ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan coach Brady Hoke spoke calmly, the weight of a blowout loss at Notre Dame seemingly off his shoulders after the Wolverines' home win over Miami (Ohio).
That doesn't mean he isn't concerned about this weekend's opponent: The high-flying Utah Utes.
"It was good to win," Hoke said Monday. "The effort was very good from our team. We certainly always have things we've got to do better and we will do better. But the hardworking aspect of it, I thought some guys who stepped in in critical spots gained some valuable experience and confidence."
Michigan (2-1) led just 17-10 at halftime but rallied for a convincing 34-10 victory. Michigan's defense also responded after its 31-0 loss to the Irish. Miami (Ohio) scored its only touchdown after Michigan kick returner Wyatt Shallman fumbled, giving the RedHawks the ball at the Michigan 21 yard line.
It was a feel-good performance for the defense, which allowed just 280 yards of total offense at Notre Dame — and just 54 on the ground — only to end up on the bad end of a shutout. It continued to show promising signs with defensive coordinator Greg Mattison now in his fourth season in Ann Arbor.
"The bar for me and for our defense is very high," Mattison said. "If I was to say I was happy and satisfied with where we are that wouldn't be the truth, and it wouldn't be the truth if you ask any of our players. What can we get to? A lot better. . We just have to keep going every day and improving every day and when it's all done let's find out where that is."
Michigan ranks first in the Big Ten in total defense through three games and 10th nationally in rushing defense, allowing only 80 yards per game. But it faces a challenging offense Saturday at Michigan Stadium. The Utes (2-0) average 557.5 yards of offense per game and boast a balanced, no-huddle attack, averaging 248 rushing yards in blowout wins over Fresno State and Idaho State.
Hoke said creating turnovers is key against a fast offense, but the Wolverine defense has created just one takeaway this season with no fumble recoveries.
"As a defense we have to get them out of their rhythm, force them to take their time and be ready up front for their tempo," senior defensive end Brennen Beyer said. "(You can't) let the speed make you forget what your job is."
Hoke would not say whether star Michigan tight end Devin Funchess will play Saturday. Funchess did not play in the Miami (Ohio) game due to an injury suffered against Notre Dame.