"You know how Kyle Flood still has a job? Yeah, all Jourdan."
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[Reminder: we're at Moe's today!]
As Harbaugh noted in his introductory press conference, Moe Sports Shop has been around a long time. A hundred years in fact.
That is an epic video for a rather unpretentious little nook on North U. Well, current owner Underground Printing is making the 100th anniversary pretty epic. In fact he's throwing a party there to celebrate next Monday, 5-7 p.m. He's even got Busch's bringing food and drinks. Good drinks.
I know what you're thinking: "That's time when I have always since four weeks ago spent listening to MGoRadio!" Well, yeah. But we're not missing the 100th anniversary of Moe's for that. We're just bringing the show there. You should come too!
MGoRadio at Moe Sport Shop - Monday, October 12th - 5 to 7 pm
- Address: 711 N. University on Campus.
- Make sure to RSVP here ASAP as we will need to limit to the first 50 people to sign up.
- Thanks to Busch's for the Food!
- Prizes/giveaways, like not sure how yet but probably if you have a Gimmicky Top Five thing that's better than what we came up with you get a t-shirt, that sort of thing.
- We're limited to 50 people so use this signup sheet if you'd like to come.
[Ed-Seth- I may start bumping this every week]
Best: The Never-Ending Serene Story
Depending on your metric, I’ve either been writing these game recaps in 2010 against Iowa (with a heavy reliance on a cliched movie poster gimmick) or 2012 (which featured a picture of former Fig Things QB/Men’s Health cover model Brady Quinn and Poison lead singer/searcher-of-love Bret Michaels).
Needless to say, it’s been quite a long time. Over that span, I’ve seen UM attempt to transition to a run-first spread offense populated by mighty mite slot receivers and uber-mobile QBs, then back to whatever Al Borges thought he was running, to the Wreck of the Devin Gardner, to to current Stanfordization happening under Harbaugh. I’ve also seen UM field some of the worst defenses in their history, then a succession of good-to-competent ones, and then to the raging hellbeast that is the current incarnation under Durkin and Mattison. I’ve been writing about the highs and the lows, trying to make sense of the inherently unreasonable nature of college football, to determine if there is some unified theory, some midi-chlorian (ugh) connection that binds these games, these seasons together.
What makes it hard to thread these years together isn’t just that the authors keep changing, but also the readers and their expectations. While UM’s history pre-RR was marked by stability and consistency at the top, the year-to-year fluctuations still existed and made every season feel fresh and new. As I mentioned last week, the main difference under Harbaugh is that fans can safely return to the heightened, sometimes-unrealistic expectations of the past. But the more I’ve thought about it, I’m not sure “expectations” is the right word. Every fanbase has outsized expectations for their team because of how intimately they are attached to that squad; you always figure your middling LB or questionable RG is going to be better than anyone else’s question marks, that the breaks will go your way in the turnover battle, that every toss-up goes for the good guys. It’s human nature, this illusory superiority that manifests along the banks of Lake Wobegon, and it’s why college football has such an illogical hold over large swaths of the population.
[After the jump: Serenity; when is too soon?]
No, what this season has given UM fans isn’t renewed expectations of future success, but a serenity, a confidence that it’ll all work out. It’s that ephemeral confidence that your team is in good hands, that they won’t beat themselves or subconsciously try to break your heart. Not that they’ll win every game; the nature of the sport requires that sometimes you’ll win and lose games regardless of your best efforts. It’s why “Sparty No!” hasn’t been uttered much these past half-dozen years, or how Dabo Swinney rightfully bristled at the notion of “Clemsoning” after yet another dominant performance.
That hasn’t been the case for years now; it’s why Brian stopped doing the UFR after the umpteenth time UM coughed up a game to Iowa, or why these columns became increasingly melancholy as last year crumbled. There are 12-13 Saturdays a year when UM plays football, and the worst feeling these past couple of years has been turning on the game and hoping, praying Michigan won’t gack it up for 3 hours. Sports, at their core, should be entertainment, and yet for years it felt as much a chore, a sense of duty and responsibility, like going to the dentist or filing your taxes. I was raised Roman Catholic and my wife is Jewish, so we’ve had bags packed for guilt trips since the moment we could walk. And watching UM play football at times felt like that, an act of contrition you needed to suffer through to absolve you of the hubris and other poor decisions you made in your life.
But really this entire season, watching this team has been a joy not just because of the sterling wins, but also because they just look like a professional, competent team. And that hasn’t been the case for far more years than I’d like to remember, where even some of the wins felt like dubious twists of fate. Hell, the loss to Utah felt like a better, more coherent performance than any of the 5 wins last year. So yeah, MSU is coming to town and this rivalry brings out all the ghosts and phantoms of idiocy past, and there are other games on the schedule where crazy things might happen, but I have this serene sense that when the Wolverines run onto the field, they will do so with a plan that can be realized.
Worst: The 100-ish Yard Streak is Broken
Come on Durkin and Mattison, get your heads in the game. I mean, MSU is going to pose a pretty big threat…
A week after blowing out Purdue 24-21, Michigan State crushes Rutgers 31-24.
— Tom Fornelli (@TomFornelli) October 11, 2015
Best: Thesaurus.com Don’t Fail Me Now
Another week, another P5 offense ground to a fine powder. I’m honestly running out of superlatives to describe this defense. I mean, UM hasn’t given up a score in its last 41 defensive series, has given up 7 points total since the first drive against Oregon State, has posted 3 straight shutouts (including 2 against ranked opponents), and came within a couple of pinpoint throws by UNLV of 4 straight. To put this in perspective, UM’s defense has scored more points in the last 3 games than the combined offensive output of BYU, Maryland, and Northwestern (7-0).
On the ground, NW had under 40 yards total rushing, but even if you exclude sacks the Wildcats could only muster about 50 yards on 16 carries, with 15 of those yards on a Jackson run that (probably) was due to a hold. Now, Jackson being the #3 rusher in the conference was more a product of volume versus overall talent (his average of 4.6 ypc puts him decidedly in the middle of the league), but he’s still a guy who averaged 4.8 ypc last year for over 1100 yards. He’s probably not going to win a Doak Walker award, but he’s another solid college RB who UM absolutely demolished. And really, outside of Elliott at OSU, there isn’t a back on the schedule who should give them any trouble.
Clayton Thorson broke 100 yards passing against UM, which is more than any of the four previous QBs had done, so that’s…something.
Of course he also threw a pick-6 and averaged less than 4 yards an attempt, which is something else. And he was battered all day, with UM recording 4 sacks (2 by monster-of-the-week Willie Henry) and another 5 QB hits, I keep hearing how Connor Cook is the best QB in the conference and a clear first-round draft pick, but MSU’s offensive line isn’t particularly good/healthy right now, and he’s going to have a hell of a time finding open WRs with Henry, Wormley, Glasgow, and assorted other large, angry men bearing down on him.
Both Bolden and Morgan had solid games, as did Ross before his ejection. I’ll be the first to admit that it is difficult to tell when a LB really “screws up” when the opposing offense barely averages 2.9 yards per play, but nothing broke big and outside of the one long-ish Jackson run it didn’t seem like anybody took bad angles or missed too many tackles. And perhaps due to NW starting a redshirt freshmen, we didn’t see a particularly dynamic or innovative offensive scheme compared to former NW squads, which further played into UM’s hands in the front 7.
The Ross ejection was probably the correct call according to the rule but didn’t feel particularly malicious or “target-y” compared to some of the other hits you see during a football game. Heck, the two flags they picked up against NW for targeting and a personal foul seemed just as egregious. This remains a lingering issue with a rule designed to punish the actus reus while inferring mens rea, but it does feel like it has noble intentions, which is a departure from most of the stupid rules you see passed in football. What will suck is that he has to sit out a half against MSU because of it.
Peppers as an HSP/mini linebacker had an up-and-down game, making some nice tackles in space and basically shut down Christian Jones, but was also beat by Austin Carr for NW’s longest completion of the day and had a couple of slants that were incompletions but would have been for first downs had the thrown been a bit better. These are minor gripes, though, as Peppers has been a revelation at the position and helped solidify how this team handles spread offenses. His ability to consistently shed blocks and tackle ball carriers in space just evaporates those cheap 3-4 yards teams like NW used to get against UM on short WR screens and delayed handoffs. And defending slot receivers may be the most difficult task for a modern defense, especially when you are also tasked with keeping an eye on the backfield. The fact he’s playing this well as a freshman portends great things in both the near and more distant future.
And then we get to the secondary. Lewis is playing like an All-American, full stop, especially now that Ziggy and Al are telling him he can’t quantum leap from this astral plane until after the season. That pick-6 showed amazing patience, composure, and athleticism; he ran the WRs route for him, then made a great play on the ball. In fact, he was almost to the endzone before half of the Northwestern sideline knew what happened. On the other side of the field, Clark had another nice game and, while certainly not a shutdown corner, has absolutely surprised me with how competent he looks in coverage. He’s a great complement to Lewis both in terms of size and function, and further handcuffs teams who think they’ll be able to get easy yards with big, leapy guys. And while it’s usually not a great sign that a safety led the team in tackles (Wilson had 7), none were on anything you’d call a “busted” play, and a couple were usually as both he and the corner converged on a WR.
Again, this is an unprecedented defensive performance by UM, both from a historical perspective as well as a “feelingsball” one. Yes, they haven’t played a truly elite offense yet, and yes it’s still got some weak spots that could be (slightly) exploited by certain teams, and sure, they won’t pitch a shutout the rest of the way. But if you’re an offense and you step onto the field only to be greeted by the sight of the winged helmets standing across from you, there has to be a tiny voice in your head that is:
Charlie Weis, college football’s walkin’, talkin’ STD in that he f’ing lingers over your programs long after he’s departed, was infamous for saying he expected to dominate college teams because of the “decided schematic advantage” he brought from his time as an OC in the NFL. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the rationale was that because the NFL was so much better and more innovative than the college game, an offense run like an NFL unit would fluster and mystify college defenses used to, I don’t know, the wishbone. It’s like in a movie where the big-city attorney shows up in the small town and expects to razzle-dazzle the imbeciles in the court room on his way to victory. Well, we all know how those movies turn out, and we also know how Charlie’s Weis’s “advantage” played out for the Domers.
There are a litany of reasons why Charlie Weis didn’t enjoy a particularly successful run in college (a different type of player turnover vs. college, inferior talent, limited practice time, obscene levels of arrogance), but one of the biggest reasons was that he seemed unwilling/unable to accept the reality that defenses could adapt to his offense. Like a certain era of coaches, he seemed to buy into the notion that if you execute properly, the defense won’t be able to stop you consistently. And in a vacuum, that is probably true; the offense typically has the key advantage of knowing where the play is supposed to run, while defenders have to react.
But college coaches and defenders work just as hard to muck with offenses, to constrict passing windows and crush running lanes, and that truly great offenses are ever-evolving, introducing wrinkles just to iron them out 2 weeks later and start anew. It’s how Urban Meyer has won basically everywhere he’s been, it’s how teams like Oregon and Baylor have dominated college defenses with video game-like performances, and how Jim Harbaugh took a bunch of of guys who probably looked at half the Ivy League as safety schools and won a billion games[citation need] with them.
Michigan’s offensive playmakers aren’t particularly dynamic; Jake Butt has always looked like a stud, but up and down the roster you don’t see an abundance of NFL-level talent as in years past. And yet, every week you look up and they are putting up close to 400 yards of total offense and averaging around 28 ppg. Their worst performance was their first game of the year against a top-5 Utah team, on the road, when they netted 355 total yards on 4.9 ypp. Compare that to last year, when UM cracked 300 yards 7 times but did so against some truly terrible defenses (App St., NTM, IU) and were generally bottled up by any defense with a pulse (ND held them to 289 yards, Minnesota 171, MSU 186). And because of the dominant defense and (recently) insurmountable halftime leads, UM has let up on the gas in the second halves a bit, content to work out the kinks and run the clock out for stretches. Last year’s S&P offensive efficiency was 82nd in the nation, just ahead of Purdue, NTM, and South Alabama. This year they are 53rd (incidentally, one below OSU) and trending up, mostly held down by some early struggles in the passing game.
They are making these strides in part because of natural player development, but mostly because the playcalls and the overall offensive philosophy is just immensely improved. Every week, we see this coaching staff pick away at the edges, introducing new playcalls and formations, showing one thing on film and countering the counter before the opponent even knows what hit them. They are finding ways to win with the talent they have, not just install the system they want and expect the players to be at that level, and after crunching one of the better defenses in the country, it’s hard to imagine any team being able to truly shut them down in the way we’ve seen in years past. Plus, every week in practice they are playing a truly elite defense and, seemingly, holding their own and learning from it. That’s a hidden advantage that great teams benefit from, that practice against an elite opposing unit, and it’s why when one part of the team struggles that can migrate to the other side of the ball (witness MSU’s offensive challenges as their defense has come back to earth).
On paper, this offensive philosophy isn’t particularly novel; UM isn’t rolling out 5-wide with a mobile QB, calling plays at hyper-speed, or going with anything you’d hear bluebirds refer to as “gimmicky”. But they are rolling out an offense that wouldn’t look out of place 30 years ago, yet with so much minor tinkering, so many deft changes, that it doesn’t feel remotely anachronistic but, instead, unconscionably lethal. And it is working largely with an island of mismatched toys at certain positions.
I’ll be interested in seeing how the RPS score comes out this game, as it felt like NW had no idea what was happening for long stretches of that first half, even when they were able to stop UM.
Best: My New Favorite Play
This might seem like a trivial thing to be excited about, but I am in love with UM’s emerging usage of FBs in the running game, especially in short yardage. One of the things that used to drive me crazy under Hoke (and really most offenses) was the idea that only the RB or your QB could be used to get you a yard or two on short yardage. I don’t know how many times you’d see Gardner line up in the shotgun, take the ball, and immediately dive at the line to try to convert on 4th down, with all 11 guys on defense diving toward that same spot because it was the most obvious playcall in the world. Or a QB taking the ball, turning around, and asking his RB to run 3-4 yards into the line and, hopefully, get you the necessary yards.
But UM doesn’t seem to do that, or at least not with such regularity. Both Houma and Kerridge had fantastic first-down runs where Rudock took the snap, immediately slammed the ball into their arms, and they were across the line before the LBs could even get there. It’s a play that wouldn’t seem out of place in the 1960’s, but right now it feels as sure a play as any you’ll see out of the offense, and most teams seem to be unable to really gameplan around it specifically because it limits the time the defense has to react. It’s about as simple a football play as you can draw up, and yet I’m guessing ever defensive coordinator on the schedule is losing sleep trying to figure out how to handle all of these backfield options.
Best: The Untouchable
Another week, another dynamic TD by Jehu Chesson. The kickoff TD run was a thing of beauty, a play you could see forming as soon as Chesson started streaking across the field and a hole the size of Ypsilanti opened up on the right side of the field. I’m not sure there was a Wildcat hand within 3 feet of him at any point during the return. The Stonum comparisons have bee steadily gaining traction, and if he’s able to continue to be a credible threat in the passing game he’ll be able to take advantage of the elite speed you see on these sweeps and kickoffs.
Meh: The Running Game
Even though the team put up another 200 yards on the ground, I’m not sure there is much to take away from this performance than we already kind of expected. Smith and Johnson are the two best backs on the roster, Green and Isaac alternate between effective and virtually invisible, and there is still some uncertainty about who gets the ball after the top 2 guys. Smith is also emerging as a bit of a receiving threat, as he pulled in a deflected ball from Rudock for a first down and picked up rushers well on passing downs. Green looked fine running the ball, but he still averaged 3.9 ypc and did most of his damage on that final scoring drive. Isaac seems stapled to the bench until he regains the coaches’ trust, which makes some sense. The fact they pulled the redshirt off Higdon makes me think they don’t trust their running back depth. Karan did show some flashes of intensity and decisiveness in his runs, the type of bruising north-south style you read about when he signed away from Iowa. I can see him getting more carries as the season progresses, especially if Smith continues to have lingering ankle issues. MSU’s defensive line doesn’t look nearly as dominant against the run as some would lead you to believe – Rutgers just put up about 160 yards on them if you throw out sacks – but if there’s ever a game where MSU will throw the kitchen sink to take away the ground game, it’ll be against UM.
Best: The New Normal?
At this point, I’m not sure how to grade Rudock’s performance anymore. He is the definition of game manager in this offense, but that isn’t intended to be nearly as pejorative as it has typically been used. He isn’t a star but he also isn’t asked to be that, and right now he isn’t costing this team any games or, at this point, even points.
After his 3-INT game against Utah, he’s only throw 3 more this year, and last week’s one was, at worst, half his fault (you shouldn’t throw against your body, but he also hit his FB in the hands). In this game he completed about 74% of his passes for 7.8 ypa, decent numbers against one of the better pass defenses in the league. He spread the ball around like he normally does (7 players caught at least 1 pass, with his two TEs Williams and Butt leading the way), and outside of 1 or 2 passes generally threw the ball on point and away from danger. And, yes, I do wish he wouldn’t tuck and run as much as he does with the ball, but that seems to be the gameplan at this point. Outside of the OSU game, I think this Rudock wins UM the rest of their games, and that’s all you want or expect out of a 5th-year transfer.
Best: Quick Hits
Here are a couple of minor points I wanted to make that don’t really justify a whole section.
- I have been trying to figure out who Jourdan Lewis reminds me of as a college DB, and the name I keep coming back to is Dre Bly. He won’t have the same gaudy stats, but both are about the same size (both listed at 5’ 10”, though Bly was a bit heavier at 186 lbs compared to Lewis as 178 lbs) and have that type of athleticism that lets you run the receiver’s route and still out-jump guys 5-6 inches taller for the ball. And despite his size, Lewis makes solid tackles, something else I remember Bly being decent at.
- Kenny Allen hit a 47-yard FG, another data point in the “he might be competent” argument that felt like the ceiling this year. At some point UM will need him to hit a longer FG, and you hope this success gives him some more confidence.
Matt Millen, during one of those moments when the gerbil in his head went on auto-pilot, opined after Chesson (?) was tackled by his waist towel that he used to tackle guys however he could, sometimes in ways you can’t talk about on TV. Ignoring the fact you can say some pretty gross stuff on TV as long as you wrap it up in a serialized crime show, the idea of Matt Millen tackling someone by his balls is the most Matt Millen thing in the world. He’s the Vinnie Jones of mindless college broadcasters.
Best: Never Change, Jim
Jim Harbaugh has one speed, and that is flabbergasted. I can absolutely see how his relentlessness can drive certain NFL-types crazy, but in college it is perfect. Up 31-0 and with NW failing to convert on 3rd-and-13, you’d assume Harbaugh would be happy, maybe just walking the sidelines and taking in another dominant performance, perhaps finally looking a bit ahead to next week’s showdown with MSU. Those are all reasonable expectations for most human beings, and also why you’d be absolutely wrong about how Jim Harbaugh. This was Coach Harbaugh after that failed pass attempt.
The utter look of shock, the screaming, the hat yank, everything is perfect. It’s a man who cannot for the life of him understand how his defensive player being interfered with wasn’t called, and is going to vent his frustration with whomever is stuck on that side of the field. I honestly thought once the hat came off we’d see a reenactment of “Turn Down for What”. And perhaps unsurprisingly, the referee seemingly acknowledge Harbaugh was right, which should just be the default position for all college refs going forward with UM. Not only should Harbaugh never leave college, I’d love to see just his reactions farmed out to other teams’ sidelines, like a Tupac hologram in an old Bo hat pointing out terrible decisions made by others.
Best: Rivalry Week
I honestly don’t know if UM will win this game, but they sure as hell look like the better squad. And that’s a huge improvement over the last 7-8 years of this rivalry. If MSU has been sandbagging this whole season up to this point, it is the craziest long-con in history, and led to a bunch of headaches and a couple of pretty serious injuries.
If UM can get out to an early lead and continue MSU’s struggles running the ball (Allen got hurt toward the end of the Rutgers game, and both Conklin and Kieler probably won’t be 100% when they play UM), Cook is going to be under sustained pressure to a degree he hasn’t been thus far. And like most MSU QBs under Dantonio, once that rush starts getting home the decision-making does with it, and bad things can snowball. I don’t think UM will have a great deal of success running the ball, but MSU’s secondary is quite vulnerable and you have to imagine a couple of times Butt or Williams will get the ball in space. Combined with the elite defense, this feels like a game the Wolverines should win, perhaps even a bit comfortably near the end. At the same time, if there is any guy in the Ingham County prison with eligibility, my guess is he’ll suit up for the Green and White.
It won’t be a shutout because MSU has some competent offensive players, but despite being undefeated MSU is clearly the one scuttling heading into this game, and I don’t see how they’ll shore up their systemic issues in a week. It’s going to be a fun week, to say the least, and I hope next week’s diary let’s me unleash the full celebratory gifs I have been chilling for just such an occasion.
News bullets and other items:
- Drake Johnson is working through something minor.
- Jake Rudock had his best week of practice leading up to Northwestern.
- Higdon played because they had some “specialty runs” they wanted to use him for.
- On the rescinded targeting call, Harbaugh says they must have forgot to add the personal foul penalty. The refs also told Harbaugh they didn’t see the second player that landed on Rudock.
- Things Harbaugh is pleased with: His fullbacks and how much his team likes to work.
- The team’s physical play is helping them develop a “callus.”
What did you think of the two targeting calls, and will you appeal the suspension for James Ross?
“Yeah, we’ll take a look at them.
“I’m just really pleased with our team. All three phases had great success today: Special teams, starting with the kickoff return for a touchdown; defense, tremendous shutout; offense played really, really good football. Jabrill’s fielding of the punts…I’m getting less and less nervous about it. Did a nice job.
“So many factors. So many keys to the game, but the fellas really came out ballin’ right from the start and played a heck of a ballgame, so really pleased.”
Just talk about what a kick return touchdown like that does to spark your team.
“Does a lot. Does a lot.”
Talk about the play?
“106-yard return. The blocks were sharp and crisp. Timing was nearly perfect. 10 guys, 11 guys hustling and 10 of them blocking, blocking for Jehu and he got- he is the fastest player on the team. I know Jabrill said one of the fastest but he is the fastest, and he showed it today.”
Can you talk about this defense? Three straight shutouts for the first time since 1980. I mean, what’s the ceiling on this? Is this even shocking you, how potent this defense is?
“With a couple exceptions, we really shut down their running game. They got a few runs that got out, but not many so for all intents and purposes we were able to shut down their running game. Then coverage was- our guys were in the hip pocket almost every route, getting hands on the ball. They threw the back shoulder on Jourdan Lewis a couple times and one time he made an incredible interception. Looked like he got his arm in between the receivers arms and somehow intercepted it and took it back to the house. And then the pass rush was intense.
“All three of those phases were at the highest level today, and all working together. DJ Durkin and the defensive staff- tremendous week of preparation and called a near flawless game. That’s A++.”
[The rest after THE JUMP]
Can you give us some early thoughts on the matchup with Michigan State?
“Um…yeah. Tremendous opponent. It’s gonna demand that we’re at our very best. That’s gonna mean a great week of preparation and practice is in store for us, so move on. Move on even more quickly than usual because it is such a good, worthy opponent next week. We’ll be looking forward to it.”
For the run game, how critical was it to get De’Veon back, and what did Karan [Higdon] do in the last week or however long to be the guy you gave a lot of carries to and got in early in the game?
“It was good to have De’Veon back. We didn’t want to put too much on him, but he was running very well. Looked like he had no rust at all after being out a week. Looked really good.
“Our fullbacks are really blocking well. I haven’t talked about them that much, but Sione Houma, Joe Kerridge- they’re doing a great job blocking and running the ball. Some of these fullback carries…I mean, we cracked a couple today. Joe Kerridge had one and Sione had one. Doing a heck of a job in short yardage.
“Karan, he’s been coming and improving every day. Thought there was some specialty runs that he would be good at, and he was. And Derrick Green continues to assert himself. He’s running the ball harder and harder. Doing a nice job seeing lanes and dropping the shoulder pads, so it’s been good.
“Thought the offensive line was…again, they’re ascending, playing very good football. No turnovers. Very few penalties. Every which phase you look at was humming today, so that was good to see. Congratulations. That was impressive. Next. Onward.”
This is the halfway point in your first season. Have the players met your expectation? I assume you’ve been pretty demanding on them.
“Have they met expectations?”
“They’re doing a heck of a job. Said it many times, really every week, but this team likes to work. They enjoy each other’s company. Whether it’s meetings, whether it’s practice, whether it’s film study, lifting, etc., I mean, they like to work and get after it. That’s all you can ask as a coach.”
What was the explanation for not getting the targeting call on Jake Rudock. Did you think it warranted one in that situation?
“Yeah, the explanation was that they called targeting and it didn’t…maybe for got to put the personal foul penalty on it? That’s the only thing I can think of, but that was the explanation. They didn’t see the second person land on Jake Rudock as well. That was the other part of the explanation I got.”
Was it meaningful to you guys to get the shutout today?
Is that why all the defensive starters were on the field at the end?
“Some came out at the end on the last drive, to start the last drive. Substituted some defensive linemen. Yeah, very meaningful. Tried to figure out last week when was the last time we had three shutouts. 1980, we found out. But it was good.
“The most meaningful thing is that defensively really everything, all phases were good. We’re playing good on the back end. Playing really good in coverage. Linebackers. they’re involved in everything- pass defense, drops, rush. That level’s playing lights out football right now, and had a couple runs that got out a little bit but other than that we really shut the run game down. Pass rush, as we mentioned before, is really good. We’re getting some pushback. We’re collapsing the pocket. Thought we did a good job there. Every part of that phase- run stop, coverage, pass rush, pursuit- everything was really good. That’s the most meaningful thing is play good. Play good football.”
You mentioned no turnovers. When your defense is playing like it is, how difficult does it make it for the if you don’t give them the ball with field position and all that
“Yeah, we want to be on the side of…want to be plus in turnover margin. Did we get there today? How many turnovers did Northwestern have? Just one, so we’re not there yet. We’ll keep- we were a step in the right direction for sure, not turning the ball over at all today. Definitely a step in the right direction.”
Comment on Jake’s decision making and how he’s taking care of the ball?
“Yeah, really solid. During the week of practice he was playing his best football. Very confident. Played really good. Thought he would have a good game today; thought he had an outstanding game today. Could have seen it coming. He’s good in practice, good in games. Wednesday he had one of his best practices of the year, so we just keep building on that. He’s playing really good football.”
How would you describe your team’s level of confidence, both offense and defense at this juncture?
“I don’t know. I mean, execution fuels emotion [and] it fuels confidence. You’d expect that they would be confident, and they understand that- what execution does fell like. That’s…with good execution there’s good preparation. Probably the thing I’m most excited about with our team; they like that part of it and they like the work. Blue-collar way of doing things. So, we’ll be at that again this week.”
You were asked for your thoughts on Michigan State. For your guys, is it kind of a test to see how they handle this week? Surely there will be a lot of attention on this game. Can you gauge or do you have an idea how they’ll react to what this week’s going to be like?
“Every week’s a test. Win the next game. That’s always a big task and test.”
You don’t think this week will be different for them?
“I think they’ll do good.”
You mentioned all phases of your team playing well today. What about the physicalness of your defense and your offense? It seems to go in concert when you have tight ends and fullbacks, and your defense; how would you grade it right now?
“Good. I think we came out good. Good and healthy. That’s a good sign. You’re building a good callus. When you can play physical and not get beat up yourself, that’s a good gauge. Probably the best gauge. I think our team is…that callus is hardening. Like a callus on a foot. It’s not soft and puss-y. It’s hardening.”
Was Drake [Johnson] working through something today health-wise? He only played a little bit in the first half.
“Yeah. Yeah, he worked in there but he had a little something, yeah. I like it. ‘Working through something.’ You’ve got the language.”
Jourdan Lewis pick six - Bryan Fuller
Willie Henry gets his hand on the pass - Bryan Fuller
Jehu Chesson kickoff return for a TD - Eric Upchurch
Jarrod Wilson hurdling cats - Eric Upchurch
Next week is kind of a big game.
— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) October 11, 2015
I think Michigan will be favored too. May your signs be as clever as the guests are not.
Who's got it better than us?
Apologies for the lack of communication that made this late. We, like the defense, can always get better, except in this case that is in fact possible.
And you can't have one without the other...
WHO'S GOT IT BETTER THAN US?