9/19/2015 – Michigan 28, UNLV 7 – 2-1
This is our concern, Dude [Patrick Barron]
It didn't take long for Jim Harbaugh to shift from cheerfully and convincingly explaining why Jake Rudock's play was better than it looked against Utah to… not doing that. After UNLV, a couple of post-game questions clearly designed to fill already-written stories about Rudock's grim day with quotes raised Harbaugh's ire. He deflected a couple with boilerplate ("his job is to win football games") and assertions about a swirling wind, but when a third came:
Um, I guess I’m not as concerned with statistics as you two seem to be.
I hesitate to side with the Talk About types, but I'm concerned. I'm concerned with both the statistics (123 yards against UNLV, probably half of which came on "smoke" screens) and the overall level of play the statistics crystallize.
We're working with small sample sizes, of course, but that's all we've got to project with. The projections are not ideal.
I am not buying the wind conditions being a problem. I was in that stadium. I have been in it for many games. I once had a life and death fight with a poorly designed poncho. I have seen and endured all kinds of weather, and at no point on Saturday did the wind rise to a level where it felt like a serious factor. It blew a bit; I have seen many quarterbacks deal with that and much worse.
Those quarterbacks include one Jake Rudock. Kinnick Stadium juts out of a vast unbroken expanse of plains extending to the Rocky Mountains. In February I had occasion to drive through virtually the entire state of Iowa during a blizzard; I went at highway speeds because the snow was blown over the roads in an ever-streaming mass, never settling. Only the odd copse of trees huddled around a farmhouse provided enough of a windbreak to allow snow a temporary home, and even that was more refugee shelter than citizenship.
That drive reminded me of a David Foster Wallace essay about his youth tennis career that necessarily focused on one of the overriding concerns outdoor sportsmen have when the nearest bump in the terrain is thousands of miles to the west:
The biggest single factor in Central Illinois' quality of outdoor life is wind. There are more local jokes than I can summon about bent weather vanes and leaning barns, more downstate sobriquets for kinds of wind than there are in Malamut for snow. The wind had a personality, a (poor) temper, and, apparently, agendas. The wind blew autumn leaves into intercalated lines and arcs of force so regular you could photograph them for a textbook on Cramer's Rule and the cross-products of curves in 3-space. It molded winter snow into blinding truncheons that buried stalled cars and required citizens to shovel out not only driveways but the sides of homes; a Central Illinois "blizzard" starts only when the snowfall stops and the wind begins. Most people in Philo didn't comb their hair because why bother.
Of all the things that might explain why Jake Rudock could not hit Drake Johnson on a five-yard swing pass, wind is the least believable.
So. Let us calibrate our panic. It is the first year of a new head coach handed a terrible QB situation making do; that head coach has been massively successful anywhere he's laid his head. Macro panic: nil.
Micro panic: measurable. The Big Ten looks like a bunch of goobers plus MSU and OSU and I guess maybe Northwestern is good. A team that has Michigan's salty defense and a steady, boring offense is going to win a healthy number of games. Michigan's offense has been boring; it has only managed to be steady against Oregon State.
The offense Michigan fielded on Saturday loses games Michigan fans are currently filing in the win column. While that's cause for a shrug long term thanks to the state of the QB roster, it does dent Harbaugh's early momentum. Does that matter much? The recent trajectories of high-level coaches and… well… Brady Hoke say not particularly.
But it is nice to win things. I'm busy downgrading my expectations about as fast as I'm downgrading my expectations for the rest of Michigan's schedule, which is fine, I guess. I expect a bumpy ride and then as soon as anything goes smoothly I exclaim THIS IS IT FOREVER, because I am irrational.
We've gone from hoping that we should dump Rudock's career at Iowa from our expectations to hoping it's still valid to add those games in; it probably is. The upside of escaping Greg Davis, where Iowa fans are going nuts about a guy whose completions are five yards downfield or shorter 80% of the time feels gone. We would like to lock in the low-turnover game manager if that is still available.
wear Jourdan Lewis #brand jackets [Patrick Barron]
Yet To Be Named Harbaugh-Themed Guys Who Did Good Award.
you're the man now, dog
#1 Jourdan Lewis had 4(!) PBUs on the day, and those were mostly as he covered the very legit Devonte Boyd. Playing as well as any Michigan DB since… Leon Hall?
#2 Ty Isaac ripped off the 76-yard touchdown that made things comfortable at halftime. On that play he made a swift cut upfield, broke a tackle, and put on the jets. He looked solid on his other seven runs as well.
#3 Channing Stribling picked off a pass, defended another, and was able to stick to the receiver any time he was tested.
Honorable mention: Blake O'Neill probably would have snagged the first-ever punter mention in this section if he hadn't shanked that one. Any member of the front seven—Michigan spread 8 TFLs among 9 players. Jehu Chesson did go grab a rushing touchdown.
5: Chris Wormley(#2 Utah, #1 Oregon State)
3: Jake Butt (#1 Utah), Jourdan Lewis (#1 UNLV)
2: De'Veon Smith(#2 Oregon State), Ty Isaac(#2 UNLV)
1: Willie Henry (#3 Utah), AJ Williams (#3 Oregon State), Channing Stribling(#3 UNLV)
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
Honorable mention: Picks from Clark and Stribling. Glasgow's thunderous TFL. Blake O'Neill essentially passing the ball down to the 3, and hitting a 59-yarder without a return.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
The general sentiment was to keep double bird. That was my inclination as well.
This week's worst thing ever.
Jake Rudock matches his 2014 interception total in game three by throwing one that hits a linebacker in both hands. The linebacker deflected it to a defensive back, but that was not bad luck.
Honorable mention: Rudock misses a flare route by yards. Any number of interior rushes that didn't get much. Those two Decker passes towards the end that seriously compromised Michigan's quest to keep UNLV under 200 yards.
Utah: circle route pick six.
Oregon State: Rudock fumbles after blitz bust.
UNLV: Rudock matches 2014 INT total in game 3.
I am sensing an unfortunate theme.
[After THE JUMP: corners making plays, DL emerging, run game woes explained, YIP YIP YIP YIP]
Ty, can you talk about how well blocked that touchdown was that you had, and how good it feels to contribute after transferring and waiting to have moments like this?
Ty Isaac: “I mean, it went like it did in practice for the most part. Everybody got their assignments, did their jobs, and it opened up.
“As far as contributing, obviously it feels good. I’ve been here for a year without playing, doing a lot of practice squad stuff. I know that stuff helps the team, but it feels a lot better when you can put it on the scoreboard and help your team win.”
With De’Veon struggling to get going, with the run game struggling to get going, how critical is it for you guys to be able to bring someone else in and kind of change things up for the offense?
TI: “I think that’s the nice part about just us having such a deep running back room. If one guy’s not going somebody else in the room is going to be able to go. So, maybe it’s not De’Veon, it’s not me; you have Drake [Johnson], Derrick [Green], Ross Taylor-Douglas. I mean, there’s a lot of guys in there that do a good job.”
Can you talk about the performance- offense, defense, whatever it is- regarding first half versus second half? You guys came out well, put some points on the board, and it seemed overall a little more of a struggle in the second half. Was there something missing in your regard?
TI: “Missing? I don’t know. I mean, I’m sure they were in their locker room making adjustments so we didn’t do the same thing we did to them in the first half but I feel overall the defense played well. Obviously it wasn’t a perfect game, but we’ll go back, look at it, clean it up, [and] next game try to do a lot better both halves.”
[After THE JUMP: “I think the identity we’re establishing is that we’re going to hit you in the mouth, regardless of who you are.”]
Guys came out and looked strong with the numbers they put on the scoreboard in the first half. Anything that comes to your mind that you can turn to and say, ‘Hey, here's some things we definitely need to work on’ now that the game’s done? Second-half performance seemed to be a little off compared to the first from what I could see.
“I was pleased with the way our team played. They did what we asked them to do, and that was take care of business. Started fast. That was a key for us in the game. We wanted to improve in that area, and we got our hands on the ball defensively. Our secondary players were breaking on the football, intercepting the football, and that happened on the first possession. UNLV put us in good field position.
“Our offense took the ball down, drove, and put a touchdown on the board with the pass from Jake Rudock to De’Veon Smith. So, a lot of good areas. It felt like we improved today as a team and got the win and yes, there will definitely be things to improve from, get better at, and coach, so all those things are positives.”
After last week why do you think the run game with De’Veon struggled a little bit, and how important is it that you can go to someone like Ty [Isaac] and spark that with a different back?
“That was a fantastic run by Ty Isaac. We didn't block it right, and…it was not blocked the way we drew it up. Missed a block. I thought it was going to be a tackle for a loss, and Ty did a real good job somwhow. He swerved, he avoided, he made a tackle miss, avoided another and was off to the races. It was the darndest thing I've seen in a long, long time but very good for us. Ended up being 90 yards on the drive and a 70-some-yard carry by Ty Isaac. That was good. I thought…
“It was a swirling wind. We struggled a little bit to pinpoint some passes. We had some guys open but didn't hit them. But, again, played pretty well. Pretty good, fundamental, solid football, penalty free– not completely penalty free, couple costly ones. But overall, yeah, I was pleased with the way the team played.”
What were your impressions of Jake Rudock today? He threw a pick. How concerned are you with five picks in three games?
“His job is to win football games, and as I said it wasn't an ideal day to throw. There was a swirling wind quite a bit the whole day. But yeah, thought he did a good job. Managed the game well and for the most part the offense was moving darn near every time we got the ball. And, as I said, there's things to get better at and improve from and coach, so a week of doing that.”
[After THE JUMP: “‘Satisfied’ is not a word I’m ever going to use. It’s never a word I’m going to associate with football.”]
That's pretty much how that should go.
The biggest drama of the afternoon was whether Michigan would give Sione Houma the ball again after his first career touchdown was overturned on review. They did, and Houma plunged one yard to give Michigan a 28-0 lead.
The second-biggest drama was whether the defense would hold onto the shutout. After allowing only 111 yards on 42 plays through three quarters, they relented in the fourth, ceding a touchdown pass to Devonte Boyd after a slip-up in coverage set up UNLV deep in M territory.
Channing Stribling remained in phase and nabbed an early pick. De'Veon Smith started off the scoring with a walk-in receiving touchdown in the flat. Jabrill Peppers had a tantalizing, twisting 24-yard punt return. Jehu Chesson took a sweep and ran untouched for a 36-yard touchdown as Amara Darboh nearly blocked his man into the end zone. Ty Isaac burst 76 yards down the same sideline for another.
That about covers the important stuff.
Also important, of course, is Jake Rudock's performance at quarterback. He underwhelmed again this week, throwing his fifth interception of the season—as many as he had in all of 2014—and finishing with 123 yards on 22 attempts. When asked to assess his quarterback's performance, however, Jim Harbaugh seemed unconcerned.
"His job is to win football games. It wasn't an ideal day to throw, there was a swirling wind the whole day. I thought he did a good job. He managed the game well," Harbaugh said. "There's things to get better at, to improve from, and coach, so it'll be another week of doing that."
"Satisfied is a word I'm never going to use. I don't associate it with football," Harbaugh added later. "I've never been satisfied. But yeah, I'm happy."
After a routine 21-point win that could've easily been by a much bigger margin, it's probably best to follow the head man's example here. Michigan has issues to work on, that much is apparent; they're also taking care of business, and that too must be acknowledged.
By Heiko Yang
For a home opener against an overmatched opponent, last week went pretty well. The first half provided some intrigue and drama before the second half turned into a gratuitous murder scene.
Michigan did to Oregon State what Michigan is supposed to do as a two-touchdown favorite, and the experience felt like the kind of repetitive bludgeoning that’s only supposed to happen when Lloyd Carr was head coach.
Everything was great, except when we screwed up the wave.
(If you’re asking “what wave?” you are most likely personally responsible for screwing it up.)
The first time I saw the wave in the Big House was in 2009 against Delaware State. The score was obscene, and David Cone was taking snaps at quarterback. Seeing 100,000 people sustain a roiling swell that sped up and slowed down before splitting itself in two was an incredibly beautiful experience. Even the Hornets pep band – and I’m pretty sure a few of their players as well – joined in.
Since then the opportunities to do the wave have been rare, and not all of them have been under ideal circumstances. We almost got burned badly during the UMass game in 2010 when we started the wave with a score of 28-17. We were barely paying attention when UMass shredded our defense for a touchdown, which resulted in a feeling of oh-my-god-what-have-we-done that gripped the stadium for the rest of the fourth quarter.
Many of us have grown cautious with the wave, especially in context of the dismal record the program has suffered. As fans, doing the wave was our way of pulling the starters: thanks for playing, we are no longer interested in this game, and many of us plan to file out soon to avoid traffic. We’ve since resorted to other ways of getting the message across.
I’m not sure if our failed attempt at the wave last week was because we’re out of practice or just leery of fourth-quarter meltdowns. It’s also possible that the long-time season ticket holders who knew to expect a wave coming out of the student section have been replaced by people who feel like their seats would be better if the students weren’t so loud. In one way or another I’m sure this is all Dave Brandon’s fault.
Either way, my heart broke watching that thing die repeatedly in section 24. It was embarrassing and a blemish – a reminder of how bad things have been for so long – on an otherwise perfect home opener and homecoming for Jim Harbaugh. I’d rather not see it happen again this week, so let’s just keep this one close and avoid the opportunity for failure altogether, shall we?
UNLV 10, Michigan 17.
COUNTERPUNT - UNLV
by Nick RoUMel
This is what I have to say about Punt’s column:
Having fulfilled my obligation to engage in spirited woofing with the young upstart on the top of this page, I now turn to the Runnin’ Rebs.
Contrary to certain belief, they do not have a football team. Las Vegas last experienced (back of the house) gridiron success when the New York Jets shocked the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.
If you do not believe my assertion that they do not have a football team, check out the below photo from the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels football team landing page. I kid you not. What’s with the mimes in German war helmets? The can-can dancer with the feathered plumes? THE COPS? Why is the one cop carrying the football? “We’re going to take this in for evidence, son. Your coach knows why.”
This is not “The Team, the Team, the Team.” This is the cast of Naked Gun meets Amarcord. This is a squad that boasts alumni currently playing “pro football” for teams such as the BC Lions, the Spokane Shock, the Sacramento Mountain Lions, and the Wichita Wild. Retired players include former defensive end Suge Knight and TV commercial star Ickey “Shuffle” Woods. (Though we will give them their props for Randall Cunningham.)
Suge in urban chic. Randall the Runnin’ Reb.
This is a mismatch. This is the 70’s. Bo is in the house and is going to run up the middle until the Rebs cash in their chips. The fans will brave the rain and cheer enthusiastically. They will do the wave, and competently so, I might add.
MICHIGAN 38, UNLV 3
Weekend Visitors: Two Big-Time Officials
As you'd expect, UNLV isn't a huge visit weekend for Michigan, but they are hosting a couple big-time official visitors. The Wolverine's Tim Sullivan has the full list of visitors ($). The highlights:
- Five-star CA OLB Caleb Kelly will take his first official visit this weekend. Oklahoma seems to have a commanding lead for him but Michigan still has an outside shot; this visit is obviously of paramount importance.
- Four-star FL DT Keyshon Camp, a USC commit, is also taking an official visit. He's an intriguing backup plan if Michigan whiffs on Rashan Gary; he's already shown he's willing to commit to a school far from home and he's from the same high school as freshman Reuben Jones.
- 2017 four-star Oak Park OL JaRaymond Hall is tentatively set to make it for an unofficial. M appears to be in the driver's seat for him. His 2018 OL teammate Marquan McCall, who is in a similar situation, should also be in Ann Arbor.
- 2017 four-star CA TE Jimmy Jaggers—JIMMY JAGGERS—has flown in for an unofficial. 247's Steve Lorenz thinks Michigan could position themselves at the forefront of his recruitment with a good visit this weekend ($).
A commitment this weekend would be a surprise.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]