ANN ARBOR, Mich.–Michigan’s Jourdan Lewis continues to prove that he’s among the best cornerbacks in the country. Despite the Wolverines’ 27-23 loss Saturday to Michigan State, the 5’10,” 175-pound junior held his own while checking Spartans superstar receiver Aaron Burbridge.
Burbridge, a 6’1,” 208-pound senior, caught nine passes for 132 yards.
But he was also targeted 19 times. Lewis held firm throughout the afternoon and into the evening.
“It was a battle. That’s the only way you can describe it,” Lewis said Tuesday. “We went at it. He won some. I won some. So you know, at the end of the day, he won the game. I guess you give the edge to him.”
Lewis’ defense helped force the Spartans to turn over the ball on downs late in the fourth quarter. His deflection on 3rd-and-19 contributed to Michigan State taking a timeout. On 4th-and-19, Dymonte Thomas batted down a pass to Macgarett Kings, Jr.
With 14 pass break-ups on the year, Lewis is no stranger to physical play–he looks for it each Saturday. He’s encountered hurdles this season, but Burbridge–who is also one of the nation’s elite–is at a significantly higher level than most. Part of that is his raw skill, but the other part is the guy throwing the ball–senior quarterback Connor Cook.
That tandem is lethal.
“He’s an extremely competitive guy,” Lewis said of Burbridge. “Just like Cook–he didn’t shy away from me, you know, and that’s what I wanted. I knew that coming in, those guys weren’t going to be scared of me. I knew I was going to have to bring my A-Game. (Aaron) brought his and so did Connor.”
Was it the most difficult battle of your career?
“It was pretty good. I don’t really know how to rank it, but it was one of the best ones,” Lewis said. “It’s one of the moments that you look back and say, ‘those were some good performances.'”
Lewis went onto explain that he didn’t mind being targeted time after time. He’s at that level–and so was his competition. The elite want to beat the elite. Cook “threw some excellent balls” to Burbridge. Some of those throws caught Lewis off-guard.
Others were near-picks or aggressive deflections.
“You just have to go on to the next play and just… honestly… play,” Lewis said of the back-and-forth.
Well prepared for such an adversary, Lewis said he was completely “locked in” this past Saturday. He broke up six passes and influenced the other four incomplete attempts to Burbridge.
Yeah, “locked in” sums it up pretty well, actually.
“It was good coverage,” Lewis said. “In man-coverage, I have no regrets,” later citing eye-control during third downs as his only deficiency.
Lewis got everything he expected on Saturday. When you’re a target, you know–and Lewis didn’t disappoint or fail his assignment..
“That was his top guy,” Lewis said of the Cook-Burbridge connection. “We knew that he wanted to throw to his top guy. I knew that they weren’t shy about competing. It wasn’t like an insult, you know. That was his top guy and I had to guard him.”
Michigan has 34 pass breakups this season. It had 27 in 2014. Lewis has 14 of the disruptions this season. Plus he has a pick-6 that helped crush Northwestern, 38-0. There is no doubting Lewis’ potential. He’s had it since 2014 and has no issue showing it off this fall for his No. 15-ranked Wolverines (5-2, 2-1).
“No difference–it was the (same) coming into camp, spring ball–we’ve got to be intense on defense, we’ve got to make plays on offense,” Lewis said of his team’s mentality. “That’s what coach Harbaugh talks about, coach (defensive coordinator D.J.) Durkin preaches.
That’s what all of our coaches preach. There’s been no change. It’s just the difference in production from last year to this year–it’s really no difference in what our coaches are telling us now.”
When asked about what the season holds, Lewis turned his head and firmly said, “We’re prepared to win-out now. I have faith in my guys.”