this may be of some local interest
9/26/2015 – Michigan 31, BYU 0 – 3-1
HALP [Eric Upchurch]
"We were dominated in every facet, their defense over our offense. Every guy, every play. That thing was a shellshock, from the first snap right though the last."
–BYU offensive coordinator Robert Anae, 2015
"If you put a pit bull in a ring with a chihuahua, don't expect the chihuahua to win."
-former PSU WR Chafie Fields, 2006
The last time something like this happened, Alan Branch sent Anthony Morelli to the sidelines muttering about pudding. The year was 2006; Michigan's defense was a flamethrower of a thing. Dudes from it still litter NFL rosters: Branch, Lamarr Woodley, David Harris, Leon Hall, hell, Ryan Mundy. Each level of the defense had an NFL Pro Bowler on it. Lloyd Carr had finally, agonizingly made a switch from Jim Herrmann to Ron English, and things took off.
This was right after 2005, the 7-5 year one idiot Michigan fan dubbed "the year of infinite pain" because the worst thing that had ever happened to him as a sports fan was a light pillow buffeting followed by off-brand ice cream. That year Michigan had coughed up all manner of leads in all manner of ways, culminating in the infamous punt from the Ohio State 34 and the nigh-effortless OSU drive to win that followed. That was a jarring thing, the first gray hair emerging from the program's ear.
Adapting to the reality of the 2006 defense's otherworldliness was gradual, and then sudden. The Penn State game was the seventh that season, and only then was it crystal clear that what was going on was not the usual. It took just four games this season to start wondering about a repeat.
It's hard not to when BYU's coaches are wandering around wondering what blew their clothes off, when their quarterback comes to regard the pocket like it's the Mines of Moria. Here there be Balrogs. A full two-deep of them.
Here's the numbers stuff. Michigan's third in the country in yards per play allowed, behind
- a Boston College team that started the season off with Florida State… and Howard, Maine, and Northern Illinois
- a Kent State team that's only in the conversation because it held Delaware State (remember them?) to –33 yards.
Michigan hasn't given up more than 337 yards in a game; two teams barely crested 100 yards and a third used a fourth-quarter drive to get over 200. The one team that moved the ball a bit on them, Utah, just atomized Oregon. S&P has Michigan fourth. (FEI does not update until week seven.) Michigan's already acquired 32 TFLs, 8th nationally on a per-play basis. Again they are mostly behind teams who scheduled Random Assemblage Of Ants In Helmets State. By any measure Michigan has established itself one of the nation's top defenses a month into the season.
A month is not a year. A number is just a number. But these numbers reflect what we've seen when Michigan has rolled out onto the field. They go seven deep on the defensive line. They have an All-American corner and two more guys coming on, and oh also Jabrill Peppers.
Aside from some blips in coverage against Oregon State none of the results have felt at all fortunate. In fact big chunks of the yards acquired have been batted passes still caught or sacks miraculously spun out of, with a side of NFL throws made under extreme duress. This level of performance is not sustainable, but only because we are currently peeved when the opponent scrapes into triple digits.
Any reasonably sane projection we're in on. We will also consider slightly insane ones.
That 2006 defense sprung leaks. We got a taste of it a couple weeks before Football Armageddon when Michigan ran out to a big lead against Ball State and rested the starters. Johnny Sears fell over a lot, Ball State scored, and scored again, and soon the starters were in desperately trying to prevent a potential tying touchdown in the waning moments.
That was Akron before Akron, and if you want to point a finger to the exact moment when a paranoid observer would have started building a bomb shelter, that was it. The soon-to-be 2007 secondary faced a jankety MAC spread and collapsed.
A couple weeks alter Michigan would go the whole game against soon-to-be Heisman winner Troy Smith with a 4-3 on the field against a spread offense. Chris Graham tried to cover Tony Gonzalez, a future first round draft pick at wide receiver. It went poorly. Michigan gave up 42 points. A couple months later Michigan shut down USC for a half; in the locker room Pete Carroll told his offensive coordinator to stop running the damn ball. USC ripped off 29 second-half points.
2006's Achilles heel—they had one great cornerback, one okay one, and nothing else—was in retrospect obvious but it took a long time to find anyway.
One may be on the way here, but it's hard to figure out what it might be. The spread ineptness that haunted Michigan's manball administrations for a decade and a half is emphatically out the door. If the thing you're exploiting against this secondary is the third and fourth corners on fly routes down the sideline, good luck. If there's an ACHILLES OUT OF NOWHERE here it's probably the sudden degradation of the defensive line if and when they face elite opposition. Even the occasionally iffy linebacker play will probably be fine against the kind of team that seeks to test Michigan there.
And I can't see that happening. We head back to precedents in an attempt to communicate how something feels. It is possible we're not going quite far enough back for this one.
And from the BYU perspective:
Come back here young man who is older than me [Upchurch]
Yet To Be Named Harbaugh-Themed Guys Who Did Good Award.
you're the man now, dog
#1 Ryan Glasgow has somehow not featured on these lists yet. It says all you need to know about Michigan's faith in him that they decided to spend most of the day in dime with 5 or 6 guys in the box. Glasgow collected his usual TFL or two and was the linchpin of a 2.0 YPC performance in the most attractive circumstances possible for a rushing offense.
#2 Jabrill Peppers had his usual TFL, threw a BYU receiver to the ground with authority at the end of the first half, was not beaten in coverage, played (sort of) tiny WLB much of the day, spooked Tanner Mangum into a fumble on one particular blitz, and had two near-electric punt returns. Also, fair catches.
#3 De'Veon Smith ripped off this week's Who's Got It Better Than Us and thundered over 100 yards in the first half. It feels sort of wrong to put any offensive player on this list after that D performance, but I mean… yeah.
Honorable mention: All defensive persons. Darboh.
5: Chris Wormley(#2 Utah, #1 Oregon State)
3: Jake Butt (#1 Utah), Jourdan Lewis (#1 UNLV), De'Veon Smith(#2 Oregon State, #3 BYU), Ryan Glasgow (#1 BYU).
2: Ty Isaac(#2 UNLV), Jabrill Peppers(#2 BYU).
1: Willie Henry (#3 Utah), AJ Williams (#3 Oregon State), Channing Stribling(#3 UNLV)
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
This week's best thing ever.
Absolutely brutal decision this week but have to go with De'Veon Smith teleporting through a pile of players and then posterizing the same defensive back twice.
Honorable mention: Amara Darboh's OBJ impression. Every defensive snap save approximately three of them.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
This week's worst thing ever.
BYU scrapes over 100 total yards on their last drive.
Honorable mention: Rudock doesn't see the fact that Jehu Chesson's guy has fallen down on the first snap. Michigan gets stuffed on a fourth down in the second half. Blake O'Neill goes rogue on a 4th and 16 punt fake.
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.
[After the JUMP: I AM FEELING QUITE POSITIVE THIS WEEK YES SIR]
De’Veon, first tell us, how are you feeling?
“I’m feeling good. You know, I’ve got a boot on right now for precautionary reasons. You know…got a little banged up, but it’s not a big deal. Just trying to get healthier for next week.”
De’Veon, tell me what was going through your mind when you had that 60-yard run for a touchdown and were just going through everybody.
“To be honest, I thought I was down for a second but- then I put my hand down in the ground- but once I got to the second level I knew for a fact I was not letting #15 tackle me, so that kind of made me want to score even more.”
Jake, seemed like the most comfortable you’ve been in the passing game. How much of that is opening up the playbook a little bit and just finally getting comfortable?
“I think it all comes down to really just being comfortable with the calls that Coach has coming in, and having good communication with him, and saying, ‘No, I’d rather go with a different play.’ Just feeling more comfortable with that, and then I think it also goes to the offensive line. They allow you to be comfortable back there and that’s always- it’s really impressive.”
Jake, can you talk about the one-handed grab Amara made and how that came about, and also what it did in terms of energizing the team?
“Yeah, that was a great play by him. He had man coverage; I figured I’d give him a shot and the ball got a little more outside than I wanted it to but he made a great play, and like you said, I think that jumpstarted guys. It was a third-down conversion, I believe, and whenever you can convert third downs it’s always good for the offense.”
[More after THE JUMP]
The secondary and the front seven really seemed to work in concert defending the pass. Can you just talk about the job they both did?
“Yeah, heck of a job. Great to be a part of a shutout. Defensive staff, DJ Durkin and the guys did a great job; players, everybody. When you only give up 105 yards, that’s…I don’t know if I’ve ever been a part of one of those. That’s outstanding in so many areas.
“Picked up two third-down conversions early in the game and the rest of the game it was like 2-of-12, maybe. Thought we did an excellent job on third down. In all aspects, a great defensive ballgame.”
Could you talk about Jake’s [Rudock] day, and particularly his choice to throw the ball away or run if he didn’t see what he liked?
“Yeah. Hey, Mark! Yeah, good to see you.”
[Ed. (Adam): Mark didn’t ask the question. I’ve never seen Mark before.]
“Yeah, really good. I just glanced at the sheet after the game and he was 14- or 15-of-25, something in that area, and there must have been four or five throwaways. I thought he was having fun. I thought he was, you know, playing the game, letting it rip, and got two big scores scrambling, running the football. Great block by Jehu Chesson on the second touchdown. I can’t wait to watch that one on tape. Lead some good, consistent drives even in the second half. Thought the offense did a heck of a job controlling possession of the football; had an 11-play drive and a 12-play drive and scored on the first five possessions. Came out strong.
“Saw some really creative plays. Tim Drevno and Jedd Fisch, you know, really diagrammed some good plays this week and the fellas did a nice job executing them, so a lot of good things. Good team victory.”
Going back to the defense, obviously your guys were consistent from start to finish. What about the 11 punts you had on 12 possessions and seven three-and-outs?
“Yeah, the three and outs, I’m glad you brought that up. We scored the first five times we had the ball offensively, and four of those- four times the defense had three-and-out possessions and then to start the second half it was one right after the other, three and outs. It was very good. Good football team both sides of the ball, so it was good. And we go back to work now. Start conference play this week and we’ll attack it the same way. Big game this week.”
I know you don’t like to talk about yourself much but I’m interested, is the feeling of winning- today would be a day I’d guess that captures why you wanted to come back and coach this team. Is the feeling of winning in an atmosphere like this right now and what you’re going through different than the NFL, and do you watch NFL games anymore? Do you miss anything about it?
“Lot of questions there.”
[After THE JUMP: We had hamburgers it was crazy]
Over the last eight years, Michigan fans have been trained to expect the worst.
Let it be noted that at 2:04 this afternoon, with a half of football left to play, Brian told me to post muppets when the game ended.
To call this a dominant outing undersells Michigan's performance. The Wolverines outgained BYU 448-105. The Cougars eked past the century mark only on their last drive of the game; that represented their only drive that didn't end in a punt.
While the defense shut down BYU, the offense found their footing, scoring all 31 points in the first half on five consecutive drives. Amara Darboh did a spectacular Odell Beckham Jr. impression, then Jim Harbaugh dialed up a double fake screen to free up Khalid Hill up the seam to set up a three-yard touchdown scramble by Jake Rudock. Michigan went up 14-0 on a methodical 10-play, 90-yard drive capped by a short touchdown pass to Darboh.
The next scoring drive went a little quicker thanks to De'Veon Smith, who burrowed into a pile, popped out the other side, then threw a BYU defensive back to the ground in the open field for a 60-yard touchdown.
"I don't know what he did," said Rudock of Smith's run. "But whatever he did, I was hype and happy for him."
Smith finished with 125 yards on 16 carries before exiting early with an ankle injury. He said after the game he expects to play next week. Rudock had his best game as a Wolverine, going 14-for-25 for 194 yards and a touchdown with no turnovers.
Another Rudock touchdown scramble, this one from 17 yards out, and a 40-yard Kenny Allen field goal capped off the scoring.
Meanwhile, the defense made BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum's life miserable. Mangum threw for only 55 yards on 28 attempts; his longest completion came on BYU's first drive when a should-be pick took a fortuitous bounce off Channing Stribling's hands. The cornerbacks played lockdown coverage when Mangum had time to throw, which was rare—Michigan recorded three sacks and had Mangum on the run all day. By the end of the game, he was bailing out of perfectly clean pockets.
BYU's top running back, Adam Hine, broke one carry outside for 29 yards and managed only four on his seven other carries. The Cougars finished with 2.1 yards per play. This may stand as Michigan's most impressive defensive performance since the vaunted 2006 unit, even when accounting for the freshman at quarterback.
It's okay to be encouraged. While BYU had more than their fair share of luck through three games, nobody—not even ninth-ranked UCLA—made them look remotely this inept. The same team that put up 405 yards on the Bruins last week only managed a hundred today because Michigan's backups couldn't run out the clock.
"I had a couple occasions to look up and go 'this is good,'" said Harbaugh.
He was far from alone in that regard.
Evaluate your group after three games.
“Evaluate my group after three games? Getting better, growing, competing, so right there is my three words I would use. Always room for growth, room to get better. Still just trying to solidify the little mistakes, clean the little things up. Just getting better.”
Is it the week of practice that determines who’s getting the carries or the flow of the game or what is it?
“It’s a little bit of both. Week of practice, flow of the game- you never want to go in with concrete [ideas]. Just the week of practice is the overall deciding factor and then the flow of the game. The flow of the game, as the game is going, you kind of make adjustments. You’ve got to be able to make adjustments. Gotta make adjustments.”
Is that what happened on Saturday? I mean, De’Veon was having some trouble and so you said-
“No, De’Veon wasn’t having trouble. It was just the type of defense that they were playing, what they were doing, called for a little different runner.”
“Yeah, style-wise. De’Veon wasn’t having much trouble at all. He was getting the tough yards. You know, he was banging it in there, running tough, running hard, yards after contact- that man gets a lot of yards after contact. He’s doing a great job in that regard. Just needed someone that could slip and slide a little bit and that was it. Just a different style.”
When you talk about cleaning the little things up, what are some of those little things?
“Wouldn’t you like to know.”
/smiles (I think)
[After THE JUMP: Things went well]
Upon Further Review still has a sponsor.
I've been informed to emphasize the rates and accessibility of your loan guy and not so much the pants. I do feel that the pants are an excellent metaphor for those aspects of going with Homesure Lending. But I do as I am told. Also, Matt tells his kids to go to bed at 6 PM so you know he's not to be messed around with.
FORMATION NOTES: This is the "diamond" formation referenced below:
Michigan showed this more than they ran it, often motioning a TE to the side the FB was on.
Meanwhile your weird thing of the week was Tom Strobel, OL:
He is outside of "right tackle" Patrick Kugler with Cole lined up outside of him. This was a failed fourth down conversion that in retrospect probably would have been a touchdown if Smith hadn't fallen over untouched.
As for UNLV was pretty typical:
They spent the day with between 8 and 10 men in the box. Plays on which a safety was at least 10 yards deep were conservative ones.
PERSONNEL NOTES: Starting line was as expected. From left to right he second team line was Bushell-Beatty, Dawson, Kugler, walk-on Ben Pliska, and Bars. Kugler got a couple of snaps with the first team when Michigan went to a goofy seven-man line in the third Q. Tom Strobel, wearing 50, also got in on those plays.
The rest of the rotation was pretty much as before. Smith was the lead back backed up by Isaac and Johnson in that order; Green did not get in until the final drive. It was mostly Kerridge at FB until he got hurt; not much AJ Williams at TE, almost all Butt and Poggi.
Moe Ways got more playing time at WR, but there were not a ton of WR snaps to go around.
[After THE JUMP: selling out on the interior]