fair point that
Chris Wormley, James Ross, and Taco Charlton
Harbaugh was just talking about how you guys played so well, especially on the defensive line. Was it a personal challenge after last week? Did he say something to you? Did you talk about it internally about wanting to prove something this week?
TC: “Personally, our defensive line always feels like we have something to prove when we go that way every week with that mindset. We know a lot of the game depends on how we play, and we felt like the past couple weeks we’ve been slacking, so it was something that we internally knew we had to pick up and something coach Mattison preaches to us every day.”
Could you guys tell that Hackenberg was pretty beat up at the end? Seems like you guys got to him quite a bit.
CW: “Yeah, you could tell he was, towards the end of the fourth quarter, he was flinching at the end of his throws, kind of trying to duck out of the way. That was the goal all along was to get to the quarterback and apply pressure to him.”
James, if you could talk about the toughness this team has shown on the road. It’s tough to come through the whole Big Ten season and not lose on the road.
“This team is tremendously tough. We rely on each other and we’re a band of brothers when we go on the road, and we know if you give us an inch like you’ve seen in the Minnesota game we’re going to put the game on the defense’s shoulders. We’re going to do everything we can do to hold it out, and that’s everything we can do and I trust these boys to a T and they prove it every time we get on the field.”
If Taco and Chris could weigh in also.
CW: “What was the question again?”
Why you guys have been so successful on the road, not losing a conference road game.
CW: “I think it’s a mindset, especially when you’re not at home and you don’t have the crowd cheering you on every play. It’s just a mindset, and like Biggs said, we’re a tough team. We have that mentality each and every week, especially when we go on the road.”
TC: “The biggest thing I can attest to is what Biggs said also: we’re a band of brothers. We stick together. We go to a place like this, especially Penn State, it’s a hostile environment but we know together if we play like a team it doesn’t matter what the environment is. Every football field’s the same and that’s all that counts. Nothing changes about that.”
[Hit THE JUMP for more from Wormley, Ross, and Charlton]
“Glad Jake Rudock set a record. Trying to set as many of those as we can, and we’re happy for his success there and Jake Butt going over 1,000 yards was another great milestone, and a great win. You know, the amount of our players that contributed to this win was very high. Maybe the highest of the season when you look at the way the offensive line played, protection that we had, the entire defensive line, defensive stops in the red zone, kickoff return, the offense. Just a lot of guys sucking it up and playing really good football.”
Seems like your team, when it’s on the road, just keeps on getting things done, and they credited practice during the week as one of the reasons they’re effective on the road. Talk about why you think your team has been so effective in road games.
“Well, it always comes down to the players. Good players, you know, they play good on the road or at home.”
Is it just digging down deeper in the environment, or is there any one thing you notice?
“I think the number one factor is just, you know, being good. If you play good…”
Your predecessors when I grew up- talking about Bo and Woody- used to talk about how you can’t be up every week and I would have thought if there was any week where you’d have an emotional valley considering what you went through last week and what’s ahead it would have been this. Have you laid an egg all year, because I can’t discern one where you emotionally weren’t quite ready.
“I never heard Woody or Bo say that.”
Well, Woody said that. I grew up near Columbus, and so you always worry about how sometimes you can’t be up for every game completely.
“Heh. I don’t know about-”
You don’t believe in that anyway, so-
“Nah. I’ve read a lot about Woody Hayes. I don’t remember him ever saying that, and the egg analogy doesn’t resonate with me either. I don’t really like comparing humans to chickens or any other type of animal.” [Going to guess he wasn't a fan of my interview with Graham Glasgow last week -A.]
[/laughs really lightly under his breath]
[Hit THE JUMP for more on the game and some cool stuff about Bo]
The difference. [Eric Upchurch/MGoBlog]
There were shades of the dark, recent past. A non-existent running game. An ugly interception. Catching seemingly all the bad breaks.
One particularly bad aspect of that past was missing, however. While James Franklin cost Penn State a chance to win by kicking a field goal from the one and mismanaging their timeouts, Jim Harbaugh stood opposite him, competent and then some.
Michigan won this game due to coaching and finishing drives, and the two were inextricably linked. Both teams had one touchdown from outside the red zone, Michigan's a 26-yard pass from Jake Rudock to Jake Butt before PSU responded with a 25-yard fade to Saeed Blacknail. The Wolverines converted all three* of their red zone chances into touchdowns. Penn State also had three, but ultimately settled for three field goals, stymied by a stout Wolverine defense and their own conservative playcalling.
James Ross laid some licks. He wasn't alone. [Upchurch]
While the game remained close throughout, Michigan controlled most of the action, outgaining PSU 343-207. Outside of a bad pick, Jake Rudock continued his pinpoint ways of the last couple games, throwing for 256 yards and a pair of scores on 36 attempts. Amara Darboh moved the chains and earned a hard-fought touchdown on a steady diet of wide receiver screens and added a remarkable sideline snag; Butt found open spaces for 66 yards; Chesson stretched the field and chipped in M's best run of the day on a 20-yard end-around. While it was a frustrating day on the ground, the weapons in the passing game again proved their steadily increasing worth.
On the other side, Michigan allowed an early 56-yard run to standout freshman back Saquon Barkley and otherwise limited him to 12 yards on 14 carries. The defensive front beat up quarterback Christian Hackenberg, who managed just 131 yards on 37 attempts and took four sacks among many, many hits. By PSU's last-gasp drive, Hackenberg seemed out of it—quite possibly injured—and even started trotting off the field before barely getting the play off on fourth down; his final throw sailed harmlessly out of bounds.
If you're looking for the moment that turned around the game, the muffed punt that Chesson recovered inside the ten, setting up a one-yard Sione Houma plunge for a 21-10 lead, is the simplest answer. But if you'd like to say it's the moment Michigan hired Harbaugh, whose timely aggressiveness got the Wolverines a critical score late in the first half for the second straight game, it'd be hard to argue.
Ultimately, that's why this game will be fondly remembered—if quickly lost in the excitement of the week to come—instead of another nightmare in Happy Valley. Be gone, ever-fuzzier recollections of McGloin and Floyd and 27-for-27 and missed overtime field goals. Michigan is one Ohio State victory away from playing for the Big Ten East.
*Not including the game's final drive, when Michigan kneeled out the clock while inside the PSU five.
By Heiko Yang
This feels like Michigan State all over again. All week we’ve been reading about the opponent’s mediocre bits: its offensive line is no good, its secondary is prone to busting big plays, and the only way Penn State going to come close to winning is if its quarterback can consistently make NFL throws while its defensive line plays lights out.
Once again, I have a terrible feeling that this is going to be the outlier game where everything somehow clicks for the opponent. After being in Beaver Stadium for whatever the hell you want to call the 2013 game, I can confidently say that a vulnerable Michigan team is totally the kind opponent Penn State would get up for. There’s an unspoken rivalry here, too. The two teams have had a lot of interesting history over the past two decades, and if you think about it, there’s currently more parity between them than there is between Michigan and its other rivals.
Beyond that, a win for the Nittany Lions would go far to validate James Franklin’s tenure in Happy Valley. It would his first win over a ranked team while at Penn State and also his first over a perennial conference powerhouse (if we ignore the last decade or so. Womp womp.). Being able to hang this trophy on his mantle would be a great way to divert attention away from his numerous clock management gaffes and the gradual Algernoning of Christian Hackenberg.
But let’s be clear. Nothing short of a Shane Morris-like debacle would do anything to affect Franklin’s job security. There’s no shame in losing to a 12th-ranked Michigan team when your roster is as deep as the lyrics to a Carly Rae Jepson song at nearly every position. Franklin is playing with house money so long as the repercussions from the Sandusky scandal linger, and that’s really what scares me about him and this team. It’s never a good position to be in when the guy sitting across the poker table puts you all in with someone else’s chips.
At least Michigan is better equipped this season to deal with the things they can control. At this point 27 for 27 feels like a distant memory, even if the run game hasn’t gotten that much better and could easily reproduce that outcome against Penn State’s defensive line. It’s comforting t know that we might actually throw a screen when defensive backs line up 15-yards off our receivers. It’s also nice to know these days that both Channing Stribling and Jourdan Lewis are behaving less like waves and more like particles. That was the difference maker two years ago and it’s possible that it will be the difference maker once again.
I don’t know. I can’t bring myself to predict a victory, and I learned a few days ago that certain members of the MGoCrew are heading to Happy Valley today to attend the game in person. I can’t fathom why. We did something two years ago there to anger the football gods -- maybe it was the urinating outside the port-o-potty, or maybe it was the taunting of the waitress on her birthday. Either way, I can’t imagine that a return visit would inspire them to look favorably upon Michigan, and for that reason I’m going to call this game a loss.
Michigan 23, Penn State 24
By Nick RoUMel
Heiko, you are going to get flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. Why would you taunt a waitress on her birthday? Was she reciting Carly Rae Jepson lyrics? (By the way, I for one happen to appreciate the dark irony of “Call Me Maybe.”)
I believe in karma. You will get yours. One day a waitress will avenge the memory of her taunted friend. A beer on your head, Dr. Yang!
I remember when Penn State joined the Big Ten and taunted its new siblings, boasting that it would run away with every conference title. I gloat to this day that Northwestern has just as many titles as the Nits. (By the way, I love calling Penn State the Nits, another name for head lice.)
We have had some great games with them, beating them about ten straight times at one point, having their number like Holly Holm vs. Carly Rae Jepson. I remember when Michigan went into Beaver Stadium in 1997 to face the #2 Nits, and won 34-8. I savored beating them in ’05 for their only loss. Heck even B-Ho beat them last year. They are reeling, on the ropes.
But I do understand where Punt is coming from. The tale of our beloved Wolverines is one of two teams: the disciplined one that plays to their fullest capability, compared to the Keystone Kop team where every offensive lineman has his own internal start clock, the defense misses tackles, and we somehow let mediocre teams claw us within one inch of our death.
What to make of Michigan? They’ve probably done a little better than expected, on the whole. Pundits ranged between 9-3 and 7-5. Add a bowl game and no matter what happens the rest of the season, our waves and particles are still bouncing around in the same tight little prediction box.
Yet some have gone too far. Like Punt, I cringe a little when fans have already tucked Penn State, Ohio State and Iowa in the win column, sneak us into the playoffs, and end the season with Carly Rae Jepson crowning us national champions, with some wry and ironic words of praise at the victory podium.
But I refuse to believe that this James Franklin team, as directionless as an iPhone without Maps, whose most impressive victory is … Rutgers? Army? Maryland by one point? …is going to threaten us. Because Christian Hackenberg is about as scary as that adorable three year old toddler on Hallowe’en dressed up as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle with the fake muscles and six pack that you are too stingy to give a full sized Snickers bar to, because CVS had a sale on “fun sized” bars and you ate all the Kit-Kats and only gave out Milky Ways and Three Musketeers because nobody, I mean nobody, eats those unless they are all that’s left and they’re desperate for chocolate and have no pride or willpower whatsoever and probably have the munchies anyway.
MICHIGAN 24, PENN STATE 20
Michigan's defense provided little resistance. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
Michigan has a long way to go.
The good news is the season is far from over. In fact, Michigan probably hasn't yet played a game with what will become their standard starting lineup. But there's no glossing over the holes Xavier exposed in Michigan's defense tonight.
None is bigger than the hole in the middle. Mark Donnal gave up a bucket and a foul to Xavier's Jalen Reynolds on the game's opening possession and his night didn't improve from there; despite starting the game, he finished with four fouls, one rebound, and a turnover in six minutes. Ricky Doyle at least provided a little resistance in the post, but his poor hands cost M on both ends of the court, and time and again he found himself too far from the hoop on pick-and-rolls that resulted in open looks. Mo Wagner and DJ Wilson flashes some promise, especially the former, but they're both still getting used to the position; neither was ready for extended time against Reynolds.
Add in Michigan's porous perimeter defense and Xavier simply overwhelmed the Wolverines. Reynolds finished with 15 after getting to the line at will in the first half. The Musketeers hit nine of their 21 three-point attempts, usually wide open looks off the high screen. They missed 39 shots and rebounded 18 of them. Michigan's desperate late attempts to run a 1-3-1 zone only hurt in that regard.
It not for Caris LeVert posting 29 points on 21 shot equivalents, this would've been even worse; LeVert was the only Wolverine who could consistently produce his own shot, and while he sometimes forced it a little too much, someone had to carry the load.
For a brief period in the second half, Michigan looked like it would mount a comeback, getting as close as two points down on two separate occasions after triples by Duncan Robinson and LeVert. Each time, though, Xavier immediately responded with a three of their own and a dunk on the following possession, which aptly sums up the defensive effort from the Wolverines.
While the offense went in fits in spurts, it was at least decently effective, and Michigan easily could've surpassed the 1.05 PPP they posted if a couple open three-point looks didn't rim out. Their effort for most of the game, especially midway through the second half, was good enough to win a lot of games, but not this one given what was happening on the other end. Rough shooting nights from Derrick Walton (1/5 FG) and Aubrey Dawkins (1/6) didn't help matters. Robinson (nine points) and Zak Irvin (seven) were the top scorers behind LeVert, and that simply wasn't enough.
Michigan will have to learn from this game in a hurry. They head to the Bahamas for the Battle of Atlantis next week and will face UConn—featuring seven-footer Amida Brimah and plenty of size across the board—in the opener on Wednesday.
Tonight will hopefully prove to be one of the team's worst performances of this very young season. There are plenty of reasons to expect it to be so; this was a bad matchup given M's still-developing centers—who will have to grow up in a hurry—and uncertain rotation. If the effort on defense doesn't improve by next week, though, this team will take some serious lumps even before conference play begins.