Maryland's Matt Canada on Michigan Defense: 'They're the Best in the Country'

Maryland's Matt Canada on Michigan Defense: 'They're the Best in the Country'

Football

Maryland's Matt Canada on Michigan Defense: 'They're the Best in the Country'

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — After six weeks of college football in 2018, there’s one team atop the rankings when it comes to defense: Michigan. It should be no surprise to anyone who’s paid attention to what’s been going on in Ann Arbor since Don Brown arrived prior to the 2016 season.

Now armed with the nation’s top pass defense, the Wolverines keep rolling, much to the chagrin of a solid Maryland offensive unit, which was 11th at running the ball coming into Saturday’s contest. After Saturday? Maryland is now 21st.

The Terrapins averaged 260 yards-per-game on the ground, but the Wolverines held them to 147 total — 101 of which came in the fourth quarter, with the game already out of hand, as the maize and blue had a 20 point advantage.

Passing the ball wasn’t Maryland’s strong suit, and it didn’t give it any help this Saturday either. The Terps finished with just 73 yards passing on the day, the second worst output the outfit has has on the season.

With the offensive attack rendered ineffective, Maryland offensive coordinator and interim head coach Matt Canada made no bones about why his team was unable to do much of anything against the Wolverines. As far as he sees it, it was all about the Michigan defense, from start to finish.

While there was still a lack of execution from his squad in many respects, Canada relents that that was due to what the Wolverines’ defense brought to the table.

“Defensively, they’re number one in the nation for a reason,” Canada said. “They did a great job. Don Brown is one of the best defensive coordinators around. Credit to him and what they do on defense.

“Obviously for us, we’re disappointed. We didn’t play our best football, taking us away (from the ability to). They did it – they forced us not to play our best football.”

He continued:

“We didn’t play well,” Canada said. “But there’s no confusion about it – we didn’t play well because they’re a really good defense. They’re the best defense in the country. But we didn’t execute our offense, and that’s what’s disappointing. I’m not saying it would have been totally different, because I give great credit for the way they play and how hard they play and how well they’re coached. But we didn’t play well enough. We weren’t assignment-sound.”

Of course, Michigan continued its dominance through solid line play and bringing pressure up front — Don Brown’s proverbial calling card.

The Wolverines didn’t get home as much as they are accustomed, only netting two sacks and five tackles for loss. Yet, what pressure up front is still what made the difference in Canada’s eyes.

There was also some confusion in the defensive backfield that played a significant role, as Canada says that there were some different things that Michigan brought to the table that he hadn’t seen before on film. With Michigan already putting a premium on stopping the run, Maryland looked to pass (even though the Terrapins had less attempts in this game than in any other previously). However, because of what the Wolverines were able to do, that also didn’t work.

“There was a third down play where they ran a blitz and played a little different coverage than I thought they were going to,” Canada said. “That’s a great job by them. There was one blitz that got us on one of the sacks. We have answers for everything – but not really. They play very hard, and you knew they were going to be at the line of scrimmage. They wanted to stop the run. We’ve got to make plays in the passing game, right? We have to make plays in the passing game to have some balance at times. If we can run the ball, we will.”

But it wasn’t just the interim head coach that saw how mighty the Michigan defense was.

Maryland running back Tayon Fleet-Davis was the team’s leading rusher on the day with 11 carries for 63 yards, with one long run of 20 yards. But the sophomore says that he and his team’s inability to move the ball much or do what they wanted to do on the ground was negated by Michigan’s team speed.

“They’re fast, they flow very fast, very disciplined,” Fleet-Davis said. “Altogether, they’re very strong. They’re a good defense.”

While the defense may have stolen the show, the Wolverines were no slouches on offense, either.

29 of the 42 points came on the offensive side of the ball (Michigan added a pick six by Brandon Watson and two field goals by Quinn Nordin), and aside from a tipped pass off of Zach Gentry’s fingertips for a Maryland interception, the Wolverines only punted once.

Maryland entered the game as one of the nation’s best at stopping teams from converting on third downs, but Michigan converted on a 69% clip, the best performance the offense has had in that metric to date (the Wolverines hadn’t converted more than 50% of their 3rd down attempts heading into the game).

Defensive back Antoine Brooks said that Michigan’s discipline and deception played a big part in allowing the maize and blue to keep moving the chains and keeping the Maryland defense on the field.

“They did good with losing our eyes,” Brooks said. “They had good eye control on third down. We need to do better with that. We’re gonna do good in practice, we’re going to work on that in practice.”

The difference-maker there, of course, is Shea Patterson, who, in his sixth game as a Wolverine continued to make plays with his arm and his feet. Patterson finished with 282 yards passing, completing 70.8% of his passes and rushed twice for 10 yards.

Brooks says that his ability to move the pocket played a big difference in the game, and was a big reason why he was so effective against Maryland’s defense.

“He’s a good running quarterback,” Brooks said. “He does well working out of the pocket throwing the ball and getting good (downfield) plays outside of the pocket. We tried to keep him in the pocket, but quarterbacks make good plays.”

Michigan will now move on to its three-game gauntlet in the schedule, as the Wolverines welcome the formidable Wisconsin Badgers to The Big House for a 7:30PM kickoff this Saturday.

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