Michigan's Ryan Van Bergen named co-Big Ten defensive player of the week for dominating effort
The defense isn't quite there yet, but it is inching toward it thanks to Van Bergen's effort in the 20th-ranked Wolverines' 31-14 win Saturday at Illinois. The senior defensive lineman was a force, accounting for a career-high seven tackles and an impressive three sacks of running quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase.
For those efforts, Van Bergen was named co-Big Ten defensive player of the week on Monday.
"It's great that the offense was able to lean on us in this game, because last year against Illinois, they couldn't," Van Bergen said of his team's dominating defensive effort a year after it allowed 65 points to the Illini.
"You should think we're a dominant defense, that we can be relied on. Michigan is going to be able to rely on its defense, it always has been, it always will be that way."
Van Bergen and defensive tackle Mike Martin complemented each other well against Illinois, helping to hold Illinois to minus-12 yards rushing in the first half and 37 for the game. Martin had a team-high nine tackles.
Illinois didn't advance into Michigan territory until the second half and did not convert its first eight third-down attempts. It's longest drive was 24 yards until late in the third quarter.
Van Bergen was a big reason why.
"(Van Bergen) and Mike were running some games in there that were pretty good," coach Brady Hoke said. "When you've got two guys in there who are veterans, you can change it up a little bit. The line played with a presence out there that you could really feel it."
It's Van Bergen's first defensive player of the week award, and the first for Michigan since Brandon Herron won it after this year's season opener. He splits the honor this week with Purdue defensive lineman Kawann Short.
Michigan has the nation's fifth-best scoring defense (15.5 points per game), which trails only Penn State (13.6 points) among Big Ten teams. It is 16th in total defense.