fair point that
Michigan had their hands on it all game, and it kept slipping through their fingers. Peppers dropped a pick-six after jumping a WR screen. Dymonte Thomas and Jarrod Wilson both dropped interceptions they had two hands on (Dymonte’s was then caught by a Gopher). Jourdan Lewis and Jeremy Clark probably could have grabbed a pair of Leidner ducks they played with Connor Cook-level respect. Thomas also let a perfect Blake O’Neill punt bounce through his hands for a touchback. Each time the Gophers capitalized.
For its part, Minnesota held on like men who don’t know what they’d do with their lives if they couldn’t run around in goofy armor for a chance to win some painted old pottery. On 4th and 5 on Minnesota’s last drive, K.J. Maye had one inch to catch a slant against perhaps the best cornerback in the country, and didn’t drop it. Neither did his receiver mate Drew Wolitarsky, who on the ensuing 2nd down beat Channing Stribling with a double move and hauled in a pass at the 1 inch line.
With the clock running Mitch Leidner moved his pieces around to set up a winning TD, but the Michigan defense chased him out of his pocket. That left 2 seconds for either a field goal attempt to force overtime, or a play to win. An average team against an average defense should get that QB sneak 9 times out of 10. But Minnesota was no average offense; they had a true freshman at center and other replacements all around him. And Michigan was no average defense. For one, Ryan Glasgow was the guy right over the ball. For two, D.J. Durkin was making the calls.
Harbaugh says Durking called the QB sneak, team rolled the dice and built a wall.
— Zach Shaw (@_ZachShaw) November 1, 2015
While the Minnesotasphere will spend the next week replaying final scenarios (and the choice to play for a field goal at the end of the first half), Michigan fans will try to unpack all of the misfortunes and misplays that almost made the Little Brown Jug miss the flight home from its year abroad.
So much about Michigan has changed since then that it’s hard to remember this is still a team put together by Brady Hoke and held together by Harbaugh’s ingenuity. You can’t blame the old coach for everything, but Michigan’s recent history was all over this game.
Those weren’t all bad things. The interior defensive line was its magnificent self. Jourdan Lewis was. Chesson dropped one earlier but held onto his horizontal touchdown, and Darboh’s hands made sure it was 3 points, not 1, that Minnesota needed from our 1.
Hoke also left Jabrill Peppers, who, finally, was the answer one too many of Michigan’s questions. Need an athletic nickel to neutralize the spread? Peppers. Need a strong safety? Peppers. Cornerback. Kick returner. Punt returner. Running back. Slot receiver. Quarterback?
So yeah, this week we’re going to talk about the Morris-or-bust plan, because early in the third quarter Jake Rudock went to slide, and a defender tried to separate his head from his shoulders. It was the third time (the second was earlier in this game) this season he was clearly targeted with no call.
With Michigan down 23-21 at this point Harbaugh inserted Wilton Speight, whose play was about what you expect out of Wilton Speight. He did finally get his feet under him on the final drive, with his last two passes of the game the touchdown to Chesson and the two-point conversion to Darboh. Let that be the final word on wither Shane Morris.
(Rudock was on the sideline trying to throw after being examined and just about everyone noted Michigan informed the press it was a shoulder injury rather than, you know, making it a thing.)
Desmond Morgan did not have a good game, giving up a long run when he got out of his lane, getting caught too far inside on a long wheel route, letting Brandon Lingen sneak behind him for a long pass at the beginning of the 4th quarter, and letting Rodney Smith shuck him to give up a crucial 3rd and 17.
That and the dodgy score and the Halloween candy had Michigan perilously close to vomiting up a Hoke game in 2015. But they ultimately held it down, and the feeling will pass with time.
By Heiko Yang
So I just started interviewing for residency. I’m applying into urology, which matches earlier than most other specialties (insert penis joke here). All my interviews have been squeezed into a tiny month-and-a-half span (insert penis joke here). A lot of them happen on weekends, so unfortunately that means I’m going to miss every Michigan game from now until Ohio State. Alas. Maybe I’ll suck it up and pay for in-flight wifi, but I’m worried about … a weak stream? Secondary to insufficient bandwidth? Yes, we will go with that for now. I need to work on my penis jokes.
Michigan is going to win tonight. I think we can all agree on that, contrived punt/counterpunt format or not. Minnesota might put up a fight, but the reality is it’s hard to get over the loss of a head coach mid-season. Yeah, interim coaches at Illinois, USC, and Maryland and have been dealing just fine if not better than their predecessors. And yeah, Tracy Claeys has been in this situation before. But the Gophers’ situation is different. This isn’t a heroic coordinator rescuing a mismanaged program. Jerry Kill was a good coach, and his loss is going to sting until they can find a new permanent guy to rally the troops.
The real battle in this game is more of Michigan’s offense vs. finding itself. At least, that’s what I’m going to be looking at when I watch the full game replay tomorrow morning. We’re eight games into the season, and there’s still not much you could say the offense is particularly good at. Most other offenses have an established thing by now, even if there are glaring flaws elsewhere. Michigan State has Connor Cook and Aaron Burbridge. Penn State has a running back. Ohio State has track stars. Even Michigan under Al Borges had an identity that could scare the bejeezus out of opponents, whether it was the long balls or the Denard scrambles. Acquiring Jim Harbaugh has taken a lot of the derp out of the play calling, but at this point Michigan really needs to find a shtick in order for the offense to help win games.
I want that shtick to be tight ends and fullbacks. The playmakers are there. Jake Butt has already declared himself a weapon in the passing game, AJ Williams has not only adopted Jeremy Gallon’s invisibility cloak but is also “running faster” these days, and I feel better about Sione Houma carrying the ball than most of the active tailbacks. It’s probably the hair, but that’s beside the point. Michigan doesn’t quite have the raw talent at the quarterback, receiver, and tailback positions to develop further, so tapping into the potential of blocky-catchy types might be the only way to make a major leap.
Besides, nothing says November in the Big Ten like 22-personnel formations on every down.
Michigan 31, Minnesota 10.
By Nick RoUMel
This game has all the anticipation of a urology exam.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m sure Heiko would be the kind of urologist who tries to make that kind of thing fun. You know, tell corny penis jokes and talk about Michigan football, until his patient says, “Say, aren’t you the guy who writes for MGoBlog? You know, the one who’s always wrong?”
I love that Punt and Counterpunt are a doctor and a lawyer. It makes our rivalry a little more lively, along with that whole new school/old school thing and our divergent predictions. I don’t usually tolerate lawyer jokes, but one of my favorites involves a doctor and a lawyer on an airplane. (If the doctor were a urologist, you could insert a “snakes on a plane” joke here…)
So anyway, the doctor and lawyer find themselves seated next to each other, and it’s a little uneasy at first, especially when the doctor finds out that the lawyer tries medical malpractice cases. But after a few drinks they loosen up and appear to be getting along and finding things in common. The doctor gets up to go to the bathroom and says he’s going to get coffee from the flight attendant, and the lawyer says “bring me one too.”
When the doctor gets up, the lawyer sees he had taken off his shoes. Surreptitiously, the lawyer picks up each shoe and lets loose a big, wet loogie in each one. He sits back smiling at his own cleverness, just as the doctor returns with a couple of coffees. They each sip from their cups for a while, and then the doctor smiles and announces, “I’d like to propose a toast: to getting to know each other, to a new era of mutual respect, to the end of professional animosity ... no more spitting in shoes, no more peeing in coffee.”
Gee, that joke even has a urology aspect to it.
On to football, finally. (Can you tell that I’m not excited by this game?) Michigan is a two touchdown favorite on the road against a 4-3 team. With Coach Jerry Kill’s resignation, that could either be demoralizing for the Gophers, or incite the type of “Win One For The Gipper” mentality that perhaps helped USC upset Utah last week, on the heels of the distressing news regarding the dismissal of their alcoholic coach.
Michigan is also coming off media embarrassment, enduring endless replays of the Michigan State Miracle and memes of stunned fans, and a bye week that deprived them of the opportunity to start putting all that behind them. Our performance on the road is still a bit of a question mark. I’m not supremely confident, but I don’t think anyone on this team wants to deal with the airplane ride home after a loss, especially with Coach Harbaugh in their face spitting loogies.
So Michigan will avoid a second consecutive year of juglessness - but just barely. (Insert jug joke here…)
MICHIGAN 17, MINNESOTA 16
Via his instagram:
"Trust in the lord with all your heart and not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight" Proverbs 3:5-6 It's game day and I can't wait to watch my brothers ball tonight! I wish I could be there, but unfortunately I can't. I'll be back soon though, but in the mean time I know they will hold it down! Let's get it tonight, go blue 〽️
We have a little inside information here: it's not his hamstring and it's probably just a one-week issue.
Falk getting his. From the Jug thread.
Dear Diary took a bye last week and it couldn't have come at a better time. My football place was pretty sore for the 168 hours after the one with poor Paul Bunyan being mandled by the least deserving yups to ever play for a program I am preconditioned to think the worst about.
Misery for our company. CR found some more football fans for our healing circle by consulting novelist Jon Rowe, who offered a list of commensurate moments. A sampling:
- The Band is On the Field from Stanford's perspective
- Leon Lett's muff
- Auburn returns Bama's field goal attempt
- Baylor gets a 99-yard fumble return on its face when it could have kneeled
- Furman goes for 2 up 15-14 with 7 seconds left, but its 2-point conversion is intercepted and returned and they lose 15-16.
- The immaculate reception
- Wait, what? Why is the MSU game on this list I thought I'm supposed to feel better?
- In range for a field goal to avoid a historic upset…AGAIN? Stop bringing up Michigan!
- An uncharacteristic offensive explosion should have ended when Anthony T—
- Colorado, down…STTTTTTTOOOOPPPPP@!@@@@@@@
In conclusion every bit of luck that goes our way ever again is wholly deserved, not that we'll be able to enjoy it because self-awareness is cruel.
Self-awareness isn't always cruel. Math—I mean good math—doesn't do things like overrate the last thing to happen. And out of the randomness comes good news from our resident advanced stats collator Ecky Pting:
Ecky also did this last week for win probabilities. Right now we are looking at 9 or 10 wins most likely, which is to say Ohio State's a coinflip and 85% we get there without collecting any dust. And if you like statistics dust, here's a quaint little piece from the 1980s. It's called "Good at Football Again"
Etc. Alum96 has the stock report and a By the Numbers on Minnesota in the forums. MaizeJacket should update the Coaching Changes diary before we discuss. Best and Worst and Inside the Boxscore from last week.
[Hit THE JUMP for Harbaugh costumes layman's guess at 2016's QB]
|WHAT||Michigan at Minnesota|
|WHERE||Homesure Lending Stadium
|WHEN||7 PM Eastern
October 31st, 2015
|THE LINE||Michigan –13.5|
|PARKING||Dunno, is road game|
|WEATHER||partly cloudy, low 50s dropping to 40s, small chance of rain|
This game took on added significance for Minnesota after the sudden retirement of Jerry Kill for health reasons. It was already pretty significant, though, as the Gophers took the piece of crockery pictured above on a Stanley Cup-like tour of the state after winning it a year ago.
For Michigan, this is a chance to exorcise demons on Halloween. It was this game last year when Michigan put in Shane Morris and stayed with Shane Morris long after that was a reasonable option and then the concussion catastrophe happened. It was last Halloween when Dave Brandon resigned and Jim Hackett took the first step towards completing the Harbaugh Hail Mary.
Oh and Michigan has a division to play for, even if a path to winning it looks a bit murky right now.
Run Offense vs Minnesota
Drake Johnson should be healthy [Barron]
This unit has been middling for the Gophers. Nebraska got one 69-yard touchdown on misdirection on which the Gophers blew a run fit and a safety had his head in the clouds; that was the cornerstone of a just-okay 203 yard, 39 carry day. Other opponents have run a lot with not very much efficiency. Only TCU and Colorado State have scraped above 4 YPC, though Ohio got close.
Neither have many opponents been shut down, though. Purdue and Kent State yes. Others not so much. Minnesota's rush defense is a lot like their rush offense: capable of setting up second and medium and not so much with the TFLs. They are really really average, and the stats say they are really really average.
Minnesota's front seven is a little dinged up. Cody Poock, normally a starter, was unable to practice before the Nebraska game and is listed as a backup on the Gopher depth chart; Tracy Claeys blamed himself for the long run because he spent much of the week prepping as if Poock would be available. DT Scott Epke is listed as questionable.
Michigan's ground game is a little bit better than average, but not by much. Plagued with questionable cuts from the backs and targeting issues but #blessed with fullbacks sprinting for 30 yards on the regular and other Harbaugh wrinkles, Michigan is making chicken salad this year.
Minnesota has shown itself vulnerable to misdirection as they play a lot of man with their excellent CBs and the safeties and linebackers tend to drift and then don't have great speed with which to recover. If Michigan can get their lines down with the various Harbaugh wrinkles they should have a number of chunk plays on which the playcall did a lot of the work; from there it's about controlling an average defensive line and making those three yard runs into five yard runs.
This won't be a blowout but I expect Michigan to do well enough here to string together productive drives—maybe not 80 yards but 30 will do if you're in a punting battle.
KEY MATCHUP: MICHIGAN TAILBACKS versus THEIR PERIPHERAL VISION and sometimes JUST THEIR VISION PERIOD
[Hit THE JUMP for A SECONDARY AS BIZARRELY GOOD AS NORTHWESTERN's and AN OFFENSE THAT IS ALSO BASICALLY NORTHWESTERN's]
PWO Hello: Michael Shuster
Jim Harbaugh will stockpile quarterbacks in whatever way he can; this week he went the preferred walk-on route, adding prolific PA QB Michael Shuster to the 2016 class, per The Wolverine's Brandon Brown ($):
"I want to compete at the highest level," he said. "I've been a starter since my freshmen year and I played three sports, football, basketball, and baseball, so competition has always been a part of my life. Being able to compete at a place like Michigan is something that really interested me. The fact that the academics are just as good as the Ivy League is just an added bonus."
Shuster, an unranked prospect, chose walking on at Michigan over Ivy League offers. He's put up really impressive numbers at the high school level; after throwing for over 3500 yards and 42 touchdowns as a junior, he's passed for 26 TDs against only three interceptions while averaging 10.2 yards per attempt so far during his senior season, per MaxPreps.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
On the roundtable this week:
- Technical difficulties! My headphones are out so I respond to all callers with "uh huh that sounds very interesting." I'll probably answer all questions with this phrase for the rest of time.
- Ed thinks Minnesota is going to give Michigan a tough game and we're all like "lol wut".
- Craig reiterates that he feels that the ideal number of players on a basketball team is four.
- Basketball team has more than four players though.
- oh no
THE USUAL LINKS
[Hello; still Seth. Ace is working on scouting his Hoopsdraftageddon team (and writing this year's basketball preview)]
Previously: Minnesota Offense
Zone? Sonny if you want zone I suggest you try Iowa City. In here, we play man defense. And pour whiskey.
Jerry Kill brought Minnesota back from the Big Ten frontier by giving his defense a cowboy identity, then finding some bow-legged cornerback fellers who can handle it. These guys arrived three or four years ago and were immediately sent out to wander the vast open plains of Minnesota's secondary alone. Were you to wind up over a buffalo tight end, racing a jackrabbit slot receiver, or fighting a vicious coyote for the only oblong meal in days, the nearest safety'd be a good nine miles away, if he's even patrolling at all.
Those who survived became hard men. Dangerous men. Men like ol' half-safety Eric Murray, the fastest closer in the West. Or BB Calhoun, whom they call the interceptor, though never to his face. Or Myrick the Kid, who once beat a bullet to an out route. With such men roaming the open expanse, the hardy regular folk can crowd together near the neutral zone, maintaining law and order through close proximity to the snap exchanges. If you want to take the West from these men, you have two options: jostle the good folk for a few parcels close to town, or take your chances in a gunfight with the wild men out on the prairie.
Personnel: Click makes it big.
Like I done said, they like to sidle up on in close. That there number 4 is the strong safety. If yer a bettin' man, better'd put that money on at least one o' them safeties russlin on up in that there box on the regular.
Base Set? 4-3 over spread.
By "spread" I mean their front is a lot like Michigan State's, with the DEs spread out to the edges; the more TEs, the further they'll spread. Except whereas MSU keeps a responsible guy on the backside and a hound on the front, these DEs are so interchangeable that they're just "left" and "right." The Gophers then crowd the linebackers inside, adding safeties to the box for every eligible receiver who's not wide. They'll have a lot of safeties in the box because they play a ton of…
[Hit the JUMP for how Minnesota made a legit D out of spare Midwesterners]