ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan’s defense met its best rushing challenge yet this season on Saturday.
The Wolverines have shut down Penn State’s Saquon Barkley and Wisconsin’s Corey Clement already, but Maryland’s No. 2-ranked rushing offense in the Big Ten was, statistically, Michigan’s toughest rushing opponent yet.
Again, Michigan’s defense showed its ability to shut down a team’s best unit, allowing just three points to a high-power Maryland offense. Maryland averaged 252 rushing yards per game coming into the game, but walked out of Michigan Stadium with just 78 rushing yards.
“We take pride in people not scoring on us,” Michigan senior S Delano Hill said.
The rushing corps for the Terps averaged just 2.1 yards a carry, and had zero touchdowns, as Maryland’s three points came from a fourth-quarter field goal.
The great campaign for Ben Gedeon continued on Saturday — he finished with 11 tackles, a half sack and 3 tackles for loss. As a team, Michigan had 13 tackles for loss and three sacks with help in both categories from Gedeon, junior DE Chase Winovich, Ryan Glasgow and Taco Charlton.
Through the air, Michigan didn’t dominate like it does typically. A lot of the focus was on stopping Maryland’s rushing offense, which opened up some passing lanes for Caleb Rowe, who replaced Perry Hills after Hills was knocked out of the game in the second quarter after a big hit from Winovich.
Rowe, Hills and Tyrrell Pigrome combined for 289 passing yards. That’s the most passing yards any team has had against Michigan all season. It’s worth noting, though, that three pass plays, including a 47-yard screen play, accounted for 40 percent of those yards.
Hill had two interceptions on bad passes from Rowe that the defense forced with good pressure and lockdown cornerback play. Jourdan Lewis and Channing Stripling shut down passes in coverage that could’ve done some damage. Lewis continued to look like the best cover corner in the country when he broke up two straight end-zone fades early in the fourth quarter.
The best statistic Michigan had all day was its fourth-down defense. Maryland went for it on fourth-and-1, fourth-and-7 and fourth-and-5. All resulted in an incompletion or tackle for loss. Maryland was just 6 for 13 on third downs. That’s the highest percentage Michigan’s defense has allowed on third down all season. Opponents had averaged a 29 percent third-down conversion rate entering the game.
There were about four missed tackles — two were significant ones from Stribling and Mike McCray in the first half that could have prevented a third-down conversion. Not everything is going to be perfect, but Michigan’s tackle-finishing defense has miss a few lately. It needs to polish that area for the final stretch that puts the Wolverines inside two of the toughest football stadiums — Kinnick Stadium at Iowa, and the Horseshoe at Ohio State.
The defense is known for goal-line stands. It had a big one against Michigan State last week that changed the direction of the game. As the first half expired Saturday, Michigan made a shoelace tackle to stop Maryland’s D.J. Moore inside the 1-yard line. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh talked after the game about the motto he gives the Michigan defense.
“You just don’t give in,” Harbaugh said. “They’re not in, until they’re in. That’s the mentality.”
Michigan visits Iowa next week for a night game. The last time the Wolverines played a night game on the road, they defeated Rutgers 78-0.