We were cheering so much when they brought out the train that we missed how cool the play design was that they ran with it. It’s not the most complicated play to break down, but it’s certainly the most fun I’ve had breaking one down.
Other than looking cool, the train formation does actually accomplish something. The defense is trying to figure out who’s got whom, but can’t actually line up and sort out the offense’s look until this weird huddle has broken. It’s hard to catch numbers with all those other dudes in the way. It might not even dawn on the defenders until the snap that all the skill position players are tight ends (or in the case of Hill, a quasi-TE turned fullback). The train doubles as a huddle—Speight walks up the line giving the playcall—but preserves a no-huddle offense’s confusion factor.
If you’re an opponent, you don’t have a lot of time to dissect the various shades of blocky-catchy. And down near the goal line you’re not going to have the luxury of playing cover 2, since any underneath dumpoff is a touchdown. With a weird formation, the simplest thing to do is call a man defense, and everybody line up in their spots.
Then Speight claps his hands to break the huddle, and everybody rushes to his spot.
[After the Jump: Why five tight ends, why mesh, and how the rule that spread teams proved unfair is also unfair for teams that run out lots of TEs and crossing routes]
[Justin K. Aller – Getty]
Over the last couple weeks, I packed up all my stuff and moved across the country; now that I’m settled in, this column’s back. Apologies for the hiatus.
We’ve passed the halfway point of the college football season and the playoff picture looks clear, for now. Of course, that’s liable to change quickly; the biggest result of the past week was a shocking Penn State upset over Ohio State keyed by a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown. Right now, it looks like Alabama, the Big Ten winner, Clemson, and Washington have the inside track for a bid to the playoff but there’s still plenty of football left to be played.
On to the weekend that was:
--- Perhaps OHIO STATE’s closer-than-expected win over Wisconsin should have been reason for concern, but they controlled the game against PENN STATE until the fourth quarter: the Nittany Lion offense woke up at the beginning of the period for a quick, 90-yard touchdown drive to pull the Buckeye lead down to 21-14, an OSU fumble set up a Penn State field goal to further cut the deficit, and then the blocked field goal – which came after OSU tried to rush its FG unit out for their kicker’s career-long attempt – provided the winning score with less than five minutes left. The game’s statistical profile suggested a comfortable Buckeye win (for example, OSU outgained PSU 413 to 273), but the Ohio State offense had a difficult time finishing drives and Penn State was somehow able to scrape together enough points to get the victory. By the end of the game, the PSU defensive front was dominating the Ohio State line, preventing JT Barrett from engineering a tying or go-ahead drive in the final moments. OSU still controls their destiny in the Big Ten (and probably in the playoff race), but this loss strongly suggests that this Buckeye team is a ways off of Urban Meyer’s usual standard. Of course, everything comes down to The Game on November 26th.
[More results from around the country after the JUMP]
So... how did that happen? Ohio State lost to Penn State over the weekend. You may not be aware of this so I will pause for your chortling.
All right. Done? No?
how bout now nvm
Okay. Now we can proceed. While OSU losing to Penn State, a team Michigan beat 49-10, has caused no end of merriment in the Michigan fan base*, there was an awful lot of flukiness in the PSU win. OSU outgained PSU by a wide margin, held them to under 300 yards of offense, and had a 64% win expectancy per S&P+. PSU made up the deficit with two huge special teams plays, the first a blocked punt that set up a field goal to pull them within four, the second a kick-six that turned an potential 7-point OSU lead into the three point deficit they'd lose by.
Normally I'd write those off as flukes not applicable to the Game, but Michigan has already blocked six kicks this year and has Jabrill Peppers sitting back there for any teams who want to get overly concerned about getting the punt off. Advantage: Michigan.
Meanwhile, PFF's evaluation contains some shocking stats about the OSU OL:
...the entire unit struggled in pass protection, surrendering a staggering 34 pressures between them, with RT Isaiah Prince accounting for almost half of those by himself. The spark of Curtis Samuel’s untouched 74-yard touchdown run and Marcus Baugh’s tackle-breaking exploits in the first quarter weren’t repeated in the final 25 minutes of the game.
And it could have been worse for OSU. Star Nittany Lion DE Garrett Sickels sat out the first half. This did not prevent him from racking up 2.5 sacks. A different PFF article has a different pressure number but it's still boggling: 28 pressures on 53 dropbacks. Taco Charlton and Chris Wormley are likely to do similar work. PSU's 28th in adjusted sack rate. Michigan is 4th.
A second major issue was an inability to get to Saquon Barkley near the line of scrimmage:
the Penn State offensive line set up Barkley with 41 of his 99 rushing yards before contact, and Barkley didn’t have to break any tackles while coming up just a yard shy of a 100-yard game. The star on the offensive line for the third straight week was RT Brendan Mahon, who dominated the Ohio State front on the ground, combining particularly well on double teams to blow the Buckeyes’ defensive tackles out of the middle of the play and disrupt the linebackers behind them.
Later in that piece PFF will advocate for OSU's backup DTs to play over the starters after PSU and Wisconsin gashed OSU up the gut repeatedly. I will repeat: PSU—THE Penn State University—gashed Ohio State up the gut. Penn State. That one. That team. The one with Paris Palmer in the starting lineup again. They got 8.2 yards per carry between the tackles. (Why on Earth they only gave Barkley 12 carries is completely inexplic—oh right James Franklin.)
OSU's run D looks fine statistically, but that's largely due to 4 TEAM rushes for a total of –43 yards. Those were three kneels from the gun and a yakety snap over the punter's head. Remove those and Penn State rushed for an even 5 yards a carry without a single broken tackle from Barkley.
Michigan looks like they have a significant advantage on both lines. I can't believe I'm saying that but here we are.
*[My favorite thing is OSU fans saying it was a ROAD NIGHT GAME since Vegas is now offering 40 points for home field advantage.]
In other OSU issues. Land Grant Holy Land notes that OSU doesn't get many explosive plays. It's Curtis Samuel and that's it. In a very James Franklin twist, Samuel had two carries for 71 yards against PSU. And as always, I recommend Ross Fulton's OSU breakdown.
Meanwhile in this week's matchup. It doesn't look good for MSU:
How is Michigan State going to move the football?
I'm not sure how else to headline this bullet point. If you look at the numbers -- what Michigan's done on defense and what Michigan State's done on offense -- you get a pretty simple result. Michigan State will have to completely change the way it runs offense, overnight, and Michigan's defense will have to take a massive step backward for the Spartans to move the ball with consistency.
For the year, 22.2 percent of MSU's offensive possession have reached the red zone (No. 117 nationally). Michigan's defense, meanwhile, has allowed offenses to reach the red zone on just 6.7 percent of their possessions. That's No. 1 nationally. Michigan State also ranks near the bottom nationally in number of possessions per game at 12.6 and near the bottom in average field position. MSU is No. 91 nationally in rush yards per game, Michigan's No. 4 nationally in rush defense. If numbers hold, this could be a great day for Michigan's defense and a long one for MSU's offense.
MSU's gotta hope that some long bombs get completed and LJ Scott can conjure something up himself.
Bill Connelly gets to talk about his numbers too. We've been doing it all year, and he joins the "holy crap, Michigan's defense in S&P+" brigade:
Def. S&P+ is presented in an adjusted points-per-game figure and is created from an opponent-adjusted mix of efficiency, explosiveness, finishing drives, turnover factors, and field position factors. Here are its top five defenses in the country:
5. Wisconsin (12.4 Adj. PPG)
4. Alabama (11.9)
3. Florida (11.3)
2. Clemson (11.0)
1. Michigan (0.8)
Yes, these numbers are adjusted for garbage time, so Jim Harbaugh’s general ruthlessnessisn’t giving the Wolverines an added statistical advantage.
Yes, these numbers are adjusted for opponent, though while Michigan’s schedule was supposedto be awful, it really hasn’t been; among Wolverine victims, Wisconsin is 10th in overall S&P+, Penn State is 16th, and Colorado is 17th.
Jim Harbaugh is crazy part infinity. SBN notes that Harbaugh does things without knowing what the score is. Deadspin gets into Harbaugh's inability to let that fourth-quarter spot go, and I make note of the latter mostly to highlight a couple of comments. One:
When Tomsula wouldn’t let anything go, you called him a hoarder and impounded his car.
He was my daughter’s micro-soccer coach when she and his kid were 4 years old. He couldn’t have been nicer, more mellow, or better liked by the kids. He adapts to every situation to be great at whatever it is.
I almost don't want to believe the latter.
Baumgardner pokes the bear. Cumong man:
No disrespect, Michigan State, but Michigan's focused on bigger things for 2016
That's probably worth a field goal, that headline.
Harbaugh is worth it. Financially, things are going swimmingly:
U-M's overall revenue in spectator admissions increased to $45.1 million during the 2016 fiscal year, compared to $41.9 million in 2015. The $3.2 million increase was primarily due to an increase in football ticket demand, according to the financial analysis, which was approved by the U-M Board of Regents on Thursday, Oct. 20.
In comparison, spectator admissions decreased $8.3 million in 2015 due to a decrease in football, men's basketball and ice hockey admissions.
Overall, the athletic department saw an increase of $7.8 million to its net position for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016, which is up from 2015's $1 million overall increase.
He literally pays for himself, and that's before various other application/donation things get factored in.
RIP Drew Sharp, troll. People should memorialize the dead as they knew them. Much of the Detroit media has done so in the case of Drew Sharp, who passed away at 56 this Friday. Those who knew him say he was a great and funny guy whose button-pushing writing shouldn't define the man, and I won't dispute that.
However, much of the memorializing has bothered me because it skips straight over the lasting fact of Drew Sharp's career: he was an unrepentant troll. There is a certain genre of newspaper columnist or radio talking head that is relentlessly negative because that's the only thing he can do that gets a reaction, and Sharp was Detroit's version. (There's one in every city.) He didn't have readers. He had marks.
His cynicism was breathtaking, and this was never more clear than in the immediate aftermath of Michigan signing Demar Dorsey. Sharp correctly diagnosed that circus as desperation on the part of Rich Rodriguez, but for the wrong reason. Dorsey was nowhere close to qualifying and never came close, spending his career at various vagabond stops en route to a brief Arena League career. It's a sad story about kids who come up rough and can't make it out.
Or, if you're Drew Sharp, it's an opportunity to bash a teenager who ended up in trouble:
MATT SHEPARD: "He was timed with a 4.4—"
SHARP: "Avoiding police."
SHEPARD: "That happened when he was 16 and he was acquitted.
SHARP: "I wonder if that was because he was a high profile recruit. Hmm. I wonder. … OJ got acquitted. Being acquitted doesn't mean you're innocent."
That's the only thing he ever did that made me legitimately angry; the rest of it was eye-rolling at his transparent attempts to troll people. I only knew his writing, so I knew him as a man with contempt for everything and an utter lack of empathy.
Meanwhile his writing level and banter was barely above every message board's worst poster. Deadspin got its hands on a couple of his Brandon-esque emails some years back, and since those come through without the benefit of seven layers of editing they're the clearest picture of his talent as a writer.
Does the little baby need a pacifier?
Yeah, Detroit needs writers that makes excuses for the city and simply tell the idiots in this town just want to hear.
They've been doing that for 30 years in this town and that's a big reason why Detroit is swirling down the toilet.
Oh, I'm sorry...that's not a "happy feel good story" is it?
He had none. Drew Sharp's death is a loss to those who knew him. His career is his career, though, and shouldn't be viewed through sepia-tinged glasses. It says something that most of the newspaper obits start with "if you look past the thing he did every day for the last 30 years, he was a great guy." Mmmhmm.
Etc.: Nebraska regent reacts to players' kneeling protest badly. Nobody on the NTDP is a first round lock this year but two Michigan commits are candidates. Hockey also picked up a commit from D Mike Vukojevic, a potential first round OHL draft pick. Brendan Quinn on Xavier Simpson. Kill 'em with kindness. Also your DL.
If you asked me back in August where Ben Braden would play if he wasn’t at left guard, I probably would have told you tight end because, I mean, trains and things. I can guarantee that I wouldn’t have mentioned left tackle, yet that’s where Braden started on Saturday. He did a nice job in his first game on the outside, and after rewatching the game his smoothness working to the second level stood out. I found a play in one of the highlight videos where Braden flings a DE upfield before taking off and getting into a guy long enough for De’Veon Smith to get at least 10 extra yards, and I figured I’d ask him about it.
It’s hard to tell exactly from the camera angle, but it looked like he got his arm into you and then you were able to use that to push him past you. Is that what happened, and do you want him to make contact so that you can throw him upfield a little bit more?
“On that one I’m just trying to reach and get to him. It’s kind of whoever makes contact first but yeah, once you’re locked up with a guy you kind of feel how he’s moving and move off that. That goes for second level and the D-line as well.”
So there’s not one thing you want him to do so much as just feel the momentum and use it against them?
“Yeah. I mean, it depends on how the play’s designed, but yeah.”
What were you guys doing in the game that made that draw so successful?
“Practiced it a lot during the week. Tried to focus on little things. Like, talk with coach and say ‘What do I need to do to make this as fast as possible?’ It’s something we’ve had in our pocket for a while. Just working and trying to be the best I could during the week on it so when I got to the game it was natural.”
Conversely, what was their line doing that made it effective?
“They were a penetrating defense. We knew they were going to rush up the field and just kind of tried to play off that and use that to our advantage when we can, but you know, just try to prepare for it as best as possible.”
With them using the Tampa-2 as their base, when you released to the second level were you expecting that linebacker to be there, or when you were releasing were you just looking for a white jersey and somebody to hit?
“Well, that one I was kind of expecting him to kind of be in that general area, but it depends on our backfield and what we’re doing,”
What’s the most difficult aspect of blocking on the second level?
“Usually guys are quicker. You know, just trying to keep your feet moving up to the second level and staying on your block and moving your feet through your block once you make contact. A lot of guys like to kind of think about—they’re kind of thinking about it on the way up there and they’ll get there and once they make contact they’ll stop their feet. So, just trying to keep the little things moving once you get up there and practicing that and getting repetition at it so that way you can naturally do it.”
This is outside the scope of one play, but what’s the biggest difference between tackle and guard? Is it footwork or hand placement?
“Footwork’s a little different. Obviously things are on the edge. The speed is definitely different. Guys are defeinitely quick on the inside, but as far as general overall speed, you just see a lot more things that are going on [outside] as opposed to inside, where you’re working with the center or you’re working with a tackle. As a tackle you’re kind of more on an island.”
News bullets and other items:
- Chris Evans was concussed, and it’s too early in the week to tell his status for the game
- Not sure whether Braden at LT and Bredeson at LG will be the starting left side Saturday as Bushell-Beatty is very much in the competition
- You’re doing yourself a great disservice if you don’t read the whole thing for the discussion of where the refs spotted the ball after a play that left Michigan two yards short of the sticks on third down up 41-8; Harbaugh challenged, and the subsequent call was the worst he said he’s ever seen.
After watching the film, how’d that left side of the line hold up with the two Bens?
“Good. Real good. Yeah. Both played two of their best games. Yeah, good in protection, good in the run game, made the right calls.”
Is that something you think you’ll stick with this week probably?
“Yeah, we’ll see. Juwann Bushell-Beatty also is a huge factor.”
Talk about what Wormley gives you both as a leader and as a player. I think it was Chase Winovich who referred to him as ‘papa.’
“Really consummate…consummate…great football character, great human character. Really good leadership skills. Strong and makes well thought-out decisions. He’s equally as good on the football field. Just always been a rock-solid guy you like being around and somebody that you try to emulate his qualities. He’s a thinker and makes good decisions.”
Reading some of the players’ postgame comments from Saturday, they talked about last year how you kind of let the finish of the game sink in a little bit, but since then you guys have gone 11-1 over two seasons. Is that something where that kind of has fueled them since, or this week is it really going to come out in an aggressive form?
“This is a big game for us. Championship type of ballgame. Our preparations will need to be at their best. I don’t know much more to say about it than that. That says it all.”
[We need a rules expert after THE JUMP]
Hm. Are you thinking…?
YES WE ARE ALL THINKING THIS
As the Maryland running game broke through yet another State slant, it looked on the ticket market like something finally broke inside the Spartan fan soul. Ticket prices plummeted by $100.
They’ve been hovering around $140-$150 (when you include fees and such) for a pair upstairs or high up (the rows go only to the 40s) in the endzone. It’s a weird market since there are a bunch of tickets moving, but for the most part the sides are kind of ickily staring at each other, waiting for someone to make a move. Spartan ticket holders are hoping for someone to bite at $200, or if they go down to at least sell to someone who’ll promise to go in green.
But few Spartan fans without a ticket are going to want one now—Michigan fans are the vast majority of the market. Many are playing the waters, or waiting for the price to come down enough to justify it to certain parties who were hoping that Saturday could be used for de-leafing the gutters.
So no, this isn’t a game where the price can drop below $100 before the panicky moment on Friday afternoon.
[After the jump: Advice if you want to go, and whether you REALLY want to go]
Three-star Warwick (RI) Bishop Hendricken DE Kwity Paye committed to Michigan this morning. Paye had been committed to Boston College, where he was originally offered and recruited by current Michigan DC Don Brown, but the Wolverines moved to the forefront of Paye's recruitment when he took an official visit for the Wisconsin game. After going to BC last weekend to make sure of his decision, Paye made it official.
"When I went to take my official visit there, it felt like a huge family," Paye said. "The coaches there aren't really focused on winning. They are more focused on the players, and making sure the players are succeeding and they are making sure they are preparing them for after football, and not just a football career.
"Obviously, they you to be great as football players, but after football, and they stress that a lot."
Before ever suiting up in the Maize and Blue, Paye has already taken a remarkable journey. Like current Wolverines Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson, Paye and his family had to flee civil war before settling in the United States:
Paye was a mere six months old when his mother, Agnes, took Kwity and his older brother, Komotay Kossia, and immigrated to Guinea from Liberia -- to escape the atrocities of a civil war -- where they settled in a refugee camp.
Eventually, Agnes Paye immigrated to the United States and took up residence in South Providence. ...
“My mother told me we were in a refugee camp and we moved around a lot,” said Paye. “There wasn’t a place for us to stay so we moved to Guinea where I was born.
“I believe she would have still tried to come to American as the (civil) war was going on. I don’t think they would have let us stay in Liberia. I don’t think we would be alive.”
Paye started out as a track athlete when he arrived in America—his mother was a runner—before discovering football at the early age of seven.
Paye is the 18th commit in the class. While he's listed as a weakside end, where Michigan already has two four-star commits in Corey Malone-Hatcher and Luiji Vilain, he could very well wind up as a strongside linebacker in Brown's defense—Michigan doesn't have a commit yet in the class who's an obvious fit for that position.
|3* #70 DE||3*, #40 WDE||4*, 80, #26 WDE||
3*, 86, #42 WDE,
3*, #45 WDE,
Every site save ESPN has Paye rated as a low-end three-star, and it's worth noting ESPN—which gives him a four-star rating—appears to be the only site that has done in-depth scouting on him. It wouldn't be surprising if Paye moves up in the composite once the other sites take a second look; BC commits from Rhode Island don't tend to garner much attention.
As mentioned above, Paye fits the mold of a pass-rushing strongside linebacker in Brown's defense. He's listed at either 6'3" or 6'4" and right around 225 pounds by all four sites.
[Hit THE JUMP for scouting, video, and more.]
Nate Mason [Brad Rempel – USA Today]
After deciding to fire Tubby Smith after an underwhelming six years in the Twin Cities, Minnesota decided to go in a different direction with their next coach; Richard Pitino does have a famous basketball name, but he was very young, enthusiastic, and inexperienced when he got the Minnesota job – he’d only been a head coach for one season. It was a bold gamble and so far, it hasn’t worked out. In his first season (2013-14) at the helm, the Gophers barely missed the NCAA Tournament and their record slipped a little bit the next season, but Minnesota was at least a decent team.
The bottom fell out last season. In the month of November, Minnesota went 5-2 without any bad losses (and they even had a pretty good win over Clemson), but they were absolutely terrible for the rest of the season, posting a record of 3-21 after the calendar flipped to December. It took them until the 14th game of conference play to get their first win, upsetting Maryland at home in what was perhaps the most surprising result in all of Big Ten play last season. After a few key suspensions late in the season, they finished the year with a 23-point loss to Rutgers (who was previously winless in the Big Ten) and a 33-point defeat to Illinois in the Big Ten Tournament.
Usually by the time a coach gets to his third season in a new job, the program is pretty much his; holdovers from Tubby helped Pitino early on, but once the personnel was mostly recruited by him, the Gophers had a major slide. He retained his job and has a surprisingly high buyout, but unless last year was an extreme aberration, the long-term prognosis doesn’t look good. To be fair, they were a young team last season and there are signs of hope – junior guard Nate Mason is the best player Pitino brought in, Jordan Murphy was a pleasant surprise last year as a freshman, there are good transfers and a good recruiting class coming in, etc. – but there will need to be progress or Minnesota will be looking for a new coach fairly soon.
[More on the Gophers after the JUMP]
10/22/2016 – Michigan 41, Illinois 8 – 7-0, 4-0 Big Ten
viscera cleanup crews are on overtime [Eric Upchurch]
Dear reader, it turns out there is a downside to Michigan hog-walloping every team they play. You see, when every game resembles Brock Lesnar versus a toddler the emotional import is rather muted. Michigan was always going to put it on Illinois and their third-string quarterback. They scored four straight touchdowns to open the game and cruised home; I spent three quarters of the game wincing when Michigan players required attention from the medical staff, very much ready to hit the fast-forward button.
This is a difficult column-writing environment. Sometimes you get a gift like Jabrill Peppers annihilating some poor staffer on the sideline. Sometimes there's a 41-8 game that doesn't even cover the spread and Peppers has the temerity to fair catch punts in the third quarter as Michigan Stadium groans because we haven't seen nearly enough comical explosions to sate our greedy little hearts.
So I must confess, dear reader, that I do not have a grand overarching theme to offer you. We're past the point when we can say "boy, it is nice to blow out a team you are supposed to blow out"; I already wrote that one. I already wrote the one about how this looks like a historically good defense. I already wrote the one that looked back at the Brady Hoke and Dave Brandon mess, which was two years ago and feels like two hundred. I already wrote the one about how Michigan broke the opposition's spirit, and the one about how we're crabby crabs looking for any flaw because of the roadblock at the end of the season. I submit to you that I have mined all available angles when Michigan lives up to expectations, especially when those expectations are of the steamroller-versus-bag-of-Cheetos variety.
So here we are, looking at each other, waiting for me to say something.
this column must wait [Bryan Fuller]
There is a column I have yet to write, but cannot write yet: Wilton Speight as Jake Rudock. Like Rudock, Speight scuffled through much of the first half of the season. Like Rudock, Speight had a eye-catching game featuring many daggers against a bad defense. I want to point at Rudock's exponential improvement and say yes that for Speight right now we all saw it, but one game against Illinois is insufficient evidence. One game against Michigan State, a team currently ranked worse than EMU by various fancy stats, is also probably insufficient evidence.
But two weeks is better than one, and three better still, and I was struck by Speight's comments after the game on what he did on the bye week:
“I watched all of the six games, every snap, and just took a lot of notes on what glaringly needed to be better and also little things. So being able to throw with guys like Grant [Perry], Jehu [Chesson], in our time off—you know, we didn’t have the couple hour practice with pads on and everything but we were still able to go out there like we did this summer and throw certain routes. I just wanted to focus on—I can make every throw, in my opinion, but sometimes I was short on passes or when a guy was open I’d miss him. That’s what I wanted to focus on the second half of the season was eliminating that.”
Speight is a guy who almost transferred because he thought Harbaugh would go with a guy he recruited, but stuck it out; he beat out everyone's fave-rave this offseason, and he's held the job without challenge since. Because he works. They all work—this offseason saw a spate of hilarious articles about the QBs trying to slip in work with the WRs without the other guy knowing. Speight works like the rest of Michigan works.
And maybe he is getting there. You can see the war between Jim Harbaugh and Al Borges in his performances: early on, Speight was creepily accurate. Then he got annihilated by Chidobe Awuzie and regressed to old habits. This happened to Devin Gardner early on, as well. He'd start out throwing it like his coaches wanted him to and regress to a high-school pushing motion once he started thinking about guys trying to hit him. Speight was rattled against CU and seemed to have lost the refinements from the offseason; given an opportunity on the bye week he set to regaining them.
So far, so good. More important than the performance against Illinois is the reaction when the coaching staff is jetting around the country trying to lock up recruits. When the cat's away, the mice watch film and run routes.
A more extensive selection at MGoVideo.
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 Wilton Speight opened with his traditional terrible first pass. I grumbled to my wife. He was lights out after that, averaging 11 yards an attempt. His performance was even more impressive than the numbers since he suffered a couple drops and Amara Darboh was interfered with on a bomb to the endzone that was dead on. Speight didn't benefit from anything super-long, either. Michigan's longest completion was 33 yards. This is a version of Speight you can win many things with.
#2 Karan Higdon had a 45-yard touchdown late on which he burst past a guy with an angle and then cut back to get the last ten, carrying a DB into the endzone. Consider that even before that he'd gained 61 yards on 7 carries. He slalomed through various blockers and opponents on a trap play on which it looked like the hole wasn't exactly where it was supposed to be and generally looked fast, powerful, and way better than Mike Weber.
#3 Ben Braden had a shockingly smooth transition to left tackle. He led the way on various offset draws and his pass protection was close to impeccable against some tough customers (when they're rushing, at least). The one sack he was charged with was PA on which he didn't have a traditional pass drop; I thought that was more on Speight than Braden. If he can maintain this level of performance Michigan's Newsome issue seems far less daunting.
Honorable mention: The entire defense. They spent so little time on the field and split what stats were available that no individual was able to do as much as the various offensive players. They remain rather good.
7: Jabrill Peppers(T2, Hawaii; #3 UCF, #1 Colorado, #2 Rutgers)
6: Wilton Speight (#1 UCF, #1 Illinois)
5: Ryan Glasgow(#2 UCF, #1 UW).
3: Mike McCray(#1, Hawaii), Ben Gedeon(#3 Colorado, #3 PSU, three-way T1 Rutgers).
2.5: Karan Higdon(four-way T2, PSU, #2 Illinois).
2: Jake Butt(#2 Colorado), Kyle Kalis (#2 UW), Chris Wormley (three-way T1, PSU, same vs Rutgers), Taco Charlton(three-way T1, PSU, same vs Rutgers).
1: Delano Hill (T2, Hawaii), Chris Evans (T3, Hawaii, four-way T2, PSU), Maurice Hurst (three-way T1, PSU), Jourdan Lewis (#3 UW), Devin Asiasi(#3 Rutgers), Ben Braden (#3 Illinois).
0.5: Mason Cole(T3, Hawaii), De'Veon Smith (four-way T2, PSU), Ty Isaac (four-way T2, PSU).
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
This week's best thing ever.
This is kind of a dumb best thing ever, but TRAIN.
It was more hearing the stadium respond to TRAIN than the actual three-yard touchdown. The vibe around the program now is so fun, and TRAIN is a part of this.
Honorable mention: Most of the rest of the game.
Hawaii: Laughter-inducing Peppers punt return.
UCF: Speight opens his Rex Grossman account.
Colorado: Peppers cashes it in.
PSU: Wormley's sack establishes a theme.
UW: Darboh puts Michigan ahead for good.
Rutgers: Peppers presses "on".
Illinois: TRAIN 2.0.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
This week's worst thing ever.
Michigan gives up a touchdown on a downfield prayer that Delano Hill misreads.
Honorable mention: Two other big plays by Illinois, many worrying injury moments. .
PREVIOUS EPIC DOUBLE BIRDs
Hawaii: Not Mone again.
UCF: Uh, Dymonte, you may want to either tackle or at least lightly brush that guy.
Colorado: Speight blindsided.
PSU: Clark's noncontact ACL injury.
UW: Newsome joins the ranks of the injured.
Rutgers: you can't call back the Mona Lisa of punt returns, man.
Illinois: They scored a what now? On Michigan? A touchdown?
[After THE JUMP: eh, the usual]
Dymonte Thomas, De’Veon Smith, Wilton Speight
Wilton, a little bit sloppy there in the second half, would you say, and were you a little bit disappointed with that? Not you, but the team.
“Yeah, it starts with me, but yeah, it’s obviously something we need to look at on film and figure out how to not come out with a three-and-out or a turnover here and there and not give the opponent any sense of life. We’ll learn from that and build on that.”
Dymonte, what was going through your mind as you had that interception at the end of the first half?
“First thing that went through my mind is it’s about time. I knew that my teammates—every day they make fun of me: ‘Dymonte, you can’t catch. You don’t have no hands.’ So, after I caught that interception they all said, ‘You know what? I’m gonna let you breathe. I’m gonna let you go. About time you caught it.’ It’s an exciting feeling. I was pretty happy, pretty pumped.”
Dymonte, your team held Illinois without a passing yard in the first half. What was key in doing that, especially against an inexperienced quarterback.
“We just knew we had to bring pressure. He was getting the ball out pretty quick, pretty fast, and we knew that. We just had to tighten up on our coverage and we knew some of the things, their tendencies, on third down they were going to do, short-yardage game. We just made sure that we kept that in perspective and played tight defense and allowed our defensive linemen and linebackers to blitz and create opportunities for us.”
Wilton, I know some of you guys had time off last week, but for you specifically, was there one thing you tried to work on last week or that you wanted to get better at going into the second half here?
“Yeah. So, I watched all of the six games, every snap, and just took a lot of notes on what glaringly needed to be better and also little things. So being able to throw with guys like Grant [Perry], Jehu [Chesson], in our time off—you know, we didn’t have the couple hour practice with pads on and everything but we were still able to go out there like we did this summer and throw certain routes. I just wanted to focus on—I can make every throw, in my opinion, but sometimes I was short on passes or when a guy was open I’d miss him. That’s what I wanted to focus on the second half of the season was eliminating that.”
[More after THE JUMP]