At press time, Harbaugh had sent Michigan’s athletic department an envelope containing a heavily annotated seating chart, a list of the 63,000 seat views he had found unsatisfactory, and a glowing 70-page report on section 25, row 12, seat 9, which he claimed is “exactly what the great sport of football is all about.”
Programming note: UFR will be Thurs/Fri this week since there’s no game to preview.
Yeesh. I thought that Golden Tate was one of two receivers in the pattern that got him open deep. Close, but not quite:
That was a one-man route. Trent on the screwup:
He used a double move to create confusion between senior cornerback Morgan Trent and junior safety Stevie Brown. Seconds later, he was behind both of them, celebrating in the end zone. At the time the play-action pass was Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen’s longest career completion.
“I guess we were both pretty confident that guy was taken,” senior Morgan Trent said. “I put that on myself as a senior.”
I foresee a shower of –3s for the secondary on that play.
Sssssh. Iowa beat Iowa State 17-5 last weekend, then did this:
Those classless wads, telling… uh… the home crowd to be quiet? This year’s BATTLE FOR CORN was at Iowa. WTF?
there is absolutely no way King's and Dalton's derisive "shhh" gestures were directed toward anywhere but the student section. Why, you ask, would the football team treat its home crowd like hostile intruders? Oh, Jake Christensen might know.
There have been smatterings of boos at Michigan home games so far… let’s not get it to the point where Michigan players are making the above gesture.
This sounds familiar. Rey Maualuga in the aftermath of USC’s 35-3 pantsing of Ohio State:
"They did everything we saw on film, nothing changed," said USC linebacker Rey Maualuga.
This, of course, is straight out of the Lloyd Carr Bowl Opponent handbook and should send shivers down the spine of any Ohio State fan. Not that they aren’t already shivering.
Update 9/15: Linked to articles on FL S Angelo Hadley, MN WR commit Bryce McNeal, VA DE Will Hill, OK RB David Oku (second, third, fourth, fifth), MI DT Will Campbell (second), MI S Thomas Gordon, MS S Dennis Thames, SC S Devontae Holloman, NJ WR Nyshier Olivier, SC DE Sam Montgomery. Moved NJ DE Anthony Lalota to committed.
Added FL QB Denard Robinson, FL LB Mike Marry, OH CB Mike Edwards, LA WR Rueben Randle. Re-added MA OL Brennan Williams, SC OL Quinton Washington.
Dropped VA QB Kevin Newsome, TN LB Greg King, AL CB Dre Kirkpatrick, IN OL Kyle Kohene, CA OL Everett Benyard.
Editorial Opinion: Recruiting board lives here. Programming note: going forward, the recruiting posts will be on Tuesday, since Monday already has a game column and a presser bits recap as anchor content.
What has ESPN reduced us to?
The Beav was on the teevee on Thursday. If you missed it to do something more socially respectable like drink a fifth of Wild Turkey and throw up on a clown, Varsity Blue has your back:
Aren’t those otters, by the way? I’m pretty sure they’re otters.
Beaver’s final numbers were impressive: 21 for 33 for 249 yards and two touchdowns plus 18 carries for 84 yards; the rushing average goes up significantly if you cut out the sacks. There was a bad interception and a back-breaking fumble late when Beaver attempted to do too much with the ball.
The overall opinion on Beaver from people in the chat was positive with some reservations. Beaver showed excellent touch on his short passes and kept his eyes downfield while scrambling around, sometimes with spectacular results. His running between effective and dynamic. There were a couple Favre-ian moments where he ran around and threw a ball that looked like a terrible idea only to see it hauled in by an open receiver. The reservations: dude is a bit of a toothpick, he occasionally loops a pass he should rifle in, and general high-school-kid-doing-too-much stuff. He outplayed the Sulfur Springs quarterback, a top 100 player to Rivals.
Come home, prodigal Thor.
Everyone’s still a little freaked out about MI DT Will Campbell’s decommitment but I am telling you not to fret. So is Campbell’s mom:
"He's still basically committed to U-M, but I said there is nothing wrong with going to visit a few schools. There is nothing wrong with that."
Also, Mike Farrell says this:
Sources close to Campbell say that while he's going to enjoy the process, take his official visits and see some other programs, he is inclined to re-commit to Michigan in the end unless he's absolutely blown away by someone else. Michigan already has a commitment from Cass Tech running back Teric Jones and expects to add Cass Tech athlete Thomas Gordon soon, and you can bet both will be working on Campbell to stay home.
Insert default language about bler bler nothing’s settled until he’s signed a piece of paper in February; given this and other chatter from and about the Cass Tech guys I’ma keeping Campbell blue.
Other bits from that Farrell piece:
- MD DE Jason Ankrah tried to commit to PSU but got rebuffed and is now listing M, Tennessee, and VT. Ankrah and MD CB Travis Hawkins, his teammate, will be in for officials October third.
- Michigan is “making a push” for FL CB Josh Robinson but the “smart money” is on UCF or USF unless one of the instate big three gets involved. Sounds like the kid wants to stay home. He will take an official.
Dude: Fitzgerald Toussaint. Toussaint has been bludgeoning people. Killing them. Hopping up and down on his vanquished foes drinking mead out of their skulls and ravishing their women. And running. For touchdowns. Rivals’ All The Way To Friday featured Liberty last week; Toussaint went for 261 yards and four touchdowns. You can check out video here; you might have to find the Liberty game underneath the main window. It’s worth it: Toussaint hurdles a guy a la McGuffie and just generally looks sweet.
On Friday, Toussaint did this in a 32-14 win:
Toussaint opened the scoring with a 72-yard scamper in the first quarter, scored a second-quarter touchdown from 35 yards out, and added scoring runs of 57 and 37 yards in the second half.
The University of Michigan recruit carried the ball 19 times for 258 yard, boosting his rushing total to 843 yards after only four games.
Toussaint is averaging 13.5 YPC. Here come the fawning quotes:
Toussaint “ran hard, he ran through some tacklers,” Liberty coach Jeff Whittaker said. “He’s got great speed, great acceleration.” …
Toussaint “runs angry,” [Struthers coach Dallas] Saunders said. “He’s not brought down by first contact. Even when we were on him, he made things happen.”
A couple Rivals observers reported being very impressed; he’s one to watch for a possible flight up the rankings.
Update: highlights from that Struthers game:
With NJ DE Anthony Lalota in the fold, Michigan finally has a shiny defensive end prospect to show all the cool kids and is up to 17 commitments.
Up next on the watch list are MI S Thomas “Prison Abs” Gordon, who plans to decide between Michigan and Michigan State on the 26th, and AZ DE Craig Roh, who’s changed his visit plans up a bit and plans to decide sometime in the next few weeks. Michigan is believed to be in strong position for both.
Meanwhile, OK RB David Oku dropped Michigan, then re-added them, then said he would announce Wednesday and everyone said it was Tennessee, then publicly disavowed Tennessee, then moved his date back to October. OMG. Drama.
All of this is probably moot for Michigan fans, as M got the boot once before and seems to be on the list as an afterthought. Also: Michigan has two or three RBs already in the class, depending on whether or not Smith and Jones end up in the slot. Also also:
"I want an offense that I like and fits my style. Other than that I really don't care about anything else."
So what kind of offense is Oku looking for? "I really like the west coast offense," he admitted. "I think that suits me the best. I'm actually not too big a fan of the spread offense though."
Oku is not coming to Michigan unless he does a sudden 180. Given the events of the past week this will happen Thursday and he will commit. On Sunday he will decommit and announce he’s headed to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi; next Tuesday he will exclaim “too much nitrogen!” and commit to the moon.
A number of additions to the board: FL LB Mike Marry is a high three-star sort who claims to have picked up a Michigan offer. Meanwhile, LA WR Rueben Randle has long listed Michigan but I never bothered to put him on the board because I naturally assumed he would stay south. This remains the general feeling but he is planning an official, so on the board he goes. OH CB Mike Edwards picked up an offer.He goes to Glenville, which is normally a dead zone for Michigan recruiting, but Ohio State is full up on defensive backs and won’t be leaping in with an offer.
Two OL show back up because M recruiting sites put out articles on them, but we’re still a longshot for MA OL Brennan Williams and no one knows much about where SC OL Quinton Washington might like to go to school. FWIW.
Finally, FL QB Denard Robinson says Michigan’s recruiting him as a quarterback-plus-other-options. He seems like a longshot, too.
Etc. MS S Dennis Thames is kind of noncommital about schools; Michigan may be fading. Sounds like he really wants to go to LSU but isn’t likely to pick up an offer. SC S and Clemson soft commit Devontae Holloman says he’s “really only looking at SEC schools” for his visits; this conflicts with previous information indicating he would trip to M. MN WR commit Bryce McNeal comes in for some fluff.
The Rodriguez presser boiled down into notes of interest.
Steven Threet is your starter for Wisconsin.
- Huyge is “getting closer to being able to play”—not a useful comment but whatever—and Ortmann “will be limited this week” but may be available for Wisconsin.
- Later, Rodriguez mentioned that Huyge should be 100% this week or next week.
- Mathews was still dinged, “played more plays than we probably should have played him” (we’re from play!), but should be fine for next week.
- Terrance Robinson “was ready the first game” until his injury; he will be limited this week but may start seeing some snaps against UW.
- Cory Zirbel’s injury is “more than likely” season-ending.
- Freshman Brandon Smith had his appendix out and will redshirt.
As mentioned, Smith will redshirt. Robinson might be a candidate, as well: “there are guys that are right there, like Terrence Robinson, that we'll evaluate in the next two weeks.” It sounds like the only freshman OL with a chance to play are Ricky Barnum and Patrick Omameh(!)—Rodriguez would still like to redshirt them if possible and will only stick them in if the injury situation gets dire. With Huyge and Ortmann getting close to returning, that seems unlikely.
As it stands now:
- Have Played: Odoms, Shaw, Stonum, McGuffie, Martin, Cissoko, Fitzgerald
- May Play: Robinson, Koger, Roundtree
- Probably Redshirting: Smith, Moore, O'Neill, Wermers, Mealer, Barnum, Omameh, Khoury, Feagin, Floyd, Demens, Cox
Despite some offseason chatter that Rodriguez was as profligate with redshirts as late-era Carr, it’s hard to protest any of the guys who have seen the field except maybe Fitzgerald, and given the situation at linebacker even that seems reasonable.
You’re welcome to parse this on Stevie Browns every which way:
Some of them might not have been his mistakes, and it might have looked like his mistakes. There were a few plays I'm sure he'd like to have back. He also did some pretty good things.
Charles Stewart is a guy we probably want to play more in the secondary. He's been pretty consistent when he's had his chance in there. Brandon Harrison has been pretty consistent, too.
Also, the invisible Mike Williams was brought up:
Mike is playing a lot of special teams, he's making a few plays. He's getting closer to playing more. He's playing in some of our nickel packages.
We're getting more confidence to get him in there. He's a young guy who has never played. He's still learning some of the defense, but he's getting a little bit closer each week.
Rodriguez questioned the chop block call on Molk—he was asked about it directly—saying “Molk did go low but the guy was grabbing our guard, our guard wasn’t even blocking him.” When asked about the officials he said “there were a few I questioned.”
9/13/2008 – Michigan 17, Notre Dame 35 – 1-2
You either accept this or you don’t as it relates to football and, more generally, life: random events occur without reason. Around these parts, the following things are chalked up the general bloody-mindedness of the universe:
- unforced fumbles from Boubacar Cissoko, Michael Shaw, Steven Threet (x2), Brandon Minor, Donovan Warren
- Notre Dame fumbles miraculously bouncing back to the fumbler
- Greg Mathews’ borderline touchdown catch—which, IMO, was going to stand as called either way—being ruled incomplete
- Kevin Grady’s borderline fumble not being ruled down for forward progress
- some questionable officiating
- a pounding rain descending upon the players after a number of above events had combined to provide an 11-point deficit.
Michigan, of course, actively participated in a number of these events—in fact, they were the only participants in most of the fumbles—but suggesting that these represent a disturbing trend (or, if you’re Pat Haden, some sort of mystical ND juju) is a stretch.
The Wolverines hadn't lost four fumbles since 1995. They hadn't had six turnovers since 1992.
You can’t really say this because the “BUT” is enormous, but: Michigan significantly outplayed Notre Dame on a down by down basis but shot itself in the foot every two seconds. Yes, this is sort of like saying “these cookies are delicious except for the arsenic.” Yes, Notre Dame was relieved of the need to outplay Michigan on a down-by-down basis because they were spotted a 21-0 lead and a second-half rainstorm and could be content to run some clock and punt. But I’ll take a team that looks competent except for a few huge glaring errors over one that can’t complete a pass, and if the teams played again next week the line would be further in Michigan’s favor. [Rakes points out this is a confusing sentence. The team that can't complete a pass is Michigan in their first two games. I rejiggered this paragraph and it didn't come out quite right. -ed] Massive negative events have a distorting effect on game results out of proportion to their usefulness as predictors.
Some of these major negative events are not purely random and are going away. Kevin Grady is a fumbler. The execution errors that led to the Minor fumble will remain rife. Stevie Brown has moved from possible liability to definite liability. Carson Butler.
Others—many others—were random events highly unlikely to recur: Yakety Sax fumbles caused by a wet ball, the distribution of close calls in ND’s favor*, Brandon Harrison kicking a fumble otherwise surrounded by M players back to the wide receiver.
Since I am not an emotionless robot I screamed my half-dozen profanities and fantasized about breaking stuff during the game, but when the red mist passed I was strangely pleased with an 18-point loss to what looks to be a meh-at-best team. This year was never going to end in glory anyway. What’s more important is the development of the offense, the emergence of Sam McGuffie, and the amazing one-week turnaround of Steven Threet.
The most damaging part of the whole Terrelle Pryor/BJ Daniels/Justin Feagin fiasco was not necessarily the loss of player X or player Y but the crimp it put in Rodriguez’s development schedule. Until about 3:45 Saturday it appeared Michigan would have to suffer through this year with the Threet/Sheridan duo, then start all over in 2009 with freshmen at the most critical position on the field.
It was at that point Threet threw a third-and-long slant, moved the chains, and embarked on a 16-23 day in extremely unfavorable conditions. Though he fumbled twice and was partially culpable for the Minor fumble, he also looked like an actual Division I quarterback, and in ways that even a potentially horrible Notre Dame defense couldn’t distort: he threw balls to receivers. He made good decisions. He was a freshman in his first road game, played in Hurricane Katrina, and averaged 7.6 YPA.
Yeah, he’ll probably regress, probably play well only in fits and starts, etc., etc. He’ll also go into next year a threat to keep his starting job, giving Michigan a third shot at quarterback competence. That’s more relevant for the rest of this year and the next three than a slippery ball and Notre Dame waking up the Willingham echoes.
*(this is not to say that any of the calls were wrong, but virtually everything that could have gone either way went to ND; over time that’s unsustainable.)
BULLETS THAT ARE APPARENTLY SLATHERED IN BUTTER OR SOMETHING
- Hey, great, Carson Butler, let’s take a swing at a player. Butler’s provided almost nothing positive this year and should be encouraged to enter the draft this spring.
- One inexplicable carryover from the Carr era: the occasional Carlos Brown ISQD that goes for one yard.
- Speaking of Brown:
Another junior running back, Carlos Brown, said he was prepared for a bigger role in the game.
"It is what it is," said Brown. … Asked whether he'll be used more as a running back in the future, Brown said, "Hey, I'm clueless. You have to talk to coach Rod about all that."
This sounds like a guy who is not happy with his playing time.
No, I don’t think Michigan was taking any particular risk by putting a couple freshmen back to return kicks. They returned kicks in high school and it’s not like there’s anything different about it in college. Usually a KO fumble means some crappy field position; Michigan just got extraordinarily unlucky to have a muff like that.
- Speaking of muffs: the Donovan Warren punt return thingy has to be over, doesn’t it?
- The defensive line was somewhat disappointing, but on the long bomb they had eight guys in to block and a two-man route. That’s on the secondary.
- Stevie Brown turning a 10-yard slant into 60 yards by overrunning a guy Donovan Warren had brought to a near-stop was backbreaking.
- Also backbreaking: Grady fumble.
- Actually you could pick like eight different plays if we wanted to keep going.
ONE At irregular intervals, one of my girlfriend’s cats—yes, there are two and yes I realize this means I am playing with serious cat-lady-down-the-road fire—will face the wall or a window or a door and emit what is possibly the world’s most angst-ridden noise, somewhere between a meow and a strangled cry of existential dread.
Sometimes, the girlfriend will call out to the cat, acknowledging the deep roiling depths of his soul-dread. The cat will continue making the noise, unconsoled. Then, because it is a cat, it will completely forget about it and go do something else.
TWO Some years ago a strange literary conception popped into my mind in the course of writing twenty or so pages of a novel about the whittling of a set of five ninjas*: one of the characters in the book was subconsciously off-putting and consciously morose because instead of the usual organs and cells and atoms and subatomic particles he was comprised of layer after layer of tiny cats. Cat nerve cells stretched down his spine, each with their mouth on the tail of the adjacent cell; messages were passed when a sensory cat would be disturbed and bite down, causing the next cat to become impotently angry and use the only means of revenge at his disposal, which would be more biting. These cells had cat organelles and cat molecules all the way down to the frantically yowling electron cats and ovoid neutron cats that looked more like balls of yarn than cats and spent their time purringly content, &c.
I never got around to fleshing that idea out, but when I saw David Foster Wallace respond to a question posed by Charlie Rose with a sort of enraged incomprehension—literally saying “are we really talking about X?” before stammering out a spittle flecked, blindingly intelligent answer—I saw my man made of cats in the flesh. Wallace seemed repulsed by everything around him down to his own skin and torn between flight, murder, or suicide; lacking the ability to decide, he grit his teeth and soldiered on.
No more of that.
*(The ninjas were I dunno, symbolic of a friendship forged in one of those houses occupied by five to eleven guys in college and eventually ended up cinders as the people from the house splintered into their adult lives. It was (obviously) autobiographical and (equally obviously) embarked upon during that horrible post-college, mid-twenties lull where you are just getting used to the idea that you are not a special snowflake and all your friends moved, or you did, and your connections to the world are flimsy and unsatisfying.)
THREE I think, insofar as it is possible for anyone who really, really likes David Foster Wallace to think like this, that the aforementioned is pretty much #1 on my list of personal heroes. At this point, styles and formatting and idioms from his writing are so deeply embedded into mine that I’d forgotten where I got “&c”—DFW for etc.—from. “Bats” is my preferred term for insane. On Friday, I referenced Orin Incandenza, Wallace’s insanely valuable and accurate punter from Infinite Jest. In a 2005 post I urge you to not go back and read because yikes the prose, I riffed on a section of DFW’s brilliant article on fringe tennis player Michael Joyce. I’m extremely disappointed in myself because the season preview didn’t claim the offensive line gave me the howling fantods.
At some point a few years ago, I read the 1,079 pages of Infinite Jest in five days. When I was done, I was livid it wasn’t 300 pages longer. I went back to the beginning and read the first 50 or 100 pages again and realized that the book really was infinite: it was a loop. You could start from any point in it and end at any point and it would be the same: brilliant, infuriating, incomplete, and recursive. Wallace wrote a book on infinity and a thesis on modal logic and sometimes seemed more like a math genius with a side of authorial genius.
I mean, obviously, right? Obviously as soon as I picked something up.
FOUR Wallace would see-saw back and forth on a topic and in writing about one thing would invariably recurse his way into something entirely other, precisely define that, and then tie that back into the main thrust of his argument. Yesterday I re-read his review of a usage dictionary—usage! English usage!—and found this brilliant summation of why this blog is a successful endeavor:
…all the autobiographical stuff in ADMAU's Preface does more than just humanize Mr. Bryan A. Garner. It also serves to detail the early and enduring passion that helps make someone a credible technocrat — we tend to like and trust experts whose expertise is born of a real love for their specialty instead of just a desire to be expert at something. In fact, it turns out that ADMAU's Preface quietly and steadily invests Garner with every single qualification of modern technocratic Authority: passionate devotion, reason, and accountability, experience, exhaustive and tech-savvy research, an even and judicious temperament [uh… I try. –ed], and the sort of humble integrity (for instance, including in one of the entries a past published usage-error of his own) that not only renders Garner likable but transmits the same kind of reverence for English that good jurists have for the law, both of which are bigger and more important than any one person.
Probably the most attractive thing about ADMAU's Ethical Appeal, though, is Garner's scrupulous consideration of the reader's concern about his (or her) own linguistic authority and rhetorical persona and ability to convince an Audience that he cares.
He did this all the time, accidentally. Writing on lobsters, he defined the only morally and logically consistent position you can have on abortion. Writing on the Illinois State Fair, he defined an entire elusive section of the American populace. Writing on cruise ships, he defined his life: “a supposedly fun thing I’ll never do again.”
FIVE DFW, like all of the people who have written truly great things about sports since I’ve been paying attention, was not a sportswriter. He was a writer whose attention occasionally turned to sports, mostly tennis, and people who invest their time in the intricately choreographed peregrinations of athletes were always better off for it. The last time Wallace touched upon the subject was a New York Times Magazine article on the 2006 Federer-Nadal Wimbeldon final. This I also read yesterday, after considering the vast array of brooding photos that accompanied news stories and tributes across the internet, after revisiting the Rose interview in which Wallace seemed like a preternaturally unhappy person.
Necessary background for what’s to follow: the piece is titled “Roger Federer as Religious Experience,” states its thesis thusly…
if you’ve never seen the young man play live, and then do, in person, on the sacred grass of Wimbledon, through the literally withering heat and then wind and rain of the ’06 fortnight, then you are apt to have what one of the tournament’s press bus drivers describes as a “bloody near-religious experience.”
…and touches upon on a seven year-old boy named William Caines who was diagnosed with cancer at two and a half and served as Wimbeldon’s inspiring moppet du jour—my words, not Wallace’s.
In typically infuriating DFW fashion, Wallace buries the very crux of his piece—this cannot be disputed, it’s the title and thesis—in footnote #17. Perhaps he wanted to hide it. Didn’t know what to do with it. Wanted to say it but whisper it. Whatever. Midway through the third set there is a Federer Moment. DFW writes:
By the way, it’s right around here, or the next game, watching, that three separate inner-type things come together and mesh. One is a feeling of deep personal privilege at being alive to get to see this; another is the thought that William Caines is probably somewhere here in the Centre Court crowd, too, watching, maybe with his mum. The third thing is a sudden memory of the earnest way the press bus driver promised just this experience. Because there is one. It’s hard to describe — it’s like a thought that’s also a feeling. One wouldn’t want to make too much of it, or to pretend that it’s any sort of equitable balance; that would be grotesque. But the truth is that whatever deity, entity, energy, or random genetic flux produces sick children also produced Roger Federer, and just look at him down there. Look at that.
Everybody but everybody is dredging up the thousand and one points in Wallace’s writing that presage a premature, self-inflicted demise; this might be the one passage in his entire oeuvre that makes it shocking. And I think that sports may not be such a silly thing to make a career of describing and relating and experiencing.
SIX I even kind of look like DFW: tall, broad-shouldered, glasses, shaggy, shoulder-length brown hair, perpetual growth of stubble.
SEVEN I love that image of DFW at Wimbeldon, in the stands, those things converging on him, forgetting all the things that make his suicide so very unsurprising, thinking just look at him down there.
Look at that.
Let's get it on. If you’re new to this or just VERY ANGRY that all of your comments don’t show up, please check the Liveblog Chaos Mitigation Post put up this morn. It will help the guys running the show to not got bats.
Liveblog gets going at approx 3PM.