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Film Focus: Michigan defense vs Wisconsin offense

While Don Brown’s dudes only ceded seven points before garbage time, Wisconsin found some lanes on the ground.

Dustin Johnston

Michael Deiter. Beau Benzschawel. David Edwards.

These are the three All-Americans that populate yet another elite Wisconsin offensive line. Michigan came into battle with them without their most talented lineman in Rashan Gary. The interior rotation featured several other bumps and bruises, including Michael Dwumfour, Carlo Kemp and a returning Aubrey Solomon.

Against Jonathan Taylor and the No. 3 S&P rushing attack, this was a recipe for disaster. Despite ceding 183 yards on over six yards a tote, the Badgers needed a late drive to enter double-digits.

The film shows this was a combination of a few factors; namely, forcing Alex Hornibrook into his worst game in years and curious play-calling from Paul Chryst.


Taylor gashes the interior for 14 yards on the first two plays. Bryan Mone tries to rip around the guard, leaving a big lane for the run. Tyree Kinnel hesitates a beat, which allows Taylor a full head of steam.

On the second play, a lineman moves off a double-team on Carlo Kemp to seal Devin Gil. A hat on a hat leads to healthy yardage and a new set of downs.

Mone shoves the center into the backfield, but Taylor drives through Kinnel and Devin Bush for four yards. He may run behind the best line in America, but Taylor generates a lot on his own.

Chryst inserts Taiwan Deal, who promptly gets buried by Kwity Paye. Without Gary, there was worry his backups wouldn’t hold up in run support, but Paye muscles the left tackle three yards into the backfield to stone the run.

On third-and-five, Bush jumps a slant with a deflection, which lands in a Kendric Pryor’s hands for only three yards. Chryst conservatively decides to punt around midfield.

Drive: Five plays, 21 yards, punt (Game tied 0-0)


After four straight runs on the first drive, Chryst dials up a play-action rollout to the left for Hornibrook. Chase Winovich bites inside on the fake, and the left-hander rifles a throw to a well-covered Danny Davis.

The defensive line creates a mess at the line of scrimmage, string Taylor to the perimeter. Kinnel gets his shoes juked off, allowing Taylor to fall forward for four yards.

Taylor continues to chip away at the defense, as Solomon gets buried and Bush fails to wrap up. The Badgers seal Paye and Lawrence Marshall, and send two 300-pounders on a pull to spring the running back free. First down.

Solomon makes up for it on the next down, standing his blocker up. In fact, everyone stalemates their blocks, allowing Kinnel to clean up at the line of scrimmage for minimal yards.

Hornibrook lasers a throw through tight coverage from Khaleke Hudson, hitting his tight end Jake Ferguson for a new set of downs. When his feet get set, he is accurate.

An incompletion leads to a counter play out of shotgun. The Badgers try to run right at Chase Winovich, who maintains leverage at the point of attack to allow the rest of the defense to converge on the ball-carrier.

Now in third-and-long, the defense can pin their ears back. Dwumfour puts to rest his injury concerns, teleporting around All-American Michael Deiter to flush Hornibrook out of the pocket. Bush takes care of the rest.

Drive: Eight plays, 34 yards, punt (Michigan scores to lead 7-0)


Taylor imposes himself on the Wolverine defense this drive.

On play one, he picks his way through a loaded box for five. A subtle jab step commits a crashing Kinnel to the middle, and it takes a form tackle from Brandon Watson to corral him.

Next, he drags everyone including Don Brown for a first down, only after slicing past an arm tackle by Winovich. While everyone on the line gets blocked, a lesser back goes down from these arm tackles. Taylor is just that strong.

Hudson loses weak side contain on the next play, as Wisconsin pulls a guard to the strong side. This walls off the entire front seven, and Taylor cuts backside for a large chunk.

After all the body blows to the middle, Chryst deploys Pryor on a jet sweep. The defense overcompensates for the inside run to Taylor, and Pryor goes untouched on the sideline for a score.

Drive: Four plays, 71 yards, touchdown (Game tied 7-7)


Wisconsin runs a draw to Taylor, which leaves several free hitters for Michigan. However, Hudson misidentifies the play and gets absorbed by a block. Kinnel beats his to get to the ball, but Taylor carries him for nine yards.

Hornibrook bungles a snap to set up third-and-short. He sets up in the shotgun for a third down pass, but his line doesn’t shift toward the Josh Uche blitz. The rush linebacker gets into Hornibrook’s grill unmolested.

Drive: Three plays, -2 yards, punt (Michigan scores to lead 10-7)


Don Brown utilizes a wrinkle in his coverage scheme: trap coverage.

The idea is that a press defender runs with their receiver. Next, he switches coverage with another defensive back, dropping into a deeper zone. The other defensive back commences with tight man-to-man coverage.

On this play, Josh Metellus is pressing the slot receiver. He runs with his assignment until he switches with David Long. As he drops into a deep zone, Long comes up to stop the slot’s out route. Long tips it, and Metellus picks off to set up the offense in scoring position.

Drive: One play, interception (Michigan scores to lead 13-7)


The front seven plays Wisconsin’s bread and butter play — the lead dive to Taylor off a fake jet sweep — perfectly. The line occupies their blockers, and the free linebacker (Hudson) stops Taylor for three.

Hornibrook misfires on a rollout as pressure from Bush bars him from setting his feet. Bush sniffs out a screen on third-and-long, and Paye actually almost intercepts it.

Drive: Three plays, -2 yards (Michigan scores after halftime to lead 21-7)


Taylor starts the drive with another short gain. The Badgers try to run at Paye, but he holds his own long enough to allow Hudson and Watson to gang tackle.

Garrett Groshek, typically a pass-catching and blocking back, takes a handoff for six as Winovich loses gap integrity by trying to swim around his block. Josh Ross overflows to the outside, and Groshek plants his foot to cut upfield.

Another Taylor tote gains enough for the first down. Next play, Chryst persists by pounding the middle with Taylor with diminishing returns.

Hornibrook whips about his only decent throw of the second half to A.J Taylor on a deep slant, but it falls incomplete.

Watson forces an incompletion with a technique he showed the week before against Maryland. On a drag route, he sticks in the receiver’s hip and positions himself inside to potentially break on the ball. Against the Terps, it was an interception.

This week, an inaccurate toss means it’s just incomplete.

Drive: Six plays, 16 yards, punt (Michigan leads 21-7)


Against most backs, this first down run goes for nothing. Against Taylor, Long fails in run support as he gets smoked by a juke. Bush rallies to limit the damage to four yards.

Kemp almost blows up the jet sweep to Danny Davis, but is a beat too late. Davis shakes the tackle, finds the edge and sprints for 37 yards. With time and experience, Kemp will destroy these plays like Chris Wormley used to do. Here’s Wormley against Iowa in 2016.

Here’s redshirt sophomore Kemp against Wisconsin last Saturday.

Greg Mattison is slowly developing guys into dudes. A smattering of short runs and incompletions leads to a punt.

Drive: Five plays, 49 yards, punt (Michigan scores to lead 24-7)


Two Taylor runs go for eight yards to force third-and-two. Rather than stick with his six-yards-a-pop rush attack, Chryst curiously calls for a play-action pass to the tight end. Lavert Hill lies in wait to all but secure the victory.

Kemps makes up for earlier by pressuring Hornibrook after push-and-pulling the guard. A throw off the back foot doesn’t get enough velocity to make it to the target, so Hill spears it with one hand to take it to the house.

Drive: Three plays, eight yards, interception return for touchdown (Michigan leads 31-7)



No other rushing attack will take as much advantage of Michigan’s interior tackles as this one.

It took a half to get adjusted, but once Dwumfour, Kemp, Mone and Marshall maintained their gaps — and the linebackers flowed correctly — the conventional runs were managing only three to four yards.

Regarding the jet sweeps, it’s a play that Michigan State and Ohio State use to boost flagging run games. MSU receiver Felton Davis scored on one against Northwestern. With J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber struggling to find consistent yards, Urban Meyer feeds Parris Campbell and K.J. Hill on curveballs a few times a game.

Those teams don’t figure to steamroll the interior, so Brown’s defense won't have to cheat to one lane or the other.

Paul Chryst’s curious play-calling helped matters — punting separate three times when they probably shouldn’t have.

Otherwise, the pass rush thrived without Gary, forcing Hornibrook into a 9.2 passer rating before garbage time. Two interceptions and just 100 yards allowed is exemplary.

At the end of the day, Michigan strangled the No. 5 offense per S&P to just 208 yards and seven points until the late touchdown (aka window dressing).

While Mark Dantonio surely has new wrinkles and gadgets to unleash next week, can their No. 75 offense punish the defense consistently in any facet?