Why did Peppers seem to disappoint on offense this season in the big games? Lack of creativity? Poor execution on his part, maybe from limited reps? OL play? Cosmic misfortune?
There are many reasons.
Defenses tended to absurdly over-focus on him when he entered the game. This resulted in a bunch of plays where his presence as a decoy created huge chunks for guys not named Peppers.
Michigan's read option package was basic. Teams started scrape exchanging against it and Michigan did not have a response to it. This resulted in a number of plays that looked like bad reads but were in fact RPS minuses. It probably would have been more effective to just single-wing, or use Peppers as a tailback.
He got some bad edge blocking from tight ends.
Cosmic misfortune always plays a role.
In retrospect the QB package should have been dumped midseason, probably after Illinois shut it down, and Michigan should have moved on to something else. They've been good at doing this so far under Harbaugh—fullback traps fell out of the offense this year—but not so here.
The Pepcat package featured something every high schooler is relentlessly drilled on these days: defending a crazy athlete QB. Michigan is not a spread option team. They are strictly dilettantes in that department. So you had a primitive attempt at spread option going up against the last ten years of defensive advancements against it. That is ceased working after a shock and awe period isn't a surprise.
Peters chatter, QB competition
daddy needs a new Andrew Luck [Fuller]
There never seemed to be much insider chatter floating around this year about how Peters was performing in practice. Obviously last year the big chatter was that, O'Korn was out performing Rudock. Question 1.) Do we know anything about how he performed this fall in practice?
Secondly, I for one was pleasantly surprised with Speight's performance this year and I believe exceeded what many's expectations were for him.
That being said -
Question 2.) Do you anticipate any serious competition next year between a Redshirt Peters and Speight for the starting gig?
Go Blue, Brewandbluesaturdays
After a productive spring, Peters chatter went to zero in fall camp. You shouldn't read anything into that, though. O'Korn got talked up last year because Rudock was so bad early and there was nobody else to talk about except Shane Morris, who was not a viable target for chatter after last year's Minnesota game.
Michigan had determined it was going to redshirt Peters, he got put on the scout team, and Speight played well enough that backup talk was restricted to a few off weeks. O'Korn's existence, meanwhile, kept what backup chatter existed focused on him until Indiana.
I do expect a serious QB competition this offseason. By "serious" I mean "there is at least a 20% chance someone not named Speight is the starting QB." Brandon Peters is extremely good and should eat up ground quickly since he was not one of those QB guru guys. Speight had a good sophomore season but remains someone else's QB that Harbaugh is making do with, and we saw him switch horses midstream in San Francisco. Speight's weak performance against Iowa and turnovers against OSU leave the door open for a challenger.
I'd be surprised if Peters passed Speight. I would not be shocked.
[After the JUMP: blueshirting, sartorial discussion, why do anything really I mean seriously]
“Senior captains for the 2016 season: offense, Jake Butt and defensively Chris Wormley. Thrilled with the leadership on our team right now. from the senior class and our younger classes. I think a lot of deserving candidates, but what a great honor for Jake Butt and Chris Wormley. I think they will represent our team very well.”
Game notes didn’t have a depth chart. Can you shed any light on the quarterback competition, at least?
“It’s been very good really from day one, the competition at the quarterback position. And the play at the quarterback position has been very good. I feel like it’s been improving as well, daily, weekly. All the quarterbacks are playing at a very high level.”
Just to follow up to that, do you know who your starting quarterback is right now? Do you expect to say before the game on Saturday?
“Yeah, I do—we know who our starting quarterback is, yes. And yeah, I’ll say who our starting quarterback is before Saturday. I didn’t say I was going to say it to you, who our starting quarterback is.”
What is it about Jake and Chris that you think will make them good captains?
“Well, they’re two of the hardest working guys. Two of the best players on the team. They both have a real great way of being good teammates. They don’t build themselves up and put others down around them. They both have that quality of building up other guys around them and making themselves smaller, and when you do that you make yourself very big indeed in the eyes of everybody, in the eyes of the whole world and the eyes of the people that are on your team.
“In so many ways: how they talk to the young players, how they coach the young players. I’ve caught Jake Butt in the act of helping the young tight ends on several occasions. Caught Chris Wormley giving advice and tips to the young defensive linemen, Rashan and Ron [Johnson], so that’s…I think that speaks volumes when I catch guys doing that.”
[Long pause as mic gets passed around. Just as someone’s about to ask a question, Harbaugh thinks of something else to add.]
“The good thing about our captain vote is it’s strictly voted by the players. All players that have been on the team for a year who really know the candidates for being captain. Coaches’ votes do not count and freshmen votes don’t count, so it’s the guys who’ve really been in the practices and the meetings and the trenches and the workouts year round that vote on the captains. That’s why it makes it such a great honor. That’s why it’s such a thing that means so much to all of us, to the team and to everybody involved. It’s your fellow teammates. It’s the players on your team, your peers, that are voting and making that assessment.”
When you have several worthy candidates for the quarterback position, what are the things that matter to you when you’re making that decision, when you’re trying to choose?
“Really all the guys haven’t played in the games in terms of game experience a whole lot. Each has game experience and has had game experience, but here game experience and…so, want to see the things that would really translate to the game in terms of moving the team, moving the offense, putting drives together, making first downs, converting third downs, getting the team into the end zone, avoiding the turnovers and the mistakes that hurt drives and keep points off the board.
“That’s been the major criteria. We’ve looked at everything, but that above all on the list is what we’ve been trying to evaluate in the practices. As I said, they’re all getting better and doing everything that we ask. Great understanding of the offense and what they need to do to be successful so been pleased.”
[After THE JUMP: the Kaepernick quote (including some important pauses), throwing gas on the Bredeson/freshmen hype fire, special teams info, and a little Hawaii scouting]
[New bolded player rules: not necessarily returning starter, but someone we've seen enough of that I'm no longer talking about their recruiting profile. Extant contributor.]
Last year was more of the same from a Michigan running back corps that had slowly devolved since the moment Mike Hart left. Upticks from Brandon Minor and Fitz Toussaint were more than offset by yards eschewed, random running, that year Toussaint couldn't pass block a soul, and a steady stream of Michigan discards who blew up as soon as they landed on another team.
His vision and run instincts tend to run hot/cold, leading to questionable decisions, and with his lack of explosive traits, Smith needs to be more decisive and trust what he sees. He tends to leave you wanting more due to his marginal burst and instincts, but there is a place at the next level for Smith due to his power, ball skills and upside as a blocker.
It was pretty bad… and then it got better. Smith's outstanding Citrus Bowl was the exclamation point on a mid-season turnaround that looks a lot like those Chesson and Rudock experienced. It wasn't as dramatic, but it was there. I'm going to whisper the next sentence: it almost kind of looked like someone had figured something out.
Running back coaching matters? I want to believe.
THE MAN THE MAN THE MAN
After consecutive years where this preview listed options at all three roles above in an almost but not quite entirely arbitrary fashion, Michigan enters the season knowing who their first-choice back is: DE'VEON SMITH. They know who their short-yardage back is: De'Veon Smith. They know who their third-down back is: De'Veon Smith. They think he's good enough to put him in the bin with Amara Darboh and Jourdan Lewis and all the other veterans who don't need spring contact.
Survey says... eh, maybe. Smith's bravura Citrus Bowl against some tough, if potentially disinterested, customers was the exclamation point to a rollercoaster season. If you don't want to read the rest of this section here it is in 15 seconds:
Smith abandoned his pulling guard, disappeared into a pile of bodies, was still upright seven yards later, got caught from behind, shook off a defensive back, got caught by the same guy again, and shrugged him off once more like so much lint on his varsity jacket. Few sixty yard touchdowns in the history of Michigan football have been as likely to cause the coaching box to exclaim "what are you DOING?" the instant before the breakthrough.
That was Smith's 2015. For every shattered defensive back left trembling in a puddle of his own making...
...there was a truck lane ignored.
Last year's UFRs invariably contained a book-length subsection on the running backs and the yards they made or, more often, set on fire. As the lead back Smith came in for the plurality of the discussion. Depending on the week this discussion was either generally positive and hopeful...
/spittle shields at 70% and dropping
Actually… I got nothing this week. I thought the backs did well. I complainedabout a lead zone run last week. Michigan didn't block it well; Smith mechanically ran into the gap he should go in if they in fact did block it well. He ate a DT for minimal yardage. I didn't care if Smith actually got anything on the play, I just wanted to see him see what was going on in front of him and put a foot in the ground to give himself a chance.
He did that on this one:
That cutback doesn't look like it'll amount to much when he makes it but Michigan gets on some blocks and Smith runs through some guys and it's a nice gain. If he'd gotten swallowed by an unblocked LB back there it's still the right cut.
I feel like this is going to lead into another running back diatribe.
Are they really diatribes?
Large portions of last year's preview focused on Smith's tendency to run at random, which outlets other than the Michigan obsessive bits of the internet picked up on:
The hope was Harbaugh and Wheatley could get Smith moving in the right direction more often, and for most of the season that was dashed.
But the frustration I experienced was not limited to Smith. Everyone who took more than a dozen or so carries made at least one mindbogglingly bad cut, from Drake Johnson to Ty Isaac to Derrick Green to Sione Houma. That's widespread enough to seem like a coaching issue, and Smith's trajectory confirms:
[UFR charting for ballcarriers is another spot where zero is bad. Zero means you got what was blocked and nothing else.]
Cuts late let M down.
Two very bad plays and not much to make up for it.
On just 8 carries.
Grinder; a bit frustrating with the cuts again.
Frustratingly slow sometimes but made up for it with power.
+2 blocking, +2 on catches, and then +3 late, which fits a pattern discussed below.
Made a significant number of yards himself. Zero pass pro minuses.
I be like dang
That is a veritable late-season surge. Smith came in for some clucking after the PSU game since I didn't care for three of his 13 carries, but in the context of the last five games that's the outlier and being good at running is the trend.
And this continued! Presented with a DL penetrating almost to the handoff point Smith cut off his OL's back and blew through an arm tackle. On the three, Smith turned negative two yards into two by juking two dudes and running through a couple tackles. Even on certain runs where it looked like he'd screwed up, the tape revealed he was trying to make the best of a bad situation only to find that there was no relief elsewhere. It took me a couple takes to realize that this was Smith avoiding a wholly unblocked LB in the hole:
As I said in the table above, he's probably better off running right at the guy for a few yards but I prefer Smith seeing trouble and adjusting even if it doesn't work out. Early in the second half Smith cut to the backside of the line and got hewed down early because a safety blitz prevented Darboh from getting to the guy. That's an RPS minus; without the playcall Smith is ripping off another backside cut. Even with it if Cole had cut off penetration a little better Smith can attack the S head-on, and that usually ends badly for the DB.
At that point I hadn't done the OSU game and wondered if that was a one-off; now that the entire picture is in view it's obviously not. I mean… it's kind of a Rudock trajectory. It wasn't quite as obvious since Michigan tried its hardest to avoid the defensive lines of PSU and OSU, but it's there. That's why Smith was placed amongst the revered elders during spring.
So. The dude remains a nuclear-powered icebreaker. The number of tackles he blew through was truly impressive, and even when he was in fact being tackled piles had a tendency to lurch two or three yards towards the endzone:
I have literally dozens of these clipped:
Smith grindsoutyardsaftercontactbetterthananybackI'veseenatMichigan. Yeah, he's slow. Yeah, he's not going to juke a guy in the open field. But in the right situation he can be a killer. That situation is surrounded by very good blocking that delivers him three yards downfield on a consistent basis. Smith will turn that into five or eight or eleven yards better than anyone not named Fournette. Is he going to have that this year? Maybe, maybe not. Michigan should get closer to it.
Smith's peripherals are unambiguously positive. He fumbled just once last year. He was also a strangely effective third-down back, to the point where I called him "King Hippo Vincent Smith." This is mostly because of his consistently excellent pass blocking:
Smith has the oomph to stand up linebackers like nobody since Mike Hart. This was a point of discussion after Penn State, a game in which Smith only got eight carries and still managed to stick out as an asset:
His eight protection minuses on the season are only twice what Ty Isaac managed to acquire in scattered snaps against Oregon State, and there was a distinct lack of the "team" minuses I hand out when I'm not sure who screwed up. 13 over the course of the season is a really low number and off the top of my head I'd guess that two-thirds could not be on Smith.
As a bonus, Smith is a solid outlet option because of this SAT analogy:
De'Veon Smith : defensive back :: windshield : insect
In limited opportunities he's shown that he's also an asset as a run blocker:
After that game I described him as a "low-to-the-ground 230-pound brick"; after the pass block above I broke my longstanding commitment to pooh-pooh all motivation/effort talk:
I usually assume everyone's going all out all the time and dismiss motivation stuff, but this week I got frustrated with a couple players for a lack of want-to. Smith never lacks that. Smith wants to end you. Even if he's slow and his vision is lacking, that's something.
He's the kind of guy willing to play through just about anything, and that's something Harbaugh has noticed.
Smith is a good bet to be Michigan's first 1,000 yard back since Fitz Toussaint. He's got a half-season of being pretty good and has more upside than you'd expect because so many of his issues stemmed from an unfamiliarity with the offense and running back basics. Wheatley:
"(Now we're trying to) get guys like De'Veon and Ty Isaac (and Drake Johnson) to what I call a mastery level. Progressing past the things we did last year."
It says here that Smith's 2015 is a better version of his second half. Michigan will rotate him a bunch to keep him as healthy as possible—his pounding style is tough on him and caused him to miss chunks of multiple games—and this will keep his counting numbers from attracting national attention, but his YPC should take a big step forward along with his reputation amongst Michigan fans.
[After THE JUMP: Jabrill Peppers! And other guys, but also Peppers!]
SPONSOR NOTES: Again, chances of this existing without Matt are somewhat less. I like to think this would be a thing in the world without the prod from Homesure Lending, but you never know. Matt's sponsoring another Football Eve this year, albeit on Thursday so it's Football Eve Eve. September 1st, 7:30, Ashley's, first beer's on him.
FORMATION NOTES: I'm ready to give up on naming these things. A couple of attempts to clarify the lingo below:
This was a Peppers sweep to all the dudes. Michigan has six OL in the game and Cole is in a two point stance to the bottom of the line. This was "ace quad tight bunch" even though that doesn't encapsulate all the weirdness.
Here Michigan has two TEs and two WRs on the field, with Butt lined up in a two point stance and Chesson an inline TE:
I'm calling this "WR hide." If you see it below there's an "inline TE" named Darboh or Chesson or both.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Rudock, starting OL, and the starting WRs the whole way. Isaac did not play and Drake Johnson was limited to scattered snaps as Smith and Peppers took the large bulk of the RB snaps. Peppers also lined up in the slot, at H-back and as a wildcat QB. AJ Williams didn't get much time.
[After THE JUMP: one very big problem M tried to work around.]
This Thanksgiving I am thankful for many things, like Harbaugh, and family, and Harbaugh, and some more family. Also I have a mortgage that was easy to get and has an excellent rate that will save me a ton of money over the life of it. And Harbaugh. And a decidedly pants optional lifestyle. Also Harbaugh.
FORMATION NOTES: Penn State played most of the game in a 4-3. Passing downs saw a nickel. I may have missed a few nickel snaps since 11 and 15 can look similar. This was a pretty typical alignment:
Note the PSU player to the top of the screen is a corner and Brandon Bell, their nickel LB, is over the slot. PSU's defense is superficially like MSU's, but they sit their safeties back a lot more and are generally less aggressive.
Michigan didn't do much out of the ordinary other than line up Peppers at RB, frequently in a shotgun 4-wide setup I dubbed "Baylor" because obviously.
This one was a WR screen since PSU elected not not to put two guys near the stack to the bottom of the screen.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Mostly the usual. Slight variants:
Kalis got knocked out for a snap, so Dawson was inserted.
Bunting returned to the field for a few snaps.
Hill is getting a fair number of snaps behind Poggi and Williams.
Peppers got a number of pure RB snaps and handoffs that were in no way frippery.
Paging Mr. Peppers It's officially time to empty the tank. Michigan can't afford to save anyone's legs for a potential game next week, because, well, there may not be a game next week. And that means any type of Jabrill Peppers pitch count likely gets tossed out the window. Harbaugh dropped a little nugget in passing Monday about Peppers' ability as a running back, going so far to say he's going to have to think rather hard about how Michigan's multi-faceted athlete is best used on the roster. Maybe Harbaugh's actually talking about next season, or maybe he's planting another seed in Ohio State's head.
We had a caller on MGoRadio ask a similar question about Peppers's deployment. Neither Ace or I thought you could sacrifice him on defense in either the short or long term. In the short term, Michigan's about to face a team that has a heavy QB run game and will test the edge in various ways. In the long term, Peppers is going to figure out coverage and be an all-around terror.
But: I might be inclined to steal some snaps on D with Peppers out of the lineup if that meant he could get more action on offense. They've already offloaded kick returns to Jourdan Lewis with great success; I might be amenable to Peppers leaving on passing downs against OSU as Michigan plays Stribling/Clark/Lewis on the corner. Anything else and I think you have to have him in there.
It was on this day (November 24) in 1973 the Ohio State Buckeyes performed one of the most heinous acts in any rivalry, in any sport – they went after the sacred GO BLUE M CLUB SUPPORTS YOU banner.
If you aren’t aware of this, or have been living under a rock, I have created a YouTube Video that documents this act, one which legendary broadcaster Bob Ufer decried that the Buckeyes “will meet a dastardly fate here for that!”
The the Buckeyes returned in 1975 word was that Woody wanted to do it again, but this time the Michigan Students were ready. The Buckeyes decided that discretion was the better part of valor, so no dastardly shenanigans ensued.
Twitter would roll over and die. Apparently they tried it again in 1977! We do have some spicy rival business of recent vintage thanks to Marcus Hall, so there's that. I appreciate OSU's willingness to come out and be dastardly before or during a game. Really adds something to the proceedings, unlike MSU's current student-taunting tradition.
Frantz: In my mind, if I make that field goal, I'm the governor of Ohio. That's how big it would have been. When I was teaching myself to kick in the backyard, my father would literally say, "This is to win the Michigan game." I had no doubt in my mind that I wanted a chance to make the field goal.
I trotted out on the field, set my tee on the ground and looked at my holder, Scott Powell. Then I heard the referee blow his whistle for a timeout. It was a TV timeout, which meant it was an extended timeout. I looked around and saw a hundred thousand people and realized they were focused on me.
Just before the timeout was over, I looked over and saw Bo Schembechler about three-quarters of the way out on the field. He was screaming, "Frantz, you little s---, you're going to miss this kick!" He was going nuts, and his coaches were trying to hold him back. People ask me all the time if icing the kicker works. I tell them, "Well, in my case it did." It was a perfect snap and a perfect hold, but I hooked it a couple of feet left. There's no explanation and no excuse.
This is why I want to fight anyone who brings up whether a coach is "classy" or not. Hypocrisy, malfeasance, punting in plus territory: I'm listening. Whether a guy drops too many f-bombs or, in Woody's case, is constantly plotting ways to assassinate someone does not register.
Never has a mascot fight video been more accurate. I like the hat, too.
Les Miles' tenure at LSU may be coming to an end, according to a highly ranked source involved with the decision-making process.
A decision on his future is likely to come in the very near future, with many Tiger Athletic Foundation (TAF) members ready to move on and start a new era in Baton Rouge. The $15 million-dollar buyout clause that is in Les Miles' contract is what many perceive as one of the bigger hang-ups in making a move.
However, TAF, the athletic program's booster club that funds a lot of the athletic programs for LSU, will not allow the buyout issue to thwart its plans, according to a high-ranking source.
Even before LSU's dispiriting loss to Ole Miss, their equivalent of a regent actually said to an actual newspaper actually on the record that if Miles won out "that complicates it." Now that he's lost one of them he's a dead man walking. At this point there are multiple independently-sourced reports from just about everyone that covers LSU; despite a 15 million dollar buyout Les's demise is imminent.
On the one hand, that's a quick trigger finger. Miles is just one year removed from a string of 10-win seasons. On the other, he went 8-5 last year and is currently 4-3 in the SEC. He is a CEO head coach who lost John Chavis. He's never hired an OC who has done much other than run a basic set of plays and waste prodigious WR talent. He's a Cooper-esque 2-7 against Saban. LSU fans assume they'll just sweep up most of the massive talent base LSU sits on no matter who the coach is. Miles is 62; things probably don't get better from here.
I'd can him if I was magically placed in charge of LSU, but I'd can just about anybody short of Harbaugh if I thought I could get Tom Herman.
None of this really impacts Michigan—I don't think M was even peripherally involved with anyone LSU is recruiting this year—but Miles will be an interesting name for a lot of mid-level schools. He'll be cheap for the same reason Jedd Fisch is cheap for Michigan this year (a big buyout), and he's got a long and mostly successful track record. While I think hiring him would be a bad idea, a lot of bad ideas are brought to life. Could he end up at, say, Illinois?
"Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher is the main target for many foundation members; with names like Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, TCU head coach Gary Patterson and even former NFL coach Jon Gruden being tossed around as well."
"Jimbo, Dabo: you have both proven that the winner of the FSU-Clemson game will easily be a playoff entrant should the rest of the season break correctly. You are paid exorbitantly well. But forget all that and play Alabama every year just to get out of your division. Sound good?
"Jimbo Fisher to LSU" is going to be this year's "Saban to Texas," a coaching rumor that will never do anything except line Jimmy Sexton's pockets.
I don't have anything clever to say. I just wanted you to see it.
This isn't a great way to do it. The Big Ten wants to reduce the age at which you can start college hockey without burning years of eligibility from 21 to 20, and they've taken the matter direct to the NCAA without even stopping by college hockey to check. The obvious reason why:
In a memo obtained by College Hockey News, college hockey coaches voted 49-11 in a straw poll against the legislation. That poll has no bearing on the NCAA vote, but it demonstrates the mindset of the college hockey community as a whole. The specific 11 to vote for it is unclear, though six are presumed to be the Big Ten coaches.
Everybody except the Big Ten and a smattering of bluebloods (dollars to donuts "yes" voters outside the Big Ten include North Dakota, BC, Notre Dame, and BU) hates the idea. The rest of that article is everyone arguing self-interested positions that are obvious.
The Big Ten's hope is that by taking it direct to the NCAA the larger body will look at an outlying sport and try to bring it closer to the line all other sports take. With the league looking like hot butt—just one program, Michigan, is even on the NCAA bubble a third of the way through the season—this looks like an attempt to not be hot butt that doesn't involve firing the various terrible coaches in the league.
Special demerit to NMU head coach Walt Kyle for this take:
"A lot of these schools right now, and I'm not naming names, are doing everything in their power to push the scales in their favor," Northern Michigan coach Walt Kyle said. "A lot of these guys should be embarrassed. They want NCAA (tournament) games on home campus sites. Why is that?"
Because neutral sites have been a financial and public relations disaster that holds back all of college hockey. Because single-elimination playoff hockey is inherently ridiculous and even more so when it's been played in an empty AHL building. It's unclear why Kyle even cares about this at all since he's managed to acquire one tourney bid in the thirteen years he's been head coach.
This isn't a good look by the Big Ten but if Kyle's opinion is representative it's the main reason college hockey has the worst playoff in sports. In that case, all these guys can get bent.
Happily ever after. I think it all worked out for the best, really.
Doubtful. MSU will try to get Ed Davis a sixth year, which will require some proof that Davis was legitimately injured as a freshman. Survey says not likely since he was the scout team player of the week twice:
2011 SEASON: Redshirted . . . named Scout Team Defensive Player of the Week vs. Minnesota . . . selected Scout Team Special Teams Player of the Week vs. Central Michigan.
Coaches try but the NCAA is usually pretty strict in these departments. Michigan is apparently going to try to get a redshirt for Mario Ojemudia, but I very much doubt that will come off either.
11/21/2015 – Michigan 28, Penn State 16 – 9-2, 6-1 Big Ten
I have seen things when Michigan plays Penn State. I have seen boggling things. Things I should not repeat but am about to anyway.
I have seen a free Hail Mary handed the opposition. I have seen a timeout just before an intentional safety. I have seen 27 runs for 27 yards. I have seen Michigan's slot receiver left alone, all alone. I have seen a slot receiver wonder if any of these 100,000 people can see him, especially the offensive coordinator. I have seen a slot receiver's constituent atoms disperse as he convinces himself he must not exist after all. Then I saw some more runs for one yard. Somewhere in there Dennis Norfleet dances in a loop for all time, because sure that makes as much sense as anything.
I have been baffled. I have been enraged. I have been morbidly entertained. I have been stupefied, watching Michigan play Penn State.
Things have been a bit frustrating the past few weeks, what with an avalanche of procedure penalties, offsides calls, and special teams mishaps. But when presented with a situation where they did not expect to and could not run the ball much, Michigan did not repeatedly bang their collective head into a brick wall.
Michigan's final drive featured five De'Veon Smith runs and one kneel-down. Five Jake Rudock attempts were sacks or scrambles. Once those are put in the appropriate bins, Michigan ran just 19 times to 43 passes.
Two years ago in that very stadium a complete wreck of an offensive line took on an equally stout Penn State defense. They didn't throw one wide receiver screen. Fitzgerald Toussaint ran 27 times for 27 yards. This year before garbage time time, De'Veon Smith had 8 carries; 6 went to Chesson and Peppers.
Michigan's going to be a good rushing offense. Probably great. But even though that's what Harbaugh wants to do, he adapted to the situation he was presented with. That's terrific.
Coaching can be divided into a few different categories. Development, recruiting, and tactics seem to cover the bases. While Michigan is still struggling with the near-total lack of the former under the previous regime, the latter was totally on point here. Can't say that about two years ago. Or a year ago. While Michigan remains a bit wobbly, a bit rickety, the things they are doing make sense.
Michigan played Penn State on the road and the only stupefying things that happened came from reliable sources like Big Ten referees and James Franklin trying to manage a game. Meanwhile Ohio State played Michigan State in the most stupefying game of the year. Now is the time to sit back and appreciate the fact that things more or less make sense.
It ain't perfect and it'll never be, but Michigan tries a bunch of things and takes what the opposition gives and if something isn't going great they stop doing it. The only time I've gotten really twitchy about tactics was against Indiana when Michigan ran play action on second and twenty that led to an interception. (I was mildly twitchy about Michigan's passivity on Indiana's go-ahead touchdown drive.)
In a world where Ohio State throws 16 times against Michigan State, where Tim Beckman is seen as a viable hire for a position more involved than vending machine*, where every coach in America seems to need a 14-year-old kid who plays Madden nonstop on the sideline, "more or less makes sense most of the time" is gold. Michigan's coaching staff has not punched itself in the face for four hours on any given Saturday, and in the cold light of dawn two days after a stupefying weekend of college football that warms the ol' cockles right up.
#2 Chris Wormley was the most consistent and dangerous of Michigan's defensive linemen, racking up 1.5 sacks and another half TFL. Wormley and the rest of the DL gave up one big Saquon Barkley run (mostly on Willie Henry and the linebackers) and shut everything else down, leaving PSU relying on the tempestuous Christian Hackenberg to move the ball.
#3 Jake Rudock threw one ugly interception. When not doing that he completed two-thirds of his passes for 256 yards. 6.7 yards an attempt isn't electric but since a half-dozen or more of those were wide receiver screens that Michigan used in place of a running game that may understate things. Also, Penn State has had one of the best pass defenses in the country to date.
Honorable mention: Jake Butt and Jehu Chesson had 66 and 69 receiving yards, respectively, and along with Darboh have established Michigan's receiving corps as a very good one. Henry, Hurst, and Taco Charlton helped out immensely, minus the Henry cut. Jourdan Lewis remains Jourdan Lewis; his KO return also helped seal the game.
Jourdan Lewis rips off a 60-yard kickoff return after Penn State draws within five, setting up a short field that Michigan drives for a game-sealing TD. Better is that he called his shot with Harbaugh beforehand.
Honorable mention: Darboh's tip-toe catch. #Buttdown. Harbaugh strippin' rage. Any number of sacks and TFLs.
Ohio State tests Michigan State's secondary twice. In a game of football. Against Michigan State. What are you even doing?
Honorable mention: Punt blocked. Any number of offsides or false start penalties. The touchdown Peppers allowed. Any number of infuriatingly bad calls. That fourth and ten conversion against great Lewis coverage.
Utah: circle route pick six. Oregon State: Rudock fumbles after blitz bust. UNLV: Rudock matches 2014 INT total in game 3. BYU: BYU manages to get to triple digit yards in the last minutes of the game. Maryland: Slog extended by deflected interception at Houma. Northwestern: KLINSMANN OUT MSU: Obvious. Minnesota: The bit where the lost it until they didn't. Rutgers: KO return given up. Indiana: run run run run run run run run run run run run. PSU: OSU's WHAT ARE THOOOOOOSE gameplan against MSU.
[After THE JUMP: defense back, Rudock maintaining.]
11/7/2015 – Michigan 49, Rutgers 16 – 7-2, 4-1 Big Ten
This was never much of a game; it was never expected to be much of one. The line rose to a whopping 24 points before kickoff. Michigan hit that number early in the third quarter. For big chunks of the first half Rutgers had 55 yards of offense from one run on which Joe Bolden was held rather blatantly and literally nothing else. This was a walkover.
So there's not much emotional impact to be drawn from this one. Other than the sudden appearance of Good Iowa Rudock pretty much everything went as expected. Back in the day I'm pretty sure I shrugged at these games, wrote a couple paragraphs about how this wasn't really a thing, and moved on to gleaning what could be gleaned from an uncompetitive game. More recently that kind of column has been reserved for dismal contests in which a moribund Michigan team gacked it up against, oh, say, Rutgers.
There will come a day in the next couple years when Michigan takes on the dregs of its division and drops the hammer and I say that there's no point in a column. This is not that day. Because last year Gary Nova threw for 400 yards against this defense. Because last year Michigan did the classy thing and apologized for putting a piece of metal in Michigan State's field. We are not yet far enough removed from that to simply shrug.
"They were just saying things like, 'Oh, it's our time this second half,' 'We the comeback kids,' 'These guys can't really finish games,'" safety Jabrill Peppers said, kind of rolling his eyes at the last remark.
"That's pretty much all I heard."
I'm impressed they hadn't checked out entirely, but it does not do to poke the bear.
"They were excited. They were down, what, 19, and Coach didn't like that they were celebrating," Lewis said. "(He said), 'Put the foot on the gas, finish these guys off.'"
Those were his exact words?
"I don't want to use those words out here," Lewis said, with a laugh.
Many, many opposing fans are going to complain about Harbaugh the jerk, Harbaugh the sociopath, Harbaugh the serial killer who kept stabbing our face long after we were dead. I perused a good number of these comments after this game… for some reason. Wilton Speight played most of the fourth quarter and Michigan put up just 14 points in the second half.
Even so the Rutgers beatwriters are really stretching to make something out of Harbaugh's two-point conversion:
Is there a beef between Rutgers coach Kyle Flood and Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh?
Evidence cited: a two point conversion with 26 minutes left in the game and a couple of coachspeak comments from Flood that could be spun into a veiled shot if, say, you were desperate for anything to talk about after a 49-16 loss. Steve Politi, the guy who wrote that column about Harbaugh being a phony compared to the real Kyle Flood, is trying to stoke the flames by citing the sneaky Jake Butt play—which happened in the first half!—Jake Rudock throwing in the third quarter, and Jabrill Peppers fair-catching punts.
I guess when you cover Rutgers you're on the cutting edge of "not in the face!" research. But it's clear Harbaugh is taking heat here solely because of his reputation.
I want it to be angry up 35-16 at halftime. I want it to step on available throats within the rules of the game (except for certain substitution rules). I don't care if someone's feelings are hurt by a justified two-point conversion, or an unjustified one. I endorse all fourth-quarter passes against teams five scores down. I look forward to a point in the future when an apology will not be forthcoming.
this is both #1 and #2 [Fuller]
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 Jake Rudock had 13.5 yards an attempt despite two drops from his receivers. Even against an atrocious pass defense, that'll do. Rudock also escaped the pocket and tiptoed the sideline for a touchdown and scrambled for the two point conversion.
#2 Jake Butt had 104 of those receiving yards on four catches. Rudock is now hitting the high window where Butt can show off his height and leaping ability. I have him with zero drops on the year. Butt has 418 receiving yards on the year, almost 150 clear of his nearest competitor… that Minnesota TE who was delivered a couple gifts last week.
#3 Chris Wormley re-asserted himself after a few relatively quiet weeks with two sacks, one on a stunt Rutgers didn't pick up, the other just a straight up pass rush around the corner. Wormley also helped Michigan's rush defense to another dominant day.
Honorable mention: Jourdan Lewis set the single season Michigan PBU record. Jarrod Wilson wasn't hit in coverage and had a pretty spectacular interception. Mason Cole was probably pretty good.
Jabrill Peppers does his Denard-vs-WMU impression.
That acceleration after he dodges the tackle is ridiculous.
Honorable mention: any number of pinpoint midrange Rudock passes but we'll go with the 50-yard catch and run to Butt; Jarrod Wilson's un-boring interception; Smith rips off a big run late on a textbook power play; Harbaugh goes for two for Reasons.
A weirdly short kickoff from Kenny Allen is returned for a touchdown.
Honorable mention: Targeting overturned; Rutgers rips off a 55-yard run thanks in large part a pretty obvious hold on Joe Bolden; Michigan struggles to run yet again.
Utah: circle route pick six. Oregon State: Rudock fumbles after blitz bust. UNLV: Rudock matches 2014 INT total in game 3. BYU: BYU manages to get to triple digit yards in the last minutes of the game. Maryland: Slog extended by deflected interception at Houma. Northwestern: KLINSMANN OUT MSU: Obvious. Minnesota: The bit where the lost it until they didn't. Rutgers: KO return given up.
[After THE JUMP: no ghosts this week, tiniest band ever, screens, defense hole-seeking]