imagine the ferocity of James Franklin’s fist pump at this exact moment
Hello. Welcome to the inaugural 2017 Special Teams UFR. You like analyzing blocks on a kickoff return, seeing who got push on a PAT, and making fun of a decision James Franklin made in 2014? Great, we’ll get along just fine.
There are a couple of things worth noting before we dig in. First, special teams all-22 footage isn’t happening. It’s hard to find good footage; directors seem to use punts as their art house. That makes grading the blocking of each player on each unit impossible, so instead we’ll look at obvious gains and losses in terms of yardage. This is very much a work in progress, the point of which is to gain a better understanding of what’s going on in the third of the game that leads to Australians traveling thousands of miles from home to go full Superman on a prolate spheroid. Feedback? Hit the comments.
SUBSTITUTION/FORMATION NOTES: Peoples-Jones got five chances to field punts, did a nice job with two of them, then found himself on the bench in favor of Grant Perry. More on that later.
Kick returners were Crawford and Hawkins, with the ball never going anywhere close to Hawkins. He found himself forming a wedge with Mason every time.
Michigan’s PAT defense team is going to block one soon; with Metellus coming off the edge, Hurst teleporting through seemingly shoulder-to-shoulder linemen, and Rashan freaking Gary out there, it’s just a matter of time.
Cincinnati doubled Cesar Ruiz on every PAT and got knocked back the first time, then held his own. Not bad for a true freshman.
[After THE JUMP: Charts! Then Bolded Alter Ego (NTBAE)! Then more charts!]
SPONSOR NOTE: After we did WTKA today Craig Ross told me that he was in a mediation and for some reason they needed data on a refinance. "What the hell," Craig said, and called Matt. 15 minutes later he had a term sheet and his clients were looking at him like he had some crazy connection in the mortgage industry.
Do you like feeling like a big shot in mediations? Or maybe just your own home, wearing or not wearing pants as you choose, on your own, because you are you and nobody else can tell you what to put on your legs? Homesure Lending can do that.
FORMATION NOTES: uh i forgot to take clips just a sec
There wasn't anything too weird except a few tackle over plays. There was an increase in WR snaps. Michigan averaged 2.1 WRs, 1.4 TEs, and 1.5 RBs per snap. Before the 22-personnel heavy fourth quarter Michigan had 2.3 WRs per snap.
PERSONNEL NOTES: QB was Speight with those two O'Korn drives. RB was Evans primarily, then Isaac, then Higdon, and that's it. FB seemed about evenly split between Poggi and Hill.
OL was Cole-Bredeson-Kugler-Onwenu-Ulizio the whole way except for one brief drive where Runyan replaced Onwenu.
WR was fairly diverse. Black, Crawford, and Perry led the way. DPJ, Ways, and McDoom got scattered snaps behind the starters. TE seemed split almost evenly between McKeon, Wheatley, Bunting, Gentry, and Eubanks. Those snaps are probably in descending order.
They're gone, all gone. Michigan loses every receiver on the roster with more than 13 catches a year ago (Grant Perry). A couple of disastrous Hoke recruiting classes mean the chasm from the departed to the new generation is almost as large as theoretically possible. And Freshman Wide Receivers Suck™. Should Wilton Speight be shivering under his blanket at night?
Maybe. But maybe not:
by the year 2047 this jpg will be replaced by preprogrammed electronic disco[Seth]
Wait wait wait that's not what I meant to copy and paste at all.
“Alright, I’ll give you a couple. The receivers are doing really well. DPJ and Oliver Martin and Tarik Black are making a lot of plays. They really are. They’re making some superb athletic types of plays. I’ve never seen freshmen doing it the way they’re doing it."
247 is reporting that Michigan's freshman quartet has been excellent and that a source says the WR spot is "in better shape than it has maybe ever been in." Maybe not all freshman wide receivers suck. Also there's a sophomore.
OUTSIDE RECEIVER: YOUNG, THE GIANTS
please don't forget the guy wearing #1 [Patrick Barron]
With the departure of Chesson and Darboh and Drake Harris's flip to defense Michigan returns all of nine career catches on the outside. Those are about evenly split between KEKOA CRAWFORD [recruiting profile] and Moe Ways, but only one of those gents is currently projected to start: Crawford.
As is usual for freshman wide receivers, Crawford's first year was mostly spent blocking guys. He had one bad drop early and one circus catch late…
…and thus ends data about his actual receivering. He did make a catch on a dig against Hawaii and a couple others, but they were routine opportunities that can only give you pause if they were dropped; they weren't.
The blocking was an immediate plus. He came in with a reputation in that department and upheld it:
He looks like a worthy heir to Darboh and Chesson in that department, at least.
With insiders orbiting the freshmen like sharks circling a school of fish, there's been next to no insider talk about Crawford this fall. I did pick up this bit in spring:
Kekoa Crawford lacks DPJ's explosiveness—as do most humans—and looks about like he did when he got on the field this year: very good blocker, big target, good routes. Strong belief he can be a quality #2 receiver this year, and an okay #1 if necessary.
Earlier in the week we talked about the big play antics of freshman Tarik Black. Late in the week it’s Donovan Peoples-Jones. … he stood out the most in first-WR-group that consisted of DPJ, Kekoa Crawford, and Eddie McDoom.
If Crawford is feeling rather overlooked, fair enough. He was an Army AA himself, a high four-star guy ranked in a tight band just outside of everyone's top 100. He's not chopped liver. From his recruiting profile:
…electric in and out of breaks. …quickness to separate …brings a lot to the table after the catch as an elusive player with good moves.
…very competitive speed and slippery elusiveness… knows how to use his feet, hips and burst to gain separation. … athletic and precise and has a good feel for the game.
…does everything well. …solid frame and is much stronger than he looks. …nice burst, is a polished route runner and has good top end speed. …
He's already gotten some run and is holding his own athletically in college. Crawford won a couple of winter combine events and finished a close second to Donovan Peoples-Jones in a few more; the most notable results were a 4.49 40 and 35 inch vertical. That is in line with his top-ten SPARQ score from the Opening during his senior year. Crawford consistently tests in the NFL B+/A- range, and that'll be more than enough in college.
There's about to be several butt-tons of freshman hype in this post, but don't be surprised if Crawford emerges from this season as Michigan's leading receiver. Long term you're hoping he settles into the Avant sidekick role to one world-obliterating type; this year he should be the outside guy who is most reliably in the correct spot. If this sounds unimpressive, please review this site's abiding love for Avant.
[AFTER THE JUMP: seeking one freshman dude, maybe two]
Draftageddon 2017: The Gang Gets In an Argument About Justin Jackson
This is Part V. We are drafting Big Ten players to give you an overview of the guys and dudes around the conference. You come out of it with a four-deep preseason All-Big Ten. We come out of it with very strong opinions on Justin Jackson.
Ohio State (9 players): DE Nick Bosa (3rd, Seth), QB JT Barrett (6th, Seth), DE Tyquan Lewis (8th, BiSB), CB Denzel Ward (11th, Seth), DT Dre’Mont Jones (13th, Ace), OC Billy Price (17th, BiSB), DE Sam Hubbard (20th, Ace), LB Jerome Baker (21st, Ace), OT Jamarco Jones (28th, Ace)
Michigan (8 players): DT Maurice Hurst (2nd, Brian), DE Rashan Gary (5th, Ace), QB Wilton Speight (7th, Brian), QB Brandon Peters (an obligatory 16th, BiSB), OT Mason Cole (26th, Brian), LB Mike McCray (36th, Ace), NT Brian Mone (40th, BiSB), DE Chase Winovich (48th, BiSB)
Iowa (7 players): RB Akrum Wadley (18th, Brian), G/C Sean Welsh (22nd, Seth), LB Josey Jewell 23rd, Brian), OT Ike Boettger (35th, Seth), DE Anthony Nelson (42nd, Brian), CB Manny Rugamba (43rd, Seth), OC James Daniels (47th, Brian)
Penn State (6 players): RB Saquon Barkley (1st, BiSB), QB Trace McSorley (4th, Ace), “TE” Mike Gesicki (25th, BiSB), Marcus Allen, S (29th, Ace), OT Ryan Bates (41st, BiSB), LB Jason Cabinda (49th, BiSB)
Wisconsin (6 players): LB Jack Cichy (14th, Seth), TE Troy Fumagalli (15th, Brian), OG Beau Benzschawel (33rd, BiSB), OC Michael Dieter (34th, Brian), LB TJ Edwards (39th, Brian), WR Jazz Peavy (44th, Ace)
Northwestern (1 player): S Godwin Igwebuike (24th, BiSB)
Rutgers (1 player): OT Tariq Cole (27th, Seth)
Illinois (1 player): WR Malik Turner (31st, Brian)
Michigan State (1 player): OG Brian Allen (37th, Ace)
It’s my turn in our snake draft, and yes it’s another Buckeye, sorry.
Seth: Round 13, Pick 3: Robert Landers, DT, Ohio State
Off: QB JT Barrett (OSU), WR Nick Westbrook (IU), WR Rashad Still (MN), OG Sean Welsh (IA), LT Tariq Cole (RU), RT Ike Boettger (IA), OG Tanner Farmer (NE)
Def: NT Robert Landers (OSU), DT Kingsley Opara (MD), DE Nick Bosa (OSU), LB Jack Cichy (UW), CB Denzel Ward, CB Manny Rugamba
For our fifth Ohio State d-lineman let's try a nose, and at this point which one should be obvious. Landers racked up 7.5 TFLs (tied with Dre'Mont Jones) in his redshirt freshman campaign, and was at +10 on 243 snaps as of The Game preview PFF sent. Unlike Jones, who Wally Pipped the 3-tech job when Tracy Sprinkle was injured in Game 1, Landers had to scrap for equal snaps with standard plugger Michael Hill.
It only took a few games into the season for Ohio State fans to pick the low man in that battle, and after the PSU game PFF had joined them:
Bosa led the Buckeyes with seven pressures, but it is perhaps Landers who is pressing the strongest claim to jump into the starting lineup. Starting defensive tackles Dre’Mont Jones and Michael Hill struggled for the second straight week (longer still for Hill by himself), as Penn State gained 8.2 yards per carry between the tackles, with Jones and Hill frequently backed up into the second level when they faced double teams. After giving up 137 yards between the tackles to Wisconsin last week, the alarm bells are ringing loud and clear in the Ohio State run defense right now, and Landers has been performing well enough to justify a spot in the starting lineup.
Short in stature, Landers uses that to his advantage for leverage and speed. Urban Meyer calls him "twitched-up." Draft Analyst calls him a 2nd or 3rd rounder. I call him the last shot at a surefire disruptive NT.
[Note: this pick was made before we knew Hill would be suspended indefinitely. Not that it matters because Landers is better.]
Seth: From that last link:
One offensive prospect I’m not impressed with is Jamarco Jones. Rated by some as the number two offensive tackle prospect from the senior class, Jones is short, marginally athletic and won’t get drafted then will have to play guard at the next level.
Please be so.
[After THE JUMP: Time-traveling 2015 guy can’t fathom why the entire Indiana secondary is gone before anyone from the Michigan State defense.]
Hello. Here are some spring practice items. Please read responsibly: these are impressions from a couple of practices, not even a whole spring session. The latter is notoriously unreliable; the former is even more so. Even if everything in here is the gospel truth the rest of spring and fall camp will change the picture considerably.
Not a lot of intrigue: Wilton Speight is an unchallenged #1. John O'Korn is still a nose ahead of Brandon Peters for second-team snaps. Peters is flashing talent but is still behind the veterans with his command of the offense. He will offer a little dual threat if and when he ascends to the starting job. Speight's been up and down early.
Similar situation here: Chris Evans is the guy. He's added a little muscle—up to 212 at the latest—and has full command of the offense. He knows why he's doing the things he's doing, and occasionally makes spooky jukes based on his anticipation of the situation. Breakout year is likely.
Because it's running back Michigan will rotate a bunch. Various reports note that Ty Isaac is looking good and Kareem Walker is coming on, which continues a theme from Michigan's bowl practices. Higdon has been limited with a minor injury.
Kingston Davis's decision to transfer was his alone—Michigan was already at 85 before his departure—and is likely because he was fifth on the depth chart with more guys arriving this fall and it was fullback or nothing for him. This should be a very deep and good platoon.
Wide receiver & tight end
One of the biggest questions entering spring: who is the #1 receiver? Early returns are very encouraging about Donovan Peoples-Jones. Top five receivers are immediate impact guys about 33% of the time, and Peoples-Jones looks to be in that group. It took him just a few practices to establish himself. He's also got a minor injury and hasn't been in pads for a few days but that hasn't stopped the rumbles.
Kekoa Crawford lacks DPJ's explosiveness—as do most humans—and looks about like he did when he got on the field this year: very good blocker, big target, good routes. Strong belief he can be a quality #2 receiver this year, and an okay #1 if necessary.
With Grant Perry still being held out, Eddie McDoom is getting a long look in the slot and "doing McDoom things," which I interpret to mean breaking tackles on end-arounds. A surprise name is Nate Schoenle, a redshirt freshman walk-on from Ann Arbor. Schoenle has good size—listed at 6'2" on the roster—for a slot and when he committed his coach thought he had a shot:
“Nate’s a late bloomer but his upside is pretty steep, so they’re getting a pretty good preferred walk-on candidate,” said Gabriel Richard coach Mike Girskis. “He’s got fantastic speed, decent size and he’s working really hard in the weight room. His potential is exceptionally high from what I can see; I think he’s going to start as a project and wind up a steal.”
Girskis has called Schoenle the best receiver Gabriel Richard has had, citing his 40-yard dash time of below 4.5 as proof of his ability to excel at the college level. He also said his high academic scores are evidence of his capabilities as a quick learner.
Those academic scores were enough to get him pre-admitted to Ross. He's making the most of his opportunity. Slot is a place where 'Bama's running out Oregon State and BGSU transfers, so Schoenle's in the right spot to make an impact as a walk-on. There's one report that's not sure who #29 is; a dollar says it's Schoenle.
Folks who have been intermittently available include Drake Harris and Moe Ways. Tarik Black has also sat out some; when he's in he's a tough cover with his size and physicality. He's a contested-ball guy at worst with some long speed upside.
At tight end (or maybe wide receiver), Zach Gentry has been making a ton of catches early with the second unit. Nate Eubanks is getting a significant amount of run, some problem with drops. With Asiasi gone, TJ Wheatley is getting first team reps—Bunting's been held out some. Wheatley looks like a terrific receiver but his blocking remains a work in progress.
Ruiz is key
As always, difficult for sideline observers to discern much about the most complicated spot on the field but one thing seems clear: Mason Cole is going to move back outside. Michigan is running Patrick Kugler, Cesar Ruiz, and redshirt freshman walk-on Andrew Vastardis at center, and while Cole has probably taken some reps there all the reports I have talk about him on the outside with various mentions of the other three guys at center.
Kugler is leading right now but the Ruiz hype is real. Like Mike Onwenu he's shed a significant amount of weight and is still stunningly large for an underclassman: he's at 320, down from 340, and people expect him to push his way into the starting lineup sooner or later.
Onwenu, meanwhile looks the part, "bullying" various folks lined across from him. You can mark his name down in pencil as a starter.
Right tackle is currently Juwann Bushell-Beatty, with Bredeson sticking inside at guard. I assume they'll look at Bredeson on the outside if they think Ruiz and Kugler can play together; this is not based on any practice reports but rather your author's charting of last year's OL.
OL numbers are currently very low with a couple of guys not in pads, with a significant number of walk-ons on the second unit. Michigan of course tried to recruit a bazillion OL last year, and until the rest of the folks arrive in fall it's going to be patchwork.
11/19/2016 – Michigan 20, Indiana 10 – 10-1, 7-1 Big Ten
When Midwestern Football Weather looms, there is only one priority for the experienced fan: please, not sleet. The heavens can aim at my head with golf-ball-sized hail as long as the precipitation is of the form that can be dodged or shaken off. The icy needle stuff that penetrates anything short of a spaceship hull is decidedly not preferred.
That's what we got in 2008, figuratively and literally. The infamous Fandom Endurance III game against Northwestern that sent Michigan to 3-7, guaranteeing no bowl bid for the first time in 40-some years, was played in a driving sleet that is bar-none the worst weather I've ever experienced at a game. I imagine the only competition available is that Purdue game from the 90s that ended 5-0; I was not present.
At halftime of 2008 Northwestern the sleet sent me to the concourse in the hope the pretzel machines could restore some feeling to my hands. They could not. And yet:
This is how weird it's been of late: as I huddled near a pretzel contraption at halftime of a game between 3-7 Michigan and Northwestern, soaked, frozen, pondering the grim futility of all things, I discovered that I was sort of enjoying this. Yeah, sure, you had to peel back layer upon layer of misery to get to the morbidly sunny core. But it was there.
That column is staggeringly old now, especially for Michigan fans who aged in dog years during the RichRod era and in you-chose-the-wrong-grail years during the Hoke/Brandon double-barrel fiasco. By the stuttering end of Hoke's tenure I was referencing that column only to repudiate it, my goodwill stripped to the bone and pecked at by Brandon in case there was any seat-cushion related morsel he could take from me and give to himself.
I don't know what's going to happen Saturday. John O'Korn didn't look like a quarterback who could win against OHIO STATE, but Ohio State didn't look like the all-caps version of themselves in a one-point win over Michigan State, or a four-point win over Northwestern, or a loss to Penn State. I don't know if John O'Korn is even going to play.
Having an Ohio State game hanging by a thread because of a quarterback problem is frustratingly familiar turf. Denard Robinson and Chad Henne literally could not throw their senior years; Devin Gardner played most of an OSU game on a broken foot; Drew Henson didn't even bother to play his senior season. It is brutal to have this defense and not know if they're going to have a chance because of yet another backup quarterback throwing a spanner in well-laid plans.
I spent large portions of that game playing Ohio State in my head. I've been doing this since the end of the Wisconsin game, to be honest. I didn't like the results much, but I suppose neither did the sliver of the OSU fanbase capable of complex thought after the Buckeyes got outgained by 3-8 MSU.
I think about ten years ago, and how seismic that felt. It felt like the world would rise or fall based on the result of one goddamn game, and how that was right. And Saturday, and ugh, and can we get this over with.
Then the heavens opened up.
What people with no experience of winter fail to understand is its capacity for sheer beauty. Saturday's transient blizzard turned a football game into a kaleidoscope of lacy geometries. The individual flakes traced whorls across the sky, each brilliantly lit. As they began to stick the stadium brightened, and brightened, until it was glowing. Light bounced from white to white until it seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere at once.
I forgot about Speight's shoulder, and the looming nausea machine this weekend, and Twitter, and even the fucking red hat TV timeout guy. What looked dim from the outside was brilliant as mid-day on the interior. It is something I will not forget.
110,000 people felt that same lift. Maybe they weren't thinking quite as far back in the sleety past as I was, but they knew the difference between then, and now. Someone started chanting "BEAT OHIO," and thousands more took it up, as Michigan marched out a victory lit by a sun of a their own devising.
#1 De'Veon Smith had more than half of Michigan's yards and more or less produced all their points. On one particular short yardage run he ran directly over safety Tony Fields, causing him to eject an object that was either his mouthpiece, tooth, or soul. Fields kept coming, and Smith kept turning him into mulch.
#2 Taco Charlton collected 2.5 TFLs and created several more by driving his man deep into the backfield. He has been virtually unstoppable as a pass rusher; this was his best outing against the run. And now his ankle's 100%. Look out, world.
#3 Jourdan Lewis had three pass breakups and only gave up one of the two completions he ceded because it was in a blizzard and he was giving up ten yards on purpose. He had a couple of important PBUs on third down slants that booted Indiana off the field.
Honorable mention: Channing Stribling gave up one completion for 20 yards or so but had his share of PBUs and solid coverage; Ryan Glasgow was an interior terror; the offensive line in general blew up what had been a very good rush defense. Dymonte Thomas had an impressive thunk to prevent a drag route from converting a third down and had one of those PBUs where I have to check to make sure that he's not Lewis.
10:Wilton Speight (#1 UCF, #1 Illinois, #3 MSU, #1 Maryland) 9: Jabrill Peppers(T2, Hawaii; #3 UCF, #1 Colorado, #2 Rutgers, #2 MSU) 7: Taco Charlton(three-way T1, PSU, same vs Rutgers, #3 Maryland, #2 Iowa, #2 Indiana). 5:Ryan Glasgow(#2 UCF, #1 UW), Chris Wormley (three-way T1, PSU, same vs Rutgers, #1 Iowa). 4: Jourdan Lewis (#3 UW, #2 Maryland, #3 Indiana). 3.5: De'Veon Smith (four-way T2, PSU, #1 Indiana). 3:Mike McCray(#1, Hawaii), Ben Gedeon(#3 Colorado, #3 PSU, three-way T1 Rutgers), Amara Darboh(#1 MSU), 2.5:Karan Higdon(four-way T2, PSU, #2 Illinois). 2:Jake Butt(#2 Colorado), Kyle Kalis (#2 UW) 1:Delano Hill (T2, Hawaii), Chris Evans (T3, Hawaii, four-way T2, PSU), Maurice Hurst (three-way T1, PSU), Devin Asiasi(#3 Rutgers), Ben Braden (#3 Illinois), Channing Stribling (#3 Iowa). 0.5:Mason Cole(T3, Hawaii), Ty Isaac (four-way T2, PSU).
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
This week's best thing ever.
De'Veon Smith stakes Michigan to a lead that felt much larger than three points.
Also, shirtless men.
Honorable mention: O'Korn scrambles for 30 yards; Smith extends the lead to 10.
Indiana goes on a Legitimate Drive in the middle of the second quarter and takes the lead at a point where you're wondering if Michigan can actually score a touchdown of their own.
Honorable mention: Various O'Korn things; the back-to-back-to-back ludicrous catches to set up an Indiana FG.
PREVIOUS EPIC DOUBLE BIRDs
Hawaii: Not Mone again. UCF: Uh, Dymonte, you may want to either tackle or at least lightly brush that guy. Colorado: Speight blindsided. PSU: Clark's noncontact ACL injury. UW: Newsome joins the ranks of the injured. Rutgers: you can't call back the Mona Lisa of punt returns, man. Illinois: They scored a what now? On Michigan? A touchdown? Michigan State: a terrifying first drive momentarily makes you think you're in the mirror universe. Maryland: Edge defense is a confirmed issue. Iowa: Kalis hands Iowa a safety. Indiana: A legitimate drive.
SPONSOR NOTES: We're going to Iowa thanks to Matt, and he's going to be tailgating prior to the game. If you're going, hit him up and stop by. We'll be around for a few hours before the game, traffic and weather willing.
In addition to being a gentleman replete with Michigan tickets, Matt is also a good man to know if you need a mortgage. It's striking that we actually get non-astroturfed comments about positive experiences with Matt not infrequently.
FORMATION NOTES: Maryland switched between fronts a bunch, seemingly because they were trying to find anything that could possibly work. A 3-4 was their base set through the middle of the game; late and early they were mostly four-man fronts.
None of this went well. Here is an obligatory picture.
Michigan didn't do anything wacky with formations aside from some pistol stuff that is pretty standard at various places around college football.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: 59 snaps for the line before they were pulled on the final drive. Braden-Bredeson-Cole-Kalis-Magnuson for the third straight week; Kugler got two RG snaps after the Kalis personal foul. Butt and Darboh were close to omnipresent with 47 and 44 snaps; Chesson got 33.
De'Veon Smith usage surged to two-thirds of Michigan's snaps, with Ty Isaac limited to four. Evans and Higdon had 13 and 11. Peppers got four. Hill and Poggi continued to split FB snaps about down the middle. Asiasi, Bunting, and Wheatley all got around 20 snaps; Crawford, McDoom, and Harris got around 10.
As you may have noticed in today's game column, I'm trying a new format for GIFs: gfycat, which load faster, have much better quality, and allow you to do stuff like speed up or slow down playback if you click through. I hadn't switched over before because uploading and tagging was cumbersome; now the program I use has integrated that entire process. Today's post mostly features the old format as I do a test run with a few gfycats. If all goes well, I'll do the complete switchover next week. Feedback is encouraged.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the Maryland game in GIFs.]
Might be a broken record, but might that have been Wilton Speight’s best game, and could you talk about how he extended plays by sliding around in the pocket when he needed to?
“Yeah, that was…statistically, and just the eyeball, that’s the best half of football I’ve ever seen a Michigan quarterback play. I think the statistics back that up. Yeah, moving and throwing and accuracy and extending plays, all of the above. I don’t know how you play better than Wilton did. I think there was one throw that wasn’t a great throw. That was it. Other than that, it was a perfect game as a quarterback and that’s really tough to do.”
This team continuing to roll. How much more enjoyment do you get out of seeing these guys as the season progresses and you see the execution as it is each and every week?
“I enjoy it a lot. I really felt that the week of practice we had was outstanding, and then you, when you have a week like that where it seems better every week and the practices are really sharp and crisp, then you want to see that again on gameday. You feel like if you’re good in practice you’re going to be good in the game, and I thought our guys were great in practice this week and then they were great in the game, so that, get a lot of enjoyment from that.”
De’Veon Smith went over 100 yards. I know you talk a lot about liking how hard he runs. How’d he look to you today?
“He looked great. He really did. He was one of the big factors in our team’s success. We didn’t punt again in the ballgame. I don’t know if we’ve done that in the season—maybe one or two times. But it was, a big part was him. The yards he got after contact were real eye-opening, and he’s so tough to get down. Three touchdowns, but extending drives and contributing. We had a lot of first downs today, and he contributed to that in a big way.”
Clearly the scoreboard reflected it, but what was it like for you to coach against DJ Durkin, your former defensive coordinator, and what were the emotions that went into it?
“The normal emotions. Definitely a friend. Watch what he’s done at Maryland, he’s doing a fantastic job. And what he did for us, what he did for our football team—he was a great contributor to our ballclub.”
[Hit THE JUMP to find out what offended Harbaugh’s football sensibility and the football gods themselves]
Whether passing or running, Wilton Speight dominated the air. [Bryan Fuller]
Dominance is the new normal, and this team knows it.
"There's no feeling like the feeling we have right now, and I'm not going to take that for granted," said De'Veon Smith, who rushed for 114 yards and three scores on only 19 carries.
"The yards he got after contact were real eye-opening. He's real tough to get down," Jim Harbaugh said, in perhaps the understatement of the season thus far.
Even with that production, Smith accounted for a mere fraction of Michigan's total output. That total: 660 yards on an even ten per play and a few more entries in the program record book. Wilton Speight broke a school record with 292 passing yards in the first half; he'd surpass his career high less than five minute into the third quarter. Speight finished with 362 yards and two touchdowns through the air and added a ten-yard scramble capped with a leap into the end zone.
"Statistically and just the eyeball, that's the best half of football I've ever seen a Michigan quarterback play," said Harbaugh. "Moving and throwing and accuracy and just extending plays, all of the above. I don't know how you play better."
"There was one throw that wasn't a great throw. Other than that it was a perfect game."
"Wilton had an unbelievable game today," said Jake Butt. "He keeps coming through for us when we need him most."
Butt made some history himself. On a five-catch, 76-yard day, he surpassed Jim Mandich as Michigan's all-time receiving leader among tight ends. Butt said it was "hard to take in" that he broke Mandich's record.
"You talk about [Ron] Kramer and Mandich, [Eric] Kattus, some tremendous tight ends have come through here. I know I'm leaving some out," said Harbaugh. "Most catches, most yards for a Michigan tight end is a great accomplishment."
Jehu Chesson, meanwhile, had a bounce-back game, hauling in five catches for 112 yards and one of the easier touchdowns he'll ever have when Maryland let him slip behind the defense. That was a bit of a theme; Michigan's first score came when Amara Darboh was all alone on a post route, and when the backups took over, Kekoa Crawford found himself similarly forsaken and caught his first career touchdown for the final score of the day.
Harbaugh was "bewildered" by the call marking Chris Evans short of the end zone. That's one word for it. [Eric Upchurch]
For the offense, there was little to complain about, save a couple calls that didn't go Michigan's way. Drake Harris had a long catch negated by a ticky-tack offensive pass interference call, and Chris Evans got marked just short of the goal line after a spectacular juggling catch and weaving run through the Terrapin defense.
"It offends my football sensibility in all ways that he didn't get a touchdown," said Harbaugh, who threw his hat several yards in the air after the call. "I think that would offend the football gods, as well."
Michigan mostly didn't need offensive contributions from Jabrill Peppers, but they got an early highlight when Peppers took a pitch, then threw it back to Speight, who launched a 40-yard bomb to Chesson. Peppers had a couple carries for 19 yards and added another TFL to ever-rising tally on defense. Asked after the game if he was trying to bolster Peppers's Heisman candidacy with "flashy" plays on offense, Harbaugh said he's simply utilizing Peppers as he should be utilized.
"It's just happening organically. It happens au naturale. He just does so much," said Harbaugh. "It doesn't have to be a forced thing. Au naturale." With a chuckle, Harbaugh added that his quarterback should perhaps be under consideration for the Heisman, too.
Whether on offense or defense, Peppers's contributions are "au naturale." [Fuller]
Despite holding Maryland to 367 yards, there were some worrisome moments for the defense. The Terps had a clear gameplan to test Michigan on the edge with outside runs and tunnel screens, and those plays found success—Mike McCray and Channing Stribling, in particular, had tough games holding trying to hold those plays down. Maryland nearly had a touchdown on a tunnel to DJ Moore at the very end of the first half, but Dymonte Thomas kept the play in front of him long enough for McCray to chase him down from behind; the clock expired with the Terps on Michigan's one-yard line.
Those deficiencies will get plenty of attention over the weeks to come, and Ohio State's coaching staff surely took note. That shouldn't totally overshadow an otherwise dominant outing from the defense, though. Maryland averaged just 2.7 yards per carry; the non-screen passing game was non-existent; the Wolverines had three sacks and ten additional TFLs. As in seemingly every other contest this year, Michigan knocked the starting quarterback out of the game, and Caleb Rowe was a clear downgrade from Perry Hills—he threw two interceptions to Delano Hill that Hill deemed "gifts" after the game.
A road night game at Iowa awaits. While that looked like a huge test entering the season, it now appears to be another golden opportunity for Michigan to make a statement to not only the conference, but the entire country. They're two more dominant outings away from having everything to play for in The Game.