Michigan 35, Rutgers 14

Michigan 35, Rutgers 14

Submitted by Ace on October 28th, 2017 at 3:57 PM


The first of many touchdowns, one hopes. [Patrick Barron]

Welcome to the future.

After four drives for each team, Michigan found itself deadlocked at seven with lowly Rutgers in front of a listless homecoming crowd. Embattled quarterback John O'Korn had completed 3/6 passes for 13 yards with an interception and two dropped snaps. On what turned out to be his final snap of the afternoon, he passed up multiple open receivers to roll out of a clean pocket and throw in the direction of a very well-covered Donovan Peoples-Jones.

When the defense booted Rutgers off the field with 7:01 to play in the first half, ballyhooed redshirt freshman Brandon Peters entered in O'Korn's stead.

"They just told me to get warmed up," said Peters. "When we got the ball I was just standing there next to Harbaugh and he said let's go, you're in."

The crowd instantly came to life. So did the offense. Two Karan Higdon runs picked up 20 yards to open the drive, then Peters got going, connecting on passes to Ty Wheatley Jr., Henry Poggi, and Nico Collins for first downs before Higdon capped the drive with a ten-yard touchdown.

"I wasn't that nervous," said Peters. "Honestly it was a great opportunity to get out there. I was more excited and confident than nervous."

Peters didn't seem nervous. When Michigan got the ball at midfield with 1:49 to go in the half, he marched the team right into the red zone. He had a freshman moment, nearly throwing an interception on a slant to Grant Perry, but that didn't rattle him one bit. On the very next snap, he tossed a near-perfect* lob to Chris Evans on a wheel route for a 20-yard score. With one change in personnel, Michigan went being in a dogfight at home against Rutgers to blowing them out.

"I saw man coverage, one-on-one with Chris," said Peters. "I wanted to give him a chance to make a play and he made a great play on the ball."


The wheel route remains undefeated. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Michigan had already made needed improvements elsewhere, and the insertion of Peters served to accentuate them. The offensive line had been opening holes in the running game, which featured a diverse array of powers, counters, outside zones, and crack sweeps. With opposition safeties finally forced to respect the pass, the backs found ample room to run. Higdon (158 yards on 18 carries) and Ty Isaac (109 on 14) both cracked the century mark; Michigan averaged 6.5 yards per carry.

The pass protection also looked vastly improved. O'Korn and Peters both consistently operated out of clean pockets; Peters did a better job of standing in and delivering. Michigan didn't take a sack.

Most importantly, Peters continued dealing. He finished 10/14 for 124 yards with a touchdown and no turnovers. He didn't lock on to a favorite target; ten different receivers caught passes for the Wolverines today. While Peters's stat line may not blow anyone away, he made it obvious he's the best option to run this team right now. His coach agreed.

"He really aquitted himself well," said Jim Harbaugh. "Moved the football team. Played very, very well. He did a lot. From the first time he went in there, just feeling the deep zone, feeling the linebackers drop, taking that extra half second to take a breath, take a checkdown. it was good ball. It was good."

Harbaugh probably didn't need to declare Peters the starter for next week's game against Minnesota, but he did so anyway.


Mo Hurst spearheaded another dominant defensive performance. [Campredon]

The defense needed no such fixing. Outside of a long Janarion Grant touchdown out of the wildcat and one drive in which Rutgers QB Giovanni Rescigno uncharacteristically connected on a couple NFL-level throws, they effectively held the Scarlet Knights to nothing. Rescigno dropped back to pass 21 times; he threw for 101 and took five sacks. Rutgers's pair of running backs combined for a mere 45 yards on 18 carries. Rutgers simply couldn't block Maurice Hurst, Rashan Gary, and Chase Winovich, and freshman DT Aubrey Solomon didn't look out of place on that line while getting the most extended playing time of his young career.

Higdon opened the fourth quarter with a 49-yard touchdown jaunt on a perfectly blocked power play to put Michigan up 35-14. A game that had already flown by didn't take long to wrap up from there. Rutgers wanted to get home. Michigan, one would like to think, was champing at the bit to get the Peters Era underway in earnest when he gets his first career start under the lights against Minnesota.

"It was time," said Harbaugh.

*Nitpickers will note it was a little short. Most Michigan fans, however, saw the skies part and heard angels sing.

Monday Presser 10-23-17: Players

Monday Presser 10-23-17: Players

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on October 24th, 2017 at 8:00 AM

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[Upchurch]

Grant Perry

Route-running wise, have you seen, do you anticipate, I know that’s been kind of a topic of discussion with the offense, drops, that sort of thing. Can you evaluate that?

“Every game you can evaluate a lot of things, whether it’s drops or wrong routes or route-running in general. We’re going to evaluate that today when we go over the film with coaches and get some feedback.”

To us maybe it seems like an easy fix [re: route-running]. Is that an easy fix?

“Route-running? Yeah, there can be fixes to it, whether its’ the timing with the quarterback or knowing zone versus man, which affects the route. Just little things that can be picked up on.”

Mood of the team coming out of that one more angry? More determined? How would you gauge it?

“Yeah, we were definitely disappointed we lost but if we all stayed disappointed it wouldn’t be good for this week, so we all agreed that we’re going to move on and take our frustrations out on Rutgers.”

What have you noticed out of Donovan through seven weeks of the season as far as getting acclimated, learning, and picking up on things?

“Donovan, he’s definitely maturing a lot. He’s doing really well in practice. He’s picking up on things that I wasn’t even picking up freshman year. He’s understanding the game like a veteran, and that’s going to come a long way throughout his career.”

Can you detail maybe sitting down and having a conversation or what are the Xs and Os like when you’re talking in practice?

“It’s just little things, whether it’s different routes, how to run this route, how to see this coverage, how to see this safety rolling. He’s seeing the whole field really well. Everyone knows that he was having trouble on punt return muffing balls and all that and he hasn’t muffed a ball since, so it just shows how mature and how comfortable he really is.”

[After THE JUMP: Isaac, Bushell-Beatty, and Poggi]

Upon Further Review 2017: Offense vs Indiana

Upon Further Review 2017: Offense vs Indiana

Submitted by Brian on October 18th, 2017 at 4:36 PM

2017 logoo_thumbSPONSOR NOTE. I mean the unfortunate thing is that president of US soccer isn't even a paid position right now so a guy like Matt, who is very organized and on top of everything and is clearly a talented manager and would probably listen to me when I told him that he shouldn't hire a muppet to be the coach, couldn't swing it and his current day job at the same time. Because he's got to get you those mortgage quotes lickety-split, you see, and if he's trying to determine who's a soccer muppet and who is a human you will not get them with the speed he is accustomed to.

HomeSure Lending: simple mortgage guidance in the comfort of your own home. Where nobody can see you watching clips of the Landon Donovan goal with big ol' wet tears falling out of your face.

FORMATION NOTES. It was a manball outing, with 31 one-or-zero WR snaps. There were 23 two-WR snaps and 15 three-WR snaps, many of those on obvious passing downs. When not forced into WRs Michigan had an extreme preference for tight ends and fullbacks.

IU kept their safeties increasingly close to the LOS as the day progressed for obvious reasons. They did one weird thing with this gap in the line:

vlcsnap-2017-10-17-00h52m50s372

Their front was multiple, as they like to say, bouncing between even, under, over, and even some 3-4 stuff. They also had a few plays with a five-man line when they were trying to slow down Michigan's heavy sets. Here's Indiana in an under front with the FLAG OF DOOM waving:

vlcsnap-2017-10-16-18h54m48s454

SUBSTITUTION NOTES. Thin rotation. O'Korn went the whole way at QB. OL was the new usual with Bushell-Beatty playing the whole way at RT. Hill and Poggi split FB snaps; no Mason. TE was mostly Gentry and McKeon, with a healthy number of Wheatley and Bunting snaps. Eubanks didn't play.

RB was mostly Higdon with Evans and Isaac making cameos; Walker got two snaps and one carry. WR was DPJ, Crawford, Perry, and some Ways. DPJ seemed to get more snaps this week.

[After THE JUMP: a unicorn!]

Upon Further Review 2017: Offense vs Purdue

Upon Further Review 2017: Offense vs Purdue

Submitted by Brian on October 2nd, 2017 at 12:47 PM

2017 logoo_thumbSPONSOR NOTES. You know one thing I appreciate about HomeSure Lending is that Matt is not a song designed to draw the attention of a child, and has never gotten stuck in my head for days on end, relating banal facts about the world around me. This may be happening to my brain right now, and is not a very good advertisement.

If you'd like to think about something other than washing your hands for once in your life you could call Matt and get some quotes for a home loan. The problem with this strategy is that Matt will get you your quotes so quickly that your respite will be brief. But then you can talk to him about football, which helps.

FORMATION NOTES. Nothing particularly unusual except for one tackle over play that was a waggle pass to Poggi. Purdue alternated between a 3-4 and 4-3 front but was also not weird in any significant way.

image

SUBSTITUTION NOTES. OL was standard save for a healthy number of Runyan snaps at right guard; after the game Harbaugh said those were more about Onwenu's endurance than his performance. Speight got the first three drives and was knocked out before the fourth, whereupon O'Korn came in. Brandon Peters got the final, uncharted drive.

Isaac was limited with a ding sustained late in the Air Force game, so Higdon got a plurality of the work until his fumble. Evans got most of the carries after that. Kareem Walker saw his first live action late. Fullbacks were the usual rotation between the seniors with one snap for Mason.

With Black out it was Nate Schoenle and Grant Perry who got most of the additional snaps. Perry played both inside and out in this game; DPJ got his fair share but didn't get targeted as much as many folks want. Crawford was still the most-heavily deployed WR. TE saw McKeon and Gentry get almost all of the targets and a clear edge in snaps. For Ty Wheatley that means he's playing with a cast on his hand; for Ian Bunting that is bad news. Eubanks got scattered snaps as well.

[After THE JUMP: my kingdom for an offensive line.]

Upon Further Review 2017: Offense vs Air Force

Upon Further Review 2017: Offense vs Air Force

Submitted by Brian on September 21st, 2017 at 4:37 PM

2017 logoo_thumbSPONSOR NOTES. Just recommended HomeSure Lending to a friend and it's weird that I have to say "you should know this guy sponsors us," because I actually would recommend Matt even if that was not the case because when we refi-ed our house I had quotes for various mortgage lengths very very quickly.  The deal was done in a flash.

But yeah like he does sponsor us, which is even better. It's nice to have sponsors you can actually recommend with a clear conscience, especially because they have never paid a dime to the Larry Culpepper guy.

FORMATION NOTES. Air Force runs a 3-4, but it's not like that. Whereas your conventional 3-4 has big guys who two-gap, Air Force has little guys. It's a one-gap 3-4, if you will.

vlcsnap-2017-09-18-20h41m28s490

The NT almost always shaded between the C and G in a one tech, with four linebackers in the traditional 3-4 umbrella. Sometimes head up with the same umbrella, and check those safeties on first and freakin' ten:

vlcsnap-2017-09-18-23h06m11s717

Now, there are a ton of very obvious ways in which this is not at all the 3-3-5 stack Michigan runs. Air Force doesn't stack their linebackers, for one. They rarely insert an OLB between their DEs as anything other than a twist blitz; Michigan is constantly making Furbush an extra DL. AF just about always shaded their NT instead of running a zero-tech, and they had a clear weakside and strongside end, with the strongside end basically a DT. Michigan's DEs have run identical techniques for the duration of the season. Also there is not a withdrawn MLB like Bush; instead two ILBs.

These are the ways in which Michigan's defense is not at all like Air Force's, which is a one-gap 3-4.

SUBSTITUTION NOTES. The regular at QB and OL. Onwenu got pulled for the last three plays of the final drive, with Runyan coming in. Isaac was the starting RB and got the bulk of the work; Evans was pulled after his fumble until late, when Isaac went out with a minor injury. Mason one snap at FB, with the seniors going the rest of the way.

WR was Black, Crawford, and DPJ outside with cameos from Schoenle on running plays. That's getting into a major play tip zone, though Black's injury might change that. Perry got most of the run in the slot; McDoom had maybe a dozen snaps, and not all were jet stuff.

Tight end was the usual rotation of everyone, minus Wheatley. He had a ding that held him out. Also I might not have seen Eubanks? I don't think I saw Eubanks. Bunting is losing ground, BTW, to McKeon and Gentry.

[After THE JUMP: the bone! oh if only]

Monday Presser 9-18-17: Jim Harbaugh

Monday Presser 9-18-17: Jim Harbaugh

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on September 18th, 2017 at 5:00 PM

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[Upchurch]

Can you talk about what you get from Eddie McDoom on special teams and on offense?

“He’s been a contributor this year, last year. Fast, smart, fundamentally-sound football player.”

Purdue’s off to a good start. Can you talk about what you see out of them that has your attention?

“Yeah, the team’s done a tremendous job. Coaching staff would be an early favorite for coach of the year. They’re doing a nice job. The entire team is.”

With Mason Cole, to know that you’ve got a dependable left tackle with a starting streak and production, what kind of comfort does that give you as a coach?

“I would say he’s our most valuable offensive lineman.”

Does Quinn Nordin have sort of an unusual mentality for a kicker? Seems like a pretty confident and outspoken kid.

“Uh, no. I find nothing unusual about Quinn.”

WIth Rashan and Chase and those guys up front, did you see their presence and with Rashan especially, did you see him making impact plays in his first couple weeks here?

“Yes.”

What about him has stood out to you?

“Running to the football, playing physical, tackling very well. High effort, high talent.”

[Injury updates after THE JUMP]

Beet-Red And Nude

Beet-Red And Nude

Submitted by Brian on September 18th, 2017 at 12:35 PM

9/16/2017 – Michigan 29, Air Force 13 – 3-0

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also this happened [Eric Upchurch]

I have ceased being a person who gets seriously exercised about the shortcomings, real or imagined, of Michigan's coaching staff. I will get my grouse on when it's fourth and a half yard and Michigan punts, because if I tried to hold that in I would literally die. There's some stuff later in this post about giving the ball to the Hammering Panda on short yardage and how it's dumb and stupid not to. There will always be niggling details that grate.

But I'm not going to freak out because Michigan's offense is struggling. If my mentions, or Ace's, or poor damn Nick Baumgardner's are any indication the Air Force game was HONEYMOON OVER for a healthy section of Michigan's fanbase. No doubt Sam and Ira have just completed four hours of radio where 75% of the callers were spittle-flecked, nude, and beet-red, proclaiming manifestoes about the personal embarrassment they were caused when Michigan could not score an offensive touchdown in the first 59 minutes of a game against a Mountain West team.

And... eh. I mean, nobody sane could disagree with propositions up to and including "this offense is butt and probably going to cost Michigan any chance of silverware." I wish the offense was not butt, too. In previous years I might be nude and beet-red, writing a manifesto about how I suffered personal embarrassment when Fitz Toussaint ran 27 times for 27 yards.

I am not. I'm going to see how this works out.

I'd like to think this is because I am so good at looking at football that I know that Michigan's problems under Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke were clear, severe, and systemic coaching issues while Harbaugh's are not. To some extent this is probably true: Harbaugh has not switched his base defense midseason in a panic (twice!), or decided that "tackle over" was an offense instead of a gimmick, or continued inserting a quarterback without an ulnar nerve in the second half of an Ohio State game. The worst tactical issue he's had so far was the increasingly disappointing Pepcat package last year, which is a speeding ticket compared to the grand felonies perpetrated by Michigan's last two coaching staffs. Check that: three coaching staffs.

But I'm also extrapolating based on track record. There is an element of faith that Harbaugh engenders, because... uh... I mean, obviously? If you need numbers, here's Stanford, with Harbaugh in bold:

Team Year Record FEI S&P YPC YPA YPP
Stanford 2006 1-11 N/A 113 2.1 (118th) 6.3 N/A
Stanford 2007 4-8 61 83 3.0 (113th) 6 N/A
Stanford 2008 5-7 48 31 4.9 (20th) 6.4 (82nd) 59
Stanford 2009 8-5 1 6 5.2 (7th) 8.7 (7th) 9
Stanford 2010 12-1 5 3 5.2 (16th) 8.9 (10th) 13
Stanford 2011 11-2 6 8 5.3 (13th) 8.7 (7th) 6

Harbaugh embarked on a similar project at San Francisco. The 49ers were 25th in Football Outsider's DVOA fancystat the year before his arrival. They improved to 18th in year one and then had consecutive top ten years (fifth and eighth) before a dropoff in Harbaugh's final season under Jed York. That last season is the only one in Harbaugh's pre-Michigan coaching career where the offense isn't either taking a significant step forward or an elite or near-elite unit, and it's saddled with a bunch of confounding factors. (SF got hit with a blizzard of injuries that year, oh and the owner was trying to force out a guy who'd gone to three consecutive NFC Championship games because reasons.)

At Michigan he immediately took the dead thing that was the Brady Hoke offense and made it okay, leaping from 89th to 38th in S&P+. Last year plateaued largely because the starting QB inexplicably went in the tank in Iowa and then did something nasty to his shoulder.

If the late slide a year ago and early sputters from a team that lost seven starters is enough to overthrow Harbaugh's long career of mostly great offenses in your mind, please go away. Yes, there are problems. No, this isn't Lloyd Carr turning Tom Brady, David Terrell, Anthony Thomas, and four long-term NFL starters into the 60th-best offense in the country. Bitching about Harbaugh's offense makes no sense after two years of inventive game plans, plays I have to invent terms for after a decade of doing this, and mostly solid results despite Brady Hoke's abominable late offensive recruiting*.

This feels bad man. But put your damn clothes on and stick to not sports.

--------------------------

*[Deep breaths. Ready?

The only offensive recruit to even make it to year five from the 2013 class are Patrick Kugler and the fullbacks. De'Veon Smith and Jake Butt were productive and graduated. Da'Mario Jones, Csont'e York, Jaron Dukes, Dan Samuelson, Wyatt Shallman, Chris Fox, David Dawson, Kyle Bosch, Shane Morris, and Derrick Green all burned out without making any impact.

Hoke's miserable 2014 class has Speight, the starting QB, Mason Cole, Ian Bunting, and nobody else even contributing. Moe Ways, Juwann Bushell-Beatty, Freddy Canteen, Drake Harris are all gone or benched.

And literally the only offensive recruits Hoke left Harbaugh in the transition class were Alex Malzone, John Runyan Jr, and Grant Newsome. That is three recruiting years producing four starters.]

[After THE JUMP: but hey the defense though]

Wednesday Presser 9-13-17: Tim Drevno

Wednesday Presser 9-13-17: Tim Drevno

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on September 14th, 2017 at 8:28 AM

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[Barron]

Some of the defensive players were saying that Joe Hewlett was really helping out with the scout team in emulating Air Force’s offense. Have you seen that as well?

“Yeah, I’ve been busy with the offense. I really haven’t paid much attention to the defense, but I know that Joe Hewlett’s in there.”

Have you ever run a triple option at any stop in your career?

“Uh…no. I’ve kind of messed with it here and there.”

What does that mean?

“I’ve put in some different plays but never saturate yourself into it, so I don’t know the ins and outs of it. You try to maybe put a play in here or there in the form of a triple option but not live in it, no.”

What have you seen from Air Force’s defense?

“Great question. Very fast, well disciplined. They play an odd scheme. They love the pressure. They’re very good tacklers in the back end. Play extremely hard. Just technically sound. They know how to get off blocks, know how to pass rush. Secondary’s very good at reading route concepts, know how to break on the ball. They’re very well coached. They do a great job at Air Force.”

Do you think Jon Runyan’s a better fit at guard? He was in the mix at tackle and then seems like he’s coming in a little bit—

“Yeah, Jon’s a very athletic guy. He could play all five positions. It’s just right now he could be a guard, he could be a tackle, but he does a good job just initial quickness off the ball, with his hand placement, really athletic, feet move well,  when something moves he can cover it up. Jon’s doing a nice job and progressing well.”

[After THE JUMP: correcting little mistakes, O-line development, and Grant Newsome as coach/president. Oh, and what it means to be human]

Upon Further Review 2017: Offense vs Cincinnati

Upon Further Review 2017: Offense vs Cincinnati

Submitted by Brian on September 13th, 2017 at 4:19 PM

2017 logoo_thumbSPONSOR NOTE: Boy Skyline chili is bad, amirite? Almost as bad as hummus made of kittens or large mortgage companies that offer less personal service than a small company and have ad budgets much larger and less efficient than HomeSure Lending's laser-focused MGoBlog sponsorship. Also Matt makes me do things sometimes; other loan companies just hang out with Larry Culpepper trying to look cool.

Don't hang out with Larry Culpepper. Go to HomeSure Lending.

FORMATION NOTES: Michigan didn't do anything weird except for a fake-out Emory And Henry on the first snap they never returned to.

Cincinnati mostly played a 4-3 under, sometimes with a standup end.

vlcsnap-2017-09-11-23h14m25s859

Line slid away from the strength of the formation, WDE stands up, SAM type substance. They played a lot like a 3-4, with three big DL and the linebacker type guy, even if they didn't have a guy lining up head up on the C:

vlcsnap-2017-09-12-02h06m42s730

SUBSTITUTION NOTES: OL and QB remained the same. No Runyan run-out this week. Cesar Ruiz got one snap as a super jumbo TE. Isaac was the primary back with Evans and Higdon getting maybe a quarter of the snaps each.

Crawford and Perry were the top receivers in snaps garnered with Black and DPJ splitting the other outside WR snaps. McDoom had some limited time; Nate Schoenle got maybe ten snaps, none of which he was targeted on. TE remained a blender, with McKeon, Wheatley, and Gentry most prominent.

[After THE JUMP: absolutely no discussion of the QB situation, sorry]

Monday Presser 9-11-17: Jim Harbaugh

Monday Presser 9-11-17: Jim Harbaugh

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on September 11th, 2017 at 5:00 PM

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[Fuller]

We often hear about service academy offenses. How difficult is it of a challenge to prepare for them?

“Defending option football and conventional football at the same time. That’s what we’ve been studying. Air Force has been very successful. Seven, eight, nine game winning streak. They go back and forth between conventional and option football.”

Your defense is scoring a lot, more than they’re giving up. Is that something that has been emphasized? Is that just guys making plays? How do you account for that?

“It’s a good thing. Very good players and a good scheme and they work very hard at being good on defense.”

Talk about your impressions about Lavert Hill. I know you’ve been happy with him.

“Yeah, been happy with Lavert. He’s asserted himself and played very well. Made the big play for us in the ball game this past week.

“Tyree Kinnel would be another person that I’d spotlight; defensive player of the game; sacks, two I believe; tackles for loss; interception for touchdown; seven tackles total, I believe. Well done. Brandon Watson also had a couple PBUs and played very well. Josh Metellus did good. Up front, I thought Rashan had one of his best games. Devin Bush again, another very good game for him; sack, tackle for loss, PBU. Outstanding game by him. Chase Winovich. Noah Furbush was better. Mo Hurst probably played the best of all of our upfront defensive players.

“So, there was a lot of good. Dodged a couple bullets. As was pointed out, scored two touchdowns on defense, so we’re doing well. We’re good. Attribute that to hard work and good scheme and good players.”

How has Lavert—how have you seen him digest all the information that a young starter has to digest?

“Yeah, doing well. Seeing him digest information very well. Comes from good stock. You’d love to be Lavert Hill Sr., to have Delano Hill playing professional football and now here you see Lavert in there starting at corner, making plays, helping his team win. Lavert Hill Sr.’s probably boring the heck out of the neighbors with how well his sons are doing.”

[Learn how to avoid emotionally hijacking Jim Harbaugh after THE JUMP]