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]
Jake Butt and Jabrill Peppers
Jabrill, you’ve been close several times. What did it feel like to get across finally?
“It’s undescribable. Man, I think I just laid there. I was like, finally, man. The guys did a great job of getting me a crease. They trust me enough to hit what I see and make something happen and that’s what I did.”
For both of you guys, level of concern when it was 21-7 early on?
Peppers: “We’ve been down before. There was no level of panic. It was just like a little adversity. That’s the biggest measurement of a team, how you bounce back when things aren’t going your way. We just had to dig deep and get back to our roots, start tackling better, you know, covering a little better and getting pressure on the quarterback.”
Butt: “We weren’t worried. We weren’t worried. We actually talked about it last night as a team. We knew the first two games we were really never punched in the face, everything was going so smoothly. It’s not going to be a fairytale the whole entire season. There was going to come a point in time where we were going to get punched in the face, where we were going to get backed in a corner and, you know, playing with these guys we bounced back when we were backed into that corner. We fought back and we stuck together and rode that wave and were good enough to get it done.”
Jake, having been backed into a corner, what was the conversation like with you guys on the field and in the huddle during that time when it looked like Colorado had a big advantage?
Butt: “Me personally, I was just trying to go up to guys like, Look, all it takes is one play. We just need a spark. We got that punt block and then they responded again, but we fought back again. We just kept punching back. We kept telling these older guys, this group of seniors and our playmakers, Look, we just need to start making plays. Toward the end of the half that’s exactly what we did, and then I think that a huge play was Darboh going in and punching that screen pass in to give us momentum going into the second half. The defense tightened up and they played a hell of a game down the stretch, too.”
Wilton had a shaky start. It seemed like once he started finding rhythm he was dumping the ball off to you. Seemed like he was getting a little bit of stability there. What did you notice about his comfort level throughout the game?
Butt: “Yeah, it’s Wilton, it’s the coaches, it’s the O-line. It’s never a one-man job. And again, yeah, we did have a shaky start. Again, they were making it really hard to run the ball. They were run blitzing us, loading the box up and the coaches adjusted. They started calling little dump off plays to get into rhythm. Guys were making plays, helping him get comfortable. We had a little package in there where we got some yardage with Pep and McDoom. We just kept making plays down the stretch. That’s all that really matters.”
[Hit THE JUMP for more]
News bullets and other items:
Harbaugh mandated they make an adjustment on special teams so that Jabrill could be in position to catch and run after Colorado punted to the same spot a few times in a row
According to Harbaugh, Peppers was “…by far the best guy out there in all phases.”
Harbaugh was really happy with the improvement in perimeter blocking.
Tom Brady’s pregame message went through each position group and told them what was expected of them in order to play like some of the best to wear the uniform.
Brady and Harbaugh played catch before the game and yes, it was a competition. Harbaugh said he wished he hadn’t given Brady the wind.
The kicking game was off and they’ll have to check the tape to figure it out; Harbaugh attributed part of it to an overadjustment to high snaps in pregame warmups.
Coach, can you describe your team’s mental state when they get down early in this game? Where were they at early in the first quarter, and how do you build off of a deficit of that nature?
“They—it was fight. They knew it was a fight, because I heard them talking about it. So, I think that’s where their mindset was. I really look at all these—every football game that’s ever been played, that probably ever will be played, it’s a battle of the best players, of seeing who the best players are in a football game.
“Colorado has some outstanding players, and the utmost respect for Sefo Liufau and the game that he played and the player that he is. He’s set 70 records at Colorado, and that first post route he threw, you can not throw it any better. Could we cover it better? Yeah, we should have. Next play he threw the ball on a fade route. I mean, cannot throw the ball any better than he did. He was really effective all game. Then he got that ankle injury. That looked pretty serious, and he hops up and kind of drifts out to his right and throws a post route that is as good a post route as you can possibly throw. So in a game of really good players all over the field on both sides, their corner #4, outstanding player, defensive line was outstanding, and above it all, Jabrill Peppers proved that he was the best player today, in today’s game.
“We don’t win that game without Jabrill Peppers. And also a great team effort. As you were talking about, fighting back and making enough—enough good players making enough good plays. The field position Jabrill got us on special teams. Again, that’s a team effort, but wow. He was making the difference; return for a touchdown and then the field position he was giving us.
“Blocked punts; our special teams unit was our finest unit out there today. Accounted for 14 points plus the blocked punt field position and the punt return field position. It was good. It was really good. The best part of playing football’s competing. I thought both teams did an outstanding job of competing at a very high level today.”
[More after THE JUMP]
Kyle [Kalis] last night was saying people shouldn’t panic about the run game after Saturday.
“No! You know, I was truly flattered, to tell you the truth. When you load the box like that and you send that many pressures it means you’ve done something. You’re doing something that’s making people take notice. Most defensive coordinators, hell or high water, they will not let you beat them running the ball. It’s a demoralizing feeling to be beat up front in the run game, so most people say, ‘If you’re going to beat us, beat us in the pass game.’
“Like I told my backs, I said, ‘Look, don’t look at the numbers on the board. Look at what they did to take this away, and take that in pride and [to] heart. The offensive line is blocking like madmen up front for us and we’re taking holes and making them into big gains. Take that to heart. Feel good about that.’ Hey, when a team comes in saying ‘we want to stop the run,’ that means you’re doing something. So the run game, not worried about it.”
You spread the carries around; no one had more than 10. Was that just to see if anyone had a different take on it and could do something, or was that--
“No, that was just something Coach Harbaugh came up with and just wanted to keep the guys rolling, keep them fresh. No more than that.”
Were there things that you saw that they did that maybe we couldn’t notice in terms of what they did? I guess De’Veon breaking the tackles was significant, but--
“Each guy kind of—Chris [Evans] is quick. He gets in there, made a couple of moves. Been able to use his ability in terms of quickness to make some guys miss [and] create some separation. Ty [Isaac] is a guy that can lean on some people and push the pile. But anything or one thing in particular that separated them? Not really. It was just a game where we just needed to get the tough yards. There was going to be some creases in there where if it was three it was going to be a tough three. The old three yards and a cloud of dust, that’s basically what it was. Or a cloud of rubber, rather, as a matter of fact. That’s what it was.”
What do you see from the rest of the room when you put the tape on and De’Veon, he’s breaking seven tackles and getting a first down on that one run. Do you tell the guys ‘This is it, right here’?
“In terms of what?”
[Hit THE JUMP to resolve this cliffhanger, as well as more on the Four Horsemen or Four-Headed Monster or whatever you prefer calling Michigan’s stable of RBs]
How’s your group doing through two games?
“Not bad. They’re doing okay. I thought the first two games we were challenged a little bit and I thought they handled it pretty well.”
Colorado’s got some receivers that are a little bit more of challenge…?
“Yeah, this’ll definitely be more of a challenge than the first two games. No disrespect, but it is what it is. They’re better receivers and the quarterback is a much better quarterback. He’s a guy that actually has time to throw, and he’s got three or four good guys to throw to.”
Clark’s had to step up. Talk about what your evaluation of him is.
“Yeah, Jeremy’s done a great job. And since spring. He’s been very steady and he’s improved. He had a couple glitches last year we’ve been working to get out and he’s trying to get ‘em out. He’s doing well.”
Is Jeremy a natural corner? He’s only played it for a year.
“He’s definitely the safety body, for sure. I think a lot of teams would love to have a corner with that length, and certainly his size and strength. Like I said, from moving from safety he did have a couple little glitches that he had in his game with his feet at corner. It’s a totally different deal, especially with all the pressing we do when you’re up in people’s faces. He’s starting to get it down. He’s working hard at it for sure.”
When you moved him in the first place, why did you do it?
“I think just because of the lack of depth at corner, and, you know, we had some guys at the safety position. I’d just say the lack of depth more than anything.”
[After THE JUMP: Jourdan Lewis’ health, eye discipline, and where Stribling’s improved]