Since halftime of the Illinois game, it sure feels that the Michigan defense is playing better.
Drive stats bear that out. Impressively, too. (Impressive? Our defense? Who knew.)
Excluding the overtimes vs Illinois and Purdue's last-minute garbage-time drive, the M defense has faced 22 drives that mattered in regulation in the past three halves of football.
Number of drives allowed of 30+ yards: Only THREE. (by far the biggest about-face stat of them all)
Number of touchdowns allowed: Only TWO (both by Illinois, and one on a 28-yard drive after Tate's inexplicable first-play fumble).
Number of FG attempts allowed: Only FOUR, but three were after deep-in-M-territory turnovers by our O, after which our defense held all three times on drives of 9, 16 and 2 yards.
Number of forced punts: ELEVEN
Number of three-and-outs: EIGHT
Number of interceptions: TWO
Number of recovered fumbles: THREE
Ummmm, isn't that what real defenses are supposed to do?
Yeah, I get it. Neither Illinois nor Purdue is good. But last year, and earlier this year, our defense was bad against bad teams, even bad this September against a I-AA team.
This is very good against one bad team and one mediocre team.
This is progress, boys.
What's more, by my count only three starters on D today were in those roles in September: CB James Rogers, DE Ryan Van Bergen and S Jordan Kovacs. Otherwise, backups were in today, or permanent replacement starters (who are playing better than their predecessors, eg Vinopal and Demens) or relocated starters (Cam Gordon, Craig Roh) whose strengths are propelled and weaknesses diminished in these new roles.
Perhaps best of all, these (um) not-exactly-fab five true-frosh DBs (Carvin, Avery, Vinopal, TTalbott and Christian) are starting to make plays, and that's because they're NEAR the ball when it reaches a WR. They're growing up. And getting comfortable. And thus making occasional plays.
Wisconsin and Ohio State both have offenses that are light-years better than Purdue's, and far better than Illinois', but hey. As Bo said, you're either getting better or you're getting worse. And we're getting better on D.