ANN ARBOR—While the Michigan offense failed to come up with a touchdown Saturday night at Michigan State, defensively the Wolverines weren’t good enough either according to defensive coordinator Greg Mattison.
Forced onto the field early and often with the offense sputtering, the Michigan defense held the Spartans to two first half field goals before giving up a 10-play, 75-yard drive with 23-seconds remaining before halftime that resulted in a 14-yard touchdown by Michigan State senior wide out Bennie Fowler.
Michigan was outscored 16-0 in the second half as Michigan State gashed the Wolverines with a short passing attack, eventually opening up running lanes for senior Jeremy Langford and freshman R.J. Shelton.
Junior cornerback Raymon Taylor came up with a third quarter interception that set up Michigan deep in Michigan State territory but the Wolverines were unable to convert.
“It was a tough loss for us, obviously,” Mattison said Tuesday. “It’s time to move on. I thought for a lot of that ball game our kids competed, played very hard.
“Obviously there’s things we had to do better. You can’t give a score up before halftime like we did.”
Michigan mustered just one sack on Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook as he completed 18-of-33 passes for 252-yards and two total touchdowns.
Despite the lack of pressure on Cook, Mattison singled out redshirt freshman defensive tackle Willie Henry for his four-tackle effort in East Lansing.
“Willie Henry played a very, very good football game,” Mattison said. “Willie Henry, and I hate saying this, you know, but Willie Henry played the best game he’s played since he’s been here and showed the signs of if he keeps working and keeps being hungry and keeps, he’s a very talented young man.
“That’s a redshirt freshman that played really, really hard.”
Langford finished his afternoon running the ball 26-times for 120-yards and a touchdown. Still, Mattison was encouraged by the performance of his linebacker group against the Spartans.
“I thought the linebackers may have played the best game as a linebacker crew, the inside linebackers, that they’ve played,” he said. “They were getting off blocks, they were getting to the football -- they were very physical at the point of attack.
“There were a number of bright spots but we’re not in a position to have some good bright spots, we’re in a position that we better do everything right to make sure we can win the football game.”
Looking ahead to Nebraska, as the Cornhuskers continue to shuffle quarterbacks in the absence of the injured Taylor Martinez, Mattison believes no matter who is in the gun Saturday, his defense will prepare the same.
“Their quarterbacks, they’re all good enough quarterbacks,” Mattison said. “No. 4 for them runs the same offense Taylor Martinez runs. It’s the same plays, same offensive line, same running backs -- they still have the great running back, they’ve got great receivers.
“Taylor not being in there, their quarterback that we play against will be very good.”
Nebraska coach Bo Pelini left open the possibility Martinez could play Saturday in Ann Arbor.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. has started four games and played in five for Nebraska, completing 41-of-75 pass attempts for 520-yards with four touchdowns and six interceptions.