There was one elite defense on the field at Michigan Stadium this past Saturday and there was one that would like to get to that level. Luke Fickell and Marcus Freeman no doubt want to install a similarly defensively dominant unit at Cincinnati just like Jim Harbaugh has at Michigan. Well, maybe not just like Harbaugh what with Fickell and Freeman both being Ohio State guys, but you get the point.
Fickell is a former defensive coordinator and he inherited a team that had a more effective defense than offense in 2016. The group looked pretty good against Austin Peay in the opener, but how did things fare when a top 10 team was lining up across the line of scrimmage?
The Good: Cortez Broughton woke up and had a nice game, recording a sack and a fumble recovery. Marquise Copeland also did some good things up front, registering six tackles, including one for loss. In addition, the line, much like the rest of the team, avoided penalties.
The Bad: Michigan’s offensive line looked like it could move the action in whatever direction it wanted most of the time. Plus, Ty Isaac didn’t seem to be affected by the would-be-tacklers he scooted past on the way to 133 yards on 20 carries.
Final Grade: C
The Good: Boy, where has Jaylyin Minor been hiding? The UC linebacker is off to an incredible start, which he added to with 11 tackles, including one for loss against Michigan. Here are some more stats that show Minor has quickly filled the void left by Eric Wilson.
The Bad: Isaac didn’t just run past defensive linemen, so even with Minor seemingly tackling anyone in his vicinity, the Bearcat backers didn’t make enough stops, especially against the run.
Final Grade: B
The Good: Chris Murphy, a special teams played in 2016, played and made an impact by coming in for a tackle for loss.
The Bad: It might seem like things were mostly good considering Michigan only threw for pedestrian 221 yards. However, that was on only 17 completions, meaning some big plays really dug deep. The Wolverines averaged 13 yards per completion and 7.6 yards per attempt as they found too many open areas in the second level.
Here’s one such example from early in the game when quarterback Wilton Speight used play action (set up by effective running) to find Kekoa Crawford, who couldn’t have been more open.
Final Grade: D+
They say a good defense is the best offense, but I think it might work the other way as well. A good offense can be a good defense. That wasn’t the case on Saturday, as Michigan’s defense accounted for 16 of the Wolverines’ 36 total points. That means that UC’s defense was probably even better than the final numbers suggest. Although Isaac ran well and the Michigan passing game was successful on deep balls, the defense can’t be blamed for the 22-point loss. Case and point: Michigan went just 5-for-15 on third down, which shows UC was eliminating drives. However, allowing 6.3 yards per play (414 yards total) and getting little to no pressure on Speight made for a performance that wasn’t perfect.
Final Grade: C+