in town for free camps
|WHAT||Michigan vs. Purdue|
|WHERE||Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, MI|
|WHEN||6 PM Eastern, 2/25/2012|
|LINE||Michigan -6 (Kenpom)|
Saturday's game represents Senior Night at the Crisler Center and—depending on what you think of a rapidly-imploding Illinois squad—Michigan's toughest matchup over their last three games. If the Wolverines can handle the Boilermakers, a
13-5 14-4(!) conference record becomes not just a real possibility, but the likely season outcome, as does at least a share of the Big Ten title (shakes fist at Minnesota for their Minnesota-esque choke job against Michigan State).
Brian has already previewed Purdue once, so be sure to check that out for reference, but a couple things have changed since Michigan eked by the Boilers last month. Namely, starting guard Kelsey Barlow was booted off the team for allegedly assaulting a bar bouncer after leaving his wallet inside said bar and attempting to re-enter (forcibly, it appears). He was a relatively efficient player with a knack for getting to the line, but the Wolverines no longer have to worry about that.
At this point, you are intimately familiar with the star of Purdue, 18th-year senior Robbie Hummel. Hummel plays over 80% of the available minutes for Purdue and, at 6'8", is their starting center; he's a very efficient player for his sky-high usage, can step out and knock down the three (34.8%), rarely turns the ball over, and cleans up the defensive glass at a high rate. He'll be a tough defensive assignment for Jordan Morgan, though Morgan and Smotrycz held Hummel to 16 points on 14 shots in the first matchup (he did manage to dole out six assists).
Point guard Lewis Jackson is the other focal point of the Purdue offense, and he's nearly as efficient as Hummel. Jackson gets to the line at an extremely high rate and hits over 50% of his two-pointers, but he's not at all a threat from the outside (5-24 on the season from three). Trey Burke's job will be to keep Jackson in front of him and stay out of foul trouble, a difficult proposition in combination.
The Boilers have a pair of dangerous outside shooters besides Hummel, as starting guard Ryne Smith and sixth man D.J. Byrd connect at over a 40% clip from three. Neither poses a threat inside the arc—of their 358 combined FGA, 276 have come from three—but Tim Hardaway Jr. and Stu Douglass must make sure to stay at home and close out hard when they're on the floor. 6'2" Terone Johnson is the other starting guard and is by far Purdue's least efficient backcourt member with significant playing time outside of Anthony Johnson, who may be forced into a slightly larger role off the bench after Barlow's dismissal.
Stepping into the starting lineup these past two games—Byrd was suspended against MSU, so we'll see if he starts tomorrow instead—is low-usage forward Travis Carroll, who provides solid offensive rebounding, a shot-blocking presence, and little else. Purdue will stick with that seven-man rotation.
Since the first game against Michigan, Purdue has beaten Northwestern twice, Illinois on the road by 5, and Nebraska at home by 18, while dropping home blowouts against Indiana and Michigan State and nearly upsetting Ohio State on the road. That last game stands out as a bit of a fluke, but a three-point loss at OSU is a three-point loss at OSU.
The Boilermakers currently sit at 18-10 (8-7 B1G), placing them on the bubble but likely in the NCAA tournament as long as they take care of Penn State at home and get out of the first round of the BTT. This game could ensure them a spot in the tourney, however, so the Wolverines must be prepared to face a fired up squad.
Conference four factors:
|Factor||Offense (Rk)||Defense (Rk)||Avg|
|Effective FG%:||49.0 9||53.7 11||49|
|Turnover %:||12.2 1||18.0 9||20.5|
|Off. Reb. %:||29.8 8||31.5 8||32.2|
|FTA/FGA:||33.8 7||37.5 9||36.4|
Purdue has not shot the ball particularly well—especially from inside the arc—in conference play and their field goal defense has fallen off a cliff. While they don't turn the ball over, they're not great at forcing turnovers, and their lack of size hampers their rebounding. Their effective height is actually lower than Michigan's, a rare sight indeed when not playing Northwestern.
Obligatory Hardaway. I thought he had turned the corner after the Illinois game but he regressed against Northwestern; nothing highlighted his recent shooting struggles quite as much as a 2-8 performance from the line in an arena half-full of Michigan fans. Purdue has no true center to speak of and without Barlow they lack athleticism, as well; Hardaway should be on a mission to get to the basket at all costs.
Many of you will hate me for saying this, but keep shooting the three. I know Brian highlighted the potential uselessness of defensive 3FG% recently, but the Boilermakers are second-to-last in the conference, allowing a 39.2% rate from beyond the arc. I don't want to see the Wolverines jack up 38 threes again, but they shouldn't be afraid—outside of Hardaway, who should drive at all times—to put up some outside shots. I don't think that needed to be said, but there it is.
Get it inside to Morgan and Smotrycz. The two bigs combined for 22 points on 8-12 shooting in the first game as Purdue struggled to defend the interior. Morgan even notched a pair of assists, and Hammer & Rails is afraid of the Wolverines continuing to attack with the inside-outside game:
This team is a difficult matchup for us because we proved the last time we cannot stop Morgan in the paint, and he can kick out to Evan Smotrycz or Zack Novak for threes. Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. can get their own shots too. In their last five victories they have been defensively stifling, holding those defeated opponents under 61 points.
Also, like, please don't miss layups, Morgan. The dwindling number of hairs on my head will thank you for it.
Don't let Hummel go off. Self-explanatory. Michigan did a fine job of this in their last matchup, but Hummel is the type of player who can explode at any time, and I think that's necessary for Purdue to win this one.
Keep Jackson from getting the lane on the pick-and-roll. Purdue's other dangerous option is getting the lightning-quick LewJack into the paint via the pick. Burke's been very effective defensively in conference play and he's going to have to keep them up; the last thing Michigan needs is for him to get into foul trouble. Same goes for Morgan—if he picks up a couple of cheapies while trying to corral Jackson, Michigan's effective height becomes much the same as Purdue's and the team loses one of their biggest advantages.
Give Novak and Douglass the biggest standing ovation in the history of standing ovations. It's senior night. I can't remember a pair of seniors who deserve your undying love as much as the two unheralded white boys from Indiana. If the roof doesn't blow off of the Crisler Center when these two are introduced for the last time at home, I will be waiting outside after the game with a machete. You would not like this, and neither would I, as I value my freedom mightily; however, I also value upholding ridiculous statements I make on the internet. Don't test me.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 6. Also, biggest standing ovation ever.
With 258 games and 185 starts between them, Zack Novak and Stu Douglass will take the Crisler Center floor for the final time on Saturday night. The duo committed to Michigan with little fanfare and, bit by bit, have reestablished the program. Neither player ever averaged double digits or posted glamorous numbers but Zack Novak broke the 1,000 point plateau and Stu Douglass is likely to graduate as Michigan’s all-time leader in games played. Most importantly when all is said and done they will have taken the program, which hadn’t been to the NCAA tournament in a decade, to the Big Dance in three of their four seasons. Both players would tell you that the memories can wait as Michigan hosts Purdue with a chance to remain perfect at home and within striking distance of a Big Ten championship.
The memories can wait during the game, but if doesn't get pretty damn dusty in Crisler afterwards, regardless of the result... machete.
Also, the_white_tiger with a stat-heavy look over at Maize n Brew, and the aforementioned Hammer & Rails preview. The Daily's Ben Estes on Zack and Stu. AnnArbor.com's Nick Baumgartner with a list of the top five Zack and Stu moments—you'll be pleased with the placement of the aneurysm of leadership.
1/24/2012 – Michigan 66, Purdue 64 – 16-5, 6-2 Big Ten
Yo, dawg. I heard you like stress testing your heart. So we put the basketball team in an arena so it can either win or lose by two points unless it's getting crushed by Iowa(?!). Hope you enjoy stress testing your heart.
Seriously, though, the last five games:
- Northwestern: W 66-64 (OT)
- Iowa: L 75-59
- MSU: W 60-59
- Arkansas: L 66-64
- Purdue: W 66-64
If this continues massive swaths of Crisler will start keeling over, clutching their chests, whenever the clock ticks under five minutes. It's a hard life when you're a fan of a middling to good Big Ten team this year.
Michigan got the coveted road win, and now doesn't have to hear about their lack of such against good competition. At least not as much. I'm sure they'll bring it up. They stand atop the pile of skulls that is the Big Ten at 6-2. While that's not likely to last what with the murders row Michigan is in the midst of, if Hardaway can be the most recent version of himself they've got a shot at anyone even if Kenpom predicts a 17 point loss to OSU on Sunday.
Kenpom also predicts two more one point games. Keep the paddles handy.
Bullets that have been sweated repeatedly
Stu! I like color guy Dan Dakich a lot and thought he would point out that Michigan switched him onto Lewis Jackson late after he thoroughly trashed Trey Burke for most of the game:
Michigan’s defense was far from perfect due to its inability to contain Lewis Jackson on the pick-and-roll. Jackson sliced his way into the lane for 17 points on eight shots along with eight assists and was the catalyst for a Boilermaker offense that scored 1.09 points per possession.
Jackson was slowed by Douglass and Purdue settled into the four-minute funk that allowed Michigan to edge it. Dakich didn't mention it.
On top of that, Douglass had twelve points on eight shots, two steals, three assists, one turnover, and a couple of "Did Stu Douglass just do that?" moments. The first one, a hesitation move that got him an uncontested layup, reminded me of Chauncey Billups. He's earned his starting role.
Novak. Novak had four attempts and one three-pointer. He needs more usage. If Purdue can get its sniper eight attempts in this game Michigan should be able to get Novak at least a few.
Dakich did point out that Purdue was sticking to the corner shooters to the severe detriment of its interior defense and the numbers bear that out. Michigan shot just 14 threes (28% versus their average of 44%) and hit 58% from within the arc. Morgan was 5 of 7 and his two misses were point blank shots that should have gone down.
Hardaway! I was really frustrated with Hardaway in the first half—the accumulation of a lot of missed threes and poor decisions from earlier games and a few turnovers—and felt that resurface a couple of times in the second half whenever he'd miss or get into trouble on the interior. So I'm not the most balanced Hardaway commentator at the moment.
That said, if four turnovers are required for Hardaway to go 6 of 9 from within the arc, fine. I'd rather have his shots split 70-30 between twos and threes and for Hardaway's TO rate to shoot into the high teens (it's 12.4 right now) than the current situation. Hardaway didn't commit the requested charge. That's the next negative-indicating-a-positive step to take.
Now if the threes can just start falling… I mean, it's hard to believe the same player who shot something like 42% in the Big Ten last year is languishing at 27% this year.
Addition to the Hardaway face pantheon. Via UMHoops:
Depth! We have none. You already know this. Exactly one bench player had more than five minutes—Smotrycz—and there were some crazy plus-minus numbers associated with his entry into the game. Morgan was +18 in his time on the court, Smotrycz –16. There was about four minutes of overlap, FWIW.
Smotrycz entry saw the massive Purdue run on which the Boilers couldn't miss. It didn't seem like it was entirely his fault but it also seemed crazy to keep Morgan, who had a Stu-like game that was even better than a scoreline that looks pretty good already, on the bench for as long as Beilein did. If Michigan's going to wear down, they're going to wear down. They're getting just 22% of their minutes from their bench, which is 327th nationally. For comparison, they're about as starter-heavy this year as they were young last year.
I think we can agree this is not a good thing. It will get a bit better next year unless there is unexpected attrition—Hardaway is not going to be coming off a year he thinks represents his skill level, right?—what with three players replacing two. Then you've got Horford back, Beilfeldt off a redshirt, and hopefully some progress from Brundidge. They should have a pretty deep rotation everywhere save point guard.
I must not understand block/charge. There were two blocking fouls and a no-call that seemed totally ludicrous to me. The worst was when a stationary Hardaway took a violent shoulder to the chest; no call and the Purdue guy made an uncontested layup because his defender was looking for a license plate. A couple other Michigan attempts to take charges got called as blocks despite the defensive player's total immobility. You could hear Dakich's skepticism on one three-point play as the replay showed a totally stationary defender getting plowed and he said something along the lines of "uh… good job by that guy of not jumping directly into the player" as the replay showed a guy jumping almost but not quite entirely into a player.
There was also a Purdue bucket on which Smotrycz forced the driver to put almost the entirety of a size 14 shoe out of bounds that the refs missed. Michigan got one call that egregious on a Hardaway turnover magically transmogrified into a shooting foul by a ref who couldn't see what was going on since the players had their backs to him. Add it up and in a hypothetical world where the refs get everything right, Michigan wins by seven or so. I hate college basketball referees.
Dakich: thumbs up. Probably my favorite non-Raftery color guy at the moment, and I like Raftery for the atmosphere he brings a game, not necessarily the analysis. He's continually saying interesting things that make the dude watching at home understand a little more about basketball and he strikes a nice balance when he makes his criticisms. He's not a Knight-like crab but he'll point out that Jackson, for example, is getting into the lane way too easily.
|WHAT||Michigan at Purdue|
|WHERE||Mackey Arena, West Lafayette, IN|
|WHEN||7 PM Eastern, 1/24/2012|
|LINE||Purdue -4 (Kenpom)|
Michigan starts paying debts incurred during their soft, home heavy opening stretch tonight against perennial tourney participant Purdue. This edition of the Boilers is something less than the Johnson-Moore led teams, which were widely hyped as final four contenders before Robbie Hummel's ACL was the first of all Purdue ACLs to GTFO, starting my favorite elephant-and-ligament-based internet meme:
Hummel will be picking up extra years of eligibility from now to eternity; right now he is a senior and the Boilers' leader. He's the only Purdue player to average more than 70% of available minutes and launches over 31% of his team's shots when he's on the floor. While he hasn't been a terrific shooter (42% on twos, 35% on threes) his extremely low turnover rate makes him an efficient high-volume player.
Diminutive point guard Lewis Jackson and sniper Ryne Smith are the other major parts of the Boiler offense. Jackson is a penetrator and setup man who gets to the line and shoots 52% from two. He isn't much of a three-point shooter but he's too quick for that to affect his game. Trey Burke's played well defensively so far and seems to have the quickness to stay in front of Jackson; if he can prevent the penetration that is the heart of Jackson's game that will go a long way towards slowing the Purdue offense down. Easier said than done.
Smith gets off more than six three-pointers per game and hits 43% of them. That is his role in the offense, full stop. He averages less than a two-point attempt per game.
Guard types Terone Johnson, Kelsey Barlow, Anthony Johnson, and DJ Byrd will also see chunks of time. Barlow is a 6'5" guy who is reasonably efficient with low usage; he gets to the line. He is likely to draw Hardaway defensively; last year he was frustratingly erratic and ended up suspended for "conduct detrimental to the team." Both small forwards seem emotionally volatile, so this matchup could go one way or the other quickly.
Johnson was Purdue's top recruit last year and had a bench role; he succeeds with "aggression." He is an exception to the rule for Purdue:
Of course, the one thing I haven't addressed yet is the abysmal shooting from the Michigan State game. Let's face it: aside from Barlow, Lewis Jackson, and Terone Johnson, we're a jump shooting team. If they are falling, we look good. If Robbie Hummel is 0 for 926,012,965 (approximate) we're not going to look good. Rob looked awful on Saturday and dejected as a whole.
The center position is a platoon of three underclassmen who have ridiculously small usage, very high TO rates, and mainly contribute with offensive rebounding. Hummel is the only other guy on the roster taller than 6'5". Purdue is a short team overall.
Purdue's conference schedule is an eerie inversion of Michigan's, with losses to Wisconsin, Penn State (by 20!), and Michigan State. They have beaten Iowa twice in two attempts, unlike Michigan. Both teams have beaten Minnesota; Purdue also has a win over Illinois.
Their nonconference schedule is kind of eh. They have a few victories over opponents in the bottom half of the Kenpom top top 100 (#61 Iona, #52 Temple, #76 Miami (That Miami)) and losses against #18 Alabama, #51 Xavier, and #133 Butler.
|Factor||Offense (Rk)||Defense (Rk)||Avg|
|Effective FG%:||50.3 130||47.6.0 125||49|
|Turnover %:||14.8 1||21.9 113||20.8|
|Off. Reb. %:||33.3 142||31.2 114||32.5|
|FTA/FGA:||36.8 158||37.6 206||36.5|
Purdue is middling at everything except taking care of the ball, at which they are the best in the country. Other tempo free stats that jump out are terrible free-throw shooting (63%), poor three-point defense, and a somewhat high rate of threes.
Hello more Douglass. Horford is still out so expect more small lineups featuring Stu Douglass against a team that is pretty small and appears to ignore their posts offensively.
Somebody other than Novak shoot straight. Or get it to Novak, but he's never going to be a huge usage guy. Michigan's two point shooting has still been pretty good in the tougher section of the schedule. The bleeding is coming from three, where Evan Smotrycz, Tim Hardaway, and to a lesser extent Matt Vogrich and Douglass are renovating Crisler brick by brick. Hardaway is averaging almost six threes a game and hitting 27%. Smotrycz has dropped ten points off his three point shooting in an awful slump; Douglass is at 33%, Vogrich 23%.
I'm not sure how much of that is random chance and how much of it is poor shot selection, but the trend is clear. Michigan is a terrific two-point-shooting team and launches 44% of their shots from three. That's just the offense. Michigan has to start hitting. There's not really another option.
Except for Hardaway. Hardaway has options. Good God, man, you are 6'5" and can jump out of the gym. Go to the hoop. I want Hardaway to commit a charge per game from here on out. If he gets an open three, fine, but no more of this contested jack stuff. His shot selection is becoming getting reminiscent of Manny Harris.
Watch Hummel self-destruct, or just destruct. Purdue's coming off a hammering at the hands of Michigan State in which Robbie Hummel went 0 of 11 from the floor. If that happens again Purdue is not winning. That is not going to happen again. Hopefully this won't, either:
Hummel has been very good against Michigan in the past and will be in the friendly confines of Mackey; do not expect a repeat.
If you're getting the vibe that terrible shooting from people you think are good shooters has plagued both teams, well, yeah. Whoever ends up losing this game is going to sink further into their ice-cold funk.
Keep Jackson out of the lane. As I said above, easier said than done but if Burke can D Jackson up like he did Jordan Taylor that is huge.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Purdue by 4.
About Last Saturday:
Purdue 14, Michigan 36
Caption contest. Go.
The Road Ahead:
Iowa (5-3, 2-2 B1G)
Last game: Iowa 21, Minnesota 22 (L)
Recap: The only thing worse than questing for title of “Worst Big Ten Team EVER” is losing to that team, which Iowa did on Saturday. Flags in Iowa City flew at half mast to honor the death of Gopherquest -- and themselves, in the eyes of Brian Cook.
Two deaths and a funeral indeed.
Let’s take a look at the autopsy report: Thanks to a couple missed field goals, the game was close through the third quarter until Iowa scored to go ahead 21-10 early in the fourth, seemingly poised to finally wrest it out of Minnesota’s reach.
After a Hawkeyes fumble and Gophers field goal, however, Minnesota converted a fourth and one from their own 42 and scored a touchdown a couple plays later.
The Gophers onside kicked, catching Iowa by surprise. Minnesota recovered and miraculously scored again on a fourth-down conversion at the Iowa three.
Flailing, the Hawkeyes went four-and-out and were then helpless to stop the Gophers from running out the clock.
Remarkably, Iowa RB Marcus Coker carried the ball 32 times for 252 yards and 2 touchdowns in an outstanding effort no Iowa fan will ever remember. Imagine if Pheidippides had made it all the way to Athens only to collapse before delivering his message. Instead of inspiring an entire culture of running a couple millenia later, now he’s just a clammy dead guy.
Right now they are as frightening as: A watered down version of 2007 Michigan immediately post-Horror -- not as good, therefore not as embarrassed. Still hiding under a blanky though. 5.
Michigan should worry about: The first real manball team on the schedule not playing in a trash tornado. Also the last.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Iowa had the rhabdomyolysis problem in the offseason, which seems to have scared the CARA out of the strength staff. (Do you see what I did there?)
As a result, Iowa’s defense looks like it’s been playing Wii Fit in lieu of real conditioning. They made Iowa State QB Steele Jantz look like Andrew Luck, allowed Penn State to go Look-Ma-No-QB, and couldn’t stop Marqueis Gray when it mattered -- incidentally, all of these things happened in the fourth quarter.
When Michigan plays them: 2011 Iowa is undefeated at home. 2011 Michigan is undefeated in November. Immovable object meet unstoppable force? Hah.
For realsies now: Iowa’s best win was against Pitt. This was the game where Vandenberg led the epic comeback against a Tony Gibson coached secondary, earning him the Vandenhenneberg moniker. The joke is getting stale, but if you were still wondering, that along with BGHP’s gushing comparison at the beginning of the season is where it comes from. Their next best win was against Northwestern, and you know all about Northwestern’s secondary. And then if you keep looking you fall off a cliff right before the Indianas and Lousiana-Monroes of the world, where concerns about the secondary are, well … secondary.
Sorry, I had to do that.
The Wolverines secondary is much better these days, having survived Alex Carder, Michael Floyd, Dan Persa, and B.J. Cunningham (electing to fall prey to Keshawn Martin instead). Teams succeeded against VandenMcHenneNutt by preventing deep routes. Michigan’s inside-and-in-front philosophy should be able to do at least that.
And then there’s the issue of the Hawkeyes defense. Their major breakdowns tend to happen late in the game due to the aforementioned stamina problems. Aside from targeting specific weakness (see Ace’s FFFF), offensive playcalling that spreads and stretches the field laterally to wear down Iowa defenders would be a smart approach, especially early in the game.
(more after the jump)
A bubble screen once beat up Al Borges and took his lunch money.
Fitz did good. “That’s really what we’ve wanted to do all year. With two weeks to get ready and some careful considerations with regard to not getting our quarterback beat up, that was a huge issue. We worked hard on trying to get back to what we originally wanted to do. We wanted to be more of a combination of pro to spread offense without, of course, completely divorcing ourselves from spread concepts. We still run a lot of it, but that is closer to what we wanted in the beginning. We just weren’t executing very well. Touss did a great job, and the offensive line moved some people, not only on the line of scrimmage but also on the perimeter.”
What makes Toussaint the guy? “He’s a tough guy that makes no concessions to the defense. You’re going to have to tackle Fitz. He’s not just going to go down. He’s really improved in his ability to find the cavities in the defense. When we first got here his vision wasn’t all it needed to be but he’s gotten so much better. Some guys never get that, but Fitz has. He’s got a better feel for pressing the line of scrimmage, finding the cutback lanes … do whatever the defense dictates that you must.”
Were you surprised to see Denard take a knee during the offsides call? “No. No. He’s fine. We got a free five yards.”
Toussaint looks faster. Is it because he's finally healthy? “Yeah, he’s always been fast. Fitz has got speed. He was a track guy in high school. It’s just opportunities. That’s really it. Chances to carry the ball. That’s what I said -- we’re going to find a guy who can carry it 20+ and gain a 100 yards. He got to carry it 20+ and he did.”
You used Devin a lot. Do you worry that you use it too much and it disrupts the rhythm of your offense? “No. Not at all. As a matter of fact, we used him as much as we would like to use him. Our productivity in our two-quarterback offense in the last two weeks has been pretty good. I think it adds to our rhythm. Now if you kept him in there a few plays and Denard wasn’t lining up every single snap, I guess that could break it a little bit, but no. That’s why I don’t like series. That does break a quarterback’s rhythm. But spot him here and spot him there, and the quarterback stays in the game -- I don’t think it hurts us at all. I think it helps us.”
(Jeremy Gallon says he can dunk.)
Denard Robinson and Fitzgerald Toussaint
Denard, can you talk about re-establishing the running backs? Denard: “First of all, our offensive line played a great game, and once Fitz got the ball in the open field, he made things happen.”
Fitz, can you talk about the long touchdown run and what you saw? Toussaint: “I just saw daylight. Coach Jackson always stresses, when you see a crease, shoot through it like a cannon. That’s what I did, and credit goes out to the offensive line for creating that for me.”
Talk about focus you had coming up to this week? Denard: “We knew we had to bounce back this week. Everybody prepared hard, and everybody was ready. We did what we had to do. That was a great team we faced.”
Do you enjoy the diversity of the offense, and are you excited about how it gets so many of your teammates involved? Denard: “I think I was excited about everybody. Everybody that watched the game was excited, and I’m in it, so I’m loving it.”
Fitz, you look like you found an extra gear. Did the bye week help you get healthier? Toussaint: “A lot of it was to get off my feet more and get a little bit more treatment on my body for me to be healthy for this game.”
Does this game show that you can be the lead back for Michigan? Fitz: “I still feel like we have to go out there every Tuesday and throughout the whole week to just compete. All the running backs.”
Fitz, on your touchdown run, what was the moment you knew you were going to go all the way? Toussaint: “There wasn’t really a moment. I … kind of just saw it and hit it.”
At what point did you know that Taylor had sprung you? Toussaint: “I really can’t even remember the moment. It just happened so fast.” Did anyone touch you at all? “I have no clue. I’m just happy that the line opened up the hole for me.”
Denard, can you talk about being 7-1 and it could be anyone’s division to win? Denard: “We just have to focus on this team, Michigan. We have to come out ready to play every weekend because [in] the Big Ten there’s always competition. That’s what we have to do every week.”
Fitz, can you talk about what it feels like walking off the field this week compared with how it felt two weeks ago? Toussaint: “Every team faces adversity. It’s not really how you have adversity. It’s really how you respond to it. We knew we had two weeks to get prepared for this game, and we did what we had to do.”
Denard, you guys have gone against the Michgian defense in practice. What’s different about it this year? Denard: “Well, everybody holding each other accountable. That’s the biggest thing. If the cornerbacks don’t play good defense the D-line won’t get pressure. So everybody holding each other accountable.”
Fitz, in the deuce packages, how do you guys see defenses playing that? Toussaint: “It’s kind of hard to play it because when you have your best athletes in the game, it’s kind of hard to really actually practice that formation. I think it’s kind of hard.”
Can you guys talk about how tired you are of hearing about people waiting for the Michigan collapse? Toussaint: “We really just focus on going out there and preparing every week for Saturday.” Robinson: “We don’t really care about what other people think. It’s about this team. Team 132.”
Denard, do you feel half the defense going with you on the jet sweep fakes? Denard: “Coach Fred -- Freddy J -- he told us one good fake equals two blocks. I just run full speed and hope somebody runs with me.”
Mark Huyge and Craig Roh
Mark, how much did you emphasize the run in practice the past couple of weeks? Huyge: “Well it’s always an emphasis. One of our main goals is to get some tailback yardage, too, and really put it on that, because when we can get our tailbacks out and take some pressure off Denard, that’s a big thing, and that’s a big key to our success on offense.”
Mark, how hard is it for you to shuffle the offensive line and still produce the way you did? Huyge: “Well even in practice and throughout the couple years here since all the guys have been here, we’ve been playing next to each other. I know I’ve been on both sides. Ricky, Mike Schofield, Patrick Omameh, they’re all going back and forth, right and left sometimes. It’s not really that big of a deal, though. We have pretty good chemistry up front, and it showed.”
Craig, when you see Mike Martin produce the way he did, how does that alter your own attitude? Roh: “Well, that guy is just a physical beast. He’s a very dominating player. When you see that, you’re like, ‘I can do that.’ It’s cool to see him because you’re like, ‘That guy’s right next to me, and I know he’s going to beast his guy, so I have to beast my guy.’ ”
Craig, what changed after that first touchdown? Roh: “We just made a few adjustments. Usually in games, offenses come out with a few tweaks here and there. We just adjusted and we came down and played Michigan defense.”
After the last game, did you feel like the offensive line was under a lot of scrutiny? Huyge: “We didn’t get it done in that game. The key was to move on as quick as possible from that, make the necessary adjustments. We were under a little bit of pressure, but we knew if we played our game and executed to how we’re capable, we’ll be just fine.”
Craig, what was discussion like after the first touchdown, and what were the adjustments? Roh: “We knew everything was okay. They scored a touchdown. We never want that, but we weren’t freaking out or anything. We were like, “Okay, let’s just settle down and play Michigan defense.’ ”
Was that the most confident you’ve seen Fitz? Huyge: “I think he was just himself. I didn’t really see anything that stood out. I know he had a couple big runs there and that one long run when he cut it back. I was really impressed with that because he found the opening and got some good blocks downfield. Steve Watson threw a great block to spring him.” You said he was just himself. What does that mean? “He’s actually a pretty sarcastic guy. He’s always trying to start stuff with me, and then he’ll back off right away. He’s just a cool guy.” He does this in games? “No, not in games.”
You’re 7-1, tied for division lead heading into November. What’s your feeling about that, and what’s your motivation? Roh: “We just need to keep improving and play the way we know how to play. We can win every game here.” Huyge: “That’s just the main thing. One game at a time.”
Mark, can you talk about Taylor Lewan’s toughness? Huyge: “Obviously Taylor is a pretty tough guy. He’s been banged up before. He just keeps fighting through it. I know in the game I remember him saying he might have gotten rolled up on a couple of times, which happens, but he just kept fighting through it.”
Craig, can you talk about the effectiveness of your perimeter defense? Roh: “Offenses are going to look at tape and if one thing works the offense is going to do that, but that’s something that we’re working on as a defense to be tougher on that perimeter.”
How much of a focus was that in practice? Roh: “I mean the focus is always on technique and perimeter defense comes from good technique and aggressive playing. I think that was more of the focus than just perimeter defense. We take unbelievable pride -- this whole entire defense takes pride in perimeter defense and inside defense. Really everything.”
Mark, can you talk about the challenges of flipping from right tackle to left tackle when Taylor went out? Huyge: “I’ve played both in my career and I do it in practice a lot, too. It’s not too difficult. Sometimes it takes a little bit, a few plays to adjust. I feel confident I can do that.”
What was Taylor’s demeanor while he was trying to soldier through the game? Huyge: “He was just saying that, ‘I’m going to stay in, and let’s go.’ I mean, yeah, he wasn’t going to get pulled out.”
Craig, on the safety, were you looking for the safety, and how much of a turning point was that? Roh: “I mean, you’re looking for the offensive set. You’re looking for the tendencies coming off of that. When you have them pinned back, that’s always on the forefront of ... you front that that is a possibility. When Mike Martin got that safety, I couldn’t be any happier.”
Craig, what is your definition of Michigan defense? Roh: “Michigan defense is just dominating everything. And every aspect of life. That’s a rough definition.”
Does anything change for you guys when Marve comes into the game? Roh: “I mean we just keep playing our technique. Keep playing our defense the way we know how to play it. We adjust somewhat to personnel.”
After Devin’s interception, you turned to the power play and the run game. Huyge: “We like to run the ball as an offensive line. I’d personally rather run than pass. It’s fun to get going. When the offensive line gets it going, the running backs running hard, it’s a fun thing.”
During the off week, was there anything special you paid attention to that paid dividends today? Roh: “I just thought technique. We just focused on technique and played hard-nosed Michigan football.” Huyge: “Just improving from last game and getting back to the fundamentals and basics of football.”
Hoke said he wanted to challenge the offensive line. How did he challenge you guys? Huyge: “All of our practices are pretty physical, and that’s one thing where we try to go out and hit people. Sometimes we’re a little -- I don’t want to say tentative, but it looked like on film. We did not get it done, and we needed to just go out and just play as hard as we could.”
Mike Martin and Courtney Avery
That safety -- kind of a defensive lineman’s dream, eh? Martin: “Van Bergen did a good job with giving me a little bit of a presnap idea of what they were going to do. We were looking for a few things, but he did a good job of where they were going to slide the protection, and when it came down to it, we were just aggressive off the ball, and good things happened.”
On the play following the touchdown, did you feel like the defense needed to step up? Martin: “Yeah. This defense is great with responding to adversity whether it’s a sudden change -- whatever it might be -- or we get scored on, which we never want that to happen. But we did a great job of coming to the sideline and regathering and knowing that we had to play better defense, and that’s what we did. We responded well. Period.”
Craig defined the defense as dominating every aspect of life. Do you have different definitions? Martin: “Playing Michigan defense, and coach Hoke says it all the time and Coach Mattison -- it’s really playing with the mentality that first of all no one can run on you. No one can run the ball. You have to have that as a defensive line, up front, as a whole, as a defense. When they pass, getting to the quarterback. Really just getting 11 hats to the ball every single play with the effort that’s just crazy. I think we did that today. We’ll watch the film, have improvements, and we’ll get better for next weekend.” Avery: “Going off what Mike said, from the secondary’s standpoint, we want to keep everything inside and in front and then just get 11 hats and pursuing like crazy to the ball.”
Why is this team better equipped to handle the second half of the season? Martin: “Well, our mentality every single day when we take the practice field, whether it’s on a Tuesday or Wednesday, any work day during the week, watching the film -- we just have the mentality that we want to get better. Every single day. This defense is hungry to get better. We have young guys, stepping up, playing. That’s what it’s all about. We’re just going to keep on taking positive steps forward, and from this point on every single game is a championship game for this program.”
That easy touchdown was the first of the year. Avery: “I just feel we didn’t attack it as well as we would like to and we didn’t cup it as well as we would like to, but we made some adjustments and coach brought us over to the side and told us just to attack it and that’s what we did. We stopped that play later on during the game.”
Mike, you got the safety in the first quarter, but then in the fourth quarter when they were backed up in their own endzone again, you got called offsides. Did you get a little trigger happy on that one? Martin: “Well, the mentality of our defensive line is getting off the ball. That was definitely all my fault and I was really trying to get a good jump on the ball, which is what you try to do every single snap. I should have been smarter on my part of it knowing they were going to do it in the black. I just have to get better on my half of it. Coach talked to me about it, and I didn’t do it again.” So it was because they did something with the snap count? “Yeah, they got me. They did a good job with that.”
Mike, after the Michigan State game, Hoke said he was going to challenge the offensive line. Did you notice anything different in the way they practiced? Martin: “Yeah, that was probably a big part of it. They did a great job of executing, and really it’s because of how good of a look we gave them during the bye week. We played really physical in our bye week. It wasn’t lackadaisacal, take-a-week-off-because-we-have-a-week-off type of practices. We were going after each other, and we were giving each other the best looks we could up front, and it showed on the game field today.”
Hoke praised Mike’s tackle 16 yards downfield. He said that means something. Courtney, what does that mean? Avery: “It just goes back to the effort and pursuing to the ball. You just have to keep fighting and the ball’s not the endzone until it’s in the endzone.” Does it help the rest of the defense to see a guy hustle like that? “Oh definitely. …”
There’s been a lot of questions about the defense. After eight games, do you feel like those questions have been answered? Martin: “You know, every week’s going to be a test for us. There’s always going to be people saying different things about our defense, but the most important thing is really the guys that are in that locker room. The guys that are in that team defensive room. Those are the most important guys. We’re going to play for each other. Courtney and myself and everyone else in that defensive room, including the coaches, we’re all in this thing together. We just have to make sure that we control what we can, which is how we play, every single week.”
Courtney, can you talk about your interception and the ability of this defense to make stops? Avery: “That’s a great thing about our defense. It just seems when we have our backs to the wall, we seem to rise to the challenge. With the interception, they ran that play before, and they got a big play out of it. Coach brought us to the sideline, told us to attack that, so I just did what the coach said and attacked it and it came out good for us.”
Is it different to feel like there’s something to play for in November other than just pride? Martin: “Yeah, time’s flown by. Senior year and this year for this team is huge. November is championship football for us. Going from month to month, we know we have to get better. Week by week, I think we’ve done that. Sometimes we haven’t taken the biggest steps forward that we want to, but we’ve gotten better, period. I’m confident that we’ll continue to do that. These games coming up, we’ve got Iowa away. That’s going to be a great test for us as a team and as a defense to respond in a high-[stakes] environment. That’s going to be a battle for us.”
Courtney, how did Blake Countess play today? Avery: “Blake’s been solid in practice, and during the game he looked really good. He’s coming along, he’s improving, he’s working hard. He’s a hard worker.”
Courtney, you said Purdue got a big play earlier in the game using the same play on which you got the interception. Was that the touchdown pass on their first drive? Avery: “Yes, sir.” How close was the ball to hitting the ground?“It was pretty close. He bobbled it actually twice, and then once I got it, it was pretty close to the ground, yes sir.”
How close was this game to Michigan football on both sides of the ball? Martin: “I think coach probably said he hasn’t seen the film yet, but he probably said that we played with great effort … But I say the same thing. I just know period that we were busting our butts to the ball, we had guys doing whatever they could to make a play. You’re never going to play a perfect football game. That’s going to happen. The thing’s that’s important is to take steps forward every single week. We’ll look at the film and make sure that we correct those things and play even harder next week.” What about the offense? “They were playing their butts off. The thing we’ve gotten better as a team is complementing each other. Offensively, them holding onto the ball, time of possession, running the football, putting points on the board. And then us getting the ball back to our offense. They were playing physical and it showed on the scoreboard, period.”