well that's just, like, your opinion, man
10/31/2015 – Michigan 29, Minnesota 26 – 6-2, 3-1 Big Ten
ONE. We've got a radio show now so I've been listening to sports talk radio even when Sam and Ira aren't on. I do it to compare and maybe get better and maybe draw confidence from the fact that a lot of sports talk radio is outrageously bad. The parts that aren't are often outrageously robotic. WTKA has a bunch of NFL stuff now that they switched to CBS, and it's on when I go to and from our podcast on Sunday; sometimes I catch it on a Thursday.
Tom Brady was on. Jim Gray actually asked him a lot of pointed questions about the upcoming game against the Colts and whether he had a desire to rain unholy fire upon those bastards. Brady responded with the passion of an accountant. I would chalk this up to Brady's flat affect, but I've seen player after player descend into this anodyne non-existence. This is a a league that spent most of the offseason discussing the Ideal Gas Law, after all—even if they didn't know they were doing so. It's just a thing. Colleges teach it but it doesn't take all the way. The NFL perfects it, along with the slant.
TWO. Minnesota has not been good for literally 50 years. Their blips to the positive aren't even Illinois blips. Every decade Illinois will show up in a BCS-level game; the Minnesota coach with the best winning percentage since 1944 is one Glen Mason, who the Gophers fired so they could hire Tim Brewster.
THREE. In 2005 I was pretty mad after a weird game where the Michigan Stadium scoreboards fritzed out and Jim Herrmann called a blitz on which Prescott Burgess, a 230-pound linebacker, was tasked with two-gapping a 270-pound monster TE. When I get mad I tend to be mad about everything, but when Lawrence Maroney rushed out to midfield and planted the biggest damn Minnesota flag in existence I was just like "yeah, go ahead, you earned that."
Sixty-plus Gopher players stormed across that field to reclaim the Jug without considering decorum, sanity, or sportsmanship. Michigan had just lost a game mostly because they called a blitz so telegraphed that a petrified backup QB could check them into a 50-yard run and I had enough non-hate in my heart to genuinely enjoy the fervor with which the Gophers reclaimed Fielding Yost's 30-cent chunk of crockery.
FOUR. Last year the Little Brown Jug went on a tour of the state of Minnesota.
This was a good idea.
FIVE. Jerry Kill retired last week because he could no longer control the seizures his cancer had bestowed upon him. Jerry Kill talks like a NASCAR driver. He comes by his coachspeak honestly, and when Tracy Claeys was again thrust into a role he probably never thought he'd be in—Kill tends to buy and hold assistants until the end of time—he sounded 100% like Jerry Kill.
It was awkward. It was stilted. It was genuine as hell. He told his kids not to play with emotion because emotion evaporates but to play with passion because passion sticks and I was just like YOU MAY BE SAYING THIS LIKE TOM BRADY SAYS THINGS BUT I KNOW THAT FEEL.
SIX. Junior Hemingway, just shouting and weeping after the Sugar Bowl.
SEVEN. Jerry Kill.
EIGHT. Michigan won a football game that often doubled as an exercise in hilarious improbability. Michigan gave up a 52-yard touchdown after Jeremy Clark executed the platonic ideal of coverage against a corner route. With 19 seconds left in a football game, Minnesota spent 17 seconds on a series of elaborate motions on first and goal from the half-yard line.
Football is weird and terrible and sometimes it gets you to within a half-yard of a cathartic, wonderful victory and then says "nah." Sometimes when you're 2-and-a-billion after always being good your walk-on QB dials up a bunch of incredible throws and you go grab the Little Brown Jug with a newfound respect for its importance. Football, above all, is cruel.
NINE. If you are a Minnesota fan on a bitter Monday indeed, here is the equivalent of Lawrence Maroney planting a flag. It is Jon Falk, the recently retired and legendary Michigan equipment manager, welcoming his favorite 30-cent crockery back home.
It hurts, but that means something. That is a thing that is real. It is a reflection of Jerry Kill killing himself to be in this game and dying because he has to leave it.
TEN. I've always hated THIS IS MICHIGAN a bit because it reminds me of going to Penn State in 2006 and having their chintzy-ass scoreboards proclaim WE'RE PENN STATE… AND THEY'RE NOT. It's not necessarily as bad, but sometimes it tends to AND THEY'RE NOT. I'm not a huge fan of Michigan's excellently-executed James Earl Jones intro video this year because it claims a bunch of things that should be gestured at instead.
Michigan's great. I love Michigan. I love it all, though. I've been to Georgia and Auburn and Penn State and Ohio State and Minnesota and the feeling of college football is something else. Minnesota hasn't done anything Colin Cowherd would note for 50 years. You could maybe compare them to the Lions, who no one should ever be a fan of.
Except no. Tell me that doesn't matter. Tell me This Is Minnesota doesn't mean anything. We took the Jug and we mostly earned it and that matters to me. It matters to Jabrill Peppers and Jon Falk and Jim Harbaugh and Greg Dooley. It matters because it's college fucking football, and Minnesota means something.
To Michigan, it means the Jug. They got it back on Saturday by the skin of their teeth, and for a program that's had a bit of a rough go of late they'll take it any way they can get it.
Column inspired by Dr. Sap digging up a post-game Bo speech after the 1987 Jug game:
A half hour version that must be most of the game from WD:
Parking God has a more reasonable length reel:
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 Jabrill Peppers had a 40 yard KO return, a 40 yard punt return, two PBUs, a near pick-six, a rushing touchdown, a reverse set up by everyone fretting about Peppers, a pass interference call drawn—Peppers played nearly 100 snaps and was instrumental in all three phases of the game.
#2 Maurice Hurst didn't actually pop up in the box score much but he was frequently in Leidner's grill; on the final stand he blew up the pass protection on the first play and was one of a few different Wolverines whipping their dudes up front. Actually in the box score: he had a critical TFL that forced Minnesota to kick a short field goal.
#3 Drake Johnson didn't get many carries but was by far the most effective runner Michigan had; other guys had lanes but didn't take advantage of them. Hoping to see more of him going forward.
Honorable mention: Chesson and Darboh both had nice days. Glasgow again contributed to mostly good run defense.
9: Jourdan Lewis (#1 UNLV, #1 Northwestern, #1 MSU), Jabrill Peppers(#2 BYU, #2 Northwestern, #2 MSU, #1 Minnesota)
5: Chris Wormley(#2 Utah, #1 Oregon State)
4: Maurice Hurst (#2 Maryland, #2 Minnesota)
3: Jake Butt (#1 Utah), De'Veon Smith(#2 Oregon State, #3 BYU), Ryan Glasgow (#1 BYU), Desmond Morgan (#1 Maryland),
2: Ty Isaac(#2 UNLV), Willie Henry(#3 Utah, #3 MSU).
1: AJ Williams (#3 Oregon State), Channing Stribling(#3 UNLV), Blake O'Neill(#3 Maryland), Jake Rudock(#3 Northwestern), Drake Johnson(#3 Minnesota)
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
This week's best thing ever.
Form a f-ing wall.
— Ace Anbender (@AceAnbender) November 1, 2015
Honorable mention: Speight throws the go-ahead touchdown and then converts for two; Peppers has the ball in his hands.
Utah: Crazy #buttdown.
Oregon State: #tacopunts.
UNLV: Ty Isaac's 76 yard touchdown.
BYU: De'Veon Smith's illicit teleporter run.
Maryland: Jehu Chesson jet sweeps past you.
Northwestern: Chesson opening KO TD.
MSU: the bit where they won until they didn't.
Minnesota: form a f-ing wall.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
This week's worst thing ever.
Channing Stribling gets beat over the top for what seems like the game-winning touchdown, until it was not.
Honorable mention: Mitch Leidner hurling the ball downfield on throws that are very bad ideas only for those to be complete anyway. Rudock underthrows another deep ball by 20 yards.
Utah: circle route pick six.
Oregon State: Rudock fumbles after blitz bust.
UNLV: Rudock matches 2014 INT total in game 3.
BYU: BYU manages to get to triple digit yards in the last minutes of the game.
Maryland: Slog extended by deflected interception at Houma.
Northwestern: KLINSMANN OUT
Minnesota: The bit where the lost it until they didn't.
[After THE JUMP: fluky fluky fluky.]
[Ed(Seth): Standard bump]
Best: Falling Back
In addition to Saturday’s game being on Halloween, it also fell on the last day of summer daylight savings time, when we set the clocks back an hour. Colloquially, people call that “falling back” an hour, so you get another hour of sleep (well, for those of us without little children who apparently rise and fall based 100% on sunlight and morning cartoons) in exchange for earlier nights.
For so much of this game, it felt like UM was falling back into the old rut that had formed around the program for nearly a decade. For years now, UM has shown an uncanny ability to fall apart as the season progressed, playing down to competition and letting one loss mushroom into more as the leaves and clocks changed. Last year it was letting understandable losses to Utah and Minnesota submarine a game against Rutgers and, later, Maryland. The year before it was blowing a winnable game against Nebraska following a demolition at MSU, which followed extremely close calls to UConn(!) and Akron(!!). I won’t dredge up the RR years, but you can look up those late-season horror shows if you want. And after the gut-punch that was MSU, UM fans probably shouldn’t have been as confident in a smooth bounce back by the Wolverines.
Certainly, Minnesota looked the part of a pushover. The Gophers, down Jerry Kill at the top and a bunch of skill players from last year’s team, had stumbled into the game, losers of 2 of their last 3, including blowout losses at Northwestern (27-0) and to Nebraska (48-25). They couldn’t really run the ball or pass it (take it away, Jim), had a defense that was scuttling a bit after being the bedrock for the team last year, and generally looked like a team that was playing out the string. But it was also a night game, deep in the heart of Jerrysota, and it was being officiated by B1G refs, which meant that absolutely nothing should be expected to go the way it looked on paper.
On UM’s first drive, Jake Rudock threw an ill-advised shovel pass to Peppers that was picked off, giving Minnesota solid field position that they used (with the help of another recurring element of this game, bat-sh!t crazy passing plays by Minnesota, this one a falling-down 31-yard catch by the receiver between three defenders) to score a FG. Even though UM scored TDs on their next two drives, Minnesota just kept hanging around, scoring another FG and began to stymie the UM offense, forcing a punt and a fumble on consecutive drives. And they continued to have amazing luck in the passing game, with Mitch Leidner completing a 52-yard TD that was both behind and inside his receiver in tight coverage, who then made Jarrod Wilson miss and scored. Minny took a lead into halftime thanks to another nutters long reception, a sure interception that Dymonte Thomas instead volleyballed into the air, for a late FG, and UM was struggling to run the ball (45 yards at HT) or really get anything going in the air (after starting off reasonably accurate, Rudock was completing a bit over 50% of his passes for about 6 ypa).
[Hit THE JUMP to see how many straws we can grasp (hint: one)]
Friday, October 30, 2015
Michigan 5, Robert Morris 3
UM 0 RM 1 EV 16:16 Denham from Gibson
Joseph Cecconi attempts a routine pass to Zach Werenski, but the puck hops over his stick. Denham, who’s in front of Werenski in the screen cap below, closes on the puck as Werenski turns to recover and taps it into the neutral zone.
Cecconi gets back to help Werenski, who’s now in a footrace in what appears to be a rapidly developing 2-on-1.
There seems to be some miscommunication here as Cecconi points to the trailer and covers the puck carrier, but Werenski just sort of glides through the middle and stays shaded to the side with the puck carrier.
Gibson, who Werenski failed to cover, gets a nice pass from Denham and skates in on Nagelvoort. Nagelvoort make the initial save but Denham is unchecked (Gibson plows through Cecconi; you can see that happening in the screen cap below) and chops the rebound in.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest]
Michigan had their hands on it all game, and it kept slipping through their fingers. Peppers dropped a pick-six after jumping a WR screen. Dymonte Thomas and Jarrod Wilson both dropped interceptions they had two hands on (Dymonte’s was then caught by a Gopher). Jourdan Lewis and Jeremy Clark probably could have grabbed a pair of Leidner ducks they played with Connor Cook-level respect. Thomas also let a perfect Blake O’Neill punt bounce through his hands for a touchback. Each time the Gophers capitalized.
For its part, Minnesota held on like men who don’t know what they’d do with their lives if they couldn’t run around in goofy armor for a chance to win some painted old pottery. On 4th and 5 on Minnesota’s last drive, K.J. Maye had one inch to catch a slant against perhaps the best cornerback in the country, and didn’t drop it. Neither did his receiver mate Drew Wolitarsky, who on the ensuing 2nd down beat Channing Stribling with a double move and hauled in a pass at the 1 inch line.
With the clock running Mitch Leidner moved his pieces around to set up a winning TD, but the Michigan defense chased him out of his pocket. That left 2 seconds for either a field goal attempt to force overtime, or a play to win. An average team against an average defense should get that QB sneak 9 times out of 10. But Minnesota was no average offense; they had a true freshman at center and other replacements all around him. And Michigan was no average defense. For one, Ryan Glasgow was the guy right over the ball. For two, D.J. Durkin was making the calls.
Harbaugh says Durking called the QB sneak, team rolled the dice and built a wall.
— Zach Shaw (@_ZachShaw) November 1, 2015
While the Minnesotasphere will spend the next week replaying final scenarios (and the choice to play for a field goal at the end of the first half), Michigan fans will try to unpack all of the misfortunes and misplays that almost made the Little Brown Jug miss the flight home from its year abroad.
So much about Michigan has changed since then that it’s hard to remember this is still a team put together by Brady Hoke and held together by Harbaugh’s ingenuity. You can’t blame the old coach for everything, but Michigan’s recent history was all over this game.
Those weren’t all bad things. The interior defensive line was its magnificent self. Jourdan Lewis was. Chesson dropped one earlier but held onto his horizontal touchdown, and Darboh’s hands made sure it was 3 points, not 1, that Minnesota needed from our 1.
Hoke also left Jabrill Peppers, who, finally, was the answer one too many of Michigan’s questions. Need an athletic nickel to neutralize the spread? Peppers. Need a strong safety? Peppers. Cornerback. Kick returner. Punt returner. Running back. Slot receiver. Quarterback?
So yeah, this week we’re going to talk about the Morris-or-bust plan, because early in the third quarter Jake Rudock went to slide, and a defender tried to separate his head from his shoulders. It was the third time (the second was earlier in this game) this season he was clearly targeted with no call.
With Michigan down 23-21 at this point Harbaugh inserted Wilton Speight, whose play was about what you expect out of Wilton Speight. He did finally get his feet under him on the final drive, with his last two passes of the game the touchdown to Chesson and the two-point conversion to Darboh. Let that be the final word on wither Shane Morris.
(Rudock was on the sideline trying to throw after being examined and just about everyone noted Michigan informed the press it was a shoulder injury rather than, you know, making it a thing.)
Desmond Morgan did not have a good game, giving up a long run when he got out of his lane, getting caught too far inside on a long wheel route, letting Brandon Lingen sneak behind him for a long pass at the beginning of the 4th quarter, and letting Rodney Smith shuck him to give up a crucial 3rd and 17.
That and the dodgy score and the Halloween candy had Michigan perilously close to vomiting up a Hoke game in 2015. But they ultimately held it down, and the feeling will pass with time.