Michigan put a whooping on Maryland yesterday, winning 59-3. Jim Harbaugh was in good spirits after the game and spoke with reporters for nearly twenty minutes. Lots of good banter was hand, and Maize N Brew was on hand.
Harbaugh Press Conference Transcript
Might be a broken record, but might that have been Wilton Speight’s best game, and could you talk about how he extended plays by sliding around in the pocket when he needed to?
“Yeah, that was…statistically, and just the eyeball, that’s the best half of football I’ve ever seen a Michigan quarterback play. I think the statistics back that up. Yeah, moving and throwing and accuracy and extending plays, all of the above. I don’t know how you play better than Wilton did. I think there was one throw that wasn’t a great throw. That was it. Other than that, it was a perfect game as a quarterback and that’s really tough to do.”
This team continuing to roll. How much more enjoyment do you get out of seeing these guys as the season progresses and you see the execution as it is each and every week?
“I enjoy it a lot. I really felt that the week of practice we had was outstanding, and then you, when you have a week like that where it seems better every week and the practices are really sharp and crisp, then you want to see that again on gameday. You feel like if you’re good in practice you’re going to be good in the game, and I thought our guys were great in practice this week and then they were great in the game, so that, get a lot of enjoyment from that.”
De’Veon Smith went over 100 yards. I know you talk a lot about liking how hard he runs. How’d he look to you today?
“He looked great. He really did. He was one of the big factors in our team’s success. We didn’t punt again in the ballgame. I don’t know if we’ve done that in the season—maybe one or two times. But it was, a big part was him. The yards he got after contact were real eye-opening, and he’s so tough to get down. Three touchdowns, but extending drives and contributing. We had a lot of first downs today, and he contributed to that in a big way.”
Clearly the scoreboard reflected it, but what was it like for you to coach against DJ Durkin, your former defensive coordinator, and what were the emotions that went into it?
“The normal emotions. Definitely a friend. Watch what he’s done at Maryland, he’s doing a fantastic job. And what he did for us, what he did for our football team—he was a great contributor to our ballclub.”
[Hit THE JUMP to find out what offended Harbaugh’s football sensibility and the football gods themselves]
Did you guys want to get Jehu [Chesson] going early in this game? Was that a plan at all, or was that just him making things happen?
“Yeah, just him making things happen. It wasn’t a plan to feed Jehu, but it’s been a really interesting dynamic. I would say this. Here’s the greatest share of it, really, is I thought there were times last year where Jehu was playing great. Amara became the beneficiary of that in games last year, and then Amara would have a big game, so it’s probably no coincidence Amara’s been doing some great things—last week had a big game, an 11-catch game, over 100 yards—and then Jehu becomes the beneficiary of that. It’s a real luxury to hve two great receivers like Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson, so I think that’s the biggest factor.”
Speaking of receivers, you have a tight end by the name of Jake Butt. He broke a record today. Can you talk about that?
“Yeah. Everybody in the locker room was really happy for Jake Butt’s success. Team gave Jake a game ball after the game. You’re talking about Kramer, Mandich, Kattus—some tremendous tight ends that have come through here, and I know I’m leaving some out. Most catches, most yard in the history of Michigan Football for a tight end is quite an accomplishment.”
Jim, when you were playing and even before it was sometimes capable for a team to have this kind of a score differential. It happened a lot with Bo’s teams. It happened to some degree later on, but really in this era of college football, the lopsidedness hasn’t been as much of a characteristic. Given that, for you to have a few games this season, today and some earlier scores, what does it tell you? How can you be gratified by that?
“The execution was so high on the offensive side of the ball. That’s the players. That’s the guys that are out there doing it, and deserves recognition. Deserves a pat on the back. I mean, they’re the ones that are doing it. That’s what I would say to the offense.
“Also, the defense, again a stop inside the 10-yard line. That’s great defense. Not allowing them to be in until they’re in; I think that’s a great quality of a defense. They hit a long screen play and was down inside the 20, the 15, the 10, the 5, and then we make the tackle on the two-yard line, I believe. They’re not in until they’re in, that mentality. Playing on their side of the line of scrimmage with multiple—we had double-digit tackles for loss, I believe. Turnovers. Very stout defense against two quality running backs, really good running backs that Maryland has.
“Throw in the special teams, which I thought executed well. Kenny Allen, when he was hitting the field goals, hitting the kicks, he was hitting them with some force, balls turning end over end. He punted well. Kicked off well. We covered decently. We could be more tenacious in our cover game.
“Yeah, I would just credit the players, Lynn. They’re the ones that put in the work. They’re the ones that go out there and play on Saturdays.”
Defending wide receiver screens was a little bit of an issue today, but throwing vertically, it was pretty much impossible again. What has impressed you most about Jourdan [Lewis] and Channing [Stribling] defending those?
“Yeah, they’re really good. They their technique as good as you can play the deep ball right now. They’re in great position. When you see the ball in the air you check back to see what the leverage is like with the corner and the wide receiver on go routes and you feel good, you feel like they’re playing it as well as they can play it. They get their eyes back to the ball. They both have good ball skills, and they’re doing an excellent job. I don’t know what else there is to say.
“And they’re improving. It’s important to them. They want to be good at it. That’s probably the number-one thing: you don’t want to get beat deep if you’re a corner. And they do it time and time again from the press coverage. The most vulnerable position for a corner to be in when defending a deep pass, a go route, a straight nine route is press, press leverage, press circumstances, and time and again they defend it as well as you can defend it. That’s been good for us.”
You’ve said in the past that you hope Peppers gets Heisman consideration. As we know, there’s kind of a little bit of a bias maybe toward flashy offensive stats. He had a good game today, had a few good runs as well, but I’m wondering if you ever feel an obligation or temptation to feature him in flashy offensive plays for that purpose.
“Well, I mean, it’s just happening organically, right. It just happens el natural with Jabrill Peppers because he does so much. He’s making tackles from the linebacker positions, he’s blitzing, he’s covering, he’s returning kicks, returning punts, he’s playing quarterback, playing receiver, he’s playing tailback. He’s so involved that it doesn’t have to be a forced thing. It’s el natural.
“You might also want to look at the quarterback, too, and considering where does he rate the way he’s been playing all season. Maybe it’s time to throw his hat in the ring.”
Drake Harris is starting to get targeted a little bit more. Has he elevated his game in practice and did you think that was a good call on the pushoff there?
“No, I didn’t think it was a good call because I’ve watched all the games I’ve watched this year and something like that’s never been called. I didn’t think he changed the direction of the defender. I didn’t think he pushed off the defender.
“And the other one is I’m bewildered by Chris Evans’s non-touchdown. I don’t understand it. I don’t know what ruling they’re leaning on to say that wasn’t a touchdown. He seemed to be clearly inside the pylon. What does it take? You have to kick the pylon? You have to touch the pylon with the ball now to score a touchdown? The ball breaks the plane of the goal line, it’s a touchdown. The goal line extends past the out of bounds from everything I’ve ever been told, and the explanation is, ‘Well, he didn’t get a foot in bounds into the end zone.’ To me, it’s breaking the plane. That’s what I’ve always been taught. There’s a lot of times where running backs jump over the pile. THey jump over the top, the ball just breaks the plane and they get pushed back and it’s called a touchdown. They didn’t have a foot into the end zone or a body part that was—I don’t know. It offends my football sensibility in all ways that that wasn’t a touchdown.”
And then Drake Harris—
“Because he made such a great play! You know, Chris made such a valiant effort on the play. Tremendous catch and run. Circus catch and then a tremendous run in the open field through traffic and into the end zone for the apparent score and he doesn’t get rewarded with that. It offends my—I think it would offend the football gods as well. I think they would be offended by that.
“And a great catch by Drake, as well. That was one great catch. He continues to work extremely hard. Contributed last week in the Michigan State game. Ran a tremendous route and pass interference was called. He wasn’t rewarded again this week. Got grabbed last week and didn’t get a chance for the touchdown catch and then he made a circus catch this week and it didn’t stand. Very pleased.
“Very pleased that so many guys are working so hard at this to be good. Onward. We talked about it after the game. We’ll enjoy it for an amount of time, but the amount of time needs to get shorter and shorter and quicker moving on to the next game as we go down the stretch.”
You talked about Kekoa [Crawford] a little bit earlier in the year. It seems like his blocking—I remember last year we were talking about Maurice Ways being the best blocking receiver on the team. What have you seen out of Kekoa just as far as the physical, not so much the athletic part, his physicality? Then the second question would be just your thoughts on Mo Hurst. Pretty active game. He’s been very good for the past two seasons.
“Yeah. You’re getting good, too, Adam. Your questions are—you’re an ascending reporter. You’re doing a good job, I gotta tell you. You really are.
“Kekoa, as you point out, he’s one of our better blockers as just a freshman. He’s gotten into the game and gotten opportunities because of his willingness and his ability to block. It was great to see at the end of the game, the last quarter, there was a lot of young players playing on both sides and he made one of the best catches I think I’ve seen all year from Kekoa Crawford. It was outstanding.
“Mo Hurst continues to—you know, he’s so light on his feet for a big guy. It really shows up time and time again. He is not a plodder, you know. He’s a big guy, but he’s not a guy that’s a mudder. He’s got some real grace and agility for a big man and pursues, run, and keeps showing up game after game. There’s Mo Hurst making another play. Yeah, two ascending players.”
You mentioned the ‘they’re not in ‘til they’re in’ philosophy on defense. What a couple goal-line stands the past couple weeks, what is it that allows those guys to stiffen up when they get down inside the redzone?
“Well, you know that first of all it’s one of the hardest places to score from. Inside the 10-yard line, the five-yard line, the percentages just to pick up a yard when you’re in third-and-one, fourth-and-one—I mean, fourth-and-one from the one-yard line, the percentages to get that score, it’s not much over 50% in the NFL. Win percentages, score percentages, third-and-one’s the same. It’s a tough thing to do to score from inside the five-yard line. So there’s that, and you know that just get ‘em down. They’re not in until they’re in. Don’t give in.
“That’s what you saw on the two plays, really. We stopped them right before the half as time expired and the screen pass that we eventually stood and they missed the field goal. They’re not in. You don’t [exhales]. Don’t give in until they’re in mentality.”
You mentioned you want celebrations after wins to get shorter and shorter. Is that like ‘act like you’ve been there before’ or ‘it only gets harder from here’? Why do you say that?
“Just seems to me to be the things to do, the right things to do as you’re going down the stretch. They do get tougher, and there’s things that—that aren’t always, you don’t always have time to practice. Put it this way: further you are away from training camp where you’re teaching ball security every day and teaching tackling and teaching fundamentals and realizing this is college football, that you only have 20 hours to work with in a week and sometimes you can’t afford to celebrate too long.
“If you were to take—we’ll celebrate on Sunday, or Saturday night and then Sunday. Then Monday, still feeling good, not playing again until Saturday. Then Tuesday and Wednesday can be tough practices, you’re trying to get through those, then all of a sudden it’s Thursday and we’re playing a game in two days. Just the—we’re gonna celebrate all wins, but understanding that ballgame comes quick by the next Saturday and we need the preparation time.
“And the way our guys prepared this week, I’m really pleased. They did that. They did that after the last ballgame. We kind of made a commitment all together, let’s not celebrate this too long, let’s get ready for the ballgame that’s coming on Saturday, and a great week of preparation and they played really well in the game.”