For at least one player of the Michigan defense, the normally elusive benchmark for this football team was reached in a 44-13 win over Purdue on Saturday.
"We played how a Michigan defense should play," sophomore linebacker Jake Ryan said. "We played with technique. We played with fundamentals."
The Wolverines gave up just 213 yards of offense to the Boilermakers and looked even more improved from their performance two weeks ago against Notre Dame.
But that doesn't mean there aren't parts of the game that still need to be improved. Ryan pointed several times to tackling as a point of emphasis for the defense moving forward. Michigan coach Brady Hoke wasn't pleased with his team’s four-man rush. And senior linebacker Kenny Demens said his team can get better at watching film, starting Sunday when Michigan goes in to watch the Purdue tape.
"We have a lot to improve on," Demens said. "But in the past two weeks, from last game to this game we did a great job preparing, whether meeting, practicing well or whatever, but we have a long way to go."
One of the most marked areas of improvement was the Wolverines ability to force turnovers.
The Wolverines picked off two Boilermaker passes, with sophomore defensive back Raymon Taylor returning one for a touchdown. Taylor's score in the second quarter extended the Michigan lead to 21 and brought the game to all but out of reach for Purdue.
"That was awesome," Demens said. "Anytime you get a defensive score, that's great … it gives the ball back to the offense and creates points for us."
On top of the interceptions, Michigan had great pressure all around. The Wolverines forced three fumbles, recovering two. They accounted for two sacks, which totaled to a loss of 17 yards for the Boilermakers. And when push came to shove, they held strong in the red zone, allowing Purdue to score just once on its three trips there.
"I think that we played well up front," senior captain Jordan Kovacs said. "I think that we've played well the last few weeks. I think the defense as a whole, we're continuing to improve every day."