About Last Week:
I like curling.
I don’t watch it very often. In fact, I pretty much forget it exists for 206-week stretches at a time. But for two weeks during the Winter Olympics, I’m a curling fan. And when America is curling, I’m into it. I’m chastising a guy whose name I didn’t know the week before for a thing that I am only 80% sure was good or bad. This guy has been working without pay for this goal for the better part of his adult life, and guys like me swoop in when the big torchy thing goes poof and start screaming at the TV about BROOMING HARDER DAMMIT.
The wonderful thing about spectator sports is that you can select your level of emotional investment. Athletes don’t have that luxury. For them, emotional investment is a byproduct of the tangible, physical investment. For fans, deciding to go mentally in on a team is a conscious choice. And like any other wager, the more you bet on your team, the more you have to win or lose. Odds are that you, dear MGoReader, know this phenomenon well.
I drove the four and a half hours up to the Michigan-Indiana game on Saturday. I sat by some very nice, rather intoxicated Hoosier fans, and for the first couple of hours we made amusing small talk about Indiana’s #CHAOSTEAM nature. They exhibited the kind of gallows humor you would expect from a team that had been through what Indiana fans had been through this year. They had hope, of course, but it was the kind of guarded Charlie-Brown-kicking-the-football hope. Experience taught them to guard their soul dongs against the inevitable.
By late in the third quarter, they had stopped talking as much. They had started to believe again. Thrice bitten, they had yet found the way to come back for more. And by the time Delano Hill batted that fourth down pass down, they were inconsolable. They stared off into the cold, cruel evening as if searching for the deity who had wronged them again. No one would have blamed them if they had mailed this one in. But like a poker player who had taken multiple bad beats, they went all in one last time only to lose on the final card.
Sports are wonderful and terrible because we allow them to be so.
[After THE JUMP: some fear, mostly loathing]
[What is this? Joe Pichey, serious bbq-ing dude, has been writing up tailgating recipes on his blog MMMGoBluBBQ and we "borrowed" him. Stubb's sponsored it because they're fans of the site and good people, and this whole Joe-MGoBlog-Stubb's-Readers thing seems like a match of destiny.]
As you can see, I am still on my pork kick. I'm not going to lie, I am loving every minute of it. I recently found a few nice double cut, bone-in pork chops at my local butcher. Anytime I am cooking pork or chicken, I like to brine them first to add a little moisture. I also had some bourbon laying around, so it seemed like a great fit. These chops were not only tender and juicy, they were extremely flavorful. The sweetness in the brine along with the Stubbs Sticky Sweet sauce paired well with the pork and the peaches. Plus, they had built in handle. I love eating stuff with handles. It's just more fun.
- Double Cut Bone-in Pork Chop
- Stubbs Sticky Sweet Sauce
- 1 shot of Bourbon
- Stubbs Pork Rub
- Brine: (Prepare at least 4 -24 hours in advance)
- 1/3 cup salt
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 gallon water
- 2 shots Bourbon
[After the JUMP: how to keep a good pork kick going]
So we were told on Monday that the receivers and tight ends were playing as well as any group in the Big Ten. They’ve taken a big step forward, it seems like. What do you think has been the cause of that?
“I think it’s just impossible to work hard and practice really well and not get a lot better. If you do the right things it will pay off. It’s just a matter of time, I think. Really that’s all I would attribute it to.”
Can you measure the synchronization change from the start of the season til now with Jake Rudock and the receivers?
“Just in terms of being on the same page?”
Just being more used to each other.
“Yeah. I think I wouldn’t say that we weren’t used to each other, but with the pass game relationship there’s definitely a benefit of spending more time together. Kind of, as I’ve said before, it’s just a matter of improving over time.”
When did you start to see those improvements pay off on the field?
“In terms of Jake and the receivers?”
“I thought we were going to throw the ball well against Utah, so…it’s not like an ‘aha’ moment, I guess. It’s not like an instance where you go all of a sudden Jake’s good, Jake Rudock’s good or Amara and Jehu are good. It’s just a matter of improving and connecting on plays; more plays in week two than we missed in week one, week three and four, etc. It’s not like a one week, one moment thing even though people will try to make Indiana out to be like that.”
I got scolded a bit Monday for asking about Ian Bunting. He was starting to contribute quite a bit in the passing game early in the year. What’s he got to do to get back to that level and see more playing time?
“He does all the right things. He’s working tremendously hard and is practicing really, really well. If there was a downside of having a really good, deep group at one position I think that would be it. Not everybody always gets to play as much as they’d like or contribute in the ways that they would like, but he’s doing all the right things and hopefully in the next few weeks he’ll be able to show his improvement.”
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest]
The downside of the new alignment is sharing a conference with Rutgers and Maryland. The upside is The Game matters again like it should, and we get to see our blues brothers every year, and most of the time that means we add another excuse to my all-time favorite MGoshirt.
Still have to add "How is THAT offsides?" from last year. I predict this one will be close enough to put another on there.
How this works again:
- Readers predict the final score of a designated game by placing a guess in the comments, preferably in the format of [M score][hyphen][Opp score], for example "41-0" or "35-0 Michigan", or "28-0 Go Blue", or "42-0 Harbaugh!" etc.
- The three guys who read this part holler at people who post in a different format
- First person (by timestamp) to post a particular score has it.
- If you got it right, I contact you for an address by your MGoBlog account email, and you give me some time to get that to you.
- If nobody got it right or I don't hear from the winner(s) we push it to next week or let it go.
About Last Time:
Nobody was right, AGAIN!!! This is the third time in a row now that nobody guessed the score, and don't go telling me "48-41" was hard to predict against #CHAOSTEAM. Maybe I'm just not incentivizing you enough. So I'm gonna add more to the pile.
This Week's Game:
Michigan at Penn State. Probably not 48-41.
And on the Line:
(All-American Rod Payne not included.)
The coffee table book is by friends of the blog Jim Dack and his brother Christopher, and covers the history of the winged helmets. It covers all the frippery but the back half is just the most extensive collection of pics of Michigan helmets through the years. If you don't guess the score you can get one for $15.
One entry per user. First user to choose a set of scores wins, determined by the timestamp of your entry (for my ease I prefer if you don't post it as a reply to another person's score--if you do it won't help or hurt you). Deadline for entries is 24 hours before the start of the game. MGoEmployees and moderators exempt from winning. The algorithm finds the winners as it chooses. The algorithm is self-correcting. The algorithm is from Jersey. The algorithm had two feet inbounds. The algorithm added two seconds. The algorithm wasn't prepared for Mallett. The algorithm probably paid Woodson/Henne. The algorithm was holding. The algorithm was committing unnecessary roughness. The algorithm scored on the 1st run but the refs didn't see it. It wasn't the algorithm's fault. This is not the algorithm, I swear to God!
[Scheduling note: As of now Brian's on play 11,481 of 19,000 of the Indiana UFR so that will be a bit delayed. So here's some #content]
By the way we did these picks before last week so nobody had any game information go on. Alex is up.
ALEX—ROUND 7, PICK 2: Tre Demps, SG, Northwestern
TEAM: PG: Bronson Koenig (UW), SG: Caris LeVert (UM), SF: Jarrod Uthoff (IA), PF: Malcolm Hill (IL), C: Thomas Bryant (Ind). Bench: Robert Carter (C/PF, Md), Tre Demps (SG, NW)
Caris never comes off the floor. Demps only takes the end of half/game heaves for my team and that's it.
[Jump for TWO MORE MICHIGAN PLAYERS we took horray!]
I think it was some of your guys that said it was fatigue, maybe, in terms of the punt return. Are they playing a little bit tired at this time of the year?
“Well, let’s put it this way: in the game you’ve got to tackle, and when you get the opportunity to tackle you’ve got to tackle. It really comes down to that. It’s really difficult to ever embrace an attitude of tired, beat up, or whatever else because in November in this game everybody is. So, you know, bottom line is the games you remember are the games in November, and we’ve got to block and we’ve got to tackle and good things happen when you do.”
So they were in position on those punt returns to make plays?
“Oh, sure. You can go back and watch the TV copy or the game copy. We had four hands on him and had him halfway down. We slipped off and he pulled up. Their punt returner made a good play and we obviously did not. That’s really what happened last week.”
There’s a certain amount of togetherness or pride if you’re an offense or a defense. Is there the same kind of thing with special teams given that there’s such a mix of different guys?
“Oh, I would think so. I mean, we have really- since we got here, coach Harbaugh has given us an incredible amount of meeting time and practice time, and every special teams meeting is a team meeting, so really your special teams reflect your team and that’s the way I’ve always looked at it. If you want to see a team that’s together put on the kicking reel, and we’ve been a team that’s been together for the huge number of plays.
“We’ve had three negative plays go against us, which is unfortunate because it only takes one negative play to really put a damper on a really nice body of work, but that’s the nature of sports, I guess. But I really like our team’s attitude and their togetherness. We’ve got 10 days left in the season and we’ve got to finish it strong.”
Kick return game’s been a positive no matter who’s returning it. Are you pretty pleased with that unit?
“I am, and I have to chuckle at that because there was a day I had this opportunity to talk to all of you last spring and one of the questions came up was who’s returning and I pulled out a list and read off about 10 names. Well, you’re seeing all those names. You’re seeing Jabrill, you’re seeing Jehu Chesson, you’re seeing Dymonte Thomas, you’re seeing Jourdan Lewis. You haven’t seen Amara Darboh, but he does a really good job; you haven’t seen Drake Johnson, but he does a really good job. We’ve done a good job as a coaching staff teaching technique, teaching fundamentals, building depth, and teaching players concepts so, again, you can insulate yourself from a situation. You can insert guys and pull guys out in any situation. I’m really happy with the progress that we’ve made there.”
[After THE JUMP: Take a bow, Scott Sypniewski]