The Wolverine

September 2014

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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"If they don't score, they can't win." — Brady Hoke S eems simple enough, doesn't it? Simply overwhelm opponents with a torrid defensive attack, don't let them move, don't let them score, don't let them breathe, and you're going to win a whole lot of football games. That sounds like 1997, the last time the Wolverines stood at the summit of the college football mountain. Charles Woodson, Sam Sword, Glen Steele, Marcus Ray and a host of others stole the dreams of all comers like a pack of wolves overrunning sheep. Brady Hoke doesn't talk about that group much, because he doesn't want to steal the spotlight from the present, or put undue pressure on his current crew. But he remembers — the look, and the effect. A great defense gives a team a devastating leg up in any game, anywhere, any time. Even a very good one — like Michigan shockingly trotted out onto the field in Hoke's first season back in Ann Arbor — can go a long way. That 2011 aggregation finished sixth in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 17.4 points per game. It barely made the bottom of the stats page the previous three seasons under a different regime, and the stunner of a turnaround resulted in an 11-2 record and a Sugar Bowl victory over Virginia Tech. Some insist invoking '97 equates to drivers longing for a Chevelle. It's a different era, they say, and offenses are such that they cannot be shut down in that fashion. In 2011, Michigan had to beat Ohio State 40-34, leaving Bo and Woody rolling their eyes and shaking their heads at each other somewhere on clouds of dust. But guess what? Great defense isn't an anachronism, even in an era of spread offenses and hurry-up schemes. That's the reminder underscored all too painfully in recent days. Plenty of folks picked Denver in the most recent Super Bowl. They figured, how could the Broncos miss? Led by the legendary Payton Manning, they'd scored more regular- season points (606) than any team in WOLVERINE WATCH   JOHN BORTON Defense Must Lead The Way U-M defensive coordinator Greg Mattison is bullish on his unit this year, noting he's been impressed with how it has practiced, how it has worked and its chemistry. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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