fair point that
Brady talked about the defensive line at the point of attack and stopping the running game. What things will you hone in on this week, because Indiana obviously runs it pretty well, too?
“State did a good job of bringing in an extra tackle, having two tight ends, and really in general they put a lot of beef out there. What happened is some of our kids didn’t hold the point like they wanted to and from that point on they ended up coming out onto our linebackers and it all has an effect [on[ down. We weren’t happy with how we played the run. We felt like that was something we’ve done most of they year and we had to do it this game. All that being said, you see how close you are because you’re right in it. We’re starting on the fifty yard line or starting wherever or doing whatever and you’re right in it until you give up the big play. And that’s bit us this year. That happened, and that’s me because I’m going to try any way I can to put your thumb in that hole, and whenever you do that there’s a chance of something happening and that happened here. Corner blitz and it was covered, it was covered, it was covered and then it wasn’t covered.
“The one that upset me more than anything was the goal line run down there in the first half. They came out- it was a good job by them. They came out in tempo. They hadn’t shown any tempo. I was looking to make a call and all of a sudden I look up and they’re on the line of scrimmage and that’s me, that’s not them. I felt really bad about that because our kids, they don’t deserve that. They work so hard. They really were into this game and they really wanted to show supposedly what kind of defense they are and not that.”
Brady was asked about what was left to accomplish this year just given the way things are and what’s left, maybe a bowl. When you talk to your guys about what’s left what are those [things you] focus [on]?
“Become as good as they can be. Go out every day and do what we started the season out to do, and that was one of the things we talked about watching the tape. We’re going to coach as hard or harder than we have all year and expect them to play as hard as they have and I still expect good things will happen for them and there’ll be no let down. That’s not the way our kids are, and it’s definitely not the way we are or I am and I have all the confidence in the world that our kids are going to come out and play their butts off because that’s who they are. We’ve got to go one game at a time.
“This next one is going to be, defensively, a real challenge. You’re going against a great running back. You saw what they did last year. They put some points up so this is the next one. This is a big test for our kids because you get all this not having success like you’ve worked to have and can you bounce back? Can you bounce back? And I believe they will. I really believe that this group will.”
[After THE JUMP: It’s a Joe Bolden/Jake Ryan/Delano Hill hype party and you’re all invited]
Two strong defenses here. I guess just looking at what Pat Narduzzi’s doing in East Lansing compared to what you want to do, what this team is capable of, how would you size up the two defenses and as a coordinator are you excited to see maybe those two units be the difference makers on Saturday?
“Well, the first question, how do you size up the two defenses; I mean, I don’t think you ever judge a defense until the season is over. I know you go game-to-game. I know we have goals each game that [are] how we want to play, the level we always want to have our kids play at. How do you judge a defense? Is it stats? Is it points? Is it points that your defense gave up? Is it points that the special teams gave up? Is it points that somebody else…I don’t think you judge it that way. I think you judge a defense by what they do game-to-game, do they do what they have to do to win the game, and how they finish a season, what they do at the end of the year, what it all looks like at the end of the year.
“As far as playing against…you know, I never play against a person. We’re playing- this is Michigan football playing their next game against an in-state rival and I’m excited about it and that’s really how I look at it.”
Michigan State’s been known for their defense in the past but the offense seems to have made great strides this year, putting up big numbers. How much better are they this year and how big of a challenge are they for your defense?
“Well, they’re a very good offense. They’ve done a great job first and foremost running the football. They’ve got some playmakers at wide receiver. They’ve got a very, very good tight end. They’ve got a good offensive line. They’ve done a good job, and it’s going to be a very, very good offense to go against and I think they’ve done a very good job on offense.”
Where have you seen Connor Cook improve?
“Well, Connor, he’s a very good quarterback. I think the biggest place you’ve seen him improve is he doesn’t get sacked. He seems like he gets the ball out quick. He seems like he knows where to go with it, and I think his maturity, his year-to-year, I think he’s a better quarterback. I think he’s a very, very good quarterback.”
[After THE JUMP: Mattison watches some football, makes fun of some things, and scouts the Spartans]
Among this year's great disappointments has been the understandable, but nonetheless depressing, regression of 2013 Michigan's two best defensive players. Jake Ryan looks lost at MLB. Blake Countess is now the third or fourth best cornerback on this roster. Both appear to be a direct result of the offseason decision to switch from Michigan's 4-3 under/zone defense to a jam-man, nickel/4-3 over base.
I'm sure Brian is going to cover Jake Ryan with a picture pages, so I thought I'd zoom in on a play that's demonstrative of what's happening with Countess, and how that's hurting the defense. This is the first of Rutgers's many 3rd down conversions. Michigan had a backside blitz on with the front seven and was playing man-high pass D. Rutgers ran a pick route from the trips tight formation:
This is a standard thing you do against man coverage. The Y receiver will run his route directly in the path of the cornerback trying to guard the outside (Z) receiver. It works just a like a perimeter screen in basketball: the pick man and the defender following him create a wall between the target and his defender…
Voila: easy pass…
…which is unfortunate because a certain Rutgers lineman blew his MIKE assignment and Jake Ryan was about to turn Gary Nova into paste. Jeremy Clark then compounded matters by setting up too far inside and turned it into a big play.
To a degree you might RPS this, because Rutgers called a pick route against man coverage, and Nova pointed right at the matchups to show his guys they had what they wanted. But the way Michigan's defense is supposed to work is for man-tight to be a base play, and there is absolutely a way to defend this pass with Michigan's defensive call… [jump] [also if you're at work maybe put your headsets on because you know what's coming]
Just the sheer number of passing yards you allowed; was there a consistent breakdown you saw or…?
“Well, you’re right. The numbers- anytime you give up six big plays, and you know our stand on big plays has always been we can’t have that to have a successful defense. I don’t ever remember giving up that many big plays, and one of them was for 80 yards, I believe, [and] another was for 50-some. The numbers will add up pretty quick when that happens.
“The quarterback had a great game. He made some really, really great plays. We busted on a couple. We didn’t keep the ball inside and in front, and when that happens 30 yards gains could become 50 yards or bigger and we’ve got to get that corrected, and that’s me. That’s up to me to make sure that doesn’t happen again and we get it corrected and we’ll start on it right away.”
Was it one player or-
“No, it was the defense. It was the team defense. It’s never one player. No. And it’s like, you’re playing really, really good and then something happens like that and then you get back to doing it again and again and sometimes the first down that is third-and-10 is as big as a fifty-yarder. And they all seem to be the same things, where you’ve got to make a tackle, where you’ve got to keep a ball inside and in front, where you try to pressure, when you pressure and all of a sudden you hit one and it’s a sixty-yarder. So it’s a matter of different things. Six big plays, different things at different times that we’ve got to get corrected.”
Where are your defensive backs in the process of being able to recognize a situation and say, ‘We need to switch things’ on the field and make a change?
“Well, I think everybody- I don’t think it is the scheme of the coverage. I think it’s a different person not executing the coverage. I think it’s a different person not getting the sack when he had a stunt that said that this was what was going to happen and if you do it we’ve got one. It’s never a corner, it’s never a safety, it’s never a defensive end, it’s never a linebacker, it’s everybody. That’s what your job is, to make sure you get those corrected and get those handled and the thing that’s frustrating is that hasn’t happened before. It hasn’t happened, and we’ve got to get that nipped immediately. And the thing I do say is this quarterback, with his feet and with a couple of the receivers, with their skill all coming together showed that six or seven times and we can’t let that happen.”
MGoQuestion: Can you walk us through what happened on the 80-yard touchdown pass?
“Yeah, I know exactly what happened on the 80-yard touchdown pass is we called a defense where a safety would be lower than usual to be able to help with the run and we didn’t get inside enough with another defensive back, and knowing the whole scheme of the defense, knowing where you’re a little bit weak- whenever you call a defense there’s always somebody that has a little bit more on his plate than everybody else or otherwise you’re going to run just straight generic defenses all the time, and it’s just a matter of everybody being focused in at that time to say, ‘Okay, I’m the one that can’t do this. I can’t bite on this out route right now. I can’t bite on this route because we’re a little bit weaker here’ and they happened to have the perfect call. They called a play-action pass. The guy- we bit on it and they hit. And that’s what happened.”
[After THE JUMP: Mattison needs his defense to hit, and he isn’t referring to tackling]
Could you please identify yourself for those of us who don’t know you?
“Oh, okay. Greg Mattison. I’m the defensive coordinator.”
Coach, you were playing in your half of the field the entire third quarter. That drive right before the half: talk about in terms of what it did maybe getting the momentum-
“Well, I don’t think it changed anything when we went in at halftime. I was disappointed in that. The thing I was looking at there was that if we could stop them and had a timeout left we could possibly get the ball on a short field for our offense, and that’s my mistake. We didn’t get it done and whenever we don’t get it done I look at myself first, and as I looked at the tape- you know, third down…that’s why I don’t believe in stats a lot. Our third downs were adequate. They were adequate.
“There were some second downs we had to do better that we gave up some chunks of yardage [on], but to answer your question you’re exactly right. As I was making the calls, as that was happening I said to myself, ‘We’ve got to stop them here and get that ball for the offense. They’re going to have a heck of a shot at possibly having a short field.’ And then they hit the screen, which they did twice, which was just a very well-educated play and that comes down to one guy making a tackle and the guy made us miss.”
Greg, Joe Bolden after the game Saturday talked about kind of a lack of execution and said that was a big problem. [He] mentioned wrapping guys up with David Cobb. What can these guys learn from that? He was really the first guy to run over you guys this season?
“I don’t know if he ran over us but he did better against us than we want anybody to do. He’s a very good running back. I’ve already addressed that with our linebackers and with our defense. We’ve got to play a lot more physical. That was the first time that I felt that we weren’t the leaders in being physical against that offense, and it was guys not getting off blocks, it was guys punching and things that we’ve worked very hard on all camp and just not being physical. I didn’t feel we were as physical as we should be and have to be and we’re working on correcting that right now.”
Is that a defense-wide issue?
“Yeah. It’s total defense. Not just one position, it was total defense. I just didn’t think…you know, we take pride and have all year, take pride in being a very physical team on defense and I just don’t think we did as well as we should have there in that game.”
[After THE JUMP: Greg Mattison scouts Rutgers]
“Hello, everybody. I almost didn’t make it today. I was kind of busy over there trying to get ready for this next one. Somebody had to tell me to come but it’s good to see everybody. Go ahead.”
Greg, the run defense remains a strength. I know that the secondary needs some work, though. Overall, what’s your assessment of your defense through four games?
“I don’t look at four games. I always look at the last game. We didn’t win. There’s a point when you become- and that’s our goal, to become a great defense, is you do whatever you have to to win. You do whatever you have to. And that in a lot of places means don’t even let them get in the end zone in any way. Am I proud of these guys? I’ve told you from day one I really like these guys. I mean, I like how they work. I like what they bring to the meeting room every day. I like what they bring to the practice field. I like how they compete. Do we do it perfect all the time [and] have we? No. And do we have to keep working to do that? Yes. Until we do whatever we possibly have to do to get the win then we haven’t totally reached the mark.”
Coach, I’ll have you comment on a couple of things. One, the breakthrough on producing a score on defense, but then the drive that they had coming out of the second half.
“Getting the score, that’s a guy playing hard in practice every day. That’s a guy doing the things [he needs to]. That’s a guy improving, Willie Henry. That was a guy making a play that he had to make a play and we’ve talked about him, too, [and] what he’s done since the day he got here. His improvement. Becoming mature, practice habits, all that and that’s great to see that happen for him. Same thing for Frank [Clark]. That sack he got was a big league sack. Those things happen because you work hard and you practice hard.
“Coming out in the second half at half time…they got us on two plays that were corrected immediately after that happened. It’s a shame that I didn’t see it quicker. It’s a shame that I didn’t do something after the first time to eliminate- it was the exact same play that scored a touchdown on it and that’s where maybe I need to see that quicker from what happened and stop that one touchdown and, again, that’s my job. But they adjusted then and that’s how they got there. That’s what happened after [the] half.”
Jake Ryan had a career-high 13 tackles. He has an unorthodox way of doing things sometimes but gets the job done. Talk about the essence of Jake Ryan as a defensive force.
“Well, Jake and Joe [Bolden]. I’ll put them together. Your linebackers in this defense have got to make a lot of plays because you’re getting very good play out of the front in front of them. When the front demands double teams and when the front does what they’ve been doing then there are so many times when a linebacker, if he does what he’s supposed to do with his footwork, with his keys, with his recognition, is there with nobody blocking him. Now make the tackle. And their effort, Joe and Jake, their effort, their toughness, their playing what I consider linebacker, that’s been good and we’ve got to keep getting better.”
But Jake in particular. I touched on his unorthodox manner sometimes in getting the job done. Can you talk about him in particular?
“I don’t know what unorthodox is. To me, it’s when the ball carrier has the football and you tackle him, you’re playing linebacker. Sometimes they’re not picture-perfect tackles. Sometimes you may not be perfect with your footwork, stepping down and all of a sudden coming back. Jake’s been unorthodox since the day he got here. You know, that’s Jake and that’s why I love him but I can’t say it enough: Joe being in there with him, Joe doing what he’s doing- I mean, I don’t know what you had him for tackles but I had him the same way with pretty close. And we’ve just got to keep them both doing what they’re doing and it’s the front that’s helping them do that.”
[After THE JUMP: playing euchre, wrestling Hoke, and other tales of a 30-year friendship]