Poor Rob

View from the Sidelines: On Jim Harbaugh's futile effort to praise Rutgers Comment Count

Ethan Sears November 11th, 2018 at 2:13 PM

I’m writing this — a football column on Michigan’s 42-7 win over Rutgers, in Piscataway — from the Crisler Center press box. And, well, the basketball game was more competitive. If you didn’t think it would be, you probably either overestimated the basketball team, or underestimated how terribly bad the Scarlet Knights are at playing football.


Jim Harbaugh tried his best to praise Rutgers after the game. He really, truly, tried his hardest. After being asked a question about the large contingent of Michigan fans that showed up in New Jersey, he turned it around to praise Scarlet Knights’ fans, and by proxy, the Scarlet Knights.


“Rutgers has a — that was a good — I thought their home fan base was really good,” Harbaugh said. “The team was really improved and competitive. That’s a competitive football team. They did as good a job of anybody at containing our running game and also really impressed with their young backs. And they run hard, those guys. Quarterback looked good, too. He made some real plays. That was a competitive game. Knew it would be, going in. We saw the way they played Northwestern. Saw the way they played Indiana. That’s a team that’s very close to breaking through and winning multiple games, consecutive games. Rob does a really good job with the team. Thought they had a really good plan offensively and defensively.”


Let’s parse this.


[After THE JUMP: Some parsing]


First, Rutgers’ home fan base is not good. Sorry. It’s just not. I’m from New York. I’ve had zero casual conversations about Rutgers in my life that didn’t center on how pathetic the Scarlet Knights are — and most of those have been with Michigan media or fans.


We’ll let, “their team is really improved and competitive,” slide on two grounds. The first is, it’s a low bar. The second is that last time Michigan was in Piscataway, it won 78-0. Technically, there’s some fact here. Same for the bit about the Scarlet Knights’ running backs — Isaih Pacheco broke an 80-yard run for Rutgers’ only real bright spot all game.


Then there’s this: “Quarterback (Artur Sitkowski) looked good, too. He made some real plays. That was a competitive game.”


That's generous, at best. Harbaugh, of course, can’t say the truth without causing controversy. Artur Sitkowski is having a terrible season, and played terribly in this game, going 8-of-19 for 40 yards with an interception. The game was over by halftime — and for Rutgers, that’s an accomplishment. This school should be shot from the Big Ten out of a cannon.


Harbaugh did, accidentally, let slip a little honesty within that long, winding quote. “That’s a team that’s very close to breaking through and winning multiple games, consecutive games,” he said.


Multiple games — that may be a glass ceiling the Scarlet Knights can shatter. In fact, they’ve already done it this season, beating Texas State and Morgan State. The next barrier will be losing to Kansas by less than 40. Then, and only then, maybe we’ll start thinking about the remote possibility of winning a Big Ten game.


Of course, the last part of that quote can’t go unmentioned. The allusion to Rob. Who is Rob? It seems that Rob is Rutgers coach Chris Ash, whose name Harbaugh simply got wrong.


Regardless of what Harbaugh says — of what anyone says — that shows just how much thought was put into this game by the Wolverines.


The scoreline? That shows how much thought they needed to put into it.


Remnar Soady

November 11th, 2018 at 2:25 PM ^

Twitter made the game sound competitive in the first half. So I stopped watching it and waited until I got home to watch on DVR. It wasn't close, it was a demolition. I think my Ferris State Bulldogs could take Rutgers at Top Tagart Field, well o.k. maybe not. Rutgers shouldn't be in the Big Ten. Delaney's cable subscribers,  aren't watching them either. 


November 11th, 2018 at 3:37 PM ^

Ever since Rutgers' entry to the Big Ten was announced, I have wondered what math was used to justify the decision.  Was the business case there to begin with, or was it built upon assumptions they expected, or hoped, to materialize?  Or was it made based on some non-quantifiable justification?  

Maryland I can kinda-sorta see if I squint.  Rutgers was a head-scratcher from the beginning.


November 11th, 2018 at 5:04 PM ^

At the time of the Maryland and Rutgers addition, all of college football was going through a kind of super expansion. There were concerns that the Big 12 was going to cease to exist. The B1G looked to expand it's footprint East and locking down the NY and DC markets was a good move on their part. I don't think anyone thought that Rutgers football would be this bad (they do have a win against Michigan),more likely, Northwestern every once in awhile rises, so maybe Rutgers can as well. It is still good to have that East coast market share. I think the B1G would love to pick off Virginia and North Carolina from the ACC to boost their East Coast footprint but that is a ways off. 


November 11th, 2018 at 11:41 PM ^

Conventional wisdom says Rutgers was added to expand B1G market share in NYC. The problem with that, though, is that by the time Rutgers was added, the Big Ten Network was already widely available on the most popular cable tiers and services in NYC (mostly because of Michigan, which enjoys a far larger and more loyal fan contingency in NYC than any other B1G school).  Given that, it’s hard to say how the Rutgers addition added anything at all. 


November 12th, 2018 at 12:07 AM ^

I think the justification for Rutgers was to offset the conference going to 9 games.

Hey BIG schools, we are going to go to 9 game conference schedules; but to make up for it...Rutgers.

More conference games mean more conference losses. That is not so much the case here. Lets look at week 4 of the season, if Week 4 is the first game of conference play the conference will go 7-7. If week 4 was last week of non-con a record of 10-4 to 14-0 would be expected, an average of 12-2. A difference of 5 (12 wins vs 7 wins) meaning the 9th game costs our conference 5 wins.

But with 9 games against Rutgers and a likely record of 1-8, so 8 wins for the conference, plus 5 other games to make 13. So adding Rutgers means there will be an average of 1 more conference win for every team other than Rutgers.


November 11th, 2018 at 3:01 PM ^

Rutgers is presently #133 in the Sagarin rankings.  A place no P5 team should ever be.  Beneath such storied programs as Wofford (#127), Coastal Carolina (#128), and Liberty (#130). (And for a little humility, the rank of the 2008 Toledo team that beat #95 Michigan.)



It's a close second to the futility achieved by 2013 end-of-season #157 Purdue 



November 12th, 2018 at 12:05 PM ^

Rutgers is very bad, no doubt.  But I don't feel like they're historically bad like that ranking suggests.  They may have been in September when they were blown out by Kansas and Buffalo, but they've been somewhat competitive in Big Ten play, losing one-score games to Indiana and Northwestern and by 14 to Wisconsin.  They competed pretty hard against us even if we ended up rolling.  It feels like Ash has at least gotten them to keep buying in.  Whether that's enough for him to keep his job, I don't know.


November 11th, 2018 at 3:44 PM ^

I think the answer to mystery is that Harbaugh mixed up his name with Rob Ash, currently head coach at Montana State. 

Why would Harbaugh think of Montana State's head coach?

Rob was the head coach at Drake University - at the same time when Jim was coaching at USD. Both Drake and USD were members of the Pioneer Football League.  So Jim likely coached against Rob Ash multiple times in league play. 


November 11th, 2018 at 11:47 PM ^

Rob Ash is no longer the coach at Montana State.  His name is Jeff Choate and this is his third year here.  Rob Ash coached here for like 7-8 years and did a pretty solid job.  I'm a Montana St. alum, we made the FCS playoffs like 3 three times in his tenure, pretty good for the recent history of the program.  Right now Montana State is 6-4 and has a huge rivalry game with the Montana Griz (The Brawl of the Wild) coming up on Saturday!  Go Cats FTG!!!

Indy Pete - Go Blue

November 11th, 2018 at 2:51 PM ^

Sitkowski’s stat line: 8/19, 40 yards, 2.1 yards/attempt, 1 INT, 0 TD, QBR 49.3

 Normally, calling that ‘looking good’ would be a flat out lie. But then there is the fact that he fared about as well as McSorley, Lewerke, and Hornibrook did against our D.  So maybe it wasn’t a backhanded compliment?  You decide...


November 12th, 2018 at 8:22 AM ^

Uhh, ESPN has his QBR as 2.1, which is still in line with McSorley, Lewerke and Horningbrook (3.5, 3.3 and 0.7).


if you are talking about Passer Rating, then Sitkowski did have a 49.3, which is close to Lewerke's (42.2) but well below McSorley and Horningbrook (76.7 and 73.5).


As an aside, Shea Patterson currently has the 3rd highest QBR for the season (85.3), and is on pace for one of the top 50 QBR for a season since 2004.



November 11th, 2018 at 5:32 PM ^

Forgive young Mr. Sears. He was writing that story "from the Crisler Center press box," so he had no one around him to provide him with the press releases, media guides and game reports from the Rutgers Sports Information Office that were distributed to the media at HighPoint.com Stadium in Piscataway.

Also, the piece must've been written at the time when the same people who've given us MGoBlog 3.0 took over the WiFi access at the Crisler Center, so the internet might've not been available at that time, and he had no time to access the Rutgers Football website before he posted the report. So, he missed the chance to check his facts and correct his error.


November 11th, 2018 at 9:01 PM ^

“....at Highpoint.com Stadium in Piscataway.”  LOL


Should your thoroughly pompous ass then not have said in the following paragraph: “...at the Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, Michigan”?    


Gosh, you must be “the media” that has some bone to pick with Sears.   Why else the arrogant comment?


November 11th, 2018 at 3:17 PM ^

Maybe JH was referring to their offensive staff’s Cory Robinson? I think he coaches QBs/receivers.

Then again it was politically a good idea to give Rutgers a little love, and to tell the committee that the game wasn’t as easy as it looked.


November 11th, 2018 at 3:21 PM ^

I understand the fans locally may not be happy with Rutgers and how the football team is doing. Curiously, as a UM Wolverine fan, I don't mind if they are bad. We have to play them every year in a division with OSU, MSU, PSU and a Indiana team that usually is at or above 0.500. It offers an every other year trip to basically NYC and a direct path to a rich recruiting ground. So why not?

1. The Scarlet Knights are better - simply because they now have at least three players on the team who could legitimately play for other Big Ten squads - heck even Michigan - RBs Pacheco and Blackshear and that defensive back Young.

2. They are not well coached - but that is OK - they soak up some so-called two star and three players who might blossom on a rival team but there they languish and won't end up hurting the Wolverines down the line. 


November 11th, 2018 at 4:27 PM ^

What basis do you have to say they are not well coached. Ash was considered a great coach at OSU. He and his staff simply not having the talent to compete at this point is equally as likely. PJ Fleck, a very good coach is only have a modest bit mote success and he started in a far better place (for example). 


November 11th, 2018 at 8:43 PM ^

I was actually fairly impressed with Rutgers.  You can see the emergence of “some” talent but my biggest takeaway was the effort they showed.  There was no chance they were going to beat Michigan but they never seemed to give up - something that would be easy to do in a 1-9 season.

I thought I saw more “want to” from Rutgers than I saw from tOSU in East Lansing this weekend.


November 11th, 2018 at 4:24 PM ^

Rob Ash is a former coach that Harbaugh is familiar with (Montana State at one point). He misspoke, and it is neither a big deal nor an insult.  

If he’s smart, he’ll drop one line at a press conference explaining that he misspoke.  But, in reality, that’s not necessary either.