Best and Worst: Minnesota

Submitted by bronxblue on November 2nd, 2015 at 11:02 AM

[Ed(Seth): Standard bump] 

Best:  Falling Back

In addition to Saturday’s game being on Halloween, it also fell on the last day of summer daylight savings time, when we set the clocks back an hour.  Colloquially, people call that “falling back” an hour, so you get another hour of sleep (well, for those of us without little children who apparently rise and fall based 100% on sunlight and morning cartoons) in exchange for earlier nights. 

For so much of this game, it felt like UM was falling back into the old rut that had formed around the program for nearly a decade. For years now, UM has shown an uncanny ability to fall apart as the season progressed, playing down to competition and letting one loss mushroom into more as the leaves and clocks changed.  Last year it was letting understandable losses to Utah and Minnesota submarine a game against Rutgers and, later, Maryland.  The year before it was blowing a winnable game against Nebraska following a demolition at MSU, which followed extremely close calls to UConn(!) and Akron(!!).  I won’t dredge up the RR years, but you can look up those late-season horror shows if you want.  And after the gut-punch that was MSU, UM fans probably shouldn’t have been as confident in a smooth bounce back by the Wolverines.

Certainly, Minnesota looked the part of a pushover.  The Gophers, down Jerry Kill at the top and a bunch of skill players from last year’s team, had stumbled into the game, losers of 2 of their last 3, including blowout losses at Northwestern (27-0) and to Nebraska (48-25).  They couldn’t really run the ball or pass it (take it away, Jim), had a defense that was scuttling a bit after being the bedrock for the team last year, and generally looked like a team that was playing out the string.  But it was also a night game, deep in the heart of Jerrysota, and it was being officiated by B1G refs, which meant that absolutely nothing should be expected to go the way it looked on paper. 

On UM’s first drive, Jake Rudock threw an ill-advised shovel pass to Peppers that was picked off, giving Minnesota solid field position that they used (with the help of another recurring element of this game, bat-sh!t crazy passing plays by Minnesota, this one a falling-down 31-yard catch by the receiver between three defenders) to score a FG.  Even though UM scored TDs on their next two drives, Minnesota just kept hanging around, scoring another FG and began to stymie the UM offense, forcing a punt and a fumble on consecutive drives.  And they continued to have amazing luck in the passing game, with Mitch Leidner completing a 52-yard TD that was both behind and inside his receiver in tight coverage, who then made Jarrod Wilson miss and scored.  Minny took a lead into halftime thanks to another nutters long reception, a sure interception that Dymonte Thomas instead volleyballed into the air, for a late FG, and UM was struggling to run the ball (45 yards at HT) or really get anything going in the air (after starting off reasonably accurate, Rudock was completing a bit over 50% of his passes for about 6 ypa).

[Hit THE JUMP to see how many straws we can grasp (hint: one)]

Michigan briefly took the lead to start the 3rd quarter but Minnesota came back to score on another big run by Leidner, and you could hear the moans from the ghosts of previous Michigan seasons getting louder every play.  Michigan was falling behind on first down and one second, falling behind an inferior opponent in the air, and, most importantly, falling behind on the scoreboard in the second half.

And then Jake Rudock took another in a series of rough tackles (including a clear roughing-the-passer penalty on UM’s first scoring drive that would have been targeting had human beings been officiating the game and not, I don’t know, drunk kangaroos).

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before – a game against Minnesota, a QB who takes a pretty bad shot to the head/shoulder region, and a queasy feeling as a couple guys on the sidelines try to frantically warm up.  While last year at least UM had a known quantity off the bench (the just-displaced starter Devin Gardner), this year highlighted the general idiocy of the Hoke/Borges regime’s view at QB depth: namely, there wasn’t any.  We’ve all heard that Morris was being looked at as a potential redshirt (though there is an undercurrent of talk that his time at UM is short regardless of his playing time this year), so it meant Wilton Speight was the only realistic replacement for the rest of this game, as you better be damn sure that the UM sideline took Rudock’s helmet and locked it in the same room as the Jug. 

So Speight trotted out, dropped back to pass on 3rd down, and proceeded to rather badly miss his target. 

On UM’s next drive, Speight continued to look lost, running in and out of semi-clean pockets and missing badly on a couple of passes.  We were all thinking it, and then Brian said it.

Michigan was falling back to 2012 against Nebraska, when a freakish injury to Denard briefly ushered in the Russell Bellomy era because Brady Hoke had moved one of only two semi-reasonable backup QB options to WR.  And let’s not forget, this guy hadn’t learned his lesson from the year before, when Robinson had gone out against MSU and Hoke brought in Gardner to sadly predictable results.  This felt like yet another game where the mistakes of UM’s past doomed them to lose another winnable game, falling into the same holes they had made years before.

And to make matters worse, the previously stout defense was flailing about, repeating the same mind-boggling foibles we’ve seen, from dropped interceptions (I counted at least 3, maybe 4 depending on how you viewed a couple of breakups in the endzone by Thomas and Wilson), formerly-inaccurate QBs threading balls between the microns of coverage by the cornerbacks, and usually reliable players like Morgan and Wilson basically forgetting how to tackle or cover receivers.  Hell, on the last Minnesota drive we all witnessed what was an RR-special; a 3rd-and-17 conversion on a short screen where two LBs, including Morgan, completely whiffed on sure tackles. 

So with all this bad juju floating around this game, you’d think history had basically preordained another disappointing loss.  But at the same time as UM was struggling, this is also Minnesota, one of the more snake-bitten teams when they play UM.  Remember 2008, the year everyone erroneously believed would be the most disheartening in their lifetime following this team?  Well, that was the year a broken, beaten UM team walked in Minneapolis with their walk-on, backup QB Nick Sheridan at the helm and crushed a pretty good Gopher team 29-6.  Or how about 2003, when UM was down 28-7 heading into the 4th quarter and rallied to win 38-35.  I mean, UM holds a 74-25-3 record in this rivalry, and unlike against teams like MSU and OSU, Michigan has continued the dominance in recent times, winning 11 of 13 contests since 2001.  So while UM was flailing about, repeating mistakes of past years, history was also on their side somehow, someway that they’d still pull this game out.

I’m not sure what Jim Harbaugh told Speight before he took the field on his last drive.  After the game Wilton told the field reporter that Harbaugh always prepared his backups to step in and that he told him to just play his game and take what was given to him.  And on that last drive, he seemed far more poised, more confident with the ball in his hand.  After turfing balls and missing receivers earlier in the game, Speight confidently threw strikes to Butt and Hill to get the ball down the field, then converted on a 3rd-and-10 to Chesson in the endzone for the go-ahead score.  Needing a 2-point conversion to push UM’s lead to 3, Speight surveyed the field, bought himself some time stepping up into the pocket, and zinged a nice ball to Darboh. 

Then the last drive occurred.  Like most of the game, you couldn’t quite tell how Minnesota was doing it, but they moved the ball in spits and spurts down the field, mixing a combination of pin-point passes with missed tackles and bad coverage (and a healthy dose of questionable refereeing) to the 23 yard line with about 20 seconds left.  At this point, you figured Minnesota would settle for a FG and overtime.  But to their credit, they called a nice pass play that led to Stribling being beat to the corner by the perfectly-Minnesota-named Drew Wolitarsky for 22 yards and the apparently go-ahead TD.

But it wasn’t to be. In what must be the upset of the century, one of two late-game reviews of men and knees went UM’s way, putting the Gophers at the half-yard line but, more importantly, with a running clock on the set. Seemingly still waiting for their 2015 copies of the rule books to arrive in Minneapolis, the Gophers wasted a solid 17 seconds trying to get a play off, throwing an incompletion with 2 seconds left and leaving everyone expecting a tying FG attempt. But in what I assume was both a homage to their coach and a sense that this would be the best opportunity to win this game, the Gophers went for a TD on the legs of Mitch Leidner.

This is how UM responded.

That was the game.  The defensive line didn’t fall back behind a bruising Gopher push, instead drove back the invaders at their doorstep and brought the jug back to Ann Arbor.  And while I am guilty of hyperbole as much as the next guy, it was these last two drives that (hopefully) drove away those ghosts of the past and shook off the lingering stink of ineptitude that lingered over UM like a fart in church.  Despite being outgained by over 150 yards, constantly let down by crazy tips, injuries, and offensive struggles, UM found a way to win this game.  And in the process, they became bowl eligible and remained, ever so slightly, in the race for the division title.  It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t really all that fun to watch, but it was another win in the history books.

Worst:  Duck Tales

 

You look at the stats on the paper and Jake Rudock had (what is sadly for him this year) an average performance; 13/21, 140 yards, 6.7 ypa with a TD and a fluky-ish INT.  Not setting the world on fire, but that type of line has proven to be good enough for a lot of wins this year (even when one of those wins wound up not happening).  But at the same time, it’s gotten to the point that there must be an injury that is severely impeding his throwing motion, as his mechanics seem terribly off.  While I agree with the announcers that Rudock has shown a good deal of poise and toughness in games (including in this game after getting lit up a couple of times), he’s not passing the ball so much as throwing it.  Anything beyond 10-15 yards downfield and it looks like he has to load up and use his whole body to the ball there quickly.  I know people will argue otherwise, but he looked much better last year at Iowa, and I’m doubting that a 5th-year senior under Jim Harbaugh’s tutelage would regress this much without a major physical component.  I doubt we’ll hear anything until the end of the year, but with 5 games left in the Rudock era at UM he barely looks like the player everyone expected when he showed up. 

Speight looked competent out there once he settled down.  I know it’s one drive, but his go-ahead score showed a decent amount of poise in the pocket and more mobility than I expected given his size and recruiting profile, and while he doesn’t have a cannon and watching Rudock this season has probably dialed down my sense of speed, Speight got the ball where it needed to be quickly and ahead of the receivers more times than not.  I’ll believe Al Borges successfully identified a viable QB prospect when it actually occurs, but right now Speight at least looks semi-competent as another option in the passing game.

Going forward, I still think this is Rudock’s position until he plays out of it, but Speight showed a little more from second-string than I expected.

Worst:  Can Anyone Run the Ball?

Another week, another uninspiring performance running the ball.  Michigan finished with 127 yards on 34 carries, which clocks in at 3.7 ypc.  After breaking 100 yards in 2 of the first 4 games of the year, De’Veon Smith has barely cracked 100 yards combined in the past three games even though he received the lion’s share of the carries over that period.  He pulled up with what looked like a ankle injury on UM’s final drive, but I’m not sure how much of his struggles are due to physical limits and how much is due to blocking/poor running. 

Drake Johnson led the team in rushing this game and looked like he did toward the end of last year; competent with the ball in his hands, capable of following blocks and making the types of cuts that seemingly no other back on the roster can/will consistently make, and still a bit of a liability as a blocker on passing downs. 

Everybody else in the backfield kinda sputtered along.  Isaac seems stapled to the bench after his earlier fumbling issues, and Derrick Green is just being thrown out there for a carry or two.  Chesson has his customary sweep that picked up a nice gain, while Peppers was given multiple carries in the “Wild Wolverine” (or, to eliminate redundancy, “Wolverine”) formation, resulting in a couple of FDs and his first TD of his career. 

Going forward, I assume Johnson and Smith will split carries for the rest of the year, but even with the caveat of improved opposition I’m not sure what to make of the team’s continued inability to consistently move the ball on the ground. 

Meh:  Treading Water

I’ll be quite interested in seeing how the offensive line grades out this week.  On the one hand, they only gave up 2 sacks and 6 TFLs total, but UM also struggled to move the ball for stretches of this game and Rudock took some big hits again.  I thought Cockran for Minnesota was able to get some pressure on the outside, and the team’s struggles running the ball can’t be completely on backs not running to the right holes.  A couple of times in this game you’d see a TE or lineman just whiff on a block or target the wrong defensive player, including a couple early Smith runs where he had to fight to even get back to the line of scrimmage.  At the same time, when Peppers had the ball on a couple of those direct snaps I thought the whole team blocked pretty well, especially on his TD run.  So it’s not that it was a bad game by any means, only that against a less-than-stellar defensive line UM couldn’t seem to impose their will in ways you’d hope to see this late in the year.

Best:  Catching the Damn Ball

In a game with only 170-ish passing yards, it’s hard to say anyone in the passing game played great, but it was still nice to see Chesson pull in his first two TDs of the year and both Darboh and Butt figure more in the passing game.  A week after being held to 4 yards on 1 catch, Jake Butt had 4 catches for 38 yards, while Darboh added 7 catches and caught the successful 2-point conversion. 

Chesson getting a couple TDs is nice, and I thought ball placement (especially by Speight) improved somewhat for him.  He’s never going to be a stud receiver, but Jehu should get favorable matchups against Rutgers and IU in the next couple of weeks.

All that said, it is still super depressing that between the two starting WRs on a competent P5 offense, they have 4 TDs and under 650 yards total.  Of the many bad things that happened against MSU, the fact they couldn’t complete anything deep hurt was a reason they didn’t emerge victorious, and I’m not sure how UM is going to score enough points against PSU and OSU unless they (and the playcalling) take a step forward.

 

Best:  Worth the Wait

So for the first time this year, UM really integrated Peppers into the offense.  While the results weren’t perfect, he absolutely added a dynamic element it has been lacking for large chunks of the year.  He just made plays faster than everyone else, even if the end result wasn’t much better than other playcalls.  His TD run was great because he just bulldozed the Gopher safety(?), and while the direct snap runs were progressively less successful you could still see Minnesota freak out on each one; at some point Peppers will keep the ball and throw it (like he tried near the goalline in this game), and someone will be wide open.

Beyond that new wrinkle, he remained a terror in the return game, giving UM nice position on their second TD with a 41 yard punt return (that would have been a TD had Peppers run around the punter) and another 43 yard return on a kickoff.  He also broken up two passes, probably saved a TD (or at least a FD) with an ankle tackle of Leidner on the last drive, and generally played like the star he’s morphing into.

Worst:  Morgan’s Bad Time

Not that any of the linebackers particularly covered himself in glory in this game, but Desmond Morgan had a pretty bad game against Minnesota.  He was beaten a number of times in coverage, missed the tackle on the 3rd-and-17 conversion that kept Minnesota’s final drive alive, and just seemed a step slow or a block late all game.  To be fair, I thought Ross, Morgan, and Bolden all had bad plays that ceded large chunks of yards, but Morgan has always been the one assumed stalwart of that trio, the boring guy who always makes plays.  But Minnesota ran at him and he didn’t always respond well.  My assumption this is a one-game aberration, and it wasn’t like he was terrible, but this defense absolutely relies on that front 7 to be able to stop the run and contain the medium passes without help, and that means the LBs need to be at top form. 

Worst:  The Secondary save Lewis and Peppers

Again, I don’t want this to come across as overly critical of the team generally or certain players specifically.  Yes Minnesota put up 461 yards against this defense, but it really was due in large part to a couple of big pass plays on nice playcalls and a heaping pile of luck.  Like I said, there were at least 3 balls that should have been picked – the tipped long completion in the 2nd quarter where Thomas had the ball in his hands, Leinder’s first big pass that landed in the hands of the Minnesota receiver on the ground and not the 4 Wolverines standing around him, and a late ball in the endzone where both Lewis and Wilson were surrounding KJ Maye.  And I’d argue that the long TD catch was so inside and short that had Clark turned around he’d have pulled it in. 

Leidner also threw the ball into some incredibly tight windows, especially against Lewis late in the game, and those are the types of plays you assume aren’t made by a guy with a career completion percentage hovering around 55%.  The catch by KJ Maye on 4th down could have gone either way (I assumed that however it was ruled on the field would be upheld), but that was an NFL throw into great coverage.  Not much you can do there. 

Still, both Thomas and Wilson missed tackles that led to bigger gains (Wilson absolutely whiffed on that long Leidner TD), Thomas also dropped a pretty easy pick that he popped up to the Minnesota receiver, and Stribling nearly gave up the winning TD pass.  And when you give up 317 yards in the air to Minnesota, it isn’t all just bad luck.  It’s been two weeks now that non-Lewis parts of the team have struggled in the passing game, and you have to wonder if other teams are going to start attacking the Wolverines through the air even more as the running defense remains pretty stout.

Best:  That Wall

Even though Minnesota had a decent game on the ground (166 yards at 4.1 ypc), I thought the defensive line played really well.  Most of the time, Minnesota’s offensive line couldn’t generate much of a push for the backs, and it was missed tackles by the LBs and good effort by the Gophers that led to bigger gains.  And while they only recorded 2 sacks, Leidner was under consistent enough pressure that in another world where curses don’t exist on defensive backs he likely would have thrown a couple of picks.  And on that final drive, they not only crushed the pocket on the penultimate pass attempt but also stuffed Leidner at the line, preserving the win.  Glasgow and Hurst in particular submarined that play as soon as it was snapped, and Henry was also instrumental in holding up the point of attack.  Just as I am interested in how the offensive line scores out, I have to think it is another banner day for a couple of defensive linemen.

Couple Quick Hits:

  • A Worst to the Minnesota defense for again taking a head shot at a UM QB. I don't think it's premeditated, but at some point you have to wonder how one team has taken multiple targetting-ish shots at different QBs. The roughing the passer hit on Rudock looked a hell of a lot like last year's Morris hit, with the crown of the helmet hitting his chin. And while the hit that knocked out Rudock wasn't egregious, UM has been dinged for worse this year. If the goal of these types of penalties is to protect defenseless players, they should be enforced at least consistently.
  • Again with the piss-poor refs. It's just getting insane right now. Beyond the missed targetting calls and a couple of holds, they nearly called a roughing the passer call on Ross's sack because, I don't know, a UM player's knee kinda glanced Leidner's helmet. Even the announcers couldn't see where the penalty was. Luckily the flag was picked up, but the fact that they'd even consider throwing a flag in the first place is jarring enough. At some point you assume the conference will step in and acknowledge some of these missteps.
  • Finally, a Best to Blake O'Neill, who came back from...you know... and booted a couple of nice punts, including a 61-yarder and nearly coffin-kicked Minnesota deep in their endzone had Thomas (?) kept the ball from bouncing into the endzone. It was nice to see him bounce back, as UM will need him to be this sharp in the rest of the game on the schedule.

Next Week

It’s Rutgers, a team that needed a miracle comeback/collapse combo by IU to get their one conference win and haven’t looked all that competitive otherwise.  I can’t see a world in which they are all that competitive, but I’d have said the same thing before this game.  Still, it’s the last home game before The Game, and you have to assume UM will be more focused and looking for revenge after Gary SuperNova last year. 

Comments

Blue Durham

November 2nd, 2015 at 6:03 AM ^

On defense, the linebackers have been the weakest link.  With all of the game film of this defense out now, I think teams have a better idea how to attack it.  The defense has been great all year, but there are chinks in the armor.

The offense still is what they have been.  But I now have to wonder if Speight has now come along that he adds that down field threat that the offense needs so much.

EGD

November 2nd, 2015 at 9:21 AM ^

Nice work this week. I think your take comes the closest to my own feelings on this game. I was watching it in a sort of disbelief, not really convinced Minnesota could actually beat us until Rudock went out. Then I just sort of numbly stared at the screen, thinking it was going to take a turnover to win. When Peppers couldn't reel in that INT on the screen pass, I was like "that was our chance, oh well." There was an offensive series toward the end where Butt, Deveon Smith, and I think one other guy all went out with injuries on successive plays--by then I already figured we were going to lose and was just hoping no more of our players would be injured. Even when Minnesota somehow ended the penultimate play with only two seconds left, I didn't think we were actually going to win--just stood there with the remote control in my hand, waiting to turn the damn TV off as soon as Leidner inevitably plunged the ball ahead for the .0003 yards he needed.

When he didn't make it, I just laughed hysterically. Thing is, the whole time the game was going on, it was trick-or-treating hours here on the west coast. While the rest of my family was out trick-or-treating, it was my job to stay home and pass out candy. But our house is on a hillside and kind of hard to spot between some of the trees and other buildings, so miraculously we got zero trick-or-treaters throughout the game. So as soon as it ended, I took the bowl of candy out onto the sidewalk and started gleefully handing it out to passers by. I don't think a I would have done that if Leidner had made it. Good of our DL to think of the children.

LBSS

November 2nd, 2015 at 11:58 AM ^

Loss would have caused me to: Say good bye to the friends who were over at my place watching the game, retreat to my bed, and lie in the dark until taken by the sweet release of sleep.

Win caused me to: Shout a great deal, put on my Halloween costume, and join those friends at a party.

IncrediblySTIFF

November 2nd, 2015 at 9:41 AM ^

Re: targetting

Rudock (and all quarterbacks) have got to learn to keep their chin down.  Those helmet to facemask hits do a lot less damage when your back and neck is able to absorb the blow instead of being pushed against the natural shape of your spinal column

ST3

November 2nd, 2015 at 9:50 AM ^

Yes, I made a few jokes at their expense, but I'm withholding criticism because they didn't call us for being in the neutral zone on that last play. I counted roughly 6 wolverine helmets on the wrong side of the ball. But after swallowing their whistles on the blatant hold that Harbaugh and I were wigging out about, they swallowed their whistles on the last play. Hey, at least they were consistent, sort of.

bronxblue

November 2nd, 2015 at 10:32 AM ^

Yeah, it was kind of obvious, but if they aren't going to call offsides when MSU lined up in the neutral zone lst game, I kinda doubted they'd decide a game with a similar call here.  But yeah, it was still atrocious refs, even if it did work out for once for the good guys.

charblue.

November 2nd, 2015 at 11:11 AM ^

Michigan didn't get the holding call on that other play because when it gets down to winning time the officials do not want to be cause and effect of happenstance victory based on book enforcement. It comes down to integrity in calling a game but that is why, for a far better example, nothing was called on the final play of the Duke-Miami game which resulted in conference suspension of that officiating crew.

I mean the final 19 seconds of that game were a Minnesota catastrophe anyway and Michigan survived.

MGoStu

November 2nd, 2015 at 12:33 PM ^

I've always gotten the impression that refs don't often call that because when the centers grab the ball to adjust it, they always move it forward a few inches. Rightfully, the line of scrimmage doesn't change because they do that.

PowerEye

November 2nd, 2015 at 1:14 PM ^

It looked to me that the Minn center moved the ball forward a few inches when he took hold of it and settled in for the snap (which is typical, and never called). If you start the replay at a point before Minn comes to the line, you can see him do it. The neutral zone does not move even if the center stretches out the ball a little.

snarling wolverine

November 2nd, 2015 at 3:49 PM ^

We were lined up legally.  Their center moved the ball forward, which is a snap infraction (although rarely called).  The ball had been spotted at the half-yard line.  If the refs strictly enforce the rulebook, it's a five-yard procedure penalty on Minnesota.

 

Erik_in_Dayton

November 2nd, 2015 at 10:14 AM ^

...I'll add another quick hit:  James Ross made a huge play when he jammed the receiver Minnesota intended to throw to on their second-to-last play, making sure Leidner's pass was incomplete.  It was supposed to be one of those hey look the TE is wide open on the other side of the field goal line plays that so often work, but Ross saw that and made sure the TE didn't get where he was meant to be.

Sten Carlson

November 2nd, 2015 at 10:27 AM ^

Re: Holding Calls & Targeting

For the life of me I cannot understand how it is that the refs seem completely unwilling to call holding on the opposing OL when it seems on every pass rush one of them (or more) have their arm arcoss the Michigan a Michigan rusher's chest in the "classing holding position."

I wish somone would do a cut-up of this in stills.  It's uncanny, and I've been seeing it year after year going back to Mike Martin and RVB.  Yet, it seems everytime they show a Michigan OL getting flagged for holding it's that "classic holding position" and the announcers say, "yep, there it is ... holding."  It happened over and over against MSU, and last night I found myself continually screaming, "HOLDING!!!!" at the TV in both games, yet no flags were every thrown.

Similarly, and perhaps more conerning due to the danger and the obsessive emphasis CFB claims to be putting on the call, is the uncanny disparity between targeting calls for and against Michigan.  I know this has been discusssed ad nauseum elsewhere, and I don't really want to debate whether the hit on Rudock was or wasn't targeting -- personally, I think it falls within the rule as a foul, but I can see how it might not be called.

However, something is going on here that stinks to high heaven!  I don't think an opposing team has had a targeting call against them going back to last season's LBJ game and the hit on Shane.  No calls at all, despite a double hit to the head while Jake was sliding where they picked of the flag (against Oregon State, IIRC), and then two helmet to helmet hits last night.  It would be bad enough by itself, and might not raise suspicion were it not for the TWO softest targeting calls and ejections I've seen in any game all year that went AGAINST Michigan.

I just don't see how it's possible to have that level of disparity written off as either mistakes or ineptitude -- its just NOT possible, IMO.  There is no doubt in my mind that if a Michigan player hit Leidner like they hit Jake our player would have been flagged and ejected.  It's beyond frustrating, and getting to the point (as I said) where I am very suspicious.  I really hope Harbaugh and Hackett do their due diligence at some point here and bring something to the B10 and ask for an explanation.

Eye of the Tiger

November 2nd, 2015 at 11:06 AM ^

Totally agree--this one had shades of bad losses during both the RR and Hoke eras, when we'd collapse after the midway point of the season (after the false promise of a quick start). The fact that we won feels like evidence that that the 2008-14 nightmare is truly over.

Sent from MGoBlog HD for iPhone & iPad

snarling wolverine

November 2nd, 2015 at 3:57 PM ^

I think we need to stop asking for shutouts.  To get even one in a season is tough.  We unbelievably got three in a row.  It helped of course that we played two freshman QBs (BYU, NW) and a backup (Maryland).

Rutgers' offense is respectable when Caroo is healthy.  He's as good as any WR we'll face, and it will be tough to completely hold him in check.  If he's out, as he was Saturday, we can dominate them.

 

kevin holt

November 2nd, 2015 at 11:11 AM ^

"Leidner also threw the ball into some incredibly tight windows, especially against Lewis late in the game, and those are the types of plays you assume aren’t made by a guy with a career completion percentage hovering around 55%."

Unless you're Connor Cook (career completion percentage: 58%). And on some of those throws, I could almost swear Leidner had channeled Cook. It WAS MSU's bye week...

bronxblue

November 2nd, 2015 at 12:33 PM ^

Yeah, I got into the same argument with people two weeks ago about Cook.  Personally, I can see why he plays great in college but why I'd be nervous of him being a top draft pick, but at least with Cook you've got a guy who throws the ball downfield a bit more (8+ ypa versus 6.5-ish ypa for Leidner).  But yeah, it was infuriating to watch another guy who accuracy issues just throw NFL-level passes against really tight coverage.

pdgoblue25

November 2nd, 2015 at 11:27 AM ^

This team was in full blown win one for the gipper mode.  Throw in every single bounce going their way I'm just happier than hell to get out of there with a win no matter ugly it was.

kevin holt

November 2nd, 2015 at 11:32 AM ^

I really hope Rudock is okay and that any injury wasn't to his head. But if he's had multiple concussions this year (since targeting doesn't apply to hits against him), I think he might want to think about hanging it up. I would really hate to see it, but going to med school having had multiple concussions the prior year would be really terrible.

SallyMi

November 2nd, 2015 at 11:33 AM ^

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CompleteLunacy

November 2nd, 2015 at 11:36 AM ^

Your summary basically mimics my own, and yeah, it's probably a bit overstated, bit it's hard not to notice. 

To me, Michigan exorcised many many demons on Saturday. Ugly as it was, this win may prove to be the first real turning point in the Harbaugh era. Because every single demon converged on the Wolverines in this game, and while it was clearly having a negative effect on their play (I mean seriously, the D is better than that), they still found a way in the end.

 Let us count those demons that had to be overcome:

  • The demons of the MSU game. This works on a couple levels. First, the refs weren't nearly as bad as two weeks ago, but it is still noteworthy that Minnesota got a majority of those 50-50 calls (and seriously, at least one of those hits was blatant targeting...contrast that to the almost personal foul becauase Leidner got "sacked too hard" or something that got picked up where I was just SCREAMING MAD...even though they picked it up it just left a bad taste). Second. Leidner hitting every single pinpoint pass, and a few not-so-pinpoint passes that still inexplicably worked. That felt like a hangover from the MSU game, and clearly the D was impacted. You could almost see them thinking "why the hell does this keep happening?!?". That 4th and 5 catch...I mean, what in the actual fuck. It was a fantastic catch, props to the receiver...but why the hell is our opponent continuing to make these next-to-impossble catches, multiple times per game?!?
  • The demons of last year's Minnesota game. Oh hey look, our QB is knocked out on a questionable targeting hit that goes uncalled, and once agian we have to rely on a backup QB, who looks unprepared. Uh oh. And hey, Rudock might be concussed. ...Except this time, Jim harbaugh was there. Apparently hitting Speight a few times in the chest woke him up. And this time, it was hard not to notice the potential for concussion, and all necessary medical steps were taken on an obvious injury. That was nice to see. A bad situation for once was not made horribly worse. It was actually mitigated. 
  • The demons of 2012 @ Nebraska, and general QB ineptitude. Speaking of losing the starting QB and relying a backup to lead a comeback in a road game at night in front of a wild and energized crowd...
  • The demons of Hoke road games past. This is more of a generic demon. Hoke couldn't win a road game unless it was Indiana or Purdue or Uconn. Minnesota is definitely the type of road game Hoke was famous for losing, while his team fell apart on the field.  At times on Saturday, it felt like a Hoke-coached team all over again.

 

Btown Wolverine

November 2nd, 2015 at 11:43 AM ^

When I heard about Kill's retirement...I felt really bad for him. He seems like a great guy, and he's obviously heartbroken.

When ESPN showed Leidner carrying the Jerrysota flag the first time, I thought that was a nice gesture and I can tell they love their (former) coach.

When ESPN continued to show the same Leidner clip, and addressed Kill's retirement every freaking commercial break I LOST MY MIND. Enough, ESPN! He's just not coaching any more; he's not dead. Stop trying to turn football into a soap opera. I'm glad ESPN is going bankrupt.

Rant over. I hope Coach Kill was able to see all of the tributes and that he finds a fulfilling new vocation.

bronxblue

November 2nd, 2015 at 12:36 PM ^

Yeah, it was weird after a while because sure it sucks Kill left, but Minnesota was still a team UM was playing and, well, they weren't all that nice yesterday.  There was apparently also some rought chants going on during the game in the stands.  I think the assumption is that people from Minnesota are nice little midwesterners but that team plays quite a bit meaner than you are portrayed by the media, it seems.

jmblue

November 2nd, 2015 at 4:08 PM ^

Yep.  Minnesota's had a reputation as a dirty team for some time; its OLs have been notorious for chop-blocking going back to the Mason years, and its defense has engaged in a lot of head-hunting.   I feel bad that Kill had to retire for health reasons, but I didn't like the garbage his teams pulled.

 

dragonchild

November 2nd, 2015 at 11:43 AM ^

It was going to happen eventually.  Sparty gave Michigan their all because they always do, and Minny was all in "win one for Kill" mode.  For two straight weeks, Michigan has had everything going against them.

But this was going to happen at some point.  Despite all the HARBAUGH hype, I think coaches expected the same thing as the fans -- he'll make the team competitive, but it's still a Hoke roster and thus a project.  I don't know if the Northwestern game changed anything because Sparty was next and didn't change anything (you can't be more focused than "I'd sell my family into slavery if it helped us beat Michigan"), but sooner or later, this will be normal.  I'm sure some people have forgotten since Michigan had slid into mediocrity, but for most of history, every opponent had Michigan inked on their calendars in blood.

grossag

November 2nd, 2015 at 1:29 PM ^

"Best: Falling Back": As a parent of young children, I disagree with this one.  We thrive on routine and when routine is disrupted, chaos ensues!

BlueHills

November 2nd, 2015 at 11:54 AM ^

I think a few factors were in play. First, Minnesota played inspired football,with great effort, and had some incredible luck with interceptions that never meterialized, and their receivers and QB played out of their heads. 

It happens.

Second, I think our guys may have bought into the predictions for the game, and thought that all they had to do to win was show up. That only inspired the Minnesota team to greater effort.

The important thing is that they are learning how to win tight games on the road and play to the end. That's something that Hoke and RR's teams rarely did.

Even if the team goes 9-3 this year, they're meeting many fans' most optimistic expectations, and there's still a chance for 10-2.

But I did almost have a heart attack during the game.

 

WeimyWoodson

November 2nd, 2015 at 11:57 AM ^

Positive side; most of us are surprised at the turn around we have seen this year from the team.  With the expection of better qb play, is this what we are going to see going forward from Michigan?  Or will they make a quantium leap like OSU where they just keep winning (might be a bit different since Urban took over a good team in a time where the confrence is/was pretty stinky, plus got incrediably lucky time and time again.)

Negative; it shocks me that with the exception of Drake some of the times it seems like the running game has been terrible.  Green/Smith/Issac(who has hardly played) are getting next to nothing.  No one can find the hole, and I'm sure Wheatley is pulling his hair out.  This does have to deal with a lot of loading the box knowing the qb can't hit a wr.  

It drives me nuts that we have potentially a 1st team All American TE in Butt and they are not running enough plays to target him.  Rudock hit Butt for a great double covered td against Utah.  Just throw him the ball and have him make a play.  I feel like he will make more plays then not assuming you can get the ball near him.  Same with Bunting, haven't seen much of him either recently.  

With the woes of not being able connect on a pass more than like 18 or what feels like 5 yards it seems like the offense will have plenty of 3 and outs against OSU because teams are showing all you need to do is load the box to stop the run and basically that shuts down Michigan's offense.  I am really hoping we get a Cook or after Saturday night Leidner level game with Rudock against the bucks otherswise its going to be another tough year of living down here...

Roanman

November 2nd, 2015 at 12:01 PM ^

Football is the most emotional of all games. We have all seen teams rise up on the back of some thing that inspires them and take on a team that under ordinary circumstances mops up the field with them in 2 1/2 quarters and then runs in the third team to a draw.

Minnesota was outside of their mind motivated and sharp. The stadium was on fire. That team will never function at a higher level relative to talent ..... ever. And we still left town with the Jug.

Next.

 

Fezzik

November 2nd, 2015 at 12:11 PM ^

I think it's more likely that he just isn't as good as we thought he was going to be rather than him having an unknown injury hampering his play. There have been too many plays where he doesn't even see the open receiver. As a 5th year QB there is just no excuse for that.