10/31/2015 – Michigan 29, Minnesota 26 – 6-2, 3-1 Big Ten
ONE. We've got a radio show now so I've been listening to sports talk radio even when Sam and Ira aren't on. I do it to compare and maybe get better and maybe draw confidence from the fact that a lot of sports talk radio is outrageously bad. The parts that aren't are often outrageously robotic. WTKA has a bunch of NFL stuff now that they switched to CBS, and it's on when I go to and from our podcast on Sunday; sometimes I catch it on a Thursday.
Tom Brady was on. Jim Gray actually asked him a lot of pointed questions about the upcoming game against the Colts and whether he had a desire to rain unholy fire upon those bastards. Brady responded with the passion of an accountant. I would chalk this up to Brady's flat affect, but I've seen player after player descend into this anodyne non-existence. This is a a league that spent most of the offseason discussing the Ideal Gas Law, after all—even if they didn't know they were doing so. It's just a thing. Colleges teach it but it doesn't take all the way. The NFL perfects it, along with the slant.
TWO. Minnesota has not been good for literally 50 years. Their blips to the positive aren't even Illinois blips. Every decade Illinois will show up in a BCS-level game; the Minnesota coach with the best winning percentage since 1944 is one Glen Mason, who the Gophers fired so they could hire Tim Brewster.
THREE. In 2005 I was pretty mad after a weird game where the Michigan Stadium scoreboards fritzed out and Jim Herrmann called a blitz on which Prescott Burgess, a 230-pound linebacker, was tasked with two-gapping a 270-pound monster TE. When I get mad I tend to be mad about everything, but when Lawrence Maroney rushed out to midfield and planted the biggest damn Minnesota flag in existence I was just like "yeah, go ahead, you earned that."
Sixty-plus Gopher players stormed across that field to reclaim the Jug without considering decorum, sanity, or sportsmanship. Michigan had just lost a game mostly because they called a blitz so telegraphed that a petrified backup QB could check them into a 50-yard run and I had enough non-hate in my heart to genuinely enjoy the fervor with which the Gophers reclaimed Fielding Yost's 30-cent chunk of crockery.
FOUR. Last year the Little Brown Jug went on a tour of the state of Minnesota.
This was a good idea.
FIVE. Jerry Kill retired last week because he could no longer control the seizures his cancer had bestowed upon him. Jerry Kill talks like a NASCAR driver. He comes by his coachspeak honestly, and when Tracy Claeys was again thrust into a role he probably never thought he'd be in—Kill tends to buy and hold assistants until the end of time—he sounded 100% like Jerry Kill.
It was awkward. It was stilted. It was genuine as hell. He told his kids not to play with emotion because emotion evaporates but to play with passion because passion sticks and I was just like YOU MAY BE SAYING THIS LIKE TOM BRADY SAYS THINGS BUT I KNOW THAT FEEL.
SIX. Junior Hemingway, just shouting and weeping after the Sugar Bowl.
SEVEN. Jerry Kill.
EIGHT. Michigan won a football game that often doubled as an exercise in hilarious improbability. Michigan gave up a 52-yard touchdown after Jeremy Clark executed the platonic ideal of coverage against a corner route. With 19 seconds left in a football game, Minnesota spent 17 seconds on a series of elaborate motions on first and goal from the half-yard line.
Football is weird and terrible and sometimes it gets you to within a half-yard of a cathartic, wonderful victory and then says "nah." Sometimes when you're 2-and-a-billion after always being good your walk-on QB dials up a bunch of incredible throws and you go grab the Little Brown Jug with a newfound respect for its importance. Football, above all, is cruel.
NINE. If you are a Minnesota fan on a bitter Monday indeed, here is the equivalent of Lawrence Maroney planting a flag. It is Jon Falk, the recently retired and legendary Michigan equipment manager, welcoming his favorite 30-cent crockery back home.
It hurts, but that means something. That is a thing that is real. It is a reflection of Jerry Kill killing himself to be in this game and dying because he has to leave it.
TEN. I've always hated THIS IS MICHIGAN a bit because it reminds me of going to Penn State in 2006 and having their chintzy-ass scoreboards proclaim WE'RE PENN STATE… AND THEY'RE NOT. It's not necessarily as bad, but sometimes it tends to AND THEY'RE NOT. I'm not a huge fan of Michigan's excellently-executed James Earl Jones intro video this year because it claims a bunch of things that should be gestured at instead.
Michigan's great. I love Michigan. I love it all, though. I've been to Georgia and Auburn and Penn State and Ohio State and Minnesota and the feeling of college football is something else. Minnesota hasn't done anything Colin Cowherd would note for 50 years. You could maybe compare them to the Lions, who no one should ever be a fan of.
Except no. Tell me that doesn't matter. Tell me This Is Minnesota doesn't mean anything. We took the Jug and we mostly earned it and that matters to me. It matters to Jabrill Peppers and Jon Falk and Jim Harbaugh and Greg Dooley. It matters because it's college fucking football, and Minnesota means something.
To Michigan, it means the Jug. They got it back on Saturday by the skin of their teeth, and for a program that's had a bit of a rough go of late they'll take it any way they can get it.
Column inspired by Dr. Sap digging up a post-game Bo speech after the 1987 Jug game:
A half hour version that must be most of the game from WD:
Parking God has a more reasonable length reel:
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 Jabrill Peppers had a 40 yard KO return, a 40 yard punt return, two PBUs, a near pick-six, a rushing touchdown, a reverse set up by everyone fretting about Peppers, a pass interference call drawn—Peppers played nearly 100 snaps and was instrumental in all three phases of the game.
#2 Maurice Hurst didn't actually pop up in the box score much but he was frequently in Leidner's grill; on the final stand he blew up the pass protection on the first play and was one of a few different Wolverines whipping their dudes up front. Actually in the box score: he had a critical TFL that forced Minnesota to kick a short field goal.
#3 Drake Johnson didn't get many carries but was by far the most effective runner Michigan had; other guys had lanes but didn't take advantage of them. Hoping to see more of him going forward.
Honorable mention: Chesson and Darboh both had nice days. Glasgow again contributed to mostly good run defense.
9: Jourdan Lewis (#1 UNLV, #1 Northwestern, #1 MSU), Jabrill Peppers(#2 BYU, #2 Northwestern, #2 MSU, #1 Minnesota)
5: Chris Wormley(#2 Utah, #1 Oregon State)
4: Maurice Hurst (#2 Maryland, #2 Minnesota)
3: Jake Butt (#1 Utah), De'Veon Smith(#2 Oregon State, #3 BYU), Ryan Glasgow (#1 BYU), Desmond Morgan (#1 Maryland),
2: Ty Isaac(#2 UNLV), Willie Henry(#3 Utah, #3 MSU).
1: AJ Williams (#3 Oregon State), Channing Stribling(#3 UNLV), Blake O'Neill(#3 Maryland), Jake Rudock(#3 Northwestern), Drake Johnson(#3 Minnesota)
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
This week's best thing ever.
Form a f-ing wall.
— Ace Anbender (@AceAnbender) November 1, 2015
Honorable mention: Speight throws the go-ahead touchdown and then converts for two; Peppers has the ball in his hands.
Utah: Crazy #buttdown.
Oregon State: #tacopunts.
UNLV: Ty Isaac's 76 yard touchdown.
BYU: De'Veon Smith's illicit teleporter run.
Maryland: Jehu Chesson jet sweeps past you.
Northwestern: Chesson opening KO TD.
MSU: the bit where they won until they didn't.
Minnesota: form a f-ing wall.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
This week's worst thing ever.
Channing Stribling gets beat over the top for what seems like the game-winning touchdown, until it was not.
Honorable mention: Mitch Leidner hurling the ball downfield on throws that are very bad ideas only for those to be complete anyway. Rudock underthrows another deep ball by 20 yards.
Utah: circle route pick six.
Oregon State: Rudock fumbles after blitz bust.
UNLV: Rudock matches 2014 INT total in game 3.
BYU: BYU manages to get to triple digit yards in the last minutes of the game.
Maryland: Slog extended by deflected interception at Houma.
Northwestern: KLINSMANN OUT
Minnesota: The bit where the lost it until they didn't.
[After THE JUMP: fluky fluky fluky.]
Bye week, remember. UFRs are delayed as I take the annual breather from the grind. These might be a little later than usual (Thurs/Friday in non-Hoke-doom-spiral years), but it's on its way.
Henry was fierce Saturday [Eric Upchurch]
The difference. PFF grades the game:
–In a direct contrast to the Spartans’ signal caller, Michigan quarterback Jake Rudock (-3.0) struggled once again. He brought his grade down to -20.9 on the year, and didn’t look great even when he was completing passes. On 3rd-and-9 with 5:42 left in the third quarter, he underthrew wide receiver Amara Darboh on a go route, turning a potential touchdown into a play where the receiver had to save the reception.
Ouch. Another PFF article notes that they have Rudock the 7th-worst quarterback nationally in their grading system.
The Michigan defense has been on another level this year, with standouts on the defensive line in Chris Wormley (+25.3) and Maurice Hurst (+25.8), at linebacker in Desmond Morgan (+17.0) and at cornerback with Jourdan Lewis (+16.7). Before the loss to Michigan State they had posted three straight shutouts and yet, with Jake Rudock’s (-20.9) struggles at quarterback, they find themselves on the outside looking in when it comes to the College Football Playoff picture. Our seventh-lowest graded player at the system, he has graded positively just once all year.
I don't think he's been that bad—I'm guessing PFF is dumping all of the collective WR/QB issues on Rudock since they must be going over these games as quickly as possible given the sheer volume of work they've given themselves. But he has not been good. We can definitely say that.
Not much more to do here than shrug at Hoke's QB recruiting and ponder the future.
In other PFF grade things. Both DLs grade every high, as did Michigan's LB corps. Ben Gedeon's most extensive playing time to date resulted in a solid +3.4 just behind Morgan. That's good for next year, and possibly the rest of this year.
Henry led the way for M despite the personal foul; you can see the implied struggles of Michigan's tackles in the grades of Calhoun and McDowell. Both Lewis and Burbridge graded out positively, which pretty much.
Still. "Michigan is not going to the college football playoff because of one glaring personnel deficiency" is a lot better than "Michigan is not going to the college football playoff because hahahahaha
what would that score even look like
they'd have to invent new numbers
they've already invented all of them
So we've got that going for us.
Finally PFF thing that doesn't really have anything to do with PFF. In the second article I learned that Utah State has a defensive end named "Kyler Fackrell" who I really wish played for BC.
Advanced stats. The Connelly box score is kind of amazing. Michigan and MSU had 13 possessions and on average Michigan had a 14-yard advantage in field position. That is a whopping 182 yards almost entirely due to special teams, and that's how you lead a team that's outgained you by 160 yards until that thing happened.
Another item of note: M brutalized the MSU ground game, which had a "success rate" of 23%. Michigan was at 40%; national average is 42%. MSU made up for it in the air.
Michigan's five man cover one pressures. M has been running a ton of man free blitzes this year. James Light with a comprehensive breakdown of them:
When you have the personnel to hold up in the secondary in man coverage, Cover 1 Rat is very tough on quarterbacks and offenses in general, which is why this is the favorite coverage of Alabama head coach Nick Saban, “Man free, rat in the hole is the best coverage involved, absolutely the best coverage involved. They can’t run the ball, the quarterback has to throw the ball outside, and he can’t make any easy throws like when you play zone.”
Michigan ran into a team that was very, very good at hitting those tough outside throws and still had to eat a 75-yard fancy play coverage bust to give up 21.
The Raiders will double that respect. Harbaugh on the usual NFL rumors:
Harbaugh was asked Tuesday on the Big Ten coaches teleconference if it "bothers" him to hear his name tossed around in speculative circles with regard to other head coaching jobs.
His answer was simple.
"I won't comment on it, it's disrespectful to the game," he said. "I look at it as disrespectful."
I wouldn't run to the Har-bank with that since it's pretty much what he was saying last year when the 49ers were approaching the end of their season. This got headlined as "Jim Harbaugh says it's 'disrespectful' to mention his name for other coaching jobs," which is not quite what he said. To me he's saying, its disrespectful to the game to talk about taking other jobs when there is a season going on.
I don't think Harbaugh's leaving. He's definitely not leaving until he feels he's done right by Michigan. But if it should come to that a comment like the above is no more than a slightly more aggressive version of the usual deflection.
The cord cutting is
coming ongoing. ESPN has started shedding high-priced talent as their six-bucks-from-every-granny-who-only-watches-Matlock model starts to implode. Now the cuts have gone wider:
Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN sports network, confronting rising programming costs and a loss of viewers, plans to eliminate as many as 350 positions, about 4.3 percent of its workforce, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
No, Stephen A. Smith won't be among them.
I hope the Big Ten enjoys this brief window in which the paltry Rutgers and Maryland fanbases are a net benefit to the bottom line—and only the bottom line—of the conference. It is not going to last much longer.
Louisville thing. It sounds not at all subtle.
A book, "Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen,"published this month by self-described former escort Katina Powell, 42, details nearly two dozen stripping and sex parties from 2010 to 2014 inside Billy Minardi Hall, the on-campus dorm for athletes and other students named for Louisville men's basketball head coach Rick Pitino's late brother-in-law. Powell, who first spoke to Indianapolis Business Journal Book Publishing, has said that McGee arranged the parties and paid her $10,000 for supplying dancers during the time period.
That is not a thing that you can reasonably say "I had no knowledge of X" about. If Rick Pitino was ignorant of five-digit payouts for dozens of sex parties that is also grounds for a firing. It should be obvious "lack of institutional control," but NCAA enforcement is a magic eight ball.
Very Harbaugh. One day after the MSU game he was at the White House. Obama:
He says Barack Obama watched Saturday's 27-23 loss to the Spartans and told the coach it "was a tough way to lose a football game."
Not yet please. Mike Spath talked to some NFL scouts and they are not blind.
At 5-10, 175 pounds, Lewis is smaller than ideal, but at least three scouts to have attended Michigan games this season told TheWolverine.com that the Detroit Cass Tech alumnus had earned a first-round grade from them.
"Some teams will shy away because they draft almost solely on physical traits but a kid like him, with that competitive fire, and an ability to make a play on the ball in the air, is really appealing," one of the observers noted.
Henry and Wormley are also attractive NFL prospects; the best shot Michigan has on offense is Jehu Chesson, if and when Chesson gets some polish. Hopefully they'll stick around for their senior seasons; if they do this epic defense will probably see a repeat next year.
A time-tested mantra I've found myself resorting to over my years of watching sports is a simple one, but resonant: Things happen.
Michigan completes a Hail Mary against Northwestern in 2012. Colorado completes a Hail Mary against Michigan in 1994. Yin and yang, a grand swinging pendulum of Fortune, karma, mindless spinning of a dimpled, brown prolate spheroid through wind and rain and snow and the sun's reaching rays in the Midwestern fall.
Would not have managed to go with "things" there. Good man.
Etc.: Brief Victor Viramontes video profile. Maize and Blue Nation on 100 Years of Moe's. Aubrey Dawkins was only recruited by Michigan and Dayton. Remember that this year. Accurate. Moritz Wagner is here, German. You can apparently vote TE commit Sean McKeon into the UA game.
Jake Rudock and Desmond Morgan
Jake, kind of tough sledding for you guys out there offensively. Just talk about their defense and what they did.
“Obviously they’re a really good defense. They’ve shown that through a number of years now and this year. They work hard, well coached, and it’s [mumbles].”
Can you put into words losing that way?
DM: “I mean, it sucks. I don’t know if there’s any other way to put it. Obviously credit to them. They fought through the final whistle and played fought the entire game but yeah, it hurts.”
Desmond, obviously you guys knew how important to stop the run was. What did you guys do to take that away from them today?
“Just played. We didn’t really change anything up too much. You know, we knew that they had the ability to run the ball out of some personnels that normally indicated pass so we put in some things to address that but other than that we just played our base defense.”
It’s obviously a disappointing loss, but just given what you guys have shown this season is this something that you feel like is going to snag you the rest of the way or is this something that really can serve as motivation?
JR: “Can’t let it snag you. Just have to learn what we can learn from this game. Look and remember it’s one game. Obviously it’s very disappointing and hard to look at anything else right now but yeah, you’ve just got to keep fighting. Can’t let one loss lead to two.”
Is there any consolation knowing that it did come down to a fluky play, that you guys did play well enough to win this game?
JR: “As far as I’m concerned a loss is a loss regardless of what happens.”
Jake, any thoughts on maybe some missed opportunities? You had possession right before the half on their side of the field. Is this the type of game where you think about series that might have gone differently?
“Right now I can’t really address that. Obviously every series you want to go down and put points on the board, but that’s not going to happen. That’s not realistic football, so obviously we’ll see on film what we can improve on.”
Desmond Morgan and Joe Kerridge
Joe, can you talk about being able to touch the ball, carry the ball and what a thrill that is?
“It’s really- over the years, looking at the fullback position it’s a lot of blocking- a lot of blocking- and so getting to touch the ball every once in a while is an awesome thing for us fullbacks. Sione’s been doing a great job. It’s a different twist in the game now and it’s something we really like to do.”
You guys probably haven’t had a lot of practices yet, but has there been an early message from Jim about how to prepare for this game? You guys have been moving up the rankings, people are talking College Football Playoff- how do you not let that get to your head?
DM: “After the game on Saturday we addressed it being a trophy game and being a big game for us, but as far as that we meet this afternoon in probably about thirty minutes or an hour. We’ll get more down to it then.”
When do you recall the countdown clocks coming down, and what do you think about that?
DM: “I don’t remember exact dates or anything like that. As far as thoughts on it, I think the whole mindset this year’s just been approach the next game, just go out and try to win the next game. So, for us in terms of countdown clocks or to count down to a certain game, it’s just basically been the next Saturday.”
Your thoughts on Jake [Rudock]. The steadiness obviously has been kind of a theme for him. This is a big game. Just your thoughts on having a quarterback who seems pretty level-headed through six weeks.
JK: “Yeah, Jake’s done a great job. He’s a student of the game, for sure. I try to get around him as much as I can. He’ll come up to me in the locker room after practice, he’ll already have watched the practice and come up and give me some pointers or something like that; he’ll critique something, or something like that. He’s shown great strides and it’s great to see a quarterback that loves the game as much as he does.”
[After THE JUMP: Jake Butt and Jourdan Lewis]
We’ve heard a lot of guys say you tell them to stamp their personality on the defense. When did you start using that?
“I don’t know for sure when. Some time ago. I think it’s just a way for me to describe to those guys that-I mean, I think it’s important to play with a personality. You were recruited here for reasons that are good. Don’t change that. We don’t want robots. Keep playing the way you play, obviously within the scheme and what we do, but play the way you play the game. I think that’s important.”
They also say they believe in what they’re being given now, and that gives them more confidence. Can you talk about, as a coach, watching that process take place?
“Yeah. I just- I’m really proud of our guys of how hard they’ve been playing. That’s the biggest thing to me is playing with effort and playing with the technique we’re talking about, and so any time you get a group of guys that are believing in one another and playing for one another then I think you have a chance to have something special, and I think they’re starting to understand what that means.”
Any similarities between Oregon State’s offense and Northwestern’s
“Yeah, I think too often spread teams are all clumped together like, ‘Oh, they’re a spread team or a one-back team.’ I think there’s always a lot more differences that apply within those offenses than what some might say. Northwestern’s definitely unique in what they do and they’re really good at what they do. I mean, they’ve had that system there for a while and they do a great job. You can tell their players know what’s going on and know where they want to go.”
What are some of those unique things?
“Just…they’re committed to the run game. They’re a physical group. They’re committed to the run game, and they do a great job of changing up formations and personnel and all that but at the end of the day they want to run that ball, and they do a great job of it.”
You do some hands-on teaching. They said you get in the drills sometimes and show them stuff. Is that something that you’ve always kind of felt people learn better that way or it keeps you engaged or why do you do that?
“I don’t know. I’ve probably never but that much thought into it other than I think just what we said about stamp your personality as a player. I think you do the same thing as a coach, you know, and that’s…I don’t know. That’s just me. I like being hands-on and being involved in it. I like being high energy. Whatever your personality is, if you’re true to it I think that usually gets a response.”
[After THE JUMP: Nothing else about robots. Cyborgs maybe, but not robots. Fine, no cyborgs either. But defense, yes. Definitely some talk about the defense.]
You know, Matt was just like "if I sponsor this you have to do them all for the whole season" and I was like "okay but you know that was going to be likely since now I am not going to be overwhelmed with sadness two-thirds through" and then he made some sort of intimidating hand gesture. But his heart is in the right place?
FORMATION NOTES: At this point Michigan has few formation surprises. They're usually in a nickel. They alternate between three or four fronts. One is a three man line with the buck in a two point stance as a 3-4 OLB:
30 nickel slide
One splits the DEs a bit further and tucks the buck in behind the NT:
And then they run a lot of standard four man fronts.
Some of the four man lines will have the buck in a two point stance; I still denote those as four man lines based on the alignments of the DL.
Michigan swaps mostly between man under with one or two deep safeties and a cover three with a few different variants.
PERSONNEL NOTES: Standard rotation up front with Henry/Glasgow/Wormley in front of Charlton/Hurst/Godin. Henry got a lot of playing time after a couple weeks in which Godin was more prominent; Hurst probably played the best of anyone. Ojemudia got almost all the buck snaps until he was hurt, and from that point it was RJS.
LB was Morgan and Bolden with a scattering of 4-3 snaps that featured Ross. The secondary did not have Stribling so it was Clark/Peppers/Lewis/Wilson/Hill for the vast majority of the game. When in a 4-3, Clark left. When in a dime, Dymonte Thomas entered.
Michigan continued flipping Peppers and Lewis between outside corner and slot like they did last week.
[After THE JUMP: a defenestration]