Obviously another huge rushing effort. Can you talk about not only what your backs accomplished but the guys in front of them?
“Yeah, I mean, it was stalwart performances. Looked up at one point and the statistics looked like we were Air Force. I thought we were Air Force the way we were running the ball. Thought we were Western Kentucky back in the early ‘90s under Jack Harbaugh. But it was a great job. I’ve never seen that many plus-50 yard runs in one game, any team I’ve ever coached or been on. That was quite the performance.
“Karan [Higdon] and Chris [Evans] had spectacular runs. The counter play was really good to us today. The blocking was really efficient; great precision there by the line. Tight ends, very good. Really didn’t see any missed blocks in the running game. Probably always—never as good as you think it is, there’ll probably be a few, but I thought it was really good. Really good. The guys up front, I mean, that was a game for the ages if you’re an offensive lineman. Fullbacks, same. Receivers got in on the action. They were blocking as well. It was quite the performance rushing the football.”
In the past two games the running game has done very well, but are you concerned that the passing game hasn’t gotten more opportunities to shine and improve going into these last three games of the season, especially with two big games looming against Wisconsin and Ohio State?
“Well, we were running the ball so well. I think 10 yards a rush, per attempt. I mean, that’s pretty good. I’m sure if we had done it any other way you would have ‘But why didn’t you run the ball more?’ Probably would have gotten that question, right? Yeah. Just kept feeding the running game. It was working.”
Can you talk about what went into the decision to start Cesar [Ruiz] when Mike [Onwenu] was hurt and how he played?
“Yeah, we had a three-man competition during the week of practice at that position and Cesar won it, and I thought he played really well. Gave up one hit on the quarterback, a sack, but good to see him get that action. It’s been time for him to play now for a few weeks and thought he stepped up and did very well, and he earned it. He earned it in practice. Coach Drevno was—we were grading the tape after each practice to see who to play at that position and he won out and acquitted himself well.”
[After THE JUMP: Hudson’s punt block phase-out; bizarre refereeing elicits a sad trombone sound effect; and Jack A. Harbaugh, run game repairman]
When you’re watching the tape from last week and your first impressions tonight, is there a bigger reason that stands out to you why the run game improved so much over the past couple weeks? Have you noticed anything in particular behind this improvement?
“Yeah, it’s just gotten a little bit better and better and there’s precision there. I think the backs are doing a really good job making the blocks right. That was my impression watching the tape last week and tonight. The way they’re seeing things and cutting and making the blocks right, it’s impressive. They’ve been breaking out. Gosh, we got action. We got action again because the plays are blocked well and the backs are seeing it and making the appropriate cuts and finishing runs. It’s very impressive.”
Hudson seemed to be everywhere tonight, especially behind the line of scrimmage. Can you talk about his performance?
“What a game, what a game. Spectacular performance by Khaleke Hudson. Six-and-a-half tackles for loss, two sacks, a forced fumble. You’re right, it looked like he was everywhere. He really has strong hands. That really showed up in this game. He was everywhere he was supposed to be and making the sure tackles. And he’s a great guy. Works extremely hard and great to see it pay off for our team.”
What happened on that blocked punt?
“Um… I think he got ahead of it. I think he got ahead of the—I think he dove and got past the ball and the ball snuck around him, you know, so go back and look at it. It’s a fine line. You’re trying not to rough the punter but when you’re that deep in there maybe that’s the time to just go right at him, take him out and block the punt. Incredible job for him not to rough the punter but very unlucky to get past the ball like that is what I saw.”
You mentioned the counter being really good to you tonight. Seems like over the past month the power play and the counter have and you guys really turned a corner. When did that start to really turn the corner, when did you start to see that change, and when did those start to become again the foundational situation for you guys offensively?
“Indiana, we got the counter going again in that game, I believe it was. Yeah, power and counter and isolation and toss were working good tonight.”
Over the past few weeks have you seen it building?
“Yeah, yeah. Getting better and better. Probably when that started happening is when a guy by the name of Jack Harbaugh said ‘Why aren’t you running the counter more?’ I said, ‘Jeez, we need to run the counter more’ so we started running the counter more. The ol’ ball coach, Jack Avon Harbaugh.”
Speaking of your dad’s era, the last time Michigan had two tailbacks get 100 yards or more in consecutive games was 1975 and it was three straight games and it was guys that you probably idolized: Lytle and Huckleby and—
“And Gordie Bell.”
--Gordie Bell. What do you remember about those guys and touch on the significance of these guys doing that.
“Right up there with people that I think of as legends: Gordie Bell and Rob Lytle and Huckleby and Easy Ed Shuttlesworth. There was great fullbacks in those days as well. I think our fullbacks are playing extremely well. It’s great for our backs, great for Karan and Chris Evans.
“Talked about Chris a couple weeks ago, I think it was. He kind of was getting unlucky. He was in there for some of the plays that weren’t blocked right where we were making some mistakes. Good to see him get in there and get a good dose of when it was working, and he finished them and made some great plays. Great to see him having success.”
The run game’s gotten better and better in the last couple weeks. Why is it important for that facet to make these kinds of gains as you start November and you hit the heart of the schedule?
“We always look at it as it’s always important to have the good running game. There’s a patience to it. Some people would even say it’s a stubboness but just patience. Keep fine-tuning, keep working at it, and it pays. It pays big dividends, being able to run the football. Lot comes off it: play-action passes, boots.”
Can you evaluate Brandon Peters in his first start and he took a couple big hits in this game, and Quinn Nordin missing the extra point and a long field goal—is there something you can see he’s doing incorrectly there?
“Well, we thought he was going too fast. That’s what we noticed last week and then in practice this week we thought we had that corrected. And I think we did get that corrected. The missed extra point, he looked up too early and got his left hip in front of his right too much and pulled it left. I thought the long field goal, the 49-yarder, was a good hit. Just went a bit wide right. Just keep working at it. What was the first part of your question?”
“Oh, Brandon, yeah. I mean, he didn’t have a lot of opportunities. We’ll—he did, one of his impressive plays, couple of the hard hits he took, did a great job of seeing it just out of the peripheral and tuck the ball and not have a turnover. I mean, a lot of those kind of hits the quarterback gets dislodged from the ball.
“Only thing I wish I’d done is had him throwing a little bit more during the game. That sideline gets so tight but next week we’re going to make a throwing area for the quarterbacks. Throw more balls in between serieses. I think that was really the case tonight where there were so many plays—even the drives without throwing a pass because we broke off the long runs.
“Our time of possession was very low. We only had 15 first downs; usually not the case when you rush the ball for 300+. There was series where he didn’t throw a pass, so want to keep him more loose on the sideline. Going to have to create an area on that sideline for a quarterback to be able to throw between series. I think that’ll help.”
What did the official tell you on Metellus and why he got ejected?
“Said that… [scoffs]. Said that they ehhhhhh—really didn’t have a lot of logic to it.”
Didn’t seem like he threw a punch.
“No, it didn’t seem like he threw a punch but… I don’t know. Scrum. He said because there was a scrum that they weren’t going to lose control of the game and they’d make offsetting penalties, so… that was about the gist of it. My counter argument to that was a guy threw a punch. My guy stood in front of a guy. Maybe he shouldn’t have walked back in there. I told him that. I said, ‘Josh, you shouldn’t be walking in there like that.’ So… womp, womp. I guess that answers it.”