SPONSOR NOTE: Reminder that Matt is hanging out at the Charity Tailgate at 327 East Hoover (if you were at the preseason MGoEvents this year and last it's the same place). It's right next to the train tracks on Hoover. The band goes right by it on their way to the stadium, which is cool. Say hi.
FORMATION NOTES: A couple of hints at packages Michigan has either kept under wraps or can't quite get right. There was a snap that looked like a 3-4 with Winovich and Uche as the OLBs and a three man front. There was a bit of a run-out for the 3-3-5 Brown clearly wants to have available as a changeup but can't get working against most opponents because Michigan doesn't really have the personnel for it.
But mostly just the same stuff, with maybe more of a zone approach…
two-high == usually zone for M
…since Rutgers was attacking the edges constantly. A cover two corner is a good antidote for that.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Just 54 snaps, and 15 of them were in garbage time. During the brief time the D had the starters on the field it was Gary, Winovich, Kemp, and Mone. Marshall rotated through for a dozen or so snaps. Solomon was left home with an illness. Paye didn't get much time; he was limited to the rush package mostly and left with a minor injury in the third Q.
Mostly the usual at LB, with Bush and Hudson near omnipresent as Ross and Gil rotated. Jordan Anthony got in for the last drive. Uche was limited to ~10 snaps; Furbush and Glasgow got about that many, mostly late.
In secondary, Hawkins replaced Metellus. Hill was knocked out relatively early, leaving Watson and Long to get the lion's share of CB snaps. Ambry Thomas got 20 or so snaps; J'Marick Woods and Vincent Gray got in late.
FWIW, the final drive saw all manner of guys get on the field. M traveled a selection of deep bench walk-ons, because Rutgers.
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.]
Harbaugh was just talking about how you guys played so well, especially on the defensive line. Was it a personal challenge after last week? Did he say something to you? Did you talk about it internally about wanting to prove something this week?
TC: “Personally, our defensive line always feels like we have something to prove when we go that way every week with that mindset. We know a lot of the game depends on how we play, and we felt like the past couple weeks we’ve been slacking, so it was something that we internally knew we had to pick up and something coach Mattison preaches to us every day.”
Could you guys tell that Hackenberg was pretty beat up at the end? Seems like you guys got to him quite a bit.
CW: “Yeah, you could tell he was, towards the end of the fourth quarter, he was flinching at the end of his throws, kind of trying to duck out of the way. That was the goal all along was to get to the quarterback and apply pressure to him.”
James, if you could talk about the toughness this team has shown on the road. It’s tough to come through the whole Big Ten season and not lose on the road.
“This team is tremendously tough. We rely on each other and we’re a band of brothers when we go on the road, and we know if you give us an inch like you’ve seen in the Minnesota game we’re going to put the game on the defense’s shoulders. We’re going to do everything we can do to hold it out, and that’s everything we can do and I trust these boys to a T and they prove it every time we get on the field.”
If Taco and Chris could weigh in also.
CW: “What was the question again?”
Why you guys have been so successful on the road, not losing a conference road game.
CW: “I think it’s a mindset, especially when you’re not at home and you don’t have the crowd cheering you on every play. It’s just a mindset, and like Biggs said, we’re a tough team. We have that mentality each and every week, especially when we go on the road.”
TC: “The biggest thing I can attest to is what Biggs said also: we’re a band of brothers. We stick together. We go to a place like this, especially Penn State, it’s a hostile environment but we know together if we play like a team it doesn’t matter what the environment is. Every football field’s the same and that’s all that counts. Nothing changes about that.”
[Hit THE JUMP for more from Wormley, Ross, and Charlton]
I worked with Matt (aka HomeSure lending) and closed my refi last week. Everything went as planned and on schedule. He was easy to work with and there was good communication throughout. I've had other refi's that did not go as planned and caused wasted time for me or were chaotic. With Matt it went really well and I got a lower rate and now my monthly payment dropped and I'll pay it off in the same amount of years. …
Oh and one more thing. When I first called him, he talked me out of refinancing because he was honest and told me my current loan was better than what I was trying to do with him. Once the rates dropped he reconnected with me and that lead to the refi. He seemed really honest and truly trying to do what's right.
FORMATION NOTES: Michigan spent a lot of the game like this, with Ross at the buck (standing to the bottom of the DL) and Peppers and Hill flanked outside of the two ILBs.
This was an especially weird game to play Ross as the buck since otherwise you would have expected him to play a lot as a third linebacker. I just called this "nickel even" since Ross was functioning as a DL.
This was "quads inner bunch"; Peppers is about to do something almost awesome.
All else per usual.
PERSONNEL NOTES: No Godin, who was injured, so the rotation on the DL was circumscribed. Hurst and Glasgow rotated at the nose with scattered snaps on which both played; Charlton got snaps here and there, but Wormley and Henry had a heavy workload.
Ross bizarrely got most of the snaps at buck instead of Jenkins-Stone; he did not do well. Morgan didn't come off the field; it was mostly Bolden at the other LB spot but Gedeon got a little time; there were a few 4 LB sets.
Secondary was mostly the usual, with Thomas the primary dime back this week. Clark got most of the second CB playing time.
James, coach Harbaugh mentioned the second to last play when they shifted and you had to stick with the tight end. What were you looking at on that play and take us through that.
“There’s a lot of plays Minnesota did with the tight end whether he’s releasing late or things like that and I just wanted to keep my eyes on him, and it just so happened that he did try to release late.”
James, when did you start taking practice reps at the BUCK linebacker position and can you just talk about that transition this week?
“I started transitioning to BUCK as soon as Mario [Ojemudia] went down, that week after. Just consistently getting reps and trying to find ways to get on the field.”
This is the first time that you’ve played it in a game, right?
“No, I actually played it last week versus State- or the week prior to this week. But yeah, against State.”
Ryan, talk about the job you guys all did getting underneath the blockers on that last play. You seemed to get off the ball pretty well.
“Yeah. I mean, Willie [Henry] and Mo [Hurst] did a great job on that play, and the linebackers got a great push. We’ve never really practiced that live; it’s all stepping through. You don’t want to hurt anyone in practice, but I thought we did a good job executing on the field. That was probably our first live rep of that type of sneak play this season and I thought we did a good job of executing it.”
Did you know he was short?
“Uh, I had a feeling he was short. I mean, I was on the ground, not really looking at it, but I knew the guys around me were pushing back.”
[After THE JUMP: Erik Magnuson, Jehu Chesson, Jake Butt, and animal analogies for the offensive and defensive line]
Substantive injury and personnel updates? Substantive injury and personnel updates.
Rudock will be sore, is dealing with a shoulder injury, and is going to test it out in practice today
Godin is “working through something” and will hopefully be back sooner than later
Isaac’s absence from this week’s depth chart is “an internal matter”
Poggi was sick last weekend and will be fine if he follows Harbaugh’s push-ups-and-whole-milk recovery regimen
Speight is listed as the No. 2 quarterback on the depth chart
“No ‘hello’ back? I say it and just crickets.”
“Good to see everybody.”
As somebody that talks about just pure, honest competition, did you enjoy watching that last play again?
“Yes. You know, always in a football game it never comes down to one play. The goal-line stand at the end was really set up by a lot of plays in the game. And if you go back, the play before James Ross does a great job staying on his man, keeping his eyes on his man, not getting fooled by the deception in the backfield. Covers down or we don’t get to that goal-line stand.
“Two plays before Channing Stribling was beat on the double move, but just the hustle to make that play competitive; ended up catching up, getting his hand in there, and we get the ball down just inside the one-yard line.
“Jabrill Peppers: quarterback keeps on a quarterback-driven run, and that was a hustle play to come back inside of a blocker, trip up the quarterback, keeping them from a real long play.
“The third-down play: Jourdan Lewis in competitive coverage keeps that inside slant from being a big, big chunk, and you just keep going on and on.
“Before that, Drake Harris- or, Drake Johnson made a really good play that probably went unnoticed in the third quarter when we were backed up. Wilton [Speight] threw a ball out to him and just a big-time hustle play to get a hand back in and break up that pass from being intercepted. Don’t know if you know the play that I’m talking about, but just numerous types of plays like that that you keep hustling, you keep battling and there remains a chance that something good can happen there.
“Then that last play was definitely a team effort there. Our guys did a heck of a job defending that quarterback sneak and we were able to win the game.”
[After THE JUMP: A Jabrilloquy, why Michigan wasn’t offside on the last play, and Harbaugh actually reminisced about his playing days]
10/31/2015 – Michigan 29, Minnesota 26 – 6-2, 3-1 Big Ten
ONE. We've got a radio show now so I've been listening to sports talk radio even when Sam and Ira aren't on. I do it to compare and maybe get better and maybe draw confidence from the fact that a lot of sports talk radio is outrageously bad. The parts that aren't are often outrageously robotic. WTKA has a bunch of NFL stuff now that they switched to CBS, and it's on when I go to and from our podcast on Sunday; sometimes I catch it on a Thursday.
Tom Brady was on. Jim Gray actually asked him a lot of pointed questions about the upcoming game against the Colts and whether he had a desire to rain unholy fire upon those bastards. Brady responded with the passion of an accountant. I would chalk this up to Brady's flat affect, but I've seen player after player descend into this anodyne non-existence. This is a a league that spent most of the offseason discussing the Ideal Gas Law, after all—even if they didn't know they were doing so. It's just a thing. Colleges teach it but it doesn't take all the way. The NFL perfects it, along with the slant.
TWO. Minnesota has not been good for literally 50 years. Their blips to the positive aren't even Illinois blips. Every decade Illinois will show up in a BCS-level game; the Minnesota coach with the best winning percentage since 1944 is one Glen Mason, who the Gophers fired so they could hire Tim Brewster.
THREE. In 2005 I was pretty mad after a weird game where the Michigan Stadium scoreboards fritzed out and Jim Herrmann called a blitz on which Prescott Burgess, a 230-pound linebacker, was tasked with two-gapping a 270-pound monster TE. When I get mad I tend to be mad about everything, but when Lawrence Maroney rushed out to midfield and planted the biggest damn Minnesota flag in existence I was just like "yeah, go ahead, you earned that."
Sixty-plus Gopher players stormed across that field to reclaim the Jug without considering decorum, sanity, or sportsmanship. Michigan had just lost a game mostly because they called a blitz so telegraphed that a petrified backup QB could check them into a 50-yard run and I had enough non-hate in my heart to genuinely enjoy the fervor with which the Gophers reclaimed Fielding Yost's 30-cent chunk of crockery.
FIVE. Jerry Kill retired last week because he could no longer control the seizures his cancer had bestowed upon him. Jerry Kill talks like a NASCAR driver. He comes by his coachspeak honestly, and when Tracy Claeys was again thrust into a role he probably never thought he'd be in—Kill tends to buy and hold assistants until the end of time—he sounded 100% like Jerry Kill.
It was awkward. It was stilted. It was genuine as hell. He told his kids not to play with emotion because emotion evaporates but to play with passion because passion sticks and I was just like YOU MAY BE SAYING THIS LIKE TOM BRADY SAYS THINGS BUT I KNOW THAT FEEL.
SIX. Junior Hemingway, just shouting and weeping after the Sugar Bowl.
SEVEN. Jerry Kill.
EIGHT. Michigan won a football game that often doubled as an exercise in hilarious improbability. Michigan gave up a 52-yard touchdown after Jeremy Clark executed the platonic ideal of coverage against a corner route. With 19 seconds left in a football game, Minnesota spent 17 seconds on a series of elaborate motions on first and goal from the half-yard line.
Football is weird and terrible and sometimes it gets you to within a half-yard of a cathartic, wonderful victory and then says "nah." Sometimes when you're 2-and-a-billion after always being good your walk-on QB dials up a bunch of incredible throws and you go grab the Little Brown Jug with a newfound respect for its importance. Football, above all, is cruel.
NINE. If you are a Minnesota fan on a bitter Monday indeed, here is the equivalent of Lawrence Maroney planting a flag. It is Jon Falk, the recently retired and legendary Michigan equipment manager, welcoming his favorite 30-cent crockery back home.
It hurts, but that means something. That is a thing that is real. It is a reflection of Jerry Kill killing himself to be in this game and dying because he has to leave it.
TEN. I've always hated THIS IS MICHIGAN a bit because it reminds me of going to Penn State in 2006 and having their chintzy-ass scoreboards proclaim WE'RE PENN STATE… AND THEY'RE NOT. It's not necessarily as bad, but sometimes it tends to AND THEY'RE NOT. I'm not a huge fan of Michigan's excellently-executed James Earl Jones intro video this year because it claims a bunch of things that should be gestured at instead.
Michigan's great. I love Michigan. I love it all, though. I've been to Georgia and Auburn and Penn State and Ohio State and Minnesota and the feeling of college football is something else. Minnesota hasn't done anything Colin Cowherd would note for 50 years. You could maybe compare them to the Lions, who no one should ever be a fan of.
Except no. Tell me that doesn't matter. Tell me This Is Minnesota doesn't mean anything. We took the Jug and we mostly earned it and that matters to me. It matters to Jabrill Peppers and Jon Falk and Jim Harbaugh and Greg Dooley. It matters because it's college fucking football, and Minnesota means something.
To Michigan, it means the Jug. They got it back on Saturday by the skin of their teeth, and for a program that's had a bit of a rough go of late they'll take it any way they can get it.
Column inspired by Dr. Sap digging up a post-game Bo speech after the 1987 Jug game:
A half hour version that must be most of the game from WD:
Parking God has a more reasonable length reel:
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 Jabrill Peppers had a 40 yard KO return, a 40 yard punt return, two PBUs, a near pick-six, a rushing touchdown, a reverse set up by everyone fretting about Peppers, a pass interference call drawn—Peppers played nearly 100 snaps and was instrumental in all three phases of the game.
#2 Maurice Hurst didn't actually pop up in the box score much but he was frequently in Leidner's grill; on the final stand he blew up the pass protection on the first play and was one of a few different Wolverines whipping their dudes up front. Actually in the box score: he had a critical TFL that forced Minnesota to kick a short field goal.
#3 Drake Johnson didn't get many carries but was by far the most effective runner Michigan had; other guys had lanes but didn't take advantage of them. Hoping to see more of him going forward.
Honorable mention: Chesson and Darboh both had nice days. Glasgow again contributed to mostly good run defense.
Channing Stribling gets beat over the top for what seems like the game-winning touchdown, until it was not.
Honorable mention: Mitch Leidner hurling the ball downfield on throws that are very bad ideas only for those to be complete anyway. Rudock underthrows another deep ball by 20 yards.
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.
FORMATION NOTES: By this point the defense is pretty well established. We got a few glimpses at what Michigan intends to do against pro-style formations; this is a 4-4 with the line shifted over (to the strength of the formation), Ross at SAM, and Hill threatening off the weakside:
Wilson, the free safety, is about 20 yards downfield.
I'm calling the thing where they drop the buck off the line like so…
…"30 nickel buck" to distinguish it from an actual 3-3-5.
This is what I mean by "triple stack" on UNLV's part; Michigan is in their standard nickel even:
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Line was close to the first two games with Henry/Glasgow/Wormley backed by Charlton/Hurst/Godin except that you could replace Henry in the starting lineup with Godin based on snaps played. Henry got cut a bunch on the backside of zones and didn't see much time in the middle of the game.
WDE/buck was the usual 70/30 split between Ojemudia and RJS.
Lawrence Marshall got in on the last drive, as did Brady Pallante.
Linebacker was the same; a little more James Ross at SAM in this game; Gedeon and Ross also got a couple drives as ILBs in the nickel.
Secondary saw the same rotation as per usual (Lewis/Peppers/Wilson/Hill with Stribling or Clark in the nickel) except that Wayne Lyons was the dime back. Brandon Watson got in on the last drive as well.
Four or five of your nine tackles came on Saturday. Was that a game that things just kind of clicked for you? Was it where you were just able to take advantage of an opportunity? How do you view it?
James Ross: “I just view it like basically all the guys out there, we do our best to do what we can on the field at any given time. I just made those plays, but a lot of guys, we’re just running to the ball. Anybody can make a play at any given moment, you know; JD [Jourdan Lewis] or corners, safeties, we all run to the ball at the same time so there’s going to be a lot of assisted tackles.”
How many plays does it take to get the hat? [ED. (Adam)- It says ‘Ball Hawk’; Lewis was wearing a ‘Ball Hawk’ track jacket]
JR: “How many plays? This was in practice, in camp. Got a couple of forced fumbles.”
Jourdan, what was this week like for you, obviously dealing with a concussion and whether you were going to play? Also, four pass breakups was obviously a career best. What did you do and see in that game that helped you out?
Jourdan Lewis: “Just using my technique. Trying to get back as fast as possible from that concussion. Just excited to be out there, obviously.”
Jourdan, obviously a bigger challenge from the BYU receivers, a little bit bigger. What do you see from them on film, and when you’re attacking a larger group of receivers like that when you’re not as big how much do you have to rely on your technique and what do you have to do?
JL: “We haven’t seen much film on BYU yet. We’re actually going to watch film today, so I actually haven’t seen them.
“Commenting on the larger receiver thing, it really doesn’t matter to me. Small receiver, large receiver, it’s all the same. Just using my technique.”