Slanted And Faceplanted Comment Count

Brian November 6th, 2017 at 12:12 PM

11/4/2017 – Michigan 33, Minnesota 10 – 7-2, 4-2 Big Ten


FACE TO FACE [Bryan Fuller]

Michigan has a new starting quarterback, a highly touted redshirt freshman who flashed potential a week ago. This week he got his first-ever start, completed some simple throws early, and then went home to have a cheese sandwich. Probably? Maybe? I don't recall if he continued playing after the first drive.

He probably did. Starting quarterbacks leaving the stadium during a game tend to make the news. I think I remember a hitch on third down in there somewhere, now that you mention it. But if Brandon Peters hadn't stayed around the result would have been little different, because Michigan's rushing game can optimistically be termed a Ground Assault now. Michigan assaulted a large number of Gophers on Saturday night. They did not battle or fight or contest Minnesota, because all those terms imply a certain evenness. They assaulted Minnesota, like a gang of Hell's Angels descending on a gaming convention. "Aaaaaargh, why are you still playing Settlers of Catan instead of something fun," screamed Michigan's running game, metaphorically. Also, I hope, literally because Catan is trash dot emoji.

I don't even have to subtract sacks to bring you a stat that's absurd: 10 yards per carry. Ten. One first down of yardage per carry. Also this:

In three weeks there will be a ripped from the headlines Law & Order episode in which Michigan is convicted of murder in the zeroth degree, because of this game. Ice T will accuse Michigan of being hopped up on Zebra Glitter and only be half-wrong. Michigan is hopped up on life, Ice T. Life and 60+ yard rushing touchdowns. And murder.

24323897138_6e18844989_z (1)


Touchdown murder.


And now for the lame bit: hoping this sticks. Falling apart at the end has been the fate of all excellent Michigan football things over the past decade or so. The 2006 defense. Denard Robinson's elbow. Chad Henne's shoulder. Last year's top 5 team. Michigan's pursuit of David Cutcliffe. All of these things ended poorly.

Also some less than excellent ones like Brady Hoke. And last year's passing offense. You probably don't remember this but this was the state of Michigan's passing attack after nine games last year:

  • Speight's 8.9 YPA leads the Big Ten by almost a half yard and is 11th nationally.
  • His 15-3 TD/INT ratio is second in the Big Ten to JT Barrett (21-4).
  • His passer rating is now five points clear of Perry Hills for best in the league and is 14th nationally.
  • He's fifth nationally in ESPN's QBR metric, which accounts for rushing yards and SOS.
  • S&P+ now has Michigan's passing attack third(!) in the country.

I wrote that and can barely remember it in the soup that followed. Michigan got ambushed in Iowa City the next week—though not as ambushed as Ohio State did on Saturday, amirite—and Speight got hurt at the end of that game. Since it's been somewhere between coping and total disaster against teams not named Purdue.

So it must be mentioned that the parking lots that were once Rutgers and Minnesota are very likely to be terrible run defenses, and Minnesota's was badly hurt by their injury issues in the secondary. Back when Harbaugh was hired I talked about his Stanford offenses, which went against the prevailing trends in college football by putting very big guys on little guys; here Michigan put no guys on the littlest guys. They ignored the Minnesota cornerbacks and saw that decision pay off with a series of comically bad attempts to execute a run fit. This kind of hamblasting is always equal parts you, the opponent, and luck.



If you're still waiting for the other shoe to drop, that is a well-learned tendency. I sort of am as well. The last two opponents did not have sufficient confidence in their secondaries to jam everyone forward, and they were probably correct to do so. Michigan's passing game is still almost totally nonexistent, and the two heavies at the back end of the schedule are going to make Michigan suffer for that deficiency.

Probably, anyway. Michigan has been steadily building to this for half a season and will continue refining now that they've put their foot down and become a thing. That thing is a semi truck careening wildly towards the end of the season. Maybe it will flip over in a ditch. Maybe it will careen right through a series of animals and trees until the thick paste on the grill is an unspeakable mélange of the defeated.




no no no no no no no no no[Eric Upchurch]

Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week

-2535ac8789d1b499[1]you're the man now, dog

#1 Khaleke Hudson. Michigan appears to have noticed what we did while taping the podcast on Sunday: Chase Winovich got credit for the sack on the intentional grounding call. They've fixed that and are now claiming 3 sacks and 8 TFLs for Hudson. The former is a solo Don Brown Hat Trick; the latter is a school record. So, yeah, that's good enough.

Gotta block that punt, though.

#2(t) Karan Higdon and Chris Evans. The backs edge ahead of their top blockers this week because they made a lot for themselves. Higdon ran through Cesar Ruiz on his first big run and set a number of others up with hard cuts after initial feints that bought him a second level block. For his part, Evans ripped off two 60+ yard TDs, the second one featuring a broken tackle near the line of scrimmage on an unblocked linebacker.

#3(t) Mason Cole and Ben Bredeson. Two gentlemen that did work on the opposition defense, consistently and ruthlessly. JBB and Ruiz narrowly miss because their pass protection was alarming.

Honorable mention: Mo Hurst did his usual Mo Hurst things. The rest of the front seven was impregnable on anything but a jet sweep. JBB and Ruiz and Kugler do deserve some recognition for their ground efforts.

KFaTAotW Standings.

8: Devin Bush (#1 Florida, T2 Cincinnati, T2 Air Force, #1 Purdue)
7: Karan Higdon (#1 Indiana, #2 PSU, T2 Minnesota).
6: Mason Cole (#1 Cincinnati, T2 Rutgers, T3 Minnesota).
5: Chase Winovich(#1 Air Force, #2a Purdue), Mo Hurst (#1 MSU, #2(T), Indiana), Rashan Gary(T2 Indiana, #1 Rutgers), Khaleke Hudson (T2 Cincinnati, #3 PSU, #1 Minnesota).
4: David Long (T3 Indiana, #1 PSU)
3: Ty Isaac (#2, Florida, #3 Cincinnati), Lavert Hill(#2 MSU, T3 Indiana))
2: Quinn Nordin (#3 Florida, #3 Air Force), John O'Korn (#2 Purdue), Sean McKeon(T3 Purdue, #3 Rutgers), Mike Onwenu(T2 Rutgers), Chris Evans(T2 Minnesota).   
1: Tyree Kinnel (T2 Cincinnati), Mike McCray(T2 Air Force), Zach Gentry (T3 Purdue), Brad Robbins(#3 MSU), Brandon Watson (T3 Indiana), Ben Bredeson(T3 Minnesota).

Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week

Uh... let's pick the first Evans touchdown, on which he broke a linebacker tackle and then glided into the endzone.

Fun fact: I always think "glode" is the right past tense of "glide" for one point six seconds.

Honorable mention: Higdon's enormous touchdown. The other enormous Evans touchdown. Enormous Higdon run that doesn't reach the endzone. Khaleke Hudson tomahawks the ball out from Demry Croft; Hudson tackles for loss like seven more times.


Quinn Nordin misses another extra point. What's the deal man? #collegekickers? Let's not #collegekickers. Let's not do that at all.

Honorable mention: Nordin pushes a 49 yarder just wide; Peters is thundersacked on third down on consecutive third quarter drives; Minnesota has a legitimate touchdown drive; rush is stopped for three yards. Hudson doesn't block that punt.

[After THE JUMP: oh also a defense]



hello nice to see you nice to meet you hello [Upchurch]

Ruiz starts but does not finish. With Mike Onwenu out, Cesar Ruiz got his first start at Michigan. This was filled with promise and peril, as touted freshman OL's first starts always are. Ruiz and JBB did their share of hammering on the right side of the line; Ruiz was at fault for Brandon Peters getting squashed flat by Minnesota's meatball defensive tackle.

Despite Ruiz getting yoinked after that it says something that Michigan went with him instead of Runyan, who's seen a fair number of meaningful snaps this year and was in contention for the right tackle job. If he's pressing for a job already hopefully he'll be ready to step in at center next year.

The other episodes of very bad pressure. First sack was a long-developing PA that saw nobody pick up an edge blitz; either Cole or Poggi was probably responsible. Then: JBB can't hold up, JBB can't hold up, JBB can't hold up, etc. Kugler blew a stunt on one thundersack; Ruiz thought he was getting a stunt and let a guy through on the other thundersack. Three sacks on 16 dropbacks is deeply alarming, except it's just how it goes.

Right, the quarterback. Brandon Peters had a few routine, efficient throws early and then Michigan's ground game obviated any need for passing. He did have a nice sidearm throw on a heavily pressured waggle, and then there were a couple misses that were pressure-affected. After the chop block call at the end of the first half he had Schoenle for most of second and 23 but couldn't fully step into the throw and put it wide.

Then he took the two thundersacks to open the third quarter; his next throw was a duck to the fullback in the flat. Michigan then ran until they were in third and six; he converted with a hitch to DPJ. A play later it was 27-7, and two plays later it was 33-7, and at that point both teams decided to grind it out and go home.

A man who does not do both. JBB features in the previous bullet point as a major problem with the Michigan offense, but it's not a coincidence that the rushing offense took off when he was inserted. He has been crushing people. He more than anyone else was responsible for Michigan's first long touchdown, as his ability to move the relevant DT about four yards gives Higdon enough space to run away from the cornerback:

He is an intimidating thumper of a run blocker. As a pass blocker he's an intimidating thumper of a run blocker.

One cut. Earlier in the year I complained about Michigan backs' tendency to be "zero cut runners." They've mostly shed this tendency; Higdon in particular made a series of sharp cuts to set up a block and ruin second-level guys. FOX's director (Rick again?) got a number of very useful endzone replays of Michigan's long runs that will feature in UFR. Upshot is: Higdon is now running on paths that take him outside of a block he has no intention of going outside of; then he plants and fires upfield, leaving guys in the dust.


nobody to block [Patrick Barron]

Gotcha. Michigan's first touchdown was an RPS play on which they went tackle over; with McKeon at "left tackle" Minnesota didn't account for him as a receiver, and the throwback screen was an easy six. The play before this was another new play, a fake pitch with McDoom running an intermediate route on a waggle type substance; that got called back on an irrelevant and fairly silly illegal man downfield call on JBB.

Chop block. Michigan was cruising towards another TD at the end of the first half when Patrick Kugler was hit with an illegal chop block call. He pulled, left the tackle box, and went low on a linebacker. That looked entirely typical to me so I asked twitter if anyone knew if or why this was a penalty. The responses: yes, no, yes, no, yes, no. Jake Long was rather peeved about the call:

If it is a penalty it's because you have to cut someone from the front—from 10 to 2 on a clock, they often say. This one's tough because Kugler is indeed cutting a guy in that zone if he's square to the LOS and it looks like the guy turns outside after Kugler makes his decision. It's the offensive equivalent of getting a targeting call because the quarterback slid his head into the strike zone.



like a bag of dirt [Fuller]

A year in a day. Well then: Khaleke Hudson. Hudson got a 99.9 from PFF after his record-setting day. This is good. It's probably not a trend. While Hudson was maximally effective in his role it didn't ask him to beat many blocks, at least not right away. All of his sacks saw him effectively forced way upfield, but good coverage and a lack of awareness from Croft gave him time to run around the edge of the track and still get there. A number of his other TFLs were corner blitzes where he got to go clobber the running back instead of contain the QB.

He executed all this to a tee; one particular TFL on Rodney Smith looked like it was going to be a missed tackle until Smith went down like a brick. He's established himself as a top-notch blitzer. Don Brown loves Hudson's blitzing so much that he was willing to put linebackers on the outside to keep him in the box. That is no longer possible, but if Michigan upgrades its athleticism at that WLB spot next year it may be again.

Gotta block that punt though.

Script and then done. Minnesota had some early success, moving the ball on their first two drives and getting a touchdown on the second. Once Michigan adjusted to Minnesota's new stuff—a couple edge pitches vaguely similar to the speed option that got Michigan against PSU and some slants were early successes—it was over for the Gopher offense. Michigan did take a bit longer to get the various jet sweeps defensed, but this is another game where the drama in the fourth quarter is whether or not the opponent will get to 200 yards. (Answer: no.)

Second start for Solomon. Michigan again spent most of the day in a 4-2-5 with Aubrey Solomon getting most of the playing time that had previously gone to Mone and Furbush. Solomon got blown out from time to time but also had a number of impressive moments where he won and discarded his guy productively.

Hurst's NFL draft reel is going to be 15 minutes long. He added another couple of candidates in this game, one a bull rush sack where he almost literally threw his blocker into the QB.


More like WHY-ldcat, amirite? I have no earthly idea why Minnesota thought that appropriating the Penn State wildcat thing would bring anything except pain. Save for one cutback lane that was coached out of the Michigan defense as soon as it occurred, it did not work for Penn State, and PSU actually had a real mesh point. Minnesota did not, and by the second half Hudson was ignoring the outside runner with impunity, because at no point was the handoff actually made.

Poor damn Tyree Kinnel. Minnesota tried the corner route to the slot receiver that everyone's been trying this year. Kinnel broke it up smoothly; Kinnel got a ridiculous flag. He's had some issues in other aspects of his role but the corner route stuff is a straight up curse. Kinnel did get a measure of revenge later by jarring the ball loose on third and goal and forcing a sad field goal.


Hill has been knitting a sweater the past month [Eric Upchurch]

Meanwhile, the corners. Someone asked me on twitter when the last time a corner was targeted and I could not remember. This is sort of my fault—the CBs gave up a couple of completions in this game—and sort of not, because other than that and like one pass against Rutgers they've barely been a factor the past couple weeks. Before that they wrecked Simmie Cobbs* and observed the rest of the defense getting immolated vs Penn State.

*[If you doubt he is good you should watch the UW-Indiana game, which I saw most of. Wisconsin's hoodie-bearing cornerback interfered almost constantly and got called 3-4-5 times; he should have gotten another couple calls. I have an irrational hatred for football players in hoodies, by the way. But I'm totally right about this.]


Seriously though. How?


FFS [Barron]

I guess that's why he got a 99.9.

Wither my dear sweet kicker. A missed extra point and a missed 49-yarder that just pushed wide at the last minute. What has happened to my perfect precious freshman kicker? Oh, the travails of the world. Fie!

Punt exchanges went poorly. Minnesota's Ryan Santoso spent most of the game hammering 50 yarders; DPJ got a couple of return opportunities but nothing huge resulted. Michigan got a chintzy hold call on a big DPJ return that cost them some 30 yards of field position, too.

Michigan's punting was not up to snuff. Brad Robbins just squeezed over 40 yards a kick. No returns, but the punts were so short you don't expect them.


PJ Fleck says things! So... uh... what?


A chip is a physical object that is a smaller bit of a larger physical object. You can put it on your shoulder. A crack, like a hole, is defined by the lack of physical object, and cannot be put on your shoulder. Also I don't even want to get into the difficult conversations for breakfast thing. Have a sausage!

Ejected for yellin'. Tyree Kinnel's innocuous, fairly dainty shove got a frustrated Minnesota OL to take a swing at him. Josh Metellus ran in like he was playing hockey and someone had whispered at his goalie... but he didn't actually do anything other than get in that guy's grill and inform him that he'd disappointed his mother. The ejection there was unwarranted, surely. Can you get kicked out of a game for saying bad words? Surely not, right?

Not that Metellus was saying bad words. I imagine he was telling the guy that punching someone wearing a helmet doesn't work. Because of the helmet, you see.

I would do this if I was a student manager. I would make a bunch of play boards and hold them up during the game. They would have nothing to do with anything, but 1) they would be awesome and 2) maybe someone would waste time trying to figure out the significance of the nonsense we're running out there. Related:



My version of this would just be stills from The Big Lebowksi, but that probably went without saying.

Jug security. Chase what are you doing


BAD NO BAD [Barron]

oh god Chase is the worst person to give the jug to



okay that's better, but still i mean it has a handle


Best and Worst:

Best: Rock

I swear I've written this analogy before, but I guess if it rings true there's no reason to deny it. Some football games feature a pitched battle between two teams trying to out-flank each other, to employ misdirection, counterplays, and true creative playcalling to attack their opponent's weaknesses and adapt to their counters. It's like when you open up the full Madden playbook and realize the hundreds of different formations and wrinkles to said formations that most teams possess. Brian has the RPS metric for a reason, and oftentimes you can determine who won or lost a game based on who got the upper hand in these sideline matchups.

And other times, you can just keep throwing Rock because the other guy either doesn't understand Paper exists or knows Scissors is all he's got. This game was a classic Rock fight.

Satisfaction index. Some penalty stats. RIP to AKGOBLUE97.


Baumgardner on the grind:

Here, Juwann Bushell-Beatty completely punishes a defensive tackle. Ben Bredeson has an easy kick out and an inside linebacker thinks better of challenging Khalid Hill head-on. The safety helps out with a bad angle and that's how you score a 77-yard touchdown power run without being touched.

Also with more quotes. Karan Higdon has a chance to be Michigan's first 1000 yard back since Fitz Toussaint. Jeez.

On Ruiz:

They held an open competition.

Three players took reps at the position, including true freshman Cesar Ruiz, redshirt freshman Stephen Spanellis and junior Jon Runyan, Jr, graded by Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Tim Drevno after every practice.

"Cesar won it," Harbaugh said. "And I thought he played really well."

Snap counts from PFF have a couple interesting bits: Lavert Hill is basically a full time starter with Watson and Long splitting time, and Solomon had a 2 to 1 snap edge on Mone. Maize and Blue Nation. We're #21. Jug photos from MVictors. Sap's Decals:

COACHING CHAMPION – Offensive coordinator and interior o-ine Coach Tim Drevno gets kudos for a couple of things: 1) Calling a good mix of runs and passes that were executed with little or no negative plays early when the game was close. (2) Having a short leash with some of the O-Linemen when Missed Assignments caused plays to break down. Playing Time is the biggest factor a coach has over his players. MA’s will greatly hamper your PT in a hurry. Hopefully the short leash will get their attention and reduce the numbers of MA’s going forward.

Congratulations: now you're a Rutgers fan. Hudson stuff. Evans and Higdon stuff.



November 6th, 2017 at 12:48 PM ^

The problem with Catan is that it suffers from what I call the "Avalanche Effect".  That is, whatever player starts getting an advantage in the early game will amost assurdly win the game.  Put another way, combacks are next to impossible.  (This is primarily due to the resources being acquired increasing the ability to acquire more resources, etc.)

A much better game is Cosmic Encounter.  If you haven't played it, you're missing out on probably the best board game of all time.



November 6th, 2017 at 1:55 PM ^

No, the real problem with Catan is the fucking 5 squares.  5's are rolled all the damn time as long as I have no presence on any of them.  As soon as I build on a 5, and especially if I do so at the beginning, they dry up completely and I get like one fucking sheep out of the deal.

(On a more serious note, I don't see the avalanche effect all that strongly.  As has been mentioned, people tend to gang up on the leader.  And it's more than possible to be avalanched with a bunch of resources that you can do fuck-all with, like some demonic combination of sheep, rocks, and wood, and you end up trading four for one so you can build a stupid road just to avoid having more than seven cards in your hand.  If you don't set yourself up with the right combinations, that's your fate more often than not.)


November 6th, 2017 at 1:10 PM ^

I'm tempering my expectations a bit because we have had a great running game against...Ruters and Minnesota, but still, it looked great.  Can't wait to see Peters throw the ball more.  I'm starting to think we can win the next two and make OSU a fight because it is at home and they are a bit overrated.  Other thoughts?  We still need to protect Peters better.

Wisconsin Wolverine

November 6th, 2017 at 1:55 PM ^

Catan occupies an interesting spot because it's lightyears ahead of, say, Monopoly, in terms of sophistication, but it is still accessible to casual players.  There is strategy, but once you figure out the optimal approach, it becomes pretty formulaic, and then it's almost like playing euchre, or blackjack.  You play the hand that will give you the best odds, and you ride it out.  The more serious board game player will soon find Catan to be too simple, and they'll move on to more complex (and time consuming) games, like Terra Mystica or something.  Or if you're like me, you retreat to even speedier and simpler games, like One Night: Ultimate Werewolf, or the lightning fast card game, Coup.


November 6th, 2017 at 12:29 PM ^

That holding call on the DPJ return brought back to the 9 yard line was insane. The call may have been right, but the hold occurred during the return at the 30 yard line. Should have been 10 yards from there, placed at the 20. Instead, they marked off 10 yards from where DPJ caught the ball. I've never seen that before.


November 6th, 2017 at 12:36 PM ^

During the announcement, he said the hold happened while the kick was in the air.  As a result, the enforcement spot is that little bean bag that the Back Judge throws when the receiver catches the punt.  As a matter of fact, that is the exact reason that the BJ tosses that bean bag--to indicate the enforcement spot of any penalties that might have happened during the kick.

But yes, you are right that the flag was at the 30-yard-line.  It's just the complicated enforcement spot rules that threw people off.


November 6th, 2017 at 12:53 PM ^

I thought I heard the ref annouce it occurred during the kick, but then the replay showed the hold during the return. Unless the refs were correct and the replay and announcers were wrong (again). But then yea, if that's the case then it'd be correct. 


November 6th, 2017 at 1:00 PM ^

It sounds, from what Mr. Pollard is saying here, that the announcers tried to justify the call by identifying something entirely different as the penalty.  Didn't watch on TV, since I was there, but this is a pretty common announcer behavior.

It's really amazing how often announcers misunderstand rules, misapply rules, and make up rules from whole cloth (e.g., "the ground can't cause a fumble").


November 6th, 2017 at 1:03 PM ^

Oh my, yes.  They do.  They showed the replay of that punt from an end zone camera on the big screen.  I saw what they called a "hold."  It might have been a block in the back, or it might not, but it was absolutely not a hold.  It was a hit, and the contact lasted less than a quarter of a second.  It couldn't possibly have been a hold.

So yes, the refs suck, but they identified the right enforcement spot for their completely made-up penalty.


November 6th, 2017 at 12:49 PM ^

I understand they don't have a camera on everyone, and also don't expect them to spend much time pointing out when officials make mistakes (e.g., every uncalled hold). Otherwise, there would be no time for analysis.

However, they did what I hate, which was *trying* to agree with the official when they had no evidence;paraphrasing Spencer Tillman, "You'll see on top of the screen, #25 comes in and makes a....block....that he should have....(trails off)" -- meanwhile, there is a) no #25 and b) nothing to see that is remotely wrong.

Then, I could not figure out for the life of me why the ball was placed where it was.

Pair this with the Metullus ejection for "fighting", and there were two completely mystifing calls.

Big Boutros

November 6th, 2017 at 12:34 PM ^

I loved Brandon Watson's reaction to Kinnel getting punched. You could almost hear him say "fuck your mother" in body language. I like seeing teammates that have each other's backs.


November 6th, 2017 at 12:36 PM ^

1) I love the player reaction in the Evans run photo.  They're pretty bored by yet another 50+ yard TD run.  One guy throws up a half-hearted "We're number 1" out of obligation.

2) I believe the Rodney Smith tackle might've been the one where Hudson tackled him by the junk, in which case I understand dropping like a brick.


November 6th, 2017 at 12:42 PM ^

against our o-line. 3 sacks on 16 dropbacks against MINNESOTA. We appear to have no idea, 8 games into the season, how to defend stunts. The running game progress is heartening, but the total and complete lack of progress on pass rush is the opposite of heartening, whatever that is.


November 6th, 2017 at 12:56 PM ^

I'm hopeful, or at least desperate, that the issue will get fixed next year. We have Kugler plus two true sophomore guards, and that might have something to do with it. Of course, we're hoping Ruiz will step in at center next year and he got housed on a stunt too. 

But, recall, last season our relatively unimpressive OL was handling stunts pretty well. It's the sort of thing that can come from experience, and I think one of the things the staff is trying to do this year is avoid moving guys around so much so that they can get that experience.


November 6th, 2017 at 1:02 PM ^

I could kinda understand in the beginning of the year, because the line makeup was new and few of them had much playing time. But in Game #8 to still be so shaky, it's very worrisome.

UM's line reminding me of watching the high school Canton-Belleville playoff game this past Friday. Canton runs the ball 90% of the time, and only pass to surprise/change of pace. Against Belleville (which has multiple Div 1 recruits), Canton got sacked something like 4 times on their 10 or so dropbacks -- and I mean sacked immediately, as the 2 or 3 Belleville players just caved in / zoomed around the OL and crushed the QB.

However, Canton still won the game, because their running offense is so good and they played opportunistic defense, so maybe that can work for us against Wisconsin and OSU.

But I'd rather not be making comparisons of our 300 lb, largely top recruit O lineman to a bunch of 200 lb high schoolers who will be playing nothing but flag football when they graduate.