Is it hard to be anything but elated with your group at this point in the season?
“Yeah, I think so. I think if you ask any team in the country they’d like to be sitting at 9-0 and our ranking, so yeah, we’re happy but certainly not satisfied. There’s work to be done.”
How about your position group?
“Playing well. I think we had a little bit of a slide in the Michigan State game. Other than, I think they’ve learned from it and are moving on.”
What’s the key or you guys in the short-yardage situations, in the red zone, to be as effective as you have?
“Well, I think in short yardage it’s just gap integrity. Guys in front have to stay in their gaps, linebackers have to stay in their gaps, the secondary fits and fills where needed, so that’s very important in short yardage. Then red zone is something we work day in and day out, starting on Monday all the way through Friday. That’s an area we hit every day, so it’s important in the game and you have to practice it.”
You talked about Channing [Stribling] in run support earlier in the year. Have there been some teaching moments the past few weeks?
“Well, yes, absolutely. The Michigan State game is a big teaching moment. He realized it and he knew he was wrong and he fixed it. That’s important. Just gotta keep building on it. That’s what he has to do.”
How do you fix that, exactly?
“You work at it. In practice we do some tackling drills, and we have some nice talks about it, too.”
[After THE JUMP: who is mini-Jourdan, more on run support, and talking about tunnel screen defense]
Shep Garner [Greg Bartram – USA Today]
Back in the 2010-2011 season, Penn State was forced to vacate its basketball facilities to accommodate preparation for a Jon Bon Jovi concert, and then a career fair – they had to practice at a rec sports facility commonly used by the volleyball team. This was part of the stretch run for a senior-laden team led by Talor Battle, which snuck into the NCAA Tournament after winning a few games in the Big Ten Tournament (the infamous 36-33 victory over Wisconsin during that tournament might have been the win to get them in). After the season was over, long-time head coach Ed DeChellis stepped down from the job to coach at… Navy.
Perhaps nothing better encapsulates the Sisyphean nature of Penn State basketball than those few months, a program routinely plays in near-empty arenas despite having the athletic department to accommodate a gargantuan football program. I mentioned this in the Nebraska preview, but Penn State’s unique challenges might be the most difficult in the Big Ten (beyond Northwestern’s, of course).
Pat Chambers took over for DeChellis and it seems like the boilerplate compliments given to Chambers teams are that they play hard and give a ton of effort. Typically, those types of comments are reserved for teams with decided talent disadvantages and the record has borne that out for Chambers in Happy Valley as the Nittany Lions have gone a combined 23-67 in Big Ten play since he took over. Needless to say, there was no momentum after that surprise tournament bid back in the spring of 2011 and the program has predictably struggled.
It will probably be more of the same for Penn State this year. They lost senior Brandon Taylor, a high-volume iso scoring forward who usually played the four, and adjusting to his absence will be a challenge. Chambers’s familiarity with the Philadelphia recruiting scene paid off in a big way, as he was able to sign a trio of players from Roman Catholic High School, two of whom were Top 100 prospects nationally. Even if the talent level has risen some, Penn State’s best players will be young and escaping from the bottom half of the Big Ten will be difficult.
[More on the Nittany Lions after the JUMP]
Sure, I could have picked one of the inch-perfect bombs Wilton Speight unleashed. Could have gone with one of the throws where he stepped up, spun away from a rusher, and unloaded on the move, too. Those plays, though technically excellent and certainly worthy of further analysis, don’t have the same panache as a 6’6” quarterback taking flight for his first career rushing touchdown. I had a chance to go in-depth with Speight on his 10-yard run at the end of the first quarter.
What did you see when you got to the line?
“I saw bracket coverage, so I knew that Jake Butt was gonna have to do something special to get open. I gave him a chance but they doubled him pretty well. Felt the rush there on the edge and realized there was nobody spying me in the middle because they were running the bracket 2-man, and then so I just hitched up twice and took off. I don’t know what I was doing when I got to the end zone. It just kind of happened in the spur of the moment.”
Oh yeah? So that wasn’t premeditated?
“No, not at all. Not at all, because I didn’t think I was going to have a rushing touchdown more than a QB sneak. That’s God’s honest truth. I don’t know. I just jumped up and everyone thought it looked like the Jumpman [logo].”
But that’s not intended?
“No, not at all.”
Have you seen that kind of defense before? With Coach Durkin having coached here before, was that familiar to you?
“Yeah, yeah. Coach Fisch always tells us the best checkdown versus 2-man defense is the quarterback scramble. So I was able to do that and it worked it out.”
Were you waiting to see whether they manned up Higdon as he split out to see if you’d have room in the middle to run?
“Yeah, I mean, I knew they were going to. I knew they were going to presnap, yeah.”
Is there a certain number of reads that you’re coached to make before you take off, or are you--
“That’s just a feel thing. Yeah, it’s just—obviously I want to go through all of my reads, but once that internal clock goes off and it’s time to take off, then so be it.”
As you get near the goal line after taking off, what’s going through your mind? It’s okay if it was the Drake song.
[laughs] “No, I was just so pumped. Fired up. Tossed the ball to the ref so I could go celebrate with my teammates.”
[via OSU Basketball Twitter]
Since starting at Ohio State back in the 2004-5 season, Thad Matta has been one of the Big Ten’s best coaches: his Buckeye teams have been a one- or two-seed in the NCAA Tournament six times, have won five Big Ten titles (and the Big Ten Tournament four times), and have made it to the Final Four twice. Matta’s Ohio State teams have consistently featured one-and-done prospects, usually have some of the stingiest defenses in the country, and his overall work at a football school has been extremely impressive. Even though there’s been a slide in recent years, there’s little doubt that the OSU program is in good hands as long as he’s been in Columbus.
That slide – a six-seed in 2014, a ten-seed in 2015, and then missing the tournament entirely last season – has been a big point of consternation among the Buckeye faithful, and the causes are a topic of debate. Surely the very highly-touted but disappointing 2011 recruiting class played a part, as has the youth of many key players – especially last season. The Buckeyes had no seniors, just one junior, and had freshman JaQuan Lyle in a featured role offensively. Predictably, he was unable to replicate the production of sensational one-and-done guard D’Angelo Russell, and the Buckeyes wound up 76th in Kenpom’s algorithm, by far the worst finish of the Matta era.
[More on the Buckeyes after the JUMP]
Visit Reactions: M Winning Solomon Back?
yeah, still want
After gaining a commitment, losing it, looking out of the picture, and then crawing their way back in, Michigan made their latest push for four-star GA DT Aubrey Solomon on his official visit for the Maryland game. Solomon was accompanied by his mother, who came very prepared, and the most critical aspect of the visit from M's perspective was winning over—Solomon's interest in Michigan has always been very strong while his mom has been a skeptic. According to Sam Webb, they pulled out all the stops:
Front and center for most of the visit were Gwen Bush and Devin Bush Sr. They were with mom a ton with one observer offering, “Gwen hardly left his mom’s side.” And as we speculated heading into the visit… “Momma Gwen” having sent her own questionnaire out during her son Wayne Lyons’ recruitment before deciding to send him to school on the other side of the country (from Florida to Stanford) really appeared to help forge a connection. For good measure Wayne was also on hand for the Solomons to meet.
The vibe between Mom and Bush Sr. was noticeable. One observer said, "they went back and forth like they've known each other for years."
Rashan Gary and his mother, who was visiting for the weekend, hosted Solomon, though his mom wasn't able to get together with Gary's; she did, however, have lunch with Greg Harden, Michigan's director of academic counseling—he played a big role in landing Gary.
Both Sam and Steve Lorenz believe Aubrey himself wants to go to Michigan, but they still have work to do to win over his mother. Lorenz:
If the choice was 100% his, there would likely be some 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions coming back the Wolverines' way. However, it appears to not be fully his decision. We reported on Sunday that mom was impressed with what Michigan had to offer. That remains the case in the grand scheme of things, but according to a second source we spoke with on Monday, the visit reportedly could have gone better from Michigan's standpoint regarding impressing Solomon's mother.
Also of note: Sam is getting the "distinct impression" that Clemson, not Alabama or Georgia, is the school closer to home with the best shot at Solomon. I'm not sure how to take that: on one hand, that looks like some tough competition is taking a step back; on the other, well, head-to-head recruiting against Clemson can be quite the experience. Michigan made progress this weekend; we'll see if it sticks after more visits.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
[Gerald Herbert – AP]
It feels like this season has flown by – last week, the initial playoff rankings were released and the committee trolled all of us: instead of putting in the four undefeated Power Five teams in the top four spots, they put Texas A&M ahead of Washington, despite the Aggies’ loss to Alabama a few weeks ago. Of course, college football has its funny ways of settling these things, as A&M was upset by a Mississippi State team that still has a losing record. That – or Ohio State’s demolition of Nebraska – was the most meaningful result on Saturday.
On to the week that was.
--- Somehow, ALABAMA and LSU seem to bring out the worst in each other; despite being able to play perfectly normal games with relatively sane scoring margins, when the two get together in the Saban Bowl, low-scoring, bone-rattling contests are the norm. This time, the Tide prevailed 10-0 in a game that was scoreless through three quarters. There were some missed opportunities: each team missed a field goal and Bama was stopped short on fourth-and-goal. Still, it was an ugly game. Both quarterbacks struggled mightily through the air, combining to go 21-43 through the air for 197 yards, and each threw an interception. The story of the game, however, was Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts’s excellent performance as a runner – he was the only player to hit 100 yards on the day, ran for the game’s only touchdown on a 21-yard scamper, and the Tide’s spread running attack was reasonably effective, though the scoreboard didn’t show it. Meanwhile, star LSU running back Leonard Fournette was held to 35 yards on 17 carries. Bama’s defense was as ferocious as ever, holding the Tiger offense to just 125 yards of total offense. The Iron Bowl should provide the Tide with a challenge, but that game’s at home and they easily have the best odds of reaching the playoff.
[Hit the JUMP for the rest of the recap]