Why is Michigan Being Punished for 12 Defensive Points?

ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 03: Brandon Herron #58 of the Michigan Wolverines runs onto the field prior to playing the Western Michigan Broncos at Michigan Stadium on September 3, 2010 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

This post could alternatively be titled "Beauford Contradicts Himself Again."  In a post on Tuesday, I wrote this:

Obviously, the defensive scores were nice.  Jake Ryan's play to force that first INT was a special play.  It's hard to analyze these plays as much more than flukes, however.

Which is something that I now disagree with.  SCM has contributed mightily to this post, and it was a discussion with him, during which he disagreed with this statement, that I have generally come around to another line of thinking.  The spirit of my original thinking, and the spirit of many of those in the MSM (AHEM Bob Davie), is that the Michigan performance is somehow lessened by having two defensive scores that skewed the results.  This is bullshit.  I kind of hedge away from that when I go on to state that a 2-0 turnover margin (Ok fine, 3-0 when you count the center-exchange-fumble) is sustainable, but I want to make my position perfectly clear.

The team, namely the defense, played pretty darn well last week.  To simply chalk up those turnovers to some kind of "luck" is a discredit to the defense and the plays they made.  When a defense works hard, gets in the right position, and has some athletes go out and make a play, the expectation should be that they get a turnover.  This isn't a fluke, this is expected of a defense.  Under Rodriguez, anything good that happened to the defense was either self-inflicted by the offense, or the product of chance.  I'm not saying this defense is all-world, but those two turnovers (I'm not counting the serendipitous center-fumble) were forced turnovers that happened as a result of some fantastic individual plays.

The first INT by Herron was the result of Jake Ryan crashing through the line, beating a double team, and tipping the ball as it leaves Carder's hands.  That play was a result of Ryan making superior effort, and Herron taking it the rest of the way.  The Carder fumble was caused by Kovacs laying the most beautiful hit that a Michigan player has made in 4 years.  Again, Herron was there to make the play. 

When a defense gets turnovers from things like the QB just dropping the ball, or a center-snap-over-the-head Yakety Sax type deal, then maybe their flukey, and maybe you can't count them when you're evaluating the overall performance of a team.  But when turnovers are forced like they were on Saturday, that seems - to use a new favorite word of mine, apparently - sustainable.  The touchdowns, sure, you can't expect those to happen every game.  But this defense played well enough, and made enough plays to be rewarded with turnovers.  To chalk it up to anything else but (gasp) good defense is selling them short.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame has no discernable starting Quarterback, and a defense that allowed USF to go up and down the field on them.  Somehow, they are perceived as the more stable team...why?  Because their defense didn't score points? Because they lost the "right way?"  Make no mistake here, had those two turnovers not gone for scores, the Michigan offense would have come out and if future events were any indication, they probably would have gotten points.  It's not as if this is a 10-10 game if Michigan doesn't score those points defensively. To say that, somehow, the fact that the Michigan defense scored 12 points (not counting special teams) is a weakness is selling this team, and the defensive effort last Saturday, short.  Hopefully Notre Dame thinks this way too.

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