still not over it in South Bend
They marched past in tight formation, the drumline rapping out their cadence, occasionally punctuated by a solemn chant of "Ohio!" The Game was over, by now a good 15 minutes over, and the devastation set in as pandemonium ensued on the field of the Big House. You could tell instantly from the looks in their eyes—many welled up with tears—that the Ohio State Marching Band was not marching nearly fast enough.
I knew that look, that feeling. For the seven years prior, that was me, just doing my best to stay composed—it's a game, after all—until I could find a place away from everyone, and especially away from anything resembling football—because, after all, it's really more than just a game. On Saturday, however, I stood in the front corner of the tunnel, watching a beautiful scene unfold while doing my best to maintain some level of professionalism. Despite being all-too-familiar with their pain, I felt no sympathy towards the opposing band; they were merely collateral damage in a world returned to its rightful state.
I was spoiled. Since my dad decided to move the family from San Francisco to Ann Arbor—home of his alma mater—in the summer of 1993, Michigan had gone 6-4 against the Buckeyes, and 3-1 in games I had attended. This included Tim Biakabutuka's 313-yard game in '95 and the Rose Bowl clincher in '97, when Charles Woodson cut once, then once more, and streaked down the sidelines towards our end zone seats.
It was the fall of 2003, and I was a baby-faced high school sophomore. My friend Amy sat down with me in the lunchroom at Pioneer and told me she had her grandmother's tickets for The Game, and I could come if I want. She already knew the answer. What she didn't know—what none of us could know—was that we would be watching the last Wolverine victory in the rivalry until we were both out of college. At the time, I watched the game with the full expectation that Michigan would win—despite the presence of some vest-wearing guy from Youngstown State named Tressel, who had inexplicably coached OSU to victory the previous two years—and when they did, we walked home with little fanfare. This was normal, and it was good.
After eight games, there is still no part of me that feels like a day in the Michigan Stadium press box is just another day at the office. That feeling was only reinforced as Jake Long strode by amidst awkwardly-loud whispers of "Is that Jake Long?" Meanwhile, a relaxed Gene Smith schmoozed with some unidentified bigwigs, the press box was announced as being full for the first time all year—yes, including the Notre Dame game—and Mike Rosenberg even made it for the first time since the release of the advance copies of Three and Out. In a year chock-full of remarkable scenes, this stood out as particularly surreal.
Still, once the game began, I fell into routine easily. Watch the play, attempt to think of something insightful, tweet (usually regardless of whether or not an insightful thought actually occurred), perhaps crack a joke to Heiko, rinse, repeat. At halftime, the nerves began to kick in, because despite seven years of misery the thought never crossed my mind that this game could end in anything but righteous victory.
With seven minutes left in the fourth quarter—not long after I tweeted "End of third quarter update: I'm dying inside"—I packed up my laptop and followed TomVH and Chantel Jennings down to the field. By the time we reached the concourse, we were practically running. Michigan held a three-point lead and was driving, and this was no time to be cooped up far above the action where anything resembling a partisan cheer is met with withering glares of contempt.
We watched, helpless, as Fitz Toussaint scored but did not score, as Denard ran it in only to be rebuffed by yellow flags, as Michigan settled for a Brendan Gibbons field goal, and then as Devier Posey ran right by J.T. Floyd, only to be overthrown by a margin too close to keep my heart from nearly escaping my chest cavity. The next thing I knew, Braxton Miller had spiked the ball on third down—to the amazement of the surrounding media members and the incredulity of the Buckeye fans in the visitor's section behind me—and then Courtney Avery came down with the football.
As Denard Robinson chucked the ball high into the sky, setting off the "bomb" celebration that so hilariously rankled Zach Boren, I was already walking onto the field. I never had the chance to rush the field as a fan, but now, thanks to a job I did not possess a mere four months ago, here I was accidentally walking right behind Fitz Toussaint as he answered a television reporter's questions.
Toussaint wrapped up his interview quickly and sprinted towards the end zone, to his teammates and their student brethren. I followed, snapping pictures on my phone and keeping an eye out for my younger brother, who had lucked his way into a front-row seat in the student section. By the time I reached the end zone, the stampede began—the players ran towards the tunnel as the first wave of students streamed onto the field, and for a moment I wondered if I would be trampled. I wasn't worried about myself, but instead hoped that my parents would understand that I died happy, doing what I love.
I snapped out of it, because getting bowled into by a drunk, screaming engineer in a "Shoelace For Heisman" shirt will kick in your survival instincts. I turned and went with the flow of the crowd, capturing a few poignant moments along the way: a homeless-looking Steve Everitt hugging Taylor Lewan, Brendan Gibbons embracing Mark Huyge, walk-on Zac Johnson—one arm raised in triumph—soaking it all in.
By the mouth of the tunnel stood Mike Martin—and I didn't realize it at the time, but he was next to John U. Bacon—and his look of pure elation nearly brought a tear to my eye. To the right, Denard Robinson flashed his 1000-watt smile as he was mobbed by adoring students, then lifted a cheerleader off the ground—Lewan would have been proud. The players, the fans, and yes, the media members, nobody wanted to leave. We were unleashing seven years of pent-up frustration, but more than that, we were basking in the joy of the players, the guys who have been through more than any others in program history.
After several minutes, when the team had finally gone off to the locker room, I slipped into the tunnel to watch the recruits—and, as it turned out, the Ohio State band—make their way through. The faces of the visiting prospects said it all: a mix of jubilation and wonder, the wide-eyed looks of those wondering if this all was real. Devin Funchess snapped out of his joyful daze just in time to sidestep an equipment box being pushed by some Buckeye band members—"Man, they're trying to kill me!"—then proceeded to laugh his way out, bouncing with each step.
Just when things seemed to be quieting down, the traffic through the tunnel thinned out, three men emerged from the Michigan locker room, smartphones in hand: Captain Mike Martin, the heart and soul of the defense; Ryan Van Bergen, the face of "Those Who Stayed"; and Will Heininger, the Ann Arbor native who turned down a potential baseball career to walk on to the team he grew up idolizing. They headed back into the fray, capturing the moment for eternity.
They didn't just stay. They had returned.
Site note! OH MY GOD UFR UFR UFR OSU OSU OSU. Yeah, happening. I am going to take it a bit slower because, like, I can. Half this week, half next week.
The season's end usually means a slowdown in December since football is over, basketball is often wading through thickets of uninspiring nonconference opponents, and hockey is off for big chunks (this year they're also super depressing!). Also, the batteries. They need recharging.
Bid. The big prize in the School of Kinesiology's auction goes off the board in just over a day:
That is signed by:
Anthony Carter (Signed on the #1), Charles Woodson, Jake Long, Chad Henne, Elvis Grbac, Zoltan Mesko, Anthony "A-Train" Thomas, Larry Foote, Brandon Graham, Jamie Morris, Rick Leach, Jarrett Irons, Jim Brandstatter, Adrian Arrington, Reggie McKenzie, James Hall, Bob Chappuis, Vada Murray, Morgan Trent, Tim Jamison, Will Johnson, Butch Woolfolk, John Wangler, Bennie Joppru,Stevie Brown, Chris Floyd, Glen Steele, Mark Campbell, Clint Copenhaver, Aaron Shea, Scott Dresibach, Jarrod Bunch, Victor Hobson, Mark Messner, Stan Edwards, Derek Walker, Greg McMurtry, Billy Taylor, Harlan Huckleby, Don Dufek Sr., Don Dufek Jr., Bill Dufek, Ron Simpkins, Phil Brabbs, Chuck Winters, Andre Weathers, Jim Betts, Carl Diggs, Eric Mayes, Rondell Biggs, Greg Mathews, Doug Skene, David Moosman, Ron Bellamy and Adam Kraus.
Zoltan, yo. You will have to be a big baller to pick it up, but most of the emails I get come from law firms, so… yeah.
Hayden Fry on Bo. This is pretty much awesome:
Michigan's long-running semi-rivalry with Iowa has always seemed to me like the most mutually respectful one M has, what with Bump and Fry and Carr pulling for Ferentz and whatnot. It's good to have them in the division.
Sacrifice Virginia. Basketball hits the court again tonight (7PM, ESPN2) in their second consecutive road game in the Big Ten-ACC challenge. They've got Virginia. If you're thinking that sounds like a pushover, no, not so much. Kenpom has the 5-1 Cavaliers 37th and gives them a decent edge (61%) on their home court. Michigan probably has a better chance than wobbly early-season numbers suggest since they're still heavily counting Michigan's pre-Maui struggles.
While Michigan's playing its first true road game of the season, Virginia hasn't played a major conference team yet. They've annihilated a couple of bad teams, lost a squeaker to TCU, and cruised by Drexel, Drake, and Wisconsin-Green Bay. Defense is their calling card—they're currently 8th.
The Freshman Point Guard is Just Fine
Trey Burke hasn’t been perfect. He’s turned the ball over on 21% of his possessions, is shooting 60% on free throws, made one of eight threes in Maui and has the tendency to commit silly fouls. Despite those freshman mistakes, Burke has proven that he’s ready to play at this level. His quickness, playmaking ability and competitiveness have already proven vastly important through Michigan’s first six games.
Burke handed out more assists during the Maui Invitational than any player from any of the eight participating schools. He averaged 35 minutes per game in Maui, tied for the U-M lead, which serves as a ringing endorsement of John Beilein’s trust. The turnovers will decrease and he will find his three point shooting stroke (1-8 3pt in Maui) because he’s just too talented of a shooter not to. Burke is also the sort of player that can get a basket out of nothing – give him the ball in an isolation when the offense is struggling and he’ll make something happen.
“He’s got good size for his position, he’s athletic, he can shoot the basketball, and he can put the ball on the floor, get to the basket,” Ford said. “He’s got a lot of the tools that you sort of look for in a wing. If he was a better ball-handler — and it’s ironic, because his dad was amazing — that’s probably his biggest weakness. I think he (also) needs to get a little more consistent from 3-point range. “But I think he’s a pro.”
“He won’t need the money, and a lot of times that’s a big issue for players,” Ford said. “He’s got his dad, (so) he’s going to have access to more NBA guys giving him their opinions, which means he probably won’t get bad info. I probably say he stays, but I’m always surprised.”
Ford's plugging him in the same range Darius Morris was projected in as last season developed. As he mentions, money's not an issue, and this time around the NBA lockout helps. Last year the lockout pushed a marginal first-rounder like Morris into this years draft because a lot of blue-chips sat it out; this year those blue-chips will flood into the draft and push the Morris-Hardaway range back to school. I guess Burke fits in that range now, too. (Rivals basketball recruiting: you suck.) Sounds like Mitch McGary had a tough tournament over the last week, one that seems the draft consensus on him also in that fringe first-round range.
I'm still getting a handle on this edition of Michigan basketball, but it seems to me like Hardaway's increased ability to get his shot inside the arc is the non-Burke key. Memphis and Duke tried to shut off Michigan's threes only to get beat up on those overplays. Dylan notes Michigan's red-hot two-point shooting in Maui; Hardaway led the way at 27 of 44—a better than 60% clip.
Hardaway seems to have added a mid-range pull-up game that will be unstoppable since he's a 6'6" leaper. Just has to hit those shots. I expect the team's three-point shooting will come around to where it was last year. At this point Vogrich/Douglass/Novak is established as a floppy-haired Cerberus that will shoot between 36 and 38 percent collectively. Hardaway and Burke are the wildcards there. Is Hardaway the elite guy from the Big Ten season or also in that okay-to-good range? And how good of a shooter is Burke?
BONUS: Drexel's head coach is named "Bruiser Flint." Serious.
This is going to go well. They put Big Ten offensive lineman of the year David Molk in front of a camera and Tim Doyle asked him goofy questions.
Call me butterfly. I dare you.
Barely concealed contempt FTW.
Obligatory section on Meyer. He'll be some level of good. It's vastly more important for Michigan to have its house in order, which they seem to. Insert your preferred baseless assumption about Meyer's flakiness/health issues/lack of recruiting acumen here to make you feel better. At least we won't be one-upped in this department:
Rittenberg writes that if there's anyone who knows Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison's system, it's Meyer. The two worked along side one another when Meyer was the head coach of Florida.
If Mattison stays at Michigan, perhaps Meyer could give the Buckeyes the advantage come next season, as OSU tries to avenge their first loss to UM in eight years.
PROTIP: if your assertion can be flipped 180 degrees and retain equal plausibility, find another assertion.
The one thing hiring Meyer does do is make OSU fans' assertions that they really gave themselves a tough punishment by firing/retiring Jim Tressel even more obviously crap than when they were originally peddled. The NCAA's reaction to a head coach lying to keep his most important players eligible, then lying again to get them eligible for a bowl game, is going to be pathetically weak even with the tattoos and cars and "charity" events on top of everything.
Countdown to resumption of normal activities in 3… 2… 1…
The neck, it sticks out. This year's most interesting recruit ranking kerfuffle is located in the general vicinity of Toledo, where Chris Wormley is the Ohio Division 1 defensive player of the year over Se'Von Pittman, Tom Strobel, Joe Bolden, and De'Van Bogard. Those four are all top 100 types. Wormley had M and OSU offers on top of that but still sees this massive rankings spread:
- 247: #59 overall, #3 SDE, #3 OH
- ESPN: 4*, #16 DE, #7 OH
- Scout: 4*, #161 overall, #22 DE
- Rivals: durf. 3*, #22 strongside defensive end (IE: approx #44 DE)
That's a powerful outlier there. Hopefully it's wrong.
Why the Big Ten is not so good, Part XXVII. The massive connections that come from a brief tenure at Cincinnati may land Pat Narduzzi the Illinois job:
As Illinois' search for Ron Zook's replacement begins, a source said the program is looking at candidates that include Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano and Toledo head coach Tim Beckman.
Narduzzi's Big Ten affiliation and ties to Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas make him a likely target.
He served as the defensive coordinator at Cincinnati from 2004-06, overlapping with Thomas' tenure with the Bearcats that began in 2005. He was reportedly a candidate for the Cincinnati job that eventually went to Brian Kelly, who now coaches at Notre Dame.
Yes, this would be another disappointing mid-level Big Ten hire with names like Mike Leach, Kevin Sumlin, and anyone who's proven they are actually in charge of the thing they're supposed to be in charge of out there. Narduzzi is a defensive coordinator working under a former DC. That always makes me leery because you don't know how much of the team's success in their chosen field is because of the guy you're hiring.
Beckman would probably be a better hire: he's turned around Toledo, has a ton of recruiting connections in Ohio, and did establish himself as a BCS level coordinator at Oklahoma State. Schiano is not realistic. He has security at Rutgers and Illinois is a death trap.
If Illinois does go with Narduzzi that is both of Dantonio's coordinators out the door in a two year period. Not sure how much Narduzzi would hurt for the reasons given above, but it certainly can't help. It would be strange if Dantonio had more of a coaching tree in year five at MSU than Carr did, like, ever.
More Buckeye butthurt. Meinke collects the various lolrus OSU player twitter posts after the game. You've read the Boren ones; the others:
Added Ohio State tight end Jeff Heuerman: "Karma is gonna be a (expletive) for that little 'celebration' at the end."
Players said the controversial celebration -- you can catch a piece of it at the 34-minute mark of this YouTube video -- is something they have done after each Friday practice this year. Coach Brady Hoke said he was fine with his team celebrating their win that way.
"I don’t have any problem (with it) because it wasn’t disrespectful to anybody," Hoke said. "It’s something they do every Friday.
"No. It wasn’t disrespectful to anybody. It’s something those kids have done for 12 weeks.”
Ohio State, though, clearly was offended with the episode, which occurred in front of several players at midfield.
It led to Ohio State cornerback Brad Roby tweeting: "I will never lose to those scrubs again."
Etc.: Stuffing the Passer. Michigan-ND is Pat Forde's game of the year. Dreaded Judgment OSU game column. Dymonte Thomas badgers Bri'onte Dunn on the twitters. Dunn says he doesn't want to play in a spread. (Shhh.) Kyle Kalis is solid.
This week, three future Wolverines take home state titles, Erik Magnuson's squad advances to the semifinals, and the season ends in disappointment for Matt Godin and Chris Wormley.
MI DT Matt Godin
Godin contributed four tackles, but Catholic Central lost a shocker to Cass Tech in the Division 1 state finals, 49-13. The Shamrocks finished the season with a 12-2 record.
MI LB Royce Jenkins-Stone
Jenkins-Stone had a monster game for Cass Tech, rushing for 65 yards and a 32-yard TD run on nine carries, hauling in a three-yard TD pass, and leading the Technician defense with seven tackles while adding another TD on a 36-yard interception return. You can see highlights and Jenkins-Stone's post-game comments in the above video. He also had this to say to the Free Press:
"I told everybody on defense to keep it up because they're a second-half team," Jenkins-Stone said. "We had to keep the pressure on them and not let up. Everybody stepped up and kept the pressure on. I got my interception and I was happy about it. The hard work and determination will get you far."
Cass Tech finishes the season at 11-3 and took home the school's first-ever state football championship.
CA OL Erik Magnuson
Magnuson had two sacks on the defensive line as La Costa Canyon defeated Westview—featuring 2012 TE recruit Taylor McNamara, who had a 75-yard TD catch—13-6 in a Division 2 quarterfinal matchup.
This week: The Mavericks play Oceanside on Thursday night in the semifinals.
MI CB Terry Richardson
Richardson tallied two tackles and hauled in a 36-yard TD pass—one of five thrown by Cass Tech freshman QB Jayru Campbell, tying a state title game record—as the Technician defense held Catholic Central to just 226 yards of total offense.
MI LB James Ross
After finishing as runner-ups the past two seasons, Orchard Lake St. Mary's finally took home a state title of their own, crushing Mount Pleasant 45-7 in the Division 3 championship game. Ross was his usual productive self, making ten tackles and scoring on a 32-yard touchdown run, and he was suitably proud of finally reaching the ultimate goal in high school football:
Ross, one of the state's top players, is committed to Michigan and as happy as Ross was that U-M finally beat Ohio State on Saturday, the joy he felt a few hours after U-M's important victory had everything to do with his team winning a state title.
"It's a great feeling," Ross said about U-M's victory. "But honestly, I'm not a Wolverine yet. This (state championship) is a great accomplishment. It's a great feeling to have that state championship."
To the Free Press, he added:
"It's better than I thought it would feel," Ross said. "I never thought it would feel like this: something that's as amazing as this and something we've been working for four months now. It's a great accomplishment -- one of the best accomplishments of my life."
OH DE Chris Wormley:
Whitmer's dreams on an undefeated season were dashed in the state semifinals, as St. Ignatius eked out a 17-6 victory thanks to five Panther turnovers, which were just enough to overcome the Whitmer defense holding St. Ignatius to a mere 135 yards of total offense. Wormley had three tackles and a sack in the losing effort, and here's Mason's weekly report on the game:
Whitmer's defense played their best game of the season, giving up just 135 yards (!) in a Division 1 state semifinal against a program that has won 10 state championships since 1988. That's pretty damn good. The offense - outside of a 90-yard touchdown run - really struggled to get going and turned the ball over five times, which is, of course, a recipe for disaster.
Chris had, officially, three assisted tackles and a sack in his final HS football game. He was really impressive all year despite being the focal point of everyone else's offense. He's a great, intelligent kid who's going to be a real credit to the Michigan family. He does have some things to work on - he does tend to play a little high, I think, and he needs to work on "finishing" tackles - but I see absolutely no reason why he can't be a star at Michigan. He's been a real pleasure to watch these last couple of years, and I'm thrilled that he'll be making the transition from maize and blue to Maize and Blue next fall.
A huge thanks to Mason for contributing these all season—if you're looking to hear more of his work, he'll be calling Whitmer basketball games (Wormley plays center, and the team is a state title contender) for WRSCSports.com.
After the jump, see the season records of the players whose teams have been eliminated, as well as a link to their season stats, compiled by Touch the Banner.
News bullets and other important items:
- Brennen Beyer should be fine for bowl practice.
- Team will go back to fundamentals and technique during bowl practice and develop younger players.
- Quinton Washington, Keith Heitzman, and Chris Rock are improving on the D-line. Coaches also trying to coach up Richard Ash.
- Bowl practice schedule will depend on which bowl they go to. Team will be active this week.
“It’s great to go out and play well enough to win. I think there’s some things we all know we have to do a better job with when you look at the whole football game, but I think our guys responded well. As a team, I’ve said it many times, but they really complement each other offensively and defensively and in the kicking game. It’s great to win a football game. Anytime you can win that great rivalry game, it’s good.”
Borges has been saying all season that the offense is eventually going to come along. Have we been seeing that the last two weeks?
“You know, I think a couple things: number one, [Denard has] grown and matured as a Michigan quarterback throughout the course of the year. I think the decisiveness that he has run the football with when he’s made that decision, that there’s some open area or whatever has really been good the last couple weeks. I think that’s helped his confidence. I thought he ran extremely hard with the ball on Saturday. When we can rush the ball for 277 yards, it helps you obviously when you get into the throw game. And in the passing game, I thought he made three really good throw again. He was 14 of 17, so his accuracy and completion rate was pretty doggone good. I think he just keeps growing.”
What was the mood like the last 36 hours? Have you been hearing from a lot of people?
“Yeah, I mean there’s a lot of text messages that I haven’t even seen yet to be honest with you. It’s nice and it’s great that people want to congratulate you, but we’re not done with this year yet. Our goal was to win the conference championship and we didn’t do that, so we have a lot more to prove.”
What do you think about the Urban Meyer hire?
“You know, he’s not going to play a down and neither am I. To me, I’ve known Urban. He’s a good football coach. He’s a good guy, I’ll welcome him in, but this is still Michigan and Ohio. It’s still going to be that rivalry. Neither one of us is going to play a game.”
(more after the jump)
About an hour.
MGODITCHPARTY. A real good time.
ACE ON THE SIDELINES. Job perk, that.
INVERTED VEEEEER. Yes sir.
WHA HAPPEN, SECONDARY? Where did you go?
BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP GAME. Wisconsin is one loss away from Dead To Us status.
BOWL SCENARIOS. Boo Georgia.
BCS COMPLAINING. This year the BCS proposes to have a national title game between LSU and Alabama. Assuming LSU does not lose the SEC title game, nothing Alabama can do will make them have a better season than LSU. The BCS is dumb.
SONGS. "Blue Suede Shoes" by Carl Perkins, "One Chance" by Modest Mouse, "New Coat of Paint" by Tom Waits, and "Sons and Daughters" by the Decemberists.
The usual links:
11/26/2011 – Michigan 40, Ohio State 34 – 10-2, 6-2 Big Ten
Odoms via the Detroit News. Koger/Fitzgerald and Denard via Eric Upchurch.
Slightly more than a week ago, people better-prepared than I commemorated the fifth anniversary of Bo's death. I remember where I was, sitting in the room I was renting in a house that would be foreclosed on as Tom Orr, a Buckeye fan whose wife still worked for the TV station Bo did a show for, emailed me the things I didn't want to hear.
I had a thing I'd mostly written the night before about that year's Game, the one I did and still call Football Armageddon. It was an overdramatic thing based on a Sufjan Stevens song about the apocalypse. I wasn't sure about it. As I read it, panicked because I had to say something and what would I say, two things occurred to me. One, that the overdramatic thing was now on point. Two, that the part I hadn't written the night before about my father burning into coal—because it was impossible to—now sat there, obvious.
Ryan Van Bergen was in high school. He'd committed to Lloyd Carr months before. He was going to Michigan, fergodsakes. David Molk had ten thousand zits on his face. He was going to Michigan, too. Neither had the slightest idea.
Four years and two coaches later, the two of them sat in a room. They decided. What they decided was: that was not happening again. They decided they would stay. They loved Michigan, and they weren't going out in a disjointed mess. Their new coach reinstated an old tradition and they became captains unlike any in 40 years. They found their own way. There was no one save Brandon Graham to learn from, and there's only so much Brandon Graham can do.
I'm not really sure how or why but Denard Robinson stayed, too. It's possible Molk threatened to kill him.
In these decisions, in these moments, in these actually-kind-of-idiotic thought processes that led all of these players to stay here for a second or third coach, in a place that too easily booed them when they failed to live up to the expectations set for them, Michigan became Michigan again.
What is Michigan but a succession of players who chose the winged helmet and spent their four or five years in it trying to perform to the level previous players had? And how difficult would that be when your predecessors had either not lived up to that standard or abandoned you? Who was Ryan Van Bergen supposed to look up to?
By the time everyone else came back, Molk and Van Bergen and Martin and Koger and Woolfolk and the rest of the roster had already decided. Amongst themselves, for themselves.
This program needed that to pay off. It needed to stop feeling sorry for itself, being at war with itself, sabotaging itself, stop hopping on the radio to trash this that and the other, stop needing to be trashed on the radio for this that and the other. It needed to finally bury Bo, and move past the strife caused by his absence. Only one thing could do that: beating Ohio.
They did, and now there are legacies.
That picture is David Molk to me. Hugging his quarterback and killing a press conference. Sealing a blitzing linebacker on a second-half stretch. Piloting one of the best rushing attacks in Michigan history.
That picture is Ryan Van Bergen to me. Destroying that Indiana drive after botching the call on the line; leaving OSU with his winged helmet thrust as far in the air as his 6'6" frame would take it.
Amongst the tackiness, that was real. That's what I waited for. One story of redemption from someone who did nothing wrong. I've sneered at the "Michigan Man" concept ever since it became a cudgel to use against the wrong head coach. The idea there was anything particularly special or deathlessly loyal or kind or mature about the program's alumni was ridiculous after the way the last three years played out. But no more.
These are Michigan Men; this is their season.
After the game I loitered at my family's tailgate until the champagne was gone and then walked home. These days I make the walk to and from the game by myself. The people I used to walk with aren't around anymore.
At first this seemed lonely. I remember walking down Packard behind a father and his kid after The Horror. An elderly guy who kind of seemed stoned came out onto his elaborately flowered lawn and asked "they didn't really lose, did they?" The father nodded ruefully; the elderly guy shook his head. I remember getting body-checked into a car after last year's State game. I remember shivering the whole way after Northwestern '08.
On Saturday the sky was slate, the gunmetal November sky that goes with head coaches in shirtsleeves and sleet and the grim reconciliation with the elements via which the Big Ten footprint acknowledges both winter and mortality. Being outside, in Michigan, in late November, is usually a defiant variety of stupidity—a last taste of being outdoors before December closes in and the world becomes a thing briefly tolerated between heated areas. In the Midwest, football is to winter what spit from a condemned man is to a firing squad.
Saturday was also warm, warmer than any Ohio State game in memory. As I walked, alone, past the lurid green turf the field hockey team plays on I watched fathers play with sons. A tailgate across the tracks provided play-by-play as I passed by: a speed option the kid playing quarterback turned into a trick play by going out for a pass after he pitched. He was open; he dropped it; I filed it (CA, 3, RPS +1). The tailgate burst into sympathetic "awwws."
I kind of lost it passing behind the bleachers, just then. I came out the other side, and looked back, and saw two #16s and a #1 running around, catching and throwing, four-foot-five at best. Mottled clouds passed overhead. Two shades of gray were pushed by wind. It seemed to me like the closer, darker ones were giving way to the lighter background.
It felt like spring.
Photoset from Eric Upchurch and the Ann Arbor Observer:
This is a great shot you might see in next year's season preview:
Molk brought his trident:
WE MUST EAT
Pregame hype video:
Give it to Old Hat Creative. Two consecutive years these have been great. Aaand JBrons provides a panorama:
BRADY HOKE EPIC DOUBLE POINT OF THE WEEK. 14/17 for 10 YPA, 3 TDs, 0 INTs, 170 rushing yards at 6.5 YPC and two more touchdowns… uh… yeah. It was Denard Robinson's day. If he'd played like that week-in, week-out he's in New York and Andrew Luck is asking for his autograph. Alas, it was not to be.
Robinson didn't eat up passing yards with screens or long busted coverages, either. His long on the day was the 28-yarder to Dileo that CJ Barnett jumped. That's a disaster if it's even a little bit off; Denard made an NFL throw into Dileo's outstretched hands. The post TD to Hemingway was a 20-yard dart and the Odoms touchdown was thrown into space so tight I'm not even sure you could call it a "window." It was more like a keyhole.
Hypothesis: do you think Borges did something to Denard's throwing motion? That might explain his progression from inept in the nonconference schedule to decent, if limited, in the Big Ten to assassin against OSU. If Denard can extend that performance across a season… holy pants. The scrambles and draws have opened up for him the past couple weeks because his passing has been enough of a threat to demand attention.
Honorable mentions: Brady Hoke (for reasons discussed below), Al Borges, Fitzgerald Toussaint.
EPIC DOUBLE POINT STANDINGS.
3: Denard Robinson (Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan, Ohio State)
2: Brady Hoke (San Diego State, Northwestern), Fitzgerald Toussaint (Purdue, Nebraska)
1: Jordan Kovacs (Western Michigan), David Molk (Minnesota), Ryan Van Bergen (MSU), Mike Martin (Iowa), JT Floyd(Illinois).
Future annoying conversations may be (unsuccessfully) pre-empted by "Ohio State 2011." On the podcast last week we talked about Hoke's natural aggression and how there would be a point in the future when it does not work out, thus spawning a week of extremely annoying conversations. This game is an uzi in the math camp's arsenal.
Hoke went for it on fourth and one on the OSU 40 in the first quarter. Hopkins got it easily and Michigan punched in a touchdown. Ohio State punted on fourth and four from the Michigan 36; Michigan moved the ball to midfield before the disastrous Hagerup non-punt set Ohio State up with the same field position they'd have had if they'd picked up the first down. Later, Fickell kicked on fourth and goal from the Michigan four down six.
I punched all these decisions into Advanced NFL Stat's fourth down calculator; it spat out that Hoke was right and Fickell wrong with a total margin of 3.2 expected points and a total shift in win percentage of 7%*. And their assumptions are based on NFL models where four yards to go is an automatic passing down; taking the game situation into account (it's spread mad college and both quarterbacks are unstoppable on the ground) it seems like much, if not all, of Michigan's final margin of victory came from the decisions the head coaches made.
How much more of a travesty is the Toussaint overturn if it puts Michigan in fourth and goal from the 25 down four? Orders of magnitude. How confident are you that Michigan wins that game without the offense ripping down the field in the fourth quarter? Not at all. Michigan does not win this game without…
*[I know you can't just add WP differences up like that but the differences are small enough that it shouldn't matter.]
Controlled aggression. How would you characterize the first year of the Hoke era if given only two words? I don't think you could do better than sniping a couple Hoke used to describe Denard's game:
"Denard went out there as a quarterback of Michigan and went out there to help his teammates and be accountable to his teammates. He couldn't do it by himself and no one ever does, but I thought he played an aggressive, controlled football game."
Controlled aggression. From Mattison's okie blitzes that get an unblocked guy while dropping seven to Borges going for points in the fourth quarter Saturday to Hoke's decisions to go for it on fourth down to Hoke's ability to not strangle Hagerup (better man than all of us), "controlled aggression" is the story of Michigan's 2011… and its future.
I could not have been more wrong about Hoke. He's not the milquetoast win-by-not-losing sort. He's not even average. He has a gut feel that is on par with every RPG minimaxing engineer out there. Forged by the fires of MAC defenses, Hoke has learned to push when he should and pull back when he should. I would not want to play poker against him.
I know Hoke talks about toughness and physicalness even if the latter isn't really a word, and that's fine and important. It's half of the equation. The other half is putting your guys in position to take advantage of that. Hoke does that. MANBALL: pretty much not pejorative anymore.
Speaking of the Toussaint overturn. So the overturn at the end had the stadium baying for blood. Mike Pereira on that:
Why they even considered overturning this as a touchdown, I’ll never know. There were two definitive replays that the booth had to look at, and in my opinion, one showed that the ball might have been a foot short and the other one looked more like it was a clear touchdown.
This decision seemed to be based on the first angle only. Even that, to me, was not conclusive, because when the video was stopped it was not clear whether the knee was down.
Pereira also tackles the Odoms catch/recatch that got Michigan down to the six, saying it was the right call. Myself, I'm not sure why they reviewed it or why it took so long. I do wonder how you align this logic with the Junior Hemingway 49% touchdown against Iowa:
The fact the ball hit the ground does not make the pass incomplete. It becomes a question of maintaining possession. Odoms’ hands remained on the ball, and though the ball moved a bit, he did not lose possession. In order to reverse this ruling, I think you have to see the ball come out of his hands after it hit the ground.
I think ball hitting ground should be no catch unless you've already made the proverbial football move. That's clear. What we've got now is ambiguous.
And, then after the game, the fans just like, start banging their hands together. Michigan's grenade celebration caught the ire of Zach Boren:
"I lost so much respect for michigan after they won [and] threw the ball in the air acting like it was a grenade.
This is a great rivalry, and to take it to that level of disrespect is just so uncalled for. Act like you have won before [and] treat this rivalry like it should be treated."
Their family would never participate in anything so crass as celebrating amongst their teammates. They are a respectful bunch.
A stoic group of respectful people, those Borens.
[HT on the bolded zinger to MichFan1997.]
To get the bags of urine thrown at you you have to be in Columbus, though. Atmosphere skeptics will not be cowed, but this is high praise from a guy who would know:
The OSU-Michigan game today was the closest thing to a big soccer game I've ever been to. Kept thinking of USA-Mexico in Mexico.
Carey has been to USA-Mexico in Mexico, which… whoah. That is a hell of a comparison to make.
Weekly Borgeswatch. Beat up or not, that was an Ohio State defense that entered the game 16th in total defense and 12th in FEI*. Michigan rolled them. Eliminate the Hagerup disaster, a sack, and the kneeldown and Michigan averaged 6.4 YPC. Denard hit 9.8 YPA. They should have scored 44. They won that game with a functional turnover margin of –2—the Hagerup disaster is a 60-yard loss of field position and the Avery INT was superfluous—and their defense giving up 34. That's fantastic.
Borges's last three weeks have been superlative. It's still frustrating that a couple of poor gameplans cost Michigan against MSU and Iowa but Borges corrected course and lit up defenses ranging from excellent to okay the last three weeks of the season. Before the season I predicted that Michigan's YPC would drop by a yard; with the bowl game to go it's only down about a quarter of that. Passing efficiency has dropped (23rd to 39th) but YPA is actually up a couple tenths of a yard. The interceptions are the major issue, and a decent chunk of those featured wide open receivers the QBs ignored.
Some regression was expected even if Rodriguez stuck around, so the net transition cost on offense kind of seems like… zero. Fumbles have been a huge factor (last year: 29, 14 lost; this year: 17, 6 lost) and I don't think there's a whole lot of coaching in that, but at this point there's no denying Borges has kept the offense humming.
Imagine how good they could have been with bubble screens! [kidding! srs.]
*[Although… I'm getting suspicious of that metric when it has Rutgers #1 in defense and Miami(!!!) #2 in offense. Miami hasn't gone over 20 points since beating Duke; they lost to FSU 23-19 and to BC 24-17. They beat USF 6-3 and are 73rd in total offense, 64th in scoring. There is no combination of circumstances that could make them the #2 offense in the country. FEI is failing sanity tests this year.]
BCS hootenanny. Michigan actually fell a slot in the BCS standings this week thanks to Wisconsin turning Penn State into paste. They're 16th; they need to creep up two spots* to be eligible for hypothetical Sugar Bowl against Houston. One of those is a given since the Big Ten title game loser will fall behind them. The next is likely as long as Georgia loses the SEC title game.
If Georgia doesn't things get dicey. Then you're hoping for Iowa State to beat KSU or Oklahoma State to annihilate Oklahoma to the point where disgusted voters drop them immensely. With KSU a 12 point favorite and Oklahoma State a 3.5 point favorite, neither of those things seem particularly likely. Baylor is also a threat to jump Michigan if they beat Texas—if it's close the computers will likely side with the Big 12 team. Baylor's favored by around 3. MFan_in_Ohio has a complete rooting guide.
The only scenario in which Michigan feels entirely safe is Georgia and Baylor both losing. Anything else and it's going to come down to the margins. Not getting the BCS game would be disappointing, but mostly from a program prestige point of view. The likely opponent would be better in the Citrus: Arkansas, Georgia, or South Carolina. Also, New Orleans vs Orlando is a blowout.
If fewer than 10 teams are eligible for selection, then the Bowls can select as an at-large team any Football Bowl Subdivision team that is bowl-eligible, has won at least nine regular-season games and is among the top 18 teams in the final BCS Standings,
Otherwise it's top 14.]
Fitzkrieg* III. If Brady Hoke gets It, Fitzgerald Toussaint has It. Fitz is averaging 5.8 YPC this year and that's with a majority of his carries coming against Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, and Ohio State. That is tied for the 14th best YPC in a single season (100 carries minimum) since 1949 and the second-best since Biakabutuka's 1995 campaign. (Denard's 2010 beats him out at an incredible 6.6 YPC. Tyrone Wheatley's 1992 season stands alone as the best in Michigan history. Wheatley picked up 1357 yards on 185 carries—eleven more than Toussaint had this year. He averaged 7.3 YPC. Holy pants.)
[active players bolded. also players from the last 15 years.]
Adjust that for schedule strength, and… well, Toussaint is pretty good, especially when Denard Robinson is taking a lot of attention for himself. If Michigan can find a tight end (possible) and adequately replace Huyge (likely) and Molk (er…), an Al Borges with a year of experience dealing with these guys could put up some silly numbers.
Have to keep that line healthy, though.
*[Now spelled right and everything!]
I'm just sayin'. Fitz did bust a long one on I-Form power late, but it didn't exactly go as planned:
That cuts behind something that's supposed to be a downblock. Usually that's doom, though not when you've blasted the DT five yards downfield.
With Denard and Toussaint propelling Michigan to its best running game since the Big Ten was only vaguely competitive, can we assert that running quarterbacks do work in the Big Ten and that the spread is a pretty good system for running the ball? After all was said and done, Michigan beat OSU—put up more points on OSU than they ever had—by running a shotgun centered offense that tore it up with the inverted veer. Kudos to Borges for adjusting; I hope we don't say "that was interesting" and go back to statues for the next decade.
I say recruit 'em all and let Borges sort 'em out. Mobile QBs who don't pan out can turn into Marvin McNutt; I don't think M should turn down Shane Morris but if there's a Devin or a Denard around… man, this stuff really works.
Everyone's spent the last year comparing this offense to RR's last one, and saying there's no dropoff. That's true. Now let's compare it to the Carr offenses featuring oodles of NFL draft picks. Hmmm.
Facepalmin': THE REVERSAL. Facepalm guy after the OSU game:
That's goddamn right.
Epic photobomb. Via the internets, here's Josh Garnett, Jake Long, and Eric Magnuson* plus a Heisman-level photobomber:
The wife saw this picture and said "why does Jake Long look strange" and I said "because he's next to people approximately his size."
*[Hockey fans will appreciate that I almost called him "Kevin." #hardcore]
Where are the safeties? So the disturbing thing about the game was Braxton Miller trashing the secondary. It could have been a lot worse than it was, but Miller's accuracy rating is still in the 50s so he overthrew a bunch of dudes.
No one was exempt: Floyd, Countess, Woolfolk, and Gordon each got burned (Kovacs was mostly used in the box and did not have an opportunity.) Some of that is Michigan showing a consistent one-high and Bollman exploiting that with receivers that, for the first time all year, seemed way more athletic than Michigan's secondary. Other parts were just inexplicable, like whoever the free safety was on the first touchdown sucking up on a covered Posey instead of covering the deep guy. I'll have to check the tape; I'm kind of concerned this is an '06 situation where whoops we have this huge throbbing vulnerability.
Floyd getting suckered on a double move on OSU's last drive was the worst. Have to stay over the top then and make Miller execute his way down the field.
Special K's magnum opus. Piping in "Build Me Up Buttercup" during Ohio State's final drive. Well done, you flatulent twit. Eleven Warriors:
"Sweet Caroline"? "Don’t Stop Believin’"? Nice traditions you’ve got there. I didnt think anything could make the car keys thing less embarrassing. I stand corrected.
Chris Grovich of BSD:
Note how lame the Big House is with Journey blaring? That's you, Penn State gameday experience. A million times over.
Apparently Hunter Lochmann openly admits he's courting casual "families of four from Grand Rapids." Court casual fans and you get casual fans. Michigan's athletic department has no understanding of how to build long-term loyalty. The concept does not occur to them.
I would like to point you to Those Who Stayed, the post-Minnesota game column, again.
The play of the game, or at least one of them, is not recorded in the boxscore in a meaningful way. After Hagerup’s failed 4th down conversion, osu took over at our 31. They got down to our 5 yard line, and had 1st and goal. A couple strong defensive efforts lead to 3rd down.
On the next play, according to Chris Spielman (we were never shown this,) osu tried their TD pass to Stoneburner play, the one that got him TDs on ~ half his receptions this year. Only this time, Kovacs stayed with Stoneburner, and forced Miller to keep it. Jibreel Black (Jibreel Black? Yes, Jibreel Black) kept outside leverage, wrapped up Miller and forced the FG.
At the other end of the field, we did the same thing, only their 3rd string strong safety, Storm Klein, bit on the playfake leaving Koger wide open for the TD. (It may not have been Storm Klein, but for the purposes of this narrative, I’m going with Storm Klein.)
It was Zach Domicone, and it only serves him right for being such a tool on special teams. More than once I saw him attempt to goad Michigan players into personal foul penalties, but no sale.
I am also tweaked for the option fumble when they finally ran it with Odoms in motion, which fair enough. Denard got instant pressure which made the pitch a difficult one and the corner was wide open. Hopefully they get that straightened out eventually. Also we totally need to add the Braxton Miller speed option-whoops-seeya play.
Fitz Toussaint - Denard is light-years more effective with a true home-run threat in the backfield with him. The read option becomes almost impossible to stop if read correctly. Only having 2 negative yards against Ohio in 20 carries is remarkable. It is a crime that the zebras took your TD away, go get 3 next year.
There is narrative about the point that doesn't work with a blockquote but is worth clicking through for. Also more Hagerup hilarity.
[escape pauses gifs]
And MichiganMan2424's cool story bro about meeting Fitzgerald Toussaint's mom on his way home from the game spawns other cool stories on the board.
Media, as in unwashed blog masses. Hoke pointing from Hoke Points and the AP:
MGoVideo provides a Hoke Nyan Cat:
We need one of these with a Denard head and football body, I think.
Michigan fans had hoped for an easy victory over Ohio State. A blowout. A cake walk. But that's not how good stories are told. Even ones written not on the page, but between the lines of a college gridiron. For after 7* consecutive losses, the task was too important. After three years staring into the football abyss, the final push toward the mountain top demanded it be the hardest.
The hero's journey must never be easy.
For future reference, reasonable Joseph Campbell reference == autolink.
Sap's decals. TWB bullets. MVictors bullets plus cookie photo. Maize and Go Blue recap. TTB bullets. MZone autopsy. Holding the Rope gets the word "gyre" in there, one-upping Maize and Blue Nation's "whirlwind." Smiling Kovacs hug leads The Michigan Fanatic. BWS column.
The HSR is all in my head with their theme:
If you're a Michigander, you know that winter is miserable. As much as the first snow fall of the season might be entertaining and even maybe a little bit pretty, while snow days may be a nice respite from the daily grind, the reality is that it's cold, dark, wet, and miserable. You stay inside, you may get seasonal affective disorder, and you wait for spring. You may be so desperate for any sign of spring, you seize false hope, only to see the snow return with a vengeance, the darkness fall. No matter what the calendar says, the end of winter is a feeling and you know it when it happens.
Forever Saturday leads with the Van Bergen photo above:
I was briefly concerned yesterday that I would wake up at some point and realize that it was all just a dream and Michigan had in fact not beaten Ohio State for the first time since shortly after I graduated high school. It's Sunday now. It's really over.
The words: I do not have them. I just keep telling people "Michigan beat Ohio State!" and making weird sounds that apparently are some combination of exhilaration and relief. That's all I can do after that.
The national view comes from Jacobi:
WHAT MICHIGAN WON: Michigan beat Ohio State. Wait, let's try that again: MICHIGAN BEAT OHIO STATE. The 10-win season is absolutely nice for the Wolverines, but they've been circling this game on their calendars since time immemorial, and to get a win in this rivalry after eight years of futility is a major, major accomplishment for Brady Hoke and his charges.
LOSER: Michigan's classless fans
Look at them, rushing the field and celebrating after Michigan beats a 6-6 team. Act like you've been there, guys, right? The nerve of it all!
We're kidding, of course, because the cathartic value of a win like that, erasing eight years of misery and futility hard-wired into to Michigan's identity as a football program, would be off the charts even if Ohio State were coming into the game 0-11. But we're still talking about a bowl team here in OSU, and one that gave Michigan all sorts of fits over the course of the game. You have our full blessing on this field-storming, Michigan. And if anyone says otherwise, well, haters gonna hate. Feels nice to have haters again, doesn't it?
Yes. Exactly. Boren butthurt tweets == Tears of Unfathomable Sadness. So sweet.
In the context of the entire season, though, it was an exclamation point on a legitimate return to form. Unlike 2007 and 2008, the Wolverines didn't endure an embarrassing flop against a major underdog. Unlike 2009 and 2010, they didn't blow their fast start with a depressing November fade against the meat of the Big Ten slate. They were never blown out, and after their dramatic comeback to beat Notre Dame in September, none of their subsequent wins were close. Last week's evisceration of Nebraska was Michigan's best game in five years, a complete win over a real opponent, and the first unmistakable line of demarcation between Brady Hoke's first team and Rich Rodriguez's last.
Media, soon to expire variety. Dispatch, you disappoint but do not surprise:
You tools should have the MANBALLS to reverse your cute little counter, but since you don't have the resources to find out anything about OSU's compliance, or lack thereof, it's not a surprise you don't. You suck.
It probably was tougher and crazier than they expected, but when the Wolverines finally beat the Buckeyes 40-34 Saturday and the fans swarmed the field, one thing was clear: It's back on, mercifully and manically.
Reset the clock. Reset the rivalry. After seven straight losses and 2,926 days, Michigan ended the agony against Ohio State and took another big step back to national relevance.
Michigan had just ended an eight-year drought — it was 2,926 days, to be exact, as coach Brady Hoke's sign not-so-subtly reminded his players inside Schembechler Hall — by beating archrival Ohio State. And Michigan's senior class had just ended a perfect home season the way few, if any, of them could've imagined.
So as the students came streaming onto the field to celebrate in Michigan Stadium, and the Wolverines started running off it to do the same in their locker room, a trio of defensive linemen — Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen and Will Heininger — lingered just a bit longer.
Mienke assembles facts about Denard Robinson's day:
Robinson's five touchdowns are the most by a Michigan player in one game against Ohio State.
Robinson is the first Michigan player in the modern era to score at least two rushing touchdowns and two passing touchdowns in back-to-back games, and is the first Big Ten quarterback to accomplish the feat since Iowa's Brad Branks in 2002. He had two of each against Nebraska.
More at the link.
The Daily's Tim Rohan:
Those who stay will redeem themselves.
Ryan Van Bergen stayed.
While his teammates mobbed Courtney Avery, whose interception for the Michigan football team sealed the 40-34 win over Ohio State on Saturday, Van Bergen slowly walked to the sideline, his hands on his head.
He flipped off his helmet, collapsed on the blue bench and wept.
The crowd’s roar was deafening as Jake Ryan pulled Van Bergen close, whispering in his ear. Then Craig Roh did the same. They told Van Bergen how much his leadership meant, how much of an impact he had on them.