Tennessee is not recruiting well just because they got 18 dudes
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This Thanksgiving I am thankful for many things, like Harbaugh, and family, and Harbaugh, and some more family. Also I have a mortgage that was easy to get and has an excellent rate that will save me a ton of money over the life of it. And Harbaugh. And a decidedly pants optional lifestyle. Also Harbaugh.
FORMATION NOTES: Penn State played most of the game in a 4-3. Passing downs saw a nickel. I may have missed a few nickel snaps since 11 and 15 can look similar. This was a pretty typical alignment:
Note the PSU player to the top of the screen is a corner and Brandon Bell, their nickel LB, is over the slot. PSU's defense is superficially like MSU's, but they sit their safeties back a lot more and are generally less aggressive.
Michigan didn't do much out of the ordinary other than line up Peppers at RB, frequently in a shotgun 4-wide setup I dubbed "Baylor" because obviously.
This one was a WR screen since PSU elected not not to put two guys near the stack to the bottom of the screen.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Mostly the usual. Slight variants:
- Kalis got knocked out for a snap, so Dawson was inserted.
- Bunting returned to the field for a few snaps.
- Hill is getting a fair number of snaps behind Poggi and Williams.
- Peppers got a number of pure RB snaps and handoffs that were in no way frippery.
- Ways saw a little PT.
- Hidgon also saw a few snaps.
Still no Green or Isaac.
[After THE JUMP: screens and Rudock and such.]
I know you’ve been talking about Ohio State a lot today, so I wanted to do something different and go in-depth on one play. So, let’s talk about your touchdown catch in the first quarter against Penn State. First of all, you guys line up and it’s a double tight end set. What do you then see from the defense?
“So, I saw a safety. They’d been rolling a safety down in the box. I saw some linebackers clouded over me. I knew I was going to have to get open on the corner route, but to be honest it was so loud early on in that stadium I was just staring at the ball because I couldn’t hear Jake. I was staring at the ball but thinking in my mind mind what I would have to do. That’s kind of what I was doing early on in that game, and once the ball was snapped I just kind of fired out and diagnosed what I had. I think I had a safety squaring me up maybe 10 yards off. I tried to push up on his grass, sell the post, threw my eyes inside and he really bit on it and popped open on the corner route.”
As far as the routes were designed there, as you said you were running the corner route. It looked like Amara was running to the inside to pull a safety away from you. Is that what happened?
“Yeah. I think- I don’t know what exactly- yeah, it was a post on the outside and corner combination. I don’t know if he was trying to pull a safety out or what but he ended up pulling the corner out of there, which left a big hole in there that Jake kind of just dropped it into.”
How much of that kind of defense did you see from them throughout the game, where they had, as you said, a safety shaded over you who you knew you’d have to work your way around?
“A lot of the times I did notice there’d be a safety or I’d be kind of boxed in by linebackers in a lot of my routes, so it’s kind of tough getting open like that but if they’re putting two or three guys on you that means someone else is left one-on-one or left open, so I don’t mind it when they’re double teaming me. But yeah, it’s a good respect thing when they’re throwing a safety down on you or they’re throwing a couple guys on you. I think that shows they respect your ability to run routes and catch the ball.”
What was the most common coverage you saw from them?
“We saw they ran like a Cover 6 on one side of the field and Cover 4. That was a big coverage for them. A lot of middle field open. That’s what I noticed.”
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest]
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.
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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]