Giving up 431 yards and 31 points isn't exactly the way Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison envisions his defense performing in any game let alone a crucial, in conference contest in the middle of November. The speed and escape ability out of Northwestern's backfield Saturday afternoon caused the Wolverines issues on the perimeter the likes of which can drive most coaches crazy.
Not Mattison in the aftermath.
A coordinator constantly yearning and pushing his defense to be perfect in every phase has zero issue giving credit where credit is due. At the same time positives can be taken out of Michigan's defensive inefficiencies.
"I'm not a stat guy, never have been," said Mattison. "Theres only one stat that matters to me is whether we win or lose. Obviously I don't like it when teams run the football but the thing you also saw on that tape is one that quarterback is a tremendous football player and a tremendous athlete."
"The thing that we saw in that game and people wouldn't have seen it, that defense played unbelievably hard. Theres a play in the fourth quarter when there are eleven helmets truly hitting the ball on our sideline and ironically the next play Craig Roh
got a sack and it held them to a field goal rather than a touchdown."
Sacks have been a prevalent and consistent issue for the Michigan defense, accumulating just 13 total through the first ten games. What hasn't been the problem? Pressure.
"I think there were four or five legitimate sacks that we had them," said Mattison. "Any other quarterback you probably would have had a sack that he changed from being a third or second and long to a first down and thats where the perception is that you got to get off the field."
Michigan failed to get the ball back for the offense on several occasions in the second half against Northwestern including a 15 yard touchdown reception by Tony Jones
with just under four minutes to play that gave the Wildcats a 31-28 advantage.
Fortunately in football and in life, as long as theres still time left on the clock, opportunity awaits. After a controversial spot in Northwestern's favor gave the Wildcats another first down in Michigan's territory in the final minutes, the Wolverines stuck with their coach, each other and blocked out any doubt they'd be able to give their offense one last chance.
"Theres a lot of football teams that after they didn't get the fourth down stop that wouldn't of kept playing," said Mattison. "You've seen it happen a hundred times. I've been part of some of them where all of the sudden the guy breaks a five yarder and gets a first down and now its over. That defense just kept trying to execute. That defense kept trying to play hard."
The defensive stand forced a Northwestern punt that provided Michigan with one last opportunity to tie the game, eventually doing so with eight seconds left, forcing overtime and scoring right off the bat to give the defense a chance at redemption with a 38-31 lead.
came up with the big play on 4th and 2 at the Michigan 17 yard line, stonewalling tailback Tyris Jones
to seal the win.
Sunday, Mattison emphasized the mistakes and the need to improve in several areas but also took the time to educate the underclassmen on sticking with the plan, seeing adversity and overcoming it under pressure.
"I told every young guy to listen more intently than you've ever listened to what I'm going to say right now," said Mattison. "I told them that what that senior class did at the end of that game, that's Michigan football."
"You can do anything you want. You can be the most talented freshmen, sophomore in the building, you can be anything but unless you play with that resolve and unless you believe like they believe then you're not Michigan."
To watch video of Mattison's press conference from Tuesday, press play below.
Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison will never be completely pleased with a defensive performance, especially the one Saturday against Northwestern. Mattison did however find a positive teaching moment after the nail biting win.