a terrible blight on our fine country
You said the other day that you thought Mario [Ojemudia] would most likely miss the season with an Achilles [injury]. Is that the case, and who do you look at to step up obviously with him being out this week?
“Yeah, that’s…that is the case. Look at- look within our roster, look within our defense. It’s a…don’t know exactly who yet, but I mean, you know the guys.”
How long have you known Pat Fitzgerald and could you talk about any background with him?
“Yeah. Great competitor. Background would be starting with I was Stanford, he was at Northwestern. First crossed paths on the recruiting trail. Sized him up and said, ‘This guy’s a fine, fine coach and great competitor.’ He’s done a fabulous job. He’s a great coach.
“And got to know him this summer. Came to our football camp and did a tremendous job talking to the campers and sharing football lessons and life lessons with them. Thought it was fabulous. And his football team is a tremendous football team, so, you know, everything you look at with Pat Fitzgerald is really good. Admire him.”
Watching them on film, what impresses you most about their defense?
“Athletic. Mike Hankwitz does a great job. They react as athletic and fast as anybody we’ve seen. No. 18 [Anthony Walker] is as good a player as we’ve faced, so all those things. Really good scheme. Great team defense. Leading the country in points allowed. I think that’s the thing mainly is this team reacts and flows to the ball as good as you’re going to see in college football.”
Going back to the reference of sizing up Pat Fitzgerald, with the defense of Northwestern No. 1 and you guys right behind them, have you given this a lot of thought as far as [being] a battle of the defenses? Is this a big game in your mind for both defenses, yours particularly?
“Well, that’s part of it, yeah. Offense, special teams; all equal parts of the game.”
But given the ranking for both defenses, do you feel like it’s a bout or-
“No, the two defenses won’t go against each other. They won’t face each other, so look at it the way you always look at it: it’s three phases, and you want to win each of those phases.”
[After THE JUMP: “I’m paraphrasing here, but how many hits can you take and keep coming back? So pull up that clip. Sylvester Stallone did it well.”]
Commence The Race To Print "Harbaugh Is My Homey" Shirts
With Michigan on the road last weekend, there's not too much late-breaking recruiting news to go over, which means we can continue to bask in the positive feels from five-star NJ DT Rashan Gary's official visit. A reader passed along the photo to the right; that is Gary sporting a Michigan towel during his game last weekend. At worst, he thinks the Block 'M' is sharp.
There are also more encouraging quotes coming from his end of the recruitment. Sam Webb caught up with Gary's mom for a two-part recap of the visit. Part one is free. Part two has the money quote ($):
“I think he’s comfortable (with Michigan),” she said. “He knows Jabrill, he knows Juwan, and now he has befriended Tyrone Wheatley and some of the other kids on the team that really embraced him. He is comfortable with them and he is comfortable with Coach Mattison, Coach Durkin and Ms. Gwen (Bush). And I have to be honest… Coach Harbaugh is the most down to earth (guy). He is a like a homey (laughter). He is that dude. He is like a homey. He is not all stuck up. He is kind of quirky-cool… and I like him. And I think Rashan likes him as well.”
Gary's mom said she's seen all she needs to see to be comfortable with her son attending Michigan—and she also mentioned she plans to go to Chop House again (man, what I'd give to be taken on an official visit) on her next trip to Ann Arbor.
Gary himself was quoted talking up the defense by TomVH in a feature on how early-season results have affected recruiting for Michigan, Florida, and Tennessee. Also impressed by Michigan's start to the season is five-star GA TE Isaac Nauta ($):
“When you take a team who hasn’t won a lot of games the past couple years and all of a sudden they come out in their first year with their new leader, that’s definitely something that jumps out at you that they’re going in the right direction,” Nauta said. “It makes a huge impact, because nobody who’s a competitor wants to go play for a losing team. You want to be in a spot that’s competitive and somewhere you can win ball games, where you know they’re doing the right things to win.”
Nauta is coming off his official visit to Georgia, the presumed favorites. TCU is also heavily in the mix, but Michigan should have a fair crack when he takes his official visit for the MSU game.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
1 hour 10 minutes
Kane pyro will fix everything [Patrick Barron]
The defense again demands to be addressed first. Q: calling their shot on yards allowed? A: you cannot summarily dismiss that.
Sad ghost Jake Rudock returns with a vengeance; Harbaugh delivers several big plays based on scheme; get back soon De'Veon Smith.
SPECIAL TEAMS AND MISC
Hail Baxter. Hail Australia.
TALKIN' BIG TEN WITH JAMIEMAC
It was World War I in the West this week; in the east plucky Indiana upstarts come close but not quite.
"Across 110th Street"
"Oxford Comma," Vampire Weekend
"I'll Believe In Anything," Wolf Parade
THE USUAL LINKS
10/3/2015 – Michigan 28, Maryland 0 – 4-1, 1-0 Big Ten
fight or fliiiiiiiiiiaaaaaaargh [Patrick Barron]
I'LL BELIEVE IN ANYTHING – WOLF PARADE
"I mean ... there were a couple plays where they got first downs. We've got to look at that and correct it. They shouldn't have anything."
"I BELIEVE" seems like one of the most fun things to say at full bellow. You are in thrall to whatever it is you are busy believing in. You are ejecting spittle that contains within it the virus that will pass the belief on to those blessed by its impact. You have left the constellation of niggling doubts and pressing issues behind for at least three syllables. It sounds like a good time.
With neither Catholics nor Michigan fans prone to bare-chested, cloth-rending proclamations of that sort, I haven't had many opportunities to test this theory out personally. Once I when I was a teenager I ended up in a place where super serious teenagers were hanging out and speaking in tongues and the like. Yes, the reason was a girl. No, it didn't take.
But anyway in the aftermath I have occasionally found myself lingering on late-night exploitative religious television with equal parts scorn, sympathy, and jealousy. While the pompadour'd reverend is immediately repulsive, I get the flock's desire.
Just give me a sign, Lord. Just give me a sign. I will take this sweaty dude's earpiece radio telling him details from the card I filled out. I'll take anything. My God, this dude is sweaty. That wasn't directed at you, necessarily, Lord. You probably know about the sweaty guy already. Sorry.
Just give me a sign.
He is really sweaty though.
Here is what this game was like: Michigan punched in the first touchdown of the game early in the third quarter. When Maryland got the ball back, the play by play announcer gamely attempted to maintain the general public's waning interest by noting it was "just a two score game."
Unless it's the Big Ten West you're talking about, in modern college football you don't have to say that in the third quarter. You don't have to say it until there are about five minutes left, and that's only if someone's out of timeouts.
Baylor and Texas Tech were a couple hours away from trading 45 minutes of haymakers before falling over in an exhausted heap. Tennessee hired Mike DeBord and now specializes in blowing three-score leads. Indiana—Indiana minus its starting tailback and quarterback!—took three separate Ezekiel Elliott uppercuts and still staggered its way back to attempt a potential game-tying drive. They got a 79-yard touchdown run from that quarterback made out of popsicle sticks. Their attempt to tie only ended because a relatively obvious pass interference call in the endzone went unnoticed.
Indiana. Indiana's bench.
These days a two score lead in football is slightly more meaningful than one in basketball, but you could be forgiven for forgetting that during any particular Big 12 game. Anyone turning off a game because two scores separate the sides is ravenously hungry and can't turn on the toaster and the TV without blowing a fuse or has something seriously wrong—like Lions fandom—with them.
Not right now, not against Michigan. If you find yourself two scores down against Michigan it's time for a priest and a eulogy. "BYU: at least they're already saved." "Maryland: if you pay really close attention you can tell they tried."
I mean, maybe not forever. Anything this good is bound to regress to the mean and get various holes poked in it and fall over breathing heavily. This isn't even typical Michigan fan bleating, it's just a fact. The ultimate fact of the universe is entropy. Ask Ohio State, currently struggling to nose ahead of MAC teams and Indiana after returning almost literally everyone of importance from a team that blitzed Oregon and Alabama to end last year. Ask the water on Mars. Ask Devin Gardner. Chaos reigns.
Michigan now faces back-to back undefeated top 15 opponents. A year ago this would have been time to stock up the bunker and wait for the bombs to fall. Even when the Harbaugh Hail Mary was gloriously completed, we collectively told ourselves we were going to keep expectations on the level. Hopes stopped at "this is a nice 8-4 season that feels very nice and also like football mostly."
It's dumb to go past that even now. Reasonable expectations are a nice thing to have. The poison of ridiculous ones is evident down the road. I've been here before, latching on to the things that seem good and saying maybe it'll happen this time. I have gotten naught but misery for my troubles.
But each three and out, each time a Michigan defensive lineman shoots through a gap he should not be able to pierce, each bewildered quarterback throwing a ball he sort of hopes is complete but mostly just wants out of his hand—all of it sucks me closer to the event horizon. Within it all reason is lost and the future is a horde of pending victims in our war against the galaxy.
Outwardly I am still too Michigan to cry it out, the thing that is fun to say. But on third and long—and there is always a third and long—my eyes dance with blood. Just give me a sign, Lord.
Also, the BTN profiled Amara Darboh:
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
Now named! Named like so because this is the nicest thing Harbaugh can say about you.
you're the man now, dog
#1 Desmond Morgan was actually relevant this week. He was also terrific, with a difficult diving interception on a deflected pass, two pass breakups besides, and nine tackles.
#2 Maurice Hurst edges out the rest of the defensive line with two ultra-badass TFLs, one a sack on a three man rush, one an extremely similar play where he dumped the RB in the backfield.
#3 Blake O'Neill delicately located two punts inside the five, had a 59-yarder, and was extremely important for field position in a field-position-heavy game.
Honorable mention: All defensive persons. Drake Johnson. Jake Butt. The offensive braintrust.
5: Chris Wormley(#2 Utah, #1 Oregon State)
3: Jake Butt (#1 Utah), Jourdan Lewis (#1 UNLV), 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)
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
This week's best thing ever.
Jehu Chesson gets loose on a jet sweep and puts a Maryland safety in an early grave before outrunning the other guy to the endzone.
Honorable mention: Perfectly called Drake Johnson screen goes for touchdown; perfectly called Jake Butt screen goes for 44 yards; every defensive play except about six.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
This week's worst thing ever.
A Jake Rudock NO NO NO YES throw hits Sione Houma in the hands and bounces up to a defender, thus prolonging the first-half slog significantly.
Honorable mention: Even though Michigan got it back, Ty Isaac's second fumble felt a lot like a promising guy eating bench for half a season. Also Isaac's first fumble.
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.
[After THE JUMP: sad ghost rudock, tuff ghost defensive line]
Maryland thought they were getting a primetime showdown on national TV; what they got instead was a lesson in what being a member of the Big Ten is really about. Michigan is going to walk into your building, change the start time to just after breakfast, eat you for lunch, and be home in time for supper.
Facing a slate sky whipped up by the tendrils of Hurricane Joaquin, the Harbaugh 1.4 Wolverines left De’Veon Smith warm in his Ann Arbor stable, content to use the same strategy that got the Harbaugh 1.2s past UNLV: probe the inside, pop a thing or two when it’s time to get some points, and wait for your defense to throttle the will to football out of a vastly inferior opponent.
Growing up we called this a “Schembechler win,” and we got one, but not before a first half and change that conjured memories of a far more recent former Michigan coaching tenure. From Maryland receiving the kickoff, the drives went punt, punt, interception, fumble, punt, fumble, interception, missed FG, punt, field goal, punt, punt, punt, field goal, punt, kneel out half, interception, punt, punt, interception.
At this point I asked Twitter if they preferred a recap of these proceedings or a 10-minute pasta recipe. Votes for the game did outscore Maryland, but only barely:
Retweet if you want the game recap to be about this game. Fav if you want it to be about this gnocchi in creamy tomato sauce I just made.
— Seth M. Fisher (@Misopogon) October 3, 2015
How to Make Seth’s Creamy Gnocchi
Start by pre-heating the oven to 400 and shove the meatballs in (if you want to hurry this up just nuke ‘em for 4 minutes), then put the water on to boil. In another pan I pour some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sriracha, and—here’s the trick—a tablespoon of peanut butter. You melt down the peanut butter on medium until you have a nice brownish sauce. Add garlic too if you’re into that. When the water boils put the gnocchi in and turn down the heat.
They’ll cook pretty fast then pop to the surface, whence you’ll remove them with a slotted spoon to your saucepan. Once all the gnocchi is moved over, pour in a half a cup of 2% milk and your tomato sauce, turn the heat up to medium-plus, and cook it down until it’s getting thick-ish. Turn off the heat and let it cool until your meatballs are ready. Plop those on top, followed by your preferred level of parmesan, and you’re in business.
At this point you may relocate back to the living room to find that Michigan has scored on a screen to Drake Johnson and a jet sweep to Jehu Chesson, Maryland’s starting quarterback is on the bench, and Willie Henry is getting free hits on Daxx Garmin. Salt away with Drake Johnson runs and serve cold.
The one really bad thing for Michigan is Mario Ojemudia left the game with an apparent Achilles injury. I thought he had his best day as a Wolverine today; if it was indeed his last that is a huge loss.
The rest of your takeaways: Maryland is bad at football and should feel bad. Michigan is excellent at defense and should feel excellent. Rudock is turning out to be fine in a Krenzel sort of way. De’Veon Smith probably really is Michigan’s best back. And while there’s still plenty of 2014 left to Harbaugh out of this team, you can start believing that both Mr. Smith and MICHIGAN will be back for Homecoming.
Great coaches instill an unequivocal belief in their team that they can & will no matter the circumstance! These boys believe! #GoBlue
— Devin Gardner (@devingardnerXCI) October 3, 2015
via photoshop thread
By Heiko Yang
So, about last Saturday …
Oof. Nothing like a good kick in the nuts to remind yourself that you still got ‘em. I appreciate the Futurama reference, though.
Last week Nick and I both picked a Michigan loss, and this went about as well as either of us could have hoped for. Admittedly, we’ve been playing a little fast and loose with the rules of Punt/Counterpunt as a way to cope with the oppressive darkness of last season. This was a very appropriate reminder that dissidence during perestroika is not a good idea.
(You know what else is not a good idea? Punting to Will Likely. Don’t ask me about specifics; I just read it somewhere.)
This week Michigan travels to College Park as the overwhelming favorite against a Maryland team that would struggle in the MAC. They have no real starting quarterback, and they got their one somewhat substantial win by forcing South Florida to also play without its starting quarterback. A few days ago their coach appeared to be aware but not totally aware of what his football players were doing – it’s a sign that by now should be pathognomonic for an impending tire fire explosion, and there isn’t enough black that Under Armour can douse their uniforms with to put it out.
So don’t worry, neither Nick or I will be predicting a loss today.
Michigan is probably going to fall off from its exponential trajectory though. It’s another road game (weak argument I know, but I’ve got about 10 road games worth of personal data over the last few seasons that says overwhelmingly that Michigan is a bad road team), and it’s looking like the weather is going to reduce everything to a sloppy rugby match anyway. To minimize errors, I imagine Harbaugh will be happy to call the game the same way he’s been calling the second halves of each of the last few games, and the final result will reflect a low variance affair.
This game might set Michigan football back about a century. On the bright side, at least that’s the kind of football Michigan was always good at.
Michigan 13, Maryland 6
by Nick RoUMel
What an ass-kicking last week. No, I’m not talking about the game.
We, Punt and Counterpunt, were called out.
“Hackneyed and forced.” “Should be ashamed.” “Can we get rid of this now?” “So full of fail.” “Your posts are bad, and you should feel bad.” “Eat a dick.”
It was so brutal I heard from friends as far away as Palo Alto and Seattle asking if I were all right. The comments were so consistently negative that I embraced this one as a compliment: “Nick says things about stuff, I guess,” hanging onto it like a life preserver.
Many wondered aloud about the point of this column.
I’ve been Counterpunt since 1994. I served with “Punt Classic” (Ken “Sky” Walker) until he retired for the 2013 season, and Heiko (“New Punt”) took over. Mercifully, the column was on hiatus during the Rich Rod years, and then it was resurrected by MGoBlog and transformed from paper to electronic medium. There’s always plenty of serious discussion and debate about Michigan football, especially by this blog’s writers who are way more analytical than I will ever be. So I – we, Punt and I – try to bring a more humorous aspect.
Heiko has a great style, meandering around aimlessly like Barry Sanders in the Lions’ backfield, and then finds his opening and bursts through. Then you understand what his purpose was all along.
My typical formula is to make fun of Michigan’s opponent and discuss some aspect of the rivalry, then build up to the prediction. I did the same thing last week.
Where we went wrong was both picking against Michigan. While that was not unprecedented – for example, last year we both (correctly) picked losses to Utah and Ohio State – it was not so shocking then, given how far Michigan’s football expectations had fallen. As one commenter noted last week, our fan base has suffered serious damage.
This year was different. There is hope. Reflecting that, last week we were a 7 point favorite against a pretty good opponent. But to be fair, at that point, we did not have an impressive victory; we had questions about our quarterback; we were unaware how good Utah was shaping up to be; and we were still generally hoping for an 8-4 season as a good outcome.
What a difference a game makes. Now we are nationally ranked, a legitimate Big Ten title contender, and in line for a major bowl.
Maybe by season’s end, the truth will be somewhere in the middle. One thing is certain: no matter where we end up, it is clear we now have a coach. And that coaching is evident on the field. Do you remember how many times Brady Hoke would enter a Monday presser and blame the loss on lack of execution? Do you remember the missed tackles and other sloppy play?
Compare that with the execution against Brigham Young. We finished plays. From Darboh’s one handed catch, to Pepper’s throw down tackle, to Smith’s “Get Off Me” run, to Chesson’s block on Rudock’s TD run, to Rudock’s own lock-down execution - such as the play where he fake-looked off two receivers and found Khalid Hill.
Have no doubt – execution is a direct function of coaching.
So maybe Punt and Counterpunt succumbed - for one week and two badly blown predictions - to the deep-seated pessimism that was rooted in years of mediocrity. If Michigan can right itself, so can we.
I’ll leave you with this story: I once went on a golf weekend at Crystal Mountain with a friend. We had the first tee time, at something like 7:30 AM, so we could play two rounds that day. The weather was unseasonably cold and they delayed all starting times until after 10 AM, until the sun burned off the dew. By the time we got to the first tee, there must have been 50 impatient golfers who were going to follow us all day watching us hit our drives.
I whiffed. Not once, but twice. I finally grabbed a five iron and managed to hit a weak shot that at least moved me up the fairway.
Sometimes you just need a Mulligan.
MICHIGAN 28, MARYLAND 3
Trollface De'Veon Smith is the best De'Veon Smith.
On the roundtable this week:
- The aftermath of obliteration.
- Dime things.
- Mason Cole: fastest guy on the team?
- Sam on what Jeremy Clark brings at corner.
- Rudock's ability to find guys: needs improvement.
- Early-season numbers for Michigan are pretty interesting.