We often hear about service academy offenses. How difficult is it of a challenge to prepare for them?
“Defending option football and conventional football at the same time. That’s what we’ve been studying. Air Force has been very successful. Seven, eight, nine game winning streak. They go back and forth between conventional and option football.”
Your defense is scoring a lot, more than they’re giving up. Is that something that has been emphasized? Is that just guys making plays? How do you account for that?
“It’s a good thing. Very good players and a good scheme and they work very hard at being good on defense.”
Talk about your impressions about Lavert Hill. I know you’ve been happy with him.
“Yeah, been happy with Lavert. He’s asserted himself and played very well. Made the big play for us in the ball game this past week.
“Tyree Kinnel would be another person that I’d spotlight; defensive player of the game; sacks, two I believe; tackles for loss; interception for touchdown; seven tackles total, I believe. Well done. Brandon Watson also had a couple PBUs and played very well. Josh Metellus did good. Up front, I thought Rashan had one of his best games. Devin Bush again, another very good game for him; sack, tackle for loss, PBU. Outstanding game by him. Chase Winovich. Noah Furbush was better. Mo Hurst probably played the best of all of our upfront defensive players.
“So, there was a lot of good. Dodged a couple bullets. As was pointed out, scored two touchdowns on defense, so we’re doing well. We’re good. Attribute that to hard work and good scheme and good players.”
How has Lavert—how have you seen him digest all the information that a young starter has to digest?
“Yeah, doing well. Seeing him digest information very well. Comes from good stock. You’d love to be Lavert Hill Sr., to have Delano Hill playing professional football and now here you see Lavert in there starting at corner, making plays, helping his team win. Lavert Hill Sr.’s probably boring the heck out of the neighbors with how well his sons are doing.”
[Learn how to avoid emotionally hijacking Jim Harbaugh after THE JUMP]
There is always a tipping point when something that probably won't happen becomes something that probably will happen. Sometimes this is nice, like when the entire NFL swears up and down that Jim Harbaugh wouldn't go back to Ann Arbor for love or money. Sometimes it is not nice.
If we aren't already at the tipping point where "Wilton Speight makes a lot of critical mistakes" is a reasonable, seemingly immutable theory, surely we are approaching it.
The weird thing is the way these critical mistakes are loosed into the world. Anybody can throw several passes into defenders' facemasks. Killing your team with a blizzard of boggling interceptions is almost common in college football, where injuries and the vagaries of rostering regularly see peach-fuzzed high schoolers thrown into a tank of piranhas. Sometimes people transfer from Tulane and are expected to stop throwing interceptions, for reasons unknown. Also apparently the NFL has this issue. Twitter informs me Scott Tolzien—yes, that guy—started a game this weekend. Twitter hastens to note that things did not go well. The hopelessly overmatched panic machine quarterback is so common it's a football trope.
Speight, on the other hand, has an air of cool control up until the moment he wings a pass so high that Donovan Peoples-Jones correctly decides his best bet is to spike it, or he turns around to hand air to his running back, or he does that again for the second time in one dang game. He does not seem overwhelmed. He hasn't thrown into coverage except on rare, understandable occasions*. He's yelling at his peach-fuzzed skill player crew about where to line up regularly. He makes a bunch of checks at the line. He is a man in command.
The very bad events are adding up. Everyone misses guys or makes bad reads or eats a sack on occasion. Speight's bad has been explosively bad, and maximally punished. Thus this column, which is lot like 2015's Jake Rudock is going to kill us column.
Rudock, of course, did not kill Michigan. He turned into a fine college player and Matt Stafford caddy, and even now it's not too hard to see Speight getting it together. His issues are fairly simple to correct; they jumped out at me, a layman, on a re-watch and Speight confirmed it in the postgame press conference:
“What it comes down to is, when there's something going on in my face – when I avoid the pressure – I've got to keep my base. Coach Pep is big on keeping my base. Staying loaded. And sometimes when I move around in the pocket, I get a little sloppy with my feet and it causes the ball to sail or go a little low."
Speight was leaning back a bunch in this game and the resulting throws were high. Nick Baumgardner with a preview of what UFR is going to say:
Also he's dorfing handoffs because he's not listening to Harbaugh. Two seemingly simple fixes yet to make it to the field in year four. This cuts both ways: if Speight can fix his lingering issues Michigan has that commanding guy when he throws straight and does not fumble exchanges, and that seems pretty good.
deep shot hit rate: muchly [Bryan Fuller]
There are very good reasons that Speight is keeping his competition stapled to the bench, and it's that upside. Nobody else on the roster is going to walk on the field and know where everyone else has to be, a critical skill given the average age of Michigan's offense. Nobody else is going to have all the checks in his head, or the pocket presence.
The things Wilton Speight needs to fix are fixable in a timespan of weeks. John O'Korn and Brandon Peters do not have flaws (presence and youth, respectively) nearly as tractable, and so Michigan is going to ride with Speight and hope like hell these blips are just that, and not a pattern that will clobber a promising season like it did in Iowa City last year.
Until further notice, all dropbacks will be evaluated with a jaundiced eye and glance towards Columbus. Welcome to the John Navarre zone.
*[In this game he tried a deep shot to a bracketed Peoples-Jones because there were only two guys in the route and both were covered and what else was he going to do, which is fine.]
Inside Michigan Football:
mobile man mauls Mouhon [Fuller]
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 Mason Cole. This is a bit of a guess but OL never get the proper amount of respect in this section because I haven't gone over things with a fine-toothed comb yet. Cole helped Michigan bust a lot of crack sweeps, and while Isaac got the yardage on the long one it was Cole's ability to ID the force defender, declare him harmless, and go wreck a safety that sprung the play. He gave up nothing in pass protection, as well.
#2(t) Khaleke Hudson, Devin Bush, and Tyree Kinnel. Michigan's bushel of short fast dudes on defense terrorized the Cincinnati backfield, collecting all of Michigan's sacks on the day. Each also had their moments in the ground game as well; Kinnel in particular had a couple of critical tackles. Oh, and a pick six. (That was a bit of a gift, yes.) I'm rounding up and giving each gent a point. The points are made up and don't matter, people!
#3 Ty Isaac. Isaac was Michigan's best back again, slaloming through waves of opponent players. He alternated bounces with interior runs that kept UC off guard and used his size and speed combination to excellent effect.
Honorable mention: Winovich, Hurst, and Gary were all effective in bursts. Brandon Watson was in the back pocket of many a wide receiver. Grant Perry was efficient, explosive, and dangit that third down was a catch. Zach Gentry had a couple of key receptions.
Honorable mention: This week the good section gets to talk about Pick Six #1 and Pick Six #2. You will like them better here, I imagine. Also: Ty Isaac rips a long one off down the sideline, Speight hits Kekoa Crawford with a bomb; Rashan Gary hulks up after nearly getting ejected and gets the crowd hyped.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
Speight's second dorfed exchange ends a promising drive for Michigan and causes even the aggressively reasonable to think this guy has a long term issue.
Honorable mention: Cincinnati rips off a long touchdown drive to start the third quarter and create a period of squeaky bum time; Donovan Peoples-Jones turns out to be Not Jabrill Peppers on punt returns; various Speight overthrows; that one play where both guards pulled in opposite directions.
Chase Winovich is wearing Eric Upchurch’s hat. [Eric Upchurch]
We recorded this podcast from the Michigan Room of the Residence Inn Ann Arbor Downtown. There are 13 rooms, one for every Big Ten team! Also it’s a new building owned and operated by Michigan (not Ohio State) people.
We Couldn’t Have One Without the Other
We can do this because people support us. You should support them too so they’ll want to do it again next year! The show is presented by UGP & Bo Store, and if it wasn’t for Rishi and Ryan we probably would be working for someone like McElwain instead of dragging him.
We know about Speight. Need more Harbaugh Speight, less Borges. Ty Isaac in the open field is a linebacker-sized man running faster than defensive backs. Love seeing Mason Cole back at left tackle. Grant Perry is the star of the receivers.
starts at 21:45
Tunnel screens are still bad. McCray versus athletic RB in space still bad. Defense is not utterly perfect is still bad, a thing. The wheel route was McCray going under a crossing route—there were some huge offensive picks they missed but that wasn't one. Winovich doesn’t have a true backup. Introducing: The Don Brown Hat Trick. #Swatson had a great game.
3. Special Teams & Game Theory
starts at 44:36
Using a safety as a punt returner: Grant Perry was fine. Go for it on 4th and half a yard, man! Football gods won’t let you punt on 4th and 2 down two scores with six minutes left.
4. Around the Big Ten with Jamie Mac
starts at 56:31
I think they meant that song to be “Oklahoma!” but nobody from MGoBlog was willing to get deep enough into a Rogers & Hammerstein play to get it right.EMU is still 0-58 against Power 5 teams after beating Rutgers, but this is good enough to get Brian to pronounce their names. Make JT Barrett beat you. Brian forces everyone to talk about Minnesota. Purdue is already TECMO BOWL.
“Losing All Sense"—Grizzly Bear”
“I Have Been to the Mountain”—Kevin Morby”
“Oh What a Beautiful Morning”—Rogers & Hammerstein
First Evans last week, now Isaac today. How big is it for you guys to gain more depth at the running back position with all the guys you lost from last season?
“I thought Ty had a heck of a game. Career high for him and he keeps ascending, so feel good. Fullbacks are doing a nice job. I think most of our veteran players are playing good and kind of the theme is we’ve got to get experience. We’ve got to get experience playing. It’s guys’ first time playing here in the Big House, first time going through a week of school, and got to be patient. We’re going to coach ‘em up and long road ahead but can’t get experience without playing, so that’s kind of the theme.”
If you could talk about two plays: the first one the 36-yard reception by Zach Gentry that kind of got things going for the offense and then the decision to go for it on fourth-and-eight.
“Yeah, that was a nice job by Zach. Wilt threw a good ball on the crossing route. Yeah, we needed that to flip some field position where we had a couple previous punts, so that was good.
“The decision to go for it on fourth-and-eight, we were around the 33-yard line, would have been a 50-yard, 51-yard field goal. Punting it could have gained you only eight yards, so decided to take the chance there. I think, I believe—who made that catch? Was it Grant? Kekoa.
“There was a lot of good. There was a lot of good and a lot of times where the screen’s going a little fuzzy and we’re not doing our assignments. Then the fumbles, those hurt. And the ball handling. We’ll just keep going. Wins are tough to come by and we’re glad to have this one.”
Started strong in terms of the score and the final score was lopsided but what happened in between to maybe make it closer than expected?
“You saw the game.”
[After THE JUMP: “I’m dead in here. It’s like burnt wood in terms of nervousness and butterflies and emotions that way.”]
Michigan's home opener was supposed to look a lot like last year's Rutgers game. Instead, it more closely resembled last week's Florida game. While that was perfectly fine against a talented UF squad, it was far less so against an overmatched Cincinnati team that barely squeaked by Austin Peay last week.
The game began as expected. Ty Isaac churned out yards with ease, setting up a 43-yard Wilton Speight touchdown bomb to a wide open Kekoa Crawford on the opening drive. The defense held up its end, booting Cincinnati off the field in three plays. While the Wolverines went three-and-out on their ensuing drive, Tyree Kinnel got them back on track, picking off an overthrow from UC's Hayden Moore and diving into the end zone for a 28-yard pick-six.
Then things started going sideways. A short punt by the Bearcats bounced off Nate Johnson's leg, giving Cincinnati a first down on the Michigan 38-yard line. After a penalty kept the drive alive, Mike Boone squeezed his way in from a yard out for the first touchdown scored against the M defense this season. The next Wolverine drive stalled in the red zone, and Quinn Nordin's 28-yard field goal opened one of the uglier quarters Michigan has played under Jim Harbaugh.
Seemingly nothing could go right on offense in the second quarter. Speight fumbled a jet sweep handoff to Crawford to kill a promising drive. Tarik Black ran what, on review, turned out to be an 11-yard route on third-and-12 to end the next one. Speight winged a couple passes high, evoking bad memories of last week's second quarter.
Michigan didn't get a first-half point after Nordin's field goal with 14:03 left. The defense didn't give up any, either, but only after an interminable final drive by Cincinnati resulted in a 51-yard field goal sailing wide right. As the team ran into the tunnel, the fans were audibly displeased with the 17-7 halftime lead.
The grumbling continued into the third quarter as Cincinnati took the kickoff and marched 85 yards in ten plays to cut the lead to three points. Michigan's next two drives went nowhere. What had been an annoyingly close game was becoming a potential nightmare.
Thankfully, Michigan woke up. With 3:01 left in the third quarter, Speight hit Grant Perry in stride on a crossing route, and Perry jetted through the Bearcats secondary and dove in for a 33-yard touchdown. Cincinnati could only threaten to score after that. Michigan's offense, meanwhile, piggybacked off some excellent running by Isaac to drive for a short Quinn Nordin field goal midway through the fourth quarter.
Luke Fickell handled the rest. On fourth-and-two from the Cincinnati 33, down two scores with seven minutes remaining, he called for the punt team. One yakety snap later, Michigan had a safety and the ball back, and the potential nightmare was over. The next UC drive ended after one play when Lavert Hill cut off a Moore pass, reversed field, and slipped inside the pylon for M's second defensive touchdown of the afternoon.
By pure box score standards, this game turned out well. Michigan outgained Cincinnati 414-200, dominated the ground game, and kept Moore under constant pressure. Speight, for all the complaining, completed 17-of-29 passes for 221 yards, two touchdowns, and no picks. Isaac seemingly cemented himself as the lead back with a 20-carry, 137-yard performance.
Still, it's difficult to shake the feeling of the middle two quarters, which were indisputably ugly. The offense has some issues to work out, especially in the red zone, where they haven't scored a touchdown since the wrongfully negated Crawford catch to open the Florida game. Next week, Air Force presents another overmatched opponent, but one that's tricky to prepare for because of their unusual schemes on both sides of the ball. If Michigan doesn't bounce back with a more authoratative win, the good feeling from the Florida game won't carry over to Big Ten play.
Alright I gotta get this off my chest: this week has done wonders for my constant Cincinnati spelling bugaboo, but what the hell? There are three opportunities in this word to end a short-voweled syllable with a double-letter and yet they pick the least intuitive one. Why isn’t it Cinncinatti? Or Cincinatti? Why double up on one ‘n’ and not the other? Why waste the Roman George Washington’s name on a city in Ohio across the river from Kentucky? What does this have to do with an Asian viverrid? Why doesn’t the word viverrid have two v’s? Why hasn’t anyone told me about this 1971 television series before?
New features this week: Still saving it all for the new site. Enjoy the working liveblog from last year that works.
The yellow/ orange bar is your mana. Sending messages costs mana. Messages cost more, the more active chat is. The red dudes on the side bar are lives remaining.
If you break the Board Rules, you lose a life. Lose three lives and you have to insert a quarter into your monitor. No no keep trying it, it’ll go in. As always, the Liveblog Chaos Mitigation Post is The Law.
Say you've built a giant killing robot, or a mechanized cyborg of some kind. Think 'Jaeger from Pacific Rim.' Or a Terminator. Perhaps a Voltron or Megazord of some kind. You build it to compete with other beasts of similar size and overall quality. Maybe you're taking on another robot. Maybe a giant lizard creature, or some sort of evil soulless monster. It doesn't really matter. Just say for the sake of argument that your giant robot emerges victorious in its first real battle, and exceeds even your most optimistic expectations. Congratulations to you and your entire engineering team. Job really well done, guys. Bravo.
Now, imagine that a week later you are asked to use that same giant killer robot to take on a new adversary: WALL-E.
You are suddenly presented with a new set of challenges, and some things that you might not even have thought about: can your giant lasers aim that low? Can your tracking system lock onto a target that small? How will my attempts at deception work against an opponent that is almost entirely incapable of reacting to stuff? And how do we judge how well we have done? Is 17 seconds a good time in which to crush an opponent like this?
Look man, we built this thing to take on Sharkosaurus. And swarms of JoeBots. We never really put much design effort into a task like this.
You see both the dilemma and the lack of dilemma facing Michigan this week. How do you keep players motivated and focused, both during the week and during the game itself? How much do they pull out of the bag? How soon do the starters come out? Where is the line between "healthy competition" and "stop stop he's already dead?"
These are real considerations. But take a step back in your giant mechanized killing machine, and look at the bigger picture. Some things may be in doubt, but one thing isn't: WALL-E is gonna get crushed into, ironically, a pile of garbage. Maybe it's a 35-10 pile, maybe it's a 60-0 pile. But at a certain point, scrap metal is scrap metal.
That screen pass almost worked
From a pure football standpoint, it's hard to look at any aspect of this game and see even a hypothetical, "devil's advocate" argument for a competitive game. Cincinnati finished last year losing 7 of their last 8 games (by an average margin of nearly 18 points). They opened this year by getting outgained by an FCS team that had lost 47 of 48 games. Maybe WALL-E has a plasma cannon hidden in there somewhere... but I doubt it.
Michigan 52, Cincinnati 3
By Nick RoUMel
Cincinnati has a lot going for it. It is the biggest, baddest, Rockem-Sockem Robot of all time. Cincy is the Iron Giant. Megatron. Dolph Lundgren from Rocky IV.
Cincinnati was originally named Losantiville. It was a major exporter of pork products. The German immigrants developed a product named “Goetta,” made of ground pork and pinhead oatmeal.
“Cincinnati Chili” is also a local food thing, a thin gruel-like concoction flavored with cinnamon and served over spaghetti with cheddar cheese. Skyline Chili is the iconic franchise that pioneered this phenomenon, in 1949.
The Ann Arbor School District opened Skyline High School in 2008. This was shortly after Bo Schembechler died, and there was strong sentiment to name the high school “Schembechler High.” The school board went with the safe pick, the same way that a large group always ends up settling for plain cheese pizza. I am always tempted to order a three-way when I visit that high school.
Cincinnati is also known as the Queen City. This is because the glam rock band “Queen” once performed a concert there at Riverfront Stadium, where Vontaze Burfict blindsided Freddie Mercury and was suspended for six games, yet also given a $38 million contract extension.
The city of Cincinnati is also the cradle of mediocre Notre Dame coaches. In 1980 the Irish stunned the football world by plucking Gerry Faust from Cincinnati Moeller High School. The bold experiment ended five years later, with Faust finishing 30-26-1. Former Bearcat coach Brian Kelly is in his eighth year at Notre Dame, with a 60-31 record and three bowl victories: Sun, Pinstripe, and Music City.
Other former University of Cincinnati coaches have performed better elsewhere. Mark Dantonio did well at Michigan State during the period the Michigan Wolverines temporarily suspended their football program; now he is content to lose with dignity. Tommy Tuberville and Butch Jones have also coached at UC; this year their new coach is former Ohio State assistant Luke Fickell. Michigan fans will remember Fickell from 2011, when he assumed head coaching duties for a year after Jim “The Little Penguin” Tressel resigned in the wake of scandal. That was the ONLY F*NG TIME MICHIGAN HAS BEATEN OSU IN THE LAST 13 YEARS.
You can see where I’m going with this. Yep, out to get a beer with my son in law.
Beyond the barricade is there a world you long to see?
MGoRadio is recorded before a live retail audience audience at the Bo Store on Fridays before home games (and Thursdays nights at various locations before away games).
We can do this because people support us. You should support them too so they’ll want to do it again next year! The show is presented by UGP & the Bo Store, and if it wasn’t for Rishi and Ryan we probably would have real jobs.
So THAT’S how a 3-3-5 works. That play did not go well for Brandon Powell—Metellus can cover. Were we too positive about Devin Bush? About everybody? Were there any busts in the secondary? Is there literally anything to complain about?
After UFR: The Offense
starts at 18:00
Wilton was suboptimal but fine—you can tell why he’s starting over O’Korn. Nolan Ulizio got worked by the number one guy out of Wyoming. Important that the backs look good because you lost Ty Wheatley. Chris Evans for Michigan 2040!
Gimmicky Top Five: Places to Go on Gameday
starts at 37:54
How many 50-yard field goals per game would it take to get Ace to carve the Wild Thing into his hair? Come for the overpriced food, stay for the red hot beer takes.
starts at 53:31
It’s getting funky in here. So this is not a very good team. They have some good receivers and a decent defensive line. Their linebackers were decimated, the defensive backs bust spectacularly. What’s Alex Hornibrook with a less strong arm?They’ll dink ‘n dunk; Michigan should break some big plays. Kevin?
“Every Empty Town”—Dear Noble Reader, which was the band of reader @WolverSwede and friends because we actually forgot to run it last week.
Michigan kicked off their 2017 campaign with an authoritative victory over a ranked Florida squad. Cincinnati kicked off their 2017 campaign with a narrow victory over Austin Peay, an FCS team that entered the year having won one of their previous 47 games. The Governors(!) outgained the Bearcats.
Tommy Tuberville left Luke Fickell in quite the hole. Fickell, who was accustomed to quite a bit more talent at Ohio State, will eventually get his program moving in the right direction, but this one is going to be ugly.
Run Offense vs Cincinnati
Cortez Broughton is a disruptive, undersized tackle.
The relative strength of this defense is the line, which returns most of the contributors from last year's #22 rush defense by yards per carry allowed. The standout up front is DT Cortez Broughton, whom Seth described as a "poor man's Mo Hurst" in this week's FFFF. He's got a quick first step that can make it tough to get hands on him off the snap; he's also 282 pounds, so getting hands on him should neutralize him.
Broughton isn't the only solid lineman. End Kevin Mouhon recorded 8.5 of his 9.5 TFLs against the run last year, and nose Marquise Copeland impressed Seth on film. The Bearcats should be relatively sound up front. Size could be an issue, however; neither DT cracks 300 pounds and both DEs are in the 250 range.
Once you get past that line, though...
Woof. The primary issue is a complete lack of linebacker-sized outside linebackers, or even competent hybrid types:
Handed a depth chart with one sorta experienced guy and one RS freshman, defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Marcus Freeman (yes THAT Marcus Freeman you incredibly old person) raided the safety ranks. His SAM is a total hybrid who’ll follow the slot receiver around if there is one, and that’s pretty typical in 2017. His WLB is…well his WLB is Jonas Mouton’s head on Brandon Harrison’s body.
MIKE Jaylyin Minor looked like Cincinnati's best defender last week. He could only make so much of an impact, however, because said Mouton-Harrison frankenbacker, Perry Young, was repeatedly exposed as a safety in way over his head at WLB. At 5'10", 205, Young is smaller than Cinci's actual hybrid space player, and if he's not running himself out of the play he should be a fun blocking dummy for the tight ends and pulling linemen. It doesn't get much better at the next level, either:
That’s the good safety—he knows where to go but gets there not-fast. He’s dead if blocked, and falls off a ton of tackles. The “bad” safety, Malik Clements (#4) is more athletic but more combustible. He was at fault for the wheel route touchdown, takes awful angles, and tends to get his face blocked off by Peay slot receivers (see the TD below). This stat boggles: he had 18 tackles in this game…2 solo. It’s more believable the fifth time you see him getting dragged on a guy’s leg.
While there will be some resistance at the line, Michigan will find plenty of room to run, and once they hit the second level some big plays are inevitable.
KEY MATCHUP: NOLAN ULIZIO and MIKE ONWENU versus BLOWING ASSIGNMENTS. Ulizio was the obvious sore spot on the line against Florida as a run-blocker as well as a pass-protector, but Onwenu also racked up a lot of negative plays against the Gators. Being in the right place at the right time is largely opponent-irrelevant, so against a team as overmatched as Cinci the main thing I want to see is a lack of obvious screw-ups up front.