Michigan's Defense Rebounding Mentally From Ohio State Blowout

Michigan's Defense Rebounding Mentally From Ohio State Blowout

Football

Michigan's Defense Rebounding Mentally From Ohio State Blowout

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Of the multiple possible outcomes for Michigan’s regular season finale, nobody — and I mean nobody — could have accurately predicted that Ohio State would put up 62 points — a series record — on the nation’s best defense in Michigan. Going into The Game, anyone who predicted as such was likely draped in scarlet and grey gear, muttering ‘Go Bucks!’ under their breath at every turn.

Yet, that’s precisely what happened.

For the second time in defensive coordinator Don Brown’s tenure in Ann Arbor, the Michigan defense was exposed by an elite offense, after multiple games in which the Wolverines were absolutely shut down throughout the season. With Heisman Trophy contender and Big Ten record setting quarterback Dwayne Haskins under center for the Buckeyes, Ohio State eviscerated a Michigan defense that had been holding most teams to either their worst statistical output, or close.

Naturally, having that kind of drubbing at the hands of your rival isn’t just un-ideal. It’s debilitating.

Team captain and senior safety Tyree Kinnel, an Ohio native who ended up going 0-4 against OSU in his Michigan tenure, says that the return to Ann Arbor was a somber one. But, the time for dwelling on Ohio State is now behind this team.

“Everybody was pretty bummed out,” Kinnel said. “We felt like we could have played better as a team, as a defense. But right now, we’ve just gotta move forward.”

His fellow teammate in the defensive backfield agreed.

Junior safety Josh Metellus says that the team was naturally disappointed. But, in the aftermath, it helped them come together with the intent of being stronger.

With Florida on the docket in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, this team knows it can’t hang up the cleats just yet.

“I actually learned how close this team is,” Metellus said. “When stuff like that happens, a lot of people tend to break down, shy away, try to get into their little bubbles. But we came in Monday, everybody had each other’s back, everybody was pushing each other to keep going. We know we have one more game left. Can’t dwell on the past.

“I just feel this team has really built this relationship that can’t be broken no matter what happens.”

As of Monday, the Wolverines had not collectively watched the film from Ohio State, as the coaches immediately took to the road to recruit. But the maize and blue wasn’t left in the lurch, either.

While the defense especially returned to Schembechler Hall somewhat in the doldrums, the strength and conditioning staff did their job to not just keep the training going, but to help lift the unit’s spirits, and re-center the focus for the final game of the season.

Of course, players like Kinnel took the loss hard, but with the strength staff’s help, he moved on quickly.

“It took a little minute, but I was good,” Kinnel said. “You’ve got to get over it and move forward. I feel like the strength coaches did a good job last week with that. Talked to us about it during the week last week while we had our lifts. I feel like our team’s in a pretty good spot mentally. Our goal right now is to beat Florida.

“Just told us we’ve got to move on. It happened and we can’t dwell on it. We can’t keep it with us, because if we do, we’re not going to have a good outcome in our next game.”

But, once the coaches return from the road and start bowl practice in earnest, it’s important for the Michigan defense to learn at which points they were exposed, and how they can fix it.

At this juncture, they’re not entirely sure what went fully wrong, but, like with what happened a year ago at Penn State, this team is determined to solve those issues. Because Florida will try to do the same thing Ohio State did, as will every other team the Wolverines will face in the foreseeable.

And if all goes to plan, fixing those issues will lead to an eleventh win, an even more dominant defense, and a team that can stop the Buckeyes a year from now.

So, as painful as it might be, the team will watch the film from Nov. 24 and correct everything they can from there.

“Yeah, because we have to watch it – whatever they did to us, everybody else is gonna try to do to us,” Metellus said. “We have to watch that. We have to learn from that. Same with Penn State last year. Whatever they did worked. We knew we brought that, we knew we had to fix those problems going into every week after that.”

“I feel like we’ve got a good chance to change that around,” Kinnel said. “That only happened once to us this year. I feel like that’s not who we are. I feel like we’re going to come into this matchup (with) the defense we’ve been playing like all year. We’ve got about a good month to get ready.”

Michigan and Florida will kick off on Dec. 29 in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta at noon EST.

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