Michigan 49, Rutgers 16

Michigan 49, Rutgers 16


November 8, 2015

This is an old picture but oh well.

Michigan did what they should have done. Michigan had some occasional issues stopping the run (running backs Robert Martin and Josh Hicks averaged 8.1 and 4.6 yards/carry, respectively), but it didn’t hurt them much because Rutgers wasn’t balanced at all. I was fairly impressed with Martin, who has some quickness, while both backs run tough. Without wide receiver Leonte Carroo, Rutgers had zero threats in the passing game. I mentioned in the game preview that I thought Michigan would struggle to pull away if Carroo played, but that clearly wasn’t an issue.

Jabrill Peppers on offense. On the one hand, I like the way that Michigan is strategically using Peppers on offense. Instead of giving him a series of plays, they are rotating him in and out of the game, showing different formations, etc. Sometimes you see teams give a guy a series or two throughout a game, but I think defenses can key on the guy and get used to him being on the field. With the way Michigan uses him, the defense has to adjust on the fly to a guy who can line up at WR, RB, and QB and be the most dynamic player on the field. It’s a good strategy. On the other hand, I think Michigan will have to unleash Peppers a little more down the stretch if it’s a closer contest. The thing that’s missing at times is the play where Peppers runs exactly what the play looks like it’s going to be – a go route, a toss sweep, etc. He is Michigan’s most dynamic player, but I think he needs to touch the ball in conventional ways, too. He said after the game that he suffered a thigh bruise in practice that hampered him a little bit, so this wasn’t the week to push it. I’m looking at a game like Ohio State as a place where he should probably be in on some standard plays.

Hit the jump for the rest of the game recap.

Jourdan Lewis has become one of my all-time favorite players. Lewis broke the school record with his 19th pass breakup this season (Leon Hall and Marlin Jackson had 18), but within the last few weeks, I have really come to respect Lewis’s game in a new way. The thing I like most about Lewis – aside from the fact that he’s really good at football – is that he carries himself with dignity on the field. He’s not exactly a Barry Sanders-like quiet leader, but he keeps his head down and brings it on every play. Cornerbacks coach Mike Zordich has talked about how badly Lewis wants to play against the opponent’s best wide receiver, but you can see through his body language that he respects good opponents and good plays. Even in his face-off against Michigan State’s Aaron Burbridge – when Lewis lost his fair share of battles – you could see that Lewis remained confident, didn’t get frustrated, and acknowledged the good plays by Burbridge. Lewis could be an All-American this year, but he doesn’t bring a lot of attention to himself when he makes a play. Even Peppers – who doesn’t cross any unsportsmanlike lines – can be a little flamboyant at times.

The unsportsmanlike call against Butt. In case you didn’t see the play, it was late in the first half when Michigan was deep in its own territory. Michigan sent in a substitution package, so several players on the field jogged to the sideline. When they neared the sideline, Butt – who was in the game on the previous play and already in the huddle – then started jogging toward the sideline before the huddle broke. When he got a couple yards from the sideline, he stopped and lined up on the line of scrimmage. Michigan lined up with what looked like a heavy I-form set to the left, and as soon as the ball was snapped, quarterback Jake Rudock threw to a wide open Jake Butt running down the field, since Rutgers failed to cover him. This drew a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty for having the intent to deceive. I think this is a terribly, terribly stupid rule, but I do believe that Michigan was straddling the line on this rule.

I was not aware of this rule until earlier this year, but before a game, officials always ask us if we run any trick plays that they need to watch for so they don’t “screw it up” for us. We had a similar play that we had been working on for two weeks, and the referee “suggested” to us that we should not run the play because it would violate that rule. We didn’t run the play because we didn’t want to incur the penalty, and we scrapped it after that. The truth is that the game of football – and sports in general – are often based on deception. The hidden ball trick in baseball, a double pass in football, a pump fake in basketball, etc. are all ways to deceive the opponent. Even a simple football play like a play-action pass, a reverse, or a screen is deceptive. It’s not the offense’s fault if a defense can’t count to 11 and/or scan the field for potential wide receivers. I would not support the idea of having a wide receiver step off of the sideline one yard onto the field to run a play, but this Jake Butt play should be legal. Regarding the defense, we as a high school team have coaches in the booth keeping track of substitutions, how many men are coming in, how many men are leaving the field, etc., and they communicate that information to the coaches on the sideline. If there’s a way for attentive high school coaches to identify sneaky substitutions, then there is certainly a way for college coaches to do the same.

What is targeting? Nobody knows. You could ask Michigan long snapper Scott Sypniewski, but he might not remember after taking a hit from the crown of the helmet of Najee Clayton (an old high school teammate of Jabrill Peppers). Clayton himself left with an apparent concussion after stupidly lowering his head to hit Sypniewski in the face/head/neck area. The referees initially called a targeting penalty on Clayton, but they rescinded the penalty after review. In case you’re keeping track, Michigan has now had ZERO targeting calls upheld against its opponents, while EVERY targeting call against Michigan has been upheld. I’m not saying there’s a conspiracy against Michigan in the targeting department. What I am saying is that the officials have absolutely no idea how the penalty should be called and enforced. It is by far the least consistent call in college football right now.

Jake Rudock is the man. I gave credit to Wilton Speight last week for coming in and winning the game against Minnesota last week, but we saw once again why Rudock is the starter. Not only did he go 18/25 for 337 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions, but he ran for a touchdown and a two-point conversion. The touchdown was a 4-yarder on which he planted his foot at the 3-yard line and dove for the pylon. Meanwhile during mop-up duty, Speight was 0/1 passing and tripped when coming out from under center, resulting in a 4-yard loss.

I hope Michigan can stay healthy on the defensive line. As strong as Michigan’s defensive line is, it’s an area of concern going forward. Buck linebacker Mario Ojemudia is out for the year with a ruptured Achilles. Nose tackle Bryan Mone is out for the year with a broken leg. Backup Buck linebacker Lawrence Marshall has missed the last couple of games due to an “internal matter.” Willie Henry temporarily left last week’s game with a shoulder injury, and Ryan Glasgow permanently left this week’s game with a shoulder injury. The strongest unit of this team is arguably its defensive line, but two season-long injuries and some other nagging ones could impact the whole squad’s success down the stretch.

12 comments

  1. Avatar
    Comments: 1208
    Joined: 8/13/2015
    Roanman
    Nov 08, 2015 at 7:37 PM

    My favorite play came in the first quarter. On a fake to Jabrill Peppers, a linebacker and two DBs follow peppers off the field and Houma is left wide open, away for maybe an 18 yard pass play. I though that to be a beautiful thing, 18 or so yards kinda from peppers and all he did was sprint 5 yards ….. maybe 3, away from the play.

    My second favorite part of the day was Matt Millen thinking that Devion Smith reminded him of Ty Wheatley and in so doing demonstrated how it is that he failed in such spectacular fashion as a professional GM.

    If Lanky were to come after Derrick Green for being … er … shall we say … portly ,,, I won’t be arguing the point.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 5314
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Nov 09, 2015 at 2:07 PM

      I called Green fat before, but he slimmed down significantly. He looks in decent shape to me, I think he’s just not a great running back despite having some physical talent.

      I like thick backs actually, but I want those guys to be short, squat, and hard to bring down. My opinion on Isaac was that you can’t be tall and fat because then you’re neither hard to bring down from low nor fast enough to run by people. You don’t see these jumbo backs very often anymore for good reason.

      When Isaac showed up slimmed down and started getting practice hype I was pretty encouraged that he could carve out a role and optimistic he could be a big 3rd down play threat. But all those bits of circumstantial evidence that there were off-field issues have proven to be a “where there’s smoke there’s fire” situation.

      Green’s just not very good. Isaac might be a decent back (though he is obviously far from the ridiculous hype he was getting 2 months ago or even after UNLV) but he’s nothing special on the field and apparently quite a handful off of it.

      Luckily RB is our deepest position. We have a solid 1-2 punch that brings different looks and skillsets. Green and Higdon haven’t shown much, but if they’re the nominal 3rd back in, that’s not a problem. Next year we should add a recruit to the mix. Then there is Peppers to consider.

      People want to blame the RB but I really think this is a non-concern. We have B- backs but they get the job done, don’t fumble, and every once in a while make a real nice play. If the OL opens holes for them, they’ll perform.

  2. Avatar
    Comments: 1228
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    WindyCityBlue
    Nov 08, 2015 at 9:28 PM

    Sorry, but your evaluation of the Butt penalty is totally off the mark. The call was not for “intent to deceive” (which happens on lots of plays, all legal), but SUBSTITUTION with intent to deceive. But Butt DID NOT substitute. He was already on the field from the play before, and simply split out extra wide. The defense just missed him, which is tough shit, but not a violation in any reality except the one that Big Ten refs inhabit. The penalty they called would have applied if Butt had been on the sidelines on the play before and just had taken a couple of steps to sneak onto the field at the last minute, without coming close to the huddle. But that’s not what happened. The refs fucked up, plain and simple.

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3256
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Nov 09, 2015 at 6:14 AM

      It’s not off the mark at all. I have had this rule explained to me by an official.

      • Avatar
        Comments: 1228
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        WindyCityBlue
        Nov 09, 2015 at 6:29 AM

        Having had the rule explained to you does not mean it applied in this case. Please pass on the explanation of how “substitution with intent to deceive” applies to a player who DID NOT substitute in. Or how it applied in this situation at all.

        • Thunder
          Comments: 3256
          Joined: 7/13/2015
          Nov 09, 2015 at 7:42 AM

          As I explained in the original post, Butt left the “huddle” (before it was truly a huddle) before the substitutions arrived. And yes, he was behind the players who were leaving the field, but he was not so far behind that he could not be mistaken for a player leaving the field.

          Also as I said in the original post, we alerted a referee before a game that we would be running a play like this. He explained to us that it would be illegal. So a high school referee told me that it would be a penalty, and a college referee called it a penalty. So who do you think is more likely to be right – two referees or a bunch of miffed fans on the internet?

  3. Lanknows
    Comments: 5314
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Nov 09, 2015 at 2:14 PM

    Good post overall but I don’t buy one aspect of the Lewis praise one bit. He’s a great player that we don’t need to mythologize into some “keeps his head down” king of etiquette. The kid talks trash all the time and you can see that. And so what. It’s a competition. He was jawing at Burbridge every PBU he got. As well he should, if he feels like it.

    It’s ironic to praise Barry Sanders for his demeanor — a guy who never won anything, and never made his teammates better and then QUIT on his team with no warning. I loved watching Barry play, but his character wasn’t a strong suit for him. He could have used a lot more ‘dog’ in him, hot or otherwise.

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3256
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Nov 09, 2015 at 6:26 PM

      I disagree about Lewis.

      I also have no idea what you’re talking about in regard to Barry Sanders. Aside from your tangent…what does his demeanor have to do with “never winning anything” and “never making his teammates better” and “quitting on his team”?

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 5314
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Nov 10, 2015 at 1:54 PM

        ” he carries himself with dignity on the field. He’s not exactly a Barry Sanders-like quiet leader, but he keeps his head down”

        Presenting Sanders as some sort of paragon of on-field behavior seems backwards to me. His character/leadership is suspect and his on-field demeanor reflected his personality IMO.

        Lewis is an atypical player (performance-wise he is awesome) and a completely typical player (demeanor-wise). He doesn’t do anything out of line, but he likes to jaw, and is demonstrative when he does well. I have no issues at all with his behavior, I’m just surprised to see it come up.

        • Thunder
          Comments: 3256
          Joined: 7/13/2015
          Nov 10, 2015 at 4:50 PM

          Meh, I don’t really feel like getting into a long discussion about Barry Sanders’s demeanor. Personally, I liked him a lot. So I strongly disagree with your take, but I’ll agree to disagree.

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 5314
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Nov 10, 2015 at 6:51 PM

            I liked him a lot too. I appreciate humility and “act like you’ve been there” approach. Barry did that.

            Then he left his team (and teammates) in a lurch…

            To each his own, of course. But if you’re not celebrating it might be a sign of being something other than “all in” competitively.

            I’m arguing mainly because I don’t like the old-man/cultural critique of guys who have fun on the field.

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