"Coach Mattison told me what the Ravens were about, what he thought," Beyer said. "He definitely encouraged me. I hold his opinion in high regard."
Awesome. This is exactly what the team needed:
Michigan sustained injuries to wide receivers Greg Mathews (ankle) and Junior Hemingway (shoulder). Safety Brandon Harrison didn't play the second half because of a groin injury. Running back Carlos Brown was limited with a shoulder injury. Defensive tackle Terrance Taylor hurt his foot and was in a walking boot after the game.
Thankfully, none of these injuries is supposed to be severe. Though Rodriguez downplayed the importance of the depth chart, Mathews is still listed atop one receiver position, although it’s an “or” with Stonum, and Harrison is listed as a starting safety. Hemingway is not present. He wasn’t present last week, either, and still played. Carlos Brown has disappeared from the RB position but Rodriguez said “we think he’ll be available.”
Mathews and Van Bergen (ankle) were “day to day”; Hemingway was “a little nicked” but his absence was “precautionary.” Harrison’s injury was actually a leg, injury, not a groin and he “should be fine.”
Other notes from the first in-season press conference:
- Feagin “isn’t ready to play” and will be redshirted.
- Threet had a “few more positive things” and “took the edge a little bit.” Still sounds like both will play. Before the opener Sheridan was getting most of the reps with the top unit; in practice this week they’ll split them evenly. I expect Threet to get the first shot at Miami.
- Defense was “awful in the first half”; Michigan “not good enough to play bad and win.”
- Grady is “practicing with the team” and is a maybe to play against Miami.
- Will Johnson and Obi Ezeh were the best players on defense.
- Mouton “got in there and provided a spark.” Sounds like they’ll be shuffling the linebackers some.
- There is “little separation” between Minor, McGuffie, and Shaw. “All three” are in rotation with the first group—no Brown.
- Redshirts are still somewhat up in the air, but Koger and Roundtree were called out as guys who will probably get in at some point.
- You can hear the longing in this quote on Miami, can’t you?
I know they've got nine returning starters on defense, and watching a little film on Vanderbilt, Vanderbilt's biggest plays were when the quarterback took off running. He as a really good athlete and got a lot of big runs, and that was the difference in the ball game.
The rest of it was the usual.
The status of the freshmen in re: redshirts:
- PLAYED: Shaw, McGuffie, Odoms, Stonum, Fitzgerald, Cissoko, Martin
- WILL PROBABLY PLAY: Koger, Roundtree, Robinson
- MIGHT PLAY: Khoury, Barnum, Floyd, Smith, Demens
- REDSHIRTS: Moore, Feagin, Hill, Cox, Mealer, O'Neill, Omameh, Wermers
Notably, only Fitzgerald saw action solely on special teams. This is a significant change from the Carr days, when many would burn their redshirts covering kicks and punts and the like, and a departure from Rodriguez’s professed philosophy on the redshirt—he, like Carr, prefers to get kids on the field as freshmen for whatever reason. I wonder if the new staff is giving the vast majority of the reps to people they feel can help now and thus the guys who might normally play in an average year are even more unprepared than they otherwise might be.
8/30/2008 – Michigan 23, Utah 25 – 0-1
Every rational thought in your head suggests that the whole walk-on or freshman-the-coaches-are-panicked-about at quarterback, the line of baling wire and the occasional confused chicken, and freshmen everywhere at the skill positions will combine to yield an offense worthy of Yakety Sax, but until you actual see the damn thing in action you can hold out hope it will be otherwise.
We have seen it in action. It could have gone better. At least we have an incredibly direct metaphor all around us:
This program is under construction with a completion date around 2010. This is going to be a tough year. If you’re prone to hysterics you should do everyone a favor, watch something else, and annoy everyone on the Project Runway message boards with your all-caps posts. Get over it.
If you’d told me the final score before the game I would have been disappointed but not particularly surprised and wouldn’t have budged much from the preseason prediction. Unfortunately, a raft of unusual events obscured a much grimmer picture, especially in the first half. That was a near-worst case scenario. The offense was as bad as everyone feared; the defense was far worse than anyone expected in the first half. Without the latter unit’s second-half turnaround, I would be halfway to the Yukon and my new life as a gold prospector this morning. As it is, I think a bowl game is unlikely since it will probably require a 7-5 record.
But I’m here and we can talk about the game some. The best part was the warmups, and I mean that only somewhat sarcastically. Seeing the 100-some men in winged helmets go “HOO HOO HOO” whilst pivoting was a weird kind of thrill, as was the Barwis-led Circle of Death. This is not your father’s Michigan football, (TINYFMF) etc.
The second best part was Rodriguez’s inability to cope with the idea his team sucked. I also mean that only somewhat sarcastically. TINYFMF was best displayed on Michigan’s last play of the first half, when Nick Sheridan dropped back on third and long and lofted a ball on an ICBM trajectory. Everyone in the stadium knew it would be intercepted the moment it left his hand.
Lloyd Carr would have called a fullback dive and punted. Michigan would probably have escaped the first half with a manageable five-point deficit, and the defense and special teams excellence in the second half would have been enough to pull it out. The entirety of halftime that “22” for Utah rankled. That touchdown looked completely decisive.
So maybe that was a stupid call. Having your walk-on hurl a ball skyward is asking for it. But I vastly prefer the expectation your player can come through in an important situation to the fear he won’t. That tendency is probably going to hurt this year, when expecting any quarterback to do anything except soil himself is a bad bet, but when Michigan is good they’ll go through each series with a mind to score points; they should blow the doors off opponents who can’t cope. Carr’s formula was a recipe for 9-3, 9-3, 9-3, 9-3. Rodriguez will go through more swings based on how much talent he has at his disposal. Eventually, this will be a good thing.
There’s not much more to say: they kind of suck. I don’t know who any of them are. I hope they get better.
- Boy, did I hate the 4-3 Michigan started out in during the first half. That’s a guarantee of zone coverage or a hideous mismatch between first-time starters at linebacker and slot receivers. For the most part it was the former, which the first-time starters at linebacker were terrible at, and Michigan got shredded on a wide array of routes designed test the weakest part of the Michigan defense. It failed.
- Do you ever get the feeling people are prepared to criticize in a particular way even if reality conflicts with them? I’ve seen a lot of rabble rabble about “Rodriguez needs to adapt the offense to his players” in the aftermath of a game in which Michigan threw 60% of the time.
- I bet you could have gotten good odds on “boy, I wish Rodriguez had run more” as a common complaint before the game. That was perhaps the most disturbing development, as it speaks to a total lack of faith in the offensive line.
- Stevie Brown was victimized repeatedly, giving up the 50-yard pass on third and twenty that led to Utah’s first touchdown. I think he was responsible for the coverage on the score right before the half. He did jump another endzone route and bat the ball to Ezeh.
- Feagin? I mean… he couldn’t have been worse.
- The holding and pass interference penalties should be set aside in a description of Utah mistakes, as Michigan forced those errors out of the Utes with a torrent of pressure and wild hopeful downfield jump balls. One of these will serve Michigan in good stead for the rest of the season.
- This would be the point during a game coached by Carr where I would bemoan the zone-tipping, ineffective 4-3 Shafer came out in for the first half; this is considerably more difficult when you have scarcely less information about the football team than the actual coaches do. I’m not sure how you’re supposed to get a grip on whether your defense can handle a spread offense in its base set when you’re going up against that in practice every day. Or how you’re supposed to figure out what you can do on offense when everyone’s a freshman and even the folks who aren’t played in a totally different system.
If ever a coaching staff could be forgiven for flailing about with the wrong players, it was Saturday. The halftime adjustments were encouraging.
You can comment on the post if you like as we wait for the WLA to arrive, should be around 3. Excelsior! Or Yakety Sax, we’ll see.
This picture evidently has a grip on me.
It was the centerpiece of the letter from the editor in Hail To The Victors 2008 and the desperate, searching column following the Post Apocalyptic Oregon Game. And why not? It’s perfect for this place and time.
On the right, Bump Elliot, fired/resigned/retired but at the press conference introducing his replacement. He looks like he wants a sandwich and is thinking about asking that guy off camera if he could get one, but he knows that losing to Ohio State 50-14 is not the kind of thing that helps the sandwich acquisition process.
On the left, Bo Schembechler. He looks like Bo. He is obscurely confident, staring at something. Maybe it’s a wall. Maybe he’s thinking about making that wall the best damn wall that wall can be. Maybe it’s a pair of pants, and Schembechler is devising a motivational method that will get the pair of pants to tailor itself into the best damn pair of pants it could be. It is not a sandwich, or Bump Elliot would be looking over there. It is probably not an elephant or a meerkat or any sort of African land mammal. Other than that we don’t know.
In the middle, Don Canham. In marked contrast to the men flanking him, Canham is sporting an expression of crystal clarity. Staring off into the middle distance, he draws his mouth tight and hunches forward. “God, I hope I didn’t screw this up,” he thinks. In a moment he’ll speak into the thicket of microphones in front of him, introducing the man to his right and hoping against hope that this man from Miami of Ohio can beat back the Buckeye menace. Together they will build an empire.
We are all Don Canham now. Rich Rodriguez comes in with a wildly successful pedigree but promises to finally tear down the culture of Bo’s program, to replace it with something uncertain. This has caused apprehension in some, joy in others, and disdain verging on hatred in a select group.
The program risks changing into something people drift away from because it has drifted from them, or, worse, something that you only wish you could drift away from. It also promises fireworks and fun and victory and a feeling that’s something other than that thing we’ve felt so much before. Other fanbases go through this every five or ten or fifteen years; for us it’s been 40.
I could welcome it, I guess, or celebrate it, or proclaim inevitable dominion over the land. But I don’t feel like it. Nor do I feel like fretting over imaginary scandals future. Like Canham, I just hope it works.
Here goes nothing. Go Blue.
Tomorrow the gentlemen of the Wolverine Liberation Army will be guiding the nouveau open thread, which will take the form of a Cover It Live chat/liveblog type thing. The action starts at 3 PM. Please don’t feed the WLA to a woodchipper.
A tentative schedule for the season:
- Game column
- Monday Recruitin’
- UFR: Offense
- On Notice Board (The return!)
- UFR: Defense
- Injury Wrangling
- Cover It Live chat (biweekly)
- Opponent preview
- Cover It Live “open” thread
There will of course be news and Unverified Voracity and all that sprinkled in, and UFR may get bumped back a day on certain weeks.
As is traditional, the mondo Michigan preview (this year: 17,212 words) prevented me from putting together a full-fledged opponent preview. Usually this is against a team that doesn’t make me regret the lack of a preview until something horrible occurs, but this year Utah is legit and you deserve some preview action I can’t provide. I suggest The Only Game That Matters and Varsity Blue.
A few TV items. Three things of note follow.
If you have Dish and live outside of the Big Ten footprint, they just yanked your BTN. An emailer, uh, emails:
After being all cocky about being the first guy to have BTN in the lineup last year on DISH, I just noticed that DISH has dumped BTN except in Ohio, MIchigan, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and "sections of Pennsylvania and Indiana". As a California alum, this sucks pretty hard. I have already complained to DISH, but I thought you might want to help mobilize mgoblog nation to get on their case. Thanks!
Class of '98
David followed up with Dish and found this out:
So, last year, the BTN was added to the base package. Now, I had to upgrade to the "Plus" package ($5/mo. for the music channels) and then add the big sports package for another $5.99/mo. I was assured by the operator that I could get it in LA, despite the footnote on the program guide. So, it appears to be available for about $11/mo. Very frustrating.
Unfortunate, and pricey, but heroin doesn’t come cheap.
A note on the “reverse mirroring” policy mentioned in yesterday’s mailbag: no, it doesn’t apply to ABC night games. MSU fans in Chicago are screwed since the powers that be decided to put Clemson-Alabama on this weekend instead of MSU-Cal.
This affects Michigan less than most other teams since they refuse to play night games at home, but there’s occasionally a regional ABC roadie that would not be available except on Gameplan. Your best bet in that situation is to get Gameplan for the weekend, which I believe costs twenty bucks.
And a protest from commenter Ninja Football about my dissing of sopcast yesterday:
I take exception with your disparaging remarks about Sopcast. I was forced to use it for a variety of games and for other events throughout the past year, and as long as you know what you're doing it isn't so bad. There is always the chance of the guy changing the channel, but if you find the right site and "reputable" (HA!) streamers you can be assured that won't happen. Saying it's "fraught with peril" immediately makes people think of viruses and crashing computers, and while it can at times be frustrating, it's better than reading about the game in the paper two days later.
If that’s all you’ve got and you want a live stream, I guess it’s worth a try. If anyone finds some reliable streams or wants to go so far as set some up themselves, let me know and I’ll pass the information on.
It’s in. Marques Slocum will not go into the night without a plaque, dammit:
Godspeed, Marques; I hope you eat Mark May and take his place someday.
How to act. Three separate Michigan blogs inform you how to act on gameday. Varsity Blue has the student section covered:
If you are sitting below row 80 and hear a cow bell and say anything related to the Christopher Walken sketch on SNL lampooning "Don't Fear the Reaper" by Blue Oyster Cult, I hate you. Freshman year it's acceptable and funny for the first few games. Beyond that, seriously, that sketch was on like 8 years ago.
Just as in the student section, refrain from getting plastered at the tailgate. And if you do, stay at the tailgate. If not, that drunk feeling in the first half will turn into a hung-over feeling in the 2nd half. Your head and your fellow seat mates will thank you.
If you are in the student section, try not to get drunk enough so that to keep your balance you have to shove the people in the row in front of you over and over again.
I only have one request: when the PA announcer says “welcome to Michigan Stadium,” don’t boo MAC teams and the like. “We’d like to extend a warm Michigan Stadium welcome to… Toledo!” should not be followed by rampant booing. I would prefer the booing to be restricted to actual rivals: ND, MSU, OSU.
Wait, also: if you wear a shirt with “Buck The Fuckeyes” or any sort of letter inversion shtick please castrate yourself. Possible exception: “Iuck the Fllini.”
Well, the situation is very fluid, you see. OSU defensive tackle Doug Worthington will not be suspended for the Youngstown State game after picking up a DUI. This is no doubt acceptable to the folks who thought Kevin Grady should be executed after his wild night of being passed out behind the wheel of his Denali.