"(I) think about 'The Lion King,' Simba gets hit over the head and (he's told) 'the past can hurt,' " Harbaugh said Monday afternoon. "'You can either run from it or embrace it and learn from it.'
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so then Simba gets hit on the head- this is where it gets really good- and he says… [Fuller]
Your thoughts on the line play after watching film?
“Thought it was good. Graham Glasgow stood out the most and he was our offensive player of the game. Also to note, Ben Braden continued to be an ascending player. He might have got the silver medal, which was good to see. But for the line, line play’s been the same.”
Talk about Joe Kerridge. He’s obviously a captain, but what he brings you leadership-wise and what he brings you on the field.
“A++ from day one in terms of work ethic, leadership, role model, example. Been really good. Good to see him back out this week. Warms your heart to see a fullback pop a run for…what was it? 36? 34? Heartwarming! So, nice to see the fullback position do that.
“Sione Houma also has been outstanding. Both in the way they’re blocking and the way they’re running the ball. Haven’t had fullbacks like this, talented runners when they have the football in their hands. Been heartwarming to see the fullback dive be successful.”
What made that play successful? Was it the play fake to De’Veon, or whose blocking was most central to making that successful?
“Yeah, everybody. Everybody who doesn’t have the ball is essential. In terms blocking and carrying out fakes, everybody becomes a blocker who’s not carrying the ball.”
A lot of coaches and players in football and other sports talk about consistency and trying to stay consistent with a demeanor and a message. What’s been that most consistent message that you and your staff have brought to this team that has made it successful?
“I don’t know. I don’t know what the most consistent message would be. What we hope for and look for in consistency is being consistently good, as opposed to being consistently average. I don’t know what else to say about that.”
You had said after Maryland that you thought Channing [Stribling] was just a one-week injury and he didn’t play the other day. Is this a longer-term situation with him?
“Yeah, it’s longer than a one-week. He was very, very close this past weekend. He could have played, but thought it was more prudent to not play him.”
Do you expect to play him this weekend?
[After THE JUMP- It’s State week, so you know what that means: quoting Rafiki from The Lion King]
Talk about the decision to take down the countdown clocks for Michigan State and Ohio State, and this rivalry and your memories of it. and its meaning
“That was a while ago, the first part of your question there. What does the rivalry mean? It’s a trophy game. Really want to get the best grades, want to win the most awards, want to excel at sports and this is a game that has a trophy associated to it so that’s an award. Want to win it.”
Can you talk about the countdown clocks?
“Yeah, I just said that was a while ago.”
“I can’t really recall.”
How quickly did it happen after you got here?
“I don’t recall. It was a while ago.”
Along those same lines, how important is it to establish yourself first off within the state as the team. You know, Michigan State has kind of dominated this rivalry in recent years. Is it important to establish yourself as the team in the state?
“To really address your question about countdown clocks or your question on…winning the next game is the goal. That’s the most important thing. There’s nothing more important than that from where you stand in this week, so…10 out of 10.”
I imagine you know the numbers: Michigan State’s won six of the last seven games. Are you in tune with how those games have gone and the physical nature they’ve seemed to control Michigan with, and is that something that’s a focus this week for you guys?
The physical nature of how they’ve beaten Michigan like that.
“Think about The Lion King: Simba gets hit over the head and tells ‘em, ‘Yeah, the past can hurt. You can either run from it or embrace it and learn from it.’ I think that’s exactly what he said, so those seem like very wise words. We’ll go about that.”
You talked about [how] you like the way this team works and prepares for each week. Is this the week where it’s just all preparation like any other week, or is there just a little extra energy in the building because of a rivalry game?
“Yeah, again, I’m sure there’s gonna be attempts made to build the game up, etc. But we’re just, we’re working and not worrying. Have a chance maybe to hear what’s out there. We’ve just been down there going about our business. May have a chance to get the ear to the railroad track and see what’s out there, but we’re working and not worrying right now.”
MGoQuestion: At times we’ve seen you rotate a linebacker back as a deep safety. What’s the goal of that, and what are some of the advantages of being able to do that?
“The advantages are to present a Cover 2 look that really is a Cover 3 look. Show a two-deep safety look with the middle of the field open and then run a middle linebacker back to the middle, which really is a three-deep zone.”
Now that you’ve had a chance to watch the film from the weekend and see the opening kickoff did you discover something, and how much of that play is Jehu and how much is everyone else?
“The greatest share is Jehu. I mean, you’re the returner; you’re wearing the big sombrero. Got the greatest share. It’s a unit effort. It’s a team effort. As we said before, one person’s the ball carrier and everyone else is the blocker and that particular play was well schemed. The blocks were crisp and sharp, and the timing of the blocks was outstanding. Result was a touchdown.”
The so-called experts seem to think that Michigan is ahead of schedule-
“The scribes, the pundits, the so-called experts?”
‘Ahead of schedule’ is the word everybody’s using. I’m just wondering if since you took the job if you ever in your mind thought about a schedule, and are you ahead of it?
“No, didn’t think about it. Just…remains today the same thoughts. See if we can’t better today than we were yesterday and see if we can’t be better tomorrow than we were today.”
So far from what you see on film, can you talk about Connor Cook and the options he has in the passing game?
“Yes. Outstanding quarterback. The record…the record speaks for itself: 29-3. That says it all.
“And the most outstanding wide receivers that we’ve played against, or may ever. This is an explosive, talented group of eligible receivers.”
Do you have any relationship with Mark Dantonio at all? Have you had a chance to talk with him at all since you’ve been here or did you know much about him before you got here?
“Yeah, we met. We talked. Been very collegial, professional. Have the utmost respect for him and the job he’s done.”
You don’t seem to be biting on any of our attempts to make this game a little more special. Is it special for you? Do you look forward to coaching in this, or is it really just the next game on the schedule?
“Like I said, we’ve just been going about our business down there at Schembechler Hall, and I’m sure that there will be a lot of attempts made to make it…it’s already big. It’s- the game is big enough. Fair, healthy, honest competition with a heck of a good opponent. That’s enough.”
Thoughts on how Royce [Jenkins-Stone] stepped in and did for Mario?
“Really good. Thought he played really loose, focused…experienced ball player. He’s been there many times before. We’ve seen it many times in practice. Just…he gives you everything he has, which is a lot. He’s a very talented player who brings a real good dimension to the defense. Always like his demeanor; real serious about being good and doing his job, and he does it very well so we really had high expectations for him and he delivered.”
What stands out in your mind with the Michigan State defense?
“Well, this is a very good scheme. They know it extremely well. They play it, they execute it. In order for this defense to be successful and good they’ve got to have great corner play, which they have again. They repeatedly have that. It’s a must. Then the inside rushers, a good pass rush and contain. They can do it all with the front four, and they do it very effectively. Sound, sound, and they understand it well and play their defense very good.”
A lot of times with in-state rivalries one’s up, the other’s down; it’s kind of a see-saw thing. Do you believe that Michigan and Michigan State as programs can compete at a high level at the same time?
You talked about the offensive line earlier. It seems like they’re getting better as the game goes on; they’ve been really good in the fourth quarter the last couple weeks. How have you seen that play from where you are during games? Have you seen them improving as the game goes on?
“Improve? I guess. Ascending, yes. It’s very important…and again, they’re experienced players who’ve been there before and work extremely hard. Cohesive group. You expect it from them, and they deliver on that. Better and better. Building.”
With the nerves and maybe energy among the players possibly being a factor Saturday, how important is it for you guys to have Jake Rudock, especially with his calm demeanor, able to weather anything they throw at him?
“It’s very important, and I think we have that. He’s playing his best football. Preparing, preparing. Consistently good each and every week. Doesn’t get rattled. We talked about that. Come to expect that.”
As someone who’s played in this rivalry, can you kind of explain, is a uniqueness to it in terms of on the field? It’s been said over the years that it’s very physical, that it’s maybe more physical than any other game. Did you notice that when you were playing in this Michigan-Michigan State game?
“Again, the question asks to compare, and I have a thing with that. Comparing this game to that game, or more physical to less physical; seems something always gets diminished when you start talking that way.”
Then to go back to that ‘84 game when you broke your arm, how often have you thought about that moment over the years, like ‘what if?’ You were starting to emerge and get your shot as quarterback.
“I’d refer back to my ‘in the past’ comment. It’s in the past. It’s…sometimes it hurts, and that hurt.”
“You can run from it or you can learn from it. Who said that? Rafiki?”
“Rafiki! Wise words.”
In the offseason you referred to Michigan State as, I think, the biggest guy on the block. I wonder now if midway through the season you still feel the same way?
“There’s no question there. Outstanding football team. It’ll be fair, healthy, honest competition. Looking for a great week of preparation to have that. Big task this week, and our guys will be excited for it.”
Flip Watch: Kareem Walker
The marquee visitor for Saturday's beatdown was five-star NJ RB Kareem Walker, an Ohio State commit who kept his official visit under wraps until word leaked out on Friday that he'd be in attendance. Walker doesn't talk to the media much; in the aftermath of the visit he released a statement in favor of doing interviews:
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) October 12, 2015
While Walker isn't saying much to indicate where Michigan stands, the rumblings from his camp are promising. Sam Webb put up a free post that indicated the visit went very well; he posted some jucier tidbits on The Victors Board, including word that Walker may be back in Ann Arbor this weekend for the State game ($).
247's Steve Lorenz caught up with a source close to Walker who said he liked how Michigan handled their running backs ($):
"He's absolutely heavily interested," they said. "He not only sees carries to be had in Michigan's backfield, but knows he doesn't have to necessarily be the only guy either. That's important. It's a lot like when Alabama pulled in a stable of running backs in one class. Get better and be effective, but do it while staying fresh and healthy."
Perhaps the best sign of all comes from the Ohio State side: 247's Ryan Bartow reports that the Buckeyes reached out to four-star Wisconsin RB commit Antonio Williams in the last week. It's hard to imagine that timing is coincidental.
[Hit THE JUMP for FLIP WATCH, CONTINUED.]
Flip Watch: Lavert Hill & Quinn Nordin
A couple Penn State commits may not be Penn State commits for much longer.
Four-star Detroit King CB Lavert Hill made a surprise visit to Ann Arbor instead of joining teammate Donnie Corley in Tennessee, as initially planned. He'll be back soon: Lorenz repots he'll be on campus again this weekend ($). It would be an upset if he stuck with his PSU commitment at this point.
The situation looks very similar for top-ranked Rockford K Quinn Nordin, also a Penn State commit. Nordin didn't mince words when recapping the visit for Scout's Allen Trieu ($):
"It was great," he said. "It was good to get up there again and see the coaches and my friends and other recruits. The atmosphere was amazing. It was the best recruiting visit I've taken."
He'll be back for the State game, too, and his mother will be joining him. Tim Sullivan also caught up with Nordin, who's got his rooting priorities in order ($):
"I'm going to Michigan next week," he said. "Personally, I'm not a big fan of Michigan State, so I'd love to see Michigan whomp 'em. It'll be good to go down there and see Ron [Johnson], Ahmir [Mitchell], some of the guys are planning to be down there again. It was good to hang out with them, and see how they go."
Hopefully a whomping and a commitment are both on the docket.
More Visit Reactions: Mathis Gives M A '10'
There hasn't yet been word on how the visit went for four-star FL LB Devin Bush Jr., though it was a great sign that he paid his way to campus and his visit reportedly extended until late Sunday.
Meanwhile, three-star FL TE Jacob Mathis took in the game on an official visit. While he told Scout's Corey Bender he doesn't have any leaders, this quote stands out ($):
"I'd give (the visit) a 10 out of 10," Mathis said. "It was a great visit and I don't think there's anything I would have changed to make it better."
Mathis is the most likely option to join Sean McKeon at tight end in the class, though we'll see if anything changes when five-star Isaac Nauta takes his official to Ann Arbor this weekend.
Another in-state prospect committed to another school checked out the Northwestern game. Three-star Ypsilanti ATH Marquis Smith, currently committed to Kansas, was spotted at the game by the TMI crew. Smith doesn't hold an offer; one would imagine Michigan would take a commanding lead if they put one forth.
Commit Updates: Vicious Vic Midseason Highlights
I'll admit I haven't had time to watch Victor Viramontes' midseason highlights yet but I'm confident nonetheless you'll be entertained.
For updates on how Michigan commits performed last weekend, Maize n Brew has you covered.
Kemp Visits ND; Hayes Decommits From USC
The recruitment of four-star CO WDE Carlo Kemp just got more interesting. He named Michigan his leader following his official visit for the BYU game and implied he only held off on a commitment so he could see Notre Dame; he told Scout's Anna Hickey that the visit to South Bend made the decision much tougher ($):
Kemp could end the recruiting process in the near future, but he faces a difficult decision along the way.
“It’s just hard,” Kemp said. “Notre Dame has moved neck-and-neck to the schools at the top. It’s super difficult. All you do is fall in love with places when you visit. Everything is great wherever you go and everyone treats you so nicely, why wouldn’t you want to commit? I want to evaluate everything when I’m not on campus. I think I need to remove myself from Notre Dame for a week or two and see if Notre Dame still feels the same way in my heart.”
This one seems like it could go either way.
Meanwhile, four-star Ann Arbor Skyline OLB Daelin Hayes decommitted from USC yesterday. While Michigan could get involved, the timing suggests Notre Dame might land Hayes soon—he's set to take an official visit there this weekend when they play... USC.
1 hour 29 minutes
Remember that story about Harbaugh sitting and watching someone direct traffic for hours? Never say those were wasted. [Bryan Fuller]
Another shutout, another dominating performance, another another another. Hot damn.
Rudock's best game in a winged helmet; if he can maintain that we are in Serious Business. Tailbacks looking good.
SPECIAL TEAMS AND MISC
Hail Baxter. Stadium atmosphere discussion: right direction, maybe tone down the music.
BRIEF USMNT RANT SECTION WITH LIZ CROWE
Liz came in and I was like "we have to talk about this or eventually I will explode" and she was like "I don't want to" and I was like "WHO IS THE SPONSOR HERE" and she was like "I am" and then I was like "well we're talking about it anyway."
Advertise on MGoBlog!
FWIW, Liz is re-starting her craft beer blog. Check it out.
TALKIN' BIG TEN WITH JAMIEMAC
MSU looking shaky, Iowa the surprise favorite in the West, reasons not to fire Bo Pelini other than "he has a great parody twitter account."
"Across 110th Street"
"Temptation," Michigan Marching Band
"Hawaiian War Chant," Michigan Marching Band
"Abattoir Altar Boy And Girl," Hoots & Hellmouth
THE USUAL LINKS
- Helpful iTunes subscribe link
- General podcast feed link
- Direct download link
- What's with the theme music?
10/10/2015 – Michigan 38, Northwestern 0 – 5-1, 2-0 Big Ten
It was one fan, maybe two or three, in the south endzone. He or she or they wrote themselves into a corner of Michigan lore with one of the simplest chants in sports. It's the one that gets deconstructed into the letter D and the outline of a fence at NFL stadiums across the country. It is about as unique and special as "Seven Nation Army" at this point, but life is all about timing.
I have been to every Michigan home game in the last 18 years and I have never heard that. It is alien, the kind of thing I recoil from because it represents the melting of our special Michigan snowflake.
And holy shit, man. The little pin-pricks all across your scalp; the tremor in the hands; the flush of sweat; the welling of tears manfully suppressed. I could not participate myself. I was too gob-smacked to do much of anything at that moment. Michigan was up 38-0 with time about to expire. It was 4th and 17. If you had asked me to draw a card from the deck at that moment I couldn't have managed it.
Since the podcast started I've looked at a lot of lyrics from songs I love, and on the page they're flat nothings. This was the inverse of that. Two syllables; one word; and yet, poetry.
This is it, already. The building process turned out to be a single offseason of four-hour practices and competition over everything from starting positions to the most elegant mashed potato sculpture at dinner. Brady Hoke may not have been able to point his team in the right direction given two tries, but he could recruit, and the fruits of his labors have been honed molecule-thin by a man who can get hat-displacingly angry up a billion points in the second half.
Michigan fans were dying for this. Barely anyone left until deep into the fourth quarter, and there were still enough people ready to run through a wall with 29 seconds left, enough people to rattle the press box and send electricity up your spine.
The recent Harbaugh-to-NFL flare ups caused Michigan twitter to once again latch on to the pant leg of anybody who dared assert that Harbaugh would ever leave the confines of Ann Arbor (save for road games, of course). In the aftermath, media members got rabies shots and quietly conferred about how Wolverines fans are low key the most annoying on the internet.
They are not wrong. We take after our mascot: outwardly innocuous, secretly vicious bastards with a pipe-crushing grip. Anyone threatening the precious will be verbally berated until they give up in exhaustion. After the last eight years in the wilderness even the thought of a diversion enrages.
I emceed the Alumni Association's tailgate on Saturday, and I heard an awful lot about how things have changed in just a year. Indeed they have. I went back to the game column after game six of 2014, in which I meditate on the mournfulness of the Kids In The Hall's theme song and embed their "Each Day We Work" sketch. This was the entirety of the bit about football:
Football happened, in the usual way.
That described a loss to Rutgers.
In that column I talked about how the most appealing bit of Kids In The Hall was always that theme song, titled "Having An Average Weekend"; I went back and listened to it, and now I think that song is genius. It filled me with a sense of contentment and optimism. That's an average weekend, just a year after things were so bad they spawned the first and only Wolverine Revolutionary Popular Front.
An average weekend ends with a stadium full of people exhorting Michigan to finish burying their opponent, with two syllables ringing through the nation's biggest stadium, once again full to the brim. With belief.
How I woke up this morning pic.twitter.com/RuyiRdECUL
— PeppyPep (@JabrillPeppers) October 11, 2015
Let those who would stand in Michigan's way come.
[Note: Alejandro Zuniga clipped the chant first but the sound quality wasn't what I wanted so I reproduced it.]
this will end badly for you son [Fuller]
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 Jourdan Lewis had a spectacular YOINK pick-six in addition to generally being Jourdan Lewis. Gypsy seems real good with him currently.
#2 Jabrill Peppers annihilated the option several times, had 3 PBUs when tested in coverage (though one of them should have been an INT), laid the final block on Jehu Chesson's kickoff return, got the key block on Lewis's INT return, and fair caught all manner of short punts, saving Michigan dozens of yards of field position.
#3 Jake Rudock was efficient and capable; called into action on the ground he left a Northwestern LB in the dust on a play reminiscent of Tate Forcier's "I Saw Cover Zero" touchdown.
Honorable mention: All DL were excellent but Henry and Glasgow in particular stood out. Jehu Chesson's KO TD was more scheme than magic but dang he is fast and added a few nice plays on O. De'Veon Smith only had eight carries but had the entire Northwestern secondary on his back for one of them. AJ Williams led the team in catches and blocked well.
6: Jourdan Lewis (#1 UNLV, #1 Northwestern)
5: Chris Wormley(#2 Utah, #1 Oregon State)
4: Jabrill Peppers(#2 BYU, #2 Northwestern)
3: Jake Butt (#1 Utah), De'Veon Smith(#2 Oregon State, #3 BYU), Ryan Glasgow (#1 BYU), Desmond Morgan (#1 Maryland),
2: Ty Isaac(#2 UNLV), Jabrill Peppers(#2 BYU), Maurice Hurst (#2 Maryland).
1: Willie Henry (#3 Utah), AJ Williams (#3 Oregon State), Channing Stribling(#3 UNLV), Blake O'Neill(#3 Maryland), Jake Rudock(#3 Northwestern)
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
This week's best thing ever.
Jehu Chesson wins the game in the first 15 seconds.
Honorable mention: Ridiculous Lewis pick-six.
Utah: Crazy #buttdown.
Oregon State: #tacopunts.
UNLV: Ty Isaac's 76 yard touchdown.
BYU: De'Veon Smith's illicit teleporter run.
Maryland: Jehu Chesson jet sweeps past you.
Northwestern: Chesson opening KO TD.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
This week's worst thing ever.
USA-Mexico. Seriously, I got nothin' from the actual game.
Honorable mention: Blake O'Neill's second touchback. I guess one of those third and fifteen conversions?
Utah: circle route pick six.
Oregon State: Rudock fumbles after blitz bust.
UNLV: Rudock matches 2014 INT total in game 3.
BYU: BYU manages to get to triple digit yards in the last minutes of the game.
Maryland: Slog extended by deflected interception at Houma.
Northwestern: KLINSMANN OUT
[After THE JUMP: this week's ways in which Harbaugh out-schemed his opponent, Happy Iowa Rudock, John Baxter's first BANG, and more defense defense defense.]
This Rudock you can win big things with opposite this defense. Jake Rudock had his best game at Michigan, a 17/23 performance that saw him nail a ton of short to moderate length throws and move around to find his dumpoff when that became necessary. 7.8 YPA and no turnovers is going to win Michigan every game they play from here on out except maybe OSU.
This was, to pick an example not entirely out of nowhere, a Brian Griese type of game. Michigan's leading receivers were two tight ends and De'Veon Smith; the longest completion to a wide receiver was a five yard drag route that Chesson stretched to 27 after the catch.
Remember that this was an excellent pass defense with terrific corners. Michigan's gameplan completely removed them from the equation. Aside from one errant pass to nobody in particular in the first half, neither cornerback was even tested in coverage. Every completion was to an open guy.
The only slightly frustrating part of Rudock's performance was a second-half tendency to sit too long in the pocket and take sacks. This was similar to the BYU game, in which Michigan raced out to a huge lead and then coasted to the finish, with Rudock eschewing downfield shots in an effort to keep a clean turnover sheet.
Identifying a weak spot. A change: his week's most obvious coaching wins on offense came on pass plays. Michigan ran four in routes on which the slot receiver would almost but not quite block the guy nominally over him and the outside receiver would cut to the interior, suddenly very open.
All of those were completed for significant yardage, and after the first couple it was clear that Harbaugh and company had IDed something in the way Northwestern was running its coverages that would make those wide open consistently.
Also a clear win: the first big catch of the game. Michigan ran what looked to be a waggle and then Jake Butt turned his crossing route to a corner away from the (false) rollout; he was Oh Wide Open and Michigan was a yard away from their first TD.
Piesman candidate? [Eric Upchurch]
Finally, the big Kerridge rumble saw Michigan shuffle Kerridge just to the right of Rudock; on the snap Northwestern's linebackers all flung themselves at the point of attack that configuration implied. Kerridge popped out the backside to find nobody on the second level. Remember when shuffling fullbacks were a frustrating giveaway? Not anymore.
Tailback by absurdly large committee. Non-sack carries: Derrick Green 12, De'Veon Smith 8, Karan Higdon 8, Jake Rudock 3, Sione Houma 3, Joe Kerridge 2, Jehu Chesson 2, Drake Johnson 2, Ty Isaac 2.
Part of this was injury. Smith missed last week's game and was shelved as soon as things got out of hand in this one, which was quickly. Drake Johnson is "working through something" according to Harbaugh. He was healthy enough to get a couple carries but they are clearly worried about tweaking something and turning whatever his issue is into a longer-term problem.
Another part was Ty Isaac's fumbles last week. It's a long road back from that.
Another bit was offensive frippery. Michigan incorporated some zone read. That was effective, and probably would have been more effective if Rudock had kept another couple times when it seemed like Northwestern had nobody for him. The fullback dives and Chesson's end-arounds are also filed here.
Finally, Higdon. I'm not going to complain about taking the redshirt off of him. He got a significant number of carries in an important game, and he might be needed going forward given the questionable health of a number of Michigan's backs. Meanwhile, Michigan is gunning for important things all of a sudden. That feels like taking the redshirt of Caris LeVert during the Trey/Tim Final Four year—if he can give you anything it's worth it.
Flimsy Higdon eval. Compact, fast guy. He got chopped down a lot on edge stuff that saw Northwestern flash into the backfield, but he did have one silky cut after he got loose that helped him pick up nine yards.
Most of the plays that didn't work were Northwestern jumping an edge play, not anything he did wrong.
Upgrading "Chesson is kinda like" references to Steve Breaston. Chesson had a 66-yard touchdown on which he juked a safety out of his shoes last week; this week he turns on the jets on the kickoff return and had an excellent weaving end-around that picked up a first down, plus a catch and run on a drag route on which he outran a DB to the corner. His athleticism is becoming a real asset, and he's got some shake to him. He is also spindly and not currently great at making plays downfield, but he brings quite a bit to the table anyway.
Tailback renaissance. There (probably) won't be many complaints about tailbacks missing holes in the UFR this week, as it seemed like each and every guy to get a shot did something well. De'Veon Smith trucked several different guys, including four on one theme-establishing run on which Nick Van Hoose should have had to buy a ticket. Higdon cocked eyebrows with the above run; Isaac got the edge on that pitch counter.
And Derrick Green looked great. He still goes down to ankle tackles too much but at least in this game he showed off his impressive physical ability; he looked better than he'd ever been on the final touchdown drive.
I'm holding off on declaring these guys fixed forever, but the week to week improvement here is encouraging. And, I mean, Thomas Rawls is adding data to our pile of evidence that Fred Jackson tailed off badly at the end of his tenure.
The line. I haven't talked about the line much this year because the individual performances don't jump out at you. This line doesn't have a star. Nor has it had a particular weak point since Utah blew the guards out of the water. Ben Braden's doing okay; pass protection is generally good but Cole had issues against Ngakoue.
They're all solid. So they kind of go without comment a lot.
This section is kind of short. Everything dominant, Justin Jackson gets 25 yards on 12 carries, Michigan forces another team that really doesn't want to throw to throw a bunch, etc. Having an average weekend.
LOL NOPE [Upchurch]
Hello. My name is Jabrill Peppers. You ran an option to my side of the field. Prepare to die. Have to wonder WTF Northwestern was thinking with the speed option stuff they were running. For one, Thorson is very bad at it right now. Most of the time he pitched the ball way early, allowing Michigan to string the play out without anyone taking the QB. And at least two of them were directed at Jabrill Peppers; on the first he executed his now-trademark blaze around the inside of the guy trying to block him for a TFL.
It's good that they tested him, though, if only to reinforce the fact that doing so is a very bad idea.
Hello. My name is Willie Henry. You are not a bear. Prepare to die. Northwestern really didn't want guys looping around Michigan's defensive tackles to get free runs at the quarterback. Unfortunately their solution to this was to turn those tackles free once the guy to the inside on the stunt tried to get to the looper. Henry and Glasgow were in Thorson's lap much of the game, with three sacks and plenty of hurries between them. (One was a coverage sack.)
PFF continues to grade Michigan games and has identified a couple of important factors on the D: incredible depth on the DL and how they are just killing it on stunts.
Michigan’s defensive line is the story of this one. The defense, as a whole, gets credit for the shutout, but it was really this superb line doing all the heavy lifting. Just looking at the top performers list below gives you a pretty solid indication of what I’m talking about. Five different linemen graded at +2.5 or above. Mind you, only four defensive lineman see the field at one given time. That’s utter domination. Michigan may very well be the best team at executing stunts in the entire country. The power and speed with which they can attack both sides of a stunt was too much for the Northwestern line to handle, and I only saw a few stunts all day that the Wildcats’ line was even able to pick up.
As a bonus all of Michigan's DL graded out positively in their system, with Glasgow leading the way.
By the way, if Henry's day grades out in UFR like I think it will he will be the fifth Michigan DL to hit double-digits this year. That is insane.
Hello. My name is Jourdan Lewis. /stabs. I mean, go ahead with whatever you're going to do, opposing offenses.
Per @PFF....updated Jourdan Lewis stats. 34 times targeted, 11 catches allowed for 67 yards gained.
— jamie mac (@justcoverblog) October 12, 2015
Just don't try to explain it.
Welcome to the defense, Royce Jenkins-Stone. I think he played every snap until Michigan started rotating in the deep backups. I didn't think he made much impact but PFF had him Michigan's #4 performer on the day, just behind Lewis. If I find a similar impact for him in UFR that will be a very reassuring thing.
Slants and underneath stuff and crosses are there. Michigan made it hard for the most part but there are holes you can poke in the coverage if you get enough time. Connor Cook will be a drastic upgrade from everyone Michigan has faced since Travis Wilson (although Tanner Mangum is now tearing it up—he's completed just under 70% of his passes for 8.1 YPA the past two weeks).
BANG! I made a joke last week that Northwestern's tendency to kick off short would be helpful the one time they kicked off, and now that joke is the most accurate thing I've ever said. Jehu Chesson ripped off a 96 yard return on the opening, sole Northwestern kickoff and that was that.
That return was far from random chance. It looked like Michigan knew that Northwestern would try to put it on the sideline away from Peppers and set up a return designed to exploit this. Michigan slid their entire return to the left and actually pulled two guys around like it was a power play.
Chesson started directly upfield before breaking out to the right, where nobody was. Northwestern helped out a little when one of their cover guys got out of their lane, but I don't think he would have mattered. Chesson broke to the sideline with a wall, and with his speed that's game over. Michigan actually lost that double team block to the bottom right of that shot; Peppers blasted him to seal the TD.
This was a plan, one that worked perfectly, and after a bunch of narrow misses John Baxter has his first game-breaking play as Michigan's special teams coach.
The last guy to do that was on the sideline, by the way. Tyrone Wheatley was some kind of fast.
That kind of KOR is what I'm trying to distinguish the Chesson one from. It wasn't a plan, it was just a thing that happened.
A very polite fair catch. Yes, Ace is making a supercut of all the Peppers ball-placements after his fair catches.
Incrementing kicker confidence levels. Kenny Allen's 47 yarder was right down the middle and would have been good from 52, maybe 55. That's his first hit from outside 40 and another step towards kicker confidence. We are moving past competence… a little.
Almost part 2. Michigan seemed a whisper away from another big special teams play on the field goal, as you can see. I wonder if the pressure caused this kick to go wide—and how many on-target kicks get returned to sender. Michigan also just about put guys in the shield into the punter several times.
Touchbacks. Rats. Blake O'Neill had his first two touchbacks of the year. One was on a bullet that only crossed the goal line after it had traveled 59 yards. The other hit near the sideline and bounced wrong. We are processing his deportation papers currently.
Alumni cheer: the best. I emceed the Alumni Association's homecoming tailgate on Saturday, and the alumni cheerleaders tore down the house. People absolutely love them; so do I. Are their numbers limited somehow? There seem to be fewer of them these days and guys from the 70s and 80s aren't among them. Does anyone know what the deal is there? I'd hate for that institution to fade away.
TUBES. Welcome back, tubes.
Ryan Van Bergen is the villain in a Jason Statham movie.
— Isaiah Hole (@isaiahhole) October 11, 2015
That is all.
Halftime. I am of two minds about the band's halftime show. On the one hand, it was stirring enough to get a major reaction from the crowd after its completion. As The Hoover Street Rag said, "Ode To Joy" was a bit on the nose but I was feeling it anyway. The concert speakers were a smart addition; I felt the audio was more present in my section than usual.
— Michigan Athletics (@UMichAthletics) October 11, 2015
On the other hand, the annual homecoming show is the best. I want the guy with the knives and the other guy with the fire and the alumni cheerleaders and "you can't have one without the other." I'm guessing the New York Philharmonic thing could only be done this weekend—they are in town—and the payoff here was excellent. I do not want the traditional homecoming to go away.
A new thing I like. In the third quarter the cheerleaders got up on the wall and started waving their hands around in coordinated ways.
EVERYBODY IS HAPPY [Fuller]
People on twitter report that this is "the rollercoaster" and is a frequent feature of high school games they have attended. I cant' say I've ever come across it in college, and it looked terrific and felt really fun, so let's steal it and keep it and pretend we invented it. That's what we did with Yost Ice Arena, so it's already a tradition.
We talked about this on the podcast some, but in this game it felt like the athletic department was going in the right direction as far as the in-game stuff went. The above was cool; the scoreboard announcements are less intrusive; they absolutely nailed their video packages this year. I'm not the biggest fan of the James Earl Jones one's writing—it says a lot of "we're the best" stuff that's best left implied—but it's got frickin' James Earl Jones. Meanwhile this year's version of "The Team" gives me chills and the Ufer-themed band intro can and should stay forever.
The music is still too prevalent and loud. It especially bothers me right before kickoffs because there's a thing that people do with the waving of the hats and going "OHHHHHHHHH" that I think is slowly getting phased out so Special K can hit us with "Sandstorm." But in general the peripherals are improving.
Jehu Chesson has the best disappointed dad face. OKAY OKAY I'LL CLEAN MY ROOM AND GET A-PLUSSES
Targeting. I am not surprised Ross's did not get overturned. Fair or not that kind of hit on a defenseless receiver is right in the heart of the rule. I don't think he meant to do it, but I don't have a problem with it.
Reversing the earlier call on Rudock was nuts, though. Rudock goes to ground and gets hit direct helmet to helmet by a guy who had time to relent. Consistency.
A.J. Williams, Receiving Threat
* A.J. led the receivers with 4 catches for 48 yards. Exhibit A in the case for Harbaugh's coach of the year nomination is this stat line. He takes guys that Brady Hoke struggled to put in positions to succeed and makes them significant contributors to the team. Other examples include Braden, Clark, Poggi, Houma, and Strobel. And the list just goes on and on. And he knows how special teams are supposed to work.
* Rudock spread the wealth again among 7 receivers. 7 passes went to TEs, 7 went to WRs, and three went to Smith.
This is Michigan. That's how I felt after / during this game. And not even Carr or Moeller's Michigan which many years lost 3-4 games, and almost always a wtf game. I am talking Bo's Michigan. Excellence in 2 of the 3 phases (special teams, defense) and "boring" but good in the 3rd phase. Yes please.
After depressing the hell out of me last week, Iowa 2014 Jake Rudock resurfaced. For an entire game. For the first time this year. And it pleased me. (stroke-cat-on-lap.jpg). If this Jake never leaves us this year uhh... you guyz... this is a 10 win team. Umm... maybe 11. Guyz?
Numbers and rankings and oogly boogly oh my. Michigan stays third in S&P, and they have a tighter grip on that ranking this week. Their defense is #1; their offense is 46th. Both of those numbers seem about right. The drill-down stats are ridiculous. It has Michigan a 68% or better favorite in every remaining game, and it's Penn State that looks the most dangerous.
An oddity: Northwestern flew up 17 spots in this week's rankings. They are aided by the 4th-toughest schedule in S&P terms; their D is still fifth. As always, take computer rating a lot like recruiting rankings: they mean something but not everything.
FEI remains more skeptical than S&P but has moved Michigan up to 11th, in a sandwich between OSU and MSU.
Vegas has Michigan 10-to-1 to win the national title, which is insane even in the context that bets like that are always sucker bets.
Blog things. Hoover Street Rag:
Homecoming is a chance to tell yourself a story about the past, even if it's, if not a lie, not the whole truth. You leave out the parts of those four years of your life that you'd rather forget and focus on the good stuff. If you do think about the bad stuff, you either frame it as a growth experience, or look back in bemusement. That class you probably should have gone to more often to get a better grade, well, it taught you the importance of actually showing up for your job on time, every day. That time that the dude puked all over your back as you were leaving S'keeps on the opening night of the NCAA Tournament? Well, at least your jacket was GoreTex and it washed right off. That girl that you went out with during your senior year from Northwestern? Well, it helped you learn who you were as a person.
In reality, it's not that much different than being a Michigan football fan.
SPECIAL TEAMS CHAMPION – Typically the Special Teams Champion gets also-ran, ho-hum coverage – not anymore! I’ve played on enough teams and watched enough football to realize that the truly great teams end up getting contributions from different players each week. Saturday against Northwestern was a classic example. In recent weeks I have mentioned how the defense may have set the tone early in the game with an INT, or how the offense may have set the tone by dominating and driving for an early score. Well, Jehu Chesson sent a message that hasn’t been sent since Tyrone Wheatley returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown against Houston in 1992. We’ve all seen how masterful Coach Baxter has been with these Special Teams in the first six games. They are starting to look quite special indeed.
Derek Jeter for Nerds. Word is that LeVar Burton has a junior daughter at U-M, and he was on prem Saturday. Below he spent a few minutes in the booth with Brandy and Dierdorf (left). The last officer on the Enterprise to visit Michigan Stadium was Patrick Stewart visit during the 2006 Ball State game:
I can't unpack this metaphor accurately because I don't actually want to figure out things about the Yankees, but this is probably more the catcher from those teams since Geordi held everything together with spit and duct tape.
Also can we please get Michael Dorn? This is a Klingon defense, man. Worf onsite would be righteous.
When Jim Harbaugh first arrived, many fans wondered who would be the first Big Ten coach to fall into his crosshairs; who would be the unfortunate target of the first verbal jab, the first shot across the bow? Meyer and Dantonio were the obvious choices; James Franklin was a darkhorse.
I'm of the firm belief that it's never going to happen. When he was in San Francisco, Harbaugh's closest thing to a "confrontation" was the energetic handshake with Jim Schwartz, followed by Schwartz freaking out. Even the feud with Pete Carroll was confined to the football field. At Stanford, Harbaugh took aim at both Michigan and Carroll in an attempt to build some buzz about Stanford, then one of the worst D-1 programs in college football. Anything to get people talking. He knew he would have to back up his bravado, and he did.
At Michigan, not only is such talk unnecessary, but it would be tiresome, after listening to Brady Hoke talk tough and never deliver. I also believe Harbaugh views such things as being beneath him in his position as head coach at Michigan. I believe that Jim Harbaugh, Michigan Head Coach, makes every move under the belief that the ghost of Bo Schembechler is looking over his shoulder. He conducts himself as if Bo is watching in judgment, and to get into a war of words in the press with an opposing coach is not something a Michigan coach does; Bo would never approve of such lowbrow behavior in public.
Sideline tantrums he's totally down with, though.
De’Veon Smith looked the best I’ve seen him. Until he left the game gimpy and did not return, I thought Smith (8 carries, 59 yards) looked like the best form of himself I’ve seen. Of course, he has had some nice runs over the past couple years, and he really wore down Oregon State a few weeks ago to the point where he was trucking defenders left and right toward the end of the game. But from the opening snap, I thought Smith was in rare form. He made some nice cuts – which is sometimes an area of weakness – and he was bowling over some supposedly fresh defenders on a good defensive unit.
By blanking Northwestern in a 38-0 victory on Saturday, the Wolverines have now gone three consecutive games without surrendering a single point. That is an astounding feat that had not been accomplished by an FBS school since Kansas State in 1995. Northwestern was held to only 38 yards rushing on 25 carries, and the passing game wasn't particularly good, either. The Wildcats completed 15 of 33 passes for 130 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. Michigan, which now leads the country in scoring defense, has outscored opponents the past three games 97-0. Dating back to Week 2, the score is 160-14.
WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS: B+
Hello, A.J. Williams. The best day of his career, by far, and a true example of a player who has seen his career jump-started by Harbaugh's coaching staff. Williams -- who was rarely ever considered a passing option during his first three years on campus -- was Michigan's leading receiver Saturday: Four receptions for 48 yards. Jake Butt made a big play (32-yard catch) and still leads all Big Ten tight ends with 22 catches on the year.
De’Veon Smith says it’s all starting to make sense now, from the punishing, four-hour practices back in March and that now-fabled undersea adventure in August to the daily fights over the most trivial — and basic — tasks with his teammates. Such as who can get to the dinner table first.
“We just compete at every … little … thing,” Michigan’s junior tailback said Saturday as he tried to make sense of this apparent reversal of fortunes for the Wolverines’ football program.
Speaking of best-case scenarios: Even the most die-hard, pie-eyed, front-pew believers in the messianic power of Jim Harbaugh couldn’t have imagined the sleeping Wolverine awakening with such ferocity in such little time.
PISCATAWAY, N.J. — This was among the best wins of Mark Dantonio's tenure at Michigan State.
You get worried that when Drew Sharp retires or is torn apart by an angry mob that you won't have any newspaper guys to kick around. Then the "Alex Carder is the best QB in Michigan" guy announces himself out of nowhere—and he gets a better gig! Manna from heaven, Graham Couch is.
Let's get way ahead of ourselves talk. Playoff? We're talking about playoff?
Michigan: After a 38-0 drubbing of previously undefeated Northwestern on Saturday, Michigan is making its case for the best team in the Big Ten. Jim Harbaugh has the Wolverines ahead of schedule and playing some of the best defense in the country.
49ers point and laugh. Not petty at all.
— Mike Rosenberg (@RosenbergMerc) October 12, 2015
Jabrill Peppers and Jourdan Lewis
Jabrill, can you give us a sense of what it feels like on that defense to lead this team in, in this case, three consecutive shutouts? What’s the atmosphere on that defense right now?
“You know, there’s still room for improvement. We just come in time in and time out with a great gameplan. It’s up to us to execute. We have a lot of talented guys who take pride in what they do, and when you have a group of 11 guys that are all doing their job and hungry to do their job then the sky’s the limit for us.
“We’re not going to pat ourselves on the back and all that other stuff. It’s time to go now. We’re getting into the guy of our schedule and we still have to improve on a lot, so that’s how we look at it. Just get in the film room tomorrow and try to correct the mistakes and take it one game at a time.”
Jourdan, take us through the pick and what happened. We couldn’t see the ball. Did he bobble it or did you strip it from him?
“Oh no, I took it from him. He had the ball and I guess he was trying to brace his fall and I snatched it out of his hands and I didn’t even know I had it. It was on my leg, so as soon as I saw it on my leg I just started hitting it.”
Did you guys hear the crowd chanting “Defense! Defense!”? I know you said you’ve got more to improve, but to get a third straight shutout and to have that feeling, isn’t there some type of emotion coming right now from what you guys are doing?
JP: “I wouldn’t say any emotion. This is what we expect to do. We work extremely hard, our coaches work extremely hard gameplanning and letting us know what they like to do out of said personnel on first, second, third down so when we’re out there we just keep that in mind and do what we’re coached to do to the best of our ability.”
Jabrill, that last drive in the fourth quarter, all the starters are out there and you guys are fired up. How important was finishing that third straight shutout?
“You know, we really don’t think about shutouts when we’re out there. We really just try to limit them to as much as possible. When we’re out there we don’ want to give them anything, and if a shutout is the byproduct of that then so be it but when we’re out there we’re just concentrating on three and outs, constant three and outs, getting off the field, let our offense give us a break and put up some points or let us put up some points. We don’t really hang our hats on a shutout but if that’s a byproduct of our hard work and what we gameplan for then so be it.”
[More after THE JUMP]
I think you know who is next on the schedule. Your first thoughts on Michigan State coming up?
JP: “You know, they’re a good team but we’re just trying to enjoy this win right now, and when we come in tomorrow we’ll watch the film and start the gameplan process.”
JL: “Yeah, we haven’t seen film on them yet. I know they’re a good team- they’re a great team, actually- so just enjoy this win, like Jabrill said.”
Talk about what a team victory this was, to score on offense, defense, and special teams and what that does for the momentum and camaraderie you guys have.
JL: “Honestly, it’s expected. That excellence is expected from all our coaches: from coach Baxter on special teams, from coach Durkin on the defensive side of the ball…offense, their job is to score points and it’s just expected. We have to be great. That’s the standard around here.”
They were averaging 240 yards rushing per game. Obviously you guys held Justin Jackson. What did you guys do defensively to keep them so bottled up?
JP: “That was one of the statements we wanted to make. I guess they were first in the Big Ten in rushing and we were I guess first in the Big Ten against rushing and we just wanted to come out here and make a statement. We knew they were going to try and run the ball early and we just wanted to fluster them, try to get vertical. The defensive line did a great job all game. The linebackers did a great job of fitting and it just opened things up for us to make tackles back there in that secondary, so it’s all a collective effort and we definitely took it personal to come out and make a statement against the run.”
Jourdan, could you describe where your confidence is at right now?
“Confidence? Um…it’s about the same. You can’t think about the play that you had before, you know. You’ve got to keep playing and, like you said, we have a big team coming up next week so you can’t focus on what you did in the past. You’ve got to focus on what’s coming up.”
Jabrill, could you explain how good Jourdan’s playing right now?
“Jourdan’s the best corner in the country. That makes everybody’s job a lot easier. When you’ve got a guy out there who’s going to shut down half the field, that makes all of our jobs easy, so we- it’s expected from him. It’s not like, ‘Oh, good job, Jourdan.’ We expect that from Jourdan. So, Jourdan inspires me to play better, along with Channing and Jeremy and the whole secondary. We just feed off each other and try to just make as many plays as we possibly can.”
Jabrill, you were explaining that you were just sitting next to the best defensive player in the country-
My question to follow up on that is what does it feel like for you personally to know that you have him on that defense? What does his work do with you and your work and how do you get better with that?
“It just inspires me to be better as far as technique, as far as his knowledge of the game. It’s just…you know, I like to learn from the guys around me. They all make me a better player, but specifically him.
“I definitely feed off him, and when he’s having a good game I try to stick my face in there and make a couple plays, too. When you’ve got a guy who shuts down a whole side of the field you know they’re going to come at you. They can’t go over there, so it definitely makes my job a lot more exciting.”
Jourdan, Jabrill said you’re not necessarily playing for shutouts but just to go out and play but three shutouts in a row, the numbers you’ve put up defensively are pretty staggering and it must have meant something to have all the starters out there at the end. What do you guys think of the defensive stats you guys are putting up?
“It’s the expectation. It’s what coach Durkin wants. That’s what coach Durkin preaches every single time is get the ball back. Everything is an opportunity, so when we were out there it was an opportunity to get a shutout. Honestly, it’s just the standard.”
Jabrill, do you think you’ll end up playing offense this season, and do you want to?
“I can’t really speak on that. Right now I’m just trying to get my defensive assignments down pat. You know, they’re moving me around a lot so I’m just mainly trying to learn the playbook and learn different positions so wherever I’m at I can play to the best of my ability.
“The way I think about it is if we get three and outs I get another chance to touch the ball back there on punt return. They’re not going to kick it off to us unless they kick it off in the first quarter or after the half. That’s how I look at it. I’m like, ‘Okay, I’m not going to get any kick returns so let’s keep getting three and outs so I can try and get a punt return and somehow get the ball in my hands.
“I’m not really concerned with playing offense. I’m just mainly worried about getting better and improving with the guys on defense and continue to gell and continue to just keep getting better and better, because you guys see the shutouts but you guys aren’t in there in the film room when we’re making countless mistakes that get covered up by our effort. That’s what it all comes down to: try to play as perfect as possible and just keep getting better.”
Jabrill, the buzz early in the week was they were going to try and kick away from you, so they kicked to Jehu on that first play. Talk-
“Big mistake. Big mistake! Jehu’s the top guy with speed on the team, and I saw the way he lined the tee up and the way he angled it so I told Jehu, I’m like, ‘Okay Jehu, it’s coming to you. Just follow me, I’ve got your block.’ and they kicked it off to him.
“He did a great job of setting the coverage. He hit it. The guys on the special teams unit did a great job of springing him free and getting the proper alignment, leverage and keeping it and the touchdown was a byproduct. I think that definitely set the tempo for the game. That definitely sparked everything, to run a kickoff back on the opening kickoff. That definitely sends a statement to the other team.”