i refuse to even consider this a possibility
11/21/2015 – Michigan 28, Penn State 16 – 9-2, 6-1 Big Ten
I have seen things when Michigan plays Penn State. I have seen boggling things. Things I should not repeat but am about to anyway.
I have seen a free Hail Mary handed the opposition. I have seen a timeout just before an intentional safety. I have seen 27 runs for 27 yards. I have seen Michigan's slot receiver left alone, all alone. I have seen a slot receiver wonder if any of these 100,000 people can see him, especially the offensive coordinator. I have seen a slot receiver's constituent atoms disperse as he convinces himself he must not exist after all. Then I saw some more runs for one yard. Somewhere in there Dennis Norfleet dances in a loop for all time, because sure that makes as much sense as anything.
I have been baffled. I have been enraged. I have been morbidly entertained. I have been stupefied, watching Michigan play Penn State.
Things have been a bit frustrating the past few weeks, what with an avalanche of procedure penalties, offsides calls, and special teams mishaps. But when presented with a situation where they did not expect to and could not run the ball much, Michigan did not repeatedly bang their collective head into a brick wall.
Michigan's final drive featured five De'Veon Smith runs and one kneel-down. Five Jake Rudock attempts were sacks or scrambles. Once those are put in the appropriate bins, Michigan ran just 19 times to 43 passes.
Two years ago in that very stadium a complete wreck of an offensive line took on an equally stout Penn State defense. They didn't throw one wide receiver screen. Fitzgerald Toussaint ran 27 times for 27 yards. This year before garbage time time, De'Veon Smith had 8 carries; 6 went to Chesson and Peppers.
Michigan's going to be a good rushing offense. Probably great. But even though that's what Harbaugh wants to do, he adapted to the situation he was presented with. That's terrific.
Coaching can be divided into a few different categories. Development, recruiting, and tactics seem to cover the bases. While Michigan is still struggling with the near-total lack of the former under the previous regime, the latter was totally on point here. Can't say that about two years ago. Or a year ago. While Michigan remains a bit wobbly, a bit rickety, the things they are doing make sense.
Michigan played Penn State on the road and the only stupefying things that happened came from reliable sources like Big Ten referees and James Franklin trying to manage a game. Meanwhile Ohio State played Michigan State in the most stupefying game of the year. Now is the time to sit back and appreciate the fact that things more or less make sense.
It ain't perfect and it'll never be, but Michigan tries a bunch of things and takes what the opposition gives and if something isn't going great they stop doing it. The only time I've gotten really twitchy about tactics was against Indiana when Michigan ran play action on second and twenty that led to an interception. (I was mildly twitchy about Michigan's passivity on Indiana's go-ahead touchdown drive.)
In a world where Ohio State throws 16 times against Michigan State, where Tim Beckman is seen as a viable hire for a position more involved than vending machine*, where every coach in America seems to need a 14-year-old kid who plays Madden nonstop on the sideline, "more or less makes sense most of the time" is gold. Michigan's coaching staff has not punched itself in the face for four hours on any given Saturday, and in the cold light of dawn two days after a stupefying weekend of college football that warms the ol' cockles right up.
*[Not "vending machine technician." Vending machine.]
Also a Butt TD solo clip.
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 Amara Darboh changed the complexion of the game with an outstanding tip-toe catch along the sidelines at the end of the first half. He had six other catches and blocked for a bunch of wide receiver screens, as well.
#2 Chris Wormley was the most consistent and dangerous of Michigan's defensive linemen, racking up 1.5 sacks and another half TFL. Wormley and the rest of the DL gave up one big Saquon Barkley run (mostly on Willie Henry and the linebackers) and shut everything else down, leaving PSU relying on the tempestuous Christian Hackenberg to move the ball.
#3 Jake Rudock threw one ugly interception. When not doing that he completed two-thirds of his passes for 256 yards. 6.7 yards an attempt isn't electric but since a half-dozen or more of those were wide receiver screens that Michigan used in place of a running game that may understate things. Also, Penn State has had one of the best pass defenses in the country to date.
Honorable mention: Jake Butt and Jehu Chesson had 66 and 69 receiving yards, respectively, and along with Darboh have established Michigan's receiving corps as a very good one. Henry, Hurst, and Taco Charlton helped out immensely, minus the Henry cut. Jourdan Lewis remains Jourdan Lewis; his KO return also helped seal the game.
9: Jourdan Lewis (#1 UNLV, #1 Northwestern, #1 MSU), Jabrill Peppers(#2 BYU, #2 Northwestern, #2 MSU, #1 Minnesota)
8: Jake Rudock (#3 Northwestern, #1 Rutgers, #1 Indiana, #3 Penn State), Chris Wormley(#2 Utah, #1 Oregon State, #3 Rutgers, #2 Penn State)
5: Jake Butt(#1 Utah, #2 Rutgers)
4: Maurice Hurst (#2 Maryland, #2 Minnesota),
3: De'Veon Smith(#2 Oregon State, #3 BYU), Ryan Glasgow (#1 BYU), Desmond Morgan (#1 Maryland), Amara Darboh(#1 PSU)
2: Ty Isaac(#2 UNLV), Willie Henry(#3 Utah, #3 MSU), Jehu Chesson(#2 Indiana)
1: AJ Williams (#3 Oregon State), Channing Stribling(#3 UNLV), Blake O'Neill(#3 Maryland), Drake Johnson(#3 Minnesota), Delano Hill(#3 Indiana).
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
This week's best thing ever.
Jourdan Lewis rips off a 60-yard kickoff return after Penn State draws within five, setting up a short field that Michigan drives for a game-sealing TD. Better is that he called his shot with Harbaugh beforehand.
Honorable mention: Darboh's tip-toe catch. #Buttdown. Harbaugh strippin' rage. Any number of sacks and TFLs.
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.
Rutgers: Peppers as Denard.
Indiana: Delano Hill seals it with a PBU.
PSU: Jourdan Lewis breaks their back on a kickoff.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
This week's worst thing ever.
Ohio State tests Michigan State's secondary twice. In a game of football. Against Michigan State. What are you even doing?
Honorable mention: Punt blocked. Any number of offsides or false start penalties. The touchdown Peppers allowed. Any number of infuriatingly bad calls. That fourth and ten conversion against great Lewis coverage.
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.
Rutgers: KO return given up.
Indiana: run run run run run run run run run run run run.
PSU: OSU's WHAT ARE THOOOOOOSE gameplan against MSU.
[After THE JUMP: defense back, Rudock maintaining.]
Upon Further Review still has a sponsor.
I was going to tell a story about how Matt invented the mortgage in 1745 but given the persnickety legal details that come with being a broker I think that might actually be heinously illegal, so I'll have to skip it. When Matt talks to lawyers about running within the bounds of the law it seems like he gets tossed a dusty 500-page tome and is told to memorize it. So our story dies before it can even live. But at least you can be secure in your decisions when it comes to owning a home, amirite?
FORMATION NOTES: Michigan didn't do much that was out of the ordinary for them. Indiana was very aggressive.
They had a standup end similar to the buck spot; I still interpreted him as a DE.
PERSONNEL NOTES: Pretty standard at this point. Smith, Houma, and Johnson got the only tailback snaps. Bunting has fallen out of the TE rotation. When they need a third guy they go with Hill or Poggi. Newsome only on goal line plays.
Ways got a few snaps but it was almost all Darboh and Chesson plus Perry in three wide sets.
[After THE JUMP: Rudock does okay-ish.]
Upon Further Review still has a sponsor. Hey man the feds are going to raid your meth lab. Or raise rates. I'm not sure which agency we're talking about. Unless they're the same one, which would be weird but again we are talking about an entity that thinks alcohol, tobacco, and firearms are pretty much the same thing. I disagree, feds.
What was I talking about again?
Oh, right: low rates won't be quite as low in the near future if you're on the fence.
FORMATION NOTES: Nothing weird in this one. This will be a pattern, as Michigan put the toys away for the most part. The screens were not anything super clever; other than the fullback wheel this was almost all things already put on film.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Exceptions from the usual routine were few and far between in this one. Smith and Johnson were the main tailbacks; Houma got a couple carries that must have induced déjà vu in Rudock. Green and Shallman got in some in garbage time.
Tight end was mostly Butt and Williams; Hill got a few snaps. Bunting may have gotten in once or twice, his playing time has dipped significantly. Wouldn't read too much into that since Williams is doing well.
WR was Darboh, Chesson, and Perry. I don't think Ways played. Newsome got a half-dozen snaps as an extra OL.
[After THE JUMP: accurate Iowa Rudock is a good thing.]
Same as it ever was. Nothing changes.
— Michigan's Past (@MichiganHist) November 9, 2015
The king stay the king. Harbaugh twitter will always be delightful.
Remembering the captain and crew of the Edmund Fitzgerald today. God Bless You and Yours! https://t.co/OZl3bMYWuy
— Coach Harbaugh (@CoachJim4UM) November 10, 2015
If you do not listen to this song, this whole song, he will find you.
The equivalent Harbaugh story here is doing pushups with mom at 3 AM. De'Veon Smith was on Inside Michigan Football last night, and said things that make you… uh… notice a contrast between recent Michigan coaching staffs. For one:
"Coach Hoke was a great coach, he meant a lot to me," Smith said. "He came over to my house one day and literally just fell asleep on the couch."
I hope this was unannounced. De'Veon Smith comes home finds that one of his windows is broken. Inside, Brady Hoke is splayed out on the couch covered in cheeto dust and pinecones. Smith ventures a poke in an attempt to wake Hoke up; Hoke mutters "I am the cheesemaster" and rolls over, inert. There he stays for the winter. When he awakes he demands to see the "cheesekeeper" and runs into the forest.
"I guess until this year I wasn't really taught properly how to pass protect and what are my keys exactly," Smith said. "And (running backs) coach (Tyrone) Wheatley is instilling that into in all the running backs.
"In previous years, we tried to cut-block somebody. We weren't aiming at the right spot to cut down somebody and now coach Wheatley has taught us to get up on them and get low on them whenever we have to cut them. All the coaching points are definitely the main difference from this offense and last year's offense."
Smith has been excellent in pass protection this year. Michigan ran a couple of smash combos in the Rutgers game in which he was tasked with cutting an unblocked DE and did it with aplomb.
Mizzou chaos. Mizzou's president resigned, their chancellor also got booted, and because the football team decided they'd join the protest several people are poking me to talk about it. So here we go. Hold on to your butts.
- If you don't understand what's going on, Bill Connelly's explainer is the best that I've found. I still fail to grasp why a few unrelated racial incidents—one of which saw the perpetrator expelled—blew up like it has, but the impression given off by the Connelly piece is that the upper echelons of Mizzou were taken over by Brandon types with an eye on the bottom line and the incorrect assumption that they had infinite political power. Yanking grad student (read: teacher) health insurance the day before classes is a Total Brandon Move. The inciting incidents here were a spark in a dry forest, to borrow Mark Bernstein's analogy.
- The football team joining the protest promises to be a watershed moment. The president was likely on his way out anyway, but for the axe to fall so quickly after the football team announced a boycott indicates the latent power athletes have. Mizzou was about to get hit very hard financially because the football team simply decide to not do stuff. That is power.
- This is still far away from the dread strike-for-money that will happen in the next decade, probably at the Final Four. The climate on the Mizzou campus during a campus-wide protest the aftermath of Ferguson is going to be a lot different than the climate if a team says it simply wants a piece of the pie. Whatever team does that is going to get it from both barrels nationwide. Mizzou's football team has largely been praised by non-ideological* media.
- Gary Pinkel trying to walk it back afterwards by saying it was about nothing other than the health and well-being of the student on a hunger strike is disappointing. If you're going to do it, do it. That's some phony PR right there.
The merits of the protest, its interpretation of what the First Amendment means, and the larger campus climate nationwide are outside the scope of this blog until such time as Michigan gets stuck in a similar morass. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.
*[yes yes all media is ideological especially that newspaper or that website here's a cookie]
Okay, Bill Plaschke. I'd link Drew Sharp if he was talking to Keith Jackson.
It is a voice still so memorable, people still call his home and hang up just to hear his greeting.
"If you're calling the Jacksons, you have succeeded," the voice says. "Help yourself."
I don't think that's how it works. The idea of a medical redshirt for Mario Ojemudia came up again:
Elsewhere, Harbaugh said Monday that the team is still in the process of appealing for an extra year of eligibility for injured senior buck linebacker Mario Ojemudia. The 6-foot-2, 252-pounder suffered season-ending Achilles tendon injury during the second half of the team's fifth game of the year -- a 28-0 win at Maryland.
Per the NCAA rulebook, medical hardship waivers (also known as medical redshirt years) can only be obtained (in a team sport) if three separate conditions are met. The injury must occur during one of the player's four seasons of eligibility, the injury has to have taken place prior to the second half of the player's season and the player has not participated in more than three contests (or 30 percent) of his or her season.
Ojemudia appeared in five games, which is obviously more than three/30 percent. Still, Harbaugh said the process of an appeal is still ongoing.
"There's an appeal process," Harbaugh said. "It's a process."
I assume this will get shot down because the NCAA has been very strict about keeping that rule intact, especially since they moved from 25% to 30% a few years back. I'd be really surprised if Michigan wins here.
Kickering, evaluated. SBN Auburn blog College & Magnolia piles field goal attempts from the last decade into a couple of graphs in an effort to evaluate kickers by the worth of their kickery. Average point value by distance:
Surprised a 50 yarder is a 50/50 proposition but I guess they don't throw you out there if you obviously can't make it.
Gets choppy at the end there for obvious reasons. C&M assigns points relative to expectation for the nation's kickers and finds Kenny Allen in a tie for 40th. That's about right since he's mostly hit mostly short field goals.
There are a couple of problems with this approach, It tends to give guys who don't have a big leg a pass for not attempting long field goals and it might underrate guys who end up with a lot of limited-upside chip shots relative to equivalent kickers who get more valuable attempts.
But it's a good first approximation, and Allen is about what we've seen: above average and not outstanding. FWIW, OSU currently is 116th. Jack Willoughby is 7/11 on the year and hasn't hit one from 40+. Just something to keep an eye on.
Smart Football back. Chris Brown has revived his blog until such time as someone else snaps him up. He talks packaged plays and how defenses are adapting to them:
In the below clip, Mariota is reading the backside inside linebacker — who is unblocked as the backside tackle is blocking out on the defensive end — to decide whether to hand off on an inside run or throw a slant into what should be a vacated area.
Yet even though the linebacker steps up for the run — and thus Mariota’s read takes him to the slant — the nickel defensive back had been reading Mariota’s eyes the entire time and he simply steps in front of the slant for a too-easy pick-six.
Does this mean defenses have figured these plays out? Not even close; one of the many reasons Whisenhunt got fired was because he had only superficially begun integrating these plays into his offense, rather than truly understanding how they fit together. But I’ve seen other examples of plays like this so far this year, and it’s evidence that defenses are catching up. That, of course, shouldn’t be a surprise. In football, nothing stays easy for long.
The Borges-Denard parallels are obvious.
Michigan hasn't had a ton of trouble with packaged plays this year since they tend to play a lot of man, FWIW.
Etc.: List of top uniforms has Michigan #1, Oregon #2, which is kind of an amazing list. Leaders have leadership. Dedicating Yost Field House. The Slippery Rock story. The dumbest game theory decision ever. Probably literally. LeMoyne things. Harbaugh's got it all.
Upon Further Review still has a sponsor. You should really listen to the radio show because Matt has an ad with his kids now where it sounds like they have been dragooned into talk about daddy's business that never fails to crack me up. They just want to play Madden.
FORMATION NOTES: I did an inconsistent job of it this week but I plan on denoting all 6 OL setups with "heavy" going forward. You can deduce which snaps were 6 OL when there are only four skill players listed this week, although I might have missed a couple.
The new things this week were mostly Peppers related. This was "Ace twin TE Peppers H":
This was "Emory Tight":
As a reminder, "Pistol" implies a tailback and a TE so Pistol FB is this:
As far as Minnesota goes they generally went with a 4-3 even or over. The most notable thing about their D was the MLB, who lined up a yard or two deeper than the other guys, as you can see in the above shot.
Also Minnesota's goal line formation was goofy. Just four guys on the line.
I still called this "goal line."
PERSONNEL NOTES: Line per usual with the exception of Grant Newsome, who had several snaps as a sixth OL. Poggi didn't play; he was left home with pneumonia; stay away from Ricky Doyle please. As a result Michigan played largely without an H-back, instead going with a lot of two inline TE sets.
WR was per usual except DaMario Jones got in briefly with Drake Harris out. Ways got a target on the first drive but then was absent; Chesson and Darboh got almost all the PT, with Perry the third guy in three WR sets.
Isaac and Higdon did not play at RB, where it was mostly Smith early and mostly Johnson late with some Derrick Green in the first half.
[After THE JUMP: here is Speight to save the day / no he shouldn't be the starter]
Upon Further Review still has a sponsor. I'm late today so I'm just going to tell you that Matt's a good guy and did my loan and Seth's loan and everything was easy and professional. We are associating our name with his and that is something we are very comfortable with.
FORMATION NOTES: The director was one of those guys who fancies himself Stanley Kubrick so we never got a proper shot of what M was doing presnap on the Peppers sweep:
You'll note that M only has four OL; Cole is lined up outside of DeVeon Smith. This was "shotgun empty tight" but that's insufficient to describe it, really.
This with 3TEs and a WR in a wing spot was "Ace tight":
And M pulled out another goofy split line setup. Cole is one of the WRs to the top; Williams is the "right tackle". "Emory 3-wide," I said, and took another antacid:
PERSONNEL NOTES: The usual at most of the spots except Michigan whittled down the number of guys who played at the skill positions. Johnson and Green are on the participation list but didn't get carries; I don't remember them playing at all. Higdon and Isaac did get carries, but sparingly.
At WR it was almost all Darboh and Chesson and then they added in Harris or Perry in 3 or 4 wide sets. TE was about the usual.
[After THE JUMP: opportunities untaken]