News bullets and other items:
- Ondre Pipkins was dealing with “something” and should be back soon
- Willie Henry was dressed but didn’t play; he’s injured
- Hoke said any of the dressed QBs could have played, but read between the lines re: Morris and being injured
- Devin Gardner had a boot on his left foot after the game but said he’d be ready to go against Michigan State
- We talk about injuries a lot for not talking about injuries
- Penn State broke away from their tendencies in the first half. Hoke praised Mattison and the defensive staff for adjusting before the second half.
- Hoke again praised Matt Wile’s kicking and Devin Gardner’s leadership
“It was- obviously it’s always good to win. We’ve had some tough times and tough weeks but the resiliency of our football team, the resiliency how they go about every day in practice and the hard work that they put in paid off. It wasn’t pretty at time but I don’t know if anything’s pretty all the time and what they did, though, is they played together, they stuck together.
“We had some guys who were banged up obviously, and that’s just part of football. If you’re not banged up then you’re really not playing, but we’ve got guys who are tough. We’ve got guys who understand what it is to play as a team and play for each other and play for Michigan, and I’m excited about for them as much as anything [that] they stuck together.
“Also, the environment, the crowd; there’s no place better in this country when you have a game like this than Michigan Stadium. I can tell you our kids, they feel it. They feel it when those people are there cheering for them, and those students that were there, the former players coming back and supporting those kids; you don’t get that at a lot of institutions or maybe any institutions like you do at Michigan. Very excited for our kids. We’re going to enjoy it and then we’ll get back to work next week on Tuesday and Wednesday.”
Could you talk about the play of the defense in the second half, and then the winning plays at the end there?
“You know, I think a couple things: Penn State had a week off and as most teams do, you have a week off [and] you start looking at tendencies. You start looking at things that maybe have patterns to [them]. The first half they broke some tendencies that they had, so I think Greg and the staff defensively did a great job at half time. I think our kids had a will, and they willed themselves to keep going and it was pressure on the quarterback with a four man, three man rush that really worked out pretty well and maximum coverage. And part of that is that he has to hold the ball a little longer, and we got off the field on third downs which in the first half we really didn’t as much.”
We all saw Devin [Gardner] pacing the sidelines and grimacing and looking like he wasn’t going to get back in. Talk about him coming back in the game and what he showed you and what he gave you.
“Well, Devin’s leadership has been outstanding, and he played a game a year ago with a broken toe for half the game so you know he’s a got a toughness to him. He is turning in, through his maturation process and everything else, into a tremendous leader. He was cheering the defense on when they were out there and he just wants to compete and play and the trainers said, ‘Yeah, he can go.’”
[More after THE JUMP]
Throw out the records. Ignore the lack of offense. Forget that Penn State's offensive line looks eerily like Michigan's 2013 O-line.
Michigan won a game tonight in front of a packed house of genuinely excited fans, and it felt damn good. Maybe not for much of the game, an ugly slog in which the two teams combined for just 470 yards of offense, several Wolverines went down with injuries—including Devins Gardner and Funchess—and both coaching staffs seemed intent on out-bungling the other, but come that final drive, it felt like Michigan football should.
The stars of this game, without a doubt, were on defense. The Wolverines limited PSU to just 214 yards, with a paltry 65 in the second half after Michigan came out a little flat against the run. Six different Wolverines accounted for the team's six sacks. Jourdan Lewis came up with a critical second-half interception when the defensive front nearly got to Christian Hackenberg again, forcing an ill-advised throw across the field. Mike McCray anticipated a fake punt and displayed tantalizing athleticism in hawking Grant Haley to blow it up two yards behind the line.
When Penn State needed a field goal to tie with 3:44 left, the defense came through with their biggest possession of the night, as Jake Ryan and Frank Clark sacked Hackenberg on consecutive plays to force the Nittany Lions into punt formation from just outside their own goal line. PSU coach James Franklin bizarrely called a timeout to avoid a delay of game—one that would have cost his team about half a yard—before making the correct call to take a safety and go for an onside kick.
What happened next perhaps made up for the blown call at the end of last week's Rutgers game. Penn State recovered the initial kick, but a questionable flag for offsides negated it, and Blake Countess fell onto the ensuing re-kick without any trouble to effectively end game.
In feelingsball world, however, the star of this game was Devin Gardner, who recovered from a bad interception and an ugly-looking ankle injury to engineer the game-winning field goal drive. Gardner's numbers didn't look great—16/24, 192 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT—but without him on the field for two second-half drives, the offense looked helpless with Russell Bellomy at quarterback. Gardner may be inconsistent—yes, often infuriatingly so—but there's no question he's by far the most capable leader of this offense, and it showed most tonight during his brief absence.
Devin Funchess scored Michigan's lone touchdown of the evening in the first quarter, somehow chasing down a Gardner moonshot and snatching it away from PSU safety Ryan Keiser, who looked like he was preparing to field a punt—after a bobble, Funchess secured the ball and streaked towards the home sideline, arms raised in triumph.
That turned out to be the only touchdown the Wolverines would need, with Matt Wile providing the decisive points on field goals of 45, 42, and 37 yards.
Granted, the running game proved non-existent, the offense remained relatively ineffective, and Brady Hoke gifted Penn State a Hail Mary attempt at the end of the first half by inexplicably taking a timeout with three seconds left on the clock. Those are concerns, to be sure, but they're concerns for another day.
Tonight, we celebrate. Hail to the victors, valiant.
remember when pepper spray felt bad?
By Heiko Yang
Both teams are in their locker rooms discussing how they can win this game in the second half. James Franklin is apologizing for not having watched film this week even though he acted like he had. Brady Hoke is clapping his hands.
It’s halftime for Dave Brandon, too. There are empty seats in the stadium and he’s hurting. People can only believe that attendance is above 100,000 for so long before they notice that half the students are missing. He’s wondering whether he should force his entire staff to wear maize and sit in the empty seats in the student section. And they’re all scared, because young people are frightening and they sing “Temptation” all wrong. What is the meaning of “you suck” and to whom does it refer?
The people of Ann Arbor know a little something about sucking. We got used to losing to Ohio State during the late Lloyd Carr years, and then we got used to losing in general under Rich Rod. We thought we hired the right guy to pull the program out of mediocrity, but now we’re sucking again.
We’ve seen too many tough games, disappointing play calls, and times when we didn’t know WTF was going on. At times it seems like the coaches have lost their minds, like when they don’t know how to defend the spread, when they play Cam Gordon at free safety, or when there are only 10 men on the field to cover punts.
But after those trials, we all rallied around what went wrong, got on the internet, and complained all at once. Because that’s what we do. We find a way through tough times by posting on the message board. If we get negged, we neg back. If we get banned, we head over to Scout.
All that matters now is what’s ahead. How do we fix the offense? How do we fix the defense? How do we cover punts? How does Devin Gardner survive going back to East Lansing?
The basketball program is showing us it can be done. What’s true about them is true about the football program: the University of Michigan can’t be knocked out with one punch. It takes crippling NCAA sanctions, terrible recruiting, and a decade of mediocrity, but even then we get right back up again and when we do the world is going to hear the roar of Trey Burke after he hits a game-tying three against Kansas in the Sweet Sixteen.
Yeah, it’s halftime, Ann Arbor. Basketball season is about to begin.
(... In a month.)
Michigan 13, Penn state 14
By Nick RoUMel
For every sports fan, there comes an iconic moment when you realize: Oh, How The Mighty Have Fallen.
For my dad, it was a baseball game, many years ago. The Pirates were hosting the Dodgers. A man who would later be inducted into the Hall of Fame, for his storied career, was due to bat. But the PA announcer intoned, “Now pinch-hitting for Duke Snider …. Gordon Windhorn!”
How could my father ever forget that name? How could I? Gordon Windhorn, who batted 108 times in the Bigs and managed to hit .176, was sent to bat for the Silver Fox, the Duke of Flatbush, the future Hall of Famer. Oh how the mighty had fallen, and my father never felt the same way about baseball again.
The Duke. Gordy.
My own Gordon Windhorn moment was about Michigan football. Lloyd Carr had retired, and Bill Martin was doing his level best to bungle the search for a successor. He offered the job to Greg Schiano, the coach of Rutgers.
Michigan was, and is, the winningest program in college football history. It should be a dream destination job for any coach. But Schiano - the coach of Rutgers fergodsakes! – turned us down.
Since then, the list of coaches who have rejected Michigan has grown like hair on Nick Jonas’ back. Depending on what source you want to believe, the following have all told our AD’s, “Sorry, I have to go to a quilting bee with my mother” (actual Counterpunt date turndown quote): Les Miles, Jim Harbaugh, John Harbaugh, Pat Fitzgerald, Gerry Faust … OK not Faust. He sold his soul to check out the quilting bee:
For Penn State fans, their Gordon Windhorn moment had to be the firing of Joe Paterno. His stunning fall, after half a century of gridiron success, is something many fans are still struggling to comprehend. The Jerry Sandusky scandal captured the nation’s headlines for many months, and as NCAA sanctions loomed, there were questions whether their football program would ever recover.
Although for very different reasons, and by no means morally equivalent, Michigan and Penn State are two programs that have endured crises. It was once taken for granted that certain football powers were forever secure, but schools as iconic as Notre Dame, USC, and Florida State, among others, have weathered storms.
Michigan too will be back. It is now a dark time, but just as the lights will illuminate the chilly October evening sky for our first ever Big Ten night game, they will once again shine over The Team.
It starts tonight, as two old fighters square off for a return to glory. I believe the one with 110,000 fans in his corner will survive a split decision. Gordon Windhorn, you can return to the dugout. We’re not done yet.
MICHIGAN 16, PENN STATE 13
|WHAT||Michigan vs Penn State|
Ann Arbor MI
October 11th, 2014
|THE LINE||Michigan -1|
|TICKETS||Starting at 32 bucks|
|WEATHER||clear, 0% chance of rain
50 dropping to 40 by 10
Penn State is probably not real good. They've got offensive line issues up the wazoo, they beat a middling-at-best Rutgers 13-10, they escaped UCF with a last-second field goal. I guess I'm sayin' there's a chance. Vegas is saying there's a downright fair chance. When it's all tied it up it's anyone's game as long as they're there to make plays, right?
PROBABLY IN: Taylor, Funchess, Wilson, as all played last week.
MAYBE: Shane Morris, who Michigan dressed last week in a classic "nuh-uh" move.
Erik Magnuson is reaching the timeframe where he may be available after his rumored high ankle sprain, but it's more likely he waits until after the bye week.
PROBABLY OUT: Delano Hill, Derrick Green, Jabrill Peppers, Desmond Morgan.
Run Offense vs Penn State
Michigan showed signs of life against Rutgers, going for 5.5 yards a carry without anything particularly long. Tiny flags were waved across the ramparts of Ann Arbor
Now Penn State wheels the big guns in. Michigan is staring down the barrel of this:
None of these teams are good at running the ball—Akron is in fact highest in YPC at 58th. And Michigan is shockingly proficient in statland, 32nd in YPC thanks to steamrolling Appalachian State and Miami (Not That Miami). But at this early juncture a big chunk of PSU opponents' ranking comes from facing PSU, and the Nittany Lions lead the country in YPC allowed at 1.99. They can say YOU DON'T WANT THIS and the right answer is probably "yessir."
A quick sanity check of their personnel reveals that they should be pretty good. Ace:
The defensive ends also played quite well. RU's right tackle couldn't handle the size/speed combo of SDE Deion Barnes, who looks very capable of producing a similar mismatch against Ben Braden. WDE CJ Olaniyan is also quick around the edge, though he did get blown off the ball a few times against the run; that didn't burn PSU much in this game because of Zettel.
Hull is the standout in the middle of the defense, and while neither of the outside linebackers are at his level, they cover a lot of ground sideline-to-sideline against both the run and the pass. Wartman missed last weekend's Northwestern game with an arm injury but is expected to be back on Saturday—he practiced in full pads on Wednesday.
These guys are all experienced upperclassmen even after the offensive line was forced to raid the DL for both starting guards this offseason. There's not a whole lot of depth, as this is the year Penn State's sanctions bite most deeply, but they've been plenty good enough to boot opposing offenses off the field quickly enough to stay fresh.
These guys are legit, and that should be alarming to a Michigan unit that overpowered a small Rutgers front last week but threatens to be overpowered themselves this weekend.
Key Matchup: Tackles versus ends. Michigan's weak point meets Deion Barnes and CJ Olaniyan, and since it only takes one messed up block to blow up a play…
[Hit THE JUMP for a GIANT MACAQUE terrorizing THE STREETS OF BANGKOK this is NOT A REFERENCE to ANY PLAYER it's just WEIRD]
Weekend Visitors: KLS "Really Excited" To See M
Before the season went south in a hurry, Michigan was supposed to host a handful of uncommitted official visitors this weekend for their marquee home game. That number has dwindled to one, but it's the one everyone's been waiting for: five-star CA WDE Keisean Lucier-South, who confirmed to 247's Steve Lorenz that he and his parents are "really excited" for the trip to Ann Arbor ($):
"Everyone keeps assuming that I'm losing interest in Michigan because they've started out badly, but it's not true at all," he said. "I still really like Michigan a lot. They haven't been as good as I thought they were going to be this season, but football is only part of the equation for me. I want to see the rest of what they have to offer me. You play football for about three months of the year, so it's things like the campus and school itself that will make a major difference for me. I just need to see if I feel comfortable there and see how much I like it."
I'm still quite skeptical KLS ultimately ends up at Michigan, but he's saying all the right things heading into his official, at least.
The rest of the offered, uncommitted visitors are from the 2016 class, headlined by a couple blue-chip offensive lineman in Ben Bredeson and Clark Yarborough. 247 and The Wolverine have both put together full visitor lists for your perusal. One of the other top targets slated to be on campus this weekend is four-star 2016 IN WR Austin Mack, who took a big picture approach when discussing the program with The Wolverine's Brandon Brown ($):
"Michigan is one of the powerhouses in the Big Ten and has been for many years," Mack said. "Every organization has to fall a little bit eventually. I mean Alabama has fallen before, they just lost somewhat unexpectedly. You can't be perfect continuously. Other teams start to catch up. There's so much talent out there that it will happen. Michigan is always going to have talent but sometimes it just doesn't work out. I feel like Michigan is going to be just fine. Even if it is a couple of years, it's just a matter of time, they'll be back on top."
It'll be very interesting to see if Mack continues to exhibit high interest in Michigan after a potential (okay, exceedingly probable) coaching change. Four-star 2016 GA RB Elijah Holyfield, who's had Michigan in his top group for a while, is already contemplating that possibility, per Brown ($):
"I like the school itself a lot. That's one of the reasons I'd wait and see what happens. At some schools if the coaching staff was to leave, I'd probably not be into that school anymore. Michigan is one of those schools that I like for the school itself. I like it up in Ann Arbor, I like the field, I like the town and everything about Michigan. Regardless of what staff is there I'm sure Michigan would still be in my top group until I commit so we'll see."
Holyfield is also expected to be on campus this weekend, and the above quote is quite a good sign for Michigan's chances of eventually landing him.
A small group of current commits will also be in attendance, including both QB commits from the upcoming two classes (Alex Malzone and Messiah deWeaver) and, notably, Darrin Kirkland, who's visiting unofficially after checking out Notre Dame last weekend. The Irish appeared to make a big move for him, so a good visit is paramount if M wants to keep him in the fold.
Commit Updates: Taylor Plans Officials, Malzone Fielding Interest
Add CB Garrett Taylor to the list of players who's setting up officials to other schools:
"It's a little shaky (at Michigan), I know people are bouncing ideas of whether coach Hoke is going to get fired at the end of the season or not," Taylor said. "I know Michigan's program isn't where people thought it would be or where coach Hoke wants it to be. We'll see how things go.
"Hopefully they can turn it around."
Taylor says he's "pretty sure" Penn State, Virginia Tech, Ohio State and "maybe" Tennessee will get official visits from him between now and signing day.
Notably, Michigan is not on the list of planned officials, and Lorenz confirmed that if Taylor is taking an official to Ann Arbor at all, it'll be after the season ($):
"Maybe in the winter," [Taylor] said. "I still am committed at this point, but it could change depending on how the coaching situation ends up and how the rest of the season ends up."
It probably goes without saying that this isn't a good sign. I'd be surprised if Taylor ended up in the class come Signing Day.
TomVH reports that multiple schools have reached out to Alex Malzone, including Penn State, which is now looking for a 2015 QB after Brandon Wimbush flipped his commitment to Notre Dame. Malzone appeared to be as solid a commit as one could get, so if he starts looking around, all bets are off on keeping this class together; so far, though, he hasn't set up any visits elsewhere.
This was inevitable: Wisconsin is taking a look at 2016 commit Erik Swenson, and while Swenson remains firmly committed for now, he's keeping an eye on the situation in Ann Arbor, per 247's Evan Flood ($):
"I just want to see how it goes this season and see how next season goes," he said. "After this season, I'll probably take some unofficial visits. I think Michigan is going to get a new coach next year, if not this year. I want to see how the coaching staff is. I just want a backup plan in case it doesn't work out with Michigan."
This is going to be the MO until a coaching change occurs; there's far too much uncertainty surrounding the program for commits to ignore—it's impossible to blame them for this—and coaches looking to reel in big-time prospects see the opportunity to poach them while Michigan's in a state of flux.