You know, Matt was just like "if I sponsor this you have to do them all for the whole season" and I was like "okay but you know that was going to be likely since now I am not going to be overwhelmed with sadness two-thirds through" and then he made some sort of intimidating hand gesture. But his heart is in the right place?
FORMATION NOTES: At this point Michigan has few formation surprises. They're usually in a nickel. They alternate between three or four fronts. One is a three man line with the buck in a two point stance as a 3-4 OLB:
30 nickel slide
One splits the DEs a bit further and tucks the buck in behind the NT:
And then they run a lot of standard four man fronts.
Some of the four man lines will have the buck in a two point stance; I still denote those as four man lines based on the alignments of the DL.
Michigan swaps mostly between man under with one or two deep safeties and a cover three with a few different variants.
PERSONNEL NOTES: Standard rotation up front with Henry/Glasgow/Wormley in front of Charlton/Hurst/Godin. Henry got a lot of playing time after a couple weeks in which Godin was more prominent; Hurst probably played the best of anyone. Ojemudia got almost all the buck snaps until he was hurt, and from that point it was RJS.
LB was Morgan and Bolden with a scattering of 4-3 snaps that featured Ross. The secondary did not have Stribling so it was Clark/Peppers/Lewis/Wilson/Hill for the vast majority of the game. When in a 4-3, Clark left. When in a dime, Dymonte Thomas entered.
Michigan continued flipping Peppers and Lewis between outside corner and slot like they did last week.
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.
Just kind of talk about how your guys are coming along a little bit through three games.
“Yeah, the guys are working hard. You know, we just keep pressing them every week in practice, keep telling them to challenge themselves every day and hopefully it translates on the weekends. They’re working hard.”
Jourdan was saying on Monday that he thinks the secondary could be the best in the country. Is that sort of an attitude that you promote?
“Well, that’s what we want them to think and, you know, certainly the work and what they produce has to match that. But we absolutely want that attitude from those guys. It helps. Certainly their position requires that kind of attitude. They’ve got to have a short memory at that position and put things to the side and go play the next play. So, it’s all about attitude, it’s all about challenging yourself every day and just trying to get better and better and win every play.”
Talk a little about the challenge they’re going to get this weekend.
“A big, big challenge. I mean, those guys [are] 6’6”, 6’5”, 6’3”. Really big receivers, good athletes, decent speed; I mean, they’ve got it all, and they roll in those guys. They’ve got four or five really good receivers that they’re rolling in every down, so they’re going to be fresh. We’ve got a big challenge ahead of us.
“Just physically, when you line Jourdan Lewis up against a 6’6” guy, as scrappy as Jourdan is, that’s a tough matchup. But that’s how we’re going to play it. They’ve got to fight.”
When a guy makes a couple big plays like Channing did last week, what does that do for his confidence and how he’s able to play?
“You know, hopefully. When you do things right you get confidence, and he’s been doing things right. Throughout camp, Channing has probably had the best camp out of all the guys. He’s just worked hard. He had one bad day, had one bad scrimmage in the summer there. Other than that he’s been playing really hard and really well. I think he realizes, and I’m hoping that all of them realize, that you don’t arrive. You always have to get better, because somebody’s chasing you.”
[After THE JUMP: Covering big receivers, the importance of eyes, and seam responsibility in Cover 3]
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.”
Harbaugh made it abundantly clear that there’s no QB controversy. He said Rudock’s the best QB on the team, and “not by a small margin.”
Kyle Kalis graded out as the best offensive lineman on Saturday.
Harbaugh was very impressed with Channing Stribling, saying no one in the secondary has shown more improvement.
Chesson was the offensive and special teams player of the game, and Lewis was the defensive player of the game.
Kerridge could possibly play Saturday. He’s “working through something.”
“Whaddaya got? I’m ready to go! I’m excited about my team!”
Can you talk about what you’ve seen out of BYU? What impresses you most about their offense?
“Well, good receivers. Big receivers. Good quarterback. Big, physical team on both sides of the ball. Very athletic. They play extremely hard.
“I think this will be a great test for our team. Very excited about the competition this week and what’s in store. It’ll be a great gauge for where our team is at right now.”
Now that you’ve had a chance to look at the film, what did Ty Isaac do that got the running game going versus maybe somebody else, and how- I kind of asked you about this a little big Saturday- but how big is it that you can have different guys that you can throw in there if one guy is not playing well and one guy is playing well?
“Well, I wouldn’t look at it as throwing guys in there. I mean…we’ve got football players that are hungry, that want to be in there, that are improving and making contributions to the team, and there’s something about not just throwing a guy in but strategically putting a player in to be successful. That’s the way I would phrase it.
“Ty did a nice job. We talked about it. I think he’s an improving player and still has some work to do. You know, he’s going to miss one and then made the big one. That was great to see.
“The offensive line is improving. Offensive line is getting better. Probably the guy who made the biggest jump is Kyle Kalis. Graded out for the ballgame 90% [or] a little above 90% along with Graham Glasgow, who’s been consistently very good and been our best offensive lineman. Kalis is ascending fast, so it’s great to see that. The other one is Ben Braden is playing better. Still has work to do, but he’s improving as well. Thought Mason Cole and Magnuson both improved. They’re playing more physical and they’re finishing. They’re really making an effort to finish right now. So, all five of those guys. What’s helping our running game right now is them and the contribution by the backs, but also the receivers.
“The receivers are making a real effort right now to block downfield. They’re blocking in the box, they are coming to get safeties, and they are blocking sometimes 30-40 yards downfield. Jehu Chesson was our player of the game offensively and on special teams, and a big reason was he contributed to the passing game, contributed to the running game, contributed putting points on the board, and his blocking was making a real effort at it. Along with all our receivers…Amara [Darboh].
“There’s a lot of things contributing to us improving in the running game.”
[After THE JUMP: Dennis Quaid comes up and if that doesn’t get you to read the whole thing I guess we just don’t have a similar sense of humor]
It didn't take long for Jim Harbaugh to shift from cheerfully and convincingly explaining why Jake Rudock's play was better than it looked against Utah to… not doing that. After UNLV, a couple of post-game questions clearly designed to fill already-written stories about Rudock's grim day with quotes raised Harbaugh's ire. He deflected a couple with boilerplate ("his job is to win football games") and assertions about a swirling wind, but when a third came:
Um, I guess I’m not as concerned with statistics as you two seem to be.
I hesitate to side with the Talk About types, but I'm concerned. I'm concerned with both the statistics (123 yards against UNLV, probably half of which came on "smoke" screens) and the overall level of play the statistics crystallize.
We're working with small sample sizes, of course, but that's all we've got to project with. The projections are not ideal.
I am not buying the wind conditions being a problem. I was in that stadium. I have been in it for many games. I once had a life and death fight with a poorly designed poncho. I have seen and endured all kinds of weather, and at no point on Saturday did the wind rise to a level where it felt like a serious factor. It blew a bit; I have seen many quarterbacks deal with that and much worse.
Those quarterbacks include one Jake Rudock. Kinnick Stadium juts out of a vast unbroken expanse of plains extending to the Rocky Mountains. In February I had occasion to drive through virtually the entire state of Iowa during a blizzard; I went at highway speeds because the snow was blown over the roads in an ever-streaming mass, never settling. Only the odd copse of trees huddled around a farmhouse provided enough of a windbreak to allow snow a temporary home, and even that was more refugee shelter than citizenship.
The biggest single factor in Central Illinois' quality of outdoor life is wind. There are more local jokes than I can summon about bent weather vanes and leaning barns, more downstate sobriquets for kinds of wind than there are in Malamut for snow. The wind had a personality, a (poor) temper, and, apparently, agendas. The wind blew autumn leaves into intercalated lines and arcs of force so regular you could photograph them for a textbook on Cramer's Rule and the cross-products of curves in 3-space. It molded winter snow into blinding truncheons that buried stalled cars and required citizens to shovel out not only driveways but the sides of homes; a Central Illinois "blizzard" starts only when the snowfall stops and the wind begins. Most people in Philo didn't comb their hair because why bother.
Of all the things that might explain why Jake Rudock could not hit Drake Johnson on a five-yard swing pass, wind is the least believable.
So. Let us calibrate our panic. It is the first year of a new head coach handed a terrible QB situation making do; that head coach has been massively successful anywhere he's laid his head. Macro panic: nil.
Micro panic: measurable. The Big Ten looks like a bunch of goobers plus MSU and OSU and I guess maybe Northwestern is good. A team that has Michigan's salty defense and a steady, boring offense is going to win a healthy number of games. Michigan's offense has been boring; it has only managed to be steady against Oregon State.
The offense Michigan fielded on Saturday loses games Michigan fans are currently filing in the win column. While that's cause for a shrug long term thanks to the state of the QB roster, it does dent Harbaugh's early momentum. Does that matter much? The recent trajectories of high-level coaches and… well… Brady Hoke say not particularly.
But it is nice to win things. I'm busy downgrading my expectations about as fast as I'm downgrading my expectations for the rest of Michigan's schedule, which is fine, I guess. I expect a bumpy ride and then as soon as anything goes smoothly I exclaim THIS IS IT FOREVER, because I am irrational.
We've gone from hoping that we should dump Rudock's career at Iowa from our expectations to hoping it's still valid to add those games in; it probably is. The upside of escaping Greg Davis, where Iowa fans are going nuts about a guy whose completions are five yards downfield or shorter 80% of the time feels gone. We would like to lock in the low-turnover game manager if that is still available.
wear Jourdan Lewis #brand jackets [Patrick Barron]
Yet To Be Named Harbaugh-Themed Guys Who Did Good Award.
you're the man now, dog
#1 Jourdan Lewis had 4(!) PBUs on the day, and those were mostly as he covered the very legit Devonte Boyd. Playing as well as any Michigan DB since… Leon Hall?
#2 Ty Isaac ripped off the 76-yard touchdown that made things comfortable at halftime. On that play he made a swift cut upfield, broke a tackle, and put on the jets. He looked solid on his other seven runs as well.
#3 Channing Stribling picked off a pass, defended another, and was able to stick to the receiver any time he was tested.
Honorable mention: Blake O'Neill probably would have snagged the first-ever punter mention in this section if he hadn't shanked that one. Any member of the front seven—Michigan spread 8 TFLs among 9 players. Jehu Chesson did go grab a rushing touchdown.
5: Chris Wormley(#2 Utah, #1 Oregon State) 3: Jake Butt (#1 Utah), Jourdan Lewis (#1 UNLV) 2: De'Veon Smith(#2 Oregon State), Ty Isaac(#2 UNLV) 1: Willie Henry (#3 Utah), AJ Williams (#3 Oregon State), Channing Stribling(#3 UNLV)
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
Honorable mention: Picks from Clark and Stribling. Glasgow's thunderous TFL. Blake O'Neill essentially passing the ball down to the 3, and hitting a 59-yarder without a return.
The general sentiment was to keep double bird. That was my inclination as well.
This week's worst thing ever.
Jake Rudock matches his 2014 interception total in game three by throwing one that hits a linebacker in both hands. The linebacker deflected it to a defensive back, but that was not bad luck.
Honorable mention: Rudock misses a flare route by yards. Any number of interior rushes that didn't get much. Those two Decker passes towards the end that seriously compromised Michigan's quest to keep UNLV under 200 yards.
Utah: circle route pick six. Oregon State: Rudock fumbles after blitz bust. UNLV: Rudock matches 2014 INT total in game 3.
I am sensing an unfortunate theme.
[After THE JUMP: corners making plays, DL emerging, run game woes explained, YIP YIP YIP YIP]
There’s no timetable for Jourdan Lewis’s return (though he was listed as a starter on the depth chart provided to the media today)
Chase Winovich, Ty Wheatley Jr., Mike McCray, and Wyatt Shallman are all injured, though three of those four could return to practice today.
Joe Kerridge was injured Saturday. Harbaugh said they’ll get more information on the injury today.
Redshirting Shane Morris is “a consideration.”
Tom Strobel switched to TE in the spring, then back to defense, then back to offense about a week ago. Harbaugh thinks he’ll stay on offense, but considers him a two-way player.
Jourdan [Lewis] exited the game with what was diagnosed as a concussion. Do you have an update on him, and how long do you think he’ll be out?
“I don’t know. Uh…never really gotten into the business of predicting, especially when it comes to concussions. He’ll be evaluated by the doctors.”
There’s been a lot of talk about progression from game one to game two. After you watched the film, what jumped out the most to you as far as steps taken between those two games?
“It was a positive step in a lot of areas. Biggest one was got the satisfaction of a win. Lot of hard work put in, and that will continue this week.”
Do you expect to have Jourdan on Saturday?
“Again, I’m just not in the…uh…predicting of that. Not my area.”
You mentioned Chris Wormley on Saturday as a guy you wanted to single out. He’s had kind of a breakout first couple games of the year. What’s been the big difference for him flipping the switch or whatever to get him where he is now?
“I think he’s a very talented player that’s, you know, improving and getting better every day. Very graphic on Saturday. Thought he played a tremendous game. Probably our best defensive performance was Chris Wormley.”
[After THE JUMP: The nervous system wages war on the body]
AND YOU WILL KNOW HIM BY THE TRAIL OF DEAD [Eric Upchurch]
When Michigan got the ball back up 28-7 in the fourth quarter, the game was already over. Oregon State hadn't budged on offense since their first drive. If they were going to push towards making it a game it would have come after they intercepted Jake Rudock; instead they went nowhere and punted. That punt was waving the white flag, something Michigan fans have gotten used to over the last couple years.
Michigan took that flag and rammed it down Oregon State's throat. At one juncture they hit a bit of a snag and had to employ Ol' Skillet Hands Ian Bunting to get past the obstruction; afterwards it was smooth sailing. The end result was a 14-play touchdown drive featuring 13 runs and no trace of the Beavers' flag of surrender unless you want to count a palpably uncomfortable crimp in the Beavers' gait.
I used to think that was boring.
Back in the long long ago when "This Is Michigan" meant "this is an unstoppable factory of offensive linemen and tailbacks who will go too high in the NFL draft," they'd get the ball back from a reasonable team and proceed to do to the fourth quarter what time-lapse photography does to glaciers. It was a pleasant sort of boring, to be sure, but it was also a signal that the football had concluded. All that was left was to hear the muffled squeaks.
Part of the reason it was boring was that it was unsatisfying. I came of age during the Moeller era, when Michigan dropped four games a year, and except for the occasional deviation when Michigan had a killer defense(1997, 2006) games that featured boa constrictor drives like Saturday's were false positives. The most bonkers stat about the Lloyd Carr era is the one where the team was more likely to win if it entered the fourth quarter with a small deficit than a small lead, but #2 is that during Lloyd Carr's tenure Michigan finished in the top 30 in yards per carry once. You'd think a run game featuring Mo Williams, Steve Hutchinson, Jeff Backus, and Anthony Thomas would be able to crack the top 30 by accident. Not so much.
Carr's teams were consistently good and had an amazing knack for getting off the mat, but there was a persistent frustration in the fanbase. It felt like Michigan was not getting the most out of its talent. When Rich Rodriguez came in, he had three functioning offensive linemen, a freshman and a walk-on at quarterback, and freshmen everywhere else. That his 2008 team's ground game would have been one of Carr's better ones was evidence enough that the frustration was warranted.
So I was encouraged by the general splattening of a bad team; I was more encouraged by the fullback traps that saw Sione Houma thunder through the line trailing a wildfire of hair. Harbaugh's run game is diverse and weird. By the end of that game Oregon State didn't just feel physically beaten but also confused as hell.
You can't just line up and do the one thing you're good at a lot and expect to succeed anymore. Harbaugh doesn't do that. It can look like he's doing that, but his run game is closer to Paul Johnson's than Lloyd Carr's. Johnson is constantly tweaking his blocking schemes. If you stick to one pattern to defuse his flexbone option he will eventually send one of his guys in a different direction and all of a sudden there's a dude ripping down the sideline. Harbaugh uses all those tight ends because they give him the ability to add gaps where defenses don't expect them—and this goes double in an era when teams are increasingly reducing their options on the interior.
Michigan is on a long path to being both good and confusing. If the coach has a nuclear meltdown on the sidelines—because he's right about something—as an amuse bouche, all the better. Of course, it does not do to get ahead of ourselves. They're not going to be able to do this against top-end defenses right away. We saw that against Utah.
Saturday wasn't the opening credits to this year's movie. But as a preview of coming attractions it felt pretty pretty good.
Yet To Be Named Harbaugh-Themed Guys Who Did Good Award.
you're the man now, dog
#1 Chris Wormley deployed beast mode on a sack that was a yard or two away from a safety, had two or three other TFLs depending on what mood you catch the official scorer in, and generally nosed in front of an otherwise killer defensive line.
#2 De'Veon Smith spent most of the game picking members of the Oregon State back seven out of his teeth.
#3 AJ Williams had a 20-yard catch and, more important, was one of the key guys blowing the perimeter of the Oregon State defense off the ball. Really. I am all about how AJ Williams played in this game, pending UFR review.
Honorable mention: Pick just about any defender. The offensive line in general.
5: Chris Wormley(#2 Utah, #1 Oregon State) 3: Jake Butt (#1, Utah) 2: De'Veon Smith(#2 Oregon State) 1: Willie Henry (#3, Utah), AJ Williams (#3 Oregon State)
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
For the single individual best moment.
Oregon State offers Michigan a free touchdown by sailing a punt snap yards over the punter's head just before halftime. That this was the culmination of a series of mishaps directed by the angry gods of probability only adds to the mirth.
Honorable mention: Michigan's 13-run, 1-pass game-sealing drive. Ol' Skillet Hands trucks a defensive back for an important first down. Rudock finds Smith for a fourth and five conversion. Any of a half-dozen runs on which you will know De'Veon Smith by the trail of dead.
Wait: let's talk about this. Epic Double Bird is pretty epic. But is Harbaugh Meltdown epic? Should we change this? Let me know. Anyway:
This week's worst thing ever.
Michigan, already down 7-0 early, busts a blitz pickup. Jake Rudock has nowhere to go with the ball and gets blown up on the sack. He fumbles, Oregon State recovers, and a certain Brady Hoke feeling descends on events.
Honorable mention: Ridiculous missed Darboh endzone PI, the roughing the punter penalty that caused Harbaugh to go nuclear, most of Oregon State's opening drive.
Utah: circle route pick six. Oregon State: Rudock fumbles after blitz bust.