You’ve got to be pretty pleased through three games with the way your guys are playing.
“Three really unique challenges. Obviously Florida with their ability, and despite them having two top-notch players out they still have a lot of firepower and I thought we did a good job going into that environment for our first trip on the road. That was kind of the piece that I was most concerned about was young guys on the road for the first time, how were we gonna respond? Obviously things didn’t quite go our way in the beginning but stayed really even-keeled. Just kind of kept playing the game, stayed in the moment, and kept executing at what I thought was a very, very high level. We really kept the pressure on the quarterback, so that was week one.
“Cincinnati really did a good job with their rub routes. I don’t know if that’s the legal term but I think that’s what the offensive guys call it, rub routes. They did a good job with the screen game. I was unhappy with a couple of the blocks but the reality is those tunnel screens are tough and I gotta do a better job in making sure we’re ready to play those.
“And then flip your hat, and I really tip my hat to my guys: Tuesday and Wednesday we took 230 snaps of option football. The gameplan was called on the line of scrimmage because they’re a team that has certain formations where they’re going to run the triple and other formations where they’re not gonna run option football, so everything’s all on the line of scrimmage getting called and I think we had one error. That was pretty good.
“But three different, unique challenges. The piece that’s really stuck out to me through the first three games is we can run, now. We’re pretty fast, and we get off blocks and run to the football as well as any group I’ve been around. That’s kind of a good thing. Forget the scheme and all that nonsense. It’s when guys can get off blocks, run to the football, and one of the things that doesn’t go unnoticed, at least from my perspective, is I think we’ve tackled really, really well. Sometimes early in the year that’s not always the case, but it has been the case for us for the first three weeks.”
[There’s so much good stuff after THE JUMP, just click already]
SPONSOR NOTE: Matt also bought a very silly Michigan bus this offseason. For no reason, really. Just to have a giant bus with a winged helmet painted on it. And other stuff, sure. An engine, probably. Twitter handle painted on the side because that's how we do.
So you can get a mortgage from a guy with a giant Michigan bus or a guy without a giant Michigan bus. Homesure Lending is the guy with the bus. This is an easy choice even if you don't need a term sheet in 15 minutes because you're a bigshot lawyer who is very bad at promoting your own books.
FORMATION NOTES: Hoo boy.
Michigan played almost the entire game in a 3-3-5 stack. Copious discussion below.
PERSONNEL NOTES: Exact snap counts are not available right now but the general picture was clear. On the DL, Michigan started Gary, Hurst, and Winovich. Those guys got the lion's share of snaps. Marshall and later Solomon rotated in at NT. Kemp got a few snaps when Gary needed to get told something. Winovich went the distance until garbage time, when Reuben Jones and Kwity Paye got in.
At linebacker Furbush and McCray were the OLBs with Bush at ILB. Gil got a couple early series as Michigan rehydrated McCray; that was the only rotation until late. On the last drive the LBs were Gil again, Mbem-Bosse, and Uche.
Secondary was Metellus, Kinnel, and Hudson the whole way at safety with Hill and Long generally first choice at corner. Long's injuries and solid play from Watson got him a healthy number of snaps. Thomas got in a little bit in the third and fourth quarters. There was no dime package. Also yes I'm lumping Hudson in with the safeties since he will split over the slot and occasionally play FS.
Did Ty [Isaac] earn a start with his play Saturday?
A couple of the running backs said this week that you take a really interactive approach to coaching: a lot of dialogue, a lot of back and forth, the Socratic method, if you will. How does that help you as a first-year coach? How does that help your players?
“Well, it sounds like you asked them how it would help already. For me, they’re an extension of me on the field so it’s invaluable to hear what they’re seeing and what they feel and then try and use that to make corrections or adjustments over the course of a practice or the course of a game. So, good information from veteran guys that you can trust is really, really crucial.”
Can you think of a particular moment where there was a dialogue like that or you were like, Oh, a light bulb went on?
“Yeah, there’s parts of the game where a few series in [it’s] ‘Hey, what do you see? What do you feel about this run?’ ‘Oh yeah, I think that’ and then we can bring that and then talk about hey, maybe let’s call this because that’s what the guys are seeing out there. Sometimes they’ll feel certain things on the field that you can’t really discern from the sideline quite as well or sometimes hey, you think you have a thought and they say, ‘Yeah, that sounds really good.’ Just that back and forth, open lines of communication is always a good thing.”
[After THE JUMP: a good deal of RB coaching philosophy]
Your guys played pretty well. Talk about how they played.
“Yeah, I thought Josh [Metellus] and Tyree [Kinnel] both did a solid job just overall. Just running to the football, they were aggressive, and I thought we tackled well, so I was happy with the way they played.”
Assignment-wise did you think they pretty good, too?
“Yeah. Assignment-wise I thought we were pretty clean. Communication, didn’t have a lot of issues that way so we’ve just got to keep it going going forward and maintain that same level.”
Tyree yesterday was talking about some plays where him and Khaleke [Hudson] were able to switch spots. What does that add when you’re able to do that?
“I think it helps out a lot. Having Khaleke, he has some experience playing safety. That versatility, being able to move to different places, kind of helps out the defense as a corps when you can get guys lined up and give the offense different looks. I think that helps out.”
What are the looks that change when they switch?
“Well, it depends. I’m not sure exactly what you’re talking about in that case but there are different situations where we can end up in different positions.”
[After THE JUMP: communication clicking, Josh Metellus’ ceiling, and the bygone era in which Don Brown brought… more pressure?]
A Florida team intent on beating the brakes off of Michigan found themselves bracing for impact again and again Saturday. Don Brown made a strong case for inclusion in the next Nefarious Mustachioed Character Hall of Fame class by putting together what once seemed oxymoronic: a suffocating 3-3-5. Deploying the 3-3-5 in turn led to more playing time for redshirt junior linebacker Noah Furbush, who recorded two tackles and a fumble recovery. I spoke with Furbush about the play that led to his fumble recovery touchdown and subsequently sealed Michigan’s opening-game victory.
On that play, it was the second time you had them backed up inside their own 10-yard line the entire game. Did you have a good feel for what they might run, and how tough is that when you don’t get those looks very often?
“We knew that they were moving the pocket a lot of the game. When we get them down inside our own 5, inside our own 10, we really want to put the pressure on. We really want to make them feel uncomfortable. We wanted to get after them and we wanted to make a big play like something that happened. Chase stepped up and made a huge play for us.”
As far as what their offense was doing, was it what you expected when they were backed up?
“Yeah, I suppose.”
How important then is gap integrity against a guy like Zaire?
“Yeah, a guy like Zaire can spread a defense out, really change a play, and change how a defense can operate. It’s important to be assignment-perfect, do everything you’re supposed to do, and not lose contain on the play.”
It looked like you had to slide over a gap but first it looked like you looked inside before you did that. Is that related to Zaire and his running ability? Is that trying to stay gap-sound?
“Yeah. I just wanted to make sure that he didn’t get out of the pocket. I wanted to keep him in there and keep him inside so Chase could finish him off.”
You obviously had to shed a block to get there. What are some of the fundamentals of stacking and shedding, and what happened on that block?
“Every day we practice shedding blocks, working the hands, and that’s basically just instinctual stuff. You do it without even thinking about it.”
And that’s what happened on that block.
At what point do you see that Chase has gotten to the quarterback and at what point do you see the ball come out?
“Right when I got off the block I saw Chase hit the quarterback and then as I was running to him I just saw the ball. Another instinctual reaction, something we work every day. We have a fumble circuit and we work that every day: hopping on balls, fetal position, secure the football.”
So it’s just second nature at that point? You just know to dive and go?
Handing Florida two pick-sixes was only sportsmanlike, really. Without them, this is a 41-3 game or so, a complete wash, an elimination. Michigan’s chief concerns coming into the year were finding playmakers down the field. Tarik Black and Nick Eubanks did that serviceably enough, particularly so when you consider that Wilton Speight didn’t really have a great game and that the run game took a minute to lock in a stranglehold.
In sum, this Michigan team has great bones, is a handful along the defensive line, has two running backs capable of following an mean offensive line down the field, and has a quarterback who needs help from all that. But really, who doesn’t need a team? And who, among Michgan fans, will ever question the team? The team, the team, the team?
Alabama is a boring #1, as they always are.
Further Florida aftermath. I forgot to check Matt Hinton's weekly column on the SEC since usually it doesn't include extended treatises on a Big Ten team. This time it does:
It was, as McElwain said, a “plain and simple, take your whooping” kind of defeat. But the response from Florida fans was obvious too: Just how long do they have to keep taking it? Is Florida content to be a “take your whooping” kind of outfit? The Gators are nearly a decade removed from national relevance, or even from fielding a remotely competent quarterback for more than a week or two at a time. They’re no closer to filling that role after flip-flopping between Feleipe Franks and Malik Zaire on Saturday, to little effect, or to identifying a reliable playmaker among the skill players. The top two candidates, tailback Jordan Scarlett and receiver Antonio Callaway, were both among the late-breaking wave of suspensions before the game, but anyone who thinks either would have made a notable difference against the Wolverines hasn’t been paying close enough attention over the past two years.
Hinton also includes a long discussion of what the hell was going on with the illegal formation penalty—"dunno," more or less—and surveys the wreckage of the Florida offensive line:
That play — exactly the type of overwhelming debacle that used to unleash “S-E-C! S-E-C!” chants on beaten and broken-down Big Ten teams — was irrelevant to the outcome. But it was thoroughly emblematic of the line’s gradual deterioration over the course of the game. The play that preceded it was also a sack resulting in a fumble; in retrospect the Gators would have been better off if Michigan had recovered the first one just short of the goal line, or frankly if they’d just conceded at that point to taking an intentional safety. At least taking a knee in the end zone would have saved Zaire from a blindside hit everyone else in the building saw coming a mile away.
Every year you take up the banner of whatever P5 team you played in the nonconference. Last year Colorado worked out spectacularly well. This year... it's going to be weird and frustrating to be a proxy Florida fan this year. I fear I will understand the mindset all too well.
Also in aftermath, audio versions. Do you like goofily uninformed folks yellin'? Here you go:
How about the reasonably informed?
This was a bit of a comedown for a fanbase that was a wee bit optimistic headed into a game they were solid underdogs in.
They're not wrong though. Michigan's defensive performance was highly encouraging but it would be wise to pump the breaks at least a little. Florida's wasted more talent than anyone else in the country on that side of the ball:
Since Tebow left, Florida has failed to reach 250 yds of offense TWENTY TWO times, 2nd most in P5. Compare UF talent to similarly bad Os… pic.twitter.com/WhU9FKy6BS
It's pushed over the top by Orgeron standing in the background of the shot. Congratulations to Allison Williams for surviving this stunt; going in there was a 50/50 chance Orgeron would overhear and turn her into gumbo.
"Not throwing the ball high over the middle. Those balls get tipped and have a tendancy to go up in the air. During camp we played a lot against man-to-man defenses (vs. Don Brown), with a lot of pressure," Harbaugh said. "I take this onto myself coaching. There are times you throw high and you get away with it because it's zero coverage and there's no deep safeties back there. ... But when you're playing against (zone) safeties, you have to keep the ball below the shoulders.
"Shoulders down, so the arms of the receivers don't go up and tip the ball. We've made more of an emphasis on that."
Speight could have thrown it better; Crawford still had it hit him in the hands, and it looked like he wasn't even fully extended when the ball hit.
I don't really get the other bit of Harbaugh press conference Speight critique:
"Quarterbacks, they want to show that they're the one and they're the guy. And sometimes that leads to always trying to make a big play or always trying to make a play that proves that," he said. "We talked about that (with Speight). You have to let that come to you. Operate within the system, with the reads, be a disciple with mechanics and those big plays will come to you.
Speight's deep shots in this game:
completions to Tarik Black and Nick Eubanks
PI drawn by Crawford on accurate post
Fade route down sideline to Crawford is OOB
pick six on high-ish ball at open receiver
incompletion when Speight makes a killer check only to miss a wide open TD
I think that's it. The only one of those that was even a little forced was the PI. Speight's decisions against Florida were excellent. His execution was occasionally lacking. I imagine that's a response to a leading I-already-wrote-my-article question and not something Harbaugh's pulling out of thin air.
Harbaugh said he’s looking for “a season of increases.” That applies, he said, to everyone on the roster -- the coaching staff, the starting quarterback, players on both sides of the ball and even the rookie kicker who carved a zig-zag pattern into the back of his hair last week as an ode to the closer mentality of Rick Vaughn.
Yes, that would be Charlie Sheen’s heartthrob, fire-throwing, near-sighted ex-con character from "Major League" -- yet another reference that predates the referencer’s existence on this planet. Nordin said he had to show YouTube clips to a couple of his teammates for them to understand what he was going for. When asked Saturday if the similarities between him and Vaughn stretch beyond their hairstyles, Nordin smiled. “Yeah, I think so,” he said. Then he turned and walked back into the locker room.
Even the damn kicker on this team has some attitude.
They didn’t have players take the podium today, so instead I took a little bit of audio from the different scrums around the Towsley Museum and transcribed it for you, dear reader. If you’re wondering why other sites might have certain quotes not seen here or vice versa, keep in mind that I have one recorder and one me to gather audio.
I jumped in the scrum late but the question seems pretty obvious.
“Who’s the hardest hitter? Chase thinks he’s the biggest hitter, Josh [Metellus] thinks he’s the biggest hitter, I think I’m the biggest hitter. We always have that argument but as long as we’re all getting there at the same time and laying the big hit then it should be fine.”
Do you feel like you did well?
“I felt like I was communicating well with my teammates. I felt I did good. I felt like I got to the ball pretty fast and [was] making all my checks.”
Totally comfortable now guiding all the younger guys back there?
“Yeah, I did feel comfortable. We were all talking after the game about the game and the coaches work us so hard in practice we were like, ‘Man, this is pretty easy.’ Because of the way they work us in practice, we felt really good.”
Did Josh Metellus play well Saturday?
“He did everything well. He was talking to me the whole time. He was making checks as I was making checks. He covered a lot. He covered a lot more than me just because of their offense and I feel like he covered really well. He was on the tight end; there was one time he was covering a receiver and the quarterback checked down and ran it and he got off the block and forced that fumble; that was a good play by him. Any time you come out of coverage and make a tackle like that is good.”
You mentioned speed quite a bit. Has there been more of an emphasis on that this year, on being faster than last year?
“I don’t think they really coach the speed, I think that’s just naturally how we are. I think they want us running for the ball but speed-wise, I think that’s just all of us as a group together trying to get to the ball as fast as we can.”
[After THE JUMP: Nolan Ulizio and Lawrence Marshall]
[UPDATE: As multiple people pointed out it was Florida’s band that played Jaws. Apparently this is a usual thing, we assume because their head coach…]
We recorded this podcast from the Michigan Room of the Residence Inn Ann Arbor Downtown. Then the guys jetted before the staff brought out the evening (M-W-F) guest tray with wine and beer and some seriously amazing buffalo ranch chicken dip & chips by Chef Alisa.
Townies ignore this but I live out in the Detroit burbs and the best date night idea I’ve had yet was to book Friday night at Res Inn, leave the car in the structure next door, and go discovering all the things that weren’t there when I was. Like who moved Blimpy Burger right in the path of our walk stumble home?
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.
Bounce, bounce bounce actually works because Florida forgot to have edge protection. Long runs on 3rd and long, Kugler grading well, Speight and his Navarrish performance, Fades to Black, Best Possible Grant Perry, Michigan fans have Opinions on TE blocking.
[starts at 27:58]
3-3-5 for the win! The Casteel defense run correctly looks thusly. The defense looked excellent (11/53 plays were TFLs, QED). A wild Gil appears. Devin Bush man he will put his face in places. M’s “slow” DEs were Peppers’ing screens. Three interchangeable safeties makes it hard to motion them out of their fits.
3. Special Teams & Feelings Ball
[starts at 46:14]
Special Things: Quinn Nordin for Heisman campaign lasts three quarters, DPJ nearly broke two, Hudson was one of the kick returners and we are all about this new quasi-linebacker returner tradition, though this one is way more violent. Blocked punt contributed to aaaah part of the afternoon. Ambry shows up Brian Cook.
Feelings: Started iffy, turned bad for a moment, then went in the Harbaugh direction. Good job refraining on burning too many redshirts. Most who came in late were guys who are going to contribute extensively this year. Question Stueber but it’s a good schedule to develop a guy before PSU; he and St-Juste will either develop or develop hangnails. Florida reminds us of Hoke: The Sludgefart Years.
4. Around the Big Ten with Jamie Mac
[starts at 1:02:20]
Wes Brown’s genius at Maryland is fun and Piggy—Vegas had them way underrated. Purdue barely loses to Louisville(!) in a ref jobbing. Illinois was a Malik and a Dudek away from losing to a MAC team. MSU was lucky not to fall to a worse MAC team while emptying out the drawer. Rutgers managed to play a quarter of football-like substance, then launched the dumb punt of the young season, and supplied a generation’s worth of Jersey article images with its hot tub. Minnesota’s OL is not helping its help-needing QBs. Iowa played an Iowa game. Indiana played an Indiana classic. J.K. Dobbins just Wally Pipp’d Mike Weber. Nebraska comes in late to fulfill conference’s Big Tennn! quota.
“Lanifornication”—The Red Hot Chili Peppers, with Ace’s assistance
“I Found a New Way”—Twin Peaks
“Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More”—The Allman Brothers Band
Coach, could you talk about how Patrick Kugler did in his first start?
“Yeah, he did outstanding. He graded out the highest of all offensive linemen. Just very effective. Really, really happy with the way the offensive line played. Pat played his best game.”
In addition to the offensive line, what were the things on the offensive side of the ball that jumped out on video that you liked?
“The run game. Liked our pass protections. Liked in the passing game we hit big plays. We executed at times very well. The play action was extremely good. And we moved the ball. We were able to move and score points. Feel like we turned some of those red-zone field goals into touchdowns and you score 40, 45+ points.”
Obviously every game plays out differently but with the way Isaac succeeded, do you try to get the ball in his hands more going forward?
“Well, we were. I mean, that was the plan going into the game as well. He had a terrific game. He’s going to be our offensive player of the week. Really got us going on some off-schedule third-down runs. He played brilliantly and really happy for him.
“Chris [Evans] as well had good runs and so did Karan Higdon. We really felt good about those three backs in the ball game and we continue to feel good about them coming out of the ball game and going forward.”
Chase said on Saturday that forced fumble for him was a culmination of a lifetime of work. What’s impressed you most about him and his progression there after bouncing around from position to position earlier in his career?
“The motor. His energy, his effort…fast. It’s the speed at which he does it and he’s a strong player. Speed and strength, those are huge in football, as a team and as an individual player. Combine that with his get-up-and-go, his motor, his gung-ho attitude: all is a great combination for a football player.”
[After THE JUMP: running off-schedule, the starting QB, and offensive line…hype?]