ANN ARBOR -- Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison is very familiar with the Michigan-Notre Dame rivalry.
And he should be -- considering he coached at both schools in 90s and 2000s and is entrenched again in the Midwest clash, as both team’s prepare to meet this Saturday “Under the Lights” for Michigan’s second ever night game.
“This is a big one,” said Mattison, who coached at Notre Dame form 1997-04. “This has always been a big game. I happen to probably know this game better – being on both sides of it. And this is a rivalry game. This is a big game. And we’re looking forward to it.”
The No. 17 Wolverines’ (1-0) will be looking to avenge their 13-6 defeat from a season ago, and this game will not lack motivation for Mattison’s young defensive squad, especially with the No. 14 Irish (1-0) ending the rivalry for the foreseeable future. Notre Dame has agreed to play the ACC 5-games per season, thus ending their annual rivalry game with Michigan. The last game will be played in South Bend, Ind. next season.
If Michigan is going to have a chance to win on Saturday, its young defense is going to have to keep improving moving forward.
“Well you are playing against a very talented opponent,” Mattison said. “Notre Dame has a lot of talent. They’re a very good football team. So you know, now is the next step. … Did you correct the mistakes? Do you play harder? Do you improve? I think anytime you’re young team, you must improve every game. If you don’t, then you’re taking a step back. And we’re looking forward to improving.”
Getting pressure on the quarterback with four down lineman is a big part of Mattison’s scheme. He noted that the defense front still needs to win 1-on-1 battles if they’re going to beat the Irish.
“I think there was also some sacks left on the field,” Mattison said. “There was some quarterback hits left on the field. We’ve got to constantly improve on that. In a passing situation you cannot be clocked 1-on-1. The hardest thing to do in football is to pass protect. If you’re going to be a great defensive lineman, when it is pass, you got to beat that lineman 1-on-1.”
Time at Notre Dame
“I think we played four or five times,” Mattison said. “But I know one thing, when we played that game we knew it was going to be a physical football game. Maybe because I had so much respect for Michigan, too. I think everybody that has ever been in that game has respect for the other opponent. It’s college football. It’s two of the best programs for years and years. It’s a big game.”
While Michigan is losing the Irish off of their schedule, Mattison maintains they will continue to be a rival of the Wolverines.
“The rivalry,” Mattison said. “I look at the Ohio (State) game. I look at Michigan State. I look at Notre Dame at this game. Those are three games and be any other team in the country and be in any other conference in the country or anywhere and you don’t get a chance to play this game. This is a special deal when they meet and decide to play – here you go.”