UNLV Postgame Presser: Jim Harbaugh

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on September 20th, 2015 at 12:00 PM



Guys came out and looked strong with the numbers they put on the scoreboard in the first half. Anything that comes to your mind that you can turn to and say, ‘Hey, here's some things we definitely need to work on’ now that the game’s done? Second-half performance seemed to be a little off compared to the first from what I could see.
“I was pleased with the way our team played. They did what we asked them to do, and that was take care of business. Started fast. That was a key for us in the game. We wanted to improve in that area, and we got our hands on the ball defensively. Our secondary players were breaking on the football, intercepting the football, and that happened on the first possession. UNLV put us in good field position.

“Our offense took the ball down, drove, and put a touchdown on the board with the pass from Jake Rudock to De’Veon Smith. So, a lot of good areas. It felt like we improved today as a team and got the win and yes, there will definitely be things to improve from, get better at, and coach, so all those things are positives.”
After last week why do you think the run game with De’Veon struggled a little bit, and how important is it that you can go to someone like Ty [Isaac] and spark that with a different back?
“That was a fantastic run by Ty Isaac. We didn't block it right, and…it was not blocked the way we drew it up. Missed a block. I thought it was going to be a tackle for a loss, and Ty did a real good job somwhow. He swerved, he avoided, he made a tackle miss, avoided another and was off to the races. It was the darndest thing I've seen in a long, long time but very good for us. Ended up being 90 yards on the drive and a 70-some-yard carry by Ty Isaac. That was good. I thought…

“It was a swirling wind. We struggled a little bit to pinpoint some passes. We had some guys open but didn't hit them. But, again, played pretty well. Pretty good, fundamental, solid football, penalty free– not completely penalty free, couple costly ones. But overall, yeah, I was pleased with the way the team played.”
What were your impressions of Jake Rudock today? He threw a pick. How concerned are you with five picks in three games?
“His job is to win football games, and as I said it wasn't an ideal day to throw. There was a swirling wind quite a bit the whole day. But yeah, thought he did a good job. Managed the game well and for the most part the offense was moving darn near every time we got the ball. And, as I said, there's things to get better at and improve from and coach, so a week of doing that.”

[After THE JUMP: “‘Satisfied’ is not a word I’m ever going to use. It’s never a word I’m going to associate with football.”]

Along the same lines, what's the level of concern about the lack of explosive plays in the passing game, and is that a receiver and quarterback thing still a timing issue at times do you think?
“Um, I guess I'm not as concerned with statistics as you two seem to be. We’ll just keep striving to get better in every area. There’s definitely some areas of improvement for our football team, which… I was pleased with.”
Talk about the depth you have at running back and [inaudible].

“Yeah, it's starting to define itself. Drake Johnson got back into the action today. That was good to see, I thought. All the running backs are really doing a good job not turning the football over. They are squeezing the football and protecting it. That's really good, going three games without a lost fumble from the running backs, so those are good things.”
Jim, just going back to the running game as far as – I know it's the third game of the season, but are you seeing the necessary progression that you want to see? I think you guys had 258 rushing yards, that huge run by Ty…are you seeing what you want to see right now, or is this still something that you're kind of figuring out what you have and what you can do with it?
“Well, when you rush for 250 yards, I mean, it's a good day. It's a good day running the football. But yeah, we strive to improve. When you can pick up a short yardage situation that's very, very important to do, get that done. There's things we got done. There's things we didn't.

“It was a good football team today. They had some good, big athletes. They’re well coached, and we knew they would be. I thought our team did a good job taking care of business.”
You talked about the takeaway early on the interception. How much does that kind of set a tone for the day and pump up your defense?
“It's huge. That’s something we were focused on to improve on and I thought our defensive backs responded. They were anticipating more, they were using their instincts better, breaking on the football. Taking good risks. You know, you can't just take risks all the time. You've got to calculate in a split-second if you can get your hand on a ball or if it's going to be a mistake to do that. So, taking a good risk and get pass breakups and interceptions, that’s good for us.

“We've got to have that or the offense has no fear when it comes to throwing the ball, so the more you get your hands on the football the tighter you make a quarterback’s throw, and the execution and timing’s got to be real good [mumbles]. Can’t just feel like they can throw it into your secondary with no consequences.
What is the fairest way to evaluate a quarterback? Obviously look at the win/loss, but when you look at the film how do you evaluate it?
“Yeah, everything that you're asking them to do, which is handle the ball every single play and move the offense. Throwing. It's management in the run game. It’s ball handling. It’s taking care of the football. Those things. Important things.”
Status update on Joe Kerridge?
“Yeah, we'll see. I think our fullbacks were really involved today. It was a good football game to be a fullback. Both Joe and Sione [Houma] contributed in the running game, not only blocking but they were carrying and catching balls out of the backfield. Both of them did a fine job, and we’ll see how serious the ankle injury is.”

Do you expect his role to continue to expand if he’s healthy?

“Yeah, that’s- they’ve done a nice job. Both our fullbacks, and Poggi too. It’s really…what would you say, fullback by committee? You guys like saying that about running backs, right? The more better players the better.”

Building off that question, you seem to be piecing things together at a few different positions; fullback [and] running back today. How do you manage that dynamic when you’re still getting a feel for how you want to divide things up in that kind of way?

“Uh…what are you asking?”

How do you manage between the different guys when you might play one for a while and then another for a while? How do you manage that dynamic?

“Yeah, just keep playing them. That’s what we do in terms of game plan. That’s part of game planning. Having a player you want for a play; we do all that ahead of time. That’s game planning. How to use everybody’s talent. Try to get as many people involved as possible. I think we’re doing a good job of that at multiple positions: receiver, running back, fullback, tight end.”

Is timing between Jake and the receivers in games, is that something that’s still developing?

“Uh…you saw something wrong with the timing?”

I’m asking if it’s something you’re satisfied with.

“‘Satisfied’ is not a word I’m ever going to use. It’s never a word I’m going to associate with football. It’s a confusing word. It’s like ‘comfortable.’ I just don’t ever associate it with football. We’re always trying to improve. Never satisfied. Never been satisfied, and there’s not too many players that are satisfied when it comes to football.”

So, happy? Happy would-

“Happy. Yeah, happy.”

Ryan Glasgow mentioned that he seemed pretty disappointed you guys didn’t get the shutout. He said there were some sloppy plays and that he definitely did not want to give up those points. What are your thoughts on that, because I remember after the Utah game guys were critical and you kind of stepped in and said they were being overly critical. Is Ryan being too critical of himself and the defense?

“I mean, I don’t want to…what?”

Sorry, that was kind of, uh…Ryan said there was some sloppy-

“Yeah, you want to get a shutout. Yeah!”

Are you-

“They played really good. They played fantastic football and darn near did get a shutout. UNLV’s got a vote in that, though. They’ve got a heck of a good quarterback and they’ve got some real good players and they made a couple outstanding plays on that drive.

“Give them credit. That was a heck of a football team. They’re going to win some games. Maybe a lot of games. We made one particular mistake that extended that drive. Linebacker lost leverage and extended the drive, and then they made two fantastic plays so…”

He used the word sloppy. Was he- do you feel like that was justified? Was he being too critical of himself? Do you view it that way?

“I don’t know. I don’t know what he was referring to there.”

The defensive line as a whole. I think he was saying they made some sloppy plays.

“Maybe ask him exactly what he meant by that.”

O’Neill hung another one inside the five and got a good rolling punt. Probably one he’d want to have back, but how much of a weapon do you seem him being over the course of this season?

“Well, so far, so good. He’s doing a really, really good job. Makes good, cool-headed decisions back there. Handles the ball well, and he’s got the ability to really pinpoint some of those punts. The wind factor; he seemed to have a good grasp of the wind. One went out of bounds, a 15-yard punt. I don’t know, do they have wind in Australia? Swirling- I don’t know from your vantage point, but it was pretty windy out there. It was tough to punt. It was tough to throw the ball. It was one of those type of games, but it was good because he’s figuring it out.”

You’ve been pretty clear that De’Veon’s been your guy the last couple weeks, from the end of camp until now. Is Ty’s performance something that can challenge De’Veon for the top spot now?

“I think we’ll play as many good players as we can play. Find roles to make them…try to put them in as many roles where they can be successful. It’s a team game. What are you trying to get at? Some divisive running back-”

Well, no. Just, can you envision-

“We don’t ever talk about any kind of running back controversy, just so you know, from here on out. Quarterback controversy? I’ll address that. Whatever you want to know, like who the starting quarterback is? I will talk to you about that. But when it comes to any other position, whether it be right guard or running back or safety, there’s no discussion about any kind of running back controversy-”

Can you envision-

“Right guard controversy!”


“That’s as clear as I can tell you. The more good players that we can have the better for our football team, and we’re encouraging that as much as we possibly can and the players are responding to it. I feel like when they get an opportunity they’re going to be hungry to make the most of it. I think that’s what you saw today with Ty Isaac and Sione Houma and some other examples as well. It’s a good thing for our team.”


Honk if Ufer M…

September 20th, 2015 at 2:06 PM ^


"Love his snarky sarcasm. I'd hate to be a reporter having to ask stupid questions all day ..."


So what are the intelligent questions you would ask and how and why would he answer them more meaningfully?

What is unreasonable about the things reporters want to know about? Would you just not have a press conference or have one without questions, since anything he doesn't want to talk about or gives snarky responses to instead of answers to is automatically too stupid of a question to be answered according to your analysis?

What is reasonable for a fan to want to know about and ask about? ( & therefore kosher for reporters to ask about) What is reasonable to question about coaching or playing, and why?


September 20th, 2015 at 7:42 PM ^

in public that will denigrate the performance of a player or divide his team. He will be candid when it suits his coaching needs to send a message, and he will downplay any issue or problems that fail to advance his internal agenda. He owes the public nothing but honest assessment, and he assesses that public response according to how its suits the benefit of his program, as he should. 

The expectations of his job is building a winning team and not compromising its ability to succeed by succumbing to the expectations of outsiders no matter what their intention in questioning or advancing a certain viewpoint about his methodology. You can accept what he does or not; he doesn't care. 

He is, in so many ways, a product of the Michigan football program he grew up under and lived while being coached by the legend he tips his hat to in that BTN spot. 

He will be as honest and candid as that approach requires, and less so when he feels it's a distraction or intrusion of team cohesion. 

Watching yesterday, I was impressed especially by the secondary play. I just thought it was an overall step-up effort. There was no more spectacular play than so many pass break-ups by Stribling and Lewis. The interceptions were obviously great to see. But it was the general effort that was more impressive because it was game-long consistent. That's what strengthens chemistry and builds confidence. 

And, you saw a group effort running the ball, with different guys making a contribution. That's how you build strength and generate cohesiveness on a team, when everyone feels like they are making a positive contribution to the team. That is what Harbaugh is doing. 

He doesn't care about numbers and scoring margins as long as his team wins and the guys are doing what they are being coached to do. What's more, why devalue an opponent you are competing against by denigrating their effort in order to placate or justify random criticism? It makes no sense because the coach knows if he does so, that response becomes an unnecessary headline that returns no favors. So he answers accordingly. 

And that's the way it is on the Michigan football beat under this guy. Take it or leave it. 

BlueSpiceIn SEC.hell

September 20th, 2015 at 12:28 PM ^

it's belief, effort and consistency.  He lives all of those things and the team that is here is 100% on board.  

His consistency in his message, beliefs and effort - gives the players nothing to question and something tangible to hang on and seek to achieve.  

He is going to make himself better and expects everyone around him to do the same.

You can only have success when you take that route,

It is awesome to watch and hear in a press conference.  


September 20th, 2015 at 2:12 PM ^

Great points.  Winners in life are Rare because it takes a special drive, committment and organization.  Im watching the shitty Lions right now...same old Lions... with another Retread Head Coach in charge.

Eventually I believe that Harbaugh will go back to the NFL after 7-10 years at Michigan and a couple National Championships....because he is driven for that Ultimate Prize which is a SB Ring.

It would be great if he could get the Lions to win a SB someday...because no one else can.

Gucci Mane

September 20th, 2015 at 3:08 PM ^

I agree Jim is driven for "that ultimate prize", however that prize is not a super bowl. Why would he want to be the next Sean Payton; when he can be the next Bo, or Yost, or Crisler ? Jim is after the ultimate prize, Michigan football imortilization, something that will be remebered forever. 


September 20th, 2015 at 12:56 PM ^

Ground game was NOT churning out yards.  It was a day of spurts and sputters.  They stuffed Smith on 4th down FFS.  They also gave up a 76?-yard TD run to Isaac.

It was one of those games where everything was off, but it didn't matter anyway.  Michigan has better athletes, and that was the difference.  UNLV is bad at football, and Harbaugh kept the players' heads in the game long enough to avoid a Hoke-esque scare.  That said, the team game was complete shit.  He's not going to throw these players under the bus when there is no bus to throw at -- we won, and the outcome was never in doubt -- but I think he'll have a very different tune to sing at the next players' meeting.


September 20th, 2015 at 12:56 PM ^

Man, he hates the press. And I love that. I will love it even if he never wins another game.

Why can't they just write about what happened? Why do they want to know future carry distribution between the RBs? Just write about the damn game. The narrative will he written when it is all over. Until then, it's just a series of games. Independent trials.


September 20th, 2015 at 12:59 PM ^

“Uh…what are you asking?”

I've been a reporter and host a podcast and I fully recognize how much harder it is than most people realize to ask intelligent interview questions, but way too many beat writers in Ann Arbor seem to be especially bad at it in these sorts of situations.

(That being said, I'd usually try to save my actual questions for 1-on-1s to keep other reporters from having the unique information that I wanted for the story I was planning on writing. But still.)


September 20th, 2015 at 4:05 PM ^

Drake is gonna figure in there as well. RB will be a decent position group, I think. All three are viable depending on opponent and type of runner needed. What's interesting is that Smith's strength/role can be partially filled by FB as well. I'm curious to see how it plays out with the three of them.


September 20th, 2015 at 1:03 PM ^

Not really a fan of the swirling wind excuse. This is footbal in the midwest.  The weather is only going to get worse.  Other teams are able to pass in these conditions.  I know he's trying to protect Rudock...but come on.

Mr. Yost

September 20th, 2015 at 1:11 PM ^

QBs without strong arms generally struggle in those conditions. They always say "wind is much worse than rain."

Connor Cook did well in the conditions, but I'm not sure we can point to a bunch of other teams. Really it depends on whether or not the QB has a strong arm and the type of offense you're running.

I get what you're saying...it's football and you have to play in the elements, but you also have to take them into account when making a judgement.