I think you will get your wish.
1/17/2005 - Hockey 0-2 Michigan State - 13-8-1, 8-5-1 CCHA
Michigan Hockey makes me a sad
I don't think I'll try to make a hilarious reference to Bette Midler beating the holy hell out of dozens of midgets with a Christmas ham, since the last time I tried that a couple people mentally envisioned Midler having batting practice with the little people, decided that checked out okay with their plausibility filters, and actually chastized me for having intimate knowledge of the inner workings of Beaches. But if you take Bette's pulsating anger in this totally fictional situation--something that would drive her to beat small cute things with otherwise useful foodstuffs--you'll have a good approximation of what it felt like to watch Michigan get bitched by Michigan State at Munn last night. And that's was just the first two periods, as my cable mercifully fritzed out after 2/3rds of that... whatever it was. So I didn't even see Jack Johnson get a game DQ for what was at worst a two-minute minor. (Charging? No. Left his feet? No. Check from behind? No, Howells brought that on himself by turning at the last possible moment. Elbows up? Okay, sure. DQ? Only if you're the inimitable, incompetent Steve McInchak.)
Obviously my eye towards the Michigan hockey team is jaundiced this morning, so you may want to take this with a slightly larger grain of salt than usual: I think it's clear that this particular edition of the Michigan hockey team is not, um, good. This isn't particularly surprising, what with the vast freshman class and thin roster wracked by offseason departure, but Michigan's 9-1-1 start had fans believing that maybe Red had pulled another rabbit out of his hat. We've been forcibly disabused of that notion: since that hot start, Michigan is 4-7. Ick.
The bothersome part is that the main culprits appear to be our supahstar hotshot defensemen. Jack Johnson and Matt Hunwick started the year on a tear, murdering people, scoring goals, and appearing for all the world like a couple of top four NHL defensemen who got gloriously lost on their way to Joe Louis. Now Johnson's taking bad penalties--even if they don't deserve DQs--and Hunwick is disturbingly difficult to tell apart from Tim Cook at times. It was Hunwick who stupidly crosschecked a Michigan State player after the whistle and turned a (questionable, natch) 5 on 4 into a 5 on 3 that MSU scored on. It was Johnson who let Bryan Lerg get five feet behind him and score on a shorthanded breakaway. The pair watched Wisconsin's winning goal from up close after getting split on a one-on-two, then nearly watched the same thing against UNO a week later. In short, their heads have been lodged snugly in their asses for going on two months. Michigan's record reflects it.
All is certainly not lost. Michigan's schedule to date has been difficult and they find themselves tournament-secure in in the RPI (6th) and PWR (8th) rankings. Though they're superficially 5th in the CCHA at this instant, they have at least two games in hand on everyone in front of them (and four on Lake State). An adequate performance relative to talent from here on out will easily net them a tournament bid. Unfortunately, Michigan has shown time and again this year they do not have the ability to break out of the zone when faced with serious pressure from a disciplined forechecking team. Defensive zone turnovers have led to goals seemingly every weekend, and Michigan has hardly been competitive in the games they've played against really good teams.
They'll keep their tourney streak intact, but it's increasingly clear that they'll keep another streak intact, too: missed Frozen Fours. Sad Panda!
Coming up in 30 minutes on Fox Sports Detroit: Good! Evil! Boring trap hockey! Exciting upbeat hockey! TONIGHT THEY GO HEAD TO HEAD! Join me for ridiculous spur of the moment overreaction(!)!
7:30 PM: Promo video points out the last three games have all been ties... super unsatisfying ties since Michigan managed to blow leads in all three. Fred Pletsch is rocking some hair product in a serious way. May as well use it while you got it, Fred. Hey, it's Shireen "Nude" Saski. Hi.
CCHA HOCKEY... WATCH IT. CCHA HOCKEY... WATCH IT. CCHA HOCKEY... WATCH IT.
7:38 PM: Holy crap, Ruden is playing. And it's Lerg instead of Vicari. What the hell? Motherf***er. It's McInchak: powerplay over under set at 18.
7:43 PM: First chance to Tim Miller, but it's shot directly into Lerg's pads. No reaction from MSU as a Mihcigan forward takes a whack at Lerg... odd. Ugly start to the game as neither team an string two passes together. I mean, seriously... it's ugly. A lot of passes between the teams' defensemen.
7:50 PM: Er... in fact, Kevin Porter was not the captain of the Canadian team at the WJC, because he's not Canadian, play by play dude. McInchak is letting a lot of stuff go thus far... there were about three half-penalties on Michigan, though the Munn crowd isn't reacting to them too much. Ugly play continues.
7:55 PM: Goddammit, a brutal Hunwick turnvoer forces Ruden to make a slick pokecheck against a Sparta in alone. For someoe who's supposed o be our best defensemen he sure looks like Tim Cook a lot.
Okay, we're getting our ass kicked in the defensive zone with the puck, again. We're having major issues getting the puck out of our zone again... and there's another turnover... and another... and an icing. Where art thou, Eric Werner?
7:57 PM: I AM WATCHING CCHA HOCKEY... LEAVE ME ALONE.
8:02 PM: Hey, there's a picture of a shirtless Booth and Hunwick in an embrace. Brokeback action!
This is ridiculous, by the way. We are totally incapable of clearing the zone, which is reason #1 that we are not a real national contender. In every game against quality opposition this year, about 50% of our breakouts end up in a turnover.
And, hey, Hunwick's going to the box. An excellent continuation of his stellar play htis far... oh, and are you freaking kidding me? Bailey freaking brushes a Michigan State player and gets a penalty, and Hunwick gets a retarded crosscheck. McInchak, you hack.
8:05 PM: Goddammit. Goal on the ensuing 5 on 3. Half Hunwick's retarded penalty, half McInchak's incompetence. Spectacular.
8:06 PM: They're reviewing the goal for some reason... I have no idea why. Replay at its worst: no reason to even look at this.
8:09 PM: Michigan kills the power play. It must be said: Hunwick has flipped out this year and gone from a solid player you generally forget about to a guy flying all over the ice, making things happen... often stupid things. He was better as a boring defensive defensemen.
8:15 PM: God, the replay of those penalties is brutal. McInchak lets everything go for a period then calls a tiny brush. Typical.
I know this is just a college hockey game, but I would appreciate if the announcers could actually talk about the game they're watching isntead of the conversations they had with the coaches, the NHL prospects of the players, and how this is a rivalry game so you can throw out the record books. Could I get the slightest hint of analysis, maybe? I'd like to know why it is that Michigan can't break out of the zone.
8:22 PM: 1-0 MSU after one on the 5 on 3 goal. Announcers: blah blah blah freshmen blah blah blah rivalry. Blah.
In summary: MOTS. The complete inability to exit the zone in an organized fashion condemns us to long periods running around in front of the goalie hoping something works itself out.
8:38 PM: Jesus... Hensick just got blowed up by a beautiful hip check. He jumped to try to avoid it and ended up doing a 360. Also: more ugly breakout attempts from Hunwick and Johnson lead to another MSU shot.
God... no wonder no one goes to Munn. MSU's still MSU even without Mason, playing brutal defensive hockey that's utterly unwatchable. This game has been about as enjoyable as a polar bear mauling. Oh... and another questionable call, this one a tripping call on MSU.
Power play is 1:20 of play in the offensive zone features one shot that actually reaches Lerg. Johnson then gets one on, but that's it. We now return to your regularly scheduled unwatchable even strength play.
8:50 PM: They're discussing Bailey leaving the game and mention that Hensick's skating with Fardig and Bailey tonight which is... er... insane. Hurray! Canned music at Munn! Your game experience sucks.
8:57 PM: Great, now the color guy is repeating the useless personal knowledge he dropped on us in the first period. God... this entire game is being played in the neutral zone. I'm just glad this crap doesn't work at all in the NCAA tournament.
Goalie interference penalty on Miller (MSU's version)... he was definitely helped along by Cook, though. Iffy.
8:57 PM: there's Hunwick and Johnson again getting beat, giving traitorous Bryan Lerg a breakaway and a goal. Totally unreliable defensively. Another MSU penalty.
9:02 PM: So, we've had two Michigan power plays and MSU has had three scoring chances to Michigan's zero. We seem content to pass it around until we're really sure that our shot is going to hit a Michigan State player before letting it go. I find this less than pleasing.
And now a Michigan penalty as the allow a 3 on 2. Is there something else I can watch? Hey, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy! Awesome! Now liveblogging gay guys making over straight guys.
9:07 Jack Johnson just gave the puck to the really, really gay guy. He loved it.
9:10 PM: Michigan manages to kill the penalty; then some guy on MSU's fourth line skates circles around Hunwick... what is going on?
Aaand another penalty, this one to Naurato. Okay... apparently this is no check all of a sudden.
Second period over, 2-0 MSU. Our essential crappiness as a team is coming to the forefront now... the one interesting thing the announcers said in the period is that Michigan has been outshot in 10 of its past 12 games. When was the last time that happened? 1986? The one constant you've always had with Michigan is that it would outshoot its opponents badly, even if they lost. Now they're spending most of their time feebling attempting to clear their own zone.
Er... Blogger is now giving me fits. I may not be able to continue, and what a shame that would be.
...and the cable's out. Whatever. I guess that's a sign: I'm out. Please don't kill yourselves. Unless you're a CCHA referee. Then go ahead.
Hail to the Victors of beer pong:
A pair of recent University of Michigan graduates are each $5,000 richer for being the best at a national tournament involving a campus drinking game popular among many college students.
Jason Coben and Nick Velissaris are the champions of the "World Series of Beer Pong," which took place earlier this month near Las Vegas. The two beat out more than 160 other competitors to split the $10,000 grand prize.
Yes, yes, it is getting misty up in here.
That's damn right and we'll do it again. Via Paul Westerdawg comes this little piece of history from the 1922 Michigan-Vanderbilt game:
In the locker room prior to the kickoff, Coach McGugin gave his hopeful pregame inspirational talk. Referring to the Michigan players, McGugin said, "You are going against Yankees, some of whose grandfathers killed your grandfathers in the Civil War." Unknown to the Commodore players was the fact that McGugin's father had been an officer in the Union army.
McGugin continued, "presumably not before said dead grandfathers had the opportunity to sire your fathers, obviously, since this is not a weird Back to the Future-esque incident wherein people screw up their own existence." At that point, one of his players asked "what's Back to the Future?" which cased McGugin to disappear in a puff of logic.*
And we'll conquer you, too. Mayor Kyle King wants Georgia to play Michigan in a titantic battle of... uh... titans. Intriuging. I know that Michigan is looking to play Notre Dame less frequently after the current contract expires in 2010 or whatever and is looking to line up at least one marquee non-conference opponent for years when the Irish are off the schedule, but neither school has shown a tendency to go play roadies anywhere near their prospective opponents: the last time Georgia ventured out of the south to play a game, Dick Clark was busy slaying the tyrannosaurs that threatened his humble fishing village; Michigan hasn't played a non-conference game in the sweltering ex-confederacy since... um? anyone? Bueller? Bueller? Reconstruction? The French and Indian War?
Suffice it to say that such an event is unlikely to occur without a serious kick in the pants from external forces... like a groundswell of public support? Sure! Kyle Wants You(!) to Email Your AD:
write to your athletic director and respectfully request that the two schools schedule one another as soon as possible. It is my hope that the two schools' fan bases will, through the weblogging community, begin a grassroots campaign to get this series on the schedule.
Hell, sounds better than an Eastern/Central/Western trifecta. Count me in. Visit Kyle's place, read his impassioned letter to the AD, and fire one off your ownself. Bill Martin (or at least someone who reads his angry fan mail by proxy) can be reached at email@example.com or mailed for real here:
William C. Martin
Donald R. Shepherd Director of Intercollegiate Athletics
University of Michigan
1000 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2201
...and they called it the Blog Bowl.
(Also, Kyle's Gameday Drinking Game is not to be missed:
Rule No. 6: Lou Holtz. Anytime Lou Holtz mentions Notre Dame while discussing a game in which Notre Dame is not playing, everyone takes one drink. If he does it twice in the same segment, everyone takes two drinks, and so on until the end of the segment. If you try to speak and you find that you sound like Lou Holtz, stop drinking and have someone call you a cab.
Skiier likes beer! Also, puppies cute! Bode Miller said something along the lines of "I drink excessively and once was still smashed from the previous night while attempting to ski; that's why I am bad at the slalom." This caused outrage for some reason... probably because of the children. It's always because of the children. Bill Gifford says "duh, and shut up about it" at Slate.
Miller was forced to apologize for his statements. Meanwhile, Joe Theisman remains unshot and free to roam the streets. What is this country coming to?
Mustache equilibrium? I don't actually suggest reading Tom Kubat's latest masterpiece for the West Lafayette Journal-Courier (single-sentence paragraph count: an astounding 26 of 33... and the seven that have more than one period have two), but in it he asserts that Purdue defensive coordinator Brock Spack has "received an offer to take over in the same capacity at a higher profile Big Ten Conference program."
Now, there are three higher profile Big Ten programs than Purdue: Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State. (Okay, perhaps Iowa and Wisconsin are also higher profile of late, but Norm Parker isn't going anywhere and Brett Bielema just hired someone else.) Both Ohio State and Penn State are coming off years wherein their bone-crushing defenses led them to BCS bowl victories. Michigan... isn't. If this article is accurate, the inescapable conclusion is that Michigan is the source of the offer.
Spack then announced that he's staying at Purdue. Despite that, it's interesting in three ways:
- it hammers another nail in Herrmann's coffin,
- it's an indication that Michigan is looking outside the "Michigan Man" etc, etc, for a job as high profile as defensive coordinator, and
- it indicates that English-to-DC may not be the slam dunk everyone says it is.
Caveat: this may be bunk.
What he said. Big Ten Wonk on Michigan's performance against Illinois and what it means as regards that ever-elusive "back" thing:
The test for Michigan, as for any team, is this: they will have arrived when we know in advance how they expect to win. Look at Wisconsin. We say things like: "Wisconsin, as expected, played tough D and took care of the ball." The Wolverines will be "back" when we can finish this sentence in a non-pejorative fashion: "Michigan, as expected, (blank)."
...turned the ball over 25 times: pejorative; next question.
Etc: Dhani Jones reviews "Glory Road" on Page 2; Dave Sez that Jerry Bruckheimer basically made a bunch of stuff up; The OZone has some year end awards featuring our very own Tyler Ecker and his inability to think straight at the end of games.
Update 1/13: Linked to Jonas Mouton article and Brandon Graham article. Removed WR Adrian Cannon, who apparently commited to Maryland, TE Andrew Quarless(PSU), and RB Knowshon Moreno(ceased listing us). Added TX QB Nick Stephens after a mention that Michigan had offered him in the Dallas Morning News.
Editorial Update: The sudden addition of Stephens to the board indicates that Michigan is indeed trying very hard to bring in a second quarterback in this class. With Matt Gutierrez at Idaho State next year, Henne's backups will be redshirt freshman Jason Forcier and true freshman David Cone... not a comforting thought. Adding a second true freshman may not help much, but since both Cone and Forcier are extremely raw (Forcier had one year in a passing offense, Cone zero) a player more familiar with the "forward pass" could be more prepared than either of the current recruits in an emergency situation. Anyway, the DMN graf on Stephens:
â€¢ Michigan is scrambling to find a quarterback and has contacted Southlake Carroll's Greg McElroy and Flower Mound's Nick Stephens. In fact, Michigan has offered Stephens a scholarship. Stephens, who is orally committed to Ole Miss, visited Tennessee this weekend. McElroy, No. 25 on SportsDay's area top 100, said he is a solid commitment to Texas Tech. Stephens is No. 32 on the area list.
Stephens is definitely looking around after Ole Miss canned their offensive coordinator:
Flower Mound quarterback Nick Stephens is orally committed to Ole Miss, but he is brutally honest about next weekend's official visit to Tennessee.
He could wind up switching to the Volunteers.
"I wouldn't be going on the visit if that wasn't possible," Stephens said. "I wouldn't be wasting their time." ...
The longer it takes Ole Miss to find Mazzone's replacement, the more likely it is the Rebels will lose Stephens.
"It all depends on when Ole Miss gets their offensive coordinator," Stephens said.
Also of note is a definite assertion from Scout that Michigan is leading for NY DE McKenzie Matthews, who is one of those players with a gap between their offers (Miami, OSU, Michigan, BC, Pitt) and their rating (generally three stars). Matthews is an edge rusher who collected 27 sacks last year.
And I would be remiss if I did not comment on the festival of speculation going on about OMG SHIRTLESS OT Sam Young, who cancelled his recruiting visits to Michigan and Penn State and moved up his timeline. Various reports had him deciding and then visiting Notre Dame; if true that would be functionally equivalent to "committing to Notre Dame." However, the does not appear to be accurate. Young is hosting Pete Caroll today:
Carroll's focus clearly is on reloading with the Feb.1 signing day approaching. He left Sunday night on a recruiting trip and has an in-home visit scheduled for today in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., with offensive lineman Sam Young, Rivals.com's No.2 offensive tackle and No.23 overall.
Young is also expected to host visits from Weis... and Lloyd Carr. So it isn't over, but that same Scout article referenced earlier re: McKenzie Matthews pointedly omits any mention of Young. So it doesn't look particularly good, but there's too much "not so fast, my friend" insider buzz to write him off completely.
1/14/2005 - Michigan 74-79 Illinois - 11-3, 1-2 Big Ten
Well, that could have gone much worse. You can say what you want about moral victories not existing--fair warning if you do: you're parroting dull sports press conferences and are therefore being very boring--but when you're Michigan on the road against #6 Illinois and your eleven point halftime deficit turns into a tight game you literally have a shot at winning instead of a 30 point blowout, eh... moral victories here we come. Eschewing moral victories is for teams that have been to the NCAA tournament this millennium.
Unfortunately, if we're going to track losses based on their ethics we have to do the same for the wins, and Michigan's 68-65 win over a Purdue team minus four starters washes away any and all moral superiority gained by Michigan's latest character-building loss. We're back at ground zero, attempting to assess what, exactly, this team is and by extension whether or not Tommy Amaker is ever going to "close the gap," in the parlance of Michigan-Michigan State basketball smack talk. What I am saying is: hold the horses. You can't say something like "if the refs didn't screw us we would have beaten Illinois" without acknowledging that on another night Michigan was three points better than Purdue's second team.
A favorite tactic of sports fans seeking endorphins from their teams is to wildly overrate their prospects based on only the good while dismissing the bad. For an example, see this idiot's Michigan season preview. As a result you can expect to see condemnations of Amaker that all cite this particular game as an example of Michigan's talent, but Michigan is neither the team that nearly beat Illinois or nearly lost to Purdue, or they're both. As Howard King might say, "you can't have one without the other."
Bullets of Power
- Donde esta Lester Abram? Abram managed to get off two shots in 22 minutes. Two years ago he was the best player on the team. His seemingly disinterested performance and his previous statements to the effect that he may not return for a fifth year if his degree is secured are bothersome.
- It would have been nice to see what Graham Brown could have done if he wasn't assaulted by a series of ticky-tack fouls. I'm just sayin'.
- Hey, maybe that Jerrett Smith guy is all right. He still couldn't defend evolution from William Jennings Bryan, but I'll take eight points on four shots and solid ballhandling.
- I may as well throw this in here: Michigan secured a 2006 commitment from Anthony Wright, who is either 6'5" or 6'6", 230 pounds and is labeled a "small/power forward" by Scout... eesh. His profile has this un-tantalizing headline: "Michigan, Wofford watch Wright."
A big game in one way (an excellent opponent) but not all that important in the long run (since everyone has it a guaranteed loss). Abram will play, so we've got that going for us.