to play football, not to play trumpet
For the second straight game, Wilton Speight came on in relief of Jake Rudock at quarterback in the second half.
This time around, though, Rudock wasn't injured as Michigan went toe-to-toe with Minnesota; instead, he took a well-deserved rest after his career day headlined a blowout of Rutgers. Rudock completed 18 of 25 attempts for a career-high 337 yards and two touchdowns, adding a third score with an unlikely scramble to the pylon. Jim Harbaugh called him "tough as a two-dollar steak" for his performance coming off last week's injury.
Rudock looked better than he has at any other point this season, to the benefit of many—ten different Wolverines logged a reception. Michigan exploited a bad Rutgers secondary in a variety of ways. A Sione Houma wheel route set up a post route touchdown to Jehu Chesson; Michigan's second huge gain on a screen led to Rudock's dive to the pylon; a motion swing pass to Jabrill Peppers accounted for the third score; Jake Butt spent much of the day running free up the seam on his way to a career-high 102 receiving yards.
Butt would've had even more if not for a penalty of substituting with an "intent to deceive," a rule that seems to go against the core tenets of football, and it may have been misapplied anyway, as Rutgers simply didn't bother to account for Butt after he left the huddle. In the postgame presser, Jim Harbaugh said he was "offended" by the call.
Creative officiating was about the only way Michigan's offense could be slowed. The Wolverines finished with 487 yards. While the running game took a while to come around, the multiple successful screens were fine in its place until De'Veon Smith got it going in the second half, finishing with 73 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries.
The defense bounced back from an iffy performance against Minnesota with a stifling one against Rutgers, ceding 225 yards and only six points that weren't set up by long returns. Janarion Grant accounted for the other ten, breaking a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter and setting up an end-of-half field goal with a punt return inside the ten. My only additional comment is both those returns also involved some creative officiating.
The defensive line, led by Chris Wormley (two sacks), dominated like usual, even after Ryan Glasgow exited with a shoulder injury—his status wasn't updated after the game. Royce Jenkins-Stone returned to his normal spot as the starting BUCK and aquitted himself well with a sack and two QB hurries.
Jarrod Wilson, long lauded here for being comfortingly boring, made an exceptionally un-boring play when he got over the top of a pass to Grant and dove for an interception. Jourdan Lewis, whom Chris Laviano inexplicably targeted with frequency, matched and surpassed the school single-season record for pass breakups previously held by Leon Hall and Marlin Jackson; his record-breaking 19th PBU killed a late Rutgers drive.
By that time, little was in doubt except when Harbaugh would call off the dogs. He didn't do so until midway through the fourth quarter with all the scoring—including a rather inexplicable two-point conversion after Smith's touchdown to give M a 43-16 lead—already in the books.
The rote blowout had enough moments of excitement to stay interesting, especially the Peppers touchdown, which looked destined for a TFL until he found an extra gear or three to blow past multiple defenders.
"I knew he was good, but man, he's really good," Harbaugh said of Peppers.
Rutgers is probably saying similar about Michigan after getting hit with arguably their best offensive performance of the year.
Ryan Glasgow and James Ross
James, coach Harbaugh mentioned the second to last play when they shifted and you had to stick with the tight end. What were you looking at on that play and take us through that.
“There’s a lot of plays Minnesota did with the tight end whether he’s releasing late or things like that and I just wanted to keep my eyes on him, and it just so happened that he did try to release late.”
James, when did you start taking practice reps at the BUCK linebacker position and can you just talk about that transition this week?
“I started transitioning to BUCK as soon as Mario [Ojemudia] went down, that week after. Just consistently getting reps and trying to find ways to get on the field.”
This is the first time that you’ve played it in a game, right?
“No, I actually played it last week versus State- or the week prior to this week. But yeah, against State.”
Ryan, talk about the job you guys all did getting underneath the blockers on that last play. You seemed to get off the ball pretty well.
“Yeah. I mean, Willie [Henry] and Mo [Hurst] did a great job on that play, and the linebackers got a great push. We’ve never really practiced that live; it’s all stepping through. You don’t want to hurt anyone in practice, but I thought we did a good job executing on the field. That was probably our first live rep of that type of sneak play this season and I thought we did a good job of executing it.”
Did you know he was short?
“Uh, I had a feeling he was short. I mean, I was on the ground, not really looking at it, but I knew the guys around me were pushing back.”
[After THE JUMP: Erik Magnuson, Jehu Chesson, Jake Butt, and animal analogies for the offensive and defensive line]
Upon Further Review still has a sponsor. I'm late today so I'm just going to tell you that Matt's a good guy and did my loan and Seth's loan and everything was easy and professional. We are associating our name with his and that is something we are very comfortable with.
FORMATION NOTES: The director was one of those guys who fancies himself Stanley Kubrick so we never got a proper shot of what M was doing presnap on the Peppers sweep:
You'll note that M only has four OL; Cole is lined up outside of DeVeon Smith. This was "shotgun empty tight" but that's insufficient to describe it, really.
This with 3TEs and a WR in a wing spot was "Ace tight":
And M pulled out another goofy split line setup. Cole is one of the WRs to the top; Williams is the "right tackle". "Emory 3-wide," I said, and took another antacid:
PERSONNEL NOTES: The usual at most of the spots except Michigan whittled down the number of guys who played at the skill positions. Johnson and Green are on the participation list but didn't get carries; I don't remember them playing at all. Higdon and Isaac did get carries, but sparingly.
At WR it was almost all Darboh and Chesson and then they added in Harris or Perry in 3 or 4 wide sets. TE was about the usual.
[After THE JUMP: opportunities untaken]
Desmond Morgan and Joe Kerridge
Joe, can you talk about being able to touch the ball, carry the ball and what a thrill that is?
“It’s really- over the years, looking at the fullback position it’s a lot of blocking- a lot of blocking- and so getting to touch the ball every once in a while is an awesome thing for us fullbacks. Sione’s been doing a great job. It’s a different twist in the game now and it’s something we really like to do.”
You guys probably haven’t had a lot of practices yet, but has there been an early message from Jim about how to prepare for this game? You guys have been moving up the rankings, people are talking College Football Playoff- how do you not let that get to your head?
DM: “After the game on Saturday we addressed it being a trophy game and being a big game for us, but as far as that we meet this afternoon in probably about thirty minutes or an hour. We’ll get more down to it then.”
When do you recall the countdown clocks coming down, and what do you think about that?
DM: “I don’t remember exact dates or anything like that. As far as thoughts on it, I think the whole mindset this year’s just been approach the next game, just go out and try to win the next game. So, for us in terms of countdown clocks or to count down to a certain game, it’s just basically been the next Saturday.”
Your thoughts on Jake [Rudock]. The steadiness obviously has been kind of a theme for him. This is a big game. Just your thoughts on having a quarterback who seems pretty level-headed through six weeks.
JK: “Yeah, Jake’s done a great job. He’s a student of the game, for sure. I try to get around him as much as I can. He’ll come up to me in the locker room after practice, he’ll already have watched the practice and come up and give me some pointers or something like that; he’ll critique something, or something like that. He’s shown great strides and it’s great to see a quarterback that loves the game as much as he does.”
[After THE JUMP: Jake Butt and Jourdan Lewis]
Alright, that hurt a bit, but I'm fine.
Wait, is that the ref?
I'm literally dead, ref.
/very convincing leg drop
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the Maryland game in GIFs.]
During the preseason I was goofing around with wide receiver targeting stats by Bill Connelly*, and Ace asked me if it says anything about anything if a team is targeting its tight ends more than its receivers. At the time it seemed Michigan was about to do that. They haven't:
But once things shake out it wouldn't be that surprising if it's Darboh and Butt then a bunch of low-amplitude dudes. The more the season has progressed, the more it seems Ian Bunting and Henry Poggi are going to siphon snaps and targets from Grant Perry and Drake Harris. Jehu Chesson gets ignored even when his cornerback has fallen down. We can compare this distribution to the rest of the Big Ten:
For the above I counted OSU's H-backs as receivers, fullbacks as RBs, and Northwestern's "superbacks" as tight ends. It's early in the season so there's still a ton of mess in those numbers. So lets get some more data and see what we find.
[after the jump: two blobs jousting]