fair point that
I don't know what Jim Harbaugh's designated headset cord guy is paid, but it's definitely not enough.
[Hit THE JUMP]
The difference. [Eric Upchurch/MGoBlog]
There were shades of the dark, recent past. A non-existent running game. An ugly interception. Catching seemingly all the bad breaks.
One particularly bad aspect of that past was missing, however. While James Franklin cost Penn State a chance to win by kicking a field goal from the one and mismanaging their timeouts, Jim Harbaugh stood opposite him, competent and then some.
Michigan won this game due to coaching and finishing drives, and the two were inextricably linked. Both teams had one touchdown from outside the red zone, Michigan's a 26-yard pass from Jake Rudock to Jake Butt before PSU responded with a 25-yard fade to Saeed Blacknail. The Wolverines converted all three* of their red zone chances into touchdowns. Penn State also had three, but ultimately settled for three field goals, stymied by a stout Wolverine defense and their own conservative playcalling.
James Ross laid some licks. He wasn't alone. [Upchurch]
While the game remained close throughout, Michigan controlled most of the action, outgaining PSU 343-207. Outside of a bad pick, Jake Rudock continued his pinpoint ways of the last couple games, throwing for 256 yards and a pair of scores on 36 attempts. Amara Darboh moved the chains and earned a hard-fought touchdown on a steady diet of wide receiver screens and added a remarkable sideline snag; Butt found open spaces for 66 yards; Chesson stretched the field and chipped in M's best run of the day on a 20-yard end-around. While it was a frustrating day on the ground, the weapons in the passing game again proved their steadily increasing worth.
On the other side, Michigan allowed an early 56-yard run to standout freshman back Saquon Barkley and otherwise limited him to 12 yards on 14 carries. The defensive front beat up quarterback Christian Hackenberg, who managed just 131 yards on 37 attempts and took four sacks among many, many hits. By PSU's last-gasp drive, Hackenberg seemed out of it—quite possibly injured—and even started trotting off the field before barely getting the play off on fourth down; his final throw sailed harmlessly out of bounds.
If you're looking for the moment that turned around the game, the muffed punt that Chesson recovered inside the ten, setting up a one-yard Sione Houma plunge for a 21-10 lead, is the simplest answer. But if you'd like to say it's the moment Michigan hired Harbaugh, whose timely aggressiveness got the Wolverines a critical score late in the first half for the second straight game, it'd be hard to argue.
Ultimately, that's why this game will be fondly remembered—if quickly lost in the excitement of the week to come—instead of another nightmare in Happy Valley. Be gone, ever-fuzzier recollections of McGloin and Floyd and 27-for-27 and missed overtime field goals. Michigan is one Ohio State victory away from playing for the Big Ten East.
*Not including the game's final drive, when Michigan kneeled out the clock while inside the PSU five.
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.]
So we were told on Monday that the receivers and tight ends were playing as well as any group in the Big Ten. They’ve taken a big step forward, it seems like. What do you think has been the cause of that?
“I think it’s just impossible to work hard and practice really well and not get a lot better. If you do the right things it will pay off. It’s just a matter of time, I think. Really that’s all I would attribute it to.”
Can you measure the synchronization change from the start of the season til now with Jake Rudock and the receivers?
“Just in terms of being on the same page?”
Just being more used to each other.
“Yeah. I think I wouldn’t say that we weren’t used to each other, but with the pass game relationship there’s definitely a benefit of spending more time together. Kind of, as I’ve said before, it’s just a matter of improving over time.”
When did you start to see those improvements pay off on the field?
“In terms of Jake and the receivers?”
“I thought we were going to throw the ball well against Utah, so…it’s not like an ‘aha’ moment, I guess. It’s not like an instance where you go all of a sudden Jake’s good, Jake Rudock’s good or Amara and Jehu are good. It’s just a matter of improving and connecting on plays; more plays in week two than we missed in week one, week three and four, etc. It’s not like a one week, one moment thing even though people will try to make Indiana out to be like that.”
I got scolded a bit Monday for asking about Ian Bunting. He was starting to contribute quite a bit in the passing game early in the year. What’s he got to do to get back to that level and see more playing time?
“He does all the right things. He’s working tremendously hard and is practicing really, really well. If there was a downside of having a really good, deep group at one position I think that would be it. Not everybody always gets to play as much as they’d like or contribute in the ways that they would like, but he’s doing all the right things and hopefully in the next few weeks he’ll be able to show his improvement.”
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest]
11/14/2015 – Michigan 48, Indiana 41 (2OT) – 8-2, 5-1 Big Ten
Other things happened on Saturday.
Florida played South Carolina, for one. As of 11 AM on November 14th Florida is 8-1, already the SEC East champions, and a fringe playoff contender. South Carolina is 3-6 and has already seen Steve Spurrier bolt for the golf course midseason. An ESPN reporter catches up with first-year Florida head coach Jim McElwain for an interview. He asks McElwain if Florida plans on beating South Carolina's head in so that the playoff committee will like them more.
This is a dumb question for a lot of reasons. For one, if Florida wins out the only thing that will keep them out of the playoff is the apocalypse. For two, only one coach is going to respond "oh sure, definitely" when asked he is going to beat a noble opponent until they look like Jared Leto in Fight Club. Unfortunately Spurrier is that man, and he is now a pro-am golfer. For three, Florida just beat Vanderbilt 9-7.
Anyway McElwain gives this reporter an eyebrow cock and laughs out an answer. It's a good answer: "we're not at the point in this program where we can think like that."
Three hours later the Gamecocks fire in two quick touchdowns to pull within 17-14. Florida fends off further scoring from an Ichabod Crane program and rips off a big run while they're trying to kill the clock; 24-14 is the final but a bounce here or there and, well, you know.
Michigan isn't at the point in their program where they can take much of anything for granted. This goes both ways. Suddenly the defense's fiery dominance is very much in question, but as compensation Jake Rudock is accounting for 500 yards of total offense. Jake Rudock is throwing the ball well downfield and it is going swimmingly. Jake Rudock is saying "eff it" and punting it up to Jehu Chesson to get Michigan down to the one. Jake Rudock has sweet nunchucks, and he is no longer hitting himself in the face with them.
Meanwhile, Michigan has finally run out of people to throw at opponents on the defensive line. Michigan has a very good starting 22 but the defense goes about 16 guys deep before a cliff. Michigan has three ILBs and then… uh. They have four CBs and then nah. They have eight… seven… six… five DL, and if there is ever a wrong time to be short-handed on the defensive line it is against high-tempo, crazy-ass Indiana when they have a healthy Jordan Howard.
pictured: anime Jordan Howard
So Kevin Wilson had a plan, or at least half of a plan. The plan: be on the field forever going fast and get Michigan tired out and then get guys who had never played before locked on the field. Sometimes the other half of the plan consisted of watching Michigan score quick touchdowns, but this quickly devolved into a replay of that one Denard-vs-Indiana game. You know, the one where Indiana went on Ishtar-length scoring drives. After those drives Michigan would get the ball back and Denard would immediately run 75 yards. Repeat until dizzy. Continue repeating until vomiting. Implement yet further repeating until unconscious.
Michigan did have a ten play touchdown drive at the beginning of the second quarter, but the rest of their drives before the one-minute drill lasted 4, 3, 2, and 3 plays. Two of those were touchdowns, so hooray for that, but as that was going on this is what Indiana was doing:
- 9 plays, 29 yards
- 11 plays, 53 yards
- 17(!) plays, 71 yards
- 8 plays, 41 yards
- 5 plays, 24 yards
- 7 plays, 61 yards
None of those drives took as long as the Michigan 10 plays drive; Indiana got that 17 play drive off in just 5:22 of clock time.
The pace and inability to get off the field murdered the beat-up Michigan defensive line. Wilson's decision to go for three separate fourth down attempts, two of which succeeded, contributed to the downward spiral of the Michigan defense and directly led to Michigan's punch-drunk second half. On the third, Wilson threw a screen on third and ten with every intention of going for it on the ensuing fourth and short.
Fire Kevin Wilson immediately, please.
Michigan came out the other end of that game, shook up but unscathed. Indiana does this to everyone. OSU was fortunate to not get hit with a pass interference penalty on a thirty-yard heave that would have tied that game. Indiana was driving for the lead halfway through the fourth quarter against MSU. Indiana lost to Rutgers.
Even if I don't think it's going to happen this time, I am now thoroughly used to the mid-game shift from "this is a football game against Indiana" to "this is a METH BENDER against THE CRAZED RACCOON MAFIA." By the end of the first quarter I was holding onto my butts. By the fourth quarter I had chewed a small hole in the earth's crust. Overtime was spent peeking through split fingers.
Michigan eventually held, though, demonstrating why it's better to have a struggling defense than a notional one. And here we are again: for Michigan, exhausted and victorious. For Indiana, heartbroken and half-blind.
Indiana should definitely never stop doing this, but they should stop doing this. Fire Kevin Wilson. Replace him with Gerry DiNardo. Have the same record but lose by 30 points every game. For your heart, Indiana, and mine.
Michigan-centric from Parking God:
This one has some things Indiana did if you can stand the buttrock soundtrack:
hoofin' it [Fuller]
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 Jake Rudock set an (overtime-aided) Michigan record for touchdown passes, and just about hit 10 YPA on a 46-attempt, 440 yard day, and added in 64 rushing yards for good measure. The interception was unfortunate but other than that he crushed it.
#2 Jehu Chesson was Rudock's favorite target, grabbing a deep in route on the fly and taking it to the house for a 64 yard touchdown. Rudock hit him twice on the touchdown drive that ended regulation, once on the kind of floated ball he's had trouble adjusting to so far in his career. No problems there and none on the subsequent fourth-and-five catch where two different guys blew him up.
#3 Delano Hill couldn't be held responsible for most of the bad things that happened to the defense because he wasn't out there for a lot of it, but after Dymonte Thomas was knocked out he entered to make 10 tackles, 8 of them solo. He made the plays that stopped Indiana in double over time, first blitzing to tackle Howard on second down, then tackling Sudfeld in space on third down, and finally winning man press coverage against a slot guy for the win.
Honorable mention: Amara Darboh and Jake Butt also racked up piles of yards on the receiving end of Rudock passes; Jourdan Lewis just about had two interceptions and was very difficult to beat as per usual; the offensive line couldn't get much push on the ground but they were great in pass protection.
9: Jourdan Lewis (#1 UNLV, #1 Northwestern, #1 MSU), Jabrill Peppers(#2 BYU, #2 Northwestern, #2 MSU, #1 Minnesota)
7: Jake Rudock (#3 Northwestern, #1 Rutgers, #1 Indiana)
6: Chris Wormley(#2 Utah, #1 Oregon State, #3 Rutgers)
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),
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.
Last play wins tend to have the last play feature in this section.
Honorable mention: Any number of Jake Rudock passing TDs—six to be specific. A looping pass to Butt gets Michigan into a manageable third down after second and twenty nine.
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.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
This week's worst thing ever.
Indiana has nineteen straight runs in the second half, reminding everyone of that RichRod game against Wisconsin, which is the last game I ever expected to be reminded of this week.
Honorable mention: Channing Stribling's very bad tackle attempt leads to a PR TD; Rudock throws an INT at an inopportune moment.
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.
[After THE JUMP: if bad Rudock is Ruddock how do you subtract more Ds from his name than one]
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.]