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Greg Mattison prepares defense for next big challenge in Penn State's Christian Hackenberg

After surrendering over 400 passing yards to Rutgers' Gary Nova last Saturday, the road to fixing the defense becomes more difficult with Christian Hackenberg coming to Michigan Stadium.

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan defense was left reeling after Rutgers' Gary Nova torched the Wolverines for over 400 yards passing and three touchdowns during Michigan's 26-24 loss.

It won't get any easier on Saturday.

With Penn State and sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg ready to enter Ann Arbor, the Michigan defense needs to cut down on the big plays if it stands a chance to win against the more talented competition of the conference. At least, that is what defensive coordinator Greg Mattison believes.

"Any time you give up six big plays (against Rutgers,) our stand on big plays has always been we can't have that to be a successful defense, I don't remember giving up that many big plays," said Mattison.

It appeared to be so bad that Mattison "couldn't remember" the last time the defense had given up so many big plays.

Hackenberg, who currently sits third in the conference with 1477 passing yards, is capable of the big plays that torched the Michigan defense against Rutgers. While his arm will certainly be on showcase Saturday night, Mattison has taken notice of what kind of football player he has become.

"As far as Hack, he's good," Mattison said. "He's got a great arm and he can make all the passes. He's a football player, this will be a big challenge. He's got some skilled wide receivers and I am looking forward to them coming here."

Quite like Rutgers' Leonte Caroo who saw success against Michigan, Penn State also has a talented wide receiver compliment to Hackenberg. Sophomore DaeSean Hamilton currently ranks second in the conference with 502 yards receiving. Despite a high yardage number, Hamilton currently does not have any receiving touchdowns credited to him.

Despite the similarities between the two teams, the Michigan defense must step up and avoid its fourth-straight loss. Although Mattison has placed the defensive issues squarely on his shoulders and his coaching, the pass defense issues, especially the big gain plays suffered against Rutgers, need to be fixed to avoid a repeat performance.

"We busted on a couple (of coverages) and we didn't keep the ball inside and in front," Mattison said. "When that happens, 30 yard gains could become 50 yards or bigger. We've got to get that corrected and that's me. That's on me to make sure that doesn't happen again and we get it corrected. We'll start on it right away."