In yesterday’s press conference, Jim Harbaugh said that Karan Higdon gets to the hole faster than any other back on the roster. He received more touches than any other player in the fourth quarter, and Harbaugh said that was in large part because of State’s edge pressure. On his longest carry of the game, Higdon showed that he, too, can exert some pressure on the edge.
In the third quarter, Higdon took a toss on 2nd and 11 and dipped and ducked from the edge to the inside for 11 yards. I had the opportunity to ask him about that particular run:
With the initial motion on the play and then motioning back across the formation to the right, do you think you got them out of their run fit?
“Yeah. Yeah, I definitely think the double motion threw the defense off. We have a lot of different plays that come out of that same exact type of motion and formation, so it definitely threw them off.”
It looked like a pretty vanilla front at first, just a basic 4-3. When you lined up, what were you seeing?
“I just look at the ‘backers, the ‘backers and the safety rotation because they’re trying to dictate where I go.”
As the ball’s pitched, what are you looking for?
“How the defense flows. If they flow over the top, I can cut under. If they underpursue me, I can outrun them.”
As you got to the edge you have Magnuson there and you cut off of him. How are you coached to do that? Is there a certain depth you’re supposed to be at or are you waiting for him to initiate the defender?
“Trusting my instincts. Just trusting my instincts and reading his key block.”
And as you cut there, a safety shows up in the hole. What do you remember thinking in that moment?
“I don’t think. If you’re thinking, you’re not playing, so I just react. Run to react.”
So for you, you’re in that moment just making a cut off instinct rather than knowing you want to go outside to inside or inside to outside?
How do you learn to do that? Is that from live reps?
“Reps, practice, trusting yourself, and having confidence.”
What will it take to keep the guys focused and playing at a high level the rest of the year every week?
“I think it takes a lot of commitment. Hard work. Good goals. Uh…commitment. Good football character. Good human character. I feel like we’ve got those kind of guys.”
You’ve been able to get the ball to four running backs, a couple of wide receivers, Jabrill, fullbacks. Short and long term, how much does that help you whether it’s recruiting, but also to win games because the other team doesn’t quite know who’s going to get the ball and everybody’s fresh?
“I think it helps in all the ways you just said. Helps in all those areas.”
I think Mone went out of the game in the first half? Did he come back in or is he hurt?
“Yeah, he fell down. Fell down on his leg and came off, but he came in yesterday saying he felt good.”
Do you have any expectations whether Grant Perry will play this week or is he still going through whatever he’s going through?
“Yeah, we’ll…to be determined.”
Thoughts on DJ Durkin coming in with Maryland and the job he’s done with them so far this year.
“He’s done a fabulous job. Just always respected DJ as a tremendous competitor at the highest level. Smile thinking about his competitiveness, and also always happy for a friend’s success. I think he’s doing a fabulous job, him and his entire staff and team. You can see the energy. You can see the strength. You can see the competitiveness and execution on the field, et cetera. The flip side of that is we know that this’ll be a big game, a championship game. This will be a real test for our club.”
[After THE JUMP: We’ve got to build some immune systems. More push-ups. More whole milk.]
After a hiatus for State Week, the hoops preview continues with a look at Michigan's starters on the wing. I'll cover the backups in a separate post later this week; Seth's been kind enough to take over the Maryland FFFF this week so I have time to get these posted before the season starts.
The starting wings will be the same as last year: Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman mans the two while Duncan Robinson and Zak Irvin occupy the nominal forward spots. All three had their ups and downs in 2015-16; all have the potential to make a huge mark on the 2016-17 season if they can more consistently play to their strengths.
[Hit THE JUMP for the player previews.]
[Glenn Beil – USA Today]
Because of how schedules across the country align, some weeks are more important than others in college football – and this was one of those weeks. Seven teams took their undefeated records into road games against mostly tough teams and more than half lost: Baylor and West Virginia fell from the ranks of the unbeaten and imperiled the Big 12’s playoff hopes, Nebraska lost in overtime against Wisconsin in a battle of the B1G West’s best teams, and Boise State lost to Craig Bohl’s Wyoming team – placing Western Michigan(!) in the driver’s seat for the Group of Five’s New Year’s Six bowl slot.
It was a fun week that featured several competitive and consequential games that will help shape the narrative of the season moving forward and the undefeated teams that survived their road tests – Michigan, Clemson, and Washington – are in prime position for playoff spots.
--- In what’s become one of the best annual matchups in all of college football, CLEMSON and FLORIDA STATE put together another classic: despite allowing four Dalvin Cook rushing touchdowns, the Tigers came away with a 37-34 win after Deshaun Watson engineered a game-winning drive for the go-ahead touchdown pass to Jordan Leggett with two minutes left. Both offensive lines struggled against fierce pass-rushers – Florida State’s particularly so, as Deondre Francois took some brutal hits all game – but big plays by star players on both sides led to the high final score. Midway through the fourth quarter, Cook ripped off a long run into Clemson territory that was negated by a horrendous illegal block penalty by a Florida State penalty, which was compounded by another penalty for Jimbo Fisher’s complaining. Clemson hit a field goal on the following drive and while FSU did manage to take a late lead after a quick touchdown drive, they were unable to stop the Tigers from marching down the field with several passes to Leggett. The Seminoles got the ball back with a chance to tie or take the lead, but several sacks prevented them from doing so. Clemson’s now totaled wins against Auburn, Louisville, and Florida State, which may be the most impressive resume in the country at this point. With this win, they’ve effectively assured themselves a spot in the ACC Championship game.
[More on the week that was after the JUMP]
10/29/2016 – Michigan 32, Michigan State 23 – 8-0, 4-0 Big Ten
stop #7 [Patrick Barron]
Do not be deceived. Michigan delivered an ass-kicking to Michigan State on Saturday. Nobody in the media buys the comeback narrative from MSU. ESPN:
Michigan took the first punch against desperate rival Michigan State and then fired back with haymakers, essentially putting the game out of reach at halftime.
...the Wolverines ran away to a comfortable win. ...Michigan looked really good and gets out of a rivalry game with a two-possession road win that was probably better than the final score indicates.
The only people who care about the particular game theory state that resulted in Saturday's fourth quarter are the perpetually unhappy wing of Michigan fans and desperate Michigan State fans. I regret it mostly because I have to spend time in this column talking about a comeback so cosmetic Joe Tiller would be proud of it.
So I shake my fist at that interception. Michigan's up 27-10, they've ground up a few minutes of the third quarter on their opening drive of the second half, and the floodgates are poised to open. Michigan tries a throwback that is not there; Speight throws his worst pass in a month; Michigan gives up negative yards on seven goal-to-go plays. Then they're on their own four and go get a field goal. Suddenly it is the fourth quarter.
At this juncture Michigan found itself in a position where only a colossal disaster could let Michigan State back into the game. If they just drained clock and made MSU do the same as it tried to score they would win. The game wasn't out of hand to the point where Michigan could run their triple-reverse flea-flicker as a middle finger; it was out of hand sufficiently that putting away the scoring offense made sense. After Michigan went up 20, their final three drives were a Lloydball spectacular:
- run run pass punt
- pass to fullback in the flat, run, pass, run run run punt
- run run run punt
Unlike many applications of Lloydball under its namesake, this made total sense. Michigan's fourth quarter went as badly as possible without a catastrophic mistake and their win percentage never dropped under 92 or 98%, depending on which system you're checking.
The other side was fervently attempting to save face. Their first drive of the fourth quarter 1) featured their running quarterback running, 2) drained the playclock down to ten seconds when the game clock was running, and 3) ended in a field goal attempt.
Michigan State's only goal was to make it look good. Michigan's goal was to win. These two goals combined with some galactically incompetent officiating to get Michigan State very technically within one score, and then Mark Dantonio's attempt to run up the score in a loss backfired spectacularly.
You will reap what you sow.
In the aftermath, Michigan State is resorting to making stuff up. Mark Dantonio explained his decision to go for a fourth-quarter field goal down twenty by saying he wanted to make it a two possession game. He's not dumb enough to believe that or he'd be Tim Beckman, so he's just making his making-it-look-good look good. Meanwhile his quarterback got hit so hard he thinks he plays for Michigan now:
In looking at positives, Tyler O'Connor said a Michigan DL told him, “You guys might not have won the game, but you guys kicked our ass.”
— Luke Srodulski (@lsrodulski) October 29, 2016
Sure he did, buddy. This was right after Khalid Hill got his ass kicked by Montae Nicholson.
— Ace Anbender (@AceAnbender) October 30, 2016
And Devin Bush got his ass kicked by Chris Frey.
When manballers had to manball their manballiest in this game, Michigan dominated. Fourth and short was a turnover on downs. Back to back goal line stands on the same drive weren't even difficult. Those snaps collectively gained negative yardage.
And what is it about Jim Harbaugh's track record that makes you think this is going to change any time soon? Your best bet is for the Michigan fanbase to collectively become Jed York. Good luck with that.
But, yeah, you've got that punt. Congratulations. Maybe this year you can name the meaningless touchdown with a second left to make it look vaguely competitive. I've got a suggestion: "The Future."
There was a Peppers feature on Gameday:
As always, extensive selection at MGoVideo.
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 Amara Darboh caught virtually everything that came his way, including a bomb down the sideline on which he was interfered on without a call. He speared a ball Speight sailed for a first down early in the third quarter and generally had his way with anyone MSU sent in his direction.
#2 Jabrill Peppers played virtually every position; he had a rushing touchdown, opened up holes for his teammates as MSU overreacted to him incessantly, and had two TFLs, a sack, and two fourth-down stops on defense. He is totally overrated.
#3 Wilton Speight continued his Rudock trajectory. The interception on the wheel route was real bad and he made some easy things look a bit harder than they should have been by holding on to the ball too long, but he offset those issues with a 10 YPA day.
Honorable mention: Taco Charlton was unblockable until they started tackling him; Khalid Hill had some thumpers; Jake Butt had a couple of nice catches in the #buttzone; Jourdan Lewis is Jourdan Lewis.
9: Jabrill Peppers(T2, Hawaii; #3 UCF, #1 Colorado, #2 Rutgers, #2 MSU)
7: Wilton Speight (#1 UCF, #1 Illinois, #3 MSU)
5: Ryan Glasgow(#2 UCF, #1 UW).
3: Mike McCray(#1, Hawaii), Ben Gedeon(#3 Colorado, #3 PSU, three-way T1 Rutgers), Amara Darboh(#1 MSU).
2.5: Karan Higdon(four-way T2, PSU, #2 Illinois).
2: Jake Butt(#2 Colorado), Kyle Kalis (#2 UW), Chris Wormley (three-way T1, PSU, same vs Rutgers), Taco Charlton(three-way T1, PSU, same vs Rutgers).
1: Delano Hill (T2, Hawaii), Chris Evans (T3, Hawaii, four-way T2, PSU), Maurice Hurst (three-way T1, PSU), Jourdan Lewis (#3 UW), Devin Asiasi(#3 Rutgers), Ben Braden (#3 Illinois).
0.5: Mason Cole(T3, Hawaii), De'Veon Smith (four-way T2, PSU), Ty Isaac (four-way T2, PSU).
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
This week's best thing ever.
Michigan State's attempt to run it up in a loss backfires spectacularly, giving Jabrill Peppers a chance to demonstrate his 100 M speed.
Thanks for the meaningless points and Heisman boost.
Honorable mention: Khalid Hill thunders Montae Nicholson into the ground; Charlton nails O'Connor and forces an interception at the end of the half; Speight spins away from a sack and nails Darboh downfield; Darboh spears a third-down conversion one-handed; Darboh fights through hella interference to grab a bomb down the sideline.
Hawaii: Laughter-inducing Peppers punt return.
UCF: Speight opens his Rex Grossman account.
Colorado: Peppers cashes it in.
PSU: Wormley's sack establishes a theme.
UW: Darboh puts Michigan ahead for good.
Rutgers: Peppers presses "on".
Illinois: TRAIN 2.0.
MSU: lol, two points.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
This week's worst thing ever.
Michigan State rolling right down the field for a 75-yard TD on their opening drive made me feel rather bad, as if I had just been dropped in a wormhole and came out the other side in the Brady Hoke era.
Honorable mention: Wilton Speight shuts the door on a blowout with that INT, various horrendous calls in the fourth quarter, Stribling getting beat for MSU's first make-it-look-good TD.
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.
UW: Newsome joins the ranks of the injured.
Rutgers: you can't call back the Mona Lisa of punt returns, man.
Illinois: They scored a what now? On Michigan? A touchdown?
Michigan State: a terrifying first drive momentarily makes you think you're in the mirror universe.
[After THE JUMP: Nobody has ever attended Michigan. Strange but true.]
1 hour 18 minutes
The reason we can put out so much audio content now is it’s paid for. The show is presented by UGP & Moe's and frankly would not be happening without them; Rishi and Ryan and their people have been huge MGoBlog supporters from the start. They’ve got a a new Bo Store on Main you should check out.
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starts at 1:00
Michigan State: The only college football program that only people who went there would ever have reason to root for, apparently. Also MGoBlog made a really bad blogger stop blogging so yay us! Oh right, the game: Speight’s Rudockian progression. Both teams had beautifully scripted first drives. The Shane Morris QB lead package isn’t working. Peppers as redzone quarterback: regularly 4 yards, but need to throw from it to break tendency.
starts at 25:55
Mostly dominant except State’s first drive was beautifully scripted and late when the holding was turned off and pass interference sliders went to max. Issues mostly missed tackles. Hurst > Godin.
3. Special Teams, Game Theory
starts at 36:44
The last 9 minutes of the game took 45 minutes because red hats—somebody needs to cap advertising or college football will be going the way of the NFL. Brian agrees with Rod Gilmore on end-of-game strategy once.
This was an upset, but lol: Ohio State has a loss—kick six part of an uncharacteristic special teams meltdown. Barrett shut down as a runner.
4. Talking Big Ten With Jamie Mac
starts at 46:06
Ohio State keeps looking more vulnerable—this time their defense wasn’t able to get off the field against Northwestern. Penn State is good when not playing Michigan. MGoBlog readers are unabashed fans of Wisconsin linebackers. Perry Hills has the best QBR in the Big Ten. Best fight songs and mascots in college football according to everyone except MSU’s stadium announcer, who is sponsored by the movie 300, Muscle Milk, and lifeless concrete structures filled with shitty sports fans like you.
- “You Played Yourself”—Ice-T
- “Concrete Schoolyard”—Jurassic 5
- “Mathematics”—Mos Def
- “Across 110th Street”