This week I talked to Khalid Hill about his first-quarter touchdown, which came on fourth-and-goal from the Penn State one-yard line. The goal-to-go sequence was set up after Hill caught a pass from Speight on third down at the Penn State 17 and rumbled to the three-yard line. A one-yard loss on first down, incomplete pass on second down, and two-yard pass on third down set up Hill’s fourth-down carry. Check out the GIF at the bottom of the post to see exactly how the run unfolded.
Penn State’s defense had only faced one other fourth-and-goal this year, and even then they kicked it. I’m guessing with their personnel changes at linebacker and all there wasn’t a whole lot of film on how they were going to line up, especially with you guys split so tight. How tough does that make it when there’s not much film to refer to for what a defense is going to do?
“You kind of can figure out what they’re going to do as the game goes on. We do a good job of communicating to our coaches what we see on the field and what we might see, so our coaches do a great job of gameplanning and putting in what they think might be on the field so we have a similar image of what might be on the field.
“Like, on that goal-line play we ran the ball and we knew what they were going to be in. The one thing we didn’t know was that they were going to be knifing their ends in. When the thought went in to run the ball for the touchdown they were setting the knife on the edge, so I kinda knew once I got the ball I was going to press the line of scrimmage, make the linebackers bite, make the D-ends knife in, and then bounce to the outside, and that’s what I did and found a hole in the end zone. Coaches do a great job of trying to figure out what they might do, do a great job of finding film of what they might do and research on coaches and stuff like that.”
With the presnap motion and Asiasi going back and forth there, it looked like the defensive back might have overreacted after he ran to the middle. Did he get one gap too far outside?
“I wouldn’t say that. I think he moved right to where Asiasi wanted him, because he was able to kick him out where I could find a hole right inside of him. I mean, we have so much motion and stuff like that at the goal line that teams tend to do that. Certain teams tend to overrun stuff and have a hard time getting back, so we catch them in a mess-up and find a hole and get in the end zone. That’s what basically it does. We do motions to see what they’re in, to see whether they’re in man or a certain blitz or something. If that was a mess-up on his part it worked out for me.”
Related to what you were saying before, on this particular play the defensive tackle knifed inside and you were about to get engulfed. Before a play, do you know sort of ‘if X happens, I’m going to bounce to here’ or do you see a guy in front of you and just go wherever you see daylight?
“Pretty much I was in my stance and they shifted. The D-tackle shifted outside, and I was going to hit it where he was. At first he was right over—inside, if there was hole in front of Kalis I was going to run at Kalis and just sort of push Kalis but he moved out, and I was like, Okay, it’s going to be either I run straight ahead or I’m going to bounce it.’
“Like Coach says, just follow your tracks and your tracks will take you where you want to be. But also following your tracks will put defenders in a spot that they don’t want to be in, because, like I said, if I ran straight ahead the backers came down and got Ty. Tyrone Wheatley Jr. did a great job of collecting the backer, and I was able to go around him and get in the end zone. Asiasi did a great job of kicking out the corner or whoever that was on the outside and I was able to find a hole.”
What’s harder: scoring on a dive or finding the right GIF to respond to Stribling or McCray or Dawson?
[/laughs] “Finding the right gif to respond to those guys, man. It was actually crazy. When we first found out GIFs were a part of twitter we just went on a rampage. It was funny. Actually, on the iOS10 I can have gifs on my phone, so we’ll just be texting them to each other. It’s crazy. I’ll show you. [/takes his phone out and opens a text chain] Like if you press this you got gifs already here like a message board. So yeah, it’s cool.”
I’ve gotta download this tonight. So, if you keep getting in the end zone, are we going to see a touchdown dance? As one of the original members of the running man challenge group [Michigan edition], it seems like--
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, I said it last week but on the first play of the game I gave up a sack for a touchdown and Wilton got hit pretty hard. I made it my business this week to come out and produce quick, off the bat, to get the first catch and take it down to the goal line. I thought we were going to score after that so I was like, I didn’t score but at least I contributed. Coach said ‘Hey’ and called me and I scored, and I was just so relieved that I was like, ahhhh, let me celebrate with my teammates. I don’t want to get flagged, but you got a dance coming soon. You got a dance coming soon. Everybody, my boys back home and everybody’s like, ‘Why you ain’t dancing? You love dancing!’ You’ll see something soon.”
News bullets and other items:
Jeremy Clark is out for the season. They’ll attempt to get him a sixth year. Watson, Long, and Hill will get most of his playing time.
Jabrill Peppers is really good at football.
Mone might play this week. Have to wait and see if he can practice today.
Having multiple backs that deserve playing time is a good thing if, like Harbaugh, you subscribe to the more-is-more philosophy of life.
Harbaugh said Newsome was the best O-lineman against Penn State. He also liked the offensive line’s pursuit in this game as backs got downfield.
Harbaugh hasn’t contacted Les Miles or Cam Cameron about analyst positions or Les being an honorary captain, but he said he looks forward to talking to them soon.
Jabrill has the most helmet stickers. They might release a sticker chart every week since no depth chart has been published this season. (Harbaugh thinks depth charts are irrelevant in an age where tape is readily available, as it can be teased out from watching film, which, like, I get that.)
Your thoughts on Wisconsin, what they’ve done so far, and the challenge they present?
“Big team. I’m wondering if the field’s gonna be wide enough. They play extremely hard. Run effort--I had the pleasure of coaching Chris Borland a few years back, and it’s a team of Chris Borlands. High, high energy, tough, guys that can run, and a big, physical, team. Very impressed.”
Looking at Hornibrook, that was his first start against a very good team defensively. You guys [are] strong defensively. What do you think of that dynamic between the two defenses and two young quarterbacks as well?
“Yeah, that’s very, very interesting from all those perspectives. Alex had a heck of a good ballgame. Really acquitted himself well. Made a name for himself. Very impressed with how he played, the accuracy of his throws, the poise with which he played; it was impressive. Wilton has also been impressive in that regard as well. He’s played with great preparation and confidence and poise. It’s unusual to be that new to playing, really, in big games.
“I think back, you know, when I was the same age as they were, the same kind of experience of playing in your first couple ball games. Both of those guys are doing better in my mind than I did and some other guys did when we were young. Playing with more poise and awareness and preparation and confidence, all those things. Both those guys have been impressive in that regard.”
[After THE JUMP: I mean, sometimes I didn’t get [it out]. It’s, ‘Jabr—’ and he’s, ‘I’m here, Coach! Right here!’ It’s exciting. He’s good at football.”]
Ed-Ace: Recruitnik extraordinaire, regular podcast guest, and noted darts enthusiast Steve Lorenz of Wolverine247, aka The Artist Formerly Known As Aquaman, is back with his weekly recruiting mailbag. If you aren't subscribed to 247 and want to read more from Steve and the gang, they're running a buy one month, get two months free promotion.
Cranky Dave asks: Who do you think is the most important recruit for Michigan to get?
Somebody asked this in a previous mailbag and I had planned to answer it before—and the answer hasn't changed for me.
I've argued for a while that Bradenton (FL) IMG Academy Top100 center Cesar Ruiz was Michigan's most important recruit on their board not named Donovan Peoples-Jones. A lot of the importance regarding Michigan getting Peoples-Jones is the fact that he's one of the best prospects to come out of the state in a while. He's a huge, huge talent, but this staff has done an excellent job in identifying and recruiting strong talent at the wide receiver position so far.
With Ruiz, I've always believed it was a little bit different. There's a strong correlation between team success and strong play at the center position. Ruiz is the best center prospect in the class by far (in my opinion), and it's a position Michigan has had very high on their board for the entire cycle. He held his own against Rashan Gary when IMG Academy met Paramus Catholic in 2015, and he's another New Jersey prospect that linebackers coach Chris Partridge has known for a long time.
In short, the drop-off from Ruiz to whoever Michigan would recruit to play center is further than the drop-off they would have at wide receiver or some other positions if they missed on their top targets. Given it's a huge position of need, I think Ruiz is up top alongside Peoples-Jones.
[Hit THE JUMP for Steve on LSU post-Miles, managing a class with so many late decisions planned, and much more.]
9/24/2016 – Michigan 49, Penn State 10 – 4-0, 1-0 Big Ten
Two years ago this game featured Dennis Norfleet dancing, a lot of bad football, and a series of increasingly boggling in-game decisions. Brady Hoke and James Franklin engaged in bad decision tennis, lobbing ever more ludicrous balls over the net and daring the opposition to top it. There was no winner—there is never a winner in bad decision tennis—but Michigan did not lose. They won the game, and the tennis match was called on account of forgetting to breathe sometimes.
Fast forward two years and things are a little different for one of these teams. Jim Harbaugh's taking timeout in case Jabrill Peppers can get a punt return in and asking to review a legitimately dodgy fourth-down spot despite being up a gorillion; James Franklin sees a fourth and goal from the two down 28-0 and decides on a field goal... wait, no, he's taking a timeout because he realizes that is a terrible decision. And now he's sending out...
Still the field goal team.
So this is a dumb fake—nope they kicked it.
Now they are down four scores, which is a notable improvement from being down four scores. James Franklin has lobbed this one good and high. This is an Eschaton-worthy parabola.
After they kicked it the camera cut to Jim Harbaugh on the sidelines, looking equal parts perplexed and offended on behalf of the game of football:
I had a similar look on my face. This is not good hard friendly competition. This was turtling. Signaled by their coach, Penn State promptly laid down. According to Wilton Speight, Michigan ran the same play eight consecutive times at one point Saturday. While that doesn't seem 100% accurate—there was a sweep in there—the bit in the box score where Penn State lays itself on the altar and hands the squiggly knife to Harbaugh is obvious:
Franklin told them to quit and they quit. I'm not surprised. One year ago this column was all about how pleasant it was to watch a Penn State game and not be stupefied by the things occurring in front of my face, and Penn State's held up its end of the bargain in that department over the last few years.
But I am also kind of surprised that James Franklin, who made Vanderbilt decent, would just roll over and die. You'd think that the kind of person who could stare the history of Vandy football in the face and make the Commodores one of the feistiest teams in the country would at least spit in his executioner's eye, for what little that would help him. Not today, and thus Michigan entered to the "win with cruelty" portion of the proceedings.
And, lo, it was cruel. Michigan acquired 13 tackles for loss and six sacks; they ran for over 300 yards with a carousel of running backs. Michigan threw to Eddie McDoom with less than half the fourth quarter to go, because a rep is a rep is a rep. It's not that Michigan was trying to embarrass or humiliate Penn State; it's just that they didn't care if that happened. Lo, it did. Meanwhile across the country in Autzen Stadium, a Colorado quarterback who was 0/7 with –4 rushing yards last week was spearheading a stunning upset by accounting for 500 yards of offense by himself.
Remember spinning around in circles about this defense last week? You should continue doing that, but for the opposite reason. Lost in the piles of viscera that are all that remain of the Penn State offense: PSU was an efficient, prolific offensive team headed into this game, with 39 and 34 points the last two weeks. It was even one seemingly well-suited to mitigate Michigan's advantages, with Trace McSorley throwing a ton of passes close to the line of scrimmage and completing 80% of them.
It didn't matter. Nothing mattered. James Franklin woke up this morning in a Cure shirt and eyeliner, because halfway through a game against Michigan he decided life wasn't worth living anymore. Just, like, whatever, man. Three points, seven points. It all leads to one place: the grave. First, Arby's. Then the grave.
MGoVideo has some other highlight reels if you don't have time for the above.
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
It was this kind of game:
#1 (tie) Chris Wormley, Maurice Hurst, and Taco Charlton nose ahead of everyone else on a defensive line that set the tone early and never let up, racking up six sacks and a trajillion TFLs. Hurst turned in the most impressive individual play of the day when he came from a nose tackle spot all the way around a guard and got in McSorley's business for a sack; Wormley was the most consistent entrant into the backfield, and Charlton's return helped seal the rush lanes that UCF exploited shut. Also he got a sack and a half. Welcome back.
#2 (tie) De'Veon Smith and Ty Isaac and Karan Higdon and Chris Evans were all between good an excellent as they combined for 40 carries for 318 yards, with seemingly nobody getting consecutive carries. Each guy ripped off a 20+ yard run; each guy made big chunks of yards for himself with good vision or broken tackles. Easy sledding but Michigan maximized their opportunities in ways that had not always been the case early this year.
#3 Ben Gedeon was the closest thing to a one on one matchup Michigan had with Saquon Barkley and that went all right. Gedeon tracked PSU RBs in space repeatedly, had a couple of impressive sideline-to-sideline tackles, and got in the backfield for 1.5 TFLs amongst his 11 total tackles. Barkley got his yards mostly on screens and shovels and the like, a couple of them on Gedeon. This was still a win against one of the top backs in the country.
Honorable mention: The right side of the offensive line was the main area Michigan attacked on the ground. Khalid Hill had another solid all-round FB performance. Channing Stribling and Jourdan Lewis helped shut down the PSU receivers on the rare occasions PSU managed to target them.
5: Jabrill Peppers(T2, Hawaii; #3 UCF, #1 Colorado).
3: Mike McCray(#1, Hawaii), Wilton Speight (#1 UCF).
2: Ryan Glasgow(#2 UCF), Jake Butt(#2 Colorado), Ben Gedeon(#3 Colorado, #3 PSU).
1: Delano Hill (T2, Hawaii), Chris Evans (T3, Hawaii, four-way T2, PSU), Chris Wormley (three-way T1, PSU), Maurice Hurst (three-way T1, PSU), Taco Charlton(three-way T1, PSU).
0.5: Mason Cole(T3, Hawaii), De'Veon Smith (four-way T2, PSU), Ty Isaac (four-way T2, PSU), Karan Higdon(four-way T2, PSU).
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
This week's best thing ever.
Taco Charlton and Chris Worley combine to sack Trace McSorley on the third play from scrimmage:
That set up the ensuing Peppers punt return and was an emphatic declaration of the way the game was going to go.
Honorable mention: Karan Higdon rips off an offset draw touchdown; Peppers decoy sends Smith into the secondary, where he goes stomp. Any one of Michigan's 12(!!!) other TFLs. Peppers returns a punt and windmills down to the nine.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
This week's worst thing ever.
Jeremy Clark ends a kickoff return on the ground, writhing, and is almost certainly lost for the year.
Honorable mention: Michigan fails to gain every yard available to them when Jehu Chesson drops a ball on fourth and two.
PREVIOUS EPIC DOUBLE BIRDs
Hawaii: Not Mone again.
UCF: Uh, Dymonte, you may want to either tackle or at least lightly brush that guy.
Colorado: Speight blindsided.
PSU: Clark's noncontact ACL injury.
[After THE JUMP: Speight is still on his fourth-down scramble.]
Wilton Speight and Chris Wormley
Wilton, it seemed like the running game really got going today. Talk about how those guys blocked it up front.
“Yeah, we saw going into the game with the gameplan a big opportunity to slash them in the run game, and the offensive linemen were so happy about that. They came out with the mindset that they were going to beat their guy and win the war in trenches. The running backs saw every hole and helped the passing game out a lot.”
Wilton, we saw more Karan Higdon than we have. What has he been doing to put himself in a position to get that kind of run?
“Well, he came in his freshman camp and then he just got banged up with injuries, and then in the offseason he got mono and then hurt his knee, so he didn’t do spring ball or the entire summer. So, he kind of came into camp not knowing or seeing him for eight months, but he didn’t lose a step. He kept his body in great shape and he’s just a really natural runner that sees the field well.”
When you see your coach going for it on fourth-and-one on the very first drive of the game and wanting to pound it in, what kind of confidence does that give you in what he thinks about the offense?
WS: “Yeah, it’s just cool that he knows that we’ll pick it up. I turned to the sideline after the third down and I do this [rolling motion] and the whole offense is doing the same thing and he kind of gets a grin on his face. I know his mindset is he wants to smash it in for a touchdown too, so it’s cool that we’re all on the same page.”
Chris, six sacks today by the defensive front. You guys really set the tone on that first drive [with] two sacks on that opening drive. Can you just talk about that?
“We knew that Barkley was one of their best if not their best player on the offensive side, so we knew that once we shut down the run we could get to the quarterback with the blitzes and different things that Coach Brown has us do. Those two sacks were huge. Backed them up and set it up for Wilton and the offense to punch it in and score a touchdown and start the game full speed ahead.”
Wilton, mobility-wise today it seems like your awareness around you, you were ducking and dodging. How much from last week or the week before where you were hit a little bit, did you keep that in the back of your mind or where did you make changes this week?
“I didn’t want—that hit I took last week kind of dictated the internal clock I had for the rest of the game, and I didn’t want that to carry over into this game. So, I wanted to hang out in the pocket as long as I could, but when the opportunity was there I knew I needed to make plays with my feet, and I was able to do that.”
[More after THE JUMP]
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starts at 1:00
Higdon is working out. Penn State’s student body walk-on linebackers caveats, but non-PSUSBWOLB-dependent things also looked good. Clever fullback stuff. Speight makes plays, also found Taco.
starts at 18:04
Highly efficient passing game is shut down. Taco caved edges to steal McSorley’s pocket and that enabled sackfest. Hurst can teleport around guys lined up two gaps away. Losing Clark is a bummer—has a better claim for a 6th year than two-time scout team player of the week Ed Davis. Godwin control went well, despite tempting an itchy PI flag god. Chunk yards from RPS screens.
James Franklin Game Theory Section
starts at 32:55
Peppers 25-yard stumble return taken away from us. Harbaugh classlessly plays football for two and a half quarters after Penn State’s coaches made it amply clear they had no desire to. Runaway Mack Truck Joey Julius was not blocked; sometimes the human mind blanks out things it cannot comprehend. Les Miles finally succumbs to Les Miles Disease. David Shaw after dark: many prospector names have to do with nipples.
Talking Big Ten with Jamie Mac
starts at 49:01
Congratulations to Purdue quarterbacks going 1-2. Wisconsin lucks out over highly respectable Michigan State team, 30-6. Notre Dame loses to Duke, fires Van Gorder, earns honorary Big TENNNN! Colorado win is looking better by proxy.
"Crushin’ (Yeeeeeah!)”—J Dilla
“Weep Themselves To Sleep”—Jack White
“A Tribe Called Quest”—Can I Kick It
“Across 110th Street”