1/1/2016 – Michigan 41, Florida 7 – 10-3, 6-2 Big Ten, season over
[Ruby Wallau/Michigan Daily]
On television, passes over a certain length are leaps of faith for the viewer. The quarterback throws it. Then there's a second or two before the intended target comes into focus. In that second you hope the guy is open or covered, depending on the situation. Maybe sometimes if you're lucky just plain expect something good to happen. For most of the year Michigan's defense has given fans the right to expect something at least reasonably difficult in those moments.
The offense hasn't quite managed that, even after Harbaugh found the right way to scream-pound Jake Rudock midway through the season. Also Florida's secondary is House of Cosby, except with Jourdan Lewis. So Rudock flung it up and for a moment there it didn't look too good. The arc was a bit high, the ball hung a bit long. Despite the recent surge I felt a wave of trepidation as this ball's parabola swung back towards Earth.
And then Jehu Chesson panned into view. Just Chesson, because Vernon Hargreaves was standing at the twenty yard line with an enormous animated question mark over his head. Chesson caught an uncontested touchdown that Rudock had punted up short on purpose, and the slow-motion rout was on.
A few months ago Michigan trundled to another one of those losses against Utah that are all pretty much the same depressing football game. In it, Chesson burned a corner on a double move almost as badly as he did Hargreaves. He downshifted as he neared the endzone; Rudock tried to make the perfect pass and ended up overthrowing a sure thing by a couple yards.
That was a theme of not only his junior season at Iowa but the first half of this year: Rudock would try to hit the perfect pass every time, and often this was just out of his reach. That tendency continued; it combined with an unfamiliarity with the offense to turn Rudock from an efficient, if beleaguered, game manager into a guy who barely completed half his passes and couldn't hit 6 YPA against UNLV.
There wasn't anything to be done about this. Rudock was in Ann Arbor to spackle over a quarterback recruiting sinkhole of epic proportions, and if he didn't work out he didn't work out. A shrug is all you can muster if the stopgap is in fact a stopgap.
Then f(Rudock) = 2^x
Ain't never seen anything like that before. One day, Jake Rudock was scuffling through a depressing transition season. The next he was keeping Michigan afloat as the defense scrambled in the aftermath of Ryan Glasgow's injury.
The Chesson touchdown, while easy, was the culmination of Rudock's year. That closed the circle from the Utah game. Later Rudock would dump a 45-yard post route in Chesson's lap to put a cherry on top.
My preseason assessment of Jake Rudock—I said he'd have "a season like last year at Iowa except more efficient: 60% completions, 8 YPA, excellent TD/INT"—was looking somewhere between laughable and pitiful halfway through the year and well I'll be danged:
Rudock finished behind only Nate Sudfeld in passer efficiency in the Big Ten, averaged nearly 8 yards an attempt, had a 20:9 TD:INT ratio, and led the conference with a 64% completion percentage.
Rudock ended the year against the nation's #4, 5, and 8 S&P+ pass defenses. His line in those three games: 64/101, 63%, 7.9 YPA, 6 TD, 1 INT.
I am going to repeat that. Jake Rudock's line against three consecutive top ten pass defenses: 63%, 7.9 YPA, 6:1 TD-INT.
Give Jim Harbaugh your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, and he will turn them into NFL quarterbacks. Give Jim Harbaugh your disjointed messes, your pitiful morale, your nonsense rosters, and he will put on a hard-hat and create a ten-win team. I think we just got done with the glide path. Now for a rocket and a match.
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 Jake Rudock completed his in-season renaissance with a stunningly efficient performance against a third-straight top-ten pass defense. He also ran for some yards and gave a polished post-game interview. Destined to be a backup QB in the NFL for the next ten years.
#2 De'Veon Smith went full Ricky Vaughn in this game, demonstrating a greatly improved ability to read the game in front of him and quickness possibly borne of a recovery from injury. PFF credited him with 11 broken tackles; he crested 100 yards against a fierce run defense.
#3 Jehu Chesson toasted Vernon Hargreaves crispy on a touchdown, caught a tough 45-yard post route, had a catch-and-run conversion on which he was pulling away from the Florida secondary before a safety chopped him down, had a spectacular over-the-shoulder reception on a play he also drew a flag on, and then had the best catch of his life on a throw that took him about six inches out of bounds. Do I hear Manningham 2.0?
Honorable mention: Chris Wormley and Willie Henry had terrific days on the DL and are excluded mostly because the offensive players had a much tougher matchup. Jarrod Wilson ended his boring Michigan career with a boring interception and we love boring safeties and will miss him. Kenny Allen hit a couple chip shot field goals, blasted a punt that would have probably been a 70 yarder had the endzone not intervened, and hit Vernon Hargreaves so hard on a kick return that he forgot to cover Chesson a bit later. Mason Cole and Graham Glasgow were terrific on the ground and equally good against the pass.
13: Jake Rudock (#3 Northwestern, #1 Rutgers, #1 Indiana, #3 Penn State, #2 OSU, #1 Florida)
9: Jourdan Lewis (#1 UNLV, #1 Northwestern, #1 MSU), Jabrill Peppers(#2 BYU, #2 Northwestern, #2 MSU, #1 Minnesota)
8: Chris Wormley(#2 Utah, #1 Oregon State, #3 Rutgers, #2 Penn State)
6: Jake Butt(#1 Utah, #2 Rutgers, #3 OSU), Jehu Chesson(#2 Indiana, #1 OSU, #3 Florida)
5: De'Veon Smith(#2 Oregon State, #3 BYU, #2 Florida)
4: Maurice Hurst (#2 Maryland, #2 Minnesota),
3: Ryan Glasgow (#1 BYU), Desmond Morgan (#1 Maryland), Amara Darboh(#1 PSU)
2: Ty Isaac(#2 UNLV), Willie Henry(#3 Utah, #3 MSU), 1: AJ Williams (#3 Oregon State), Channing Stribling(#3 UNLV), Blake O'Neill(#3 Maryland), Drake Johnson(#3 Minnesota), Delano Hill(#3 Indiana).
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
This week's best thing ever.
Gotta be that touchdown.
— Ace Anbender (@AceAnbender) January 2, 2016
Honorable mention: That post route. De'Veon Smith finds a backside cut. Drake Johnson reverses direction on that draw. Treon Harris's ludicrous interception. Willie Henry eats a dude. Sione Houma befuddles a linebacker.
Utah: Crazy #buttdown.
Oregon State: #tacopunts.
UNLV: Ty Isaac's 76 yard touchdown.
BYU: De'Veon Smith's illicit teleporter run.
Maryland: Jehu Chesson jet sweeps past you.
Northwestern: Chesson opening KO TD.
MSU: the bit where they won until they didn't.
Minnesota: form a f-ing wall.
Rutgers: Peppers as Denard.
Indiana: Delano Hill seals it with a PBU.
PSU: Jourdan Lewis breaks their back on a kickoff.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
This week's worst thing ever.
There are eight months until the next game.
Honorable mention: Early defensive hiccups.
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
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.
OSU: the second half
[After THE JUMP: a run game! Three Amgios 2016.]
A running game emerges. Michigan's first drive started out with a lot of two-tight-end, two-back sets on which Michigan ran. They did this against a really really good defensive line, and things generally worked out okay. This was due in large part to a huge leap forward from the tailbacks. You know that thing all year where I've been like "why don't you go in the big hole?"
cavern to the bottom of screen
De'Veon Smith went in the big hole, and quickly. Ace and I had a discussion on the podcast about Smith seeming quicker, and while the time off probably helped with the various terrible things that have happened to Smith's limbs this year, I think that impression mostly stems from Smith making more decisive cuts rather than being physically faster. On this play Smith puts his foot in the ground on the very next step after the still above.
Counterpoint to my own point: that weaving zone run on which Smith pulled a Mike Hart cut in the backfield.
Drake Johnson was also very good, cutting decisively upfield on a zone stretch that Florida slanted to hard. His early touchdown was also quality, as he sprinted to the edge of the field and then cut just off of Mason Cole's butt to turn an iffy-looking play into a touchdown. (Joe Kerridge murdering a dude helped a lot, too.)
If those two guys play like the did in this game and Peppers gets his touches, Michigan won't have to rely too much on freshmen. I still think Smith is destined for a BJ Askew role where he splits snaps between fullback and tailback, so there will be more carries to go around than you might expect, but concerns about tailback next year are mitigated.
TOO PRETTY NOT TO COUNT
Number one. Jehu Chesson finishes the year with 50 catches for 734 yards. He puts an exclamation point on his season with a spectacular Citrus Bowl that features not one but two incidents were Vernon Hargreaves, consensus All-American and future first round draft pick, is set on fire and thrown in a dumpster. Plus he has a spectacular over-the-shoulder catch despite drawing a holding flag. Also he has a catch and run on which he is pulling away from the Florida secondary. Also the above.
If Pleasantly Corporeal Jake Rudock is around for the duration of the season he has three or four more touchdowns, approaches a thousand yards on the season, and is getting major preseason hype next year. Since that didn't happen he'll be Michigan fans' secret as he attempts to put his stamp on 2016.
Meanwhile in the aftermath of the game we have reports that "Jehu Chesson has his shit together" from his roommates:
“Pardon my French, but Jehu’s got his s--- together,” Johnson said. “Like if there’s someone on our team who really has their stuff together, Jehu has his s--- together.
And he told reporters afterwards that he wasn't even applying for the NFL for reasons that remind us that Jehu Chesson was 900 years old at birth:
“No I did not [ask for an NFL grade]. I don’t know why. I just – I don’t know if it’s just naïve,” he said. “It’s great to have individual success, but that’s not where I get happiness from. If I don’t play and I see other guys being successful, it’s great. If I can help the team win any way they need me, I’ll do it.
“Asking for an NFL grade – those who ask, great for them if they need to know – those who don’t ask, they have reasons for not asking, too. Mine is just I feel like maybe that day will come when I do ask or Coach will tell me. God works things out in his own timing, and whatever needs to happen will happen. As long as I stay the path, stay the course, and stay disciplined and hard-working, things will turn out.”
Chesson delivered on that.
Number two A and B. Butt and Darboh are no slouches, either. Butt looked incredulous when he dropped a ball, and for good reason: I have him for all of two on the season, and that includes catches in the moderately difficult category. He is always at least kind of open because he's 6'6" and can get separation against cornerbacks.
Meanwhile Darboh is capable of Avant-style catches, has excellent hands on non-circus catches, and has the kind of muscle he needs to get off jams and get into routes. He's not much of a deep threat except freshman MSU safeties, but with Chesson and Butt he doesn't have to be.
Number three. Something good happened to Grant Perry after a freshman year full of freshman stuff and Jourdan Lewis-style gypsy misfortune. Then some more good stuff happened to Perry; by the end of the game he'd acquired five catches, one of them a touchdown, and given an indication as to why Michigan thought he might be a find early in the year.
Having a fourth option that's reliable and can fill the Dileo role helps a bit next year; it's more important for 2017, when Michigan's top three targets all graduate.
Godspeed, fullbacks. Houma gets the hype because he's able to, I dunno, juke a Florida linebacker out of his jock, but both he and Kerridge will be missed. Kerridge had a terrific game; check any of the GIFs in this post and keep and eye on 36 and you will see him plowing a dude. Houma's dual-threat role makes you wonder what he could have done if Harbaugh was around for his whole career.
Cole is the man. PFF didn't like Michigan's run blocking much but a cursory rewatch suggests to me that Cole was very good all the same. He's been a terrific run blocker all year (something PFF generally agrees with; a few weeks ago someone asked about him on twitter and they noted he was their #2 run-blocking OT nationally), and while there have been struggles in pass protection against elite guys overall he's taken a major step forward.
At this point most people are projecting him to center. I am too, and I think he will be great there. He has the mobility, he's terrific on the second level, and he has the mental ability to step in from day one as a freshman and not get overwhelmed.
Well, that wasn't too hard. I don't have many takes in this department because Florida struggled so badly after Grier's suspension that many folks were barely relevant. I can't recall much any of the defensive backs did other than catch a pop fly.
A major split. I was irritated during Florida's productive period in the first quarter when we saw a lot of defensive line backups in the game, including Lawrence Marshall and Brady Pallante in what I believe were their first non-garbage-time snaps. They, along with Strobel and Godin, were not effective; the difference when the starters were in was stark.
This isn't much of a surprise when you're down three DL for the season, and Michigan started locking down on Florida's offense such that the DL rotation could largely cease by the second quarter.
No harm, no foul given the way the game played out but the split there was illuminating. Why was Michigan's defense so good early and faded late? They were 8 deep early and could have everyone give max effort on every snap. As the ranks thinned not only did Michigan have to deploy ineffective players in reserve roles but the starters had to marshal their strength and lost effectiveness. The main reason Alabama is Alabama year-in and year-out is because they go two-deep on the DL with guys like DaShawn Hand (remember him?), who got 16 snaps against MSU. 16. For the #1 recruit in the country.
Anyway, this is a huge reason why Michigan's 2016 defense is so enticing. If they give in to inevitability and play an actual DE at their WDE/buck spot their two deep is f-ing ridiculous:
- SDE: Wormley, Godin
- 3T: Henry, Hurst
- NT: Glasgow, Mone
- WDE: Charlton, and sure let's just say Rashan Gary
Shelton Johnson, Marshall, Pallante, and various freshmen are hanging out in the background.
This is also a reason I think buzz that Godin might not be invited back is faintly ridiculous—you need so many DL that getting rid of a guy you know can contribute is nuts. Godin is miscast as a DT and should be backing Wormley up, but he can be an RVB-type guy as an SDE.
Henry's decision. There is one hitch in the DL's giddyup for next year. Everyone regarded as a threat to head to the NFL early has declared an intent to return save Willie Henry. Henry put his name in for an evaluation and has not heard back yet:
"I put my (information in for draft feedback), but you know, I love playing with these guys. I really do," said Henry, an honorable mention All-Big Ten player this year. "I haven't (made a decision) yet, still waiting (on the feedback)."
Henry said he expects to hear back from the board soon, possibly next week. The deadline for early entrants into the 2016 NFL draft is Jan. 15.
I imagine that someone with Henry's raw power would be at least a mid-round candidate, so Henry has a decision to make. He can go now and try to parlay a second contract into a big pile of money or return and try to consolidate a spot in the top two rounds. Either makes sense for him personally.
Linebackers eh. Ben Gedeon struggled, bouncing off several tackles. He's a certain starter next year, and this is a concern. It's never good when you have a guy starting because the alternative is an umbrella, because you have no baseline he must be better than. While I thought Gedeon played well in his most extensive playing time (he played most of the Minnesota game) before the bowl, this was concerning. Other than quarterback, LB is the biggest question mark on next year's team.
Eh. Barely anything relevant in this game as Michigan punts once, hits a couple chip shot field goals, and nothing really happens in the return game for either team.
There were two incidents worth noting. Kenny Allen blasted his only punt 57 yards, and it probably would have been 70 if not for the end zone intervening. If you will recall, before he was a kicker he was the heir apparent to Will Hagerup. Michigan doesn't need to pick up an Aussie this year because Allen is likely a plus punter.
The other incident was Michigan snuffing out a fake field goal that was so obvious people could see it from space.
Woof. That was not a good television broadcast. Replays of penalties were infrequent, Mike Patrick got every Michigan player's name wrong at least once, and the above play is going to have such a snarky description in UFR. Limbering my fingers up to get it right and proper.
Mike Patrick has reached the stage where he's uncertain what's happening in front of his face and will probably end up retiring soon. So there's that.
Best: Dad Rocks
Before going any further, I highly suggest you check out Jake Rudock’s post at thePlayer’s Tribune. It’s all a good read, but one of the highlights is that Rudock’s teammates started calling him “Dad”, I guess in part because he doesn’t use social media such as Instagram and because he’s a bit older than the average player. Now, on on hand that’s sorta adorable that a soon-to-be 23-year-old is deemed an “old man”, and on the other hand really depressing because 23 was a LONG time ago for me. Anyway…
One of the things you so often hear fans throw about when discussing sport is the relative “classiness” of players and teams. If it’s your team, you usually view your players as “classy” guys who do it right, while your rivals tend to be degenerates or hypocrites, guys who don’t do it “the right way”, whatever that phrase means. And in most cases, it’s just BS, concocted to mask the personal validation fans place on the jerseys they root for, to bolster the divinity of wins and soothe the sting of losses.
But Michigan has been blessed recently with “good guys” at the QB position.
Honestly I'm surprised it's taken this long for sideline jersey proximity to throw up something like this:
— Trent Knaphus (@theBOX14) January 2, 2016
“We call ourselves ‘The Kingdom,’ we live in an apartment called ‘The Kingdom,’ ” Johnson said. “We stepped on the field today, and Jehu walked up to me and he goes, ‘Today.’ And I was like, ‘What?’ He was like, ‘We’re going to get all three today.’ ”
On the stage at the trophy presentation, Chesson wondered aloud into the microphone if the trio of roommates scoring might be some kind of record.
And while STATS LLC doesn’t keep those kind of records, the moment was special for the trio, which had fallen just short so many times this season.
There is a certain joy in watching your team pull away with a lead during its bowl game. Like much of this season, it was a joy rediscovered during the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl this New Year's Day. When Michigan got called for some pre-snap penalties, including a drive-extending illegal substitution penalty which led to what would be Florida's only score (and on a trick play, no less), it was a bit nerve-racking. You don't want to see the season end and new year start on the wrong foot. But then, a touchdown, an end zone pick, and a field goal and Michigan never looked back. Win with character, win with cruelty. It wasn't a perfect game, but it did not need to be. It was simply a well-executed game plan with improvement shown from the several bowl practices. Hooray for bowl practices.
OFFENSIVE CHAMPION – Hands down, Jake Rudock was the straw that was stirring the Michigan Offensive drink today. The turnaround in his play from the beginning of the season to the Citrus Bowl against Florida was remarkable. It brought to mind two other amazing QB head-turning performances that I can recall in Michigan Football history: Steve Smith in 1983 and Tom Brady in 1999. Once Smith had his harness removed from a separated shoulder earlier in 1983, #16 responded with three amazing performances to finish his career as a Wolverine. Tom Brady became Tom Brady in the last three games of his Wolverine career as well.
Performances against Penn State, Ohio State and Alabama showed everyone why Lloyd Carr wanted #10 to just wait for his turn for good things to happen. Can you imagine what Jake Rudock would be like after spending 3 or 4 years with Harbaugh and this staff? While we won’t see it with Rudock per se, I have a feeling we will see that metamorphosis with the next Michigan QB. Can’t wait! When Rudock was interviewed after the game by Dr. Jerry Punch and he informed #15 that he was only the second QB in Michigan history to throw for over 3,000 yards in a season, you could see Rudock get choked up – awesome! While he was the QB for just one season, Jake Rudock left an indelible mark on Michigan Football. Thanks for a great and memorable year to the guy his teammates call “Dad!”
One year ago, Harbaugh inherited a Michigan roster that was downtrodden, beaten up and sitting on its couch during bowl season.
Twelve months later?
Over the course of the past 367 days, Harbaugh's first Michigan football team began to take on the personality of its relentless head coach day by day, week by week, practice by practice and game by game.
Chris Bryant posted video from the locker room:
Posted by Chris Cinco-Ocho Bryant on Friday, January 1, 2016
"I'd say maybe even as close as right after halftime, we came out and scored and shut them down on defense," Wormley said. "You could see it in their eyes.
"You can tell when someone wants to quit, when someone doesn't want to play anymore. It's a good feeling, especially for a defense, step on their throats and be relentless."
"They just out-physicaled us," McElwain said.
Ric Flair congratulated Harbaugh.