News bullets and other items:
- Shane Morris is the backup quarterback. Speight took the one end-of-game snap because Harbaugh didn’t want to put Morris, a junior who’s played his first two years, in for that.
- Harbaugh wants further explanation on the roughing the kicker call. He thought the punter had established himself as a runner.
- Harbaugh called the snap over the OSU’s punter’s head a play that goes your team’s way once in a half a century.
- Rudock drew praise for his coolness under pressure, but Harbaugh didn’t like the fumble or interception, particularly because he felt Rudock locked on his receiver on the pick.
- The same play was intercepted in practice, so Harbaugh took the blame and said he’s kicking himself for calling it in the game.
- Wormley, Charlton, Smith, Bunting, and the secondary were singled out for their strong play.
- Hackett gave Harbaugh the maize watch he’s been wearing since Harbagh’s introductory presser.
Is there a game ball that went out to DeVeon or the defense? They both played well. Can you comment on that?
"Yeah, I sure can. We haven't given out any game balls yet. We'll do that Monday, but the defense – I'd say DJ Durkin and his staff did a tremendous job preparing the players. Went 3 1/2 quarters without points and tremendous on sudden change, we turned the ball over on our end of the field and coming away with getting a turnover, Joe Bolden plucks one out of the air. I thought that was a huge play in the game.
“There was- one other one was Jake Butt plucking a ball out of the air at the 10 yard line to open up the second half when we fumbled down there deep in our own end zone – end.
“So, great team win. Very pleased. I thought this was won with the week of practice. We had a tremendous practice on Monday, especially Wednesday, and especially Thursday. Everybody contributed. The look team, the scout team, was- had its best week. Guys really challenging made those practices extremely good. But yeah, there was a lot of credit to give out to a lot of people because there was a great team win, but we're going to move on from this one with humble hearts because there's a lot of work to do."
Obviously a turning point in the game – it was still close at 10 to 7 – but the punt that was blocked…or is supposed to be blocked where there was the disputed call, how huge was that given that you disputed the call on the roughing?
"Oh, the roughing? I need an explanation on that one. Their punter caught it behind the guard, bobbled it, looks to me like he took right-left-right-left and punted it. The way I understand the rule is that if he establishes himself as a runner he's afforded the same protection a quarterback is when he is running outside of the pocket, which is if a guy takes two steps, the quarterback, [and] launches into him after he throws the ball then that would be a penalty, but that was a punt-hit. I just need a better explanation as to why that was a penalty, But maybe I stand to be corrected.
“But yeah, the game was tight. It was still in doubt and then we got the very fortuitous play for us, which was them snapping the ball over the punter’s head. I mean, that happens once in a half a century for your team. So that was a heckuva good break for us, but we'll take it. But I thought it was a good, competitive game. I thought our guys got the running game established. We tackled well. Got some pressure on the quarterback; thought that was the difference between the first quarter and a long drive they made and some other drives that they had. Wormley got a big sack that backed them up to the 2 yard line and then we got good field position. Jabrilll did another fine job fielding punts and making cool-handed decisions and we were able to turn that drive into a score and put points on the board. So,…good. Just think we've got a – it's only the second game. It's a long season and we all have a lot of work to do, so that's what we're focused on."
[The rest after THE JUMP]
The English language often comes up short in describing certain difficult-to-describe feelings. To capture the collective sentiment of Michigan fans after this game, I need to reference a story about bat flips in Korea:
You probably didn't know the term shiwonhada, but you knew the feeling this afternoon, whether it came over you after the wild sequence to end the first half or when Michigan imposed their will on Oregon State in the second. Every successful De'Veon Smith power run went down easy; every three-and-out met with a content "ahhhhhh."
Early on, another adopted word came to mind: schadenfreude, as rival fans watched with glee while Oregon State ripped off 136 first-quarter yards and Michigan couldn't get much going.
Then the offensive line started ripping open holes the likes of which Michigan hasn't seen against a Power 5 opponent in years. De'Veon Smith hit those holes and then hit the back seven even harder, finishing with a punishing 126 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries while establishing himself as this team's lead back. The passing game barely needed to exist.
Asked about his thoughts during the game, Smith said, "I want the ball more. Give me the ball more." He got stronger as the game went on, as did the offensive line. While Oregon State's defensive front isn't as good as Utah's, there's no question the team got better this week, and it was most apparent in the run game.
Or, possibly, the defense, which ceded two—two!—yards in the final three quarters.
"The mindset is score points on offense, stop them on defense," said Chris Wormley, who looked unblockable on his way to three TFLs and a sack. Wormley and Co. held up their end of that simple bargain. After having trouble with dual-threat freshman Seth Collins in the first quarter, they adjusted and dominated, generating constant pressure and eventually forcing an ill-fated switch to backup QB Marcus McMaryion, who could do no better.
To add to the good feelings, the game turned on a special teams play—in favor of Michigan. The Wolverines looked all set to take a 10-7 lead into the locker room when the Beavers appeared to pin them on their own two-yard line with 1:29 left in the half; Michigan was down to a lone timeout after burning one before the play to prevent an illegal substition penalty. The officials flagged OSU for an illegal formation, however, and on the re-kick the snap cleared the punter's head and bounced all the way down to OSU's three—a 95-yard flip in field position.
Three plays later, Smith rumbled off tackle to the right, and Michigan went into the locker room up 17-7. OSU's second-half drives went for four, three, three, three, and three plays, all ending in punts. Michigan's final drive of consequence nearly matched OSU's entire second-half play count, covering 73 yards in 14 plays—all but one of them runs, culminating in a two-yard score for Derrick Green.
The concerns after this game are minor. Jake Rudock didn't have a great outing, losing a fumble when the line didn't adjust to an overload blitz and a rusher came free and throwing a pick when he stared down Jake Butt, but he was otherwise steady and had a couple potential big plays taken away by either missed calls or poor adjustments by the receivers. Jourdan Lewis left the game with an apparent head injury following a hard fall after a great pass breakup and spent the second half in street clothes. While any long-term absence for him would be hard to handle, Michigan should be able to deal if he can't go against UNLV next weekend.
"I'm glad we won the football game. The happiest thing would be that," said Jim Harbaugh after his triumphant debut coaching at Michigan Stadium.
With Harbaugh stalking the sideline in front of a packed Big House, the maize on the home jerseys back to maize, running backs powering through downfield tackles, and the defense ruthlessly battering their opponent into submission, it was impossible to take in this game and not feel that—for the moment, at least—all is well, and the future is bright.
Shiwonhada. I can get used to this.
By Heiko Yang
Good morning, Ann Arbor. There’s a kiss of maize in the treetops, and the morning chill will soon be laced with the sweet smoke of charcoal and sizzling fat. At some point today a team called “Oregon State” will be playing our Wolverines. The “Oregon Staters” aren’t very good, which is a good thing because we aren’t that great either. But who cares? Football season is here, and boy does it feel great.
It’s hard to describe the excitement of getting up on a Football Saturday. A lot of you crazy tailgaters set alarms for ridiculous hours this morning, and I bet a lot of you didn’t need it. There are few things that can convince your brain that it would rather be awake at 4 a.m. than asleep. It doesn’t matter that the main event isn’t for another eight hours, because this is eight hours you get to savor.
Some of us have been planning for today for months. If you’re from out of town you probably called up a bunch of your friends over the summer – and the one guy you don’t really like but you put up with because he owns an RV – to plan everything from tablecloths to TV sets. If you’re a student you probably spent the last few weeks either trying to get a fake ID or trying to make friends with someone old enough to get a keg.
So when you got up this morning, you went to work. You put on the maize-est and blue-est outfit you could find out of your closet that is already entirely maize and blue. You made coffee while listening to “The Victors.” You pulled out your maize and blue cornhole boards from storage and got a few splinters that you won’t notice until later tonight when you watch Michigan State play Oregon. You nearly set your maize and blue outfit on fire because you tried squirting lighter fluid on charcoal that was already lit. You spent several minutes making sure a long plastic table was perfectly level. You got into an argument about which quarterback should start, which inspired you to grab the nearest football and yell “go deep!” to prove your point.
At this point you’re stuffed from having dinner food and beer for breakfast, your cheeks are stiff from smiling, your arm is sore from high-fiving, and there’s still an hour and a half before kickoff.
Right about now is when a fraction of you will decide to go home and take a nap. Which is a very bad, very shameful, I guess, but I get it.
If game day were stone soup, the game itself would be the stone. Yes, football is the main event, and it gives us a reason to wake up early, tailgate, and play drinking games with friends and family. But when it’s May and we’re pining for football season, we may not necessarily be pining for the sport itself. A lot of the nostalgia we associate with football doesn’t come from what happens inside the stadium so much as what happens around it. And I think that’s okay.
If it were just about the football I would still be sleeping.
Oregon State 9, Michigan 17
by Nick RoUMel
I may be small, but I am slow.
My athletic prowess can be summed up by my experiences in elementary school gym, taught by the buzz-cutted Mr. Starz, who was rumored to live in a van. We were required to begin class by standing on spots painted on the floor, in order of height. I stood on the first spot, until fourth or fifth grade when I passed a girl or two. After jumping jacks and toe touches, we had to run laps around the schoolyard. I lagged so far behind everyone else that one day Mr. Starz ordered that no one was allowed to pass me. I think he hoped it would help my self-esteem, but with Danny Turner and Eric Wingard on my heels, dogging me to move faster, it didn’t work so well.
And dodge ball? Forget it. Couldn’t catch Danny, Eric and Scott Jewell, nor move fast enough to get out of the way.
Team sports were no better. My best season in Little League I hit .198. I was a fair second baseman but with no range. My most refined skill was picking up the balls the catcher threw back to our pitcher. This was because our pitcher, who wore Coke-bottle glasses and was suspected to be legally blind, was gifted with a blazing fastball – which only occasionally visited the strike zone. Batters cowered in the back of the batters’ box, hoping to wait out a walk or not get hit. Sort of like facing Dock Ellis.
But I loved sports. All of them. It wasn’t fair. I could recite statistics and lore ranging from baseball to horse racing. I just couldn’t play any of them.
My father kindly suggested that I be a sports writer. I began this “career” for my high school paper, covering the teams I couldn’t play for with the same sarcastic bent that serves me today. I found that I loved sports journalism, and thought about it as a career. My dad did give me one fair piece of advice, however: he suggested I get a day job, pointing out that Howard Cosell was a successful lawyer before finding his groove on Monday Night Football. Lawyering is my day job as well.
I am lucky enough to be in my 21st year as Counterpunt, with a few years of hiatus before MGoBlog resurrected this gig. Covered them all since Bo - from Mo to Llo, from R-Ro to B-Ho. Today Jim Harbaugh will run through that tunnel for the first time as a Michigan head coach. I cannot even imagine what it’s like to experience that, to burst into a giant stadium and have 110,000-plus cheering for you. Outside of my dad clapping for me at Little League, I have no idea.
Yet I have been blessed to watch from the sidelines, to learn the game, and be a fan. While I have never known what it’s like to experience success on the field, I have certainly experienced moments of great Michigan pride and elation, including the undefeated 1998 season. But I can tell you confidently, that my Michigan heart will swell bigger than it ever has when Coach Harbaugh leads the 2015 team through that tunnel.
Welcome home, Coach. We’ve missed you.
MICHIGAN 28, OREGON STATE 10
Weekend Visitors: Mayden In For Official
Michigan is hosting a few notable visitors for Saturday's game. Allen Trieu has a free rundown in the Detroit News. The notables:
- Four-star TX CB Jared Mayden, an Oregon commit taking an official visit this weekend. He appears to be a longshot to flip; having him on campus at least indicates a certain level of interest.
- CA QB commit Victor Viramontes, a newly minted four-star on 247, is the other official visitor this weekend.
- Top-100 2017 GA QB Davis Mills, who seems to be one of M's top QB targets in the class along with Dylan McCaffrey.
- Three-star 2017 GA RB Kurt Taylor, who has an early M Crystal Ball pick from 247's Steve Wiltfong.
- Wiltfong reports it's possible top in-state recruits Lavert Hill, Donovan Peoples-Jones, and JaRaymond Hall also come in for visits, but nothing is set in stone yet ($). He said that at the moment he thinks Michigan will land all three.
The Wolverine's Tim Sullivan reports Michigan asked four-star NC OT Landon Dickerson to push back his official visit to after the season after he was originally slated to take it this weekend ($). Dickerson told Tim "I guess if I still have interest at the end of the season I'll make my way up," which doesn't sound promising.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
|WHAT||Oregon State at Michigan|
Ann Arbor, MI
September 12th, 2015
|THE LINE||Michigan -15|
|TELEVISION||National on ABC|
|WEATHER||low 60s, partly cloudy
10% chance of rain
Parking note sponsored by Park 'n' Party, which is your fancy same-place-all-the-time tailgate headquarters. They tell me they're now expanding into catering and equipment so they can accommodate all levels of commitment. They also say that if you wait you will not get parking and then you will
wander the earth doomed for all time have to explain this to your spouse.
Meanwhile maybe Oregon State should go with some iconography, because logos don't seem to be going so well.
The Wolverines' half of the Craft Beer Battle against the state of Oregon—winner gets to relocate the brewery of their choice—comes against Oregon State's Beavers. OSU (Not That OSU) got caught up in last offseason's weirdest set of coach swaps when longtime coach Mike Riley was somewhat inexplicably hired at Nebraska; Oregon State responded by pirating a discontent Gary Andersen from Wisconsin, who went and got Paul Chryst from Pitt, and then Pitt may have gotten the best coach involved in any of this by hiring Pat Narduzzi.
Andersen's got his work cut out for him. He inherits two defensive starters and is going with a freshman quarterback on a team that went 2-7 in the Pac 12 last year. Oregon State opened the year with a worryingly competitive win (13-7 deep into the second half) over Weber State, a 2-10 FCS team that doesn't even have its punter anymore.
Run Offense vs Oregon State
Jaswha James is the only returning Beaver starter in the front seven
While concern is clearly warranted, we are advising Michigan fans not to panic about Michigan's rushing performance against the Samoan-laden Utah Utes. If such a thing repeats against the Beavers it's time for the sackcloth and ashes. Oregon State was 87th in the country last year in rush defense and lost virtually the entire thing.
They've moved to a Real Actual 3-4 this year with 260-pound DEs and feature a safety-ish freshman WOLB. From the FFFF:
if you're wondering, the "Peko" at NT is former MSU DL Domata Peko's cousin
Even that white-spackled lineup might oversell Oregon State's returning experience. Jaswha James, one of two guys asserted as a "returning starter," only started 7 games last year. But you roll with what you've got in marketing:
James had 16 tackles last year and two TFLs.
That's a veteran front, which is good and not good for them. They're not freshman for the most part; hooray. Most of these guys couldn't start on a pretty bad defense that had every reason to start looking to the future about halfway through the year; boo. Also they are undersized at about five of the seven spots in the front seven, give or take a 233-pound ILB.
But things change so Oregon State could suddenly be good—Andersen's certainly a good coach. We didn't get much indication either way in the Beavers' opener, but Weber State did scratch out 4.8 YPC on just 15 carries. That's not good but neither is it definitive. OSU's best hope is probably that Peko, a JUCO transfer, is a revelation and he can disrupt Michigan's rather flailing guards.
As for Michigan, game one was confused and dispiriting. I thought just about everyone not named Glasgow was bad. Both guards got deposited yards in the backfield; Mason Cole struggled to block anyone on the sweeps Michigan had set up to break big; De'Veon Smith was all right but found maybe one or two cutback lanes the whole game and missed a couple of cavernous holes. We're going to see just how far a Harbaugh team can come over the course of the season, because they're not starting from a high point.
KEY MATCHUP: Tailbacks versus holes. I expect they'll be there because if I don't expect that I'm resigning myself to another season of painful, painful offensive football. Also, they literally have a 260 pound 3-4 DE named "Failauga."
So: Michigan is still looking for a back who can find gaps in the line that may not always be where they were supposed to be presnap. Drake Johnson may return; if so expect him to get a run out, and possibly lock a job down.
[Hit THE JUMP for A DENARD-ISH OFFENSE.]
Brian recently wrote a great Picture Pages that wrapped the “football is a game of inches” trope in a box and tied a nice, neat bow around it. Reading it is a visceral experience, a reminder of the miniscule events that can swing a game. If that’s looking at football through a microscope, what happens when we climb up to the photo deck and pull out a wide-angle lens?
We’re lucky enough to have people like Bill Connelly and MGoBlog’s own The Mathlete wondering the same thing and working toward achieving focus with a zoomed-out view of the game. Connelly wrote an influential piece about the five factors that he found to influence the outcome of a game, while The Mathlete’s research has come up with four. The purpose of this new weekly post is to pick through those factors and find what influenced last weekend’s outcome, as well as whether it was expected (turnovers are not great, Bob) or unexpected (I’d give you an example but then it’d fall into the “obvious” category, wouldn’t it).
I can hear my boss down the hall give me a quick summary of what I need to know about advanced stats before I have to switch to a different tab.
That’s oddly specific. It’s almost like the author of this piece has some prior experience with a scenario very similar to this one in a prior job. Anyway, Bill Connelly’s five factors are:
- Explosiveness: If you’re averaging more yards per play than your opponent you’re in good shape. Win probability swings wildly here; averaging just 0.1 yards per play more than your opponent raises win probability from 50% to 55%. Connelly also has a more advanced Equivalent Points Per Play metric that also accounts for the equivalent point value of the yard line from which a play is run.
- Efficiency: Last season the coaches often said that they “fell behind the sticks.” In effect, they were saying that the offense wasn’t very efficient. Success Rate is basically a measure of how well your offense stays on track; to be counted as a success a first-down play needs to get 50% of necessary yardage, a second-down play needs 70%, and third- and fourth-down plays need 100%.
- Field Position: Turns out starting closer to the endzone than your opponent is kind of a big deal. I’ll let Connelly explain it numerically.
- Finishing Drives: Connelly looks at how successful a team was inside the opponents’ 40-yard line. His argument is that there isn’t that big a difference in how teams perform inside the 20, but you do see some difference if you expand the range you’re looking at by 20 yards. It’s a pretty intuitive thing to look at; if you’re getting into opponent territory and not coming away with points you’re probably not going to win.
- Turnovers: Just don’t do them. Giving up the ball cuts off your opportunity to score while handing the opponent an extra one. We’ve already talked about field position, and with that being a component of a turnover you can understand how costly they can be from the standpoint of win expectancy.
The Mathlete’s four factors are similar in principle to Connelly’s, but are calculated differently. In his words, they are:
Conversion rate = [1st Downs gained]/[1st Down plays (including first play of drive)]. A three and out is 0/1. A one play touchdown is 1/1. Two first downs and then a stop is 2/3, etc.
Bonus Yards = [Yards gained beyond the first down line]/[Total plays from scrimmage]
Field Position = The expected point difference per game for where a team’s offense starts and where a team’s defense starts. Each drive is given an expected value based on the start of scrimmage, all of the drives for the offense and defense are totaled and compared. This accounts for all elements of field position: turnovers, special teams, drive penetration etc.
The fourth one is points per trip inside the red zone, which is self explanatory.
I’m back. Can you start writing about numbers so it looks like I’m doing something important and work related?
I mean, I guess? I’d recommend opening a sheet in Excel but that’s just me. Let’s look at The Mathlete’s factors first.
|Team||Field Pos||Rank||Conv Rate||Rank||Bonus YPP||Rank||Red Zone||Rank|
That’s about as close as it gets with the exception of field position. Mathlete has Michigan’s average start at their 21 while Bill Connelly’s advanced stats box score has Michigan’s average start at their 30.9. I did some charting myself and also came up with 30.9, so the 21 is likely just a typo. The national average starting position is 29.6. With both schools a little over a yard away from that mark, field position turns into another category that’s essentially a wash.
Switching from where they started to where they finished, Michigan and Utah both made six trips inside the 40 and 3 inside the red zone, and both came away with 17 points from those trips. As Mathlete has noted, that results in both teams averaging a fairly good 5.6 points per red zone trip.
From this we can conclude that field position data doesn’t do a good job of explaining what happened. Looking at efficiency doesn’t unmuddy the waters much either. Bill Connelly uses a stat called Leverage Rate as a part of efficiency. Leverage Rate basically tells you what percentage of plays the offense was on track (i.e. all first downs, second and seven or less, and third or fourth and four or less). Michigan’s leverage rate was 70.8%, while Utah’s was 72.9%. Both topped the national average of 68.3%.
Digging through more of Connelly’s advanced box score tells us what the eye test already has: the run game was a little below average, while the passing game was actually really good if you exclude the three interceptions.
I’m hiding in the bathroom please just get to the point.
The first place there’s any real separation is passing downs success rate, where Michigan was successful on 33.3% of throws while Utah was successful on only 10.5%. The separation in passing games is echoed by Michigan’s 25.8 to 19.1 advantage in equivalent points from passing (I highly recommend checking out the definition of equivalent points here).
That doesn’t mean that Utah’s passing game was a total flop; their IsoPPP, which is basically a measure of explosiveness, was 3.37 while Michigan’s was just 1.95. (The national average is 1.84). As mentioned above, I did some rudimentary charting where my criteria for explosiveness was a 10+ yard run or a 20+ yard pass. I had Utah with two such passes in the game while Michigan had three. I’m not sure I’m using the best explosiveness proxy, as Utah did have a number of throws in the range of 15 yards that didn’t meet my criteria for explosiveness but certainly could have had an effect on IsoPPP.
Hey thanks I had to go back to my desk and you still haven’t given me a good explanation of what happened.
If I had to pin it on one thing it’d be turnovers. Utah was +2 in turnover margin, while their turnover points margin was +13.8. In a game where all other factors were relatively close this is massive. In fact, Connelly’s projected scoring margin had Michigan losing by 13.0, but they managed to lose by only seven.
That, along with a good statistical performance from the passing game, was counterintuitively positive. The running game, however, was a fairly clear negative. The offensive line’s struggles resulted in 2.38 line yards per carry, well below the 2.82 LY/carry national average. Even Utah’s line generated 2.74 LY/carry despite the outward perception that Devontae Booker was bottled up. Michigan’s rushing success rate was 31.0%, which isn’t even in the neighborhood of the 42.9% national average. Not having an explosive run game is tenable if your success rate is high, which Michigan’s wasn’t. Improvement there and some regression to the mean in the turnover department should lead to success for Michigan.