Talk about the line play through three games. Some room for improvement, do you think?
“Yeah, absolutely. There’s always room for improvement. They’ve done a good job and we’ve got to keep on getting better just in pass protection, which is—we’ll do that, and communication. But they’ve done a nice job, and we expect a big game this week.”
Do you see guys still playing too high at times?
“Yeah. You always can improve on the offensive line with pad level. You’ve got to get lower and get your eyes in the right spot and be physical with your hands and move your feet and know where you’re going and communication and targets and that sort of thing still needs improvement. Every day you’ve got to work on that and that’s important.”
Do you still see a rotation with the two Bens at left guard?
“Rotation’s always open. Rotation’s always open.”
Talk about Bredeson’s progression.
“Done a nice job. Really has. He plays, like I mentioned before, quick twitch and smart and can process quickly on his feet. Like all those other freshmen, has done a nice job transitioning there and really improved.”
What did Wilton show you in that game? You take the first game interception and then the big hit and coming back in.
“Wilton’s a true competitor and he’s a tough guy. I think anybody who plays the quarterback position’s got to be a tough guy. You’re gonna take hits you don’t want to happen, we don’t want to happen, but it’s how they respond. I mean, that was a tough hit on him and he bounced up and he led us the rest of the game and took us back from being behind. Just really pleased with what he did. It shows his true character and how important it is, the team to him and him being a competitor and winning every down.”
[After THE JUMP: what’s up with the Morris/O’Korn thing, complimenting large gentlemen plying their trade, and a big compliment for Speight]
The linebackers on Saturday said they were getting sucked up sometimes in play action. On some of those slants, is that one of those cases where they were just a little too aggressive?
“Yeah, I mean, I think so. The bottom line is we want to stop the run first and foremost. That’s just kind of a learning thing, a seeing thing. I think we’re going to get better at that. But yeah, they did, they got sucked up a little bit in trying to stop the run. We’ve got to work on it and get a better feel.”
Talk about the impact of special teams and how it helped turn that thing around Saturday.
“Yeah, special teams is a huge facet of every game and we want to always make an impact. Our team, we talk about attacking and putting the opponent on their heels in all special teams categories. I think we were able to have an impact. It’s funny, because to everyone else it’s like ‘Oh, what tremendous game’ and then to me it’s like we left so much out there. We can get a lot better and make more impact plays on teams, and we’re working at that and working to build off of the game to do some more stuff. Yeah, we felt good and felt that we were able to contribute. That’s all we want to do is get out there and if the team needs a big-time special teams play, we want to be able to make it and switch the momentum.”
With the punt game and the amount of kicks you guys are effecting, are you doing something different schematically or is that just having the right guys in the right places?
“You know, it’s a lot of different things right. What I’m going to say is that the kids have bought in, they’re going hard, they’re understanding it, they love it, they take pride in it, and we’re doing whatever we see to try to effect it. We got a weapon back there, so it’s kind of fun calling that game because you kind of can do some different things and try to figure out what they’re trying to do. And then these guys have really bought into it. It’s cool.”
Jabrill being in the back gives you more options with the other ten guys on the field?
“Oh, absolutely, yeah. I mean, it’s a matter of are they coming with a block, are they coming with a hold up, are they coming with a block and a hold up, are they setting a wall—it’s just different things in different areas of the field what we’re able to do. He makes us more dynamic, I think, as any returner does.”
[After THE JUMP: why teams might still kick to Jabrill, more on the linebackers, fixing field goal issues, and how many plays Jabrill would play if he had his way]
“How’s everything goin’?”
Good. How about yourself?
You look kinda tired.
“Eh, a lot of early mornings.”
Talk about some of the issues that you guys had the last week with the plays in the passing game.
“We gave up two big pass plays. I mean, those are issues. Obviously we’ve got to do a better job. We’ve got to clean it up. Worked really hard in the run game, obviously, coming off the UCF performance. Maybe too hard. I also attribute, you know, we’re still learning how to play this style of defense.
“The good thing is I think our guys have understood enough concept that we’re able to adjust as the game goes on and play much better in the second, third, and fourth quarter. Really disappointed with a fundamental coverage mistake that we made, and I thought there was a 10-play period during the course of the game where we needed to do a better job of tackling.
“Like I told the kids yesterday, all the mistakes belong to me, so if anybody wants to point the responsibility I don’t want them to have any. It’s right here. That’s the way we handle it, and I just tell them I want you to play as hard and as tough as you can and all your mistakes belong to me.”
The stretch of bad tackling: is that because they’re still learning and just--
“I don’t think so, no. Just think we didn’t do a great job. It was a ten-play segment during the course of the game and there were three missed tackles. You know, we were fortunate because the one that resulted in a 48-yard gain we were able to find a way to get off the field and they missed a field goal on one of those opportunities. Thought we settled down and played really well throughout the second quarter.
“We come out and have the bad play in the third quarter. The disappointing thing there is it’s happened to us coming out of the locker room two games in a row, so we’ve got to pay more attention. And one of our goals is a third-quarter shutout, so that’s a disappointing deal.
“I thought we really settled in. What did we give up, 200 yards in the first quarter and basically 100 yards in the second, third, and fourth. What were they, 0-for-12 on third down against our ones and 1-for-whatever counting fourth down. So there’s some things I’m feeling really good about. The best part of it is we were able to make adjustments moving forward as the game kind of progressed. And we’ve been tested with no-huddle, up tempo.
“I think they were faster than UCF. With all credit to Scott Frost; he’s probably one of the fastest guys in the country. And if you watch our tape, and, you know, you can come up and look at it all you want, we’re lined up ready to go every snap. I think we’ve made significant improvements in terms of our sense of urgency to get line up and get ready to play, we just need to play better during stretches. It’s 41 snaps or 46 in the run game against UCF [and] they have 63 yards.
“Now you come back and you’re looking at your deal here, we give up, what, three pass catches. We give up 100-whatever yards of offense. You must be doing a pretty good job during the course of the rest of the game. We just need to make sure we’re totally clean and as I told ya, understand the concepts. But our mistakes belong to me, not the players.”
[After THE JUMP: Don Brown’s defensive disquisition]
Erik, three QB rotation. There wasn’t any talk of bringing in the fourth on Saturday?
“I think we’re saving that for Big Ten [season].”
You’ve been around a lot, you’ve played a lot of games, you know the guys. What have you noticed relationship-wise with the offensive line and with Wilton?
“The core of this group of offensive linemen were here last year, so it’s just another year of us playing together so you bond over that. Wilton’s been a part of the team for three years, so we’ve all been with him and everything like that so it’s not like we’re just becoming friends now. We’ve been friends and had a relationship for a long time.”
How much has your sense of responsibility escalated?
“Any time you’re a veteran or an older guy on the team you have a bigger responsibility to play big all the time and lead the younger guys. I mean, I think even if you’re Ben Bredeson or you’re me or whatever it is, you still have the same responsibility to play well.”
Mo, your thoughts on how the defense has played through three games, and how hard was it sitting out?
“I think the defense has been doing very well. We’ve put together a lot in a little bit amount of time with Coach Brown. I think there’s definitely a lot of room for improvement. There were some mistakes that we made throughout the game that I think are definitely correctable and things that we can avoid going on in the future.”
Talk about the line’s development as a protection group. Is it tough when the quarterback gets hit like Wilton did on Saturday?
“Yeah, you never want to see your quarterback get hit. Our goal going into every week is give up no sacks, so anytime that happens, especially during the game, it’s frustrating, but you’ve kind of got to throw it behind you and move on.”
[After THE JUMP: GOIN’ PIGGIN’]
This week we’re talking about Mo Hurst’s four-quarter sack, which you may remember as the play a running back chose to take on a blitzing Jabrill Peppers and a quarterback ended up SO MAD that he included a towel as his accoutrement du jour.
What did you notice first when you lined up on that play?
“I think just noticing the offensive line. We had a [redacted] call—or no, we had [redacted (figure it out yourself, PSU football interns that report to Franklin)] on that one. It’s designed to let someone open. I think the person that was supposed to be open was Pep, but the running back ended up picking him up, so I had the opportunity to get free and made the most of it. Almost missed it, but glad his towel was in there tight.”
On something like that, was Colorado tipping run/pass or were they pretty good about that during the game?
“I think there were definitely some tips we got and picked up throughout the game, especially with their running backs and their guards. Changes in stance were a big thing for us. Yeah, it was something that we definitely picked up and would communicate during the game.”
On this particular play it was obviously 3rd and 12, so are you pinning your ears back for an all-our pass rush, or, because they use the screen game so much, do you have to wait, watch the guard, and see if he’s going to release?
“I think we were just pinning our ears back, especially at that point in the game. It was pretty certain that they were going to pass on third and long, so yeah, definitely pin our ears back and try to get after them.”
It looked like you feigned outside before going inside with the swim move to get over [the guard]. Is that something from watching film that you know you’re going to do before the snap, or is it a sort of muscle memory kicking in when the ball’s snapped?
“That’s part of the defense that we were running. Pep’s blitzing B gap so I take on the guard. That’s what I tried to do and it came free.”
On that play, you’re lined up at 3-tech. On the same series, one play before you’re at nose. Are you able to study each guy’s tendencies that you’re going to line up across from or is that just too time consuming and you rely on technique at some point?
“Being a nose and a tackle, which is where I played throughout the game—I played both—you study the center and both guards a lot. Not really the tackles; I’m not going against them. Yeah, we definitely study the interior guys.”
What’s more difficult to get: a sack where you have to grab a guy and rip him down by the towel or a 5-star Uber review?
“Probably the Uber review. There’s a little less in your control. I mean, there would be times where I thought I gave a great ride and I didn’t quite get the results I wanted and I was pretty frustrated. There’s times you want to call them and just be like, ‘Hey, what’s up? Why didn’t you give me 5 stars? What did I do wrong?’ But some people are just not in a good mood that day. That can change how your ratings.”
Are you able to still do that during the season or is that on hold for now?
“That’s on hold for now. Maybe it’ll come back in the winter or in the summer, but definitely was a fun experience over the summer.”
You mentioned what the call was earlier. Is that something that Don Brown brought or is that something that’s been here and you’ve worked with Coach Mattison on [in the past]?
“There’s a lot of calls that we have. I think—we’ve had a lot of blitzes since we’ve been here. A lot of them—I mean, there’s only so many ways you can blitz a team, so a lot of them is stuff that we’ve already done before. Maybe a slight variation to things, but definitely something that we’ve worked on before, especially going through three defensive coordinators. I think we’ve probably seen every blitz that could possibly be called in a 3-4 and a 4-3, so that’s big for us.”
News bullets and other items:
There’s a chance Jourdan Lewis, Taco Charlton, and Bryan Mone play this week. As Harbaugh said, they might “graduate from the training room back onto the field.”
Peppers is unlike anyone Harbaugh’s ever coached. He’s played 11 positions at Michigan, and Harbaugh said there are more that he could play well.
Speight’s elbow was injured on the strip-sack early in the game, which was a result of a missed assignment. This raised Speight a rung in the team’s esteem because he walked it off and, as Harbaugh put it, “…this isn’t track, this is football and playing that quarterback position, that’s part of the game.”
Harbaugh’s wife’s doctor described the punt block that was returned for a TD as a slippery watermelon. The ultrasound went well, by the way.
Harbaugh loves his defense so much that sometimes he watches them play even when he feels like he should be preparing for the next drive
I wanted to talk to you first about Michael Jocz and what he’s bringing to special teams—I know he had a block in the last game—and also what he does in the classroom.
“He had his first catch last week. It was great to see. And he had a blocked punt this week that resulted in a touchdown—great to see. He’s consistently been our, second year in a row, smartest player on the team in terms of grade point average. He’s already graduated in mechanical engineering and he’s on track to do his master’s in one year instead of the normal two, so he’s cutting that in half. He’s really been figuring things out, as you’d expect from a mechanical engineer. Great teammate. Really happy for his on-field success now, as well.”
And then also Erik Magnuson, if you could assess his play through three games and also the spirit he brings to you team.
“Yeah, Mags is good in both of those regards. Has long brought a lot to our team. He’s probably been our most consistent, best pass protector so far. Likeable guy. Everybody likes Mags. He’s a good leader and a good guy. A genuine, down to earth, good person.”
Two turnovers through the nonconference, only 10 penalties—can you assess the job you feel like your team has done in those areas?
“Those two areas have been good. We’re getting…turnover margin has got to be on the plus side. Don’t know exactly what it is, but we’re on the plus there. I feel like we’re playing—we had a few penalties. More this past week than we have had, so I think we’re playing good, legit penalty-free for the most part football.
[Next person with the microphone thinks it’s their turn to ask, but alas, there’s more. Harbaugh’s taken this pause to reflect and wants to share his thoughts.]
“See, I don’t just give one word answers. That would have been a perfect time to just say, ‘We’ve been good in those two areas.’ I tried to elaborate. I hope to get some credit for that.”
[After THE JUMP: many multi-word answers]