ED(Seth) NOTE: Since it appears we are going to have a John O’Korn era after all, we decided to make Ian Boyd’s article from last summer available to everyone. The following was published in Hail to the Victors 2016. You can download the original PDF to whatever device from this link.
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The Cowboy’s Next Rodeo
by Ian Boyd
Coaches and teams in college football live and die by what happens at the quarterback position. You can trace the rise and fall of various programs and coaches across the country by how they handled the position and whether they got good, great, or poor play.
Despite being famous for making the under-center power running game cool again, Jim Harbaugh really reached his current level of notoriety by grooming Andrew Luck into a Heisman/no. 1 pick and getting the most from guys like Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick at San Francisco. As soon as he came to Ann Arbor, Harbaugh secured the services of grad transfer Jake Rudock from Iowa and regular transfer John O’Korn from Houston, stole high school senior Zach Gentry from Texas, and went to work on 2017 and 2018 QB recruits. Coach Jim knows he can’t allow his rebuild to be done in by a lack of options at the most important position.
Rudock was a one-and-done for the Wolverines while O’Korn has a chance to be an additional bridge to the future as Harbaugh develops younger players like efficient sniper Alex Malzone, MGoBlog fave-rave Brandon Peters, and top 2018 pro-style prospect Dylan McCaffrey. As it happens—provided he can wrest the job from 2015 backup Wilton Speight—O’Korn could be filling the gap in a year when Michigan is positioned to win the Big 10 and reach the playoffs.
[After THE JUMP: some Harbaugh plays that O’Korn should excel at]
John O'Korn to the forefront [Eric Upchurch]
Per a source, Wilton Speight has broken his collarbone and is out for the remainder of the regular season. Depending on the exact nature of the issue it is possible he could return for the bowl game.
FWIW, when Tony Romo broke his collarbone last year he was projected to be out eight weeks, and was supposed to be out 6-8 after collarbone surgery in May. Speight had a bad collarbone break in high school—that's why he's a year older than most of his class—and may be in line for a similar surgery.
Michigan will almost certainly go with John O'Korn in Speight's stead; in scattered snaps this year he's 13/18 for 114 yards and two TDs. O'Korn's mobile enough to incorporate some designed QB runs, so we've got that going for us.
11/12/2016 – Michigan 13, Iowa 14 – 9-1, 6-1 Big Ten
The punt landed on the four and took an abrupt right turn, as if God himself had decided to intervene with a brief misapplication of the rules of physics. In my experience punts do not do this. Usually they continue forward on their merry way. Sometimes they'll catch the turf in a particular way and bounce backwards, which still would have been great for Iowa but not quite as great as what happened. Which was, again, a punt hitting inside the five and veering away from the endzone like it was remote-controlled. It settled at the two.
Behind me, an Iowa fan exclaimed "RON COLUZZI IS A GOLDEN GOD." You, dear reader, may think this was some sort of cynical punt-to-win exclamation from a fanbase that hasn't had much else to hold onto this year. I do not think this was the case. Coluzzi had already dropped a coffin corner punt inside Michigan's ten and induced Devin Bush's ejection with a certainly-intentional mid-play flip. I feel that the Iowa fan was expressing a genuine opinion that Ron Coluzzi has occult powers given to him in a satanic ritual.
After Khalid Hill fielded a pop-up to start the second half and fumbled it to Iowa, I had no choice but to agree. Ron Coluzzi is a golden god. Yea, and wroth.
The game veered at the same instant that punt did. Michigan was up 10-0 after a 72-yard touchdown drive and had collected 125 yards midway through the second quarter—not the flamethrower operation they'd been the previous three weeks, but not bad for three drives, one of them starting in Iowa territory and ending with a goal-to-go field goal.
Two plays later Michigan had given up a safety because Kyle Kalis let Iowa's best lineman into the backfield more or less free. Their next four drives went three-and-out, with a fifth stillborn thanks to Coluzzi's occult powers. Passes were dropped. Deep balls were vastly errant. Michigan's ground game could do little against a defense that just gave up a 300-yard day to Penn State.
And what do you say about that? Michigan appeared to be a knockoff version of itself, cheaply made and sold out of the back of a van. Iowa was vastly improved in this game after a wakeup call against Penn State. They brought out a bunch of traps and quick pitches and in general looked like a team actively attempting to win a football game, instead of one present at it and hoping things go their way. Desmond King made a series of excellent run defense plays; Jaleel Johnson got a bunch of pressure; Akrum Wadley is currently looking at an industrial washer on the spin cycle and thinking is that all you got? They were good enough to compete.
They should not have been good enough to win. This had little to do with the Iowa defense:
...an array of overthrown, late and underthrown deep balls saw the Michigan quarterback complete just one of his 13 passes aimed 10 or more yards down the field — a 29-yard gain to Jehu Chesson.
PFF had Iowa's coverage -4.2 on the night largely because Amara Darboh repeatedly got screamingly wide open downfield. Two yards here, four yards there—nobody was in his area code. Michigan completed none of these throws. When Wilton Speight did give his receivers reasonable opportunities, too many times they went clang. Chesson, Butt, and Darboh all had reasonably catchable balls thunk off their hands and too the turf. Yes, Speight could have done better. Yes, the receivers could have done better. They did not.
Michigan isn't this team. Unfortunately, it appears that neither are they the rampaging death machine that stomped through this season, barely dented by nine different teams' best shot. Because of the 9 in the record above and the way that 9 was acquired, this game has drawn a truly epic amount of stupid overreactions to it. This means Michigan isn't 'Bama. It doesn't mean they can't beat a team that beat Northwestern 24-20 at home.
How much of this is Michigan being a CLOWN FRAUD and how much is just college football losing its damn mind like it always does it yet to be determined. Ron Coluzzi is a golden god; Ron Coluzzi probably did not plan for his punt to veer sideways. Randomness is always a factor. Teams put up stinkers every year for no other reason than having a bunch of weighted coin flips go the wrong way, and it's not hard to move one or two balls a couple feet and exit this game undefeated and not particularly challenged.
They did not, and now it's a long wait to see how much of a weird night in Iowa is being in the wrong place when a punter ascends to the heavens and how much are real chinks in Michigan's once-impregnable armor.
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 Chris Wormley had a sack and another TFL; he did a great job on a reverse to pursue and get outside to hold the damage down on a play that looked real bad for a second; he bounced between DE and DT and was consistently pushing the middle of the pocket on passing plays; he dismissed various tight ends with authority, as per usual. His impact outstripped the box score, and the box score is pretty good.
#2 Taco Charlton was similarly dominant on the night. He got the hit on Beathard that resulted in the late interception, dismissed yet more tight ends, and had a major hand in Michigan's dominant pass rush despite not picking up the stats himself.
#3 Channing Stribling had that late interception and was repeatedly tested by an Iowa offense determined to keep it away from Jourdan Lewis at all costs. He had multiple pass breakups and dominated a couple plays so comprehensively that Beathard just booted the ball out of bounds instead of risking a throw. A pass or two completed against him and some iffy run D don't offset an otherwise terrific game.
Honorable mention: Jourdan Lewis, as per usual. Ryan Glasgow and Maurice Hurst were both good on the interior; Chris Evans had a solid day running the ball; Mason Cole was a bright spot on an OL that had a rough night.
10: Wilton Speight (#1 UCF, #1 Illinois, #3 MSU, #1 Maryland)
9: Jabrill Peppers(T2, Hawaii; #3 UCF, #1 Colorado, #2 Rutgers, #2 MSU)
5: Ryan Glasgow(#2 UCF, #1 UW), Chris Wormley (three-way T1, PSU, same vs Rutgers, #1 Iowa), Taco Charlton(three-way T1, PSU, same vs Rutgers, #3 Maryland, #2 Iowa).
3: Mike McCray(#1, Hawaii), Ben Gedeon(#3 Colorado, #3 PSU, three-way T1 Rutgers), Amara Darboh(#1 MSU), Jourdan Lewis (#3 UW, #2 Maryland).
2.5: Karan Higdon(four-way T2, PSU, #2 Illinois).
2: Jake Butt(#2 Colorado), Kyle Kalis (#2 UW)
1: Delano Hill (T2, Hawaii), Chris Evans (T3, Hawaii, four-way T2, PSU), Maurice Hurst (three-way T1, PSU), Devin Asiasi(#3 Rutgers), Ben Braden (#3 Illinois), Channing Stribling (#3 Iowa).
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.
Ty Isaac puts Michigan up 10-0.
Honorable mention: Interception that nearly sealed the game; Kenny Allen nails a 51-yard field goal to give Michigan the lead.
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.
Maryland: very complicated bomb.
Iowa: The touchdown.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
This week's worst thing ever.
Kyle Kalis leaves Jaleel Johnson on the two yard line, creating a safety that started Michigan's weird ride towards a loss.
Honorable mention: QB sneak is down a yard short of the first down line and is not reviewed; Ron Coluzzi being a golden god repeatedly; Darboh can't bring in a fade that would have just about ended it
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.
Maryland: Edge defense is a confirmed issue.
Iowa: Kalis hands Iowa a safety.
[After THE JUMP: WELP.]
1 hour and 8 minutes
We are in a car.
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.
Our other sponsors are also key in the expanding empire: thanks to Homesure Lending, Ann Arbor Elder Law, the Residence Inn Ann Arbor Downtown, the University of Michigan Alumni Association, Deo Bookkeeping, Michigan Law Grad, Defensive Drivers Group, Tailgater Concierge, and Peak Wealth Management.
starts at 1:00
We went to a bumpin’ IHOP. Illinois has road barrels for days for no apparent reason. Iowa has great fans and a great stadium. The O’Neill crew was once again spectacularly incompetent but that’s no excuse for Michigan’s passing game joining them. Speight is hurt. Playcalling not optimal.
starts at 19:58
Iowa’s offense was basically Akrum Wadley, and basically kept in check. The defense dealt with a lot of short fields—if the offense can make one of those long TD passes the DL’s ridiculous pressure metric would have mattered more.
Special Teams and Game Theory
starts at 32:50
Iowa’s punter is a golden god. We propose a new rule for rugby punting to stop this silliness with punters running into blockers. Damn Ferentz [Ed-S: who’s such a bad guy he built a children’s hospital that overlooks the stadium so they can watch Iowa football through their windows] for making correct tactical decisions only when facing Michigan.
Talking Big Ten w/ Interrupted Jamie Mac
starts at 47:27
Congratulations to Mark Dantonio and the 2016 The Situation Trophy-Winning Spartans for their first Big Ten victory. Ohio State defenestrated Maryland too. Penn State-Indiana was interesting but you can’t tell from this podcast because Jamie’s heart is visibly broken. This is a very visual podcast.
“Highway Star”—Deep Purple
“On the Road Again”—Canned Heat
“Across 110th Street”
THE USUAL LINKS
There are portions of my audio where I couldn’t hear because of the reverberations of Iowa folks celebrating, so I pieced together what I could.
What was happening with the offense tonight? Seemed like it was misfiring.
“Not enough—we didn’t make enough plays to extend drives and get first downs. Missed some deep throws. Close. Just…you know, give Iowa credit. They tackled, they blocked, they played a very good football game. So, congratulate them and move on.”
How about your defense? They stood tall pretty much the whole game, it seemed like. Stribling had a big interception. Talk about what
“Yeah, they—I thought they played well most of the ballgame and it was a low-scoring, hard-fought football game.”
Did you think with the facemask, I didn’t see it, but did you see it from your field position?
“I didn’t see it either.”
Did you get any explanation?
What did you tell your team after this game?
“Big things and every little thing isn’t going to go our team’s way or anybody’s way. Every little thing doesn’t always go your way, and we’ll make—to make it a win you’ve got to make it that way. We didn’t do enough to make it that way tonight.”
[After THE JUMP: more words]
A Murphy's Law game.
Any number of individual plays could've changed the outcome. Most of the ones that come to mind involve Wilton Speight, who had his worst game of the year, then had injury added to insult at the end.
Speight wasn't alone in his struggles, however. Jehu Chesson missed a chance to bail his quarterback out, instead getting a third-down pass ripped from his hands by Manny Rugamba, costing the Wolverines a chance to put the game away. Khalid Hill missed an assignment that led to an early safety and lost a fumble returning the opening kickoff of the second half. Chris Evans was the only running back who could consistently get anything going. The playcalling, personnel usage, and late-game clock management will be nitpicked to death this week, and not without justification.
While the defense played well on the whole, they couldn't contain Akrum Wadley, who accounted for 167 yards on 28 touches. And, yes, there were multiple questionable calls by the notorious officiating crew led by John O'Neill.
"Not every little thing is going to go our team's way," said Jim Harbaugh. "To win, you've got to make it go your way. We didn't."
Michigan still has everything to play for, but they've lost all margin for error if they want to keep their Big Ten title and playoff dreams alive. Before they even get that far, though, they have to figure out what went wrong tonight. This game should not have been close, let alone a loss, but a number of underwhelming performances occurred in conjunction at the wrong time. There's no sugarcoating tonight.