ANN ARBOR, Mich. — After being the most accurate quarterback in the country through the first two weeks of the season, Michigan football QB J.J. McCarthy fell back down to earth in Week 3 against what’s thought to be a bad Bowling Green team. But then, against what appears to be a solid Rutgers team, McCarthy bounced back, showing off his accuracy once again, while refraining from turning the ball over.
On Monday, with Nebraska on deck, McCarthy met with the media to discuss his previous two weeks, the state of the team, some individual players, what he’s looking forward to about going on the road, having Jim Harbaugh back, and more.
Here is everything he had to say.
Using trick plays, laterals, flea flickers, etc.
It excites me a lot just because that stuff you draw up on a napkin and pen in your kitchen when you’re growing up, so it’s really cool to see it being displayed on this level. And it just speaks to Coach Moore’s creativity and keeping the defense on their toes. Like he’s all about defense defending the width of the field and every which way so I think that just adds to the attack that we can come with every single week.
His thought process during read option plays
I’d say our read options, what I’m looking for is eyes, demeanor, athlete. Look at my repeats eyes, his demeanor, and just his athlete — all the film study I do throughout the week to see like, alright, how fast is this guy? How smooth is his transitions with his hips? So it’s just as simple as reading one guy and then just reacting instinctually in a point-five executive decision.
How much does he watch the NFL?
Um, I really don’t watch much, I’ll turn it on here and there if it’s a big game or watching my Bears — been struggling a little bit! I don’t watch it too much. But it’s just always really cool to see guys that I look up to and just perform each and every Sunday and just try to take little bits from them in there, but usually what I look at with the pro games is throughout the week, like I’ll turn on the (tape), go back through and really see the whole 22 and that helps me out tremendously just watching the NFL.
Bouncing back from the Bowling Green game
I definitely used that as fuel this past week, just kind of bounced back. And the biggest thing I learned from it is not to put so much pressure on myself going into that game. I’ve just put an unrealistic expectation for that game and when one thing went wrong and just the pressure, I really felt it. I never felt that before. And it’s just those games, you’re gonna learn so much more from those than just going out there and throwing four touchdowns and 400 yards. So it was honestly a blessing in disguise and it’s in the past now, not worried about it.
Why was there so much pressure?
Just who I am. I’m a perfectionist. I tried to go out there and throw more touchdowns than incompletions and sometimes it doesn’t work out like that. It’s the game of football. So yeah, it’s just the perfectionist in me.
How does one bounce back after a game like that?
Um, just stay in the moment. Just be able to forget what happened, learn from it. And just try to get that much better each and every day. And I feel like it’s a blessing to be around such great guys that lift me up and that pushed me every single day like this past week. And they’re gonna continue to do it this week. So I just feel like it’s always just staying humble and hungry and keep pushing.
Huge in the offseason on just building that trust, building that relationship with all the guys, not just Colston. But Colston specifically, he’s a monster. If he wasn’t growing up in Idaho., he would be a five-star recruit. And just be able to golf with him all the time over the summer, be able to just play cards with him, just little stuff like that, where that relationship really moves together as something special and it’s pretty easy. I just got to put the ball in his vicinity and he’s going to come down with it.
On taking contact
The running out-of-bounds thing is something that I’ve definitely been working on for my entire football career. And I finally listened wholeheartedly this past weekend and I feel I have a heck of a lot better on Sunday, that’s for sure. So I’ll definitely carry that into next week. But on that third down when I gotta get it, you best believe I’m gonna put my shoulder down and try and get in any way I can.
Wearing a visor
The visor, that was something that I always wanted when I first came here but Coach Harbaugh was strict on no visor and he said the arm sleeve with the visor — use it to your discretion in terms of distraction or he’s gonna take it off. So, I just threw it on there and I love the feel. You know, look good, feel good, play good all that. But uh, yeah, something that I always wanted.
On Jim Harbaugh saying Saturday was his best game
That meant a lot to hear that because I didn’t think so myself. There’s a lot of plays that I want to get back and there’s a lot of reads that I felt like I could have progressed onto and throws that I could have made. But yeah, it means a lot coming from him. Just I feel like the aspect of using both my arm and my legs this game really helped out the team and he really loved to see that. Obviously, the ball security was great. No turnovers or anything like that. So I agree with them wholeheartedly that was one of my best.
Did he talk to Harbaugh about the pressure?
For sure. I talked about it in great detail with him and coach Campbell and coach Moore and just that whole process of unraveling it and diagnosing it did a lot for me and probably did the best thing for me.
Having Harbaugh on the sideline
For me specifically is that comfort being out there on the field like after completing a second-and-long, threw a bender over the middle of the road and then seeing Coach do one of these (fist pumps), it’s just something about it just gives me that extra spark when I’m out there. And obviously, he’s the leader of our organization. He’s the leader of our team, and just being out there with him at the frontlines with us, it means so much and it just brings that extra level of alright, here we go, we’re here to play.
On Roman Wilson
Like I said, a lot of work was done this offseason, just hanging out, just being college kids and hanging out. Like, go fishing. Just you know, we went up to Lake Charlevoix and had a little offensive team bonding trip. All that little stuff added up so it shows up on Saturdays. And that kid is literally — I’ll say right here — one of the most special players in the country. He’s almost faster than everybody in the country. He’s got great hands, he blocks his butt off. There was only a matter of time for him to show up on the national stage like he is right now. So I’m just beyond blessed to be his teammate and be able to throw the ball to him.
Straddling the line between making plays and taking chances
I used to be kind of forcing my abilities to show uncertain play in certain situations. But now I’ve done, are continuing to try and do a very good job of allowing those plays to come to me and allowing my athleticism and special attributes show when the time is needed and not going out there, pressing or going out there forcing things. It’s done a tremendous job for me and for the team, so I’m going to continue to strive to do that.
Playing on the road
I’m not gonna lie to you, road games are probably my favorite. I love The Big House and its amazing atmosphere but there’s something about going into someone else’s building and hearing all the boos and feeling all the hate — like it just — I’m getting chills right now! It just brings a different spark and ignites a different fire inside of us and there’s nothing better than going into a stadium that’s jumping and going crazy and then by halftime, it’s just quiet as a mouse. So that’s that’s what we’re gonna try to do this weekend but tremendous respect for Nebraska and their defense and Coach Tony White’s done a great job. They’re very well-coached and just can’t wait for it because it’s gonna be a great test for us.
Being active with his legs
For sure. Yeah, the first three games like coach Moore knows how I play or like every single play I’m gonna go 100% 100% of the time. And he wants to limit those chances of happening as much as possible throughout those three games. Because I could get myself in a sticky situation and he knows that. But with Big Ten play coming, or just happened, and while we’re in it, like that’s the time to use it because it is so effective and it helps our run game so much and helps our pass game so much. So now’s the time to do it. And they did a great job of just kind of holding me back a little bit.
Did he want to run more?
Definitely itching, but you know, I trust my coaches wholeheartedly and whatever they say I’m gonna do.
Will playing on the road help the team take off this year like it did the past two years?
I feel like this team is different in that aspect. Where doesn’t matter — if we’re on the road, it doesn’t matter, or in The Big House. No matter what, we’re always going to be striving to get better each and every day, and no matter where it is. Coach Herb does a great job of emphasizing no matter what the external circumstances are, it’s not going to change what we came here to do. And I feel like you can, like I said earlier, you can put us out there in the Glick parking lot, you can put us out there on the baseball field over there, it’s not going to change our mindset, our mentality and our strive to be great.