well that's just, like, your opinion, man
10/10/2015 – Michigan 38, Northwestern 0 – 5-1, 2-0 Big Ten
It was one fan, maybe two or three, in the south endzone. He or she or they wrote themselves into a corner of Michigan lore with one of the simplest chants in sports. It's the one that gets deconstructed into the letter D and the outline of a fence at NFL stadiums across the country. It is about as unique and special as "Seven Nation Army" at this point, but life is all about timing.
I have been to every Michigan home game in the last 18 years and I have never heard that. It is alien, the kind of thing I recoil from because it represents the melting of our special Michigan snowflake.
And holy shit, man. The little pin-pricks all across your scalp; the tremor in the hands; the flush of sweat; the welling of tears manfully suppressed. I could not participate myself. I was too gob-smacked to do much of anything at that moment. Michigan was up 38-0 with time about to expire. It was 4th and 17. If you had asked me to draw a card from the deck at that moment I couldn't have managed it.
Since the podcast started I've looked at a lot of lyrics from songs I love, and on the page they're flat nothings. This was the inverse of that. Two syllables; one word; and yet, poetry.
This is it, already. The building process turned out to be a single offseason of four-hour practices and competition over everything from starting positions to the most elegant mashed potato sculpture at dinner. Brady Hoke may not have been able to point his team in the right direction given two tries, but he could recruit, and the fruits of his labors have been honed molecule-thin by a man who can get hat-displacingly angry up a billion points in the second half.
Michigan fans were dying for this. Barely anyone left until deep into the fourth quarter, and there were still enough people ready to run through a wall with 29 seconds left, enough people to rattle the press box and send electricity up your spine.
The recent Harbaugh-to-NFL flare ups caused Michigan twitter to once again latch on to the pant leg of anybody who dared assert that Harbaugh would ever leave the confines of Ann Arbor (save for road games, of course). In the aftermath, media members got rabies shots and quietly conferred about how Wolverines fans are low key the most annoying on the internet.
They are not wrong. We take after our mascot: outwardly innocuous, secretly vicious bastards with a pipe-crushing grip. Anyone threatening the precious will be verbally berated until they give up in exhaustion. After the last eight years in the wilderness even the thought of a diversion enrages.
I emceed the Alumni Association's tailgate on Saturday, and I heard an awful lot about how things have changed in just a year. Indeed they have. I went back to the game column after game six of 2014, in which I meditate on the mournfulness of the Kids In The Hall's theme song and embed their "Each Day We Work" sketch. This was the entirety of the bit about football:
Football happened, in the usual way.
That described a loss to Rutgers.
In that column I talked about how the most appealing bit of Kids In The Hall was always that theme song, titled "Having An Average Weekend"; I went back and listened to it, and now I think that song is genius. It filled me with a sense of contentment and optimism. That's an average weekend, just a year after things were so bad they spawned the first and only Wolverine Revolutionary Popular Front.
An average weekend ends with a stadium full of people exhorting Michigan to finish burying their opponent, with two syllables ringing through the nation's biggest stadium, once again full to the brim. With belief.
How I woke up this morning pic.twitter.com/RuyiRdECUL
— PeppyPep (@JabrillPeppers) October 11, 2015
Let those who would stand in Michigan's way come.
[Note: Alejandro Zuniga clipped the chant first but the sound quality wasn't what I wanted so I reproduced it.]
this will end badly for you son [Fuller]
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 Jourdan Lewis had a spectacular YOINK pick-six in addition to generally being Jourdan Lewis. Gypsy seems real good with him currently.
#2 Jabrill Peppers annihilated the option several times, had 3 PBUs when tested in coverage (though one of them should have been an INT), laid the final block on Jehu Chesson's kickoff return, got the key block on Lewis's INT return, and fair caught all manner of short punts, saving Michigan dozens of yards of field position.
#3 Jake Rudock was efficient and capable; called into action on the ground he left a Northwestern LB in the dust on a play reminiscent of Tate Forcier's "I Saw Cover Zero" touchdown.
Honorable mention: All DL were excellent but Henry and Glasgow in particular stood out. Jehu Chesson's KO TD was more scheme than magic but dang he is fast and added a few nice plays on O. De'Veon Smith only had eight carries but had the entire Northwestern secondary on his back for one of them. AJ Williams led the team in catches and blocked well.
6: Jourdan Lewis (#1 UNLV, #1 Northwestern)
5: Chris Wormley(#2 Utah, #1 Oregon State)
4: Jabrill Peppers(#2 BYU, #2 Northwestern)
3: Jake Butt (#1 Utah), De'Veon Smith(#2 Oregon State, #3 BYU), Ryan Glasgow (#1 BYU), Desmond Morgan (#1 Maryland),
2: Ty Isaac(#2 UNLV), Jabrill Peppers(#2 BYU), Maurice Hurst (#2 Maryland).
1: Willie Henry (#3 Utah), AJ Williams (#3 Oregon State), Channing Stribling(#3 UNLV), Blake O'Neill(#3 Maryland), Jake Rudock(#3 Northwestern)
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
This week's best thing ever.
Jehu Chesson wins the game in the first 15 seconds.
Honorable mention: Ridiculous Lewis pick-six.
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.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
This week's worst thing ever.
USA-Mexico. Seriously, I got nothin' from the actual game.
Honorable mention: Blake O'Neill's second touchback. I guess one of those third and fifteen conversions?
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
[After THE JUMP: this week's ways in which Harbaugh out-schemed his opponent, Happy Iowa Rudock, John Baxter's first BANG, and more defense defense defense.]
Jabrill Peppers and Jourdan Lewis
Jabrill, can you give us a sense of what it feels like on that defense to lead this team in, in this case, three consecutive shutouts? What’s the atmosphere on that defense right now?
“You know, there’s still room for improvement. We just come in time in and time out with a great gameplan. It’s up to us to execute. We have a lot of talented guys who take pride in what they do, and when you have a group of 11 guys that are all doing their job and hungry to do their job then the sky’s the limit for us.
“We’re not going to pat ourselves on the back and all that other stuff. It’s time to go now. We’re getting into the guy of our schedule and we still have to improve on a lot, so that’s how we look at it. Just get in the film room tomorrow and try to correct the mistakes and take it one game at a time.”
Jourdan, take us through the pick and what happened. We couldn’t see the ball. Did he bobble it or did you strip it from him?
“Oh no, I took it from him. He had the ball and I guess he was trying to brace his fall and I snatched it out of his hands and I didn’t even know I had it. It was on my leg, so as soon as I saw it on my leg I just started hitting it.”
Did you guys hear the crowd chanting “Defense! Defense!”? I know you said you’ve got more to improve, but to get a third straight shutout and to have that feeling, isn’t there some type of emotion coming right now from what you guys are doing?
JP: “I wouldn’t say any emotion. This is what we expect to do. We work extremely hard, our coaches work extremely hard gameplanning and letting us know what they like to do out of said personnel on first, second, third down so when we’re out there we just keep that in mind and do what we’re coached to do to the best of our ability.”
Jabrill, that last drive in the fourth quarter, all the starters are out there and you guys are fired up. How important was finishing that third straight shutout?
“You know, we really don’t think about shutouts when we’re out there. We really just try to limit them to as much as possible. When we’re out there we don’ want to give them anything, and if a shutout is the byproduct of that then so be it but when we’re out there we’re just concentrating on three and outs, constant three and outs, getting off the field, let our offense give us a break and put up some points or let us put up some points. We don’t really hang our hats on a shutout but if that’s a byproduct of our hard work and what we gameplan for then so be it.”
[More after THE JUMP]
As dusk descended upon Ann Arbor, the crowd roared.
"DE-FENSE. DE-FENSE. DE-FENSE."
Michigan fans weren't urging the defense to make a critical stop in the fourth quarter. They were urging them to finish the shutout. For the third straight game, the defense finished.
Michigan is the first FBS team since 1995 to shut out three consecutive opponents.
— Colleen Thomas (@colleenthomas_) October 10, 2015
"I wouldn't say any emotion," said Jabrill Peppers, asked if the defense fed off the chant. "This is what we expect to do."
"When we're out there, we don't want to give them anything."
The Wolverines allowed 168 yards; only 38 of those came on the ground against a Northwestern team that relied on its run game and its strong defense to win its first five games. One could easily argue the pass defense was even better than the rush defense. Jim Harbaugh said DJ Durkin called a "near-flawless game," adding "A-plus-plus." It would be much harder to argue that point.
One of the stars of the defense helped Michigan to the game-winning points—on the first play of the game. Peppers had an inkling Northwestern would kick the ball away from him, electing instead to boot it towards Jehu Chesson.
"If they kick it to you, just follow me, follow my block," Peppers said he told Chesson.
A lane opened up, Peppers walled off two Wildcats, and Chesson streaked down the west sideline for Michigan's first kickoff return touchdown since Darryl Stonum against Notre Dame in 2009.
The defense forced a three-and-out on the ensuing possession, one of three they'd record in the first half. The offense held up their end of the bargain, with big plays by a healthy looking De'Veon Smith and Jake Butt setting up a touchdown plunge by Drake Johnson. Michigan led 14-0 just 4:40 into the game, which was effectively over, save for the extended beating.
Jake Rudock, who had his best game at Michigan, threw for 179 yards on 23 attempts and extended the lead to 21 on a two-yard quarterback keeper late in the first quarter. His favorite target on the day was AJ Williams, whose four receptions all went for first downs. Hail all the Harbaughs.
Jourdan Lewis had the play of the afternoon in the second quarter, stealing the ball from receiver Austin Carr, who looked for all the world like he'd made a first-down catch, and streaking 37 yards the other way in front of a befuddled Northwestern sideline and a delighted Michigan Stadium crowd. The Wolverines wouldn't need any more points, but they got some anyway on a 47-yard Kenny Allen field goal and a late four-yard touchdown run by Derrick Green. The latter score meant Michigan and Northwestern hit the over. The Wolverines required no contribution from the Wildcats.
"Pretty much every phase you look at, it was humming today," said Jim Harbaugh. "Congratulations, it was impressive. Next. Onward."
Next is Michigan State. Onward, indeed.
You know, Matt was just like "if I sponsor this you have to do them all for the whole season" and I was like "okay but you know that was going to be likely since now I am not going to be overwhelmed with sadness two-thirds through" and then he made some sort of intimidating hand gesture. But his heart is in the right place?
FORMATION NOTES: At this point Michigan has few formation surprises. They're usually in a nickel. They alternate between three or four fronts. One is a three man line with the buck in a two point stance as a 3-4 OLB:
30 nickel slide
One splits the DEs a bit further and tucks the buck in behind the NT:
And then they run a lot of standard four man fronts.
Some of the four man lines will have the buck in a two point stance; I still denote those as four man lines based on the alignments of the DL.
Michigan swaps mostly between man under with one or two deep safeties and a cover three with a few different variants.
PERSONNEL NOTES: Standard rotation up front with Henry/Glasgow/Wormley in front of Charlton/Hurst/Godin. Henry got a lot of playing time after a couple weeks in which Godin was more prominent; Hurst probably played the best of anyone. Ojemudia got almost all the buck snaps until he was hurt, and from that point it was RJS.
LB was Morgan and Bolden with a scattering of 4-3 snaps that featured Ross. The secondary did not have Stribling so it was Clark/Peppers/Lewis/Wilson/Hill for the vast majority of the game. When in a 4-3, Clark left. When in a dime, Dymonte Thomas entered.
Michigan continued flipping Peppers and Lewis between outside corner and slot like they did last week.
[After THE JUMP: a defenestration]
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.]
Upon Further Review has not yet lost its sponsor.
Look you probably know about the rates and the pants and the whatnot. Homesure Lending is also a good option because on otherwise boring phone calls you can talk about how awesome Ryan Glasgow is.
FORMATION NOTES: By this point the defense is pretty well established. We got a few glimpses at what Michigan intends to do against pro-style formations; this is a 4-4 with the line shifted over (to the strength of the formation), Ross at SAM, and Hill threatening off the weakside:
Wilson, the free safety, is about 20 yards downfield.
I'm calling the thing where they drop the buck off the line like so…
…"30 nickel buck" to distinguish it from an actual 3-3-5.
This is what I mean by "triple stack" on UNLV's part; Michigan is in their standard nickel even:
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Line was close to the first two games with Henry/Glasgow/Wormley backed by Charlton/Hurst/Godin except that you could replace Henry in the starting lineup with Godin based on snaps played. Henry got cut a bunch on the backside of zones and didn't see much time in the middle of the game.
WDE/buck was the usual 70/30 split between Ojemudia and RJS.
Lawrence Marshall got in on the last drive, as did Brady Pallante.
Linebacker was the same; a little more James Ross at SAM in this game; Gedeon and Ross also got a couple drives as ILBs in the nickel.
Secondary saw the same rotation as per usual (Lewis/Peppers/Wilson/Hill with Stribling or Clark in the nickel) except that Wayne Lyons was the dime back. Brandon Watson got in on the last drive as well.
[After THE JUMP: defense crush]