Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Michigan 24, Penn State 15


Blake Corum and Sherrone Moore (image via AP)

I apologize for the delayed/short post. I had a crazy busy weekend and I was on the road for much of it, so I didn't have much of a chance to write.

Great win. It shouldn't be underestimated how great of a victory this was, in light of all the distractions in recent weeks. Michigan went into Happy Valley missing its head coach, a head coach that was stupidly suspended at the end of the day on Friday with zero new information in the previous week. I postulated last Monday on Rivals that the Big Ten might make a decision late on Friday, making it impossible or at least unlikely that Michigan would be able to get an injunction/temporary restraining order in time to get Harbaugh available for Saturday. Sure enough, that's what happened. Supposedly, commissioner Tony Petitti released the suspension to the media before notifying Michigan itself, so M heard it first through the media. From a public perception standpoint, Petitti is lucky Michigan won this game, because the uproar would have been deafening if suddenly the Wolverines lost a game less than 24 hours after its head coach was suspended for such stupid reasons.

Who cares if Sherrone Moore cried? It was an emotional victory, for all the reasons mentioned above and more. I wish he didn't cuss a couple times on national TV, but he's not paid to be interviewed in an emotional moment after games. You know who is paid to do that? Jim Harbaugh. If the Big Ten wants family-friendly interviews after games, maybe they should let the guys who are head coaches coach the games and be interviewed, since that's part of their job. The cussing would be a bigger deal if it was Harbaugh, who has two decades of head coaching experience. So f*** the Big Ten.

Anyway . . .

Hit the jump for more.

Kenneth Grant, #1 freak. I was amazed during the broadcast that the announcers didn't make a bigger deal of 6'3", 339 lb. Kenneth Grant chasing down 5'11", 222 lb. Penn State running back Kaytron Allen. Allen isn't really known as a speedster, but the fact that Grant ran him down on a 34-yard run was pretty astonishing. Not only did it show Grant's speed, but it also showed his effort. I kept an eye on Grant the next couple plays to see if he was winded, and it did seem like he lost a little bit of energy, at least temporarily. But who cares? That might end up being a career highlight and the type of play we see in highlight packages when he gets drafted in the first round in 2025.

I still like Drew Allar. Penn State has one of those offenses that I find a little bit painful to watch for whatever reason. Maybe it's just their uniforms. I don't know and can't put my finger on it. Everything with them is just so boxy and linear. I don't find anything surprising about their offense. They seem like a Wing-T team where you're never surprised about what they're running. Sometimes they're efficient and sometimes they're not. Regardless, I think Allar has a lot of tools. He's more athletic than some people want to credit him for, and he has a good arm. He makes some silly decisions at times, but he's only 2/3 of his way through his first year as a starter. J.J. McCarthy was making some stupid decisions last year, too, and he's turned out to be pretty good. I'm not sure James Franklin is capable of coaching up a capable NFL quarterback, but if Allar were in the right situation, he might be better regarded. He finished 10/22 for 70 yards and 1 touchdown, plus 10 carries for 49 yards and 1 touchdown.

Michigan's running game came to play! Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition! Blake Corum ran 26 times for 145 yards and 2 touchdowns, and even Donovan Edwards had a solid day (10 carries, 52 yards, 1 touchdown). Michigan ran the ball 32 times straight to close out the game, an unbelievable stat, especially since it wasn't raining or snowing. Penn State has a good defense and they were giving Michigan a lot of problems, but McCarthy (8 carries, 34 yards) as a part of the run game changes things. It's hard to take away all of Michigan's threats, so if the coaching staff makes him available as a runner, look out. I think Michigan probably could have opened things up a little bit more - and would have if necessary - but since PSU couldn't put together much on offense, there was no real need to push the offense.

Pass protection was sketchy. Penn State has some good pass rushers in Adisa Isaac and Chop Robinson, but Michigan - in particular right tackle Karsen Barnhart - looked totally vulnerable to straight dropback pass rushes. Barnhart is odd to me, because he was such a good athlete in high school as a tight end. When he gets out on the run, he moves well. But his lateral quickness and the angles he takes make me scratch my head sometimes. Maybe the coaches just don't work on straight dropback passing enough. This is in no way an indictment of Michigan's offensive line coaching overall, but the tackles are kind of a weak spot, and that's disappointing because Barnhart has been at Michigan for five years now.

James Franklin is dumb. A video went viral with him arguing with a journalist about the second time he went for 2 points, when PSU was down 24-15. (That 2-point attempt failed, leaving a two-score, 9-point deficit with a few minutes left in the game.) The bigger question mark for me came when they scored a TD to make it 14-9 and he went for two points, which would have made it 14-11. I mean . . . yeah, you're within a field goal if you make it. Maybe that makes sense if you think you can shut down Michigan's offense in the second half and score a field goal to tie it, but . . . that's just chasing things way too early. When it was 14-9, Franklin should have just kicked the extra point and taken the gimme.

Hail to the victors! On to Maryland next week, which is a likely win for Michigan unless something goes horribly awry.


  1. I thought Moore did as good a job adjusting in the middle of a football game as I have ever seen. He made a front seven that’s outstanding at attacking gaps and running to the football have to stand in there and eat blocks. They couldn’t do it.

    That was just outstanding work.


    1. Moore did an excellent job but I don't think it was exactly invented on the spot. I think this was a strategy that had been discussed leading up to the game. Diaz has a bit of Don Brown to him. He isn't going to change what he does, so if you can beat that, you beat him. Michigan's MEATBALL running attack can beat him.

      I don't mean to say that they planned to run on 32/33 plays in advance but once they saw that Diaz was going to be Diaz they could just stick to their guns (i.e., running again and again and again). Took guts and discipline for Moore to do it because there were MANY 3rd downs where it had to have been tempting to have JJ throw.

      Moore trusted the strategy and trusted his guys to execute it.

    2. Well of course he didn't invent it on the spot. It was baked into the offense and has been for quite some time now.

      Still, there were/are numerous options for neutralizing Chop Robinson after having noticed that he was making a meal out of Barnhart. He chose the option that neutralized their entire front seven ... their entire defense, really, and then stayed with it even when it wasn't an obviously awesome decision, right away.

      I view the last 40, minutes or so of offensive play calling as damn near epic in this day and age. I'd be all over Moore for my head coach in the coming off season. The only caveat being that I wasn't at a place that wants to throw it all over the field because they think it's more modern or more fun or something.

      Personally I think it's more fun making them all cry and then pout because we beat them up physically. Which by the way is the real issue behind the advanced scouting stuff. Football lifers like to think that they're tougher than the rest. Harbaugh beats them up physically and then leaves with their pride. This is why after a hundred years or so of sportsmanship in the history of the tunnel at Michigan Stadium, Penn State and Sparty lose their minds and want to fight, or attack people. And also why The Head Football Coach at The Ohio State University is out looking for Lou Holtz. Their pride, false (Sparty and Penn State) or earned (Buckeyes) has been removed ... on national TV.

      I like to think of it as a pridectomy without anesthesia.

      Although in the case of the Penn State offense ... maybe some anesthesia.


    3. Excellent post Roanman.

      wrt to Moore coaching " at a place that wants to throw it all over the field" -- if Wisconsin can hire Fickel and watch him turn it into a pass spread, and if Sabin can embrace different forms of offense -- anything can happen.

    4. Forgot to say - while Harbaugh has surely influenced Moore in the ways of many-TEs and many-gaps, Moore also played for Kevin Wilson, a lifelong spread zealot.

      Like Harbaugh, Saban, and most other great coaches Moore is unlikely to be married to one "style". Moore, like Harbaugh, clearly is comfortable not getting cute and sticking to what's working if it's working. He's not out here to impress people with his wits. Just win baby.

      If I'm Oklahoma State or USC or Washington or Indiana or LSU or whoever else you want to name - and I find myself in need of a new HC -- I wouldn't hesitate to hire Moore.

  2. A football coach that swears? GASP! I thought the emotion Moore showed was awesome. I'd guess that passion and personal investment from a top assistant has played a big factor in the turnaround since 2020. Players love him. AND he out-coached Diaz on Saturday. The full package.

    Agree with patience for Allar. He is just 19 and shows promise. He'll never be a big threat with his legs but he's also not a statue. He'll have to learn to deal with pressure better, but that's not unusual for a young QB. People dismissing him so early in his career are likely to be very wrong. Especially if PSU adds some better receivers again.

    A point not discussed anywhere on Barnhart -- he doesn't see anybody like PSU's edges in practice. He flat out wasn't ready. He's a better player than he showed, IMO.

    Agree that Franklin's first 2-point attempt (14-9) was dumb. The second one was correct, and I'm surprised that usually smart Klatt quibbled with it. That said, the decision was mostly irrelevant. PSU with a weak offense needed to not only score twice quickly, but also convert a 2 point attempt. Where/when that 2-pt attempt happens is mostly beside the point in this scenario. The really dumb thing is someone questioning it, IMO.

  3. Heartfelt thanks for your exceptional post—it was both insightful and inspiring.

  4. I feel more confident about ohio ... both PennSt & the buckeyes have been watching UM, and probably doubting our commitment to the Run. The game plan has been built over the season: get after JJ ... but the nittany lions learned the hard way that our identity is still Harball, and it was a long, painful lesson. ohio has to be good reconsidering now, as they watch the train headed in their direction

    *all hail Kenneth Grant, a gift from the football Gods!

  5. Looking ahead to OSU -- my season-long questioning about the secondary rotation was answered. CB3 is Sainristil. Signs had been pointing this way for several games but it is clear now. The preseason question of who would step up at CB between Hill, Walker, Harris or other is....none of the above. With Sainristil rotating outside, Michigan used safeties QJohnson and Sabb for their 7-man rotation. 7 is what they used against both OSU and TCU.

    If everyone is healthy for OSU (fingers crossed) we should be in decent shape. I'm still worried about QJohnson given his struggles last year. But he has stepped up this year. As far as having the athletes to go toe to toe with OSU's receivers our bottom 3 (Wallace, QJohnson, Sabb) out of 7 do not seem to be obviously overmatched. I don't love Sainristil outside and think he'll be targeted by OSU, but if that's our biggest matchup worry we're doing alright.

  6. Things I wondered about after the game:

    1) Did Michigan practiced the 7 man OLine formation all season long to prepare and surprise Ohio, only to use it on Penn state after realizing that Barnhart is not going to handle Penn state DE? They looked so smooth running it so I assumed they must have practiced it.
    2) Can Michigan use the jumbo formation and manhandle Ohio State and win the game like we did 2 years ago? I think we could.
    3) Is our defense really the number 1 defense in the nation? I am still doubtful because we have not faced a great passing offense.
    4) Am I ready to embrace Moore as our next Head Coach if Harbaugh leaves for NFL? Definitely!

    1. 1. I'm sure Michigan practiced the 7-man OL package. I'm not sure when they started practicing it. Michigan throws in a lot of little wrinkles here and there. I don't watch enough of other teams to say this with 100% confidence, but my guess is that they're probably one of the toughest teams in the country to prepare for from a personnel/formation standpoint.

      2. I think Michigan is capable of being the more physical team. The bigger question mark to me is whether they can hold up defensively against Marvin Harrison and Treveyon Henderson. OSU isn't a powerhouse offensively, but if you give up 28 to them and only score 21, then obviously that's a loss. Michigan has to play complementary football.

      3. I don't know if I'm willing to anoint Michigan as the #1 defense in the country. They still haven't really played an offensive powerhouse. Penn State is struggling.

      4. From what I've HEARD, Michigan would probably look elsewhere for a head coach if Jim Harbaugh leaves for some reason. I'm not saying I 100% believe that, but that's the word I got from someone who usually knows a thing or two.

    2. Our O vs their D. OSU edges are big and strong against the run. They've been beat on the ground 2 years in a row already. In theory, they'll be better prepared. I think OSU are good enough that we'll need JJ to chip in more than he did against PSU.

      Their O vs our D. I feel like Harrison is going to get his to a degree but assuming Will Johnson matches up with him frequently there is a ceiling there IMO. I'm more worried about the OTHER GUYS - OSU's other WRs are dangerous and could do work against Wallace, Sainristil, etc. Without any organic pass rush we'll have to blitz which means one on one matchups.

  7. Reviewed the MGOBLOG breakdown.
    My initial reaction that it looked like we were light in the box was correct. Shows a real lack of respect to adjust the defense to PSU. "nah, we will run our base beat OSU 4-2-5". Or they were suckering in PSU to think they could run the ball and then swat it down on second down setting up a third and medium passing down.
    Our ends looked like they were getting tackled. They were.
    The tackles were getting beat off the ball due to crowd noise. I don't think I have seen tackles get beat the bad on 3 consecutive plays. Hope the home field helps.

    The CB's and safeties looked good. I thought that DPI was crap, but others think it was cheap, but not egregious.

    PSU did better than I thought, I think UM didn't really respect PSU that much and really ran a very vanilla defense and offense. If they ran a Bear front, and got after it on third down I think they could have shut out PSU.
    As it was, they let Allar set up, let him run around, and was generally not harassed.
    Offense, everyone saw it.
    It looked like Bo, 1973, playing Iowa. With less passing. Zero respect for PSU.

    What does it mean for OSU? NOT much IMO, other than UM can just go plan jane and win comfortably against a good team.
    I don't see OSU holding up, UM with a 80% win chance and holding.
    we'll see after this weekend, but with no injuries, I will put the win rate up to 90% if nothing changes.

    1. My 2 cents; I don't agree with MgoSeth that we were practicing for OSU or anything like that. PSU is a good team and that's a recipe to lose, especially on the road. I think the team was 100% focused on beating PSU.

      The decision to play soft on 1st down is a reasonable tactical approach. If you know you're the better team and you know you can run the ball down their throat (some never doubted), the only way you are going to lose is big plays and turnovers.

      So let PSU stay on schedule on 1st down and allow them to try to sustain a long drive. Don't let them make big plays. Give plenty of opportunities for OUR DTs to make big plays via TFLs. It makes sense.

      IMO our CBs were not really tested. Allar is a dink and dunk guy right now. And PSU's OL is not very good - so they didn't attempt much downfield. OSU will be a very different test IMO. Better OL, better QB, better WRs. If you were to design an offense perfectly suited to test our relative weak spots on defense (lack of organic pass rush from edges and questionable depth in the secondary) - OSU is probably a mobile QB away from being it.

      Maryland should at least be interesting in that they will throw downfield.

    2. I echo Lank in that I think Maryland offense will be a stiffer test than Penn State offense. Not saying that Maryland is a better team than Penn State. Just saying that the strength of Maryland offense is probably where we have some question marks. They have a mobile quarterback who loves to thrown downfield and good receivers who can create some separations. Maryland's biggest issue has been turnovers.

    3. I don't think their D will stop us but I think our collective stress levels for OSU may increase with a few big plays from the Maryland pass game.