"You know how Kyle Flood still has a job? Yeah, all Jourdan."
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]
[Reminder: we're at Moe's today!]
As Harbaugh noted in his introductory press conference, Moe Sports Shop has been around a long time. A hundred years in fact.
That is an epic video for a rather unpretentious little nook on North U. Well, current owner Underground Printing is making the 100th anniversary pretty epic. In fact he's throwing a party there to celebrate next Monday, 5-7 p.m. He's even got Busch's bringing food and drinks. Good drinks.
I know what you're thinking: "That's time when I have always since four weeks ago spent listening to MGoRadio!" Well, yeah. But we're not missing the 100th anniversary of Moe's for that. We're just bringing the show there. You should come too!
MGoRadio at Moe Sport Shop - Monday, October 12th - 5 to 7 pm
- Address: 711 N. University on Campus.
- Make sure to RSVP here ASAP as we will need to limit to the first 50 people to sign up.
- Thanks to Busch's for the Food!
- Prizes/giveaways, like not sure how yet but probably if you have a Gimmicky Top Five thing that's better than what we came up with you get a t-shirt, that sort of thing.
- We're limited to 50 people so use this signup sheet if you'd like to come.
[Ed-Seth- I may start bumping this every week]
Best: The Never-Ending Serene Story
Depending on your metric, I’ve either been writing these game recaps in 2010 against Iowa (with a heavy reliance on a cliched movie poster gimmick) or 2012 (which featured a picture of former Fig Things QB/Men’s Health cover model Brady Quinn and Poison lead singer/searcher-of-love Bret Michaels).
Needless to say, it’s been quite a long time. Over that span, I’ve seen UM attempt to transition to a run-first spread offense populated by mighty mite slot receivers and uber-mobile QBs, then back to whatever Al Borges thought he was running, to the Wreck of the Devin Gardner, to to current Stanfordization happening under Harbaugh. I’ve also seen UM field some of the worst defenses in their history, then a succession of good-to-competent ones, and then to the raging hellbeast that is the current incarnation under Durkin and Mattison. I’ve been writing about the highs and the lows, trying to make sense of the inherently unreasonable nature of college football, to determine if there is some unified theory, some midi-chlorian (ugh) connection that binds these games, these seasons together.
What makes it hard to thread these years together isn’t just that the authors keep changing, but also the readers and their expectations. While UM’s history pre-RR was marked by stability and consistency at the top, the year-to-year fluctuations still existed and made every season feel fresh and new. As I mentioned last week, the main difference under Harbaugh is that fans can safely return to the heightened, sometimes-unrealistic expectations of the past. But the more I’ve thought about it, I’m not sure “expectations” is the right word. Every fanbase has outsized expectations for their team because of how intimately they are attached to that squad; you always figure your middling LB or questionable RG is going to be better than anyone else’s question marks, that the breaks will go your way in the turnover battle, that every toss-up goes for the good guys. It’s human nature, this illusory superiority that manifests along the banks of Lake Wobegon, and it’s why college football has such an illogical hold over large swaths of the population.
[After the jump: Serenity; when is too soon?]
News bullets and other items:
- Drake Johnson is working through something minor.
- Jake Rudock had his best week of practice leading up to Northwestern.
- Higdon played because they had some “specialty runs” they wanted to use him for.
- On the rescinded targeting call, Harbaugh says they must have forgot to add the personal foul penalty. The refs also told Harbaugh they didn’t see the second player that landed on Rudock.
- Things Harbaugh is pleased with: His fullbacks and how much his team likes to work.
- The team’s physical play is helping them develop a “callus.”
What did you think of the two targeting calls, and will you appeal the suspension for James Ross?
“Yeah, we’ll take a look at them.
“I’m just really pleased with our team. All three phases had great success today: Special teams, starting with the kickoff return for a touchdown; defense, tremendous shutout; offense played really, really good football. Jabrill’s fielding of the punts…I’m getting less and less nervous about it. Did a nice job.
“So many factors. So many keys to the game, but the fellas really came out ballin’ right from the start and played a heck of a ballgame, so really pleased.”
Just talk about what a kick return touchdown like that does to spark your team.
“Does a lot. Does a lot.”
Talk about the play?
“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.”
Can you talk about this defense? Three straight shutouts for the first time since 1980. I mean, what’s the ceiling on this? Is this even shocking you, how potent this defense is?
“With a couple exceptions, we really shut down their running game. They got a few runs that got out, but not many so for all intents and purposes we were able to shut down their running game. Then coverage was- our guys were in the hip pocket almost every route, getting hands on the ball. They threw the back shoulder on Jourdan Lewis a couple times and one time he made an incredible interception. Looked like he got his arm in between the receivers arms and somehow intercepted it and took it back to the house. And then the pass rush was intense.
“All three of those phases were at the highest level today, and all working together. DJ Durkin and the defensive staff- tremendous week of preparation and called a near flawless game. That’s A++.”
[The rest after THE JUMP]
Apologies for the lack of communication that made this late. We, like the defense, can always get better, except in this case that is in fact possible.
And you can't have one without the other...
WHO'S GOT IT BETTER THAN US?
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.
By Heiko Yang
Let’s review the last four times Michigan played Northwestern:
2011 – Michigan 42, Northwestern 24. Michigan struggles to run the ball against an aggressive Northwestern front seven and falls behind early to Chicago’s Heisman Candidate but compensates by hurling bombs to Rich-Rod smurfs. The effectiveness of this offense enrages the football gods, who sentence Michigan to downfield impotence in future seasons. Devin Gardner fills in admirably after an ominous arm injury sidelines Denard Robinson in the second half and scores on a designed waggle run to the right pylon.
2012 – Northwestern 31, Michigan 38 (OT). Michigan trades blows with Kain Colter and unstoppable throw-god Trevor Siemian, but Gardner’s second game as full-time starter after Denard’s right ulnar nerve finally betrays him sees Gardner throw a critical interception deep in the fourth quarter. Down three points with less than a minute left to play, the Michigan defense forces a punt on 4th and 19 at midfield, which Jeremy Gallon returns 34 yards for a rare Michigan special teams coaching victory. This sets up Roy Roundtree’s circus catch and a Brandan Gibbons field goal for overtime. Northwestern proceeds to act like it’s never seen the Gardner waggle, Greg Mattison deploys Jedi mind tricks, ball game.
2013 – Michigan 27, Northwestern 19 (3OT). The saddest competitive game of football ever played (until next year) that will be remembered forever for the 3-second-drill field goal for a 9-9 tie that Michigan pulls off at the end of regulation without being penalized, shockingly. Other things happen that are of note: Pat Fitzgerald has a sad after a punt goes for seven yards. Michigan nets positive rushing yards for the first time in three games. Northwestern decides to field 11 guys all named “Courage”; Courage completes 66% of his passes for 159 yards and an INT before getting sacked on the final play of triple overtime, at which point Fitzgerald has another sad.
2014 – Michigan 10, Northwestern 9. #M00N.
If anyone had a claim to most cursed Michigan opponent, it would be Northwestern. That is some bad juju. Losing to the 2011 Michigan? Fine. Chalk it up to poor timing to play Michigan while Brady Hoke hadn’t yet run out of golden poop. Losing to 2012 Michigan? That’s like having managed to strike down the Balrog but then getting snared by its whip as it’s falling into the depths: horrible luck, although you probably shouldn’t have let your guard down. Losing to 2013 Michigan is like coming down with strep throat on a snow day, and losing to 2014 Michigan is like not finishing your antibiotics and oops now you have rheumatic fever.
You could say that the recent series has been a constant refrain of “Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better)” where Michigan is Annie Oakley and Northwestern is Frank Butler. No matter what the Wildcats do, the Wolverines find a way to trump it. 2015 is no different. Northwestern’s “top-ranked” defense is bested by Michigan’s defense in advanced stats and eye test. The Wildcats boast one shutout; the Wolverines have two. Michigan’s plodding and inconsistent offense seems ever so more robust than whatever Northwestern has. Pat Fitzgerald is a master tactician with a fiery sideline presence? I would like you to meet Jim Harbaugh.
The streak will continue, and without the boneheaded coaching decisions that have made the last four contests closer than they should have been, today’s result will at least be less painful to Northwestern fans. This won’t be another Michigan game that got away; this will be the one they never had in the first place.
Northwestern 3, Michigan 28
By Nick RouMel
It was 1978. My friend Bruce and I had graduated from UM and had the same plan: travel the country. We loaded my ’73 Pontiac Catalina and decided our first overnight stop would be Evanston.
There was supposed to be a youth hostel somewhere on campus. We came upon a group of co-eds. There was something odd about them, but we couldn’t place it. We asked directions of one. She looked at us and said nothing. We asked another – silence.
Eventually we found our destination and a party, some knock-off of Otis Day and the Knights. Learning we were from Michigan, there was some awkward football conversation. The Wolverines were headed to their third straight Rose Bowl; the Wildcats were destined to do even worse than their previous two 1-10 seasons, finishing 1978 without a win. Football was, to them, a joke. Maybe that’s why the silence – except on the dance floor.
It was 1995. Punt Classic and I had scored passes to the press box for a tilt against Miami of Ohio. It was our first trip to this Valhalla, featuring free doughnuts for us real journalists. It was also former walk-on Brian Griese’s first ever start, replacing an injured Scott Dreisbach who had led Michigan to a 4-0 start. Griese engineered a lopsided victory, which was only significant because that same Miami of Ohio team had beaten our next opponent, Northwestern, earlier in the season. We figured Northwestern would be a tuneup.
The 1995 Northwestern team was somewhat improved, however. Gary Barnett was in his 4th year as coach, and though he was coming off three seasons in which he’d not won more than three games, he opened ’95 beating Notre Dame on the road. They blew a big lead against Miami the next week, but won their next two games handily, and came into Ann Arbor with a little swagger, led by the triumvirate of QB Steve Schnur, tailback Darnell Autry, and a sparkling linebacker named Pat Fitzgerald.
Counterpunt was worried. I saw a once in a lifetime, Brigadoon-type season.
I wrote about a shocking upset. I wrote about the press box atmosphere, and concluded my article, “I see the press corps eating their doughnuts in stunned silence, unable to believe the final score: Northwestern 19-Michigan 16.” I was off by three points, as Griese had a horrid, turnover-filled day that could not overcome Tshimanga Biakabutuka’s 205 yards (on his way to a Michigan record 1818 yards in a season). Northwestern went on to the Rose Bowl; Michigan lost three more, ending the season losing in the Alamo Bowl to Texas A&M.
I worry that Jake Rudock will have one of those Brian Griese lines: 14-34-96-0-2, and a fumble. If he does, our defense will not overcome that.
Back to those silent co-eds. We learned at the party that it was a sorority rush ritual; they were not allowed to speak to anyone, much less two skinny, frizzy-haired lost souls from Ann Arbor.
Silence all around, except in Evanston.
NORTHWESTERN 14, MICHIGAN 13