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Meanwhile Back at the Ranch
And we've put a bunch of last year's stuff on sale.
Here are the photos from Michigan vs. OSU 2013
The lasting image of this game will be Devin Gardner, injured, spent, and devastated, flat on his back after his pass on the potential game-winning two-point conversion found Buckeye instead of Wolverine.
It's a shame, really, as Gardner gave one of great performances in the history of The Game today, leading a Michigan offensive explosion beyond anybody's wildest predictions. Gardner threw for 451 yards and four touchdowns, rushed for 34 yards and another score (above, Upchurch), and did all this despite clearly playing at less than 100%. The trio of running backs combined for 137 yards and another score on 24 carries; Al Borges, the offensive line, and the skill position players all had their best performances in over a month—603 total yards against the 13th-ranked defense in the country.
After Gardner lobbed a two-yard jump ball to Devin Funchess to make the score 42-41, Brady Hoke asked his seniors if they wanted to go for two and the win; Taylor Lewan said after the game that, to a man, the answer was yes. In a game that calls for cliché, they left it all on the field.
The Buckeyes did too, of course. The Michigan defense simply couldn't find a way to stop Braxton Miller (153 yards and three rushing TDs) and Carlos Hyde (226 yards and a score on 27 carries) on the ground; when OSU went to the air, they didn't hit often—Miller finished just 6/15 on the day—but when they did it went big, as Miller's six completions went for 133 yards and two more touchdowns. Missing safety Jarrod Wilson and weakside LB James Ross, not to mention focusing heavily on stopping the run, the defense repeatedly allowed big plays over the middle. By the time the Buckeyes got the ball with five minutes left and the game knotted at 35, the defense looked gassed and played like it, ceding a one-yard scoring plunge by Hyde to cap a six-play, 65-yard drive that featured exclusively runs.
Gardner was masterful in the two-minute drill, finding Funchess, then Drew Dileo twice, then Joe Reynolds, Justice Hayes, and Toussaint to move the Wolverines 82 yards before netting the final two and six points on the lob to Funchess. Michigan tried to free up a receiver on a rub route on the two-point conversion; the Buckeyes had it covered, though, and Gardner's hopeful throw landed in the arms of Tyvis Powell.
Michigan didn't just give Ohio State a fight—quite literally, in a couple instances (above, Fuller)—they played their part in an instant classic. Devin Gardner might've ended the game on his back; I'll remember all the times he got up before that, and what he did while he was standing, above all else.
Let's talk about how cute my dog is. Look at those floppy ears. And how long that tail is for him! And that little button nose! Also Michigan is playing Ohio State today.
The Sponsor: Only 7-5. Only! Admit it: you expect a certain level of quality that is very difficult to achieve, and you are disappointed at less. Where did you get this sense of what constitutes excellence anyway?
Oh, right. That.
Puppy jokes aside, you're here because this still has meaning to you. Wear it on your sleeve, and just on the edge of it too.
The Chaos: Before you enter, please calibrate your expectations appropriately.
Something's been missing from Michigan gamedays since the free programs ceased being economically viable: scientific gameday predictions that are not at all preordained by the strictures of a column in which one writer takes a positive tack and the other a negative one… something like Punt-Counterpunt.
by Nick RoUMel
Let me just say this about that. Brian’s article “Fickle” of 11/26 was the greatest article of all time.
I read “Fickle.” I nodded with manifest resolve, and knew right then that I had given up on this game. It was that simple. Unlike Brian, I felt no guilt and sold my tickets. Do you know how clean Stub Hub is? Enter the bar code and PayPal give you the money. No muss, no fuss, and crazed OSU fans with Buckeye necklaces will be sitting in section 39, row 80, seats 5-7, singing Hang On Sloopy.
Should I do that, and deprive the Wolverines of that buzz? No. Dammit.
I acknowledge I was too cynical. I needed to talk to a Wolverine. So I caught up with Brandon Williams (DB, ’99-’02, with a pro career through 2008). Brandon is now involved in philanthropic work and is connecting former players and fans through social media, www.gobluetan.com. As always, he was engaging, thoughtful, and positive.
Let’s go back to that buzz. In 2001—Jim “The Little Penguin” Tressel’s first year— Brandon was on Lloyd Carr’s Wolverines. He told me there is nothing like it, entering the Big House, sounding like everyone in the stadium is talking at once—a buzz, a roar. Even at warm-ups, normally 60-70,000 meandering in, for Ohio State there were 100,000 strong cheering like crazy.
Michigan fell short in that 2001 game, 310 days after The Little Penguin’s vow at the OSU/Michigan basketball game that the fans would be “proud” of their Buckeyes in Ann Arbor. But according to Brandon, Coach Carr turned that timeline against Tressel. He created a secretly recorded film showing the Wolverines preparing for battle: day 250, in the weight room; day 144, in a team meeting; hard at work at practice; day 79.
During this preparation, Michigan would not see red. There was a rule, that no one could wear green or red during the football season. Brandon told me, if the Jimmy John’s delivery guy came to the weight room during the season, the players would chase him out—deliveries had to be made to the trainer’s room.
Best of all, in one pre-game practice, as the sun was setting, the team looked at the sky. It was red in the west, blue in the east. Larry Foote exclaimed "there’s more blue than red!" You may think that’s a little corny but Brandon told me, “The whole practice just blew up. Carr loved it.”
He added, “Coach Carr never said anything bad about Tressel. But the buildup for that game was the best ever. We didn’t fully understand how huge it was. Chris Perry told us, the Michigan–Ohio State game is being televised live in Times Square, from start to finish.”
He spoke about the rivalry. “When the game started, the emotions were high, it was a little dirty. But then things settled down. It was hard hitting.
“There’s nothing like it. I’ve played in NFL playoff games, Monday Night Football. But there’s nothing like a Michigan-Ohio State game.
“You have to understand. You’re not just playing for you. You’re playing for all the guys who have played before you. They watch, they come back, and they care. I watch the game every week and ten guys are texting back and forth, calling back and forth. You’re playing for all of us.
“That rivalry, it’s always there. You can play on the same pro team with an Ohio State guy, and you have a working relationship, but come April, you’re betting on the game, and you still hate their school.”
I asked Brandon, given the challenges Michigan has faced this year, what would he tell the fans?
“Relax! A few years ago we had three wins, you know? So relax. I don’t want Coach Hoke to leave. We hear [the internet criticism], and move on. But we don’t forget it.”
Hearken, Wolverine fans. It’s been a tough year. But as Mr. Williams tells me, you throw the records out the window this week. It’s young men playing for pride. And yes, they make me feel guilty for selling my tickets.
I get it, Brandon. I feel Brian’s frustration, but I am a Michigan fan. I see red this week, but I am behind these boys 100%. If you don’t get pissed at being a 17 point dog at home to these stupid evil Buckeyes, then there isn’t a blue bone in your body. It is indeed great to be a Michigan Wolverine.
MICHIGAN 28, OSU 26
by Heiko Yang
I turned on the Arkansas-LSU game last night just in time to see LSU’s center go down with an injury. His replacement was a guy whose name sounded awfully familiar: Ethan Pocic, a true freshman five-star offensive lineman from Illinois who had Michigan high on his list before Michigan said they were done recruiting linemen. Except at that point Michigan wasn’t really done recruiting linemen, so I think a lot of people were peeved that they let him get away. But that’s beside the point.
I watched the next series of plays with an eye on Pocic, wanting to see how a highly touted true freshman interior lineman would perform at a program like LSU, whose offensive line play and coaching isn’t a complete tire fire like we think it is at Michigan.
Pocic got blown up almost immediately. His inexperience cost LSU their running game (RB Jeremy Hill, who had been averaging nearly 10 yards a carry got stuffed repeatedly), pass protection (I think Pocic got smoked for the sack that knocked starting QB Zach Mettenberger out of the game), and another offensive lineman (Hill got tackled near the line of scrimmage and rolled onto the leg of the right tackle). There were a bunch of false starts, too. One guy was all it took to unravel the entire offense. It was a miracle that LSU was able to pull out the win.
As a Michigan fan, all I could think the entire time was, “It’s not his fault!” Offensive linemen are like a fine scotch: if you bring them out before they’re ready, it’s going to burn real bad. Michigan fans have known this since September. Michigan’s coaches have known this since they got to Ann Arbor. That’s why Brady Hoke has been hoarding offensive linemen the last couple recruiting cycles because he saw the roster in 2011 and his reaction was probably something to the effect of “Winter is coming.” And we need scotch.
Well, winter is here, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it but wait it out. It’s worth considering making changes to schemes and the coaching staff, but nothing will make the offensive linemen grow up faster.
Michigan and Ohio State will play The Game today with the Wolverines a multiple-score home underdog (the odds are so lopsided I think there was a prop bet somewhere pitting Michigan's total rush yards against Ohio State's margin of victory). A lot of the stadium will be red, and I won’t even be mad. While the Wolverines have needed some pretty spectacular heroicism just to avoid being 4-7, the Buckeyes have steadily ridden their run game to a 23-, soon to be 24-game winning streak. Honestly, it will take some sort of miracle for Michigan to stay competitive in this game, let alone win.
And I guess that’s really the one nice thing about good, veteran offensive lines: they make miracles unnecessary.
OHIO STATE 40, MICHIGAN 17
Selfie: Go save Christmas again.
Kids! Gandalf the Maize's follow-up on which factors seem to be the most predictive of offensive line play compared the r-squareds of 19 things, from o-line experience as a whole, to their recruiting stars, to the left tackle individually, depth, QB talent, how much the team goes long, etc., and found the ONLY factor with relatively high significance is…
Interior. Offensive. Line. Experience!
Let's get a DotW to the wizard, and tell Funk to put some years on his charges, RIGHT NOW.
Ron Utah followed up by showing the relative age of Michigan's whole roster versus teams of significance.
Part II by dnak438 on Michigan's offensive regression this week went back and added 2011-12 to the study of YPP versus opponents, tracking it by dividing Michigan's yards per play each game versus the average that team gave up. The results are charts that really show the history of Al Borges's various offensive strategies:
Here's the progression:
[after the jump]