spoiler alert: i linked this
Rob Lytle. Rob Lytle was before my time, so I can't offer anything personal in reaction to his death at the young age of 56. Wolverine Historian has dug through his archives and posted an interview with him from his playing days:
"He was special," Hanlon said Sunday. "He had a confidence about him which never showed up as cockiness. He was just always a team player: 'What can I do to help?'" …
"You would never have known he was a great Michigan football player or professional football player," [Bruce] Madej said. "He didn't talk about it. He was anything but a big-timer. He was a nice, unassuming good guy. He was truly a good guy."
The second thing I will remember about Rob Lytle was his helmet. He played alongside some really tough and mean customers like S Don Dufek, DT Greg "Mo" Morton, S Dwight Hicks and OLB Calvin O'Neal. Most of these guys had Wolverine helmet awards completely covering the surface of their striped, winged, Michigan football helmet. Lytle's Michigan helmet was loaded with helmet awards too, but he front of the helmet was a mess. I mean, the Maize paint was all screwed up, scratched and blended. Lytle's head covering was put through so much abuse, you couldn't tell where the Michigan wings ended and the stripes began.
That thing's been through a war. Several wars.
Lytle had a great career with the Broncos after his Michigan days and Huckleby4Heisman collected some of the articles out of Denver, including what's probably the first and last Woody Paige column I'll happily link. From some NFL teammates:
"He wasn't the fastest guy in the league, but he got the tough yards every time," Morton said. "He would run through a brick wall for his team every time if he had to."
In his seven NFL seasons, all with the Broncos, Lytle rushed for 1,451 yards and 12 touchdowns and also had 562 yards receiving and two scores.
"He was an all-around player," Thompson said. "He ran hard. He could catch the ball well. He wasn't afraid to block. He was just an all-around good athlete."
The Broncos' vice president for corporate communications also has a post that's far more touching than his job title implies. RIP, Rob Lytle.
Soccer triumphant. Unless you are a Wisconsin fan, if you missed Sunday's NCAA tourney game against UCF you missed the most entertaining sporting event on Michigan's campus last weekend. Michigan launched 30 shots before overtime kicked in, then finally got the goal to put them over the top on a zinged-in free kick from Hamoody Saad that glanced off Latif Alashe on its way in but was probably destined for the net anyway. Also one of UCF's best players was rocking a Wesley Snipes in Demolition Man high top fade. It was wicked.
In the aftermath, the team performed a reverse field rush by running into the student section. Justin Meram was shirtless and airborne:
#10 Michigan takes on #7 South Carolina in the third round. Unfortunately, they also scraped an overtime goal against Duke so the next game will be on the road. There doesn't appear to be any TV, which makes me cranky. Game is Sunday at 2.
BONUS: Yes, Meram does have a year of eligibility left for football if he wants to try his hand at kicker, but my friend exclaimed "he's better than Robbie Findley" in all seriousness and it was tough to disagree. A pro career probably beckons.
So about those incredibly obvious trends I got torn apart for mentioning. I got torn apart by rival fanbases for suggesting two things this offfseason. One: Penn State's quarterback situation is alarming and dismal. Two: Iowa wasn't all that great in 2009 and was overrated going into 2010. It was looking pretty good for thing one until Michigan's defense showed up to un-save the day and Matt McGloin experienced two and a half games in which he was Brett Favre before turning into Brett Favre in the second half against Ohio State. PSU's 71st in passer efficiency and while that's not good it's not as bad as I thought it would be before the season.
The other thing, well… remember this?
I don't think Iowa will be bad, exactly, but I'd be less surprised by the Hawkeyes finishing fifth in the Big Ten than second.
And remember the BHGP response to this?
And I guess that's what is so sad about this. Because this is idiotic, and it is clueless, and it is so against character that it deserves to be called idiotic and clueless. Either Cook didn't realize it's moronic, which makes him the least likely moron I've ever met, or Cook knew it (the title gives it away), and that basically makes him Tom Dienhart this time. Regardless of the motivation, it's beneath him.
Iowa's now 7-4 and featuring in Doc Sat "Life on the Margins" posts about how Iowa's lost that old crunch-time feeling while Fight For Iowa should really be adding pictures of Henry The Otter of Ennui to a post titled "The Wastelands of Mediocrity" that went up even before the OSU game. They're headed for 8-4 since their last game is against Minnesota and will thus be at worst tied for fourth in the league (Penn State is also 4-3 and can match them by beating MSU in the season finale), but preseason skepticism about Iowa turned out to be something less than idiotic and clueless.
Something less than rabid careless monsters. Pierre Woods was chilling out in Ann Arbor, working as a groundskeeper and trying to keep in playing shape after the Patriots cut him earlier in the year. He did so by hanging out with Barwis, and is grateful:
“The guys at Michigan, man, they prepared me,” Woods told me. “Trust me. They prepared me. The head strength coach (Mike Barwis), the assistant (Parker Whiteman), I’m pretty sure they got tired of seeing my face up in there, but they allowed me to work out, use the facilities, go around, eat, everything. They treated me like family. You play at Michigan, you come back, they treat you like family. I got nothing but love for those guys and I appreciate what they did.”
Woods got back on the Patriots and is extending his NFL career somewhat. He did yoga with Mike Barwis and his family. Wolves doing yoga, basically.
Etc.: Wisconsin blog breaks down the 61-yard touchdown but starts after the guy is already through the line. That's 95% of the play! TWIS embeds the same things from the game column and tours that one USC board after the demolition at the hands of Oregon State. Michigan is going to a bowl game so AnnArbor.com brings out the same complaint from the previous academics investigation: academic folk get to go. Hurray for that being a relevant thing to bleat about again. The Daily on Troy Woolfolk's recovery from an ankle dislocation. Have a thought for the Michigan class of 2011, which started its career watching the Horror and finished it watching whatever that was against Wisconsin, with mostly crap in between.
This game means a lot to the seniors, but also the last couple classes that never got the chance to beat OSU. "If we could put a stop to that streak too, maybe start our own streak of beating them" would be a big deal to the team. "It's not really a rivalry when one team wins every year. We've gotta get back in the win column."
"These last few years have been a little different Michigan, I guess, than the previous years." This win would be huge. "In a way, it could help rectify the four losses we've had. Obviously, it doesn't make up for them."
Never played in Columbus - he was injured 2 years ago. "It seems like a fun place to play." Jealous he didn't play last time.
Shown progression last three years, doesn't think about playing for Coach Rod's job this season.
The team has been trying to play catch-up in all four losses. Want to try for an early lead, maybe run some clock "especially in Columbus."
"We definitely think we have the ability to play with anybody when we're playing at our best."
Different intensity in Schembechler this week. "Put some band-aids on your wounds and get after it. Leave it all out there this Saturday."
The many good DL they've faced lately bring different skills to the table. "Arguably the top 4 defensive ends in the country play in our league." Heyward's great, played since he was a freshman. He has the whole package, and will be a big-time NFL prospect.
Don't want to see turnovers, protection from the OL has to help avoid it.
Denard has played well, set some records, but the team has struggled at times. Schilling doesn't worry about whether Denard is B10 player of the year. Denard's always got a positive attitude, no matter what's going on in the game. He loves playing football, always smiling. "You can tell he loves to play the game, and it's exciting to be able to block for a guy like that."
"Obviously my blood always ran Blue. My dad walked on here." Exciting rivalry, surreal to be a part of it. He was at the game the last time Michigan beat OSU. Sitting in section 27 with his parents and brother. Been to several games in Columbus, 2002 Game. Several M-OSU games. Didn't go to 2006, but that was the first one he missed.
Converted a couple buddies to M fans, some of them are still diehard Buckeye fans. "I do have some friends who go to Ohio State, and we're excited to go down there." Expects to hear from his buddies, win or lose. "Hopefully I can shut them up for a year, but we'll see."
Thrown in the mix early last year, gradually has become more comfortable with the defense. One of the more veteran guys on the defense already. Excited about the development of the young guys.
Pryor - "He's very versatile. He's a big guy... he can run and throw." The offense has a lot of different packages. They should be a great challenge.
"Anytime that you can make an offense one-dimensional, you've got a good chance of playing some good defense. If we can stop them on first and second down and put them in third-and-long, obviously we can create turnovers that way. But that's much easier said than done, and we've struggled with that so far."
Lost to Dane Sanzenbacher both times they played in HS. "I'm still looking for my first victory against him." He's not a big-name guy, but makes huge plays for the Buckeyes. "I wouldn't say that he does anything great, but he does a lot of things very well."
"We know we're going to have to play a flawless game." Guys are looking forward to getting into the film room. "We're confident. We're excited about this challenge."
"I'm playing this week, no matter what." Had "a little head trauma," wasn't cleared to play in the second half. "It doesn't matter for this week, because I'm going to be playing."
Defensive players draw confidence from each other, looking at each other's work ethic, etc. Defensive struggles are a mixture of several factors, but everyone on D is working as hard as they can to fix what they can contorl.
"Our defensive goals each week are six 3-and-outs, three turnovers." If they can pull that off, the team will have a pretty good chance of winning.
Didn't know too much about Michigan or Ohio State in 2003. "I was just in Arizona, you know, chillin'." Can't take M-OSU rivalry away from college football. Glad they'll still play when the B10 goes to divisions.
The mentality of each guy on the team shows how important the OSU week is. Everything encompassed into one is what makes this game so important.
Has only heard about going into Columbus from a fan's perspective "I'm expecting the worst, and it's going to be exciting."
On the stuffed whatever: "Are you saying there's an animal on the sidelines? Next question."
Playing for RR's job? "No. We're playing for each other... It would be a great win for Rich Rod, for the team in general."
"I love Rich Rod as a coach. He's just a tough working guy." Has a positive attitude, despite what he's been through. That positivity wears off on guys.
Ryan Van Bergen
"I don't remember that one. I would have been 14." Probably just playing BBall and chasing girls in 8th grade. Charles Woodson with the Rose in his mouth is one of his first Michigan memories.
From the West side of the state, his mom is always heckled by MSU fans. This week, people are coming in to offer her encouragement. She's now realizing their ulterior motives, as Michigan can help send State to the Rose Bowl.
"A lot of the guys in my class, it's their last year. One of the big things for seniors is you never want to leave this program without beating Ohio State." Guys who have left say there's a feeling of emptiness. When you come to Michigan, you know your performances against Ohio State will make your reputation. "If you come out against Ohio State and have your best game, a lot can be forgiven."
Some criticism of the team is unjustified: they've been able to play with some of the top teams in the league. "For some reason, we haven't gotten that attitude to come out on the first play." Need to be able to come together and do that throughout the full game. Older guys, RVB included, need to help motivate everyone.
The defense's performance against Wisconsin - "Most of it was schematic. I mean, They schemed us really well. They had a play where they pull the tackle and a guard and the tight end blocks down. They scored 2 or 3 touchdowns on that one play. All of those were explosive plays." It's not a good thing, but there were positives to take from it, some guys played with a physical edge. "We can adjust our scheme and be ready for Ohio State X-and-O-wise. I think we can definitely play with them."
Terrelle Pryor, canon for an arm, fast, big, has a bunch of talented, fundamental WRs, good running backs. "They're a very dangerous and explosive offense, but I wouldn't want it any other way."
Team and program are making some big strides. "I think that next year, the guys we return, there's definitely going to be a chance that we're gonna be big-time contenders."
Mike Martin - Aggressive, relentless. Off the field, he's... "cuddly."
"Lot of time in the training room and rehab. I've been struggling a lot with my ankles this season, which is a pain." Trying to play through it, doing as much as he can. Tough to push off with his ankles. Big mental thing, trying to play through it. "Hopefully that adrenaline kicks in, you know?" Only one of them is a problem at this point. Trying to be a leader when he's been unable to make an impact on the field. Adam Patterson has stepped up well in Mike's absence.
"It's tough, obviously, being on the team and being a fan. Any fan doesn't like that." Doing whatever they can to reverse OSU's dominance. No matter what each team's season is like, they'll both fight hard.
Has talked to guys who played in the 50s and 60s about the game. "We're just gonna play as hard as we can and make those guys proud."
Would feel really good to stop he streak. Overcome a lot this season, trying to improve each week. Anything is possible. "It's not about Ohio State, it's about us and what we do." Not looking to be spoilers, looking to win for themselves. "We're gonna control what we can control."
"It's gonna start with us down in the trenches." Need to force Pryor to move his feet, get him off-rhythm. Need to get pressure, wreak some havoc.
"I think they hate us, we hate them. That's just how it is, that's what it is." That leads to getting each team's best shot, no matter what. Different sense of intensity in the air this week. "You don't really need a motivational speech to get excited for it."
"We're not gonna get ran off the field. That's not gonna happen." They'll play hard to the final whistle. "That's not us, that's not our team, and we won't allow that to happen at all."
OSU might have a couple tricks up their sleeve, but this game is more about going straight at each other.
Not worried about what their impact is on MSU, just want to win for themselves.
Stuffed animal - "That's the defense's thing. We're not gonna talk about that."
"I don't really remember the game" last time M beat Ohio State.
Gave OSU a serious look in high school, but felt right in Ann Arbor. Talks to Roundtree about it. OSU wanted him on either side of the ball. His dad was a Michigan fan, that played a role in his decision.
Split in Toledo between OSU and M fans among his friends. Hears "I'm an Ohio State fan but I'm also a Kevin Koger fan" from most people he knows.
Have to take care of the ball to have a chance to win. Can't turn it over 5 times against OSU and still win. Need to pay attention to details. "It's not anything the coaches can do. It's definitely on us."
"It'd definitely mean a lot to us. Every game means a lot but this one means a little more."
Rivalry hasn't lost its luster even though OSU has won a lot. Streak is a bit embarrassing "It's on us to stop it."
"Hate? That's such a strong word." Respects, but does not like them.
"I guess I have to agree with Koger. Got respect for them, but don't like them." Wasn't aware of the rivalry that much in HS. Looked at the FSU-Miami rivalry, and heard that M-OSU was a bigger deal. "You expect a physical team, a great coached team, and a great team." against OSU. You have to be even more prepared than past games.
Knew last year's game would be intense when he saw Shaw's altercation with an OSU player going into the tunnel. He's also seen video of the famous Woodson/Boston battle. "It's a big game. It's still a football game. Still a game."
1500 rush yards: "That's a great accomplishment, but I don't know what to say about it."
It would be a big deal to get invited to NY for the Heisman ceemony, but can't worry about it while there are still games to play.
"We can't come out flat like we did against Wisconsin. We've gotta perform all four quarters." Need to protect "the program" the ball. They've been making a few more mistakes lately, and that can't continue.
"I think our defense is one of the best defenses in the nation. I don't care what nobody say. We face them every day, and they just help us get better."
Pryor reminds Denard of Devin Gardner. Big, and he can run and pass.
He's going to ask Falk about the 'Shoe once he gets the chance. Iowa and Penn State were also tough environments.
Felt fairly healthy the past month. "90%, pretty good." Doesn't know when he got dinged up, but he's healthy enough to be as fast now as he was in the first few games. "I thought I was gonna break a couple of them, and I just fell" against Wisconsin.
Notes from Rich Rodriguez's Monday meeting with the press.
Injuries and Actual News
Multiple guys had headaches, their status is unknown until he talks to the doctors. Not sure about Stonum - he'll try to run around a bit the next couple days [but is in a boot].Gallon's shoulder will have to progress.
"Mike [Martin] should be OK. He'll be a little limited probably, he and Jonas [Mouton] both." Martin is the most dominant defensive player when he's healthy. "When we've got a healthy Mike Martin in there, it's different for us... He's one of those guys that can stand up to anybody." He gets treatment every morning, but he still won't be 100% this game - maybe by the bowl game.
Special teams have been pretty good outside of the inability to make a field goal. Drew Dileo and Fitz Toussaint will do more returning with the injuries to other guys. Fitz was on returns for the first time all year against Wisconsin because they were running out of capable bodies. "I think he's still getting back into the groove. There's so much time, it's like starting all over again. I think you'll more likely see him more often this weekend."
Kickers - "Seth had a great week of practice then he missed the one... Brendan kicked the extra points, but they were low, so we're lucky they weren't blocked." Nothing looks wrong with Seth's form, so it may be mental.
"Hopefully Vincent's OK." He's been the #1 RB, but Stephen Hopkins, Fitz Toussaint, and Mike Shaw should be good to practice all this week.
"It's looking that way" for a medical redshirt for Devin Gardner. Muscular issue in his lower back, probably won't require surgery.
Wisconsin accusations: "Playing dirty? That's funny." Must have been looking for something controversial.
Rodriguez has played during Thanksgiving week in the past. "The routine really pretty much stays the same." Most teams are still playing this week.
Personnel and Team
Denard - "For a first-year starter, he's had a pretty remarkable year." Hasn't looked as young as his age a lot of the time. Very committed to improving his game, understanding everything better. Not worried about postseason awards "I don't think we have to trumpet anything." On top of the numbers, Denard's taken a bigger leadership role, he loves his teammates. "He's got the type of personality that you wanna be around."
Scrutiny in the media might have changed with bowl eligibility, but the attitude inside the program is no different. "We've kinda had to take a tunnel-vision type of approach as a staff, and as a team, and as a program." The focus can't change because of outside perception. Sometimes stuff is falsely reported - and being a coach is like being a politician in that way.
"I didn't get this job at Michigan by getting a lottery ticket that said 'congratulations, you're the coach at Michigan.'" There's more to building a program than what's written in the media. Some circumstances may come up altering timeframe, for better or worse. "Close in some areas, but still a ways away in others." Rodriguez is still positive that they'll get to where they want to be - he sees the progress. "It's sooner rather than later, but it's not overnight."
The program has come a long way offensively since last these teams played, not as much progress on D. "A lot of the other thing that I've seen that's maybe not shown on the field as much, I think has come a long way."
The perception that teams with spread offenses have poor defenses is incorrect. Northwestern won a Big Ten title with the spread, Florida and Oklahoma won national titles running a spread. West Virginia had top-10 defenses when Rich was there. "It was probably doubts because people just wanna doubt. There's a faction of them that love being negative." Way too much is made about running schemes. The execution, players, etc. are more important.
Have to continue doing some things well, and improve the areas in which they haven't done well. "It's a game that's easy emotionally to get your guys focused for." Need to worry about execution. "Defensively, we've gotta make some stops, it's as simple as that." You can make some steps during the season, but the D won't improve exponentially in, say 4 weeks.
The defense isn't just one thing, there have been different issues each year. "There's no question that it needs to get fixed." Getting healthy, recruiting, development, putting them in position to succeed. "We've gotta look at everything, just like we would on offense." Team will naturally improve next year with experience, it's just a matter of maximizing that improvement.
"I've seen us play outstanding football in all three phases at times." Been more consistent on offense, and if the defense grows up and a few things bounce their way, it's a winnable game. Last year, they played well defensively but the offense turned it over too many times. "The situation was right us to maybe sneak one out there." but they missed opportunities to make plays.
Jordan Kovacs has been one of the D's most solid players. Kevin Koger has been splitting time with Webb at TE. Those two will be some of the team's greatest leaders next year.
The offense has stayed healthier, the defense has been ravaged by injuries. The freshmen who are playing would normally be redshirted.
"First off, it means a lot because it's Michigan-Ohio State." Means a lot to the seniors. "This would be something for them to remember quite fondly." Ohio State may have at stake from a conference championship standpoint, but the game is important on its own merits either way. "We do a few special things different for Ohio State week."
Great for fans, seniors, coaches, families. "I don't think about the end result right now, winning or losing. Right now, I want my players, and my coaches, and myself, we're thinking about the process." Want to focus on what they need to do to achieve the end result, not the result itself.
"I don't think about point spreads. When I came to Michigan I thought about winning championships."
Slow starts in past few games haven't been the same cause, sometimes a turnover, bogged down in the redzone, etc. "I'll study all of that after the season and see if there's something that will help our guys get out of the gate faster."
Pryor - improved understanding of the offense, runs when he has to. "He's a great athlete, I think there's no question he's the leader of that offensive unit, and he's made a lot of big plays for them."
The Ohio State OL is good, tailback position is talented, Dane Sanzenbacher is one of the best WRs in the country. Best corner pair in the league, LBs as good as anybody - and they gave Michigan lots of trouble last year, especially Brian Rolle.
OL - "We didn't play as well up front last week on the edges as we have been." JJ Watt's talent had something to do with the struggles, and the guys know they'll have another challenge this week with Cameron Heyward and John Simon.
Ohio Stadium is a challenge, but the quality of the team is daunting itself. "As far as intensity level and all that, it will be unparalleled." History, intensity, make this the greatest rivalry in sports. "It's hard to match the intensity of this one." Playing at OSU will be loud, as Penn State was. Communication issues come with offensive guys, so the youth on defense hopefully won't be too affected by the road atmosphere. Last time at OSU, saw some stuff, old ladies giving the bird, but that wasn't anything new. "Playing with Pitt, we saw whole families of them."
"We're not practicing and going down there with the intention of 'let's just show up and see what happens.' We're going down there to battle our tails off and try to get the win."
"We don't talk about the past and what's happened last year, 3 years ago, 5 years ago, but you want to be able to have it on your resume that you beat Ohio State if you played at Michigan." Greatest rivalry in college sports "for us, we've gotta perform better and get some wins to make us feel better, make our fans feel better."
Even if you fall behind, the team should have enough confidence that they can make a comeback. "It certainly will help the atmosphere so to speak if we can at least get off to a better start offensively."
Might the coaches take more chances on offense or special teams to cover for the weak defense? "If I did think that, would it make any sense to tell you? Probably not. We'll probably punt on third down."
Michigan's loss this weekend was tough for fans, but it didn't seem to affect how the visiting recruits perceived Michigan's program. Here's their reaction with a few extras as usual.
6'4", 230 lbs.
Red Bank, New Jersey
Michigan has been trying to land a tight end in this class for some time now. They missed on a few, and have now targeted Tabb as their guy. This was Jack's second time to Michigan, but first for an actual game.
It was a great visit. The game was as good as you could dream of. 110,000 people, it was absolutely wild. It was a real cool environment, besides the loss, but I felt really comfortable with everyone there.
Tabb's mom was with him on his visit, and she seemed to have the same feelings as her son about the overall experience at Michigan.
Mom really liked it. She liked everything, how it was the total package. I talked to the coaches, and Rich Rodriguez told us how he really me, needs me at tight end, and that there's an opportunity to play early.
Tabb will visit North Carolina on December 3rd and may go to Arkansas after that. He's already been to Iowa. He is going to make his decision before Christmas, so this visit was big for Michigan. If I had to guess, I would say that this visit may have put Michigan in the lead.
6'3", 210 lbs.
Matthews, North Carolina
Kris Frost has been open about his love for Michigan. I've been in close contact with Frost, and have a good picture of his recruitment, and how it will play out. This visit was instrumental for Michigan. Since Auburn is closer, he's been able to take more visits, and has allowed them to gain quit a bit of ground on Michigan lately. He said this before the visit this weekend.
I'm excited for the visit to Michigan, because I want to see what it's like up there for the game. Auburn is making it really hard for me. Every time I go down there they show me a great time, and they showed me how I would fit in. So this visit to Michigan is going to be big for me.
I didn't get to talk to Kris in depth last night after his visit since he was traveling. We have a phone call scheduled for later today, and I can get you the full details after that. He did have this to say so far, though.
The visit was great, it was basically what I was hoping for. I'm still planning on going to LSU and Cal, then making my decision at the Army game.
I'll have more quotes and better detail later today. He obviously didn't commit, but this visit was a big help for Michigan. He has told me that he is watching the NCAA situation at Auburn very closely.
6'3", 210 lbs.
Winter Springs, Florida
Petro was recently added to Michigan's radar but hasn't been offered yet. He took an unofficial trip up to Ann Arbor this weekend and was blown away by the experience.
It was my first trip to any college game. It was crazy going to the biggest stadium in the country. Even if I go anywhere else, I don't think anywhere can compare to that. It was a lot more than I expected. The noise from everyone, people cheering, it was amazing.
Ryan plans to come back to Michigan for an official visit in December. The visit isn't set in stone yet, but will most likely be December 10th, for the Big Chill.
I loved the visit. The coaches were great, Mike Barwis was amazing. Everyone was really laid back and easy to talk to. The facilities were amazing, too. If they were to offer me, I would probably commit after what I saw this weekend.
Petro may have to wait to receiver his offer depending on how other recruits Michigan is targeting make their decisions. Either way, the coaches do like his athleticism, and have told him he has the potential to play the hybrid linebacker/safety role.
6'1", 189 lbs.
Devin recently received an offer from Michigan, and was excited to receive the news. The four star receiver said that Michigan was one of his favorite programs, and was glad the offer came through.
I will be visiting Michigan for sure, it just depends on when my season ends. We're still in the playoffs, so I'm not too sure. Michigan is in my top five though. I'm not ready to say who's in the top five besides them, but they're in it.
Sammy Watkins committed to Clemson today, which was a surprise to me. I knew he was announcing soon, but didn't think it would be for Clemson. This offer to Lucien makes sense in that light, although I still think something happened with Watkins. Nonetheless the coaches are very high on Lucien and told him how they felt:
The coaches just told me that I was a great receiver, and they like the way I play the game. They think that Michigan is a great fit for me, and I do too.
Lucien isn't going to make his decision until signing day, so there's no hurry to get him on campus. I'm sure the staff would like to get him in for the Big Chill on December 10th.
- Michigan running back Justice Hayes has opened up his recruitment, and decommitted from Notre Dame. He says Michigan, Tennessee, and Notre Dame are in it, but I believe that Tennessee is the main school he's looking at. He and Demetrius Hart are similar runners.
- Glenville teammates QB Cardale Jones and WR Shane Wynn are planning on visiting Michigan. Wynn said, "I'm definitely taking a visit there."
- Wide receiver Sammy Watkins committed to Clemson. I still think something happened to change his mind or that it was so close and ultimately decided for Clemson. I'm going to find out if this is over or if he still plans on visiting with Dallas after the playoffs.
11/20/2010 – Michigan 28, Wisconsin 48 – 7-4, 3-4 Big Ten
During my illustrious high school quiz bowl career* I ran across a question about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, the Tom Stoppard play about a couple of bit players in Hamlet. It started off "the first 47 words of this play are 'heads,'" at which point someone else rang in and answered. Later I'd find out via the miracle of DVR that the reason the first 47 words of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead are "heads" is because one of the characters flips a coin over and over again. It always comes up heads. Rosencrantz or Guildenstern—it's unclear who is who for the duration—arrives at the conclusion that they are "within un-, sub-, or supernatural forces."
This weekend I'm scanning the message board for threads to terminate with extreme prejudice when I run across something from Mgrowold about the events of Saturday's second half:
Wisconsin then proceeded to run the ball 32 out of 33 times in the second half of today's game. As I sat in the stadium it occurred to me that if a running play was "heads" and a passing play was "tails" then the Badger's play calling went something like this: heads, heads, tails, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads, heads and then heads.
Wikipedia describes Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead as an "absurdist, existentialist tragicomedy." This is Greg Robinson rubbing a beaver on Kenny Demens's face in the midst of a game where the Michigan defense gave up 560 yards and Scott Tolzien's only incompletion was a James Rogers interception, his third in two games:
At this point the column writes itself.
Apparently this is not literally true and now I have to put words down.
This is disappointing; you always hope if you really, really nail it in the first couple paragraphs you can watch the words appear as if by magic and then you won't have to seriously think about what happened in a game where Wisconsin punted once for the second consecutive year. Not accurate.
Obviously that was awful. Michigan had no answer to Wisconsin's series of basic "hai guys we're Wisconsin" runs. They went back to the same stupid 3-3-5 with Kenny Demens lined up two inches from his nose tackle's butt that got Michigan obliterated against Penn State. Wisconsin's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern second half was immensely, grindingly depressive but did have a secondary effect: it mostly absolved the improbably young secondary from blame. The front seven/eight aren't universally freshmen and should be able to hold a team under, I don't know, 350 yards of rushing.
I said my bit on the job status of Rodriguez and Robinson already. Michigan put up 28 that would have been 31 if not for a missed 30 yard field goal. That's on par with Wisconsin's worst performances of the year—Michigan State put up 34 but got a punt return touchdown, Iowa put up 30. The defense was the same incoherent mess it's been the whole year. It was more depressing than I expected, but at this point whatever, right?
Saturday reinforced both positions. Our defensive coordinator literally rubs small stuffed animals on people's faces. Denard Robinson broke the I-A record for rushing yards by a quarterback and is the first guy in history to have 1500 rushing yards and 2500 passing yards in the same season. Michigan is the most dichotomous team in at least the last decade of college football, and while I won't be horribly upset if Rodriguez does get the axe I still think the best thing for the next year or two is to see what happens when Denard Robinson is an upperclassman and the defense isn't starting four freshmen and three more sophomores. Michigan did manage to achieve the modest goals set before it, albeit in unimpressive fashion.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are boyhood friends of Hamlet summoned to a castle undergoing chaos. They've got no idea what's going on, are used as pawns, stumble around cluelessly, and end up hanging by their necks until they are dead. Woefully underprepared and doomed from the start, their deaths are both unfair and unavoidable. The third act is set on the boat they take to England and their deaths; they discover the letter sent with them says to execute Hamlet, then discover the Hamlet's fateful switch.
Much of the last bit is devoted to a discussion of how the pair can be so important as to necessitate their execution. I wonder if that's how Rodriguez felt as he watched the half of his team he delegates to someone else ground into a fine dust, like Jeff Casteel had switched his defense with one that read "execute this man."
*(We were actually pretty good, the Wisconsin/Iowa of Michigan high school quiz bowl at the time. We'd own most teams we played but would consistently lose close games to Salem, CC, DCD, and a Henry Ford Harrison team that had lucked into the National Geography Bee winner. We prided ourselves on not having uniforms, at least.)
Existentialist, Absurdist, Tragicomic Non-Bullets
Jeremy Gallon special teams error limit: determined. It is ten billion. I'm obviously on the tolerant side of the scale when it comes to coaching errors (outside of obvious game theory errors, about which I have an Al Qaeda level of zealotry) but JESUS GOD RICH RODRIGUEZ WHY DID YOU LET JEREMY GALLON RETURN KICKS AND PUNTS FOR TEN GAMES.
On the bright side, Michigan's kick returns finally seemed like a net positive aside from the Gallon fumble. Which aaaaargh. The strange thing about those returns was that Wisconsin seemed to be putting them exactly where they wanted—right along one sideline—and still gave up big returns seemingly every time.
A note on how meaningless the NCAA's official kick return stats are: in one game Michigan went from a horrendous debacle to essentially average. They're 67th now. I'll ping Brian Fremeau for his fancy stats at the end of the year to see what the actual damage was in the kick return game.
Small move towards Pulaski. Hey: surprise onside kick that absolutely should have worked but for two Michigan players whiffing on opportunities to recover. Since Wisconsin was going to score anyway, the only tactical error was not doing this two additional times. Also, the last one was not a surprise but it was beautifully executed by the kicker. Maybe that's what they've been practicing all year.
If Roy Roundtree drops a sure first down the next pass will be batted skyward and intercepted 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Fact. Please stop doing this, Roy.
First half struggles. The offense didn't score in the first half due to a confluence of events. Event the second: field goal kicker durrr combined with coaching durrrr about the field goal kicker durrrrr. Event the first and many other bits: Robinson couldn't throw straight. Wisconsin shoved guys up to the LOS and dared Michigan to throw deep. Michigan threw deep. Robinson missed guys by yards and yards, including an open Vincent Smith on that third and six that eventually led to field goal durrrr.
In the second half Robinson hit a series of bombs, forced Wisconsin to back off, and Michigan went TD, TD, TD, fate induced post-Roundtree INT, TD. Again, the design of the offense is excellent and while Robinson's lack of accuracy is now an established issue this level of performance with two seniors on the field is remarkable.
God, this was awful. I hate to embed this and inflict it on the public at large, but this was awwwwwful:
I'm actually a fan of Old Hat Creative's work with Michigan's hype videos but Notre Dame fans would laugh at this treacly debacle. Athletic department: I will write sentimental stuff with 10% of the schmaltz for free. I will pay you if this is the alternative. Guh.
Things that were good. A fond farewell to drum major David Hines Jr., whose backbend will remain legendary, and various other band seniors. The MMB bounced back from a year in which they forced Carl Grapentine to say "the clown who laughs outside as he cries inside" and deployed a series of accessible halftime shows that did not involve various operas of the 19th century. The Wizard of Oz halftime was good, Lady Gaga translates to marching band in a shockingly effective fashion, and the hockey band just played the old Hockey Night in Canada theme. Thumbs up.
Bret Bielema: still a huge jerk. This isn't a surprise from a guy who saw one of his special teams scrubs attempt to injure Steve Breaston and then pretended it didn't even happen, but Bret Bielema said his team sent "a message" by chop-blocking one of Michigan's linemen on that first-half drive that didn't end in a touchdown. You know, that one.
I should start regularly linking Mike DeSimone's comprehensive picture galleries, which collect everything shot on a game-by-game basis and act as a crutch here.
I made this facial expression at the exact same time!
Joe Stapleton says he feels sorry for Rodriguez. On RR's postgame mini-rant about the exceptional youth in the secondary:
It's an excuse and reality. As much as I would like to say it, the biggest problem with the defense isn't the abjectly awful coaching of defensive coordinator Greg Robinson (Though it certainly doesn't help — as gaudy as Wisconsin's offensive numbers were, they could have been a lot worse if the Badgers would've taken advantage of the WIDE-open middle of the field through the air). It's the youth in the secondary.
Some say, without thinking, that this is Rodriguez's fault. He should've recruited more (and better) defensive backs. Here's the thing: he had defensive backs. They all just kinda ... left. That, or they got injured.
I'm at the point where losing Vlad Emilien, no matter how not good he may have been, is a strike against you, but by in large most of the departures were ordained like a post-Roundtree drop INT. Wojo's column is along the same lines as this one.
AnnArbor.com runs a poll of their own about RR's job security; the ones run around here earlier in the year by The White Tiger are more extensive but MGoBlog actively discourages people from the militant wing of the fanbase from participating so the numbers at AA.com are probably more representative. They've got 3300 votes in with 41% saying boot him, 22% saying "one more year," and 33% saying "I support him." A very strange 2% of people took the time to vote "I don't care." That's a majority saying keep him but it's vastly short of the 81% who voted "keep him" at 7-5 in the poll around these parts. (Michigan had yet to play Illinois and Purdue when that poll was deployed.)
Across various blogs the reaction seems to be mostly "not surprised." Touch The Banner:
This is a game that I expected Michigan to lose. Almost everyone did. That's not to say that I wasn't frustrated by some of the things that the coaches and players did - and the offensive production in the first half was somewhat embarrassing - but ultimately, this outcome is what most educated observers foresaw.
TTB does say the constant use of Vinopal as a blitzer was stupid, which yeah. Burgeoning Wolverine Star:
Wisconsin is that good. It's not surprising, then, that Michigan struggled so mightily against an oversized, veteran unit that is unquestionably the best outfit in the Big Ten. That doesn't make Michigan's complete inability to stop the run or their general defensive incompetence any less disappointing, but it does mitigate it somewhat.
My prediction--Wisconsin 45-28--and similar ones around the blogosphere was closer than the Vegas spread (-4.5 Wisconsin). We knew we were outmatched, plain and simple. Too many things had to go our way and JJ Watt's self-tip and pick was not one of them. The disparity between Wisconsin's physicality and Michigan's, uhhh, collection of 18-year-old biceps was worlds apart. I'm sort of glad the game flew by.
The Hoover Street Rag busts out Jefferson's inaugural address in a plea for people who think one side or the other of the Rodriguez debate is full of idiots. MGoFootball peruses the board for choice bits.
When he was doing his summer interview series, Six Zero asked how I became a Michigan fan. My answer (short version):
…when I was 11, I was invited to spend a long weekend with my cousin, then an engineering student in Ann Arbor. We had the best pancakes I ever tasted at this place just west of the Nickels Arcade, then went to watch Desmond Howard singlehandedly demolish Indiana. After the game we bought a used copy of Alice in Wonderland from that book dude on State St., then warmed up over hot cider at the Brown Jug. After, I splayed out on a sleeping bag next to the couch in his apartment watching his two female roommates walk around naked. And I was like "This is it; I wanna go to Michigan."
That cousin is still in Ann Arbor. His wife, who must be one of the 90 kindest people in the world, is a pediatrician and huge Michigan fan who spent the morning preparing her house for an invasion of some 25 family members, aged 14 to 70, all of whom were to have parking, tickets, and passes either to the new box, or at least the Crisler bathrooms. Their two kids, girl 11, and boy 9, had helped Mom by taping a large paper banner across the kitchen door that read "Hello Cousins! M Club Welcomes You!"
Adorable children have a way of appearing when Brian's about to hurl profanities, so I marched to Michigan's last home game of 2010 with an army of them. It does help with the profanity –- the worst thing I did at a game full of perfect exclamatory moments was to face the sky after the batted interception and yell "I thought you hated Wisconsin!"
The 14-year-old loved that one. He also loved his first view of MGoBlog, which I had him pull up at half-time on his smart phone (yes, 14-year-olds come with smart phones now). When Denard whooped a guy about to kill him then sauntered into the end-zone, 14-year-old was the one telling me the record had been broken.
The serendipitous presence of a kid is great for writers trying to capture something too profound to be believable from a cynical adult. Sometime MGoCommenter Glen Masons Hot Wife has a little tradition now of (kind of dickishly) telling me I can't write as well as Brian (or Johnny of RBUAS) after these posts. Don't think I don't know I can't (triple-negative!) use a rhetorical moppet with the aplomb of Cook; I wish I could. To be fair, Brian said he wishes he could moppet like DFW.
My actual recollection of childhood was that by the time I cared about sports I wasn't that innocent anymore. My world-test wasn't necessarily "is this awesome?" but "is this cool?" with the latter being something I didn't actually get to determine. I thought Desmond Howard was awesome, but I was almost as happy again when I learned that Desmond Howard fandom was really cool.
Much of my adult life has been about trying to recapture that which is genuine and awesome (I would argue that David Foster Wallace's magnum opus Infinite Jest, is about this too) after years of pursuing cool. The cynic who blamed God when a 6'0 quarterback kept having his passes batted right to defenders became so because when we're being honest, watching Michigan get crushed by Wisconsin just hurts.
What makes it easier is knowing things will get better. For me, Greg Robinson will probably be gone, and hopefully the 3rd time will be the charm (if it's not, well…), and other than the few guys who walked with their parents under the banner this afternoon, almost all of the starters will be back next year.
Those kids: Greg Banks, James Rogers, Steve Schilling, Adam Patterson, Renaldo Sagesse, Jonas Mouton, Obi Ezeh, et al., moppets themselves when I was in school, stayed when most of their classmates bailed. Some were redshirting for '06, but their first day of eligibility was The Horror. A coach whom they might never have signed up for changed the program to something that's about trying harder, and they did it. They lost to Wisconsin today, and all those other times, not because of effort but because they simply weren't as good as Mark Messner, Charles Woodson, Steve Hutchinson, Alan Branch, Glen Steele, Jarrett Irons and Larry Foote. They never grew cynical because there was always another chance, an opportunity for something awesome to happen.
The injuries sustained today – Roh, Rodgers, Stonum, Smith – may make it impossible, but there's still a chance for awesome. That's why playing for Michigan is different than for every other school, because no matter how the season goes, that chance for awesome is always going to be right there at the end of it. For the seniors, it's the last one. For my 14-year-old cousin, there will be so many more that one loss to Wisconsin is nothing next to years of Denard Robinson and whatever amazing things are ahead.
But here's this kid who's 14 years old, knows what "Ndamukong" means, pulls up rushing stats on SportsTap more than I do, and he doesn't remember Chris Perry because he was fucking SEVEN the last time we beat Ohio State. I don't expect the 2010 Michigan team to play defense like '97, because they're not that good, the same way that this column will never be written as well as the Brian's post-game the next day, and that post-game won't be as good as DFW's tennis coverage was, and DFW's genius was not that of the bard.
For him, for the moppets who made the banner, for the seniors, for the fans, for the coach, for the team, to go into Columbus this year and beat Ohio State, well, that would just be awesome.
Much Ado About Nothing
The Grid of Expectation:
|Wisconsin Preview||The Mathlete||PAN-fried||Wis, 38-37|
|Post Week 11: Yardage Analysis and Predictions + Score Predictor||tpilews||Weighted YPG||M, 42-38|
|Week #11 National Statistics and Predictions for Wisconsin||Enjoy Life||Sagarin, Fremeau||Wis, 41-30 (FEI) or W-4.5|
|Preview: Wisconsin 2010||Brian||fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope, and nice red uniforms||Wis, 34-27||
The Taming of the Overgrown Shrew
In the last week of the normal Big Ten season the Diarists had to dig deep (get it?) to get up for a visit from the 10-1 Badgers. First, the Shred Dude, and his remake of Shakespeare's section title-referenced play: 10 Things I Hate About The F-ing Badgers.
Whats that shit on your face?
2. James Kamoku- You son of a bitch! You think you can put your god damn hands on Steve Breaston and get away with it? DO YOU!? This amateur during a 2006 UM vs UW punt return decided to try and rip Steve's ankle off. It was caught on TV. Karma is a bitch since last I saw you played for some fake football team called the "Wolf Pac". Guess what happened to this dirt ball for his bush league act? NOTHING!
Other things Shredder hates: suffocatingly boring, anti-points white-guy basketball, green giants, band camp, dirty campgrounds, letter people, candy canes, trucks, and the cast of That '70s Show except Red. Also: guys who switch positions mid-Paint:
Meanwhile, Coach Schiano visualized a motivational post-Wisconsin speech by Rich Rod. Denard, Kelvin Grady, et al. respond in a telling reminiscent of the random heroism of football.
Alls Well That Ends Well
The funny thing about accomplishing something in sleety driving rain: you are miserable when you're in it, but afterwards you just love talking about it. True to form, the MGoStatisticians took to the spreadsheets to test all sorts of wild theories that indirectly might maybe possibly suggest we beat Wisconsin and Ohio State:
Hypothosis: The Defense is Approaching Average, by matt D.
Observations: Michigan is kind of but not quite comparable to Penn State, which is an average defense:
3 & Out %
Conclusion: You can judge for yourself. Matt says the defense is put in bad situations. Irish brings the sanity:
75th in rush defense and tackles for loss
86th in pass efficiency defense
91st in sacks
93rd in scoring defense
100th in total defense
103rd in turnover margin
114th in pass defense
Hypothesis: 'Tis better to play at home, by The Mathlete.
Observations: Teams seem to perform better against expectations when at home. And whoa last year:
Conclusion: Over these years Michigan is on the low end of home field advantage, in the Big Ten above only the polite and purpled few of Evanston, and Illinois, but it's still worth almost 2 points a game in PAN. Poor Notre Dame is worse at home than on the road.
Hypothesis: Michigan makes a difference, by TennBlue.
Observations: If you normalize our schizophrenic team (SCORE! INTERCEPTION! FUMBLE! SCORE! SCORE! MISS FG! SCORE! INTERCEPTION!) our opponents look a little different than the final score may indicate.
M's affect on Total D Rank
M's affect on Total O rank
|Connecticut||-10||1||W, Good O, OK D|
|Notre Dame||-10||19||W, Good O, Terrible D|
|Bowling Green||-17||0||W, Awesome O, OK D|
|Indiana||-11||14||W, Good O, Terrible D|
|Michigan State||-1||16||L, OK O, Terrible D|
|Iowa||-10||-2||L, Good O, OK D|
|Penn State||-8||4||L, Good O, Bad D|
|Illinois||-20||14||W, Awesome O, Terrible D|
|Purdue||-4||-2||W, OK O, OK D|
Conclusion: Yeah, it kind of does. We underrated Penn State a bit, and maybe overrated Michigan State.
Hypothesis: Michigan is so good we can turn it over and suck at special teams and still win at football, by Enjoy Life
Observations: With a turnover margin of minus-7, a bad return team, a worse coverage team, and no chance of making a field goal, Michigan is amazingly unscathed.
HOLD ON TO THE GOD DAMN BALL AND THROW THE GOD DAMN BALL TO OUR RECEIVERS!!
Also it seems the reason we can get away with this is that our offense is so radically good, and our defense is so generally bad unless we're facing an offense that's radically bad, that what's a few more radicals thrown into the mix.
Hypothesis: All you need to know you can learn from Revenge Movies, by bronxblue
Hypothesis: Michigan could win another Big Ten game this year, by the Mathlete
Observations: We beat Purdue, and the PAN before the Wisconsin game said we were at 46% to finish at the 7-5 we expected, and the rest…well, nowhere to go but up, right?
Conclusion: Three excellent diaries this week again. Dylan can write songs, Gretzky can play hockey, Mathlete can write diaries.
Conclusion: The Mathlete is your Diarist of the Week.
As You Like It (Etc.)
Yes, another Moving Picture Pages of Chris, by Danger of Dangerous Logic. That one's the earlier throwing of rock. He has another from Friday night in which even more rock is thrown. Somewhere, DeBord is coaching in a city that doesn't have internet and thus missing this opportunity to nod in solemn approval.
For those (like me) who have to look more than once to comprehend what "Michigan+4" means, Blazefire and his bolded subconscious multiple personality* put on a little clinic to explain what the line actually means:
The line is not a means of picking a winner of a game, nor is it intended to do so.
The line is a form of handicap, suggesting that under given circumstances, adjusting the final score by X points (subtracting for the team expected to win or adding for the team expected to lose) would create a tie score. It is an attempt to put the teams "on par" with each other.
The line is a betting tool, and is not intended to predict the score of the game.
Betting with or against the line is an agreement or disagreement with Vegas, not a belief or disbelief in one of the teams.
* How many people on this blog have bolded subconscious multiple personality disorder anyhow?
You try watching the last decade of Michigan football and staying sane, putz.
Finally, oriental andrew's Opponent Press Conferences returned this week to interview "that big meathead … and his meaty Badgers."
That's enough of weeks past and Big Ten seasons concluded. It's Ohio State week.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit.
The game's afoot: follow that spirit t'ward dark Ohio
Cry "hail" for Michigan! For Rod! And Saint Bo!