"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."
10/17/2015 – Michigan 23, Michigan State 27 – 5-2, 2-1 Big Ten
So I was trying to come up with a clever thing for this post and started Googling "Act of God." Folks in contracts who are beset by improbable occurrences regularly petition the courts for forgiveness since, you know, things. And stuff. I mean, seriously. That thing, that was a pretty unlikely thing. Cumong man.
The courts have generally gone along with this. If you are beset by a plague of locusts and boils and rivers of blood and the like, the courts are generally like "God's bad, yo" and then they let you go.
Anyway. I'm scanning, scanning, trying to find something apropos, and then
I AM NOT ON THIS LIST
NOR ARE THE HUNDRED THOUSAND STRUCK DOWN JUST THIS SATURDAY
WHAT KIND OF RATIONAL WIKI DO YOU PURPORT TO BE
IF SERIOUSLY I MEAN I AM NOT ON THIS LIST, NOR IS MY UNCLE OR MY COUSINS OR VARIOUS STUDENTS AND ALSO JIM HACKETT AND JIM HARBAUGH AND PROBABLY LIKE 1500 OTHER JIMS IN THE STADIUM
OH I'M NOT RATIONAL, RATIONALWIKI?!?!? IIIIIIIII'M NOT RATIONAL?
Fine. Okay. Yeah. Okay. You're right. It's cool, RationalWiki. Keep on being mean to anti-vaxxers. It's cool. I am perfectly calm, RationalWiki. Calmer than you are.
This is the section inspired by the brain above. It's a pretty impressive brain, all up in some parentheses that probably mean something to people who took their discrete math class seriously instead of asking my friend to drop off my homework because 8:30 on North Campus just wasn't happening, man.
So. In about 10 months Jim Harbaugh erased the physical gap between Michigan and Michigan State. Michigan didn't run roughshod; both teams struggled to get yard one on the ground. Injury whinging is out of the question: both teams were down one starter on the line when MSU was on the field.
In the absence of a physical advantage either way, the game came down to the fact that Michigan State spawned a generational quarterback from a three-star recruit at the same time they had disastrous special teams. Michigan's special teams were amazing until they were… not amazing, and Brady Hoke hired an offensive coordinator whose 30-year career has seen one quarterback he recruited ever—everrrrrrr—start. (That guy was Indiana's QB as a sophomore; the next year he was a tight end.) Jake Rudock is a smart dude who I am grateful is at Michigan; he is not a guy who Harbaugh has chosen and developed.
When Cook had an opportunity to hit a receiver who'd gotten over the top of Jeremy Clark, he did so. He nestled the ball in there with the care and precision of a watchmaker. If there was a job where you had to throw babies at titanium bassinets inside a volcano, I would be comfortable giving Connor Cook that job. Rudock hit some intermediate passes but he did not take advantage of his opportunities to hit touchdowns.
Thus a game that was close enough for God to do some serious smitin'.
So, that sucks. It sucks that happened. It sucks that the kind of trash program that would run all the way across the field to taunt the Michigan student section after being handed a gift gets to feel like they earned something this morning. They're planning on nicknaming it, as if they earned something. That is why Michigan State will always be Michigan State. That is why "little brother" stuck: because it is the truest thing ever said about the attitude of that program.
But I've seen worse. I've felt worse. I have a big ol' callus. It's clear the direction this is going, and it's not a loss to Rutgers. The juggalos will get theirs as soon as Harbaugh flips the QB matchup. That's the undercurrent of their relief. They're already celebrating like underdogs who fluked it out.
See you next year.
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 Jourdan Lewis had 6 PBUs, wasn't beaten clean without offensive pass interference, and shut down Burbridge enough that MSU was behind despite a monster game from their QB.
#2 Jabrill Peppers had three excellent returns, was important in limiting the MSU ground game, caused MSU to freak out and burn consecutive timeouts late in the first half, and set up a Michigan touchdown with an end-around.
#3 Willie Henry had two sacks and was in MSU's backfield for most of the fourth quarter.
Honorable mention: rest of the front seven, Kenny Allen.
9: Jourdan Lewis (#1 UNLV, #1 Northwestern, #1 MSU)
6: Jabrill Peppers(#2 BYU, #2 Northwestern, #2 MSU)
5: Chris Wormley(#2 Utah, #1 Oregon State)
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), Maurice Hurst (#2 Maryland), Willie Henry(#3 Utah, #3 MSU).
1: 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.
Michigan's defense boots MSU off the field on fourth and nineteen to win the game, until they did not win.
Honorable mention: 80 yard punt. Peppers on the loose.
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.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
This week's worst thing ever.
Honorable mention: N/A
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: Jourdan Lewis targeted again. It goes okay to well.]
After a finish like that, what do you tell your guys in the locker room?
“They played their guts out. Played winning football. Overcame so much, and we messed up a play at the end. Have resolve, put steel in the spine, and we’ll move forward.”
Given the fact that your team played so well until the end, is this something that you can use as…I don’t want to say motivation, because that’s the wrong word, but something you can use as a good building point?
“Yeah. There’s so many- so much good, you know. Our guys played big in a big game…overcame so much- calls that were made, calls that weren’t made. Just kept fighting and overcame so much in the ball game and ultimately played winning football. What do you say about the last play? It was unfortunate. Didn’t get the result.”
Why was this the game for Jabrill to see the field offensively and how do you think he did in terms of impacting in all three facets today.
“He did good. He did great in all phases. Big time player, plays really big in the game as he does so often. He played great.”
As you said, you guys played winning football minus one last play that could have gone any way. You guys were in control most of the game- led or tied. How do you talk to your players about the fact that it’s a process, it’s more than one game, it’s even more than one season [as] it’s about building a program?
“Have resolve. Have steel in our spine. Gotta move forward.”
What happened on that last play?
“The snap was low, just below the knees. He didn’t field it cleanly, and looked like then he bobbled it again and kind of kicked it a little bit. Looked like he was trying to kick it while he was in traffic. I mean, you saw it. That about the way you saw it? Very unfortunate.”
[After THE JUMP: “We’re gonna put steel in our spine.”]
What goes into deciding whether to go punt block or punt return when you’ve got such an explosive return man in Jabrill?
“Uh…same thing that goes into when you throw a fastball or the curve. You know, you’ve got to pressure- the ability to pressure a punter keeps people in protection, sets up the ability to return. The ability to return a punt sets up the ability to pressure, and it’s really not unlike making calls of any kind in the game of football. You do all your work and you crunch all your numbers but you coach the game by feel, and it pretty much is that.”
How pleased are you with that unit? Does that unit still have more to give?
“The punt return unit?”
And punt block.
“I’ll tell ya, I’m really pleased, actually, with the punt return. The amazing thing is we’ve had 51 reps of it in five games now. Somebody needs to go back far and see how many times there’s 51 reps in five games. Obviously it’s because we’re playing amazing defense and what have you, but if you really look at what the unit has done, there’ve been three returnable balls kicked to us out of 51, okay? Obviously we had a round robin with all the Australian rugby punters against each other in the first four games, and everybody found out it’s really hard to return one of those. Three returnable balls, and we’ve- you know, the baseball analogy is we’ve hit the ball hard but unfortunately we’ve knocked it off the wall for doubles and triples. We haven’t had a home run yet.
“I think the thing that goes unsaid is Jabrill’s amazing decision-making back there [and] unselfishness to not risk balls that shouldn’t be touched or should be on the ground, protecting his teammates, those kinds of things. Besides being explosive the punt returner needs to be a great decision-maker and really needs to handle the ball well because one of the things we always say is if you have the ball you have the team, and you need to take care of the team. It’s been effective. I wish we could get more returnable balls, but I’m not in control of that.”
[After THE JUMP: Baxter is the Yogi Berra of this coaching staff]
Kenny, when you first got here you were kind of thought more of as a punter. Did you ever think you'd be in the position where you'd be competing for and then winning this job as kicker?
Kenny Allen: "I've kind of always had it in the back my mind, but to be honest I didn't actually think that I would be pursuing the kicking job this much and then when the opportunity did arise it really started to become a reality."
How much in high school did you kick as well as punt?
KA: "I did everything in high school so yeah, it was kind of nice to get back to doing all three."
Kenny, how long did it take to settle into that role? Was it in the first game after you made some kicks?
KA: "Yeah, I think after the first game. After getting the first kick out of the way everything felt a lot easier. Kind of like a weight was lifted and then from then on everything was downhill, just smooth. Everything was a lot more comfortable."
Kenny, last week before the Oregon State game you got a full ride. Can you just talk about the timing of that?
KA: "Yeah, I’d say it's kind of ironic because I turned down a full ride from Oregon State coming out of high school, and then the week that we play them I’m put on scholarship here. So, it's just kind of nice to see that other people think I'm working hard and that I'm deserving of a scholarship. Yeah, it's nice."
[After THE JUMP: Allen, Blake O’Neill, Erik Magnuson, and Matt Godin]
|Kicker||Yr||Punter||Yr||Kickoffs||Yr||Punt return||Yr||Kick return||Yr|
|Kenny Allen||Jr*||Blake O'Neill||Sr*||Kenny Allen||Jr*||Jabrill Peppers||Fr*||Jabrill Peppers||Fr*|
|Kyle Seychel||Fr*||Kenny Allen||Jr*||Andrew David||Fr||Jehu Chesson||Jr*||Jehu Chesson||Jr*|
No coaching upgrade on the team is steeper than special teams. Under Brady Hoke and Dan Ferrigno, Michigan featured adequate kicking and terrible everything else. Their usual MO was one blocked punt against an early tomato can, archaic punt coverage that was terrible even with 11 guys on the field, and return units that did little except take penalties when Dennis Norfleet finally managed to escape from ravenous packs of defenders.
John Baxter's Fresno State teams led the country in blocked kicks over the course of his tenure there—one that overlaps with Virginia Tech at its Beamerball peak—and in his only year at USC took their special teams units from nowhere to 2nd and 4th in the country in blocked punts and kicks, respectively. Special teams is a low data, high variance enterprise but if anyone's got the track record to suggest he's going to make an impact, it's Baxter.
Now about that scholarship kicker…
The holder becomes the holdee [Fuller]
This is looking hairy all of a sudden. Scholarship freshman ANDREW DAVID was immediately dumped well down the depth chart, and Michigan must turn to the walk-ons that populate any D-I team's kicking roster. One, KENNY ALLEN [hello post], was the heir apparent at punter until John Baxter rolled into town with an Aussie in tow; the other, KYLE SEYCHEL, is a redshirt freshman who fans didn't even know was on the team until fall camp.
Reports out of said camp have been worried. Those coming out of the open practice were mixed, but guys who had been around for more than a few attempts were disquieted. There are reports Michigan is reconsidering their decision to forgo a scholarship guy in the 2016 class. That is not a good sign. Neither is that OR on the depth chart.
"I dunno, is kicker" is always a valid thing to say about kickers you have not seen much of; in this case I'm just hoping for a guy to bang them in from 40 yards and in.
wait isn't this guy in twilight or something [Eric Upchurch]
The OR is much more welcoming at this spot. Things are looking just fine at punter despite the departures of both Matt Wile and Will Hagerup. Allen has been booming punts in practice for a few years now, and during the Hoke era we saw a lot of punts in practice.
And then there's that imported Aussie. BLAKE O'NEILL [g'day mate post] comes from a land down under where small children carry around football-shaped objects to punt at anything they run across that is poisonous. Everything in Australia is poisonous. (Yes, especially the koalas.) When the survivors reach adulthood, the resulting skills are impressive:
Asked if the 6-foot-2, 215-pound kicker is the type of special teams player who can change a game, Baxter nods, saying, "He's that."
"Listen," he continued, "if you put a trashcan out there 40 yards, he can usually hit it, OK? He's as accurate, and in some cases more accurate than, the quarterbacks."
O'Neill's first year in college football was last year, when he did this at Weber State:
O'Neill finished sixth nationally (Football Championship Subdivision) in punting during the 2014 season at Weber State. He played in all 12 games and averaged 44.1 yards per punt, setting a single-season punting average record for the Wildcats.
O'Neill tallied 62 punts for 2,737 yards with a long of 74 yards. He boomed 18 punts of 50-plus yards and notched 25 boots inside the opposition's 20-yard line. O'Neill ran for a first down on a fake punt and tossed a completion for a first down on another fake.
Are you ready for some punting highlights? Woo!
AUSSIE PUNTS: SKY TERRITORY sounds like a Chuck Norris movie
Not sure if he's going to be able to do the thing where he idles for a couple seconds before he punts at at D-I level, but Michigan now has a special teams coach with a terrific track record. If he can make it so, it will be so.
O'Neill can rugby punt with either foot and his directional kicking skills in the video above are creepy, Orin Incandenza-level stuff. Real life Blake O'Neill probably isn't going to be good as a fictional punter who is the highest paid player in the NFL. Probably.
[After THE JUMP: gratuitously placed Jabrill Peppers highlights designed to make you click through mooohahaha]
How do you feel about your unit here going into the first game?
“You know, the thing that’s unique about the kicking game is the first time you really test it is the game, and we don’t have preseason games in college. So, I feel great about the practices we’ve had so far. We get 29 of them. We’ve had whatever, however many we’ve been allotted. The head coach has given us incredible meeting time, practice time, and availability and so to this point I like the focus of our players and what we’ve done and look forward to the contest, but you get to see what you’ve got when you play. It’s very hard to simulate a kickoff or a punt in practice and the intensity of the game.”
Who’s leading at the kicker spot?
“Well, you know, we’ve got three. This competition is going to go all the way up until pregame. And there’s really no need to pick one at this point because there’s none of them that have been in a game. Coach Harbaugh really believes in competitive excellence at every position, and those guys are duking it out. They’ve been taking- they took equal turns today in team. Each of them got four kicks. They’ve taken equal turns pretty much through camp.”
Who are the guys working there?
“Kyle Seychel and Kenny Allen and Andrew David- you know, the new guy, the freshman. They’ve done a nice job. Once again, we get the opportunity to practice 29 times so we’re going to take that opportunity. There’s not an established starter or whatever there, so…”
What about at punter?
“Well, at punter, Kenny Allen and Blake O’Neill are both punting. They will both punt, okay? They will both punt for Michigan this year. Blake has some skills Kenny doesn’t have, [and] Kenny has some skills Blake doesn’t have. And we’re a pro-style team on offense, defense, and kicking game, and Blake came here to want to be a pro in one year, and Kenny has really embraced being accurate. So here’s the thing: they’re both good. Kenny’s improved a lot. Blake adds some nice depth there, and they’ll both play. Don’t know how often you see a two-punter system, but we got one.”
[After THE JUMP: Kick and punt returners, and a personal connection]