Head coach Jim Harbaugh had a lot to catch up on after the Michigan Wolverines outperformed the Michigan State Spartans on Saturday evening. The assault in the tunnel postgame just added more to the tally in what has been a very busy weekend for Harbaugh and the athletic departments of both schools.
But when he joined the Inside Michigan Football Show with Jon Jansen on WTKA, he stuck mostly to what transpired on the field.
“I thought it was a tremendous effort.” Harbaugh said of the 29-7 win. “(We) clearly won all three phases thoroughly for 60 minutes.”
However, he did note this team still has some things to work on, particularly of the Wolverines’ red zone play after settling for multiple field goals.
“You know, getting the ball inside the 10-yard line, first and goal, and not putting it in the end zone twice. Definitely things we can work on,” Harbaugh said. “Not our best because our best would have been scoring those touchdowns.”
Overall though, he was pleased with the team’s performance saying, “In terms of just methodically taking over the game, and clearly winning it in convincing fashion, our team did that in all three phases.”
Harbaugh moved on to the play of his quarterback, J.J. McCarthy, who finished with 167 yards and a touchdown on 15-of-25 attempts: “I see him getting better and better every game. Whether it’s at home, on the road, in all situations. Third down was huge. Quarterback efficiency in this game, really good again,”
But where Harbaugh is really enjoying McCarthy’s development is in the run game.
“As he learns out what his game is, you know those things, you know here is a new toy. I can run, I can go pick up first down. They’re in man-to-man coverage, and away he goes,” Harbaugh said. “He is so quick and fast. You can really see some of that speed. We have seen him do it when he escapes the pocket to the right or the left. Now he is getting up and scrambling in the A or the B gap straight up the field when there is a running lane. Really becoming a checkdown. Instead of throwing the checkdown, he is becoming the checkdown. He has the athletic ability to do that.”
Harbaugh also had the chance to touch on Blake Corum.
“(Emerging) Heisman finalist, an MVP candidate. He already is that,” Harbaugh said. “Over 100 yards in each of the Big Ten games. Thirty-three carries in this last ballgame. Just another tremendous performance by him. Whether running the ball, blocking, he is really doing it all for our football team. Short yardage, first down, second down, third down. What a player.”
Harbaugh also sprinkled in some talk about his receivers. He highlighted the play of Ronnie Bell, Cornelius Johnson, Roman Wilson and A.J. Henning and praised the room for their “unselfish” play.
“Every guy isn’t going to have the 13-target game each game. It’s just not possible.”
But one name is starting to stand out.
“I would love to see Andrel (Anthony) get some more targets,” Harbaugh shared, “and I think that is going to happen.”
As a group, though, Harbaugh knows these wideouts have been stellar in the run game, regardless of their own stats.
“If they don’t have the ball, they are willing blockers. Blake Corum — you don’t have a plus-50 run without the wide receivers blocking not only on the perimeter but on the safeties.”
Flipping over to the defensive side of the ball, Harbaugh gave some praise in the second half, specifically on third down. Until the final MSU drive of the game, the Spartans had -1 net yards of offense in the second half.
“They just keep getting better and better,” Harbaugh said of his defense.
Specifically on defense, Harbaugh talked about interior lineman Kris Jenkins, who has record five or more tackles in four of the last six games.
“His development in the program has been freakish,” Harbaugh said. “Some of the things he does in the measurables, in the strength and power world — but the speed and agility world, not a lot of people can do. Let’s face it, he’s got a nose for the ball. High-motor, super tough, never had a bad day. He affects everyone in a positive manner.”
The Wolverines are headed to Piscataway this weekend to face the Rutgers Scarlet Knights on Saturday. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. as the Wolverines look to move to 9-0 on the season.