Michigan Wolverines: After Shutting out Illinois, Is the Michigan Defense Back?

Jonathan PeraltaContributor IIIOctober 15, 2012

October 13, 2012; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini running back Donovonn Young (5) is stopped short of the first down on a fourth down play by Michigan Wolverines linebacker Kenny Demens (25) in the second quarter at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE
Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

The Michigan Wolverines finished 110th nationally in total defense for the 2010 season. Their defense was abysmal, not something that comes to mind when you think about Wolverines football.

The program looked nothing like what former head coach and icon Bo Schembechler had instilled, and what was carried on by his successors Gary Moeller and Lloyd Carr after that—both keeping the Schembechler ways that made Michigan so successful.

After coach Carr retired in 2007, Michigan brought in Rich Rodriguez and his spread offense, a major change from Michigan's culture. In Rodriguez's three-year tenure, the Wolverines had one of the worst programs in team history. Michigan wasn't a dominant team.

Rodriguez ended his stint with the Wolverines after three seasons with a 15-22 record and winless against Michigan-rivals Michigan State and Ohio State.

Two years after the disastrous Rodriguez experiment, new head coach Brady Hoke has been a breath of fresh air pumping new, er, old life back into the Michigan program. Hoke led the Wolverines to a successful first season finishing the regular season with a 10-2 record (which includes wins over rivals Notre Dame and Ohio State) and a Sugar Bowl victory over the Virginia Tech Hokies.

What changed?

Well, for starters, the defense improved leaps and bounds compared to the defense under Rodriguez, who at times looked like they were playing two-hand touch. There has been a real transformation going on since Hoke joined Michigan. The defensive corps went back to the basics and fundamentals, no thanks to old Wolverine's defensive coordinator Greg Mattison—who is familiar with the Michigan program from coaching their defense back in '95 and '96—who vowed to bring Michigan football back and to bring Michigan defense back.


Four games into this 2012 season, going 2-2 wasn't an ideal start. The defense and offense both struggled. What was encouraging in the loss against Notre Dame in Week 4, though, was that the defense looked good. They held Notre Dame to only 239 total yards and 13 points.

Two Saturday’s ago against the Purdue Boilermakers, the Michigan defense started to look like the defense of old: dominant. They manhandled the opposing team, holding them to only 213 yards while getting their first conference win on the road which is never an easy feat.

This past weekend they completely shut down the Fighting Illini. How did the defense do? They held Illinois to zero points, beating them a whopping 45-0. The Michigan defense allowed only 134 total yards in the game—only 13 yards in the second half.

The past three games their defense has allowed only two touchdowns, and is No. 1 in passing defense in the Big Ten. Their defense picked a helluva time to come alive—just in time for conference play.


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