"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
jehu chesson destroyer of worlds
All-22 version via Ace
So much of Michigan's offense this week was Indiana being atrocious at pass coverage, but the the one where Rudock threw Jehu open was…well it was that too but it was also a great play by a QB/WR tandem. Too often this year offense has come from schematic, or rock-paper-scissors wins. This one was just a great quarterback play. So let's draw it up:
[Hit THE JUMP to see how it worked]
Chaos reigned. Michigan survived.
Indiana did as Indiana does, combining terrible defense with terrifying offense to push the Wolverines to the brink. Jordan Howard ran over, around, and through a shorthanded Michigan defense, gaining 238 yards on 35 carries. With the game in the balance and the ball at the two, however, Kevin Wilson called for a quick pass to Mitchell Paige; Delano Hill swatted the ball away to seal the win.
With Ryan Glasgow's absence disturbingly noticable, the offense and defense switched roles. Michigan couldn't rely on their front seven to slow Howard, while Indiana QB Nate Sudfeld played an efficient, turnover-free game; that was enough to produce 527 yards on 5.7 yards per play.
For the first time this season, however, Michigan could rely on their deep passing game. Jake Rudock and Jehu Chesson were brilliant. Rudock set a school record with six passing touchdowns—the previous record was four—and surpassed the career high he set last week with 440 yards on 46 attempts. He also led the way on the ground with 64 yards on seven carries, picking up timely first downs by breaking free of the pocket. Chesson tied the program record by hauling in four of Rudock's touchdowns, including a leaping grab in traffic to knot the score with two seconds left in regulation, and he set personal bests with ten catches for 207 yards.
It appared Michigan might coast to a comfortable, if not particularly convincing, victory as the Hoosiers traded field goals for Wolverine touchdowns in the first half. Rudock hit Chesson over the top for a 34-yard score on a free play to open the scoring; Michigan would hold leads of 14-6 and 21-9 after Chesson's subsequent first-half TDs before Howard finally broke through for a seven-yard touchdown in the final minute of the half. Even then, Michigan responded, marching 71 yards to the Indiana four before settling for a Kenny Allen field goal as time expired.
Perhaps there was some comfort in a 24-16 lead, but any such feelings were gone almost as soon as the second half began; after knocking Michigan back 15 yards, Indiana closed to within a point on a 51-yard punt return touchdown by Paige, who strung his return out to the right before knifing through a tackle and finding the sideline. After Scott Sypniewski's snap hit the turf, causing a Kenny Allen field goal attempt to fall well short, IU closed the quarter with a Griffin Oakes field goal and an interception of Rudock on one of his few wayward throws.
The tables fully turned in the fourth quarter, when Michigan could muster only a field goal after a 15-play drive and the Hoosiers hit back with a 24-yard Howard TD and subsequent two-point conversion. With 2:52 left, Michigan had to drive 66 yards to avoid an upset that would all but eliminate them from division title contention.
Rudock didn't shy away from the moment, moving the offense down the field in a hurry with two completions to Jake Butt and a 41-yard bomb that Chesson came back for and caught at the two. After some harrowing moments as the Wolverines moved backwards, Chesson high-pointed Rudock's toss to bring Michigan within a point, and Blake O'Neill handled another sketchy snap just well enough for Allen to slip the tying extra point inside the left upright.
Howard continued his dominance in the first overtime, gaining 18 of Indiana's 25 yards and punching in the go-ahead touchdown. It took Michigan all of three plays to not only tie the game, but take the lead; first Rudock hit Butt on a post on the second play of M's first overtime possession, then found Amara Darboh uncovered on the first snap of the second overtime for an easy touchdown.
Three Howard runs quickly set IU up with a third-and-goal from the five, and it seemed certain they would bash ahead once or twice more and extend the game. Instead, Hill stopped Sudfeld short on a zone read keeper, and after Indiana showed pass prior to the next snap, Harbaugh called timeout to set up the final play. Paige motioned across the formation and Sudfeld hit him in rhythm, but Hill's blanket coverage won out.
Michigan survived the chaos and remains alive in the Big Ten race; they can control their own destiny if they beat Penn State and Ohio State takes cares of Michigan State next weekend. After an up-and-down first half of the year, the offense is hitting its stride, albeit with help from the generous Rutgers and Indiana defenses they've faced the last two weeks.
Glasgow's injury looms large, however. Jim Harbaugh announced after the game that the pectoral injury suffered last week will keep Michigan's D-line linchpin out for the season. Michigan faces a pair of top-notch running backs the next to close the regular season in Saquon Barkley and Ezekiel Elliott, to say nothing of the other weapons on Ohio State's offense. The line, the unquestioned strength of the team until this week, now has to stiffen up if the Wolverines want a shot at that ever-elusive Big Ten title.
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.]
“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]
Everyone’s talking about Jabrill this week, so what’s it like for you having him on offense? What does he do for you?
“Well, he’s very explosive. You can see when he gets the ball he explodes and it’s a great option to have to be able to work him into the offense and an opportunity for a few plays on the offensive side of the ball. If he does or doesn’t, it’s nice to have that club in your bag.”
I know you don’t get a ton of time with him, but is he special in the way that he can not spend a whole lot of time with the offense and still pick things up?
“Yeah. I mean, he’s a football player, so he’s got that DNA that you can kind of tell once he fixes a problem- just special. Great football awareness.
“It’s really- dealing with him is like dealing with a pro football player. He just kind of looks you in the eye and takes what you’re telling him, understands it, and then puts it into action. He’s just got great football awareness and great football savvy. He’s a football player. I’ve said that before, so it’s exciting to have him.”
Do you customize the playcalling based on whether Drake Johnson or De’Veon Smith’s in the game?
“No, we don’t. No, we don’t. We feel like they all have strengths and weaknesses, but we just call the game as we call it and put those guys in the best opportunity up front and the receivers and the quarterback so no, we don’t like specifically say, ‘Hey, do this, do that.’”
What’s Jake’s [Rudock] status at this point?
“He was good yesterday. He threw the ball around, breaking the huddle. He looked good. Looked good to me.”
You expect him to play?
“Yeah, absolutely, yes. Really do.”
[After THE JUMP: “We’re changing this thing, and it’s going in the right direction and we’re really pleased with where we are.”]
On Saturday Michigan put up six points on Northwestern on the opening kickoff, a lead the defense was so unlikely to relinquish you might as well say this game was decided by a footrace between Jehu Chesson and the Wildcats' kicker. As Harbaugh described it in the presser:
“106-yard return. The blocks were sharp and crisp. Timing was nearly perfect. 10 guys, 11 guys hustling and 10 of them blocking, blocking for Jehu and he got- he is the fastest player on the team. I know Jabrill said one of the fastest but he is the fastest, and he showed it today.”
And our own Adam Schnepp got Butt on the record after yesterday's presser:
They hadn't really shown that on film where they were going to kick it there on the opening drive, but we knew they could potentially sky-kick it away from Jabrill and they did that to Jehu. We had the right return in anyway, so they kind of just gave us a counter. I had a kickout block and then we had like a wall built for Jehu. I mean, Jehu's a 10.3 100 guy. He just did the rest. You weren't catching him once he hit the open field.
I was still drawing it up when ebv posted an excellent writeup of the same. So at this point you might be sick of talking about it.
I'll use some of his diagrams, and show you what happened.
Our Playcall: Return (our) Right
Here's how ebv made it look:
Butt (on the 20 yard line)'s block is a kickout, not a lead but that's an otherwise very accurate description. Here's my drawing:
(kickoff coverage positions noted as left or right from the kicker, so e.g. "L4" is the fourth guy to the kicker's left.)
Omigod it's POWER—like manball-flavored power running where you form a wall that caves in on their wall, kick out the EMLOS to make a gap, then throw bodies at the point of attack. I color-coded the goals of the blocks: left for seal the guy inside, green for kickout, and blue for the lead blockers.
Wilson, Kinnel, Gedeon and Houma are going to form the "wall"—they each identify a gunner and their jobs are to block down, and keep their guys sealed from the play. Bolden and Poggi double a guy who's basically the playside end. Butt comes across the formation to blow the contain open, and Chesson gets an escort into the hole from Mason and Peppers.
Northwestern's Playcall: Corner (their) Right
This is a fairly basic kickoff coverage that only messes a little with the typical man-to-man return strategy. The kicker purposely sent it to the side away from Peppers, and the gunners were tasked with closing down running lanes. Two members of the coverage team, L5 and the kicker, are back as quasi-safeties to fill any lane that may be created.
[after the jump: execution]