News bullets and other items:
Wilton Speight is “day-to-day”
Asked whether he will practice next week, Harbaugh said, “We’ll see.”
Can you talk about what De’Veon Smith and your offensive line gave you when you really needed it there in the third quarter?
“Yeah, I mean, grinding out first downs, grinding meat. De’Veon, he played with great motivation. And some great play from the offensive line. It felt like old fashioned, slobber-knocker football.
“Tim Drevno made some great calls. The touchdown, the long touchdown by De’Veon was a heck of a call. We’d been running to the strongside. Come back, pull, have the pullers to the weakside, it was just enough. Just enough space, and De’Veon, breaking tackles. The yard runs, the yards after contact, pushing for the first down was critical. I think it’s the most yards of his career. Heck of an effort by De’Veon.”
No disrespect to Indiana, but is it possible your guys were thinking ahead a little to next week. How was the focus, do you think?
[laughs] “I’ll tell you what, to win this game, it feels like one of the best wins I’ve ever been involved with because it was a playoff game, and it was beating a tough Indiana team. We have a lot of respect for them. They’re a heck of a football team. And the elements, too. That was…you know, feel good about our football team.”
Can you reflect on the run that O’Korn h.ad to set up De’Veon’s first touchdown, and how would you assess his play overall?
“Yeah, that was huge. We were struggling making third-down conversions and there was not just one but two defenders pressuring John, and [he] stepped out of it with good ball security. Got the first down and was being threatened there at the sticks and didn’t dive, didn’t slide. Kick through, kicked through an arm tackle and kept right on running, so that was a big play. That was a signature play for a quarterback in a big game, so I feel really good. Amara [Darboh] was also outstanding to extend our last drive. He did a lot of good things.”
[After THE JUMP: special teams, smashing the narrative, and waxing philosophical about Michigan Stadium]
[Wheatley sees Ty Isaac on the opposite side of the desk in the lobby/Towsley Museum]
“I’m about to talk about you. You know that, right? Wanna listen to it? Wanna come listen to what I’m about to say about you?”
[Isaac laughs and walks away]
With Chris Evans, he seemed to have the most productive day at Iowa. What were the things that stood out about him that maybe he was doing different than other guys?
“You said it. It was production. Certain games and certain backs—it was a penetrating front and Chris was able to hit some creases and go for it and be productive, so that was pretty much it. With guys we go to who has the hot hand and who’s productive and that was it. Chris was hitting creases.”
Were you guys trying to get him more as the game went on? I think he ended up with eight carries. De’Veon seemed to get carries down the stretch.
“Like I said, at that point whatever play is called and whoever’s doing well at that point in time, that’s who’ll go in.”
With so many guys that can go for you, what’s the room been like from a keeping it light but also keep--
“Chaos, man. They hate each other. [laughs] You see the bags under my eyes? Gray…I look like Barack right now.
“Nah, the room is great. The room, the tone has been set in camp. They understand the task, and the task is to win the Big Ten and then hopefully from that point on, as you know, the little gold trophy. So, the mantra for this university has been ever since the big man was here, ‘the team, the team, the team.’ So, it doesn’t change. You kind of put yourself to the side and put the team in front. The room is great. Guys are absolutely a treasure. I mean, a treat to coach and a treasure for me to have, so the room’s been great.”
[After THE JUMP: how to gain Wheatley’s trust, the secret to the Hammering Panda’s success, not noticing QBs in practice, and a quick injury update]
What did you guys learn from last game in your group, specifically?
“In our group specifically, we’ve got to tackle better. Fundamentals of the game, that’s what it comes down to a lot of times in those situations, the fundamentals of the game. You’ve got to be sharp, and that’s something that we definitely have to focus on going forward, as we do every week.”
In terms of the secondary and your position specifically, Delano [Hill] left the game. What’s his status? Has he been practicing fully this week?
“Delano should be fine. He left the game at the end there, but he’s doing well. He should be good to go this week.”
The grind this time of year, can you see guys wearing down a little bit and what’s the message to them?
“The message is just to prepare like we do always. I think we’ve done a good job in preparation throughout the whole season, and we don’t want to lose any of that. Every week, just keep preparing like we’ve been and take it to another level each week.”
Tyree Kinnel’s been getting a lot more action. Can you talk about his progression and what you’re seeing out of him?
“Yeah, Tyree, he’s played well. He’s come a long way. This is only his second year getting in there and getting in the mix, but he’s been doing a good job on special teams and when you do a good job on teams we trust you more to get in there on defense. He’s done a nice job with that.”
[More on Metellus, Hudson, and Indiana’s offense after THE JUMP]
Jake Butt, Maurice Hurst, and Matt Godin
Talk about how your team still has its destiny in its hands in terms of winning out to get where you want even though you lost.
JB: “Yeah, obviously it’s a tough loss. It’s a game we could have won, so that’s gonna sting a little bit. But we reminded ourselves and each other that what we set out for at the beginning of the season is still right in front of us. We’re going to learn from this loss and become tougher and better because of it. We control our own destiny, so as long as we keep handling business we’re not worried about what anyone else is doing. We’ve just got to handle our own business and the rest will take care of itself.”
Matt, what were some of the problems up front against the run, especially on first down, on Saturday night?
“First of all, give credit to them. They had a great seam going in the run game, but we just weren’t fitting some of the things right in the run game, obviously. We’re gonna have to take a look at it in film today, but we’ll get it fixed.”
Jake, what were some of the things that guys were saying to each other yesterday, a day removed from that? Was there encouragement needed? Was anybody having to say anything, or did you all just realize how you had to move forward?
“Thankfully, we’ve got a veteran team, a lot of older guys that have seen a lot of different things in their career here, and a lot of mature younger guys, too, that can follow some of the older guys’ lead, [and] a great coaching staff that has seen a lot of things, too. It’s a tough game. We were going to face adversity this season. We wish we would have come out on top in that game, but we understand—there’s no panic button. We’re not gonna let one loss turn into two. We’re just going to continue the same mentality of get back to work today and move forward.”
[More after THE JUMP]
When I was thinking about the plays Jake Butt made on Saturday, the one that immediately came to mind was a third-down conversion on a drag route that he caught with one hand and locked in with two fingers. That shallow route ended up being Michigan’s second-longest pass play of the evening, and as you’ll read below, a lot more went into that than just catching and running. As always, the video is at the bottom of the post and can be slowed down to 0.5x 0.25 speed if you open in Youtube and change the settings in the bottom right corner; I highly advise you watch the play slowed down.
What was the first thing you noticed when you lined up?
“I knew there was a wider guy outside of Ian [Bunting]. I was running a shallow route, Ian had a corner route, so first thing I’m thinking about is my release, whether or not I’m going to be able to get inside that backer or whether I’m going to have to take a longer route.
“Saw that, read I can get inside of him, but I saw I think they had two backers in the box; one of them kind of carried Ian vertically and I saw another linebacker that was eyeing the quarterback, and I knew he’d have to pick up my shallow, so I knew I was either going to have to sit it down or continue running. I saw he was flat-footed and staring at Wilton so I thought I could pass him up.
“I knew we had a post-wheel combination on the other side that was gonna carry those guys out of the way, so if I could just get past him I’d have a little bit of extra space. Did that, Wilton put the ball where only I could get it, and honestly, for a second there he put his hand in front and I couldn’t see the ball. I just kind of trusted where it would be. Caught it and then just tried to get as much as I could after the ball.
“I saw another guy running and I saw Desmond King down the sideline. I wanted to stiff arm him, and in the process of stiff-arming him I got my legs taken out a little bit. Big third-down play for us and big conversion.”
After you catch the ball and you’re turning the corner, as you said, you’ve got a guy trailing you and King in front of you. When you’re looking at King and trying to get upfield, what are you looking at? Are you looking at his hips or his shoulders or his pursuit angle?
“I could see his eyes, the way he stood up initially. Usually when guys stand up that’s so they can get ready to go low and take out your knees. But I had my hand on the one guy stiff-arming him, otherwise I would have tried to lower my shoulder and truck-stick him a little bit. I knew he was taking out my knees, but I just stiff-armed him and got as many yards as I could.”
Is that guy who’s trailing to the right a consideration or are you mainly looking at the guy upfield and trying to make a move on him?
“You kind of have to consider him just because they’re converging on you a little bit. I knew—I thought if King wasn’t there or came a little bit later, I would have shedded that other guy, but in the process of shedding him I had to lower and they kind of did a good little gang tackle there.”
To step back for a second, as you release and you’re getting into the drag, that’s when you know the middle linebacker is going to cover you? Postsnap?
“Yeah. The way their defense plays, someone’s going to have to carry a crossing route there. With him eyeing Wilton, he would feel me running across and I knew I could just reduce my route a little bit so he wouldn’t have an angle to intercept it and then Wilton just kind of put it on the money and I turned it up from there.”
Since this is an interview about one play, what’s the single most memorable play for you in your career here?
“Oh, shoot…let’s hope it hasn’t happened yet.”
News bullets and other items:
Harbaugh saved timeouts because he planned to use them after second and third down and get the ball back with about 35 second to play; Iowa converted the third down.
There were 10 guys on to block the field goal because they started with 12 guys and there was a miscommunication in the huddle about who was supposed to come off the field.
Any more on Wilton Speight?
“We’re gonna know more--It’s gonna depend just on how he feels.”
And can you talk about Jeremy Clark? Has he had the surgery, and have you guys started the petition at all with him for the sixth year?
“Yeah, he’s doing good. Surgery was successful and it’s a process. Where he is in the process is gathering the information, making a case. Soon.”
With Wilton, when do you think you’ll have to know to make a decision on him and is it a game-time decision at this point?
“Could be. As I said, when we’ll know is based on what the doctors say and how Wilton’s feeling, what he’s able to do during the week in terms of practice, etc.”
And it’s his shoulder?
“As I said, we’ll make that determination with the doctors and with Wilton.”
Do you at least know if there’s anything structural or is it just a soreness thing? Have you been able to determine that yet on Wilton?
“Um…as always, per our principle we don’t like to speak specifics.”
If need be, John O’Korn, have you seen enough of him in practice to be confident in him?
“Yes, yeah. Yes. John, Shane [Morris]. I especially would anticipate today, the next couple days at least, that they’ll get the majority of the reps. It’ll be good practice for them, but they’ve both had extensive practice time through the course of the year and yes, we are confident they will do a good job.”
[After THE JUMP: running-into-the-kicker calls, the program’s momentum when Harbaugh arrived, and praise for Indiana’s defense is definitely a thing now]