"(I) think about 'The Lion King,' Simba gets hit over the head and (he's told) 'the past can hurt,' " Harbaugh said Monday afternoon. "'You can either run from it or embrace it and learn from it.'
Ace (2:36 pm): oh god I just realized the only logical game to scout for penn state is... the rutgers game.
Brian (2:36 pm): hahahaha
If you need a refresher, here's the original Rutgers defense FFFF post, which looked at the exact same set of snaps, just from the other perspective. This game was really, really ugly, with Rutgers completely shutting down PSU's running game while hounding Christian Hackenberg with their pass rush; in general, RU overwhelmed what has been a very bad PSU O-line to date.
Personnel. As you can see in Seth's diagram, Penn State's offense sorely lacks experience, including on the much-maligned O-line, which features just one returning starter and two players in their second year on campus [click the diagram to embiggen]:
Jourdan Lewis, meanwhile, has earned full-blown ninja star status.
Penn State tends to put two tight ends on the field regardless of their alignment, and they'll even insert a third on occasion. With TEs that can also double as jumbo receivers, however, they still have plenty of flexibility with their offense; this will be highlighted in the play breakdown. When they do go three-wide, usually on obvious passing downs, DaeSean Hamilton slides into the slot and freshman Chris Godwin flanks him on the outside.
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Spread-ish? Penn State lines up in the gun most of the time and throws it quite a bit, but that seems to be more necessity based on ability—the O-line can't really pass-block or run-block, so it's best to start the QB as far away from the line as possible—than a stylistic choice.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? Penn State didn't run from their base set much at all—nearly half of their 33 "rushes" were either Hackenberg sacks/scrambles/sneaks (12!), futile plunges out of the Wildcat (2), or fly sweeps (2). They mostly tried outside zone or quick pitches to the edge when they did; they were clearly trying to mitigate the damage their interior line could inflict on themselves.
Hurry it up or grind it out? Varied. PSU mostly played it relatively slow, huddling up between snaps, but they'd go up-tempo to catch the defense off-guard, usually to covert third-and-shorts or to try to hit a big play after gaining a first down.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]
News bullets and important items:
Ondre Pipkins should be back this week. Sounds like he was injured last week.
The coaches want the running game to be filtered through the running backs because they don’t want the quarterback to get hurt
Maurice Ways and Chase Winovich are two younger guys who have garnered attention from the coaches
Mo Hurst was a running back in high school and has good vision; hence his use in goal line situations
Jabrill Peppers is not out for the season
“Thanks for coming out today. Yesterday, again, the consistency of having good practices continued. They went out and it was spirited. It was tough. Obviously they want to win. They want to play better. They want to compete better, and I think they’ve done that throughout so that’s been focusing on improving at each position and what we can do to play better, coach better, the whole deal. You know Penn State has a very good defense. Very salty, very good defensive front. I think Hackenberg is as talented as a quarterback as you’re going to find. I remember talking to Bill O’Brien about him and I know what Bill thinks of him as a quarterback and I can tell you we share those sentiments. We’re excited to get back out on Saturday. I think that’s the great part about football; you get another opportunity. We’ve got to take advantage of it. It’ll be a historic night, obviously, with the first Big Ten night game in Michigan Stadium. The atmosphere the night games have created the last two years have been something that has been very exciting for our players, so we’re excited about that.”
Coach, Ondre Pipkins didn’t travel with you. Where is he in the mix on the defensive side?
“He’ll be back with us this week.”
So you’re not talking about injuries, but-
With the running backs, do you move [Ross] Douglas back there or do you do anything else to get more depth, because you were kind of thin there anyway?
“You know, Ross is playing a little bit of the slot. He’s helping us there a little bit. Haven’t moved him full-time back. The good thing is he’s had some snaps there but right now we feel pretty confident with DeVeon and Justice and Drake Johnson. In some personnel and situation things Joe Kerridge being back there is a possibility.”
Is Wyatt Shallman playing there?
“Well, he- a little bit, yeah. He does some things for us.”
We’ve talked about this all the years with Denard and now Devin but the balance between letting them run, which was obviously successful the other day, and then now the injury factor; how do you balance that?
“Well, I think with two good athletes like that who from an instinctive point of view maybe run the ball a little bit more than you want depending on what they see down the field in those passing situations, but I think there is a balance. I think we would like to keep creating the runs from the tailback position as much as possible so that we don’t have to put him in harm’s way.”
How much of it is Devin initiating it and how much of it is directed from Doug [Nussmeier]?
“Well, I think he initiates some of it. He has a feel for it, and instinct for it but obviously there were some designed runs that were in there.”
[After THE JUMP: Get out your Ouija board, because we’re (barely) talking injuries]
FORMATION NOTES: Not a whole lot was different, but Michigan did line up in a number of under fronts…
…so that was frustrating what with Ross playing SAM and Ryan at MLB, neither of them doing particularly well.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Usual rotation on the line except Charlton got the start and played about the same number of snaps as Beyer. Hurst continues to get a few snaps, which is a change from earlier. LBs same; corners generally Lewis and Countess with Taylor coming in for the nickel, pushing Countess inside.
Wilson went the whole way; Clark was the other starter at S with Thomas coming in regularly.
[After THE JUMP: the center cannot hold.]
Ace: We're halfway through the season, and I'm in no mood to ask the standard "how is the team doing compared to expectations?" for obvious reasons. Instead, for a more positive outlook, let's keep our eyes on the future: Which player on each side of the ball has exceeded your expectations for them heading into the year? Has anyone, in your opinion, gone from question mark to potential star?
Seth: There has been so little good news from the offense that Jack Miller's play has gone largely unnoticed. I was ready to write him off after last year to the point where I was writing off the entire OL because Miller still had a job on it. Mea culpa; there's no whiff of Rimington in his future, but it appears the dude can ball.
|Miller seems to be involved in much of the offense's little bursts of running competence. [Fuller]|
We haven't had a UFR for awhile, but when those do come out I bet you'll find the run game's quiet progress can be largely attributed to Miller pulling off the occasional block in a gap nobody but Molk has any business getting to. Even earlier in the season there were Miller-generated holes that the RBs just missed. Did you hear me, People of Earth Who Lived Through the Neg-Two and 27 for 27? THERE WERE HOLES! Upperclassmen are nice, and also a nice reminder that most OL take a long time to develop.
On defense it's Ryan Glasgow, with Jourdan Lewis running a close second. Remember what you thought when you first heard Glasgow was atop the depth chart? You thought "Oh dear, Pipkins is still damaged and a walk-on is ahead of everyone else." That seems like forever ago; it was six weeks ago.
It took just a few games for Glasgow to earn the Order of St. Kovacs, his asterisks packed away for his eventual NFL destination to do human interest stories. I remind you even the Great and Mighty Kovacs spent a season as the opposite of Ed Reed (and went out, miserably, on a play that reminded us how much he wasn't Ed Reed). Some decent run outfits haven't been able to get anywhere against Michigan except when Glasgow rotates out, and there have even been a few GRrraaaarrr plays of brute strength to hint at a higher ceiling.
His game could use some pass rush, but has exceeded expectations to the point that I want Adam to ask the coaches where was guy this last year when they were playing Jibreel Black at nose? I'll say this for Brady Hoke: when he's gone, I suspect I will dearly miss the Heininger Certainty Principle.
[jump for people saying positive things about offensive players, perhaps]
WELP! WELP! WELP! welp
I-AA And Beyond
All these guys are risks. Just look at Bobby Hauck, who went a staggering 80-17 at Montana and has three two-win seasons and a seven win season at UNLV.
BOMBS OVER BEILEIN Y'ALL
BOB STITT, COLORADO SCHOOL OF MINES
BASICS: 12 years as HC/OC of D-II CSM, before that two years as Harvard OC and smaller jobs. 90-57, 1-2 in three trips to the D-II playoffs. 50 years old.
PROS: Extensive head coach experience at an academically demanding school that had previous experienced no success. 2001, his second year, was CSM's first winning season in a decade; 7 wins was their best record since 1958(!). Since getting established with an 12-1 record in 2004 only two CSM teams have finished worse than 6-3 in conference.
Has a reputation as an offensive innovator after Dana Holgorsen credited him with the play WVU used to obliterate Clemson in that one Orange Bowl. Does weekly coaching recap show in which he diagrams plays. Seems cool with shirts that say "Stitt happens."
CONS: No experience with big time football, and I mean none: coaching career has taken him from Northern Colorado Greeley to Doane College to Austin College to Harvard to CSM. No idea how he'd recruit.
OVERALL: Here's your Beilein. Quality 50-year-old dude with long, successful track record and reputation as offensive guru with recruiting and can-he-be-big-time questions. CSM is a lot farther from Michigan in Big Time considerations than WVU, obviously.
BEAU BALDWIN, EASTERN WASHINGTON
BASICS: 56-22 in six years on the blood-red field at EWU, coming off consecutive final four appearances in the I-AA playoffs and a national championship in 2010. Had one year at Central Washington, a D-II school before that. Career as an assistant included four years at EWU as OC and QB coach; before that was a Central Washington QB and then their QB coach, commencing immediately upon graduation. 42 years old.
PROS: Wildly successful in the Big Sky. Young. Significantly improved on Paul Wulff's EWU tenure, which saw years around .500 most of the time with only two 9-4 outliers.
CONS: May have never left the state of Washington. Usual experience issues. Paul Wulff flameout indicative of the flier nature of any of these guys. EWU seems to have in-built advantages that lend themselves to success irrespective of HC quality.
OVERALL: Has had more success at a higher level than Stitt, albeit in a briefer time period and coming from a much less dire starting point.
ROB AMBROSE, TOWSON
BASICS: Took over a moribund Towson program that went 3-19 in his first two years and flipped the script, going 29-10 the last three and reaching the I-AA championship game last year. Former Towson WR, has spent virtually all of his coaching career either at his alma mater or UConn, where he was first their QB coach and then OC from 2006 to 2008. 44 years old.
PROS: Youth, crazy Towson turnaround, etc., etc. These guys all have the same profile.
CONS: Same as the other guys. Shorter track record than either.
OVERALL: If you're reaching down here Stitt seems like the pick.
[After THE JUMP: oh no the NFL, plus goblins]
Dennis Norfleet, Frank Clark, Jack Miller
Frank, obviously that wasn’t what your defense wanted [with] the third down struggles, the passing yards and stuff. What do you identify as the single biggest reason for all that?
FC: “Just poor execution. As a defense one thing you’ve got to do and you take pride in is stopping the run first and foremost, and then getting off the field on third down and that’s something that we failed to do this past Saturday. All we can do from this point on is continue to progress and get better as far as those situations, those third-and-longs, third-and-shorts even and come out next week- this week, actually, and make a difference.”
One of those was yours before the half. Can you take us through that?
FC: “Just failed execution. It was a pretty obvious play. I should have made the play, but that play is over with and I move forward from it. I think I’ve beat myself up enough over it. Like I said, that’s just one of those plays I should have made. I tell myself all the time- I’d say 99% of the time I would have made that play. That was that 1% that I didn’t.”
Jack, you guys talk about blocking things out and not hearing the outside, but what would it mean to the guys on this team to have a crowd that is pretty packed and whipped up for a night game here?
JM: “It’d be awesome, and that’s what we’re hoping happens. There’s no place like the Big House when it gets rocking, and we’re really looking forward to coming home for the first night game in the Big Ten here and all that stuff and having a fun night. So we’re looking forward to the support from the fans and the students and hopefully they can give us an extra edge to get a W out there.”
[More after THE JUMP]