We can bitch about the offensive ineptitude all season - but most of us have prepared ourselves for that. We're also prepared to lose some football games. Heck, we're even coming to realize and prepare for freshman mistakes like bad routes, lack of blocking by skill players, and fumbles. But what I am NOT prepared for is a veteran defense giving up 500 yards and 45 points. They can't blame that on the offense this week. Only the late Odoms fumble was an example of the D being put in a bad spot. Otherwise the offense got them a lead and Zoltan pinned Illinois deep on most occassions. This loss was ALL on the defense.
Let me preface this entry by saying that I don't have a lot of football knowledge when it comes to specific formations, plays, or strategies. There are no doubt plenty of readers who can comment on those details and we'll get some more insight in the UFR. I was at the game and sitting in the fourth row, so my perspective may also be skewed with regard to what was actually happening.
That being said, I was frustrated by what I perceived to be a "prevent" defense being implemented consistently against Illinois in obvious passing downs. My definition of "prevent" is when you rush only three guys and drop 8 into a soft zone. I don't care if those three guys are Lawrence Taylor, Reggie White, and Derrick Thomas - when you have 5 offensive lineman blocking three rushers you're going to fail more often than you succeed. Against Illinois there were too many replays where I saw one of their offensive lineman looking around for someone to block and not finding anyone.
The fact is, Juice Williams is not a great passing QB. I'm sure ILL fans will point to his stats against Michigan to argue that point. But the guy completed only 50% of his passes. The fact that 13 completions went for 300+ yards is on the defense. Whenever he was pressured, he fired as inaccurately as Threet does on most occassions. But when he had all day to sit around looking for a receiver, he picked us apart. Like the DL analogy above, I'm convinced that a good pass rush will create an All-Pro corner out of a mediocre one. I don't care if you have Woodson, Law, and Jackson as your DBs - if they have to cover for a long time and the QB has a chance to read the defense, they'll lose most of the time. And that's what you saw on Saturday (in my opinion).
The 3-man rush, which I associate with "prevent" looked to be a failure on Saturday. I was told that Shafer loves to blitz.....but where was it? I know you take a risk when you blitz against a 5-wide formation with a running QB. But was that risk greater than letting Juice F-ing Williams pick you apart from an easy chair inside the pocket? I think we all realize that the defense has to create a turnover or two to compete against tough teams. How do you expect to get a turnover if you're rushing three and sitting in a soft zone?
That's my gripe - the defense blew the game and I thought they failed both in strategy and execution. Even a Henne-Hart-Manningham offense is going to struggle to overcome 45 points and 500 yards of offense. I thought Michigan should/could have scored 31 points - counting the 4 points that Lopata missed and the wide open miss of Odoms running down the middle of the field. Scoring 31 points with this young offense is pretty good....and we would have still lost by two touchdowns thanks to the defense.