well that's just, like, your opinion, man
11/21/2015 – Michigan 28, Penn State 16 – 9-2, 6-1 Big Ten
I have seen things when Michigan plays Penn State. I have seen boggling things. Things I should not repeat but am about to anyway.
I have seen a free Hail Mary handed the opposition. I have seen a timeout just before an intentional safety. I have seen 27 runs for 27 yards. I have seen Michigan's slot receiver left alone, all alone. I have seen a slot receiver wonder if any of these 100,000 people can see him, especially the offensive coordinator. I have seen a slot receiver's constituent atoms disperse as he convinces himself he must not exist after all. Then I saw some more runs for one yard. Somewhere in there Dennis Norfleet dances in a loop for all time, because sure that makes as much sense as anything.
I have been baffled. I have been enraged. I have been morbidly entertained. I have been stupefied, watching Michigan play Penn State.
Things have been a bit frustrating the past few weeks, what with an avalanche of procedure penalties, offsides calls, and special teams mishaps. But when presented with a situation where they did not expect to and could not run the ball much, Michigan did not repeatedly bang their collective head into a brick wall.
Michigan's final drive featured five De'Veon Smith runs and one kneel-down. Five Jake Rudock attempts were sacks or scrambles. Once those are put in the appropriate bins, Michigan ran just 19 times to 43 passes.
Two years ago in that very stadium a complete wreck of an offensive line took on an equally stout Penn State defense. They didn't throw one wide receiver screen. Fitzgerald Toussaint ran 27 times for 27 yards. This year before garbage time time, De'Veon Smith had 8 carries; 6 went to Chesson and Peppers.
Michigan's going to be a good rushing offense. Probably great. But even though that's what Harbaugh wants to do, he adapted to the situation he was presented with. That's terrific.
Coaching can be divided into a few different categories. Development, recruiting, and tactics seem to cover the bases. While Michigan is still struggling with the near-total lack of the former under the previous regime, the latter was totally on point here. Can't say that about two years ago. Or a year ago. While Michigan remains a bit wobbly, a bit rickety, the things they are doing make sense.
Michigan played Penn State on the road and the only stupefying things that happened came from reliable sources like Big Ten referees and James Franklin trying to manage a game. Meanwhile Ohio State played Michigan State in the most stupefying game of the year. Now is the time to sit back and appreciate the fact that things more or less make sense.
It ain't perfect and it'll never be, but Michigan tries a bunch of things and takes what the opposition gives and if something isn't going great they stop doing it. The only time I've gotten really twitchy about tactics was against Indiana when Michigan ran play action on second and twenty that led to an interception. (I was mildly twitchy about Michigan's passivity on Indiana's go-ahead touchdown drive.)
In a world where Ohio State throws 16 times against Michigan State, where Tim Beckman is seen as a viable hire for a position more involved than vending machine*, where every coach in America seems to need a 14-year-old kid who plays Madden nonstop on the sideline, "more or less makes sense most of the time" is gold. Michigan's coaching staff has not punched itself in the face for four hours on any given Saturday, and in the cold light of dawn two days after a stupefying weekend of college football that warms the ol' cockles right up.
*[Not "vending machine technician." Vending machine.]
Also a Butt TD solo clip.
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 Amara Darboh changed the complexion of the game with an outstanding tip-toe catch along the sidelines at the end of the first half. He had six other catches and blocked for a bunch of wide receiver screens, as well.
#2 Chris Wormley was the most consistent and dangerous of Michigan's defensive linemen, racking up 1.5 sacks and another half TFL. Wormley and the rest of the DL gave up one big Saquon Barkley run (mostly on Willie Henry and the linebackers) and shut everything else down, leaving PSU relying on the tempestuous Christian Hackenberg to move the ball.
#3 Jake Rudock threw one ugly interception. When not doing that he completed two-thirds of his passes for 256 yards. 6.7 yards an attempt isn't electric but since a half-dozen or more of those were wide receiver screens that Michigan used in place of a running game that may understate things. Also, Penn State has had one of the best pass defenses in the country to date.
Honorable mention: Jake Butt and Jehu Chesson had 66 and 69 receiving yards, respectively, and along with Darboh have established Michigan's receiving corps as a very good one. Henry, Hurst, and Taco Charlton helped out immensely, minus the Henry cut. Jourdan Lewis remains Jourdan Lewis; his KO return also helped seal the game.
9: Jourdan Lewis (#1 UNLV, #1 Northwestern, #1 MSU), Jabrill Peppers(#2 BYU, #2 Northwestern, #2 MSU, #1 Minnesota)
8: Jake Rudock (#3 Northwestern, #1 Rutgers, #1 Indiana, #3 Penn State), Chris Wormley(#2 Utah, #1 Oregon State, #3 Rutgers, #2 Penn State)
5: Jake Butt(#1 Utah, #2 Rutgers)
4: Maurice Hurst (#2 Maryland, #2 Minnesota),
3: De'Veon Smith(#2 Oregon State, #3 BYU), Ryan Glasgow (#1 BYU), Desmond Morgan (#1 Maryland), Amara Darboh(#1 PSU)
2: Ty Isaac(#2 UNLV), Willie Henry(#3 Utah, #3 MSU), Jehu Chesson(#2 Indiana)
1: AJ Williams (#3 Oregon State), Channing Stribling(#3 UNLV), Blake O'Neill(#3 Maryland), Drake Johnson(#3 Minnesota), Delano Hill(#3 Indiana).
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
This week's best thing ever.
Jourdan Lewis rips off a 60-yard kickoff return after Penn State draws within five, setting up a short field that Michigan drives for a game-sealing TD. Better is that he called his shot with Harbaugh beforehand.
Honorable mention: Darboh's tip-toe catch. #Buttdown. Harbaugh strippin' rage. Any number of sacks and TFLs.
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.
Minnesota: form a f-ing wall.
Rutgers: Peppers as Denard.
Indiana: Delano Hill seals it with a PBU.
PSU: Jourdan Lewis breaks their back on a kickoff.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
This week's worst thing ever.
Ohio State tests Michigan State's secondary twice. In a game of football. Against Michigan State. What are you even doing?
Honorable mention: Punt blocked. Any number of offsides or false start penalties. The touchdown Peppers allowed. Any number of infuriatingly bad calls. That fourth and ten conversion against great Lewis coverage.
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
Minnesota: The bit where the lost it until they didn't.
Rutgers: KO return given up.
Indiana: run run run run run run run run run run run run.
PSU: OSU's WHAT ARE THOOOOOOSE gameplan against MSU.
[After THE JUMP: defense back, Rudock maintaining.]
Chris Wormley, James Ross, and Taco Charlton
Harbaugh was just talking about how you guys played so well, especially on the defensive line. Was it a personal challenge after last week? Did he say something to you? Did you talk about it internally about wanting to prove something this week?
TC: “Personally, our defensive line always feels like we have something to prove when we go that way every week with that mindset. We know a lot of the game depends on how we play, and we felt like the past couple weeks we’ve been slacking, so it was something that we internally knew we had to pick up and something coach Mattison preaches to us every day.”
Could you guys tell that Hackenberg was pretty beat up at the end? Seems like you guys got to him quite a bit.
CW: “Yeah, you could tell he was, towards the end of the fourth quarter, he was flinching at the end of his throws, kind of trying to duck out of the way. That was the goal all along was to get to the quarterback and apply pressure to him.”
James, if you could talk about the toughness this team has shown on the road. It’s tough to come through the whole Big Ten season and not lose on the road.
“This team is tremendously tough. We rely on each other and we’re a band of brothers when we go on the road, and we know if you give us an inch like you’ve seen in the Minnesota game we’re going to put the game on the defense’s shoulders. We’re going to do everything we can do to hold it out, and that’s everything we can do and I trust these boys to a T and they prove it every time we get on the field.”
If Taco and Chris could weigh in also.
CW: “What was the question again?”
Why you guys have been so successful on the road, not losing a conference road game.
CW: “I think it’s a mindset, especially when you’re not at home and you don’t have the crowd cheering you on every play. It’s just a mindset, and like Biggs said, we’re a tough team. We have that mentality each and every week, especially when we go on the road.”
TC: “The biggest thing I can attest to is what Biggs said also: we’re a band of brothers. We stick together. We go to a place like this, especially Penn State, it’s a hostile environment but we know together if we play like a team it doesn’t matter what the environment is. Every football field’s the same and that’s all that counts. Nothing changes about that.”
[Hit THE JUMP for more from Wormley, Ross, and Charlton]
Joe Bolden and Taco Charlton
Opponents only scored six touchdowns in the red zone on sixteen chances this year. What do you guys attribute your success in the red zone to?
JB: “Yeah, I mean, obviously as you get backed up- you never want to allow a team in the red zone- but when you get backed up it finally hits you and you can’t break. Ultimately when they’re in the red zone you want to hold them to three points. I think our mindset, our defensive mindset, is we don’t want them to have even three points. So, you line up to kick a field goal, we want to block it. I would say just the mindset we have when the ball gets down to the red zone.”
TC: “Yeah, to contribute to Joe, just give us a place to stand. That’s all we need. We just need a place to stand and we’ll make that stop. We have the confidence in ourselves. We know we have the coach in coach Durkin and all the coaches on the staff. They gave us all the abilities and we know we can get a stop if we get down there.”
Joe, your coach just got done talking about you guys playing the top three rated quarterbacks in the league the next three weeks. I know you’re focused on this one, but how much of an extra challenge do you take it when you face a guy who’s very efficient behind center?
“Yeah, a guy who knows how to manage a game, knows how to win football games, and having his ability playing- I think other guys on offense, when you have a good quarterback you have other guys playing off your quarterback, and it’s almost like a driving force for your team. Having guys behind the center and taking snaps with that ability, with that efficiency, I believe boosts your whole team: special teams, defense, offense. But really, when you look at all three of them and you look at especially Sudfeld, they’re all great players. Like I said, they manage the game of football very well.”
Talk about how the Michigan State loss opens the door for your Big Ten title hopes, and will you be rooting for Ohio State to give Michigan State a second loss because you need that to control your own destiny?
JB: “Yeah, it obviously helps us out. At the same time, not too worried about that. We’re worried about Indiana. Rooting for Ohio State is a very bad- I would say not a very good phrase. Obviously we want to get in the Big Ten championship, and for them to win that game here in a couple weeks would be awesome, but at the same time I don’t really care what happens there. All we care about is Saturday. We can’t get there without continuously winning.”
TC: “Yeah, we can’t control what Ohio State does or Michigan State does. We just control what we do, so we make sure that we gotta win to make sure we control our own destiny. Everything else we hope will take care of itself. Rooting for Ohio State? I don’t know if we can go that far with it.”
/silence while the microphones are redistributed
JB: “Nobody’s very talkative today. Used all your questions with coach Harbaugh.”
[After THE JUMP: De’Veon Smith and Ben Braden]
Upon Further Review has a sponsor. Ran into Matt at a hockey game at Yost on Sunday. We kind of shook our heads about some of the defensive breakdowns, shrugged, and went on with our lives. (Everyone was wearing pants, yes, do I really have to clarify that? I suppose I do.) But anyway this is a person who is part of our community; we've used him and we have been happy, as have other MGoFolk who have communicated this to us.
FORMATION NOTES: Michigan had a new thing for MSU's heavy sets. This lineup has Wormley, Godin, Glasgow, and Henry from top to bottom on the line with RJS lined up as a linebacker. Bolden is acting as the SAM with Gedeon the other ILB:
That is the first time this year we've seen four true DL on the field at the same time. Another example, this time with RJS rolled up to the line:
They also did this, which I called 7-2 bear:
This was the TD on which RJS got bear-hugged; it did not come out again.
PERSONNEL NOTES: Aside from the occasional 4-4 mentioned above it was the usual rotation on the defensive line with one exception: I don't think I saw Charlton out there at all save for one buck snap. RJS got every other snap on which there was a buck—M lifted the buck in their dime sets.
Morgan played every snap. Ben Gedeon got most of the game; in the first half he was the third linebacker when M was in base personnel. After Bolden was ejected he was the guy lining up next to Morgan even after Ross became available in the second half. In the brief period between Bolden's ejection and the end of the first half, Allen Gant got a few snaps. Gedeon looked good.
Secondary was close to the usual with the notable exception of Jourdan Lewis shadowing Burbridge around the field after the first series of the game. To be honest I don't know what the Clark/Stribling breakdown was because they were peripheral, but I'm pretty sure Stribling got the rest of the snaps after Clark blew his coverage on MSU's second TD. Dymonte Thomas was the dime back.
[After THE JUMP: run run throw at Lewis, punt or repeat]
Upon Further Review is sponsored.
New logo. That's very exciting. Got a house on it and maybe some larger buildings behind it, may be on the periphery of a nice town like Ann Arbor where you can buy ramen at 11 PM if that becomes necessary, albeit while wearing pants. You could live in one of those if you had a mortgage.
Wait a second… I have an idea. You could get one. From Matt. He's got a ticket offer going for a Michigan football or basketball game. If you're buying a home or refinancing, he's the right guy to call.
FORMATION NOTES: This is Joe Bolden as the deepest guy and dropping 15-20 yards back before the snap.
"5-0 nickel LB-S"
M ran this a half-dozen times, usually against empty formations. The presumed goal was to get a DB in man coverage instead of a LB. Northwestern could not depend on enough time in the pocket to test Joe Bolden or Ben Gedeon as centerfielders.
Early Michigan ran fronts that were essentially regular even nickel fronts that had the buck off the line in a two point stance:
"Nickel even off"
That adds more flexibility in coverage, I guess? M shelved it after the first couple drives.
And they often showed a front with five guys on the line:
Most of the time this featured the two guys on the end stunting inside the guys further inside.
PERSONNEL NOTES: Standard rotations at DL. I thought I saw a bit less Godin this week but they have six guys, all of whom play a lot. IIRC, Jenkins-Stone got every snap at buck until the last two drives when Michigan mixed in guys like Watson and Pallante. Lawrence Marshall got in then.
Ben Gedeon got a meaningful drive in the first half. Not sure if that's just trying to work him in or actual Bolden displeasure. Morgan did not come off the field. Ross got maybe a dozen snaps before his ejection; Allen Gant replaced him for a snap or two after.
Secondary lacked Stribling and was the usual Clark/Peppers/Lewis/Hill/Wilson combo, adding Thomas in dime packages.
[After THE JUMP: Durkin donut #3]
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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]