"Jim's a tough guy and you can see his personality is all over this football team," Fitzgerald said.
Trey Burke's legs were failing him. He'd just missed a jumper, and on the ensuing Michigan State fast break he couldn't get back to close out on Gary Harris—while Harris missed the open three, Michigan's discombobulated defense couldn't keep Derrick Nix from hitting the putback.
The basket cut the Wolverine lead to four with just over six minutes to play, and the only Wolverine to consistently produce offensively appeared to be running on fumes.
On the very next possession, Burke found a way past MSU's Keith Appling for another layup. He'd score six more points to close out the game, and of course came up with two steals to seal a classic nailbiter against Michigan's chief basketball rival. The only Wolverine with more than four made field goals, Burke ground his way to 21 points on 8/17 shooting with eight assists, two turnovers, and five(!) steals. As if that wasn't enough, he held Appling to nine points on nine shots.
The lasting images of this game will be Burke's pickpocketing of Appling at midcourt, subsequent breakaway dunk, his jubilant—and yes, just a bit mocking—slapping of the floor (left, Upchurch), and his final swipe of Gary Harris to end the game. For me, though, it will be him trying, and failing, to get back on Harris, only to dig into the deepest recesses of his soul and find the energy to pull out the win.
Michigan's chances to win took a huge blow just four minutes into the game, when an errant elbow from Branden Dawson caught Nik Stauskas flush above the eye, opening up a nasty cut that required 12 stitches and left the Wolverines without their best outside shooter. Not coincidentally, Michigan missed all 12 of their three-point attempts in the game. Miraculously, this didn't spell their demise.
That had much to do with Michigan's much-maligned big men. Jordan Morgan, who barely played in the first contest between these two, hounded Spartan forward Derrick Nix into six turnovers with stellar on-ball defense and several drawn charges. Mitch McGary scored 11 points off the bench (4/6 from the field) with three offensive rebounds, bringing the team much-needed energy and even hitting a couple clutch free throws down the stretch (yes, he also missed the front end of a one-and-one and had a critical late turnover, though it appeared the latter was a botched call, by no means the only one in this game).
With Stauskas absent, Caris LeVert was forced to take on a big role and came through as well as one could ask of a rail-thin freshman in a tight, physical contest. While he missed all three of his shots from downtown, he hit 4/8 two-pointers—including a pretty up-and-under at the first half buzzer to cut Michigan's halftime deficit to three—and played solid perimeter defense. Fellow freshman Glenn Robinson III chipped in eight points (4/6 field goals), and unlike the first game the Spartans couldn't take advantage of his interior defense, in large part because John Beilein did his best to play two bigs when Nix and Adreian Payne were both on the floor.
There were struggles, of course. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored just six points on 3/12 shooting and had three turnovers, looking like the scuffling Hardaway of last year. In the first half, the Spartans rebounded ten of their 20 missed shots, and the Wolverines' inability to keep them off the glass opened up the perimeter—State took advantage by hitting 5/11 first-half threes. A late five-point possession for MSU featured an and-one and two offensive rebounds, cutting a ten-point lead in half when it appeared the Wolverines could cruise to victory.
In the end, though, it was Burke's day. Even with the gas tank perilously close to empty, Burke staked his claim as the best player in the country. In doing so, he not only kept the Wolverines from going into a tailspin, but propelled them to second place in the Big Ten, with an outside—but very real—chance that next Sunday's game against Indiana will be for a share of the conference crown.
The final stat line may not be as gaudy as some of his others, but this was Trey Burke's entry into Michigan basketball lore. Slap the floor—the Wolverines aren't done defending their Big Ten title.
Kind of good, that guy. Michigan just lost to Penn State and then beat Michigan State despite not hitting a three. All things are strange.
Muppets? Damn right muppets.
and you can't have one without the other...
Trey Burke kind of good you all.
Roy Manning return? With Jerry Montgomery gone to Oklahoma, Michigan needs to fill a spot on their coaching staff. No, it will not be Mike Hart or Ty Wheatley. It'll be a defensive guy. But there is another dude floating out there who is a young former Michigan player: Roy Manning.
Manning was a little-regarded recruit who came seemingly out of nowhere to start as a senior and did well enough to get drafted and have a few years in the NFL. Like Montgomery, he's become a hot name hopping to and fro. He was hired at Cincinnati in February, got a standing ovation for doing so, and had just landed at NIU after Jones took the Tennessee job. Fluff bits:
He's got a Ron English basso going on.
Home ice and the future. Michigan finishes its regular season this weekend with a home and home against Ferris State needing a sweep and some help to secure a first-round home series in the playoffs. If they don't acquire the requisite points, Michigan's last home game in front of the students will have been the February 1st matchup with Michigan State. Which… wow. Just another way in which this season has been bizarre and disappointing.
It's senior day for the, uh, seniors, and it looks like a pretty manageable class to replace:
- Lee Moffie: Michigan's #4 or #5 defenseman in the unlikely event everyone is healthy.
- AJ Treais: Tied for second in scoring with 11-12-23; had excellent start to the year and tailed off as guys like Sinelli and Copp moved onto his wing because they did that skating hard stuff. Copp has actually produced decently, but not having a reliable offensive option on the other wing has hampered production from him.
- Kevin Lynch: I have no idea what line he's on; ideally would have become a Rust-like shutdown center. Instead is anonymous middle-of-lineup guy with 6-13-19.
- Lindsay Sparks: diminutive winger will go down as Craig Murray 2010 for me, a player on the third line who I liked more than is rational and spent four years expecting a breakout from that never came. 4-4-8 in 16 games this year.
- Jeff Rohrkemper: fourth line jack of all trades.
The key, of course, is what happens with Michigan's offseason defections. There are a ton of guys who are departure threats, starting with the dream D pairing of Merrill and Trouba and extending to Nieves, Guptill, Bennett, and Di Giuseppe. While none of those extended guys seems NHL-ready, Guptill was left at home for a series this year and is a third-rounder. He seems like a candidate for the Chris Brown "really?" departure.
A goalie will be scoured for, of course.
Welcome to the team. Here is pack of raving dingoes. Enjoy. From ESPN's exit interview series comes this nugget from Mike Kwiatkowski($):
My lowest moment of my career was probably be my first year, [Rich Rodriguez'] last season, when I was playing scout team left guard. I had thought about if this decision was right for me. I wasn’t playing my position and going against Mike Martin all the time.
Despite being a freshman walk-on tight end, he did not die. I'm using Mike Kwiatkowski as a bomb shelter in the event we teleport back to 1980 and there is a nuclear war on.
No more flyovers? Step A in any debate about cutting spending is to go right to the stuff that people notice no matter how small. Like flyovers:
Federal budget cuts would end flyovers at sports events
Of course, they have to fly the planes at some point—can't have a war with a bunch of crop dusters flying F-16s unless you can start cloning Randy Quaid—so the net additional cost of having some of those flights buzz stadiums is, um…
“It’s no additional cost to the government for support of any public events. Typically, if you see a unit fly over a football game, that is 90 seconds out of a several hour training sortie that they’re flying.”
Zero? Here is someone's attempt to explain why this is a thing:
"We just have a reduced number of those training hours, and so everything is being dedicated to just preparing for that overseas deployment and for flying that's actually happening overseas," Varhegyi said.
Not very good. Later they mention that Army/Navy/Air Force sports could get hit despite 95% of Navy's funding coming from sources other than the government. Filed under scare tactic—dollars to donuts the flyovers continue.
Something that is not true at all. Drew Henson talks about his brief baseball career in a non-bylined article that prevents me from hammering whatever intern wrote this:
But he always had his sights set on baseball — simply, he said it was more fun — and even signed with the Yankees after they made him a third-round pick in 1998. They agreed to let him finish his college football career, and he played summer ball in the Yankees system while still at U-M.
John Navarre would not be a divisive figure if this was true. Oh, and Michigan probably would have been awesome in 2001. Also that article is based on another article, which it links right at the end of the piece in a non-underlined URL link. Bad intern.
Etc.: Derrick Walton is a Mr. Basketball finalist, puts up 31 on Taylor Truman for senior day. WTKA afternoon show is kaput. Recruits' 40s are lies. Does the recruiting deregulation need to be salvaged? If so, suggestions to do so.
Not a Bear in Sight. The Bear Patrol Must Be Working.
Illinois has had an odd year. They started 12-0, went 3-8 in their next 11, then reeled off five straight wins. Some people might attribute this to a team that is inconsistent and prone to swings, but Illinois head coach John Groce thinks he knows why they won those last five: his players stopped communicating in 140 character bursts. According to Groce:
"I believe in freedom of speech. But you get off to a 12-0 start and social-media wise, it's like these guys are rock stars. Then you don't play as well, they're scum. I said, 'Fellas, that's the way of the world. The reality is you're not rock stars. You're not scum. You're somewhere in-between.' I wasn't sure we were staying level with social-media stuff.''
Media outlets everywhere jumped at the “Illinois bans Twitter and becomes the ‘85 Bears” angle. Huzzah narrative and all, but let’s unpack this a bit. Groce didn’t implement this ban until the day before the first (and most impressive) win against Indiana. Three of those wins came over (1) Purdue at home, (2) the mangled husk that once was Northwestern, and (3) winless-in-conference Penn State by five points, which YES I KNOW I KNOW I SAW THE THING TOO SHUT UP I KNOW. But the biggest thing is that Groce didn’t prohibit his players from READING stuff, only from WRITING stuff. So they were still all reading all of the stuff they were reading before about being rock stars or scum or whatever. Also, they then lost to Michigan, a team that LOST TO PENN STATE, with the Twitter ban still in place. Besides, the ban is far from a panacea, as it seems to have broken Brandon Paul.
I’m not saying what Groce did had no impact, or that coaches limiting their players’ social media exposure is a bad idea. It prevents a whole bunch of problems that result from giving an 18- to 22-year-old kid a megaphone in a public and emotional realm. But if you’re looking at reasons the Illini got hot, I’d probably give more credit to the resurgence of Tyler Griffey or something like that. Otherwise, there are plenty of other explanations for Illinois’ stellar stretch:
- Illinois was 5-0 after the discovery of the skeleton of Richard III in England, which makes sense, because they finally had some closure and could move on from that whole Plantagent thing.
- Illinois was 5-0 after the Postal Service announced they were eliminating Saturday delivery. According to Brandon Paul, “I guess we figured that if the post office wasn’t going to deliver that the rest of us were going to have to step up. It really put things in perspective, ya know?”
- Illinois was 5-0 after IHOP’s National Pancake Day, because… I mean, does this one need explaining? PANCAKES.
Probably Not True but Saban so Let’s Speculate
An interesting bit of hearsay popped up on Thursday, but vanished almost as soon as it appeared. A guy from New Jersey named Coach Bird, who runs a little football blog, attended a coaching seminar let by your favorite soulless victory machine and mine: Nick Saban. According to Coach Bird's original post, Saban indicated that he once pulled a kid's scholarship offer for when could be generously described as hilariously excessive tweeting:
Coach Bird promptly pulled the post, and indicated that Saban had cited the kid as an example of someone who was not in football for the right reasons, but that he (Bird) does not know if the scholarship was pulled or not.* The odds are pretty good that the source here misunderstood what Saban was saying, and that he may have pulled a kid's scholarship, but not BECAUSE of the 32,000 tweets. After all, even Saban, the king of roster manipulation** has to know that if he DID yoink a scholarship from a kid right before fall camp (something he would never ever ever ever do), and if it WAS for a reason as stupid as volume of tweets, that he shouldn't tell a room full of random people this fact.
But I disagree with Saban's assertion that this verbal diarrhea indicates that the kid "wasn't in it for the right reasons." I think it indicates that this kid has NO IDEA WHAT IS ACTUALLY INTERESTING TO OTHER PEOPLE. Thirty-two thousand tweets is way, way too many tweets for the six months between signing day and the start of camp. Hell, it’s probably too much for six years. It's a tweet every five waking minutes. Imagine keeping a running diary with entries at five minute intervals, and then sharing that with people:
- Great workout today #blessed
- Getting in the car to drive home
- Stuck at a red light
- Light turned green
- Home #safeandsound
- #BreakingBad time
- Still watching #BreakingBad
- More #BreakingBad
- Poop break from #BreakingBad
- Back to #BreakingBad
- #BreakingBad is good
- Great episode of #BreakingBad
For those of you not familiar with Twitter (or the basics of human interaction), this is not acceptable behavior. Take notes, unknown possibly extant Alabama cast-off.
* For the record, I AM NOT SAYING THIS HAPPENED, primarily because Saban's lawyers are undoubtedly better at lawyering than I am at lawyering, and I enjoy not living in a van down by the river. But regardless, we can discuss this in the hypothetical without getting sued, right? Please?
** NOTE TO SABAN'S LAWYER: I mean that in the positive way, not the libel-y way.
This feature is like three weeks old, so I figure it’s about time for a “Best Of” album.
Hugh Freeze - You may remember a couple of weeks ago that Hugh Freeze trolled the non-Ole Miss world by telling everyone to either email their proof of recruiting violations or STFU. Well, because of the awesomeness of FOIA laws, a sports reporter (and Ole Miss grad) named Kyle Veazey requested these emails, and received a good chunk of them [ED: Forgot the link. Click here for enlightenment]. As it turns out, there were only 85. I’ll be honest, this is a poorer than expected showing from the SEC. I had higher hopes for you gentlemen. Beyond that, there weren’t even any really great rants or anything. Among the best:
Look I don’t know who needs to know this but the rumor going around is that (redacted) and his mama are on the way there and she is wired. I know its probably a rumor and I know our school and our coach is doing no wrong but I just thought someone may want to know about this ahead of time. Just a concerned fan. Keep up the good work.
Hope you guys get a ton (of) emails and a few viruses.
I graciously allowed (redacted) to walk on my ground, and he accepted my offer. (Redacted) stole my cookies at lunch. Also they both signed a letter of intent that I drew up on scratch paper, and signed with the University of Georgia.
Go home Hugh, you’re drunk.
One dude even sent a CONGRATULATORY EMAIL
Coach, I saw your Twitter challenge — good for you. As a Gator fan, I can’t be too pleased that your class is this good. That being said, I am glad you took a stand against those that hide behind an IP address to attempt to vilify anyone and anything just to make themselves feel good. Hope the class pans out for you over the next four years- except of course when you play the Gators.
Like I said. Disappointing. What is the point of the internet if people aren’t going to be goaded into pointless flame wars by a coach they’ve never met?
Won’t Somebody PLEASE Think of the Couches - In response to last week’s East Lansing couch-kabob, this appeared online on Thursday:
If this was assembled by a random Michigan fan, it would be amusing. But this came from the Facebook page of the MSU Community Relation Coalition (though it has since been pulled), which makes it outstanding. I applaud this organization for its stance against couch violence, its sense of humor, and its decision to publish in a medium that can’t be easily set on fire.
DING DONG – I think I have changed my mind on last week’s Case of the Curious Wang Punch after watching Tom Crean do this in a timeout huddle:
And then seeing Will Sheehey do this:
Deadspin went so far as to bring in a freeking lip-reader to see what Crean said in that huddle. So you win, Derrick Nix. Either Zeller faked the groin punch, or he retroactively deserved it because of this.
Auf Wiedersehen, Schadenfreude
I asked for some feedback on this little column, and the consensus seems to be “don’t commit hari kiri just yet, but less schadenfreude plz.” And I concur. I will, however, probably continue to be a nagging whiny pain-in-the-ass about people doing stupid stuff with social media.
Today’s case in point comes from the Big 12, where an Iowa State fan showed just how dumb people can be by tweeting some dumb, racist stuff at Elijah Johnson. If you really want to read it, some of it is linked here, but don’t read them. To give you an idea, the part where he tweets directly to Johnson, “I hope you break every bone in your body and never play basketball again in your life” is probably the least offensive part. Long story short, this guy was upset about a player taking advantage of a bad call, and is now under investigation by Iowa State and the ISU PD. Moral of the story: don’t be a dick. You might get in trouble, and if you don’t get in trouble, you’re still a dick.
[Also, please note that this applies to real life, too. Confronting people on the interwebs is bad, but so is physically charging the opposing coach.]
Hello. It is Brian doing this. Forgive me if I am redundant, for I have been out of the recruiting recap game for a bit.
Hello: Mason Cole
on that jake ryan jam |Tim Sullivan/Rivals.com
You may have noticed that FL OL Mason Cole pulled the trigger and became the fourth member of Michigan's 2014 class this week. Cole, a 6'5" kid who'll need to add weight instead of drop it, is probably destined for guard, and he's a quality get:
The 6-foot-5, 280-pounder, theTimes' top recruit for the Class of 2014, has offers from pretty much every major Division I program, including Alabama, Florida, Florida State and Ohio State.
"'I've always been partial to the Big Ten," said Cole, who visited Michigan for the third time this past weekend. "I always knew I wanted to play in that conference and play in the cold weather.
"It's just made for offensive linemen. It's smash-mouth football. Linemen are kind of stars up there. I didn't know any of these people and they already knew my name. The fan base is crazy."
Elsewhere, the Tampa Bay Times notes that he is "one part teddy bear, one part beast." I hope the teddy bear part is his tail.
Ace has been ill this week
but will pop up with a belated Hello post next week; [EDIT: Oops it's here.] for now just know that Cole is probably going to average out around 100th once sites get their rankings down. He's 107th to Rivals and 62nd to 247 right now, pre-inevitable slide. Magnus compares him to Steve Schilling.
In 2016 all Michigan skill players will be 6'8" velcro-man hybrids
Tight ends! Michigan likes them a lot. They like recruiting them, at least, and presumably they will like throwing to them all the time once they learn how to block and are not oversized wide receivers. Michigan continues scouring the country for anything that looks like a basketball player in pads. They currently lead($) for one IL TE Daniel Helm:
“I would say Michigan is leading right now,” the 6-foot-5, 220-pound tight end said. “If Notre Dame offers, they are definitely up there. I really like their offense because it’s pro-style."
Helm is either fuzzy on what pro-style means or pro-style does not necessarily mean anything anymore what with RGIII and Russell Wilson and legions of NFL commentators hilariously failing to recognize the zone read. Anyway, Sam Webb's Detnews article from last week goes into more detail on Helm (and Parrker Westphal):
"I know Michigan's a top-tier school and one of the best universities in the country. The Big House was awesome — a great venue that would be sweet to play in. Their new indoor field is sweet, academics are superb, and their academic support is very good, as well. So it was great."
Helm, a Rivals250 guy, has Michigan, Nebraska and Tennessee offers already and feels another wave is incoming. Leads when offers are still incoming are more tenuous; sounds like ND is going to be a contender.
Drake Harris counts as a velcro-man hybrid
So. MI WR Drake Harris. Michigan State quasi-commit, leaping 6'4" Braylon Edwards receiver guy, kind of nice prospect, would be the last piece of Hoke's recruiting Voltron if Michigan can nab him from a list of national contenders and also Michigan State. When Harris re-opened his recruitment Michigan didn't seem to have a place particularly high up on his list, but he's visited and things are picking up. QB commit Wilton Speight is bombing the kid:
The other player Speight is feeling especially good about is Drake Harris. While he doesn't necessarily see a decision on the horizon, he does believe the Wolverines are being look upon in a much more favorable light.
"We've pretty much talked every day for the past week," Speight reported. "He's really high on Michigan. We've convinced him — he's coming this weekend on the 23rd, a day early with me and Michael on Saturday just to meet the coaching staff for a little bit longer. And he'll be there Sunday for the (basketball) game (versus Illinois). But it's been going really well. He's really liking Michigan more and more. I think the fact that Michael and I are working on him really hard is helping a lot."
The fruit of that work on is seen on the instagram:
Harris also spent some time in the WTKA studio with Sam Webb:
I'm a little confused by the bit where they talk about the number he's wearing as if it's #1 when it is in fact #11, but here is the recruiting tool being a recruiting tool, sort of:
Said Harris, “they told me they haven’t had anyone wear the #1 jersey in a while, and they believe I will be the next person to wear it if I come there… but I will have to earn it.”
Gahhhh stupid Braylon endowment thing. Michigan hasn't had a guy wear #1 since that came into being.
Also in last weekend were NC RB Elijah Hood and OH LB Kyle Berger, both previously longshots heavily favoring rivals Notre Dame and Ohio State, respectively. Hood's visit got Michigan closer but did not vault them to the top of the list($):
“It’s just a feeling right now,” Hood said of Notre Dame. “After everything was said and done and I sat home in my room and thought about it, they’re still No. 1.”
Michigan is second with Ohio State a seemingly distant third (he told The M Block that OSU was "not the same" as Michigan). With all those visits in the rear-view mirror Michigan wants Hood's recruitment to string out so they can have time to change his mind.
It is important to acquire Hood because he's got a little bit of Fred Jackson($) in him. He told Scout that OSU's RB coach was "magnificent" and that "all of those guys are awesome up there" at Michigan. If Michigan acquires Hood we could have a recursive praise-war going on between the two wherein Jackson says Hood is the best back since they combined Gale Sayers with a unicorn and Hood says Jackson is the best running back coach since that one guy who spliced Gale Sayers and a unicorn together.
LB - Kyle Berger - St. Ignatius High School - Cleveland, OH
Berger told me, "I loved my visit. I had a great time spending time with Coach Mattison and seeing all of the facilities. Meeting all of the coaches was great." The last time Kyle and I spoke he said he wanted to compare Michigan to Ohio State; he had this to say after visiting both schools. "I loved both schools. I had great visits at both places and I could see myself playing at either school. I think it's going to come down to spring practices and seeing how the coaches coach and all that."
An OZone writer got a similar take with an explicit pecking order, or lack thereof:
Kyle Berger had a great visit to Michigan. Says OSU and UM equal. Buckeyes are in a fight with TSUN for Berger.
Berger wants to decide($) in May; Ohio State is trying to get him up this weekend to defuse the situation.
Pass rushers named Lawrence always welcome
Webb's article this week focuses on MI DE Lawrence Marshall, who was momentarily an OSU commitment and is now open. Michigan was SRS about getting his attention:
"I literally spent the whole day with Brady Hoke. I was also with Coach Montgomery, Coach Mattison, Coach Jackson. It was one-on-one (attention) the whole day.
That was preceded by an MSU visit; he also returned to EL on the 16th, so they'll be a real contender in this one. Marshall does mention that Montgomery's departure is not a big deal:
"It really didn't hurt Michigan's chances. Coach Mattison would be the guy coaching me. I'd be working directly with him so (Montgomery leaving) was no loss. Coach Mattison, I was with him the whole time. He said I'd be like Terrell Suggs as a rush guy coming off the edge."
LA TE Jacory Washington, a soft LSU commit, plans to visit($) over the summer. Michigan hasn't gotten anything but sleepers out of LA in a long time and the rest of list is all southern schools.
NJ OL Juwan Bushell-Beaty is planning a visit in April($). Bushell-Beatty projects as a tackle and is the teammate of mondo prospect Jabrill Peppers. CA WR Juju Smith names a top five($) of M, USC, UCLA, Wisconsin, and Cal.
Woman with Cat|Pierre Bonnard
True Genius is Getting Away With It. Before I get into my self-indulgent emo crap about the Penn State game, go read consecutive Diarist of the Week Ron Utah's conclusion to the two-parter (Part I here) on Hoke vs. Saban recruiting and whether Michigan's at least following Bama's recruiting pattern toward future success. Money chart shows contributions from Saban recruits of various rivals ratings, with 1 (blue) the washouts, 2 (orange) the spot starters/useable depth, and 3 (maize) the starters & stars:
Yes, chartnazis he should have labeled that better. As I've mentioned before a lot of those sub-four stars (5.7 and lower) were down-rated against their apparent talent by Rivals and other sites because the kids were high-risk to meet NCAA academic requirements. Saban's strategy for tapping all of that talent was to oversign like a mother and let that the risk work to his benefit. Hoke's smaller classes have very few academic risks.
Diaries Etc.: LSAClassof2000 found the Big Ten has rushed for enough yards since 2000 to make two trips to the moon. I'll let GOLBOGM update his charts before diving too far into his comparison of the best NCAA hoops coaches. Here's his latest remaining schedule update. The Blockhams have a power outage and this is a metaphor for something. Marching On (the wallpaper by jonvalk). Marching on…
Best of the Board
So this week we learned a few hard truths. Like this basketball team isn't a 1 seed. And according to this thread there's a lot of people who come to MGoBlog for something other than cleverness and cats.
The "I only come for Brian" crowd got an inadvertent taste of that yesterday. Thursday content on the front page after a game with Penn State is supposed to be Ace's gifs, Brian's game column, the video highlights thing that keeps promising me they're upgrading their servers, UV, and This Week in Twitterverse. Instead you got Brian talking to cats and then nothing, because—raise of hands—after THAT who really wants gifs and highlights and links and tweets of Michigan defenders standing around while PSU's floppy walk-on drives for easy layups? If you weren't around for the game thread, or the postgame thread, I'll save you the trouble: it's 1200 comments alternating between calling our defense pathetic and the refs awful.
So cats. This isn't solely an internet phenomenon. The ancient Egyptians worshipped cats for their irreverence in the face of massive upsets to Hittites. The ancient Michigan fans used pictures of adorable kittens to make it through the aftermath of The Horror.
Since the late '90s the nittany variety has been that cathartic release for Michigan. Whenever it looked like our program was about to atrophy, a kitten in a scarf would appear, dressed all up nice like a real national program of consequence and culture, and lose in a fashion that let us regain at least some plausible measure of being Michigan fergodsakes. It was their apparent strength that catapulted the 1997 team to a #1 ranking we'd never relinquish. My freshman year a theretofore underwhelming squad blanked a top ten Penn State team in what's still one of the most memorable games I've ever been to. Minnesota tripped up their title-bound team in '99 but Michigan traveled to Happy Valley the following week, went nose to nose with Arrington and Brown, and sealed Tom Brady as the comeback kid. There's 2002. 2005 when is seemed all we could do was lose 4th quarters. 2007.
I discovered MGoBlog during that whole '07 Comcast/Big Ten Network spat. The Midwest's least favorite company was having a hissy fit over putting another Fox channel on a basic tier, because the way cable works is you have to buy 150 channels you don't want before getting to the ones you do, and nothing drives the masses to move up like sticking the Michigan game just out of reach.
As a result I had to go to a local bar to watch the Northwestern game. Amidst a classic DeBordian display of zone left that made that game way too close I ran into my old fraternity brother Dave Malak, who informed me there's a website that responded to Appalachian State by turning pink and posting lots of cats. Phones didn't yet have the internet they have today so it wasn't until that evening that I got home, searched for "michigan blog cats the horror" and got the September archives starting with the newest on top. The first MGo article I ever read began thus…
9/22/2007 - Michigan 14, Penn State 9 - 2-2, 1-0 Big Ten
Adrift on a sea of bodies, legs gone, head yanked back, enemies all around and pawing, Mike Hart stretches for the inch he needs and gets it. When Hart is gone and I am old and my mind flips through the rolodex of players past, this will be the image that lingers. It's his career writ microscopic. He takes his natural ability, and stretches it to its breaking point, and Michigan has a season again.
Somehow Mike Hart still feels like a secret. In some extremely obvious ways he is not: one of Michigan's vaunted triplets going into this season, he is widely acclaimed as the best back in the Big Ten and one of the best in the country. Anyone claiming the "no respect" card for Hart is going to have to make a strong case indeed. Everyone knows he is good. Maybe even great. But they don't know.
You can maybe forgive me and the other front-pagers if we try to sound like that sometimes. Writing is an impressionable craft; consciously or unconsciously we all imitate what we admire. I read Cook long before Foster-Wallace whom I've since devoured; prior to that my major sportswriting influences were Mitch Albom and Craig Ross. I adopted Brian's cheekiness because levity is the key to his genius for brevity and that's something I've always lacked; in turn he has little use for my themography or acoustic sensibilities. The advent of blogging sparked a new age of Impressionism in sports journalism, and I ask your patience as those of us who came after the vanguard fill in the white space of d'Orsay with our mimicry; we're all here for the Monets.
Contractually obligated highlight video
Board etc.: Denard catches footballs. MJ14 culled Twitter for some recruiting updates. Michael Scarn put together a handicapped 2014 recruiting board. M1817 explains Tom Brady's restructured contract so you can explain to people who question how/whether Tom could take less money.
Krzychawe Kryzewefski Coach K comments spark an interesting discussion on when it's appropriate to rush the court, situationally and in a "give the other team a second to get off the court" kind of way. The M's in the center of Crisler and Yost are "UNACCEPTABLE" according to M. Discover posters' super-secret double identities. Blackhawks fan tries to solicit mourning from Red Wings fans over the potential loss of that rivalry if Detroit moves East, receives a chorus full of "Yeah we'll miss you when we play Florida, maybe."
Your Moment of Zen:
From Marley Nowell.
As of this week for the first time in my adult life I have a front yard. I'm stoked for gardening and tossing various balls back and forth and stuff, but so far this is all I've done with it.