- The defense nearly shutting out Penn State
- Michigan rubbing it in and running up the score
- The team's identity
- Dylan McCaffrey's injury update
- The atmosphere
- Chris Webber's return
[After THE JUMP: Harbaugh takes a phone call]
[After THE JUMP: Harbaugh takes a phone call]
There wasn't very much schematically to take away Maryland game—just a few little things.
More than any X or O on Jimmy's white board, this game was won by Michigan's Joes performing much better than their counterparts. But if we're going to highlight the play of one particular player we should do the one who changes the entire approach of every opponent's offense.
We are watching a player having one of the greatest seasons in Michigan football history at a position where the competition includes guys like LaMarr Woodley and Bennie Oosterbaan. But because our guy plays with so many other good and great players in an excellent system, and because with Gary out this opponent could gameplan to keep Chase's UFR amplitude low, it would be too easy to let this week pass without giving Winovich his due.
So this Neck Sharpies there's no amazing new strategy. Let's just go through the tape and appreciate what's happening because Chase Winovich is on the field.
Play 1: Maryland opens with an extra (ineligible) offensive tackle to Winovich's side and rolls the other way. Winovich splits both OTs and pressures.
Gfycat randomly named this one UltimateWindyAsiaticgreaterfreshwaterclam and that's not the 10th best label they applied so I'm going to share these as we go.
[After THE JUMP: An entire day of this]
It was a game made for GIFs: a points-in-all-three-phases blowout with two expressive coaches and you don't have to hear Tim Bra--
Hold on, do you still work here?
I think so! I'm evidently using the company rhetorical device.
I'm sorry. Anyway, I couldn't let something like Donovan Peoples-Jones proving me oh-so-right about the punt returner situation pass by without making an appea--
JUST POST THE GIF.
Are you my alter ego or Brian's? Either way, you make a point.
[Hit THE JUMP for more hot damn.]
obvious thing preceded and followed by eons of nothing [Eric Upchurch]
9/15/2018 – Michigan 45, SMU 20 – 2-1
The sequence that really, truly broke me was in the middle of the second quarter. For some reason, Sonny Dykes thought that if his team was prepared it could stop a Michigan fullback dive. So he called timeout. Then he saw Michigan had cannily lined up in the exact same way they had before the timeout. Sensing a trap, he called timeout again. This became the dreaded Full Media Timeout.
In the stands, I baked. Because Michigan has made no attempt to improve connectivity in the stadium I held up my phone as it told me it could not retrieve tweets. The clock ticked down.
Michigan took the field again and lined up in the exact same way, but Dykes could not respond—he'd used all his timeouts. Ben Mason scored from the one-inch line, extra point... Full Media Timeout.
I baked further. It sucked. It was hot and boring and also hot and also boring.
Because I was so bored I started counting commercial breaks, finally giving up when the number hit a staggering eight in the first 22 minutes of game clock. There are eight commercial breaks in the entirety of a 40-minute basketball game, plus some timeout-induced ones. And that frequently feels excessive; a couple of years ago the problem seemed so severe the NCAA even stripped coaches of one of their precious timeouts. Football is now throwing up timeouts at almost twice the rate of basketball, a sport where the clock only runs if something is actually happening.
This is close to intolerable when it's nice outside. When it is not, and when there is a steady stream of baffling penalties from the part-time refs from a podunk league, and replays to fix some of the baffling issues the part-time refs are creating, and many more stoppages for injuries—one of which takes a long time and then gets a Full Media Timeout appended to the end of it—you wonder why you're doing this instead of sitting at home with air conditioning and connectivity. Several years ago I probably would have yammered about the students leaving early. Now I just envy anyone with the common sense to bail when they are so clearly being told to bail.
Falling attendance is a nationwide problem often blamed on The Youngs for being addicted to their phones, but the folks behind us show up maybe twice a year and sell their other tickets for whatever they can get. There's a noticeable variance in section density between the many garbage games (hi, division-mates Rutgers and Maryland) on the schedule and the actually worthwhile ones, and there are no students where I'm at. When the Wall Street Journal FOIAed actual ticket scans they found that 21%(!) of Michigan's announced attendance was fictional, tickets that sold but did not scan. This is actually pretty good in the wider context of college football, which says somethin' about somethin'.
It says that college football used to be a great bargain. Tickets were relatively inexpensive, games were fun and not largely spent watching people have conferences. Great fanbases sprung up around the teams starting in the 1960s, when Don Canham was packing bands into the stadium so it would be sort of full, and lasted more or less through 2000 without being seriously impinged upon. Ticket prices were absurdly stable. Television was more of a boon than a hindrance because its proliferation allowed you to watch more road games; breaks were relatively rare and tolerable.
Then things got monetized. Ticket prices approximately tripled in 13 years and have kept going up since. The commercial breaks have proliferated madly. Unsatisfied with their massive uplift in revenue, the athletic department has continued to nickel and dime the fanbase even after the departure of Dave Brandon. And for what? For who? For the benefit of ever more absurdly over-compensated coaches, staffers, and especially executives. Every commercial break is Jim Delany—the man who ruined the conference—giving me the middle finger while he dumps another gold brick on the Big Ten's grave.
Delany and his fellow parasites have latched onto the great oilbeds men like Canham laid down and are sucking them dry without regard to what happens after they're done. They don't care. They'll be dead. Michigan will still be playing Rutgers.
I dunno man. This would certainly be more tolerable if Michigan had won some more games over the past ten years. But probably not that much more. There's nothing I can do, really, but I'll tell you one thing: I'm never buying any fucking Rotel again. Until there's a cap on the number of ad breaks, every single college football TV advertiser can die in a fire for all I care. I've had it.
you're the man now, dog
#1(t) Donovan Peoples-Jones and Zach Gentry. Gentry had a drop but also rescued a ball that would have been an IN if thrown at anyone else. Four catches for 95 yards from a nominal tight end is a thing and if anything Patterson didn't take full advantage of his height to make his other catches indefensible. DPJ scored three touchdowns, completely imploding that stat. Two were relatively simple, sure. The fade was not. DPJ and Gentry get two points each because they're made up and don't matter.
#2 Josh Metellus. INT and weaving TD return were the difference between a relatively comfortable second half and a full on terror-dome. PI on him was iffy; he had another PBU and seven tackles; did get hit a bit on those slants but Kinnel was SMU's preferred target.
#3 Chase Winovich. Ten tackles, three for loss. Had a really impressive track-back on a third and long screen that looked set up for the first down. Also knocked down another screen on third down earlier in the game. Now the subject of a hilarious meme.
Honorable mention: Will Hart added two more 50-yard punts to his collection. Bryan Mone and Carlo Kemp made SMU runs up the middle, which were oddly frequent, entirely futile. Devin Bush exists and is still Devin Bush. Tru Wilson had some more lethal blitz pickups.
4: Chase Winovich (#1 ND, #3 SMU)
3: Karan Higdon (#1 WMU)
2: Ambry Thomas (#2 ND), Rashan Gary(#2 WMU), Donovan Peoples-Jones(T1 SMU), Zach Genty(T1 SMU), Josh Metellus(#2 SMU).
1: Devin Bush(#3 ND), Shea Patterson(#3 WMU)
Metellus's TD return.
Honorable mention: Shea Patterson hits DPJ for TD, Shea Patterson hits DPJ for TD, Shea Patterson hits DPJ for TD.
Patterson is intercepted near the goal line to keep the score at 0-0 and seriously threaten One Of Those Games again.
Honorable mention: Almost everything Patterson did prior to that (and nothing afterwards). Coverage mixup gives James Proche an opportunity to score, which he takes.
[After THE JUMP: Tru Wilson has blocked you from seeing this content]
An inauspicious start to the night gave way to a brief glimmer of hope. It was dim, sure, and it felt more like a mirage than a possible oasis, but it was there. This is Michigan-Notre Dame, after all, and there seemed to be some rule of the natural world that pushed close games in this series Michigan’s way. And then, on a play prior to which the stadium scoreboard had to pipe in some rawk music and remind fans to, in glittering all-caps, “GET LOUD,” hope died. Shea Patterson avoided pressure for as long as he could but encountered a group of two rushers coming free from the left side. The ball hit the turf, Te’Von Coney recovered, and the stadium whose volume hadn’t risen above a din in hours shook the press box.
That Michigan was even in the game late in the fourth quarter was a surprise give the way Notre Dame’s first two drives went. Notre Dame’s seemingly shaky quarterback situation was solved within three plays, as Brandon Wimbush found Chase Claypool for 16 yards on 3rd-and-10 and followed that with a 28-yard bomb to Miles Boykin, who was held by Lavert Hill. A facemask by Tyree Kinnel helped move Notre Dame from the 26-yard line to the 13, where Jafar Armstrong gashed Michigan’s defense for 13 yards and a touchdown.
Notre Dame started on their own four-yard line after a Higdon-powered Michigan drive stalled. They again converted on third-and-long, with Wimbush dropping a 26-yard dime to Alize Mack that resulted in 15 extra yards after Josh Metellus was called, and subsequently ejected, for targeting. Wimbush converted ND’s next third down with his feet, rushing for seven yards on 3rd-and-6. He heaved up a 43-yard bomb to the end zone for 5’10” Chris Finke on the next play, who leapt over Metellus’ replacement, 6’2” Brad Hawkins. Michigan was down two scores with three minutes left in the first quarter and the defense, the unit with so many exclamation marks and so few question marks, looked as out of sorts as they have in two years.
The defense’s problems lasted one more drive. Michigan allowed Notre Dame to march from their own 25-yard line to Michigan’s 45 when a holding penalty on Josh Ross helped Notre Dame convert on 3rd-and-3. Notre Dame then drove to Michigan’s nine-yard line when Chase Winovich sacked Wimbush on first down, pushing ND back to Michigan’s 17 on second-and-goal. Notre Dame picked up nine yards on a screen before getting a fresh set of downs when, on third-and-goal, Wimbush’s incomplete pass to Miles Boykin was erased by a Chase Winovich late hit. Notre Dame’s drive chart after that, however, looked like what we’ve come to expect from a Don Brown defense: punt, interception, punt, field goal, punt, punt, punt.
Michigan’s offensive drive chart, much to the consternation of the fan base, looked familiar, particularly in the second half: turnover on downs, turnover on downs, punt, interception, turnover on downs, touchdown, fumble. Even so, there were bright spots. Shea Patterson evaded a deluge of Notre Dame defensive linemen play after play and looked comfortable making plays outside of the pocket. Considering the pass protection, this is as vital a characteristic as can be found on this year’s team. Thankfully for Michigan, Dylan McCaffrey seems similarly talented in this area. The redshirt freshman QB was elevated to the no. 2 spot after Brandon Peters tweaked his knee in practice this week and looked good in relief of an injured Patterson (who later re-entered the game). McCaffrey entered the game early in the fourth quarter and moved Michigan from their four-yard line to Notre Dame’s 44 before pressure forced him out of the pocket on fourth down; he tried to find Karan Higdon downfield but the pass fell incomplete.
Higdon had a good game otherwise, regularly making good first cuts to eek out a few extra yards. The receiving corps was effective, snagging everything within reason Patterson and McCaffrey threw their way. Nico Collins had just three catches, though one was a 52-yard Patterson bomb on a post that breathed new life into Michigan’s opening drive of the second half; the first play of the half ended with a delay of game call on the offense, and the long reception was a one-play ticket to field goal territory (which UM botched, with a bad hold turning a likely three points into a Will Hart rush for –11 yards).
Questions abound, the most pressing of which are the result of another underwhelming performance from the offensive line. Michigan encountered a quality defensive line and made them look like a squad of four Khalil Mack clones; pass protection was less protection and more improvisation. Michigan gets a chance to work things out on the fly next weekend, when they return home to face a Western Michigan team that picked up just one sack against Syracuse.
|STRONG DE||Yr.||NOSE TACKLE||Yr.||3-TECH||Yr.||WEAK DE||Yr.|
|Rashan Gary||Jr.||Aubrey Solomon||So.||Mike Dwumfour||So.*||Chase Winovich||Sr.*|
|Kwity Paye||So.||Bryan Mone||Sr.*||Lawrence Marshall||Sr.*||Aidan Hutchinson||Fr.|
|Ron Johnson||So.*||Donovan Jeter||Fr.*||Carlo Kemp||So.*||Luiji Vilain||Fr.*|
now [Bryan Fuller]
It's the payoff year for landing the #1 recruit in the country. RASHAN GARY was real, real good as a sophomore. Here he is dismissing Martez Ivey, a second-team All SEC tackle last year, with one arm:
#3 DE to bottom
PFF has various stats demonstrating his effectiveness. Here's one:
Gary lit up UFR charts as well, although it was a little time in coming. Gary led off Bruce Feldman's annual "freaks" article because he may have evolved beyond the strictures of humanity:
The 6-foot-5 Gary is at the same weight he was at this time last year — 287 pounds — and his 40-yard dash time is the same at 4.57 seconds. His 3-cone drill at 6.79 was a touch behind last year’s 6.70, although his time this year still would beat every defensive lineman at this year’s NFL scouting combine. His 4.22 pro agility shuttle time also would top every D-lineman at the combine. Next best was 4.32. Another really impressive feat: his 10-4 broad jump, which was 8 inches better than what he did a year ago.
You can't throw a brick without hitting a mock draft that projects him in the top ten. NFL.com:
... built like a defensive tackle and runs like a linebacker. As a pass rusher, he explodes out of a four-point stance and can easily convert speed to power off the edge....flashed the ability to bend and wrap the edge, which is very unsusual for a 280-plus pound defensive end. ...versatility is a huge asset. He can line up at any position on the defensive line and, believe it or not, he's athletic enough to stand up on the edge if needed.
Yes, actually. This was as a freshman:
Now Gary is fully weaponized and ready for his close-up.
[After THE JUMP: chicken from the sky]
SPONSOR NOTE. Boy it's a little depressing to play a team that brings nothing other than disinterested New Yorkers who mostly spend their time watching Guy Fieri instead of football. Rutgers purports to be an athletic program but it's really just a way to reach into someone's pockets. Unlike HomeSure Lending, which does exactly what it purports to: sure, lend for homes. It's in the name and everything. Like if Rutgers's mascot really was the Cable Subscribers.
That's truth in advertising, and quick excellent rates for you, the discerning Michigan fan.
FORMATION NOTES. Michigan almost entirely shelved the 3-3-5 in this game. There were nine snaps with a three-man line, but eight of those were passing downs. The rest of the day Michigan played a 4-2-5. Usually that saw Michigan with two definite ILBs and Hudson following the tight end around, often a couple yards deeper than the LB crew:
You will be happy to know that Michigan did not put either ILB outside in coverage. When someone got pulled out of the box it was always Hudson. Here Rutgers puts their tight end out wide and he's the guy in man coverage to the bottom of the shot.
Rutgers didn't go empty, which would force one of the LBs out of the box if Michigan was going to play man.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES. Biggest change was a ton of second DT snaps, the vast majority of which went to Solomon. Michigan had 38 4-2-5 snaps and he got 30 of them, with Dwumfour getting five late and Mone getting just spot duty. The rest of the defense was as before, with the secondary the same five guys rotating through, McCray and Bush omnipresent, and Hurst, Gary, and Winovich the rest of the front.
Kemp, Jones, Dwumfour, and Paye got some snaps late on the line. Uche got in a little bit late, as did Gil.
[After THE JUMP: the usual]
John O'Korn (#8) breathed life into the Michigan offense. [Patrick Barron]
While it certainly wasn't how they planned it, Michigan may have solved their passing problems.
The trip to Purdue couldn't have started off much worse. Facing a fired-up, trash-talking Boilermakers squad, the Wolverines looked ripe for an upset in the first half. For a while, the game seemed designed for maximum frustration; first the preceding baseball game went into extra innings, causing out-of-staters to scramble to find the Fox Business Channel. Then, more disconcertingly, the offense looked even more broken than before.
Karan Higdon rushed for a first down on Michigan's first offensive snap. They'd go three-and-out to follow; the next two drives ended in the same fashion. The offensive line couldn't protect Wilton Speight or open up holes for the backs, the playcalling felt predictable and conservative. Midway through the first quarter, the game was deadlocked in an ugly scoreless draw.
Then an awkward hit changed the course of the game, and perhaps Michigan's season. As Markus Bailey came through the line untouched to sack Speight, 295-pound defensive tackle Eddy Wilson delivered a second blow that crumpled Michigan's quarterback, who stayed down before eventually being taken for X-rays and further testing. This was disaster. Yes, Speight hadn't been good this season, but he'd won the job for the second straight year over John O'Korn, and O'Korn didn't inspire any confidence in his previous appearances in maize and blue.
Zach Gentry dives for the touchdown. [Eric Upchurch]
So, of course, O'Korn promptly led the offense on a 13-play, 84-yard touchdown drive, completing all five of his passes, including a 12-yard scoring toss to Zach Gentry. Michigan had finally broken through. Two questions loomed. First, could Purdue counter? Second, could O'Korn keep it going?
The early returns weren't good in either regard. The Boilermakers hit back on the very next drive, covering 75 yards in only five plays after switching from David Blough to Elijah Sindelar at quarterback. O'Korn followed that with an interception after he threw a ball well behind Kekoa Crawford. Purdue cashed in with a field goal and entered halftime with a 10-7 lead. The Boilermakers had outgained Michigan 179 yards to 131. With Michigan's offense primed to struggle, the game would likely come down to a battle of wits between Purdue mad scientist Jeff Brohm and Don Brown.
Purdue would finish the game with 189 yards. Winner: Brown.
The total dominance by the defense would've been enough to avoid the upset. The offense, to everyone's considerable relief, did much more than rely on that to carry the day. After a punt and a lost fumble by Higdon, Michigan mounted an 11-play, 86-yard drive that calmed a lot of nerves. The coaches seemed to simplify the playbook for O'Korn, who looked to his tight ends and Grant Perry to catch and run with short passes. The drive only got going in the first place when O'Korn improbably spun out of a sack, reset, and hit Perry to covert a third down. It ended on a gorgeous playcall when M lined up showing a crack sweep look but instead had Chris Evans hit an interior hole off the pitch; the unexpected constraint play allowed him to waltz in from ten yards out.
Chase Winovich, with three sacks, had another dominant game. [Bryan Fuller]
O'Korn's next drive featured more creating outside the pocket, more big plays to Sean McKeon and Zach Gentry, and a targeting penalty on Purdue's Jawhaun Bentley. Ty Isaac finished that one off from a yard out, squeezing through a tackle off the right side and bursting into the end zone.
At this point, Purdue was desperately flipping quarterbacks, but had no answer for Michigan's ferocious defense. Blough re-entered in the fourth quarter only to be pummeled into the turf. After the eighth of nine three-and-outs forced by the Wolverines, Evans broke the game wide open with a 49-yard slice through the gut of the defense. Up 28-10 against a team that couldn't move the ball, Michigan went into clock-killing mode. The final six minutes and change passed in a hurry, helped along when Mike Wroblewski knocked the ball out of Terry Wright's hands for a Noah Furbush fumble recovery.
After averaging a woeful 3.7 yards per play in the first half, Michigan hummed along at a 7.3-yard clip in the second. O'Korn, despite a couple hiccups, looked like a completely different player from the one who underwhelmed when Speight was hurt last year. The defense, meanwhile, amassed five sacks, three of them by Chase Winovich, and took the run away from the Boilermakers entirely.
After the game, Jim Harbaugh said Speight suffered a "soft tissue" injury and declined to give a timeline for how long he'd be out. With a bye week ahead to work with the first-team offense, however, it's hard to imagine O'Korn hasn't earned his shot to lead this team against Michigan State. At the very least, Michigan heads into their week off at 4-0 and finally carrying some momentum on offense.
9/16/2017 – Michigan 29, Air Force 13 – 3-0
also this happened [Eric Upchurch]
I have ceased being a person who gets seriously exercised about the shortcomings, real or imagined, of Michigan's coaching staff. I will get my grouse on when it's fourth and a half yard and Michigan punts, because if I tried to hold that in I would literally die. There's some stuff later in this post about giving the ball to the Hammering Panda on short yardage and how it's dumb and stupid not to. There will always be niggling details that grate.
But I'm not going to freak out because Michigan's offense is struggling. If my mentions, or Ace's, or poor damn Nick Baumgardner's are any indication the Air Force game was HONEYMOON OVER for a healthy section of Michigan's fanbase. No doubt Sam and Ira have just completed four hours of radio where 75% of the callers were spittle-flecked, nude, and beet-red, proclaiming manifestoes about the personal embarrassment they were caused when Michigan could not score an offensive touchdown in the first 59 minutes of a game against a Mountain West team.
And... eh. I mean, nobody sane could disagree with propositions up to and including "this offense is butt and probably going to cost Michigan any chance of silverware." I wish the offense was not butt, too. In previous years I might be nude and beet-red, writing a manifesto about how I suffered personal embarrassment when Fitz Toussaint ran 27 times for 27 yards.
I am not. I'm going to see how this works out.
I'd like to think this is because I am so good at looking at football that I know that Michigan's problems under Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke were clear, severe, and systemic coaching issues while Harbaugh's are not. To some extent this is probably true: Harbaugh has not switched his base defense midseason in a panic (twice!), or decided that "tackle over" was an offense instead of a gimmick, or continued inserting a quarterback without an ulnar nerve in the second half of an Ohio State game. The worst tactical issue he's had so far was the increasingly disappointing Pepcat package last year, which is a speeding ticket compared to the grand felonies perpetrated by Michigan's last two coaching staffs. Check that: three coaching staffs.
But I'm also extrapolating based on track record. There is an element of faith that Harbaugh engenders, because... uh... I mean, obviously? If you need numbers, here's Stanford, with Harbaugh in bold:
|Stanford||2008||5-7||48||31||4.9 (20th)||6.4 (82nd)||59|
|Stanford||2009||8-5||1||6||5.2 (7th)||8.7 (7th)||9|
|Stanford||2010||12-1||5||3||5.2 (16th)||8.9 (10th)||13|
|Stanford||2011||11-2||6||8||5.3 (13th)||8.7 (7th)||6|
Harbaugh embarked on a similar project at San Francisco. The 49ers were 25th in Football Outsider's DVOA fancystat the year before his arrival. They improved to 18th in year one and then had consecutive top ten years (fifth and eighth) before a dropoff in Harbaugh's final season under Jed York. That last season is the only one in Harbaugh's pre-Michigan coaching career where the offense isn't either taking a significant step forward or an elite or near-elite unit, and it's saddled with a bunch of confounding factors. (SF got hit with a blizzard of injuries that year, oh and the owner was trying to force out a guy who'd gone to three consecutive NFC Championship games because reasons.)
At Michigan he immediately took the dead thing that was the Brady Hoke offense and made it okay, leaping from 89th to 38th in S&P+. Last year plateaued largely because the starting QB inexplicably went in the tank in Iowa and then did something nasty to his shoulder.
If the late slide a year ago and early sputters from a team that lost seven starters is enough to overthrow Harbaugh's long career of mostly great offenses in your mind, please go away. Yes, there are problems. No, this isn't Lloyd Carr turning Tom Brady, David Terrell, Anthony Thomas, and four long-term NFL starters into the 60th-best offense in the country. Bitching about Harbaugh's offense makes no sense after two years of inventive game plans, plays I have to invent terms for after a decade of doing this, and mostly solid results despite Brady Hoke's abominable late offensive recruiting*.
This feels bad man. But put your damn clothes on and stick to not sports.
*[Deep breaths. Ready?
The only offensive recruit to even make it to year five from the 2013 class are Patrick Kugler and the fullbacks. De'Veon Smith and Jake Butt were productive and graduated. Da'Mario Jones, Csont'e York, Jaron Dukes, Dan Samuelson, Wyatt Shallman, Chris Fox, David Dawson, Kyle Bosch, Shane Morris, and Derrick Green all burned out without making any impact.
Hoke's miserable 2014 class has Speight, the starting QB, Mason Cole, Ian Bunting, and nobody else even contributing. Moe Ways, Juwann Bushell-Beatty, Freddy Canteen, Drake Harris are all gone or benched.
And literally the only offensive recruits Hoke left Harbaugh in the transition class were Alex Malzone, John Runyan Jr, and Grant Newsome. That is three recruiting years producing four starters.]
[After THE JUMP: but hey the defense though]