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. 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.]
Talk about what Ryan Glasgow’s meant to you, and any update on his status?
“Ryan’s a tough, hard-nosed player and he epitomizes what we stand for. Blue-collar, tough guy, so he’s been doing a great job for us all year long.”
He was in a sling today. Is that an indication of his status for Saturday?
“Ryan, like a lot of guys, are working through things. It’s that time of year. It’s that part of the season where guys get a little banged up, especially as physical as he plays. He’s just- he’s working through some things.”
Talk about that time of year for a minute. Everybody’s banged up some, you’ve been at it for a while; is it easier to coach because you’re in a conference race at this time of year?
“I just think when you’re coaching the right group of guys, which I believe we have- I mean, they love what they’re doing. Obviously it makes it a little better when you’re in the thick of things, but it’s part of the game. We have an experienced group that’ve been through seasons before and when you get to November your guys’re banged up a little bit; there’s been a lot of football played, but this is when you’ve got to play your best, so we’ve just got to fight through it and keep going.”
If Ryan can’t go, you’ve already lost Mone at that position. Is there any concern about being a little bit thin at the nose tackle spot?
“I mean, that’s…at every spot on the field you could say if someone wasn’t there- that’s part of the game. You know, you’re never going to be three or four deep at any spot, I don’t think. We have a lot of guys that have played well for us, especially at the defensive line, and we just keep rolling guys in.”
After Hurst, who else would be at nose? Where would that position go after Ryan and Maurice?
“Um, I mean, we’ve played a lot of guys along the defensive front at multiple positions. You know, Wormley’s played both inside and outside, Willie Henry’s played both inside and outside, so I think those guys. We’ve doing it all year long anyways in the rotation, so no matter what’s going on, that’s always how we’re going to play. Whoever’s healthy up front, we’re pretty deep up there, we’re going to play them all.”
[After THE JUMP: The Jabrill Formula]
Matt says the Fed may raise rates pretty soon here, and a cursory googling confirms that some dude says there is a "very strong case" to do so. Lifehacker says this will make the "notoriously low rates" of recent years less notoriously low. If you're on the fence and hate pants, Matt can help. I need one more sentence to get past the logo.
FORMATION NOTES: A few new things. I'm using "heavy" to denote lineups on which Michigan plays four true DL. Without Godin those are almost always both NTs with Henry and Wormley. This was 6-2 heavy:
For a period late in the first half Michigan ran a dime package on which the NT split out. This was a pass rush package without much pass rush and didn't return; I called it "3-2-6 dime split":
And Michigan has been running this one-high nickel package with eight guys in the box enough that I thought I should note it. This is "nickel even 8":
It is frequent on passing downs that feature some run threat.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Injuries biting into the DL a bit now. Michigan was rotating Hurst and Glasgow until Glasgow went out, at which point Hurst had to go the rest of the way himself. I do think they bought him a little rest by inserting Henry at the nose. Wormley and Henry played most of the game as well; Godin got one snap shortly after Glasgow exited. He must be close, but not close enough.
RJS returned to buck. Ross spotted him in passing downs. I called those dime packages; YMMV. With Gedeon out Morgan and Bolden got all the ILB snaps.
Secondary saw a shift as Dymonte Thomas got significantly more time than he has before; I would say he displaced Delano Hill as the starter. Hill played a fair share as well, both in nickel and dime. Second corner rotation was as per usual with an edge to Clark in snaps. Brandon Watson saw maybe a half dozen snaps at nickelback as Michigan tried to save Peppers a bit.
[After THE JUMP: are you disappointed yeah kinda is that rational nah]
“What’s happening today? Anything good? Who’s got a good question?”
/Siri goes off on someone’s phone; “I’m not sure what you said there.”
“Obviously Siri does not have a good question.”
MGoQuestion: You guys threw a fullback wheel route to Sione Houma, and it looked like it had some similar elements to the one Michigan State ran against you earlier this year. How often do you guys look at something an opponent ran, take similar elements, tweak it, and put it in the playbook?
“Well, I think that you are constantly looking at what other teams do. You’re looking at what defenses you’re going to see and how they compare to the defense that either you play or other teams play. Sometimes there’s just times where you’re gonna go look and you’re gonna say, ‘Hey, are they in this coverage during this time?’ or ‘Is this a team that runs similar type looks?’ Ball plays are stolen all the time from everybody and everywhere.
“You’ll see very often you can turn on plenty of games and say, ‘Boy, didn’t they just run this?’ or ‘Didn’t Michigan just run that?’ or ‘Didn’t Seattle just run that?’ or whoever it might be. It’s just constantly- you’re always looking and watching film and when good ideas or things that look like we could use, you always try to use them.”
Is Jake [Rudock] getting more freedom from you guys to make decisions in terms of plays than he had earlier in the year?
“No, I think he’s really just getting more aware of the entire system rather than half of it or three-quarters of it, so the more he’s aware of what we’re trying to do, the more he can get to certain guys faster or maybe where he can get rid of the ball quicker. He can hold the ball longer knowing that something’s picked up where maybe early on in the season he might have thought the protection scheme might not have known that it was picked up, so checked it down quick.
“There’s, I think, more just knowledge base, and as knowledge base grows you become more comfortable, and when you become more comfortable maybe it feels like you’re getting to different things but you’re really just going through and maybe early in your career as a rookie quarterback or first year in our system quarterback you can go 1-2-checkdown. Now maybe he feels good enough to 1-2-3-checkdown or 1-2-3-4-checkdown. I think you see it in the NFL with rookies to their second year. I think you [also] see it with guys throughout the season.”
Jim credited you with the screen game. Can you talk about how that’s coming along and how pleased you are with it?
“Everybody gets credit for that. It’s really- the whole screen game, I believe that you can get a lot of yards in the screen game, and if everybody is on the same page with it we can get different ways of doing it, different formations, different guys catching screens. I think you go get some gimmee yards at times, but then there’s also times when screens are called and they don’t look good [and] it’s just a ball thrown right at the dirt, so you gotta be careful about that with screens. But, nah, I mean, I know he said that but it’s everybody has everything to do with our screen game and it’s just one of those deals that we ran a lot of them at different places where I’ve been and have really enjoyed the different aspects of it. You know, you can be real creative in the screen game. It’s not always just a straight drop-back deal.”
[After THE JUMP: Jake Rudock might be 53 years old, no one really knows]