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Posted on Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 10:09 p.m.

Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison's halftime adjustments key to second-half dominance

By Kyle Meinke


Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison signals in plays during the Wolverines' win at Northwestern's Ryan Field last Saturday.

Melanie Maxwell I

The Michigan football team's defense entered the Northwestern game on its best three-game stretch in years, and it immediately was punched in the mouth.

Northwestern outrushed Michigan, outpassed Michigan and picked up three turnovers. The Wolverines forced none, allowed nearly 300 yards and trailed 24-14 at halftime.

So, it went to work.

Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison had identified what was troubling his defense, but doesn't like to make drastic changes on the sideline, especially with a young team. So, he waited until halftime, when he ran back to the locker room, diagnosed the problem on the chalkboard and outlined everyone's assignments.

The players broke down into position groups for further instruction, then went to work.

The result? Michigan didn't allow a second-half point, scored 28 itself and coasted to a 42-24 win against Northwestern.

Those kinds of changes are a big reason why the No. 11 Wolverines (6-0, 2-0 Big Ten) remain unbeaten heading into this week's showdown with No. 23 Michigan State (noon, ESPN).

"The thing I’m so impressed with is they don't ever lose the fight," Mattison said Tuesday after practice. "But I’m looking for the day when there aren’t adjustments that have to be made at halftime."

For now, those changes have been integral to Michigan's defensive turnaround, as the Wolverines have transformed themselves into one of the country's best second-half teams.

With half the season in the books, the Wolverines have allowed only 21 second-half points. They have gotten progressively better later in each quarter this season, dropping from 35 points allowed in the first quarter to 19 in the second, 14 i the third and seven in the fourth.

Overall, Michigan is outscoring opponents 114-21 in the second half.

"We have tremendous confidence in Coach Mattison and all of our position coaches," defensive tackle Ryan Van Bergen said Monday. "When we make those adjustments, we know we'll be successful, if we just play our technique. Everything comes back to fundamentals and technique.

"You'll come back from a 10-point deficit at halftime. Over and over again, they put us in situations where we need to step up because of things we've done in practice or whatever, and because we're used to those situations, our team has a lot of confidence when we get into them."

Mattison isn't a rah-rah guy in the locker room at halftime, instead preferring to use the 20 minutes as a teaching tool. He said the reason he likes to wait until the intermission to make adjustments like these is because it avoids confusion on the field, especially on the road.

For example, he knew on the sideline the major change he wanted to make against Northwestern — add an extra linebacker, Jake Ryan, to the base formation to give Michigan a bigger lineup that wouldn't be blocked by the receivers on the Wildcats' bubble screens and option plays.

But he waited until halftime to make the call so everyone would be on the same page.

Mattison said youth plays into it. Ryan, for instance, is a redshirt freshman.

"You’d like to make those adjustments on the sideline, but what you have to have when you do that is you have to have a lot of guys who have experience," Mattison said. "I don't like to make wholesale adjustments on the sidelines."


Jake Ryan

Ryan playing pivotal role
Ryan has made some key plays for Michigan this year. He's made his share of mistakes, especially when it comes to containment, but his contributions have been significant in relief of the injured Cam Gordon.

"He gets better every day in practice, and I wouldn’t change Jake Ryan for anybody," Mattison said. "The fact he’s out there for a lot of snaps as a redshirt freshman, that’s what we have, that’s how it is. Ask that question (about his issues with containment) two years from now, and you’re going to say, ‘Wow, Jake Ryan’s really something.'”


Backup quarterback Devin Gardner (7) has impressed offensive coordinator Al Borges in his limited time on the field.

Melanie Maxwell I

Gardner impressive
Offensive coordinator Al Borges continues to be impressed with the play of backup quarterback Devin Gardner.

The sophomore again got a look in the "two-quarterbacks" formation that puts him under center with starter Denard Robinson somewhere else on the field, but he also got three goal-line plays with Robinson on the sideline with an injured hand.

He handed off twice, then scored on a 1-yard touchdown run off a nicely executed play-fake.

"Devin is a highly-skilled kid, and when he can go in a game and score a touchdown, and really not make any tactical or any technical errors either, he gains confidence," Borges said. "In the last couple of games, the role he's played, he's had very few flaws. He's done a nice job with what we've asked him to do.

"The touchdown that he ran in was close. He could have thrown that ball because (senior tight end) Steve Watson was open. I tell him, 'If you can score, don't throw it, because as soon as you throw it a lot of things can go wrong.'

"I wouldn't have been happy if he didn't score, but he has enough speed to get there and he made a good decision."

Shaw sees time
Senior tailback Michael Shaw, who has slip up and down the Michigan depth chart, received six carries against Northwestern. He made the most of them, rushing for 25 yards and one touchdown.

Shaw, once an afterthought in the rushing game, appears to be making a case for more snaps. He has impressed his position coach, Fred Jackson.

"Going through a game, Fred Jackson keeps a close eye on what the guys are doing, and he's coached those guys and that position for a long time, and he has a pretty good feel for who's feeling it," Borges said. "We just felt at that point, a good change would be to go with Michael and he came in and gave us a little shot in the arm.

"I don't really like this in-and-out stuff, but that's what we are right now. And sometimes it takes you a few games to realize what you are. And part of it is we need to be using more than one back. Fred just felt us Michael would give us a shot in the arm, and he was right."

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.


1st Down

Fri, Oct 14, 2011 : 4:39 a.m.

This article doesnt mention it...but a HUGE part of why Michigan is not wearing down on defense in the second half of games, unlike the past 3 the new S&C staff. The new S&C guy, Aaron no stranger to what it take to condition players for the Big Ten. He is also a no-frills, get to work, kind of guy...very much like Coach Hoke...and very unlike, the S&C coach from the past 3 years, who had his own website and was about self-promotion. That is one of the reasons, why he is now working in a gym in Canton. Go Blue. We dont wear down any more.


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 10:13 p.m.

The half time adjustments have been totally awesome. The results of the last game against NW says it all. Let's hope that our defense will do to Kirk Cousin's what we did to Lindley of SDSU and Carder of WMU and force turnovers. GO BLUE!!!


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 10:08 p.m.

Borges should accept the use of multiple backs and the use of Gardner. Different players give different looks so when the starters are checked, another one might be the one who will show. Just right that you give Gardner some playing time to develop him, Gardner will be needed if Denard gets hurt in the remaining games. Also, the more players you play, the more motivated they are.


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 6:13 p.m.

Offense, defense special teams, When you're messin with Hoke you know what I MEAN! Last years team was 2 and 13, But this is the year for New Orleans!! Tick Tock it's Monte Clark!! Another one bites the dust!! I also think that Lorraine has a deep hidden man-crush on Boyd Carrbechler. MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEANchigan football will know the rest! <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 5:36 p.m.

&quot;But I'm looking for the day when there aren't adjustments that have to be made at halftime.&quot; That day is coming, and when it does - watch out OSU, MSU, Wiscy, Nebraska,... With Coach Hoke, Mattison, Borges,... we will reach the high standard of football excellence that they have set. Go Blue !


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 3:58 p.m.

the only way this game would be a set-back is if we get blown out. . . and that will not happen! we have every chance to win this game, but if we do lose by a close score it is still a big win for MICHIGAN in how this team has developed so quickly with a new coach. win or lose, the only direction is up! GO BLUE!!!

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Thu, Oct 13, 2011 : 4:42 p.m.

&quot;I disagree. A loss is a LOSS. There are NO moral victories.&quot; So says someone who supported and who continues to support the WCiMFH. Moral victories were OK for the WCiMFH. Apparently not so much for anyone else. GN&amp;GL

Lorain Steelmen

Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 4:08 p.m.

I disagree. A loss is a LOSS. There are NO moral victories.

Lorain Steelmen

Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 3:13 p.m.

Tbone, I totally agree with you. I also like the way these coaches are handling the team. We have not seen that here, since about 2000, maybe 2001. ie) About the time Hoke and Mattison left. This is a young team, with little physical presence, and little experience...but GREAT ATTITUDE. Its' fun watching them grow. Hoke and Co, will need to 'finese' their way, through the balance of the schedule, and stay resonably healthy. And thats' ok, just reality. Lets' all settle in, and enjoy the ride. Meanwhile, this is msu's bowl game, as it is, every year. If UM can find a way to steal a win, up there saturday, they'll get week off, to prepare for the stretch drive. At the end of the exercise, 7-0 would look pretty good to me, provided we dodge injuries. I still maintain, that Dantonio will send his D after Robinson to knock him out of the game. To me this is a case of Cassius Clay vs Sonny Lsiton. As Clay said, 'He hits hard, but I wasn't there!' Good luck Wolves, lets' take another step toward title #43 saturday!


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 2:50 p.m.

Theo your comments are needed. Call the gang and elect me as your new president. Coach Bo Hoke is in charge now. Al Borges and Mattison are the best choice UM has made in 4 years. Time to have a talk with little brother. Now Listen, I know youve won 3 years straight, but your a basketball team anyway -right? We will bring our own &quot;clock management team&quot; Devin Gardner will have a breakout game. And yes we will be bringing our ugly trophy back to Ann Arbor (where it belongs) Now are there any questions?


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 10:01 p.m.

You are Rich and talk like Hoke?


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 2:48 p.m.

Overall, what I like most about the 2011 Wolverines is that leaders and heroes are emerging and solidifying while the coaching (so far) seems to be the best in the Big 10. This is exactly how great teams come into being. We fans can worry about Coach Mattison's insistence on waiting until halftime to adjust: but consider that we were told (clearly) this would be a work in progress team for 2011. Mattison's tactic is working but it costs in the stats this team owns and may at some point cost them a loss or two. But look back and you'll see some of the &quot;classic&quot; games where Michigan was the come-back team and you'll understand this kind of win has great appeal. By around 3 PM Saturday, we'll know if this team has advanced or is having a set-back. But no one who knows Hoke and Michigan believes that a set-back is the end of the season or the end of the Michigan story. There's a fair chance Michigan will win and I think we should be prepared to celebrate accordingly. If they win: Hoke will become the first Michigan coach of the modern era to win his first game against MSU. Better than Bo?... Just maybe. :-)


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 10 p.m.

Hi John Bacon, are you &quot;The&quot; John Bacon? Why not better? at least record wise?


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 1:50 p.m.

The more I see and hear from this coaching staff the more impressed I become. They consistently put the players in a position to be successful. They play the role of patient teachers, which is what this team needs.


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 10:11 a.m.

Borges to Gardner: &quot;I tell him, 'If you can score, don't throw it, because as soon as you throw it a lot of things can go wrong.'&quot; That sort of reminds me of the famous Woody Hayes quote of yesteryear when asked why his teams ran the football almost exclusively: &quot;Only three things can happen when you throw the ball, and two of them are bad.&quot;


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 11:46 a.m.

Last year Wisconsin illustrated this against Michigan ... why throw the ball if the running game is moving the chains, scoring points and burning the clock? So they didn't. And it worked. So yeah ... if the run works, use it. But you'd better have a passing game because not every team lets the run work all the time.


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 5:51 a.m.

Never hire coaches wanting to overturn the roster and pleading for rebuilding years. Coaches at this level and pay grade should be able to adapt, improvise and overcome with existing personnel instead of wasting valuable talents and years of recruiting resources. Coaches should be able to fit square pegs into round holes by rounding the edges and squaring the holes. Learning to adjust to their personnel in all three phases of the team, Hoke and his staff have earned every penny given.


Thu, Oct 13, 2011 : 4 p.m.

Lorain....LC didn't leave Sheridan as the starting QB, he left Mallet. Further, Threet was a much better option than Sheridan as he proved at ASU. No, RR left himself with Sheridan because he refused to use any elements of the pro-style offense that was in place and the players that were here to play it. The blame lies squarely on RR. Look, Hoke doesn't want to run the spread, but he does because he's savvy enough to understand that's what his QB excels at and he did everything in his power to keep him around when he got here, unlike RR who made limited if any effort to keep Mallet. Finally, the defense returning 8 starters was not a bare cupboard. Get over it, RR was to blame for what happened under his watch. Hoke also inherited a team that is not quite ready for prime time but he has maximized what he inherited rather than making excuses for what he doesn't have.


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 9:58 p.m.

3 years to RR was still a short time for him to have a competent team lol. That is a cool 7.5 million for pure incompetence.


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 3:53 p.m.

&quot;The last coach had NO pegs, to put in any holes...&quot; And yet THIS coaching staff is WINNING with the same &quot;NO pegs&quot; that the last guy left.

Lorain Steelmen

Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 3:02 p.m.

Freddie, The last coach had NO pegs, to put in any holes....that's just the problem. I think he was stunned, to arrive in AA, and find his starting QB was Bill Sheridan. Great kid, not a D1 QB. If you were frustrated by the last three years, get frustrated at the right guy...Lloyd Carr.


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 3:51 a.m.

Michigan has to not throw any picks. If they do, it will be a long night and yr. But I have a feeling we will see something special with Denard and Devine. Michigan played a lot tougher schedule and will be a much tougher team out there. I can't wait! ! Go Blue!!


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 9:55 p.m.

If Denard does not throw picks, the game will be blown away and it won't be exciting anymore. hahaha


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 5:24 a.m.

3 picks first half?


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 2:59 a.m.

&quot;Adjustments? Adjustments? We don't need no stinking adjustments!!&quot; (former coach, 2008-2010)

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Thu, Oct 13, 2011 : 1:47 a.m.

&quot;It's gettign (sic) REAL old.&quot; Agreed. It's getting REAL old hearing the MCC blame all of the failures of the WCiMFH on the previous coach while, in the very same breath, they tell people to stop complaining about the WCiMFH. But we always understood that facts and intellectual consistency were beyond the MCC. Good Night and Good Luck


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 9:54 p.m.

What adjustments? &quot;I've been here 9 month's&quot;. lol Lombardi cannot make anything about the bare cupboard talent Lloyd Carr left? It only took Hoke, Borges and Mattison to make something with the players RR had.


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 3:51 p.m.

&quot;We don't need no stinking adjustments !!&quot; That is some funny stuff heartbreak ! If I could vote more than once for you I would.

Lorain Steelmen

Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 2:54 p.m.

HeartbreakM...give it a rest. It's gettign REAL old. The former coach is the guy that recruited these kids, and paid the dues, during his 3 years here, to get them to the point they are now! IF his predecessor (Carr) had recruited during 2006/2007, maybe we could have won a few more games. Starting Bill Sheridan at QB is bit different than starting DRob, as a junior, and having Gardner as a backup.

1st Down

Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 4:57 a.m.

Vince Lombardi couldnt make the adjustments that Coach Mattison has been making.


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 3:39 a.m.

More like, &quot;Adjustments? What are those? My scheme cannot be adjusted.&quot;