Michigan defense has its issues, but keeps faith alive in overtime stop
ANN ARBOR -- For about 60 minutes Saturday, Michigan had all sorts of trouble slowing down Northwestern.
Luckily for the Wolverine defense, though, the game went into overtime.
The Michigan defense had one of its worst overall statistical performances of the season during a 38-31 win over the Wildcats, but when it mattered the most -- in winning time -- Greg Mattison's unit found a way.
"We just have faith," Michigan senior safety Jordan Kovacs said. "We have all the confidence in the world in this coaching staff and in this defense that we'll make those corrections.
"We'll get back out there and stop them. We never hung our head."
After allowing Northwestern to put up 431 yards of offense during regulation -- the team's worst performance since the season-opener against Alabama -- Michigan's defense found itself with new life in overtime.
And it wasn't going to let that chance go to waste.
After giving up a 7-yard run to quarterback Kain Colter and a 2-yard plunge to running back Venric Mark in overtime, the Wolverines found themselves staring at a 3rd and 1 and a chance to win the game.
Northwestern had gone 8 of 15 on third down before that play, but inside linebacker Kenny Demens made sure the Wildcats finished 8 of 16 as he stuffed Colter for a one-yard loss.
One play later, Demens sealed the deal -- burying Northwestern running back Tyris Jones at the line of scrimmage on 4th and 2, clinching the win and setting off the Michigan celebration.
"After making that play, I just felt so proud -- not for me, but for my teammates," said Demens, who finished the game with 9 tackles. "We didn't play as well as we wanted to, but to come up and make a play and finish strong -- that means a lot."
There will be plenty to correct for Michigan after this one.
Colter, a mobile quarterback, punished the Wolverines on the edge and on the option pitch all afternoon long, as the Wildcats rumbled for 248 yards.
And when Colter was slowed due to injury, Northwestern backup quarterback Trevor Siemian picked up the slack, going 6-for-7 for 87 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Michigan struggled containing Northwestern's speed and it struggled chasing around a mobile quarterback.
And, in two weeks, it'll have to learn from its lesson when it travels to Ohio State to take on Braxton Miller and the Buckeyes.
But Michigan's still has Big Ten's best pass defense, it still has the league's third-best complete defense.
Saturday was nowhere near Mattison's standard of playing perfect, play in and play out -- but the season's not over. Not yet.
Ten weeks down, and the Michigan defense still has a place to stand. That's all they've ever asked for.
"These kids have been great," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. "(Winning the game) didn't surprise me.
"It didn't surprise me."