Last week, we saw Michigan's defense play decently. Not great by any means, after all, they did give up 535 yards, but decently. Against UMass, we exhibited what will hopefully be our worst defensive performance of the year. We gave up 436 yards, which is bad against pretty much any team. And we gave them up on only 12 drives, which is even worse. And when you discount a knee to end the first half, these numbers become 438 yards on 11 drives, or 39.8 yards per drive (in contrast, Notre Dame had 17 drives, good for 31.5 yards per drive including the 95 yard pass). On these 11 drives, UMass scored six times (5 TDs, 1 FG). We can't just blame the secondary for having a bad day too because UMass ran the ball 20 more times than they threw the ball and rushed for over 200 yards on the ground. And to cap it all off, UMass is an FCS team.
Just think about it, we gave up 436 yards, 217 rushing, to a FCS team. A good FCS team, perhaps, a FCS team nonetheless. That is simply inexcusable for a Michigan team. And if we replicate this defensive performance against any team in the Big Ten, we will be eviscerated.
So today we learned that when our defense has a bad game, pretty much anyone can beat us. And we also learned that it's not just the pass defense that's an issue. Our run defense was absolutely atrocious today. The offensive line regularly produced holes for UMass's RBs and our tackling was...
I don't think there's a word in the English language that adequately describes how bad our tackling was. On the other hand, there is a valid analogy:
Our tackling was as bad as our special teams play.
On the other hand, the game wasn't all bad. For instance, while our offense came out very flat, we still managed to put 42 points on the board. Denard continued to play very well after recovering from a terrible interception on his first pass, putting up 104 rushing yards and an impressive 241 passing yards on only 14 attempts. Meanwhile, Hemingway came back and contributed a 36 yard reception and Darryl Stonum had an incredible day with 3 receptions for 121 yards and 2 TDs, including one 66 yard TD on a screen pass. Meanwhile, Michael Shaw also had an excellent game, running the ball 12 times for 126 yards and three touchdowns, while also making a 7 yard reception. This is all very encouraging, especially since the offense came out playing a little shaky. Of course, this came against a FCS defense, so take it for what its worth.
The bottom line is that we won ugly. Very ugly. Against a team where we should be able to beat by double digits even if we're playing badly. We learned that our defense is shaky at best, as expected, and that our special teams are terrible, so our offense is going to have to win some games for us. Still, it was a win and we probably came out flatter than we will at any other time this year, considering that we were playing a FCS team and we won a rivalry game last week in highly exciting fashion, making a letdown somewhat understandable.