The linebackers on Saturday said they were getting sucked up sometimes in play action. On some of those slants, is that one of those cases where they were just a little too aggressive?
“Yeah, I mean, I think so. The bottom line is we want to stop the run first and foremost. That’s just kind of a learning thing, a seeing thing. I think we’re going to get better at that. But yeah, they did, they got sucked up a little bit in trying to stop the run. We’ve got to work on it and get a better feel.”
Talk about the impact of special teams and how it helped turn that thing around Saturday.
“Yeah, special teams is a huge facet of every game and we want to always make an impact. Our team, we talk about attacking and putting the opponent on their heels in all special teams categories. I think we were able to have an impact. It’s funny, because to everyone else it’s like ‘Oh, what tremendous game’ and then to me it’s like we left so much out there. We can get a lot better and make more impact plays on teams, and we’re working at that and working to build off of the game to do some more stuff. Yeah, we felt good and felt that we were able to contribute. That’s all we want to do is get out there and if the team needs a big-time special teams play, we want to be able to make it and switch the momentum.”
With the punt game and the amount of kicks you guys are effecting, are you doing something different schematically or is that just having the right guys in the right places?
“You know, it’s a lot of different things right. What I’m going to say is that the kids have bought in, they’re going hard, they’re understanding it, they love it, they take pride in it, and we’re doing whatever we see to try to effect it. We got a weapon back there, so it’s kind of fun calling that game because you kind of can do some different things and try to figure out what they’re trying to do. And then these guys have really bought into it. It’s cool.”
Jabrill being in the back gives you more options with the other ten guys on the field?
“Oh, absolutely, yeah. I mean, it’s a matter of are they coming with a block, are they coming with a hold up, are they coming with a block and a hold up, are they setting a wall—it’s just different things in different areas of the field what we’re able to do. He makes us more dynamic, I think, as any returner does.”
[After THE JUMP: why teams might still kick to Jabrill, more on the linebackers, fixing field goal issues, and how many plays Jabrill would play if he had his way]
“How’s everything goin’?”
Good. How about yourself?
You look kinda tired.
“Eh, a lot of early mornings.”
Talk about some of the issues that you guys had the last week with the plays in the passing game.
“We gave up two big pass plays. I mean, those are issues. Obviously we’ve got to do a better job. We’ve got to clean it up. Worked really hard in the run game, obviously, coming off the UCF performance. Maybe too hard. I also attribute, you know, we’re still learning how to play this style of defense.
“The good thing is I think our guys have understood enough concept that we’re able to adjust as the game goes on and play much better in the second, third, and fourth quarter. Really disappointed with a fundamental coverage mistake that we made, and I thought there was a 10-play period during the course of the game where we needed to do a better job of tackling.
“Like I told the kids yesterday, all the mistakes belong to me, so if anybody wants to point the responsibility I don’t want them to have any. It’s right here. That’s the way we handle it, and I just tell them I want you to play as hard and as tough as you can and all your mistakes belong to me.”
The stretch of bad tackling: is that because they’re still learning and just--
“I don’t think so, no. Just think we didn’t do a great job. It was a ten-play segment during the course of the game and there were three missed tackles. You know, we were fortunate because the one that resulted in a 48-yard gain we were able to find a way to get off the field and they missed a field goal on one of those opportunities. Thought we settled down and played really well throughout the second quarter.
“We come out and have the bad play in the third quarter. The disappointing thing there is it’s happened to us coming out of the locker room two games in a row, so we’ve got to pay more attention. And one of our goals is a third-quarter shutout, so that’s a disappointing deal.
“I thought we really settled in. What did we give up, 200 yards in the first quarter and basically 100 yards in the second, third, and fourth. What were they, 0-for-12 on third down against our ones and 1-for-whatever counting fourth down. So there’s some things I’m feeling really good about. The best part of it is we were able to make adjustments moving forward as the game kind of progressed. And we’ve been tested with no-huddle, up tempo.
“I think they were faster than UCF. With all credit to Scott Frost; he’s probably one of the fastest guys in the country. And if you watch our tape, and, you know, you can come up and look at it all you want, we’re lined up ready to go every snap. I think we’ve made significant improvements in terms of our sense of urgency to get line up and get ready to play, we just need to play better during stretches. It’s 41 snaps or 46 in the run game against UCF [and] they have 63 yards.
“Now you come back and you’re looking at your deal here, we give up, what, three pass catches. We give up 100-whatever yards of offense. You must be doing a pretty good job during the course of the rest of the game. We just need to make sure we’re totally clean and as I told ya, understand the concepts. But our mistakes belong to me, not the players.”
[After THE JUMP: Don Brown’s defensive disquisition]
SPONSOR NOTES: Got a couple of requests to re-record the podcast commercial featuring Matt and his kids because it sounds like Matt has dragooned his offspring into this. Well, yeah, that's what offspring are for. Matt is a man who will dragoon for you. That's not something everyone can say, because not everyone knows what that word means. Matt does!
In addition to being a gentleman replete with Michigan tickets, Matt is also a good man to know if you need a mortgage. It's striking that we actually get non-astroturfed comments about positive experiences with Matt not infrequently.
If you're buying a home or refinancing, he's the right guy to call.
IDIOT DIRECTOR NOTES: This goober zoomed in so close to almost everything and provided zero high-angle replays, so I'm doing a lot more guessing about coverages than I usually do. As a result some plays of interest aren't clipped because the interesting bits I remember from the game aren't actually on the screen.
FORMATION NOTES: Okay, I separated front and cover look, and am still not satisfied with the results. "Press" was anything with hard corners on guys on the LOS:
Off was off. This was two high, and also the post TD.
One high version of same:
Still a work in progress.
Michigan and Colorado didn't do anything too weird except for some offset three man lines I'm just piling in as "exotic."
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Again a tight rotation, which makes yet more burned redshirts puzzling. Wormley and Glasgow led the way on the DL with 53 of 71 snaps; Godin, Winovich, and Garry all got around 40. Hurst got 27 and since he played well I'm guessing they're trying to keep his workload light as he continues to recover from whatever held him out of the opener.
Linebacker was as you'd expect, with Starters getting the whole game minus some personnel package items. Gedeon is the guy who stays in when Michigan has just one true LB on the field.
Secondary was also low rotation, with Thomas, Stribling, and Clark playing every snap. Hill got dinged up and missed 16; Kinnel saw 20 snaps, most meaningful; Watson had 18.
WTF burned redshirt of the week goes to Carlo Kemp and his four snaps.
[After THE JUMP: panic calibration.]
9/17/2016 – Michigan 45, Colorado 28 – 3-0
linebacker on fire [Patrick Barron]
Let's say you're on the sideline of a football game. You've got a job to do, and you're doing it. This job involves looking at things other than the field, so you rely on your colleagues to let you know when the action threatens to spill over into your area of the sideline.
This is a fine system. You've honed it over the years. People move at a certain speed, you see, and when you hear "heads up" you get your head up, evaluate the situation, and avoid the brunt of the contact. Tried, and true, this system. Damn near infallible, in fact. At no point have you looked winged death straight in the facemask.
Then, this Saturday. Just after your team has taken a very unexpected second-half lead, the system kicks in. "Heads up." Head goes up. This is a process, though, and as you are in the midst of this process your brain starts signaling to you that something is wrong. The tone of voice, maybe? An ominous breeze? What's that thing with the sirens going by? Doppler effect? Whatever it is, the hairs on the back of your neck stand up straight. The process is complete now. Your head is up.
The system has failed.
The system was designed with certain tolerances and Jabrill Peppers has just blown through all of them. You are now staring winged death straight in the facemask. What a terrible time for it to be, now. Before is good. Later is good, assuming that there will in fact be a later. Now… now is bad. You spin the fight or flight wheel and land on "soil yourself."
And who can blame you, really?
Sphincters are also designed with certain tolerances. In your own way you've just blown through as many of them as Jabrill Peppers has in the realm of physics. So you've got that going for you.
There is a certain kind of person—usually a rival fan with a brain that could be cooled down to meat-locker temperatures without any discernible ill effect—who spent most of the offseason bleating about excessive hype for Jabrill Peppers. Peppers didn't have a bunch of shiny counting stats, you see, and therefore he was worse than other people who did.
This argument, already dead in the water to any slightly objective person with eyes, is now beyond repair. Peppers has a decent season's worth of linebacker stats three games in: 9.5 TFLs, 2.5 sacks, three QB hurries, and a forced fumble. He leads Michigan with 28 tackles, 19 of them solo. He's got 173 punt return yards—an average of 22 yards a pop!—and has just started contributing on offense.
Linear extrapolation of these numbers gets to territory so uncharted that Captain Janeway and her crew of morons show up to survey it. We probably shouldn't do that. Spicy stats will get rarer as the competition level increases… insofar as it does. Rutgers is still on the schedule, after all. Maryland—which just went to double OT with Central Florida—is also on the docket. Penn State and Wisconsin have offensive lines that are, uh, in flux. Peppers might not might meet significantly more resistance except in a few games.
So screw it! Linear extrapolation: 112 tackles, 38 for loss, 10 sacks, a thousand return yards and however many touchdowns, and whatever he chips in on offense. Ahahahahahaha.
PICTURED: THE BIG TEN CONFERENCE
This was a concerning game for several reasons, not least of them the fact that a middling-at-best Pac-12 school was driving to go up 28-7 in front of a shocked Michigan Stadium. Post Traumatic Hoke Disorder was in full effect amongst the 110,000 gathered. Personally, I was not having a real good time. I went into emotional shutoff mode, as is my wont, and contemplated how I was going to break it to MGoBlog readers that I was moving to Bolivia, as is also my wont.
Peppers didn't rescue that himself. I had a fist pump after Rashan Gary came around the corner and a ragged exhalation when Amara Darboh dismissed a couple tacklers to turn a tunnel screen into a touchdown. Michigan's rebound from a game they certainly lose in the previous regime was a collective effort. That collective effort was mostly accepted on mute.
The one guy who pierced right through that attempted stoicism was Peppers. Because BANG he's thumping some dude in the backfield and BANG he's just slashed upfield through the first wave of punt defenders and BANG he has sacked the quarterback before he's even finished his drop. Even when you're trying not to feel anything in case the feelings are horrible, it's impossible to see Peppers and not think OH HELL YES SOMETHING 'BOUT TO BE ON FIRE I CAN'T FEEL MY FAAAACE LET'S GO PUNCH A LEOPARD WOO.
Offense or defense, doesn't matter. He's the best lion. He sinks his meaty claws into anyone with the temerity to test his edge. He's the best gazelle. He slashes through a line of claws without ill effect. He is sui generis, the scourge of sphincters, and someone put him in a winged helmet to rouse the inert from their stupors and send them to their local superstores in search of an axe appropriate for crazed berserking. Check.
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 Jabrill Peppers is an easy selection after 3.5 TFLs, a sack, two rushes for 24 yards, a kickoff return to the Colorado 45, and four punt returns averaging 25 yards a pop including the game-sealing touchdown. Peppers has been everything he's been hyped up to be so far this year. The busted coverage is a demerit, and this is still an easy pick.
#2 Jake Butt was the one consistently positive target in Michigan's passing game, with seven catches for 87 yards; I also caught a couple of positive run-blocking events on Michigan's big plays.
#3 Ben Gedeon had 12 tackles, a critical sack early in the game, and was a major component of Michigan's interior run defense. Pop pass issues may have been on him and McCray but asking LBs to respond to RPOs like that is asking for trouble; I'm assuming those are on the safeties.
Honorable mention: Khalid Hill would have made it if I wasn't pretty sure he got Speight killed on the sack/strip. Rashan Gary, Chris Wormley, and Ryan Glasgow were key components of a stout interior run defense.
5: Jabrill Peppers((T2, Hawaii; #3 UCF, #1 Colorado).
3: Mike McCray(#1, Hawaii), Wilton Speight (#1 UCF).
2: Ryan Glasgow(#2 UCF), Jake Butt(#2 Colorado).
1: Delano Hill (T2, Hawaii), Ben Gedeon(#3, Colorado).
0.5: Chris Evans (T3, Hawaii), Mason Cole(T3, Hawaii).
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
This week's best thing ever.
Peppers finally gets his return touchdown and seals the game.
Honorable mention: Matching 45 yard touchdowns down the edge by De'Veon Smith and Amara Darboh; various other Peppers things.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
This week's worst thing ever.
A blown protection gets Wilton Speight blindsided for a 14-0 Colorado lead and a first quarter of deep panic.
Honorable mention: A blown coverage results in a long post touchdown to open things up for CU; Colorado strikes back at the beginning of the first half with a 70-yard bomb.
PREVIOUS EPIC DOUBLE BIRDs
Hawaii: Not Mone again.
UCF: Uh, Dymonte, you may want to either tackle or at least lightly brush that guy.
Colorado: Speight blindsided.
[After THE JUMP: SPEIGHTDOWN, also bad thing discussion]
Jake Butt and Jabrill Peppers
Jabrill, you’ve been close several times. What did it feel like to get across finally?
“It’s undescribable. Man, I think I just laid there. I was like, finally, man. The guys did a great job of getting me a crease. They trust me enough to hit what I see and make something happen and that’s what I did.”
For both of you guys, level of concern when it was 21-7 early on?
Peppers: “We’ve been down before. There was no level of panic. It was just like a little adversity. That’s the biggest measurement of a team, how you bounce back when things aren’t going your way. We just had to dig deep and get back to our roots, start tackling better, you know, covering a little better and getting pressure on the quarterback.”
Butt: “We weren’t worried. We weren’t worried. We actually talked about it last night as a team. We knew the first two games we were really never punched in the face, everything was going so smoothly. It’s not going to be a fairytale the whole entire season. There was going to come a point in time where we were going to get punched in the face, where we were going to get backed in a corner and, you know, playing with these guys we bounced back when we were backed into that corner. We fought back and we stuck together and rode that wave and were good enough to get it done.”
Jake, having been backed into a corner, what was the conversation like with you guys on the field and in the huddle during that time when it looked like Colorado had a big advantage?
Butt: “Me personally, I was just trying to go up to guys like, Look, all it takes is one play. We just need a spark. We got that punt block and then they responded again, but we fought back again. We just kept punching back. We kept telling these older guys, this group of seniors and our playmakers, Look, we just need to start making plays. Toward the end of the half that’s exactly what we did, and then I think that a huge play was Darboh going in and punching that screen pass in to give us momentum going into the second half. The defense tightened up and they played a hell of a game down the stretch, too.”
Wilton had a shaky start. It seemed like once he started finding rhythm he was dumping the ball off to you. Seemed like he was getting a little bit of stability there. What did you notice about his comfort level throughout the game?
Butt: “Yeah, it’s Wilton, it’s the coaches, it’s the O-line. It’s never a one-man job. And again, yeah, we did have a shaky start. Again, they were making it really hard to run the ball. They were run blitzing us, loading the box up and the coaches adjusted. They started calling little dump off plays to get into rhythm. Guys were making plays, helping him get comfortable. We had a little package in there where we got some yardage with Pep and McDoom. We just kept making plays down the stretch. That’s all that really matters.”
[Hit THE JUMP for more]
News bullets and other items:
Harbaugh mandated they make an adjustment on special teams so that Jabrill could be in position to catch and run after Colorado punted to the same spot a few times in a row
According to Harbaugh, Peppers was “…by far the best guy out there in all phases.”
Harbaugh was really happy with the improvement in perimeter blocking.
Tom Brady’s pregame message went through each position group and told them what was expected of them in order to play like some of the best to wear the uniform.
Brady and Harbaugh played catch before the game and yes, it was a competition. Harbaugh said he wished he hadn’t given Brady the wind.
The kicking game was off and they’ll have to check the tape to figure it out; Harbaugh attributed part of it to an overadjustment to high snaps in pregame warmups.
Coach, can you describe your team’s mental state when they get down early in this game? Where were they at early in the first quarter, and how do you build off of a deficit of that nature?
“They—it was fight. They knew it was a fight, because I heard them talking about it. So, I think that’s where their mindset was. I really look at all these—every football game that’s ever been played, that probably ever will be played, it’s a battle of the best players, of seeing who the best players are in a football game.
“Colorado has some outstanding players, and the utmost respect for Sefo Liufau and the game that he played and the player that he is. He’s set 70 records at Colorado, and that first post route he threw, you can not throw it any better. Could we cover it better? Yeah, we should have. Next play he threw the ball on a fade route. I mean, cannot throw the ball any better than he did. He was really effective all game. Then he got that ankle injury. That looked pretty serious, and he hops up and kind of drifts out to his right and throws a post route that is as good a post route as you can possibly throw. So in a game of really good players all over the field on both sides, their corner #4, outstanding player, defensive line was outstanding, and above it all, Jabrill Peppers proved that he was the best player today, in today’s game.
“We don’t win that game without Jabrill Peppers. And also a great team effort. As you were talking about, fighting back and making enough—enough good players making enough good plays. The field position Jabrill got us on special teams. Again, that’s a team effort, but wow. He was making the difference; return for a touchdown and then the field position he was giving us.
“Blocked punts; our special teams unit was our finest unit out there today. Accounted for 14 points plus the blocked punt field position and the punt return field position. It was good. It was really good. The best part of playing football’s competing. I thought both teams did an outstanding job of competing at a very high level today.”
[More after THE JUMP]