spoiler alert: i linked this
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.]
What have you seen from Minnesota on film?
“Real strong, powerful running backs. A good running game. I think we’re going to have our hands cut out for us when we get prepared for Minnesota as far as the running game is concerned.
“An the receivers are good. They have No. 9 and No. 1, which are real flashy receivers. The guys know how to get open. They have really good speed, so it’s going to be a challenge for us on the outside and also in the run game.”
What kind of a quarterback is Mitch Leidner?
“He’s a good quarterback. He manages the game real well. Not flashy, I guess because of the knee injury that he had. Probably not the same, but we’re still on the alert for him running the football. He’s a good, solid quarterback. He’s got some good receivers and he’s got a good tight end in No. 86 who can stretch the field down the middle, so…you know, I think one of the biggest things we’re going to have to be alert for is a lot of play-passes and bootlegs from these guys.
“Because one thing we have to do, we have to focus on stopping their running game first because once their running game gets going that’s when everything else opens up. They’re a strong team, so we do have to be on the alert for that.”
MGoQuestion: What happened on the 30-yard touchdown pass to Kings and the fullback wheel route against Michigan State?
“Well, it was just one of the plays where our eyes and our linebacker wasn’t focused on the play, and a lot of our guys’ eyes were in the backfield, so it’s just one of those plays that happens. You wish it wouldn’t have happened, but we’ll learn from that from this point on.
“And like I always say and always tell the guys in the back end, it’s all about eye control. If you play with good eye control those plays are going to be at a minimum.”
[After THE JUMP: I get coached up on eye control]
Amara Darboh and Willie Henry
What did you guys work on individually this week and what did you want to address as a team with your bye week?
AD: “We worked on a lot of different things. Me personally, I worked on routes, worked on timing with the quarterbacks and then as a team we just worked on getting better overall.”
WH: “Same on this side of the field. Defensive-wise, we corrected mistakes we had against Michigan State, worked on a lot of techniques, get our hands better, our feet and footwork because technique’s a big part of our game. Just getting better and resting our bodies as much as possible.”
What does your coach have to say to you or what did he have to say to you about perhaps one loss not taking you guys out of the Big Ten race and the forward focus you guys needed to have?
AD: “He told us to focus on us and our team. Depending on whether we won or lost we have to keep on winning, keep on taking every game as if it were the last game and go out and try to compete each game.”
Willie, coach Harbaugh was talking about Jarrod Wilson and his leadership style and how he’s not a guy who’s going to say a lot and how he leads silently. Have you seen that, and in what ways does he lead the defense?
“He’s not a guy who’s a big talker. He’s a doer, so you can see by his work ethic a lot of times what kind of leader he is on and off the field, in the class room and also when we’re off the field in the locker room the kind of person he is, the kind of person who cares for his teammates and wants the best for everyone in that locker room whether it’s the class he came in with or younger guys. He’s always trying to coach somebody and help them and help the team.”
Jon Falk isn’t here any more, so who tells the Jug story every year?
AD: “No one’s told it this year yet, but I think being here for a while we all know the story so now we’ve been telling the younger guys about it and how this is an important trophy game.”
[The rest after THE JUMP]
Upon Further Review is sponsored.
New logo. That's very exciting. Got a house on it and maybe some larger buildings behind it, may be on the periphery of a nice town like Ann Arbor where you can buy ramen at 11 PM if that becomes necessary, albeit while wearing pants. You could live in one of those if you had a mortgage.
Wait a second… I have an idea. You could get one. From Matt. He's got a ticket offer going for a Michigan football or basketball game. If you're buying a home or refinancing, he's the right guy to call.
FORMATION NOTES: This is Joe Bolden as the deepest guy and dropping 15-20 yards back before the snap.
"5-0 nickel LB-S"
M ran this a half-dozen times, usually against empty formations. The presumed goal was to get a DB in man coverage instead of a LB. Northwestern could not depend on enough time in the pocket to test Joe Bolden or Ben Gedeon as centerfielders.
Early Michigan ran fronts that were essentially regular even nickel fronts that had the buck off the line in a two point stance:
"Nickel even off"
That adds more flexibility in coverage, I guess? M shelved it after the first couple drives.
And they often showed a front with five guys on the line:
Most of the time this featured the two guys on the end stunting inside the guys further inside.
PERSONNEL NOTES: Standard rotations at DL. I thought I saw a bit less Godin this week but they have six guys, all of whom play a lot. IIRC, Jenkins-Stone got every snap at buck until the last two drives when Michigan mixed in guys like Watson and Pallante. Lawrence Marshall got in then.
Ben Gedeon got a meaningful drive in the first half. Not sure if that's just trying to work him in or actual Bolden displeasure. Morgan did not come off the field. Ross got maybe a dozen snaps before his ejection; Allen Gant replaced him for a snap or two after.
Secondary lacked Stribling and was the usual Clark/Peppers/Lewis/Hill/Wilson combo, adding Thomas in dime packages.
[After THE JUMP: Durkin donut #3]
Upon Further Review has not yet lost its sponsor.
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FORMATION NOTES: Michigan stuck mostly with its nickel even against a run-oriented spread team. At times either Peppers or Hill would line up as a WLB:
My deeply unsatisfying nomenclature for this was "nickel 4-3." I know this is a nonsense thing to say, but this is the world we live in.
I also don't like calling this a "3-3-5 nickel" since it's really just taking a DE and having him run at the LOS:
I need better lingo for that if you've got it.
M did this some with Frank Clark last year and they're continuing to do it with Ojemudia. I kind of get the idea, but execution so far has been weak.
Oregon State used a lot of H-backs and I designated those with "H" after whatever the formation is. This is Shotgun TE H for the Beavers. Michigan is an actual 4-3 here.
PERSONNEL NOTES: Much the same as the first game, with heavy rotation on the front that justifies the OR next to Matt Godin's name. He played both DE and DT and probably got as much time as either Henry or Wormley. Glasgow probably got the most snaps on the DL; Hurst appearances were infrequent. It was mostly Ojemudia at buck, with a reasonable number of RJS appearances.
Secondary was as in the first game: Lewis, Peppers, Hill, Wilson + Stribling/Clark. When they went to a 4-3 it was Stribling/Clark coming off the field instead of Hill. After Lewis went out it was Stribling and Clark. Dymonte Thomas got some snaps in the dime.
LBs were Morgan and Bolden with Ross coming in for 4-3 snaps; Gedeon and Ross both got a couple drives as ILBs.
[After THE JUMP: short is good]
we have very reasonable expectations [Fuller]
|Free Safety||Yr.||Strong Safety||Yr.||Nickelback||Yr.|
|Jarrod Wilson||Sr.||Jabrill Peppers||Fr.*||Jabrill Peppers||Fr.*|
|Dymonte Thomas||Jr.||Delano Hill||So.*||Wayne Lyons||Sr.*|
|Wayne Lyons||Sr.*||Jabrill Peppers||Fr.*||Dymonte Thomas||Jr.|
So, JARROD WILSON…
Never be too proud to recycle a joke, I say. I know what you animals want. You want the man I've listed on half the depth charts in this preview, most of them at least semi-seriously. You want…
HYBRID SPACE PLAYER: NICKELBACK WITHOUT THE NICKELBACK CONNOTATIONS, YOU KNOW, THE BAND, BOY DOES THAT BAND SUCK THEY'RE JUST NOT GOOD AT MUSIC OR BEING ALIVE
Everyone all together now: the hybrid space player is a reaction to the spread offense. He must be a triple threat, capable of blitzing, playing the run, and covering. He is very very important. They made Charles Woodson into a hybrid space player right before he was the NFL's defensive MVP, because the NFL is basically a passing spread league:
NFL offenses are identifying the nickel corner as a key part of any defense. “This varies from defense to defense, but the amount of your sub package that you play nowadays — because we’re seeing more three wide receivers on the field — your inside player is going to play as many, if not more plays,” Capers says. “You could be in some form of your sub defense two-thirds [of the time].” The number Hayward throws out is 75 percent; Whitt says 80. No matter the math, the point is that the nickel cornerback is as much a “starter” as any other spot in the defensive backfield.
Michigan State's lack of appropriate HSPs last year led their defense to get torched by every decent spread they came across, because said spreads would put their #1 receiver in the slot and run 'em at MSU's inexperienced safeties, who were not cornerbacks. This has been your hybrid space player preview review.
So… JABRILL PEPPERS [recruiting profile]. This is a man that has been hyped to the moon. Tellingly, his coaches aren't trying to put the brakes on. They have in fact shoveled on a little more coal. Harbaugh in spring:
"He’s been A-plus, he really has, all spring. He was just out there taking reps. … A lot of times a guy’ll get in the front of a drill, which he would do, but he would go through the repetition of the drill and I’d see him back in the front again and then again. It’s like, ‘Hey, come on. Jabrill Peppers isn’t taking every rep in these drills.’ But that’s the kind of youngster he is."
Harbaugh again in this fall:
"He's been good, he's been all the things that have been advertised about him. He's a tremendous football player."
The spring game indicated that Michigan had in fact built its defense around him playing HSP/nickel/whatever:
Under Hoke it was difficult to tell who was the strong safety and who was the free safety. That will not be the case this year, as Jabrill Peppers was operating as a lightning fast outside linebacker for big chunks of the game. He tattooed running backs in the backfield more than once.
Peppers barely left that location. When Michigan went to a nickel package they did so by bringing in an extra safety and leaving Peppers over the slot, where he nearly caused an interception by breaking on a quick slant to Bo Dever.
That was the plan last year as well, but even before he got hurt Michigan was forced to adapt. Press coverage was a disaster in the Notre Dame game and Raymon Taylor was out, so Peppers was delployed as a boundary corner in the Miami (Not That Miami) game. (That's a spot he may resume if things don't go well with Stribling and Clark; he has been repping there a bit this fall.)
Miami did people wishing to have any useful scouting from Peppers's freshman year a favor by going at him over and over again on the usually-sound principle that freshmen seeing their first extended action should be slow-roasted until they can be pulled apart with forks. That didn't go the way the Redhawks thought it might.
They did get one completion on him, that a bullet skinny post against zone that Peppers still got a rake in on. His first extended playing time looked pretty damn exciting, and then his knee locked up and it was goodbye season. There are a ton of fascinating counterfactuals from the last year of Michigan football; "what if Jabrill Peppers is healthy?" is one of the best. Does he end up the starting running back halfway through the season? Does Michigan lose to Rutgers? (A: no.) Does Brady Hoke eke out his job at 7-5?
Anyway. That's in the past.
Also in the past is his high school scouting, but other than a bunch of talk and those clips above it's all we have to go on. Also it is fun to revisit, so let's revisit it.
"Peppers is a rare athlete with potential to be great at the next level. He is one of the most talented players I have ever seen at the high school level. At 6-foot-1, and 205-pounds, Peppers has college ready size to go with un-matched speed and explosiveness."
USC coach: "Holy s---, that's him? I've only seen two players in high school with a body like that and both of them are named Peterson [Adrian and Patrick]."
And this player comparison is a damn good one.
"I think his impact on the game [would be maximized by] letting him roam around a little bit and freelance and let him play – an Eric Berry style of safety where they would walk him up. I mean, Eric Berry had 15 tackles for loss. He is that kind of a player. Eric Berry, I thought, was maybe the best player in college football a couple of years ago.”
That remains the mission. Be Eric Berry. Or Woodson. Judges will accept either.
I know it's a lot to heap on a dude who's barely seen the field but every indicator from the program is that this gentleman is the real deal both on and off the field. He will start living up to the hype this year.
[After THE JUMP: how many shoes are you wearing stop throwing them]