On November 8th, 1997, Michigan traveled to Happy Valley to take on Penn State in a battle of unbeaten squads. The Wolverines pulled the upset, 34-8, led by Chris Howard's 120 rushing yards and the exploits of eventual Heisman winner Charles Woodson, who caught a 37-yard touchdown pass.
The lasting image of that game, however, was the violent collision between Michigan safety Daydrion Taylor and Penn State tight end Bob Stephenson on an otherwise-innocuous first-quarter completion. The hit, perhaps the hardest in Michigan history, ended the football careers of both players.
During the pre-game show before tomorrow's Michigan-Minnesota game, the Big Ten Network will mark the 15-year anniversary of that play with a feature on the hit, with exclusive interviews of Taylor, Stephenson, Woodson, Brady Hoke, and others who were there to witness it first-hand. I've had the opportunity to get a sneak peek at the piece, and also had the pleasure of speaking with Julian Darnell, the producer of the feature, and Bill Friedman, the BTN's coordinating producer of original programming. The feature is powerful and sheds light on how Taylor and Stephenson have both moved on from the hit—both, in fact, are now coaching youth football—and I highly encourage you to check it out tomorrow. Below are excerpts from my conversations with Darnell and Friedman:
What was the purpose in putting this piece together?
Julian: I guess the purpose on my end was to reflect on the events—it's certainly newsworthy considering what we've seen in football nowadays, you look to the next level and you see everything in regards to head-first football in NFL, the changes they've made to the football that I was used to seeing when I was coming up, and it just made for an interesting story.
It really piqued my interest, especially when you see, for me, the names that participated in that game. On one side you have Curtis Enis, who was a number one pick, you have Joe Jurevicius, who was a future world champion with Tampa Bay, Charles Woodson, who was the eventual Heisman Trophy winner that year and a Super Bowl champion, Dhani Jones, whom we know very well, Jon Jansen, whom we know very well as well, just so many great names. And it was a great win by Michigan, no question about it, but just that hit, when you see it, it still resonates today.
It really resonated for me when I had the opportunity to talk to Charles Woodson. I had a chance to interview him at Green Bay. During the pre-prep interview when he came in, I was going to show him the hit, because, you know, it's been 15 years. And he's like, "I don't need to see it, I remember." And he did. The details, he remembered it, he didn't need to see it. And this is a guy who's played a whole lot of football since Michigan, and to remember it in the detail that he did, and he didn't even need to see it or want to see it, just resonated to me that, "Okay, I'm really onto something that can really be everlasting," in my opinion. That's what stood out to me.
Bill: The collision between Daydrion Taylor and Bob Stephenson happened 15 years ago this season, so that was kinda the time hook to it. With concussions being a bigger subject matter every day in the national football landscape, we though it'd be an interesting piece, too.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the Q&A.]
I've got to get on a plane shortly so shortly the links will go.
Brief thoughts on the first exhibition:
- Albrecht is an extremely wise pickup; if he can hit threes and break the press and get M's offense in motion he'll be at least a solid backup for four years. Michigan needed some stability at that PG spot and he looks like he'll provide it.
- Stauskas is going to be a lights out three point shooter and he has enough other game to contribute to the rest of the offense; D needs work.
- McGary's FTs will probably be fine, his stroke looks good. Hopefully that leg injury clears up and he gets that extra 10% athleticism that made him a huge prospect after his AAU season.
- GRIII is Branden Dawson-ish with more shooting and less rebounding but probably not much less rebounding.
- Hardaway played a much more complete game than we're used to seeing. Thumbs up.
- Know Your Foe from the MZone says "must resist making little Brown Jugs" joke at picture of hot woman in brown bikini, predicts 28-10.
- Who Are You And Why Do We Care exists, predicts on non-football factors, does so 38-13.
- Maize and Go Blue goes with 37-10.
- Maize and Blue Nation says 27-2, which I should have thought of.
- The Daily Gopher can't even find a jug picture where it's being held by a Minnesota player—RVB is the man—and goes with 31-13.
- I'm In Love With A Fringe Bowl Team has a mathematical model that says 33-23 and a non-gambler guy who picks Michigan to cover: "I would have loved to start this post recalling the last time the Gophers beat Michigan in Minnesota, but I don't remember it at all. This is mostly because it was five years before my birth."
Kovacs is a truthful dude. Post-Nebraska:
"A lot of it is the games we played," Kovacs said. "Air Force didn't necessarily throw the ball on us a lot, and Alabama didn't have to.
"There's some open receivers last game that (quarterback Taylor) Martinez didn't see. There were a couple blitzes we ran, and we had a guy running down the middle of the field wide open. Can't let that happen. We've been fortunate they haven't hit 'em yet."
So that means the secondary is playing at a high level, but maybe not its highest level?
"I don't know," Kovacs said. "I think we're playing all right. I think last game we didn't play well enough at all, specifically the defensive backs."
- Well, yeah. Gibbons:
"I really don't groom that much," Gibbons said, smiling.
Now he's going to bleed on you, Baumgardner. Or more likely whoever wrote this headline:
Michigan's Nik Stauskas and Matt Vogrich could finally give John Beilein a consistent deep threat in Ann Arbor
Zack Novak shot 41% from three last year, and whenever he gets back from wrecking Belgium he's going to be ANGAR. Elsewhere, Spike Albrecht is called "mini Steve Nash," which is definitely not getting ahead of ourselves and headline guy is definitely going to put a "got" in between the first two words of this one after a loss at some point this year:
Youth served: Michigan's talented freshmen five show ability, poise in college debut
Falk on Jug. Not like that.
Whatever that might mean.
Seriously, they can do this? Whenver M plays at Northern I think the exact same thing Yost Built does:
Unlike SOME SCHOOLS THAT I KNOW OF, Northern offers streaming video of their games for $7. You can also buy a season pass for $75, and if you're reading this blog, don't have season tickets, and claim that you wouldn't fork out that much for a Michigan version of the same thing, I will call you a damn liar. It's 2012 and this is Michigan fergodsakes. We shouldn't have less access to video of games than Northern Michigan fans. Just saying.
I've watched three or four games at NMU the past few years, and M hockey fans outside of the local area can't get one.
Meanwhile, MHN highlights the scheduling thing we'll hear all season:
LAST TRIP TO MARQUETTE?
The Mining Journal’s Matt Wellens talked to NMU coach Walt Kyle about scheduling the Wolverines in the future. Kyle is open to the idea, however it must be on “fair terms.” By that he means a basic home-and-home series where the Wolverines would travel to NMU one year and NMU would return the favor the next year. He is not open to two-for-ones and payout deals.
Honestly, good for NMU.
Etc.: Stuffing the Passer. Michigan expects lack of goalie ejections at Northern Michigan. Yost Built previews NMU. NCAA dooms Midwest regional to 20 people in stands for 13th year of 14 by giving it to Cincinnati, which has one program (Miami) within a four hour drive. Leitch should totally ditch the Knicks. Catching up with Hunwick.
ulnar nerve; Vote_Crisler_1937 wanted me to make him look cool
An MGoUser with a college sports history who had a similar injury to the one Denard had emailed to give some perspective on what he's dealing with at the moment. It's below.
I am wondering about how Denard's nerve injury has affected his passing the last couple years.
Some background with my experience with the injury:
After 4 seasons of B1G baseball I had an ulnar nerve translation surgery. Until I had that surgery I had very extreme and unpredictable pain in my throwing elbow. There were days I could go 5 innings against Iowa, and days where after 9 pitches against MSU I hit two guys in the back because I suddenly had no ability to control the ball, eventually being unable to grip it, feeling constant shocks in my fingers and my forearm muscles compressing my bones like a trash compactor.
Some days I could not sit without biting my lip in a car or movie theatre because gently setting my elbow on the armrests was too intense so I imagine slamming it on the turf would have ruined my day as well. After the surgery, (16 week recovery so not an option for Denard) all of that was gone and my arm felt virgin again. literally, the first time I threw off a mound my accuracy was the greatest it had ever been and I hadn't thrown a pitch in 16 weeks! This injury is a chronic overuse injury that started early in my freshman year and became unbearable my senior year.
So my thought is that perhaps this injury is not at all new, and during the times it is really hurting Denard, again, times that are not so predictable, I would bet that it greatly hampers his ability to throw a football with accuracy. To the extent that the coaches are aware of it this can certainly change play-calling. Perhaps some of his arm-punts or Tacopants slings are a result of him feeling that familiar SHOCK as he releases the football. Though I guess I have never seen him rub his arm so then again maybe not.
I'm pretty sure this is a newly developed thing with Denard since if he'd had something similar last year, Michigan would have put him under the knife in the offseason.
I don't think it's affected his play much. When Denard has armpunted this year it hasn't been much of a surprise. When he's stepped into his throws they've been accurate. When he's gone all woogly not so much.
Today's recruiting roundup covers the latest on Gareon Conley, highlight videos of Derrick Green and Channing Stribling, a couple 2014 visits, and more.
Gone-ley? /Slaps Knee
It's been a week since Gareon Conley stated after a game that he intended to take visits, and as of this moment, at least, he's still a Michigan commit. 247's Bill Kurelic reports that may not last long at all, however, as Conley's step-mother says he'll "definitely [take] his visits," with plans to check out Ohio State and Oregon ($):
Angel [Conley] said her son is planning to make official visits to Ohio State and Oregon.
“Ohio State will be an official visit in the next month or so,” she said. “Ohio State and Oregon will be official visits.”
Nothing has been set up yet, at least, and Sam Webb noted on Scout's board($) that Conley has spoken with the coaches and knows his spot in the class is at stake—Webb also said Conley is still pondering visits, of course. In my opinion, it's tough at this point to see a scenario in which he doesn't take a look around.
If there's good news for Michigan, it's that they have one of Conley's closest confidants in their corner: his father, per Scout's Kyle Bogenschutz ($):
“Everything just seemed real good up there. I love Michigan and I’m pushing him to go to Michigan. But at the end of the day it’s still his decision. I’m rooting for Michigan.”
“As far as Oregon and Ohio State, those are all good schools too. I can’t put any of them down, but I root for Michigan. At the end of the day, like I said, this is all up to him. If he wants to go see them, I’m behind him, whatever school he goes to.”
Clearly, Mr. Conley is going to let Gareon make his own choice, but it can't hurt to have him pulling for the Wolverines. The longer this process is drawn out, the better it probably is for Michigan—few expected him to make it this far in the first place after last Friday's news.
[Hit THE JUMP for highlights of Channing Stribling and Derrick Green, news on a few 2014 recruits, and more.]
Previously here: Ace FFFF!
|WHAT||Michigan vs Minnesota|
12:00 PM Eastern
November 3rd, 2012
|THE LINE||Michigan –11.5|
|WEATHER||partly cloudy, dry, around 40|
in the community
in the community
in the community
in the community
Run Offense vs Minnesota
ra'shede hageman is the best defensive lineman in the history of the big ten, it's just the guys around him who are completely terrible at all things
After years in which it seemed any offense helmed by Denard Robinson would be pretty all right in this category, Michigan is suddenly thrown into a state of higgledy-piggledy by Denard's elbow injury and mass confusion on the part of any Michigan player tasked with obstructing the progress of an opponent. Will Denard be healthy? Was there a mass hallucination induced by helium poisoning last week? If Denard's not healthy will Michigan just say "screw it" and roll with Devin Gardner?
I know the answers to all these questions with unerring certainty but refuse to tell you. You should have been nicer to cats as a child.
The good news is that Minnesota's defense remains as porous as it has invariably been since Glen Mason got the boot for not making the Gophers respectable enough. Behold their Big Ten schedule:
Nebraska at least had some blips of competence in there. Minnesota has none whatsoever, except I guess very dead walrus that is Purdue football at the moment probably racked up a lot of those yards after they'd fallen behind 44-7. Even so, in four tries against Big Ten competition they haven't even come close to getting their opponents under six yards a carry. If Michigan can't run the ball on these guys, Denard or no, it's sackcloth and ashes time.
We may see a revival of the old-timey plain old zone read in this game. The inverted veer is a great play that tends to give the QB the ball. The old-time zone read is at this point a well-defended play that tends to give the RB the ball. Michigan's desires are clear .
The nice thing about the zone read with Denard is that even if you're not running the guy you're still using him since the defense has to account for him. A low chance of a Denard keep is still something you have to respect. Unfortunately, Michigan hasn't been running the true zone read in a long time. For whatever reason they prefer to block the backside end and then do something else with the threat of the QB running—often nothing.
In this game, helping the run offense along with the threat of Denard on the outside is a good idea, and if they cheat then you can use one of your roll-the-dice Denard carries on the guy in a lot of space. Most of these don't even have to be reads. Just run the ball, but use Denard's legs to block someone. It's more reliable than asking your OL to, amirite?
Key Matchup: Michigan blockers attempting to block the correct people versus Minnesota defenders managing to stay between the white lines most of the time. I'm betting on the former.
[Hit THE JUMP for freshman, come out to play]
Can you guess what was wrong with Herb? Also the copyright to this at the end says "U.M.&M."
Of all the things to despise about the new divisions—like the MSU game being technically more important every year than Ohio State—at least let's admit there's one wonderful benefit: Michigan-Minnesota is back to every year.
The historians like this one because there were some major powers with some major players who went on or ended some major streaks back in the day. But with more than enough annual powers on the schedule these days, I kind of like having this one historically poignant yet presently non-stressful mid-year contest with the people who invented cooking the cheese inside the actual hamburger.
After yet another Hallow's Eve scare, a nice jug of hot cider and Minnesota's safeties are just the thing. Alas, it is not Jug Saturday yet, and there's some things from last week that we need to over again. Like what happens when you lose your 5-star quarterback?
DON'T MISS THESE:
You Get This One Chance. Why is it every time we've got like THE MAN under center, the minute he goes out it's terror central? Not just Denard against Nebraska but the crater when Mallett departed, or the black hole that formed when Henne's arm was removed from its socket against Oregon in 2007, or the feeling in the pit of your stomach when that Buckeye Steinbrenner bought off Drew Henson (right). Enter oakapple, who goes back through recent history to show how the uber recruit tends to both work out and scare off competition. Whyfore wast thou oppos'd to class, bygone son of Forcier?
He hits on some good questions—like the handling of Gardner. But if he looked back further, to the deep recruiting of the time after Bo, he might have seen a different magic.
Gameboy went back over Michigan's 2012 opponents past to pull up percentages for how much better our defense fared against them than their average opponents. Michigan got blown out by Alabama about exactly the same way everyone else did, and we beat UMass the same way everyone else beat on UMass. As for the rest, the defensive performances have one other outlier in Air Force (we did marginally better than Mountain West teams) and otherwise stand as "omigod that was a tough defense" in the memories of everyone else. I fixed his charts to make them more legible so the descriptions may be a bit off.
[After the jump, more spooky things]