Saturday, September 26, 2015

Michigan's defense blanks BYU, 31-0


                                                              Photo Credit: Geno Green

After relinquishing a shutout late in last Saturday's 28-7 victory against UNLV, Michigan chomped at the bit to get another opportunity– this time against No. 22 Brigham Young University.

Michigan's defense buckled down and did not allow BYU's offense into the redzone and forced 11 punts on 12 possessions, to go along with seven three and outs in a 31-0 shutout at Michigan Stadium on Saturday.

"It was one right after another for three and outs against a very good team on both sides of the ball," Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said.

BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall gave credit to Michigan's swarming defense in defeat.

"Michigan executed and dominated the game from beginning to end," Mendenhall said. "They were really well prepared and is the best team we have played to this point, not only physically, but execution-wise."

Cougars quarterback Tanner Mangum had a day to forget as he threw 12-of-28 for a career-low 55 yards and a rating of 59.4. 

Michigan (3-1) showed up with something to prove on the national stage against BYU (2-2) and answered the call in the first half.

Michigan would strike first on its second drive of the game, but a couple of plays helped set the tone– De'Veon Smith's 31-yard rush and Amara Darboh's acrobatic and twisting one-handed catch for a 21-yard reception. 

Wolverines quarterback Jake Rudock praised Darboh for the one-handed reception on third down which led to four catches for 57 yards and a TD.

"He made a great play and whenever you can convert on third down, then that's a good thing," Rudock said.

Those plays helped set up Rudock's first career-rushing touchdown with a three-yard dash into the end zone to open the scoring 9:08 into the game.

Rudock's 41-yard completion to tight end Jake Butt would set up a splendid pass to Darboh for a 4-yd touchdown reception to put U-M in a comfortable position at 14-0 with 13:37 left in the half.

On the second play of Michigan's next drive, Smith one-upped Darboh's first-quarter catch as he rammed through a couple of BYU defenders with a rugged 60-yard TD run that was reminiscent of what an old-school Bo Schembechler running back would look like back from in the 1970's and 80's.

Smith himself was surprised after the initial contact on the touchdown run.

"To be honest, I thought I was down for a second, but once I got to the second level, I knew for a fact that I wasn't letting No. 15 [Michael Davis] tackle me once I got down the field," Smith said.

Smith led all running backs in yards (125) and carries (16), to go along with the aforementioned touchdown and is expected to play at Maryland despite injuring his ankle late in the third quarter.

After a second straight three and out by the Cougars, the Wolverines drove down the field for a 6-play, 59-yard drive in 3:26 to put Michigan ahead 28-0 with 6:57 left in the first half. 

Placekicker Kenny Allen glided in a 40-yard field goal to give Michigan a commanding 31-0 lead over BYU at halftime.

The Cougars struggled to put anything together in the first half as it failed to reach the redzone and punted on all five of its possessions.

Both teams failed to score in the second half, but the story was Michigan's defense holding BYU to six punts on seven possessions and putting a blueprint on a new era of physical and gritty football that was synonymous with Rose Bowl runs under Schembechler.

Game Notes:

Rudock finished with an all-around performance going 14-of-25 through the air for 194 yards, a passing TD, and two rushing scores.

Cougars wide receiver Mitchell Juergens could not get into a rhythm as he was held to two receptions on six yards. Juergen leads the Cougars in yards (244).

Juergens' running mate and second-leading receiver Mitch Mathews came into Saturday's game with 17 catches and 185 yards and a team-leading three touchdowns was held to a four-yard reception at the 12-minute mark of the fourth quarter.

Looking Ahead:

Both teams play in primetime next week as BYU returns home to Provo, Utah, to take on Connecticut on Oct. 2 at 9:15 p.m. on ESPN2, while Michigan goes east to College Park, MD., for a Big Ten East division showdown with Maryland at 8 p.m. on the Big Ten Network on Oct. 3.

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Follow Geno Green on Twitter @GenoSportsguy.