What’s your view of the last spot there before the touchdown?
“That it wasn’t a first down by that much.” [holds hands apart about eight inches]
So you agreed with the call, then?
“That it was not a first down. The officiating, I’m bitterly disappointed with the officiating today. That spot—the graphic display is the interference penalties. The one not called on us when Grant Perry clearly was being hooked before the ball got there, and the previous penalty called on Delano Hill, the ball’s uncatchable and by the receiver. So yeah, I’m bitterly disappointed in the officiating. Can’t make that any more clear.”
[Ed. A- The second Harbaugh used “bitterly” I knew that I’d heard that word spoken with the exact same inflection before. I realized about the time we were leaving the stadium that Harbaugh said it the way Bo did in the archival footage used in Tiebreaker. Watch through 33:38 if you can stomach it.]
[After THE JUMP: the most bizarre explanation for a personal foul I have ever heard]
[Happy Thanksgiving! We know that three hours ago we said we hoped one article was enough to chew on, but what fits the spirit of the day more than a second serving? Here’s one more to tide you over until tomorrow.]
Thoughts on this defensive football team you’re about to play?
“Very good defensive football team. Up front, very talented, use their hands very well, great initial quickness. Linebackers can run sideline to sideline. Very gifted at the corner spot. Think they play very good man coverage. The safeties—Mr. Hooker is a very good football player. Very, very talented football team. Very talented defense.”
Seemed like Indiana was having some success getting a little bit of pressure on John [O’Korn] in the last game. What was the factor that was causing that?
“Indiana does a nice job. Indiana going into that game was a big-time pressure team. They had a lot of different looks of what they did. Fundamentally, some of it was in terms of just us moving our feet, keeping our head out of there, covering guys up, IDing things. We’ve got to do a better job with that, and I’ve got to do a better job coaching it.”
How did John progress, in your mind, from the start of that game to the end?
“I think he did an outstanding job. Made a play when there was a play to be made. He managed the game very well. He took the timeouts when he needed to. He established that drive with 9:42 left in the fourth quarter. We took it down, made them use their last time out, gave the ball back with I believe :50 on the clock. John did an outstanding job.”
[Hit THE JUMP for the inevitable Speight questions]
MGoQuestion: This is one of the faster teams you’ll play this year. How do you counter that tempo defensively?
“Do you mean tempo meaning speed between plays or do you mean the team speed?”
MGoClarification: Speed between plays.
“Um, again, we’ve been seeing it on a week-to-week basis. Several teams we play run the spread or some kind of form of the spread. Ohio State does a little bit more with the power game, but, you know, you just gotta go ahead and get your calls in, get your guys lined up, and make sure you’re ready to go.
“To be quite honest, I think Indiana’s really fast. I mean, I felt that the other night, and I thought for the most part, expect for three snaps, we got our feet in the ground, all 11 ready to go. Feel good about to this point our preparation against spread offenses. We minimized our last spread outfit to 64 yards rushing, which is an important stat, especially when they’re in the 200s coming in. Felt like—feel like we’re in a good spot getting ready to go for this week.”
How tough is it specifically to deal with JT Barrett?
“He’s a good player. Does a good job. You’re gonna have to challenge your entire unit to stop him because when you’ve got an athlete at quarterback, you’ve got to chase an athlete with a bunch of athletes, so that becomes an important piece of this thing. You can’t just rely on the front four. You have to involve everybody in the process, whether it’s run fits or finding ways to be creative in rushing the passer on throw scenarios.”
[After THE JUMP: never, ever tease Don Brown about playing press man]
Erik Magnuson, Kyle Kalis, Jake Butt, and Chris Wormley
For the Ohio guys especially, is this the biggest game you’ve ever played in your career to date?
CW: “I think so. It’s #2 versus #3. It’s for a Big Ten championship berth. Big game.”
JB: “I second that.”
KK: “Agreed.” EM: “I’m not from Ohio.”
Pretty well documented the struggles the program’s had against OSU in the past 10 or 12 years. How important is it for you guys to end that and get Michigan [?]?
JB: “It’s not as important to win this game for what’s been going on in the past, what’s been going on the past 11, 12 years. Really, we just need to win this game for what we have in front of us right now, and that’s all we’re focused on is we have an unbelievable opportunity to go on the road and compete against a really good team. Everything’s on the line right now. Our whole entire season’s on the line, so we need to win the game for that reason.”
I have a similar question: to be a great rivalry both teams have to win, and that hasn’t happened. How much do you guys need to win not only for yourselves but knowing Michigan has lost 11 out of 12?
KK: “Again, I don’t think you can focus that much on the past, especially when it’s this type of game coming up. It’ll be a big game. We’re definitely going to put in the work this week to prepare ourselves for it. I can’t wait to go out there and just play with all the guys. It’ll be the last time we play together as a team in a regular season game against Ohio State, so it’s gonna be a lot of fun.”
[Guy identifies himself as being from a Columbus newspaper] The Jim Harbaugh we see, that we just saw about five minutes ago, would you guys know that side? How is that different from the Jim Harbaugh you see?
CW: “Compared to what you guys see?
EM: “Michigan reporters only.”
KK: “Yeah, no comment.”
EM: “I’m sorry, I’m just kidding. I think he’s probably very similar to what you guys see. He’s as real as they come. The media kind of paints a bad picture of him sometimes because of his antics like going after referees and stuff like that, but he’ll fight to the death for his players. He’s a player’s coach in that aspect and he’s somebody that you’d run through a wall for, but he’s pretty similar to what you see. In everyday life, that’s who he is.”
[Hit THE JUMP for a good Jabrill story and a lot on the personalities of great coaches]
Dymonte Thomas the last couple games has made some big plays for you. Talk about what he’s given you on the field?
“He’s always given solid play, and lately big hits, momentum-changing plays. He’s a very good player. Always has been consistently good.”
You’re going to a place where they really don’t know what to make of you down there. Some people say you’re crazy like a fox, some people say you’re just crazy, but they all say you’re progressive. Could you describe who you are to Ohioans?
“Not crazy. Wouldn’t describe myself as that.” Anything beyond that?
“No. I mean, I don’t know that my personality really, how relevant that will be to the ballgame this week. Probably irrelevant.”
Is there anything unique about competing against Urban Meyer, whether it’s on the field or recruiting or anywhere else you come up against each other?
“Unique in that it’s at the highest level.”
“In terms of competition on the field or recruiting, everything’s at the highest level. Competition’s at the highest level.”
Can you update us on Wilton Speight’s condition, and do you expect him to play?
“No, I do not have an update today. Hasn’t been evaluated today.”
[After THE JUMP: Harbaugh waxes poetic about Peppers, lists all the cities he lived in as a kid, and explains why love for his children and football can’t be accurately expressed with a pie chart]
Asked whether he will practice next week, Harbaugh said, “We’ll see.”
Can you talk about what De’Veon Smith and your offensive line gave you when you really needed it there in the third quarter?
“Yeah, I mean, grinding out first downs, grinding meat. De’Veon, he played with great motivation. And some great play from the offensive line. It felt like old fashioned, slobber-knocker football.
“Tim Drevno made some great calls. The touchdown, the long touchdown by De’Veon was a heck of a call. We’d been running to the strongside. Come back, pull, have the pullers to the weakside, it was just enough. Just enough space, and De’Veon, breaking tackles. The yard runs, the yards after contact, pushing for the first down was critical. I think it’s the most yards of his career. Heck of an effort by De’Veon.”
No disrespect to Indiana, but is it possible your guys were thinking ahead a little to next week. How was the focus, do you think?
[laughs] “I’ll tell you what, to win this game, it feels like one of the best wins I’ve ever been involved with because it was a playoff game, and it was beating a tough Indiana team. We have a lot of respect for them. They’re a heck of a football team. And the elements, too. That was…you know, feel good about our football team.”
Can you reflect on the run that O’Korn h.ad to set up De’Veon’s first touchdown, and how would you assess his play overall?
“Yeah, that was huge. We were struggling making third-down conversions and there was not just one but two defenders pressuring John, and [he] stepped out of it with good ball security. Got the first down and was being threatened there at the sticks and didn’t dive, didn’t slide. Kick through, kicked through an arm tackle and kept right on running, so that was a big play. That was a signature play for a quarterback in a big game, so I feel really good. Amara [Darboh] was also outstanding to extend our last drive. He did a lot of good things.”
[After THE JUMP: special teams, smashing the narrative, and waxing philosophical about Michigan Stadium]
[Wheatley sees Ty Isaac on the opposite side of the desk in the lobby/Towsley Museum]
“I’m about to talk about you. You know that, right? Wanna listen to it? Wanna come listen to what I’m about to say about you?”
[Isaac laughs and walks away]
With Chris Evans, he seemed to have the most productive day at Iowa. What were the things that stood out about him that maybe he was doing different than other guys?
“You said it. It was production. Certain games and certain backs—it was a penetrating front and Chris was able to hit some creases and go for it and be productive, so that was pretty much it. With guys we go to who has the hot hand and who’s productive and that was it. Chris was hitting creases.”
Were you guys trying to get him more as the game went on? I think he ended up with eight carries. De’Veon seemed to get carries down the stretch.
“Like I said, at that point whatever play is called and whoever’s doing well at that point in time, that’s who’ll go in.”
With so many guys that can go for you, what’s the room been like from a keeping it light but also keep--
“Chaos, man. They hate each other. [laughs] You see the bags under my eyes? Gray…I look like Barack right now.
“Nah, the room is great. The room, the tone has been set in camp. They understand the task, and the task is to win the Big Ten and then hopefully from that point on, as you know, the little gold trophy. So, the mantra for this university has been ever since the big man was here, ‘the team, the team, the team.’ So, it doesn’t change. You kind of put yourself to the side and put the team in front. The room is great. Guys are absolutely a treasure. I mean, a treat to coach and a treasure for me to have, so the room’s been great.”
[After THE JUMP: how to gain Wheatley’s trust, the secret to the Hammering Panda’s success, not noticing QBs in practice, and a quick injury update]
What did you guys learn from last game in your group, specifically?
“In our group specifically, we’ve got to tackle better. Fundamentals of the game, that’s what it comes down to a lot of times in those situations, the fundamentals of the game. You’ve got to be sharp, and that’s something that we definitely have to focus on going forward, as we do every week.”
In terms of the secondary and your position specifically, Delano [Hill] left the game. What’s his status? Has he been practicing fully this week?
“Delano should be fine. He left the game at the end there, but he’s doing well. He should be good to go this week.”
The grind this time of year, can you see guys wearing down a little bit and what’s the message to them?
“The message is just to prepare like we do always. I think we’ve done a good job in preparation throughout the whole season, and we don’t want to lose any of that. Every week, just keep preparing like we’ve been and take it to another level each week.”
Tyree Kinnel’s been getting a lot more action. Can you talk about his progression and what you’re seeing out of him?
“Yeah, Tyree, he’s played well. He’s come a long way. This is only his second year getting in there and getting in the mix, but he’s been doing a good job on special teams and when you do a good job on teams we trust you more to get in there on defense. He’s done a nice job with that.”
[More on Metellus, Hudson, and Indiana’s offense after THE JUMP]
Talk about how your team still has its destiny in its hands in terms of winning out to get where you want even though you lost.
JB: “Yeah, obviously it’s a tough loss. It’s a game we could have won, so that’s gonna sting a little bit. But we reminded ourselves and each other that what we set out for at the beginning of the season is still right in front of us. We’re going to learn from this loss and become tougher and better because of it. We control our own destiny, so as long as we keep handling business we’re not worried about what anyone else is doing. We’ve just got to handle our own business and the rest will take care of itself.”
Matt, what were some of the problems up front against the run, especially on first down, on Saturday night?
“First of all, give credit to them. They had a great seam going in the run game, but we just weren’t fitting some of the things right in the run game, obviously. We’re gonna have to take a look at it in film today, but we’ll get it fixed.”
Jake, what were some of the things that guys were saying to each other yesterday, a day removed from that? Was there encouragement needed? Was anybody having to say anything, or did you all just realize how you had to move forward?
“Thankfully, we’ve got a veteran team, a lot of older guys that have seen a lot of different things in their career here, and a lot of mature younger guys, too, that can follow some of the older guys’ lead, [and] a great coaching staff that has seen a lot of things, too. It’s a tough game. We were going to face adversity this season. We wish we would have come out on top in that game, but we understand—there’s no panic button. We’re not gonna let one loss turn into two. We’re just going to continue the same mentality of get back to work today and move forward.”
When I was thinking about the plays Jake Butt made on Saturday, the one that immediately came to mind was a third-down conversion on a drag route that he caught with one hand and locked in with two fingers. That shallow route ended up being Michigan’s second-longest pass play of the evening, and as you’ll read below, a lot more went into that than just catching and running. As always, the video is at the bottom of the post and can be slowed down to 0.5x 0.25 speed if you open in Youtube and change the settings in the bottom right corner; I highly advise you watch the play slowed down.
What was the first thing you noticed when you lined up?
“I knew there was a wider guy outside of Ian [Bunting]. I was running a shallow route, Ian had a corner route, so first thing I’m thinking about is my release, whether or not I’m going to be able to get inside that backer or whether I’m going to have to take a longer route.
“Saw that, read I can get inside of him, but I saw I think they had two backers in the box; one of them kind of carried Ian vertically and I saw another linebacker that was eyeing the quarterback, and I knew he’d have to pick up my shallow, so I knew I was either going to have to sit it down or continue running. I saw he was flat-footed and staring at Wilton so I thought I could pass him up.
“I knew we had a post-wheel combination on the other side that was gonna carry those guys out of the way, so if I could just get past him I’d have a little bit of extra space. Did that, Wilton put the ball where only I could get it, and honestly, for a second there he put his hand in front and I couldn’t see the ball. I just kind of trusted where it would be. Caught it and then just tried to get as much as I could after the ball.
“I saw another guy running and I saw Desmond King down the sideline. I wanted to stiff arm him, and in the process of stiff-arming him I got my legs taken out a little bit. Big third-down play for us and big conversion.”
After you catch the ball and you’re turning the corner, as you said, you’ve got a guy trailing you and King in front of you. When you’re looking at King and trying to get upfield, what are you looking at? Are you looking at his hips or his shoulders or his pursuit angle?
“I could see his eyes, the way he stood up initially. Usually when guys stand up that’s so they can get ready to go low and take out your knees. But I had my hand on the one guy stiff-arming him, otherwise I would have tried to lower my shoulder and truck-stick him a little bit. I knew he was taking out my knees, but I just stiff-armed him and got as many yards as I could.”
Is that guy who’s trailing to the right a consideration or are you mainly looking at the guy upfield and trying to make a move on him?
“You kind of have to consider him just because they’re converging on you a little bit. I knew—I thought if King wasn’t there or came a little bit later, I would have shedded that other guy, but in the process of shedding him I had to lower and they kind of did a good little gang tackle there.”
To step back for a second, as you release and you’re getting into the drag, that’s when you know the middle linebacker is going to cover you? Postsnap?
“Yeah. The way their defense plays, someone’s going to have to carry a crossing route there. With him eyeing Wilton, he would feel me running across and I knew I could just reduce my route a little bit so he wouldn’t have an angle to intercept it and then Wilton just kind of put it on the money and I turned it up from there.”
Since this is an interview about one play, what’s the single most memorable play for you in your career here?