ANN ARBOR -- Despite being the 13th ranked total defense in the country, Michigan has struggled getting off the field in third-down situations this season.
Specifically against Minnesota.
In the Wolverines 42-13 victory over Gophers, the U-M defense allowed the Minnesota to convert 8-of-15 on third-down conversations. Currently, Michigan is holding opponents to 41-percent conversion on the season.
The lack of third-defense success has been a “problem” for the Wolverine defense said sophomore linebacker James Ross III.
“That’s a big problem for us,” Ross III said. “Basically we started off poorly in the beginning. We got better in the second half. But you got to get our offense back on the field. Got to get better time of possession. That’s on us getting off the field. Those our money downs for us.”
Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner led the Gophers with 76-yards on 18 carries and had many key third-down runs, which has the full attention of Michigan coach Brady Hoke.
“Getting off the field is important,” Hoke said. “We got to do a better job. I thought they hurt us with running the ball as much as anything in the first half scrambling. We’ve got to do a better job when you look at lanes and those kind of fundamentals that you need to have.”
No. 16 Michigan (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten) travels to Penn State (3-2, 1-1 Big Ten) this Saturday. If the Wolverines are going to stay undefeated, they’re going to need to stop the Nittnay Lions on third-down conversions, said Ross.
“We have to get off the field,” he said. “That’ll setup our offense to score points. That’s on us. That’s probably our main focus heading into our game next week.”
In the meantime, Hoke say the defense is still moving in the right direction.
“I think this defense is coming around,” Hoke said. “Is it exactly where we need it to be? No, But I think there’s guys played – I don’t want to say a better urgency – because they play well most of the year. Especially in the red zone. I just think they’re a work in progress, because some of the youth that is out there.”