Northwestern Postgame Presser 9-29-18: Jim Harbaugh Comment Count

Ethan Sears September 29th, 2018 at 10:36 PM


Things Discussed

  • The comeback
  • Shea Patterson's performance
  • The defensive shift from first to second half
  • The holding call against Higdon. Yes, there is righteous outrage.

[After THE JUMP: I still can't believe they won that game, honestly]


Coach, you had a big deficit to overcome and it culminated with a big drive, then punching it in. What do you take from your quarterback on that drive and just, the team as a whole?


“Well, that’s a lot of guys, really left it out there. Played their hearts out. Tested in the ballgame and had to show what we were made of. And, like what we’re made of. Starting with the quarterback, really, I thought he really, really stepped up big. Took the game into his hands in a lot of ways there, in the second half. Defensively, there’s gonna be a lot of people to single out, who played great. After the first quarter, our team really, really played tremendous defense. Allowed just over 100 yards in three quarters of football. So, lotta guys — Donovan Peoples-Jones, punt returns, everything, he was leaving it out there. Josh Uche, some of those speed rushes he had on the edge were huge. Chase Winovich, the entire ballgame, thought Rashan (Gary) really played great. We started getting our hands on some balls there, when we needed to, after the first quarter in the secondary. Hurrying the quarterback, and also the adjustments our coaches made throughout the game, especially after the first quarter and the first half, were superb. They were really working. So, hardworking night on the coaching side. Great to see Quinn Nordin make those field goals, we needed every point we could get. And also Kwity Paye, thought he really stepped up. Bunch of guys, Josh Metellus … lotta guys really showed their mettle tonight.”


Coach, how big was it for the defense to shut this team out in the second half, and given the huge gap in penalties, does in underscore just how tough it is to go on the road in the Big Ten?


“Penalties should be tough on the road? Tougher on the road than — Warde Manuel told me to let him handle that. No comment.”


How about the defense in the second half, shutting them out?


“Just great. Don Brown had some tremendous calls, a couple that really stood out, we got a free runner to the quarterback and that was big. Cause he was sitting in the pocket, he’s a big guy, was making some really accurate throws. Receivers were catching balls in tight windows. We started getting our hands on some of those balls in the secondary and we started applying pressure. That really helped us stop their running game, too. They played a hell of a ballgame.”


Talk about how your depth on the defensive line factored in, especially in the second half of the game when you were able to finish off so many of their possessions with sacks


“Yeah, it was really impressive. The guys in the middle, (Bryan) Mone, Lawrence Marshall, and then (Mike) Dwumfour would come in and he was really active all night. The ends, I think Chase had one of his better ballgames. Just the way he was flying around and hustling all night. I mean, play after play after play after play. Kwity Paye, also showed up, as I said, Josh Uche. Two of those speed rushes went fast and powerful. Good, Aidan Hutchinson got some time as well. I thought the linebackers were running good, making tackles. We missed a couple tackles on the first couple drives, but thought the tackling was really sound the rest of the ballgame.”


When a game — you get behind on the road like this, it can really go sideways. What can it do for a team when they can scrape together a win like this and prove something to themselves?


“It can do a lot. Like I said, talked about it at halftime. We were being tested, this is time to find out what we’re made of. And our guys really responded, and they were in a kind of fashion where nothing was — had to be done, it had to be made by players. I think coaches had some tremendous adjustments, but I said, guys like Shea (Patterson), Nico (Collins) stepped up and made a couple tough catches. And Karan (Higdon), thought he had a heck of a ballgame. Guys up front, really grinded all night. And got it done. Was a lot for a team.”


Jim, did you get an explanation on that holding, on the Shea run?


“Yeah, I asked for it specifically, just to make sure they didn’t come back later and say it was some other player. Cause they called it on 22, they called it on Karan, and so I asked the referee, ‘Go ask the side judge who he called it on.’ Just so it wasn’t some different explanation days from now. So he came back and said it was on the running back. Holding the linebacker. The whole stadium saw that the linebacker tackled our running back. It was a zone read. Faked it to the running back. Their linebacker tackled him, and Shea ran for 28 yards. Then they tacked on 10 yards for holding. Phantom call.”


Coach, you chose to receive instead of defer, is that gonna be a game to game thing just by feel? And then to what do you attribute the slow start offensively?


“I thought they had a good plan. They have a tremendous coaching staff, their players were playing good. Yeah, just, they were playing good, and we didn’t make the first downs on our first couple possessions. And then they made first downs, made drives, scored the ball in the red zone. They had a really good first quarter, both offensively and defensively.”


And then choosing to receive or defer, is that a game to game thing, just by feel?






You mentioned getting your hands on the balls. In their first couple possessions, they do that quick tempo, short yardage passing. How did you make adjustments to stop that?


“Yeah, just seeing the ball. Seeing the ball more in the air. Kinda made an adjustment in the coverage and kept the ally. Continued to dial the blitzes. They did a nice job. They were prepared, they did a nice job blocking our twists, so we countered that with an adjustment, and got home free three times. They were well-prepared coming off of a bye, that’s that kinda stat. … Great coaches and they were prepared — as soon as we saw that they were picking up that twist, we went to a different one.”


Jim, I know you mentioned a halftime challenge, the guys were being tested, about the same way Notre Dame started. You guys think you’ve grown a lot in those four games. What — at halftime, are you like, ‘We’re gonna find out now how far we’ve gone?’ What does this whole thing show you?


“Yeah, just, I mean, what you’re made of. When you take that out and continue to execute, you can execute better than what you did. So yeah. Pretty self-explanatory. Got the mettle, you know, got the gravel in the gut to win a game on the road, under tough circumstances.”


Jim, somewhat of a unique road game, where half the crowd is Michigan fans. You went in there down 17-0, they never let go of your team. Can you talk about that, how much impact that had on your team?


“Yeah, I think that was great to see, coming in and out of our tunnel, they were showing their support. And yeah, Go Blue, that’s what I say. It’ll be a happy flight home.”


Can you talk about Nick Eubanks’ contribution?


“Oh yeah. Didn’t I say him earlier? Nick Eubanks made the big play. That ball was in traffic, highly contested, Shea threw it on the back shoulder. Probably the only place it could’ve got completed. And Nick really showed great body control, and caught that ball. (Zach) Gentry as well. He made the big play for us, both those tight ends did a great job. And it was good. We adjusted. We were trying to hit that seam a few times a night and did. Quarterback was on the money.”


As you mentioned in that last quote there, Shea had to make a lot of tight throws late in the game. What can you say about his resilience late in the game?




What was different offensively today, especially in the first half, than the last three weeks? It was a good performance, especially in the second half, but what was less explosive than the last couple weeks?


“I’m not really comparing them to the weeks before. No question, did a great job … we really called a great game all game long. And the players played really well. And just found a way to win.”





September 30th, 2018 at 10:46 AM ^

Can a journalist with balls ask Harbaugh a tough question about how he's going to address the undisciplined play with so many penalties this season? 

Asking about the gap in penalties while playing on the road is such a cop out.  This is the sloppiest I've seen them play since Hoke Era.

snarling wolverine

September 30th, 2018 at 11:00 AM ^

How many of our penalties yesterday were really "undisciplined"?  I saw a lot of judgment calls (PI, holding) and some downright phantom calls (holding on Higdon, block in the back on a punt).  

Undisciplined play to me is more like procedure penalties, hitting after the whistle - stuff that's in our control to prevent. I don't think that's been all that big of a problem this season.  It's the judgment calls that are killing us.


September 30th, 2018 at 11:38 AM ^

I don't recall any undisciplined penalties last night, but we're kidding ourselves if we don't admit that Harbaugh's teams get more personal fouls than previous Michigan teams. They just do, and we have to clean it up.

That said, I think a lot of people are just frustrated that we get a lot of penalties at all. But that's going to happen because we run a blitzing defense with a ton of press man coverage. So, we'll get more interference flags, more holding flags, and more roughing flags than most. People will lump those in with the "discipline" penalties even though they shouldn't.


September 30th, 2018 at 11:49 PM ^

Boston College 2013-15 comes to mind.

The curious thing is that when Brown came to Michigan, Michigan's penalties actually dropped and B.C.'s stayed the same:


BC 6.5 penalties, 57.4 yards

UM 6.7 penalties, 59.8 yards


BC 6.9 penalties, 57.4 yards

UM 4.8 penalties, 45.6 yards


The big change came with Harbaugh's arrival, not Brown's. Michigan penalties nearly doubled from 2014 to 2015:


BC 4.4 penalties, 38.3 yards

UM 3.5 penalties, 31.7 yards


And in Brown's first year at BC they were fourth in the country in fewest penalties and fewest penalty yards.

Very small sample sizes to be sure. But also not what I was expecting to find.

Brewers Yost

September 30th, 2018 at 8:22 PM ^

Number of Penalties by year. I picked Ohio State and Alabama because many feel these teams generate some sort of bias.


UM-46, OSU- 42, Bama- 34


UM- 86, OSU-97, Bama- 70


UM- 63, OSU- 82, Bama- 86


UM-87, OSU- 75, Bama- 89

Data is more interesting then I thought it would be.I didn't include rank but nobody is good on this list.


September 30th, 2018 at 11:10 AM ^

You didn't think some of those calls were suspect? You also didn't think NW was allowed to hold on just about every pass play without a flag?

I rarely complain about the guys in stripes, but this game really was called very one sided.

The hold on Higdon was a head scratcher and had a huge impact in the game by killing that drive...


September 30th, 2018 at 11:26 AM ^

What exactly did you see that was undisciplined?

There was one false start. No late hits. No roughing the passer. No running into the kicker. Nothing extra curricular. No unsportsmanlike conducts. 

It was pretty much all judgement calls like holding and pass interference that seem to always be called one sided in our games. There’s not really much you can do about that and it really has nothing to do with whether the team is disciplined or not.


October 1st, 2018 at 3:05 PM ^

Cope I couldn't agree more on the PI in the end zone, and I am not a blinded fan...but that game, while we may have committed 90% of the 'CALLED' penalties, what bothers me is, did they need to call some of them, and if so, why didn't they call the same thing against Northwestern? And a step further, we seem to get called for PI, when a defender isn't looking back for the ball, MAYBE touches the receiver on some occasions, yet OSU is full on mugging, arm wrapped and pinning our receiver's arm in, hauling them to the ground before the ball is half way there...that is what bothers me more than anything, If you are going to call it by the book, call it both ways. Targeting is another...fine, protect the kids...but protect ALL of them not just ones which take a key defender off the field for one team...B1G officials are horrible. And it's not just one game sample...its' across the board in many instances.

snarling wolverine

September 30th, 2018 at 10:54 AM ^

[After THE JUMP: I still can't believe they won that game, honestly]

I don't feel that this outcome was fluky.  We outgained them by a 4-1 margin over the last three quarters.  To me it felt like a game that we'd inevitably pull out, but the phantom penalties gave me pause.


September 30th, 2018 at 11:31 AM ^

I was in the stands sitting with the players parents. Even being down 17-0 the general feel was it was a game we would win. They didn’t seem to be overly dominant and there were some penalties that increased their field position and extended some drives. 

It felt a lot like the ND game, although against a less talented opponent. It just had the feel of a game we would pull out


September 30th, 2018 at 11:57 AM ^

I didn't think it was fluky either, but only because we responded in a way that hasn't been seen in the team in a long, long time. We played hard, we played determined, we played as a team. Northwestern played INSPIRED ball on both offense and defense, you have to tip your hat to them, but we responded like the champions we aren't. Yet! Down 17 points and come back to win an away game against a team that always plays you tough, who does that??

Michigan does that, Go Blue! 


September 30th, 2018 at 12:06 PM ^

Agreed. I felt good most of this game. Thought when NW kicks the field goal to go up 17, I was hopeful we would only need 18 or more to win. Glad I was right. I do have to admit, I was nervous the last couple of possessions because it is football and weird stuff can happen. I’m super stoked for our team though. I’m glad the players get to celebrate a win and continue to keep their doors wide open. 


September 30th, 2018 at 12:38 PM ^

Same here. I was calmly (!) telling the team to:

'OK, sweet, you forced a punt; please don't run into the kicker...'

'Alright, you didn't get the first down. Please just catch this snap and get this kick off cleanly.'

'Nice kick, but long. C'mon coverage get downfield.'

'Please tackle this guy, no breakdowns in coverage.'

'Now sack this guy and end this game, don't even let him get a throw off.'

And they did all these things! Expert coaching on my part, if you ask me.


September 30th, 2018 at 11:00 AM ^

First off, incredible win. Gravel in the gut for certain. I loved Harbaugh's comment about why should penalties be any different on the road. He is exactly right. Same thing happens in hoops. Glad to hear that Warde Manuel will be reaching out to the Big Ten office, however I wonder how long they will have him "on hold" tomorrow morning. All we can hope for is equal and fairly officiated games moving forward, but I wont be holding my breath.


September 30th, 2018 at 11:40 AM ^

Wonder if NFL or NCAA is interested in developing an AI assisted officiating system, even it is not more accurate than human, it will be at least more impartial. Technically it may not be far reaching. Have each player tracked by designated video cameras, with the aid of wearable tracking devices, and signals can be processed in real time to check for different categories of violation in parallel. 


September 30th, 2018 at 12:00 PM ^

I wonder if we got that call in response to the no holding call against the Wildcats the previous series. That was big, it would have netted them a first down, but it wasn't called so they had to punt. That was such an egregious call, I'm thinking that had to be it.

- OR -

Coach told the refs to kick us in the balls, you know, to get ready for the Ohio State game...


September 30th, 2018 at 12:52 PM ^

Was thinking same. It was definitely a hold or interference or whatever that should have been called against us. I thought it was going to get called and was pissed when he grabbed that guy. He was 5 - 6 yards short of the first down and was one of those plays where you just tackle him as soon as he makes the catch.

But if the holding on Higdon was a makeup call, it was a horrible one. That simply isn't how it's done! You let NW get away with interference that might or might not have prevented a catch for a 5 yard gain. You don't manufacture a nonsense holding call that costs us 32 yards of field position.

These refs are so bad they can't even get make up calls right!

Goggles Paisano

September 30th, 2018 at 4:39 PM ^

Yeah I didn't agree with Joel Klatt on that one.  I thought that was a good no call.  

NW did have that defensive hold that went against them that tacked another 15 onto Higdon's big run in the 1st half.  I believe that was on our first TD drive.  There was no defensive hold IMO.  

But that Higdon holding call will do down as one of the worst calls in officiating history...on any level.  

Arb lover

September 30th, 2018 at 2:05 PM ^

If you read into his remarks a bit it sounds like they've been dealing with the NCAA "not dealing" with these issues for a while, and are starting to catch on to how to get by the first line of defense (that it was a correct call but on a different player):

“Yeah, I asked for it specifically, just to make sure they didn’t come back later and say it was some other player.


September 30th, 2018 at 11:05 AM ^

"...Warde Manuel told me to let him handle that. No comment.”

Well, we'll never hear another word about the officiating, and it will continue to not change.  Warde handles things quietly.  So quietly that we'll never even notice the change.  I'm sure the strongly whispered email goes something like this:

'Dear Mr Blandino,

As you may be aware, our team suffered a mistaken call last night.  Our RB, who did not have the ball, was called for holding.  Unfortunately, we believe he did not hold the LB.  Can you please be sure to ask the game officials if this was the correct call?  Thank you for your kind consideration.

---  Warde Manuel' (probably)

Warde is outraged, I tell you.  OUTRAGED!!!


September 30th, 2018 at 11:14 AM ^

Yup, I don't expect things to get any better with Manuel in charge. This is where we really miss having somebody like Bo as the AD. He would be raising holy hell at B1G officials right now. Forget the calls that are getting called on us, we are getting boned on calls not being made on opponents as well with non-holdings and no PI's like we saw against Nebraska. We are going to lose more games and probably half of that will be due to poor officiating.

Manuel might be THE biggest reason why we may not win another B1G Championship for awhile.


September 30th, 2018 at 11:34 AM ^

It’s seemed like that for the last few years really. Michigan has to be better than their opponent AND the officiating crew more often than not. 

Which isn’t so much a problem when you’re playing Nebraska. But when you have to be better than teams like MSU, OSU and PSU AND beat the officials too, it gets to be an incredibly difficult task. 


September 30th, 2018 at 11:51 AM ^

A lot of people seem to like to pile on Manuel for being a reserved person.  I don't think that's fair.  Fans love big, theatrical press conferences but that's not how most problems are resolved.  Usually it happens behind the scenes.

Bo was good for the theatrics in front of the press but did that mean he always got a fair shake?  1973 comes to mind.  Also, PSU was admitted to the Big Ten while Bo was AD - over Bo's objections.  


September 30th, 2018 at 1:01 PM ^

I concur. People with big egos of their own will take offense at being called out in public. Often, it has the opposite effect to what you're hoping for. I am with others here in suspecting there may have been a reaction to Harbaugh somewhat like this that is costing him: 'basketball' rules, sideline warnings, and whatnot.


September 30th, 2018 at 11:30 AM ^

What's with the Warde hate? I'm sure it's more complex than "my AD doesn't seem as outraged as I want him to seem"...but that's what it looks like from my perspective. 

Maybe, just maybe, every AD thinks that their team gets BS calls and has some evidence to back it up.

Maybe, just maybe, they've all figured out that the best way to air your grievances is NOT IN PUBLIC OR OVER TWITTER. 


September 30th, 2018 at 11:36 AM ^

I couldn't care less about public display of outrage. I only care about the results. We lost our B1G championship in 2016 because of homer refs that OSU featured. Things should have been fixed then. It has not gotten any better. We are not even getting our share of home game calls let alone away games. That is on Manuel. He is the only one who can fix this issue.