Michigan survived a brutal battle against Wisconsin to stay undefeated on the season. At the post-game presser, Jim Harbaugh provided insights into how the game unfolded, injury information, and more.
Here is the transcript:
You guys left a lot of points on the board with the three missed field goals. You guys also kind of uncharacteristically had a mistake filled game with a lot of penalties. I was wondering, was that a source of frustration for you and what message did you give your team to get them back on track?
“Well, first of all, talking to the team, we were celebrating a win. Great win for our team. Thought there was a lot of things we did really well. Obviously we left nine points off the scoreboard. You've got to put those points on the board. Points on the board really matter. So, we'll have a little kicking competition this week, and it'll be an opportunity for Ryan Tice. And, uh, yeah. See if we can't make them next time.”
Can you talk about your perspective on Jourdan Lewis’ interception? Ever seen anything quite like that?
“Yeah, I've seen Odell Beckham Junior do that. Looked like that kind of play. Really, most impressive thing about it was, you know, he jumped a little early and I was a little nervous that he was going to come down and the ball was just going to go over his fingertips but he was able to hang in the air and he made a spectacular play. Then I was thinking, well, it was fourth down. Probably would have been better had he not intercepted it. I'm really glad he did. It was a spectacular, spectacular football play, Athletic play. Really unbelievable.
“I thought Channing Stribling did a great job as well. And Jourdan had a tremendous tackle in the open field. Thought the secondary was really good. Our defensive line was lights out. It was a game-ball for Don Brown kind of a game. Very impressed with our defense, our defense of coaches, and the character of our defense of players and their talents. A++.”
First off, what was your vantage point on Wilton's downfield throw for the touchdown? Looked right on the money. And also, are you itching to get this team a good road test next week?
“Yeah, we were under center, play action pass, really the play is designed to go to Jake Butt, but then I saw Wilton wheel and throw it to Amara and I saw Amara had a step on him or two. Just kind of hold your breath through the last split seconds of the play to see that it doesn't get deflected, but I really felt good when the ball was in the air.
“Wilton has been extremely good throwing the deep ball, extremely accurate throwing the deep ball, so we all have a lot of confidence. And he has a lot of confidence in throwing it and it was a tremendous play. The slant a couple plays before that, also to Amara, was another excellent throw. We didn't get Wilton the pass protection today that we would like and he deserves, But when he had protection and was able to set his feet and throw the football, I thought he did it very effectively.”
[After THE JUMP: ice cream time!]
Grant Newsome and Quinn Nordin: is Quinn banged up?
“Yeah, Quinn’s working through something.”
And Grant, any word on him?
“Yeah, it doesn’t look good. He was blocking on the edge and what he told me was he got cut right at his knee. I don’t know if it was a helmet or what it was. I think a surgical procedure will be needed.”
And then can you talk about the job you guys did in stopping their run game and how critical that was?
“We did a tremendous job against the job. I thought we did a great job against the pass. Pass rush was outstanding. Our defensive backs were in tight coverage all day. They tested us short, deep, crossing routes, the works, and our guys stood up to it.”
The timing of calling that deep ball versus another point: what goes into that decision to take that shot, and was it something you’d been thinking about?
“It was a play-action pass where we’re faking in the middle and really trying to pull the linebacker and hit Jake in the seam over the linebackers. They had been hitting the gaps and had been timing up blitzes and doing a really good job with it, and that’s what we were trying to do was play-action pass and hit Jake over the linebackers. As I said, that was the intent, but he’s got the ability versus single coverage to wheel and throw it deep to Amara, which he did. Glad he did.”
You’d probably rather not be, but is there a benefit to this team to being in a fourth-quarter game like this was at this point in the season?
“Heh, they’re all fourth-quarter games as far as I know. It was a real football game, like we thought they’ve all been, and our team prevailed. Very proud of them for that. We’ll move on with humble hearts and get ready for Rutgers.”
Where did the 11 men lined up behind each other come from?
“Just something my son Jay found and came up with, so you can talk to him about it. It was good. The guys had fun with it this week. We put it in this week, and they executed it well.”
How do you keep the team calm and not get too excited with what you guys have accomplished so far?
“Just got to keep going about this. I mean, we’ll celebrate a win. Celebrate all wins, then we’ll get ready for a championship game, for a big game against Rutgers. We’re going about this treating every game like it’s a big game, every game like it’s a championship game. I think that’s—just kind of when you do that and treat every game like it’s the play that could decide the game, play the first quarter like it’s the fourth quarter, play the fourth quarter like it’s the last two minutes, when you get in those pressure situations, it’s what you do all the time. It’s how you always approach it. We’ll get ready for this game like it’s a championship game.”
Wilton continues to show the ability to evade defenders, mobile in the pocket, but seems sometimes to have a tendency to force a throw rather than just throw the ball away; he’s trying to make a play which could have been intercepted a couple times. How do you remedy that? Do you sit down with him and go over that? Is that something that you talk to him about?
“I thought his decisions today were good. Really anything that was close to being intercepted--I thought he threw a really accurate ball in a very normal, safe place. Low, below the waist to Jake Butt as he would have been going to the ground; I thought it was a really well placed ball. Now, they made a really good play. Got a hand in there and tipped it and it tipped right to one of their defensive backs and there was an interception.
“The other one he threw to the endzone. Jump-ball situation. I think it was Jehu or Amara. Other than that, I can’t think of another ball that he forced all day. One other decision he could have made he took a sack in the third quarter where he could have thrown the ball out of bounds and that backed us up and we eventually missed that field goal, the last one.
“Those were the three decisions. I thought they were all good except the one he could have thrown out of bounds and not taken the sack. He’s making good decisions. I don’t know how many decisions that is in a game, but if you make one bad one probably in the high 90s percentage-wise. That’s be an A on most tests. Thought he acquitted himself well, and I think that’s a strength that he’s making good decisions.”
The old cliché is that defense wins championships. What does this type of performance do for your confidence moving forward that this is the type of unit that can win you multiple championships, as you’ve talked about?
“Yeah, uh…I’ve heard that, too. I believe that to a certain extent. I mean, you’ve got to win at least two out of three of the phases: offense, defense, and special teams. I don’t know how many—I know we won the game. I know where we can make improvements. Offensively, our pass protection can be better. Field goals—to win championships you’ve got to make field goals, too. We can improve there. Yeah, defensively, again, I would say A++. No question about it, defense was our shining star today. That phase of our team was outstanding. Awesome with a capital A.”
This game was tighter and maybe not as pretty as some of the earlier victories where you guys blew teams out, but for an old-fashioned Big Ten slugfest type of game, do you appreciate it more even?
“Appreciate and celebrate all wins. I appreciate the style of football today. No question about it. It’s a good style of football, winning style of football for us through five games, and it’s been a winning style of football for Wisconsin. Both teams were undefeated. Today, it was a good ballgame.”
I think last year through five games you mentioned how the team was getting into its ‘battle rhythm,’ I think was the word you used. Do you think that’s coming on? I know you guys have had some injuries to go through, but do you feel like you’re getting into your rhythm five games in?
“Yeah, I mean, we just…we don’t look at arriving at a rhythm or getting into a rhythm. We’re just trying to get better every day. Trying to be better today than we were yesterday and better tomorrow than we were today. And I think that—definitely think we got better today, and lots of things we can get better at. We’ll just keep striving for that. So simple that it just might work. Get back to work with humble hearts and go eat some ice cream right now. Celebrate a little bit, then go get ready for Rutgers.”
What kind of ice cream you getting?
[/laughs] “Whatever’s over there. I like the chocolate kind. Like to get together after the game with the team and eat a little ice cream.”
A couple weeks ago cited the snap and hold; is the situation more yips now with Kenny?
“I don’t know about that word. Yeah, the golf-football analogy. We’ll look at it this week and see who the absolute best person is to kick field goals for us. It’s possible. Never thought it was ideal to have Kenny do the punting, the kickoffs, and the field goals. It’s a lot.
“It’s probably too much, and this will be an opportunity for Ryan Tice to step up this week and carry that duty. I think he’s more than capable than doing it. That kick he made, I thought it was good from where I was standing. So, that’s—he’ll get that opportunity this week to prove that he can do that. I’m confident that he will. I think it’ll probably be better for our overall kicking game to have somebody that can do one of those phases.”
Does that [11-man] formation have a name, and when you threw it at your defense, were they confused by it when they first saw it?
“A little bit. Train. Train, that’s the name of it. Maybe it has a future! We’ll see.”
Channing Stribling had two interceptions and also had a big pass breakup between those two interceptions. Talk about those plays that he made?
“Big plays, big plays. You know, wish we would have gotten more points on the board off of turnovers. We had the three turnovers to their one, but they did a better job capitalizing off turnovers in terms of putting points on the board than we did.
“Big, big plays were made to stop their winning drive, their attempt at a winning drive at the end of the game. Channing’s interception, Jourdan’s interception. I thought Channing had another pass breakup. I’m thinking of two right now that were outstanding.
“They were testing him deep. Think he got his hand on four or five balls during the game, which is outstanding. He had two interceptions. That’s outstanding for a corner. And he tackled. I thought he had a heck of a ballgame as well. Both our corners really played well today.”
It’s unusual for your team to draw a lot of penalties, but today it seemed like they just kept coming. Do you think there was something connected with them?
“Yeah. We talked to our team a lot about when we were in the punt formation and when they were on defense they’d make a shift call and they’d say ‘set’ and they’d try and simulate the cadence offensively or the punt cadence, and I was hearing it. The officials, we talked to them about it before the game. I thought they would have heard it, too. They’re allowed to say ‘move’ but they can’t simulate the set or the cadence. I thought that was—caused those two penalties. Very much caused those two penalties.
“Then the last one we got called for holding, Sypniewski got called for holding. Again, I thought that was another running over the snapper. I thought that should have been called again. They were trying to run right over the snapper, which they got penalized for earlier in the game. I didn’t see the hold by Scott. Saw him get run over, which really should have been a penalty on their side.
“We had formation penalties. They called us for the offensive tackle being off the line when Juwann [Bushell-Beatty] went into the game. Got that fixed. There was a few other penalties that we’ll look at and address as well. Don’t want to be penalized.”