Michigan derails Wisconsin 'D' with 'train' formation

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Michigan lined up in a formation the coaches called "Train," setting up the Wolverines' first score Saturday.

Ann Arbor — Michigan had a little formation fun on the final play of the first quarter.

Ten players lined up in an “I formation” with Wilton Speight to the side. They broke the chain, lined up and De’Veon Smith gained five yards to the Wisconsin 1-yard line.

That set up Michigan’s first score in a 14-7 victory over Wisconsin on Saturday.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said his son, Jay, the tight ends/special teams coach, came up with the play called “Train.”

“Guys had fun with it this week,” Harbaugh said. “Put it in this week and executed it well.”

Running back Ty Isaac said the play looked confusing when they first saw it in a team meeting last week.

"When they handed us, you know we get our playbooks, we get the sheets and I'm looking at it and I kind of looked back at (running backs) coach (Tyrone) Wheatley like, 'Is this play supposed to be horizontal? Or is it supposed to be like this?' He was like, 'Wait, you'll see.' It works. It confuses people, so they're creative and they know what they're doing.

"It's just putting (defensive players) out of their position and see if you can catch them off guard."

Quarterback Wilton Speight said he knew the offense was in for something when the staff came into the meeting room with the play.

“Coach Jay Harbaugh and head man Harbaugh, (Tim) Drevno and (Jedd) Fisch came into a meeting one day earlier this week all with a big smirk on their face,” Speight said. “We knew something was going in that they liked, and it happened to be that play. The bottom line is, if you do something like that you’d better not mess it up, you’d better pick up the first down, and we were able to do that.”

Speight was asked if a play like that rattles a defense.

“I’m sure it’s pretty confusing for the defense,” he said. “You see 10 dudes in a line, that probably would throw you off a little bit.”

Nose tackle Ryan Glasgow, sitting to Speight’s right after the game, chimed in.

“I think that’s fair to say, yes,” Glasgow said, drawing laughter.

Receiver Jehu Chesson laughed and said it was just another unique twist introduced by Harbaugh.

“When we heard that play was going in we were like, ‘Just another thing Harbaugh does.’ We followed it with blind faith. We were really excited we had that in this week. It was fun to rep it in practice, that’s for sure.”

Michigan practiced it against their demonstration team. Cornerback Jourdan Lewis was asked how a defense probably reacts to a play like that.

“Discombobulated, definitely,” he said. “You don’t know what’s going to happen. Are they going to snap here? How are they going to line up when they get in formation? What personnel are they going to get in? It definitely messes with a defense.

“It was unbelievable. They have a plethora of plays we haven’t seen before.”


 Twitter: @chengelis