News bullets and other items:
- Drake Johnson is working through something minor.
- Jake Rudock had his best week of practice leading up to Northwestern.
- Higdon played because they had some “specialty runs” they wanted to use him for.
- On the rescinded targeting call, Harbaugh says they must have forgot to add the personal foul penalty. The refs also told Harbaugh they didn’t see the second player that landed on Rudock.
- Things Harbaugh is pleased with: His fullbacks and how much his team likes to work.
- The team’s physical play is helping them develop a “callus.”
What did you think of the two targeting calls, and will you appeal the suspension for James Ross?
“Yeah, we’ll take a look at them.
“I’m just really pleased with our team. All three phases had great success today: Special teams, starting with the kickoff return for a touchdown; defense, tremendous shutout; offense played really, really good football. Jabrill’s fielding of the punts…I’m getting less and less nervous about it. Did a nice job.
“So many factors. So many keys to the game, but the fellas really came out ballin’ right from the start and played a heck of a ballgame, so really pleased.”
Just talk about what a kick return touchdown like that does to spark your team.
“Does a lot. Does a lot.”
Talk about the play?
“106-yard return. The blocks were sharp and crisp. Timing was nearly perfect. 10 guys, 11 guys hustling and 10 of them blocking, blocking for Jehu and he got- he is the fastest player on the team. I know Jabrill said one of the fastest but he is the fastest, and he showed it today.”
Can you talk about this defense? Three straight shutouts for the first time since 1980. I mean, what’s the ceiling on this? Is this even shocking you, how potent this defense is?
“With a couple exceptions, we really shut down their running game. They got a few runs that got out, but not many so for all intents and purposes we were able to shut down their running game. Then coverage was- our guys were in the hip pocket almost every route, getting hands on the ball. They threw the back shoulder on Jourdan Lewis a couple times and one time he made an incredible interception. Looked like he got his arm in between the receivers arms and somehow intercepted it and took it back to the house. And then the pass rush was intense.
“All three of those phases were at the highest level today, and all working together. DJ Durkin and the defensive staff- tremendous week of preparation and called a near flawless game. That’s A++.”
[The rest after THE JUMP]
Can you give us some early thoughts on the matchup with Michigan State?
“Um…yeah. Tremendous opponent. It’s gonna demand that we’re at our very best. That’s gonna mean a great week of preparation and practice is in store for us, so move on. Move on even more quickly than usual because it is such a good, worthy opponent next week. We’ll be looking forward to it.”
For the run game, how critical was it to get De’Veon back, and what did Karan [Higdon] do in the last week or however long to be the guy you gave a lot of carries to and got in early in the game?
“It was good to have De’Veon back. We didn’t want to put too much on him, but he was running very well. Looked like he had no rust at all after being out a week. Looked really good.
“Our fullbacks are really blocking well. I haven’t talked about them that much, but Sione Houma, Joe Kerridge- they’re doing a great job blocking and running the ball. Some of these fullback carries…I mean, we cracked a couple today. Joe Kerridge had one and Sione had one. Doing a heck of a job in short yardage.
“Karan, he’s been coming and improving every day. Thought there was some specialty runs that he would be good at, and he was. And Derrick Green continues to assert himself. He’s running the ball harder and harder. Doing a nice job seeing lanes and dropping the shoulder pads, so it’s been good.
“Thought the offensive line was…again, they’re ascending, playing very good football. No turnovers. Very few penalties. Every which phase you look at was humming today, so that was good to see. Congratulations. That was impressive. Next. Onward.”
This is the halfway point in your first season. Have the players met your expectation? I assume you’ve been pretty demanding on them.
“Have they met expectations?”
“They’re doing a heck of a job. Said it many times, really every week, but this team likes to work. They enjoy each other’s company. Whether it’s meetings, whether it’s practice, whether it’s film study, lifting, etc., I mean, they like to work and get after it. That’s all you can ask as a coach.”
What was the explanation for not getting the targeting call on Jake Rudock. Did you think it warranted one in that situation?
“Yeah, the explanation was that they called targeting and it didn’t…maybe for got to put the personal foul penalty on it? That’s the only thing I can think of, but that was the explanation. They didn’t see the second person land on Jake Rudock as well. That was the other part of the explanation I got.”
Was it meaningful to you guys to get the shutout today?
Is that why all the defensive starters were on the field at the end?
“Some came out at the end on the last drive, to start the last drive. Substituted some defensive linemen. Yeah, very meaningful. Tried to figure out last week when was the last time we had three shutouts. 1980, we found out. But it was good.
“The most meaningful thing is that defensively really everything, all phases were good. We’re playing good on the back end. Playing really good in coverage. Linebackers. they’re involved in everything- pass defense, drops, rush. That level’s playing lights out football right now, and had a couple runs that got out a little bit but other than that we really shut the run game down. Pass rush, as we mentioned before, is really good. We’re getting some pushback. We’re collapsing the pocket. Thought we did a good job there. Every part of that phase- run stop, coverage, pass rush, pursuit- everything was really good. That’s the most meaningful thing is play good. Play good football.”
You mentioned no turnovers. When your defense is playing like it is, how difficult does it make it for the if you don’t give them the ball with field position and all that
“Yeah, we want to be on the side of…want to be plus in turnover margin. Did we get there today? How many turnovers did Northwestern have? Just one, so we’re not there yet. We’ll keep- we were a step in the right direction for sure, not turning the ball over at all today. Definitely a step in the right direction.”
Comment on Jake’s decision making and how he’s taking care of the ball?
“Yeah, really solid. During the week of practice he was playing his best football. Very confident. Played really good. Thought he would have a good game today; thought he had an outstanding game today. Could have seen it coming. He’s good in practice, good in games. Wednesday he had one of his best practices of the year, so we just keep building on that. He’s playing really good football.”
How would you describe your team’s level of confidence, both offense and defense at this juncture?
“I don’t know. I mean, execution fuels emotion [and] it fuels confidence. You’d expect that they would be confident, and they understand that- what execution does fell like. That’s…with good execution there’s good preparation. Probably the thing I’m most excited about with our team; they like that part of it and they like the work. Blue-collar way of doing things. So, we’ll be at that again this week.”
You were asked for your thoughts on Michigan State. For your guys, is it kind of a test to see how they handle this week? Surely there will be a lot of attention on this game. Can you gauge or do you have an idea how they’ll react to what this week’s going to be like?
“Every week’s a test. Win the next game. That’s always a big task and test.”
You don’t think this week will be different for them?
“I think they’ll do good.”
You mentioned all phases of your team playing well today. What about the physicalness of your defense and your offense? It seems to go in concert when you have tight ends and fullbacks, and your defense; how would you grade it right now?
“Good. I think we came out good. Good and healthy. That’s a good sign. You’re building a good callus. When you can play physical and not get beat up yourself, that’s a good gauge. Probably the best gauge. I think our team is…that callus is hardening. Like a callus on a foot. It’s not soft and puss-y. It’s hardening.”
Was Drake [Johnson] working through something today health-wise? He only played a little bit in the first half.
“Yeah. Yeah, he worked in there but he had a little something, yeah. I like it. ‘Working through something.’ You’ve got the language.”