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Film Focus: Michigan defense vs Maryland offense

The Terrapins had 47 total yards late in the third quarter. It was that kind of day for Don Brown’s defense.

Dustin Johnston

It’s hard to take much from Michigan’s dominant defensive effort over Maryland.

Despite explosive days against Texas, Minnesota and Bowling Green, the Terps rank No. 85 offensively per S&P. Ty Johnson and Anthony McFarland provide much-needed athleticism on the ground, but Kasim Hill is helming the nation’s third-worst passing offense.

Regardless, Michigan stifled Maryland to 47 total yards before their first offensive touchdown drive deep into the third quarter. That’ll do, right?

DRIVE ONE, MARY 25-YARD LINE (11:52 FIRST QUARTER)

Offensive coordinator (and interim head coach) Matt Canada rolls Hill to the right away from Chase Winovich. With Rashan Gary sitting out with an AC joint boo boo, Canada thinks he can choose where to move the pocket.

Devin Bush emphatically contradicts that, albeit absorbing a late hit flag on a bang-bang play.

It’s a 50-50 flag, but it’s hard to tell someone with Bush’s speed to reverse his momentum with that little space. Tough call.

Maryland then lines up in a formation akin to academy football: a quarterback under center, two wingbacks and an up-back. McFarland goes in motion, takes a jet sweep and gets one blocker for two defenders. He beats Khaleke Hudson to the edge for six yards.

Next, Canada deploys a series of shifts to get the defense guessing which was the strong side. First, one set of a tight end and fullback move to the right side, then another one moves with an extra lineman to the left side. After all that, Winovich busts through a double to take down the back for a single yard.

Brown uncharacteristically only sends his front four on third down. The Terrapins — between future NFL tackles Damian Prince and Derwin Gray — give Hill enough time to beat Tyree Kinnel on a crossing route.

After pressure forces a throw off the mark, Canada inserts backup quarterback Tyrell “Piggy” Pigrome to run a full-house pistol look. Johnson totes on a stretch run to the left, which both Bush and Devin Gil chase down for a loss.

Considering the speed he shows later on the kickoff return touchdown, two linebackers beating him to a corner is impressive.

Michael Dwumfour pushes the Terrapins out of field goal range with the sack on third down. He channels Ryan Glasgow more than frequent comparison Maurice Hurst here. Rather than teleporting around a lineman, Dwumfour fully extends with his arms and rips through the block en route to Hill.

Drive: Six plays, 30 yards, punt (Game tied 0-0)

DRIVE TWO, MARY 24-YARD LINE (4:47 FIRST QUARTER)

Brown brilliantly sends both Aidan Hutchinson and Hudson at a tight end, leading to a first-down sack.

A tight end usually isn't as savvy as linemen on knowing when to slide protect, so Brown exploits this.

The next play is a very underrated one by Josh Metellus. Maryland shifts to get Derwin Gray on the edge. The 330-pounder is one-on-one with the 204-pound safety. Instead of trouble, Metellus makes himself small and forces the jet sweep back inside for only six yards.

Hill misses a receiver with a step on Jaylen Kelly-Powell to force a punt.

Drive: Three plays, two yards, punt (Michigan scores to lead 3-0)

KICKOFF RETURN

Simply put, the coverage team abandoned their lanes by assuming Johnson would return up the middle. Once he cut upfield on the sideline, there was no one to challenge him.

Terps take the lead 7-3.

DRIVE THREE, 50-YARD LINE (0:10 FIRST QUARTER)

Despite some dings at defensive tackle coming into last Saturday — Lawrence Marshall returning and Aubrey Solomon on week-to-week injury watch — the nation’s No. 4 most explosive rush attack can’t find any room. Johnson gains just six yards on two carries into the teeth of the defense.

Pressure forces another Hill throw off his back foot out of bounds. Punt.

Drive: Three plays, six yards, punt (Michigan scores to lead 10-7)

DRIVE FOUR, MARY 25-YARD LINE (8:21 SECOND QUARTER)

Maryland busted only two double-digit gains in the first half. One was actually well-defended, but arm tackles allowed McFarland to squirt forward for 15 yards.

The line flows well to the point of attack, but Winovich tries to trip him at the knees. Kinnel gets juked out of his shoes, as well.

A holding penalty pushes the offense backwards, and they respond with conservative run calls to prevent a turnover.

Drive: Four plays, 10 yards, punt (Michigan scores to lead 17-7)

Hill kneels to go into halftime.

DRIVE FIVE, MARY 25-YARD LINE (START OF THIRD QUARTER)

After an unsportsmanlike penalty on Michigan and an illegal formation on Maryland, the Terrapins take over first-and-15 from the 35. They try their bread and butter on a jet sweep to Tayon Fleet-Davis.

This is to avoid a quietly dominant presence from Bryan Mone in the interior. Despite the massive Terrance Davis at guard, Canada’s rushing attack has been pushed back every time it’s tried an inside run. Mone is pushing large, strong linemen backwards.

Metellus trips up Fleet-Davis on the edge for just five yards. While Kinnel had his struggles Saturday, Metellus mostly locked down his assignments.

A false start and a facemask push the Terps back further. On third-and-30, Josh Uche gobbles up Hill on a broken play.

Drive: Three plays, -11 yards, punt (Michigan scores to lead 20-7)

DRIVE SIX, MARY 2-YARD LINE (7:09 THIRD QUARTER)

Three runs inside for very little, as Canada just tried to avoid a mistake backed up against his own goal line. Props to Josh Ross to sticking a back in the lane on the first carry.

Between Ross and Gil, the concerns about the WILL linebacker have dissipated.

Drive: Three plays, three yards, punt (Michigan scores to lead 27-7)

DRIVE SEVEN, MARY 25-YARD LINE (2:15 THIRD QUARTER)

Fleet-Davis gets 19 yards on two runs as Canada starts targeting Hutchinson on the edge. It’s possible his assignment is to stay at home on the inside, so he crashes down anticipating a fake on the jet sweep to an inside run. Metellus finds himself in two straight one-on-one situations with pulling linemen, so unlike before, he is not up to the task.

That’s not a ding on him, but just a testament to Canada’s acumen as a play-caller.

Gil reacts a touch slowly on the ensuing four-yard run. The front four hold the line against double-teams, allowing the linebackers to react unimpeded. Instead, the back gets positive yardage.

Hutchinson fights off a tight end block to swallow an edge play for no gain.

Nobody accounts for Fleet-Davis out of the backfield, so he rumbles for 19 yards. It’s unclear whether Hudson or the WILL backer was supposed to grab this, but this goes back to an issue with this defense in checking running backs on routes.

Hill starts taking advantage of mismatches against Maryland’s slot receivers. First, Taivon Jacobs sneaks out of the wingback position for a five-yard gain. Next, Jeshaun Jones beats Kinnel clean on a slant for eight.

After the teams scuffled into a fourth-and-six, Hill found D.J. Turner for 12 on an in-route past Kelly-Powell. The Terrapins eventually punched the ball in for a score, with Javon Leake running around right end.

The big breakdowns came from newer players such as Kelly-Powell, but one can’t help but sense complacency from the defense on these closing drives.

Drive: 15 plays, 75 yards, touchdown (Michigan scores to lead 35-14)

DRIVE EIGHT, MARY 25-YARD LINE (6:31 FOURTH QUARTER)

Skipping ahead to the pick-six.

First of all, kudos to Michigan On BTN for grabbing the highlight without the Kavanaugh interruption.

Second, watch how Brandon Watson positions himself on the inside hip of the receiver. How many times have you seen Michigan burned on these crossing routes? It’s usually due to the corners reacting by tracking assignments step-for-step. Instead, Watson anticipates, steps in front — which sets him on a path away from the linebacker traffic — and intercepts it.

Drive: Six plays, 30 yards, interception return for touchdown (Michigan leads 42-14)

DRIVE NINE, MARY 22-YARD LINE (4:25 FOURTH QUARTER)

The final drive featured little-used senior Reuben Jones, walk-on nose tackle Carl Myers and sophomore Donovan Jeter up front. Naturally, Pigrome jukes Jones on a 42-yard jaunt.

With the linebackers worried about the middle now, Fleet-Davis rips off a 20-yarder off a jet sweep. Pigrome scores on a keeper, as Ross is occupied by a guard.

Drive: Six plays, 78 yards, touchdown (Michigan wins 42-21)

FINAL THOUGHTS

Complacency and backups bolstered Maryland’s numbers near the end. 153 of the Terrapins’ 220 total yards came on the two touchdown drives.

With those late mistakes, though, expect Brown to emphasize stopping the jet sweep, considering that’s also a staple of Wisconsin’s offensive diet.

The most encouraging aspects from last Saturday have to be the defensive interior eliminating everything thrown at it. Mone and Marshall reliably plug gaps, while Dwumfour is becoming a problem for offenses on passing situations — two sacks in two games.

With Dwumfour possibly out for Wisconsin — he looked pretty gimpy Saturday, despite him insisting he’s fine — it’s possible we’ll see packages with Gary playing 3-tech. The interior needs rotation to keep players fresh, and what the Maryland game showed is that a combination of Kwity Paye and Hutchinson can spell Gary on the edge.

Additionally, the WILL linebackers have taken a step forward. The athleticism of Gil running sideline-to-sideline with Johnson is tantalizing, and Ross continues to eliminate backs in the hole.

Badger back Jonathan Taylor offers a completely different challenge next week, as he totes the rock for the nation’s No. 3 S&P rush offense. Maryland’s line, in fairness, rivals the size of the Wisconsin one — Gray, Prince and Davis are massive individuals.

With the tackles likely not 100 percent, Brown has to get creative against a line filled with All-Americans. In the meantime, his defense can hang their hat on a (mostly) dominant effort against a one-dimensional unit.