’s defense before halftime, as described by Paye, was allowing Thorson to sit in the pocket, resulting in multiple slant route completions.
“Second half, we allowed our pass rushers to get in there and sack that quarterback,” Paye explained. “It was like, ‘Let’s put our best pass rushers out there and straight pass rush them.'”
Chase Winovich and Rashan Gary are the top two defensive end pass rushers on the team, but Paye is not far behind. With Gary fighting an injury, linebacker Josh Uche was the other top pass rusher behind Winovich and Paye.
“He’s a monster and ya’ll are going to continue to see that,” Uche said of Paye.
On third down with 3:02 left to play and controlling a three-point lead, Paye sacked Thorson for a loss of 10 yards. The third down stop forced a punt and helped Michigan run down the clock on offense to secure a win.
Prior to taking down Northwestern, Michigan’s most recent win on the road was Nov. 11, 2017, against Maryland. Before then, it was against Indiana on Oct. 14, 2017.
“We proved something to ourselves,” Paye said. “We had a streak of losing on the road, so we knew we had to come out and get the win to prove ourselves.
“We were playing well but just had to pick it up a little bit. We just played our game.”
Paye credits defensive line coach Greg Mattison, Gary and Winovich for his success so far at the college level.
His legacy at Michigan is only beginning.