"The face of the operation is Briatore (referred to exclusively in the film by his colleagues and angry, chanting detractors as "Flavio"), an anthropomorphic radish who spends most of his time at QPR plotting to fire all of the managers."
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No, seriously: football.
Look at the calendar. Look what tomorrow is.
It has been so long, and I've forgotten half of what I knew at the end of last season, but there is football on the horizon. And just like that, our daily fantasy partner Draft Kings has released their big—and I mean BIG—NFL Millionaire Maker contest.
You don't get to argue anymore; if you've got your account with DK already—and by now you should—you are getting in on this. If you don't have an account, and you're at all interested in trying this out, go set up your account, get a free HTTV copy while you're at it, and then get in on this. You know more about football (football!) than any person has any right to, and you have until almost the middle of September to get your team right.
- $10,000,000 prize pool.
- First place wins $2,000,000
- Enter for just $20
- Top 125,700 scores win money guaranteed
- Starts on Sunday, September 13th at 1:00 PM EST
- Salary Cap Style Drafting. $50,000 to select 9 spots. 8 players and 1 defense.
- Roster Format: 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 Flex and 1 Defense
Thanks to the most contrived controversy since Capcom tried to lead parents into revolt against Mortal Kombat, you cannot draft Tom Brady. You can get Kirk Cousins for $5,000, but why do that when you can get Chipmunk Kirk Cousins for like a quarter of that?
So You're Saying...
As expected, four-star Detroit King WR Donnie Corley made his way to campus on Wednesday with his parents, and he told 247's Steve Wiltfong the visit helped Michigan's cause ($):
While Michigan State, Ohio State, Tennessee and West Virginia have been regularly mentioned as top contenders, Corley tells 247Sports that he wasn’t really feeling Michigan under the old staff, but Jim Harbaugh and the new group are quickly turning that around.
“My mindset was not really Michigan, even when they hired the new staff, but going up there it seems like a great place to be,” Corley said.
Corley will be back in Ann Arbor for the BBQ at the Big House on Sunday. While there's a lot of ground to cover against Michigan State and a recently surging Ohio State, Michigan looks to have at least an outside shot now, which is a far better position than they'd been in previously. With M also getting more involved in Lavert Hill's recruitment, it appears the program's relationship with Detroit King is on the mend.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
BBQ Preview: Yes Sir?
Sunday's BBQ will have me on constant laptop vigilance and a big reason for that is the expected presence of three-star MD CB Sir Patrick Scott, who declared Michigan as his leader to Scout's Brian Dohn heading into the visit. With rumblings that Hill could flip from Penn State, there could be a race to grab an open spot in the class while it's still available. Steve Lorenz also suggests a few in-state rising juniors could be ready to pull the trigger, though there's nothing concrete yet ($).
In somewhat disappointing news, Sam Webb reports Rashan Gary won't be able to make the BBQ because the group of players he was planning to drive up with are no longer going. I'm not sure why this news has caused as much consternation as it has. Gary's already make two unofficials to Ann Arbor, he'll be back for an official (Lorenz even mentioned he may also take an unofficial for a game), and Gary had worked around an ACT prep class in order to make the BBQ in the first place before the transportation issue arose. I wouldn't take this as a sign he has any less interest in Michigan. It sounds like he made every reasonable effort to make this trip. These things happen.
Four-star WDE/BUCK Carlo Kemp will make his first trip to Ann Arbor for the BBQ. His mother, who will accompany him on the visit, told Sam Webb they're looking to get a clearer picture of his recruitment:
“Once he gets to Michigan I think he’ll have a better idea (of what his leaderboard is),” Mrs. Pagano said. “He’s definitely trying to figure it out that’s for sure. He wants to get this trip in and he really can’t wait to get there. We all can’t. Then we’ll go from there and see.”
Kemp has already locked in an official to Notre Dame; Michigan is the only other school he currently plans to see officially, as well.
Tight End Dominos Falling The Wrong Way?
Michigan fans reacted positively when the news first broke that five-star TE Isaac Nauta decommitted from Florida State; after all, Nauta has long maintained he'll take an official to Ann Arbor and he's been heavily recruited by both the Hoke and Harbaugh regimes.
Instead, this is probably bad news. Georgia "leads big" for Nauta, according to Scout's Chad Simmons($), and his Crystal Ball reflects that. Florida State, meanwhile, now has a need at tight end, and their new top target is none other than Naseir Upshur. Upshur is no longer making a decision this month; per Rivals' Adam Friedman, he'll take official visits to Arizona State, FSU, and Michigan, and an unofficial visit to Tallahassee next week that Upshur initially couldn't make due to a "family issue" is now back on, TomVH reports.
Michigan has a solid contingency plan in place, at least. Four-star FL TE Jacob Mathis is very much in the mix to join Sean McKeon in the class, and plenty can happen with Nauta and Upshur with the official visit process yet to play out, too.
ESPN Bumps Metellus
Josh Metellus was the less heralded of the Flanagan safety duo (Devin Gil being the other) that committed to Michigan during the satellite camp tour. After taking a closer look, ESPN has moved Metellus all the way into four-star territory and released a very positive evaluation ($):
Metellus is a physical ball-hawk who can run and hit with top tier safeties in this class. Unrefined at times in man coverage, but in the right zone scheme this young man should make a lot of plays. Best football is likely ahead of him as he continues to physically develop. Undervalued, sleeper in our opinion.
This Harbaugh guy may be a decent talent evaluator after all.
More 2016 Updates: OL Outlook Strong
Michigan's top two targets for the final O-line spot hold Michigan in high regard. Four-star TX OT Jean Delance put the Wolverines in his top five and—no surprise here—four-star MD OG Terrance Davis has M in his top eight. Delance may actually be the priority here; if Ben Bredeson winds up at guard, M has more need for a tackle than another interior lineman.
"I'm going to take all five of my officials and my official visit to Michigan is already set," Jackson said. "I'll be in Ann Arbor on October 17 for the Michigan State game. I'll visit Oklahoma against West Virginia on October 3 and I'm also visiting Arizona State for the USC game [September 26]. The other two I have to set up still."
Whenever Jackson does set his final two officials, he will decide between one of those five schools, and it likely won't take long.
"I'm pretty sure once I take all of my official visits I'll probably be ready to commit," he said. "I think I'll do that at my All-American game so I won't drag it all the way out to signing day."
I'll always be skeptical of Michigan's chances with top California recruits until they make it to campus, but they look to be in good position to at least contend for Jackson if they still have a spot for him.
Happy trails, for now, to four-star AL ILB Erroll Thompson, who committed to Mississippi State today; Lorenz still expects Thompson to visit Ann Arbor as long as M still has room for him.
IT'S THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN, EVERYBODY. They've let Tim Beckman out of his tiny pool, gently removed the arm floaties, and put him in front of reporters. Let's see how that's going!
DID YOU THROW THE BALL OR NOT AHHHHH
Illinois kept this person because he led their football program to a better than average performance for them, which is usually why you keep a football coach. Funny ol' world.
OKAY BUT SERIOUSLY. Whenever I see Tim Beckman put in a low-pressure situation and asked softball questions he looks like a dog that doesn't know whether you're going to throw the stick or beat him with it. How does this person get past a job interview, let alone a Head Football Coach job interview?
That is a high pressure situation in which questions like "why on Earth would we pick a guy with one good season in the MAC with an outlying turnover ratio to coach our team?" get asked. Was the answer Illinois sought "uh, team performance leads to excellence in all our endeavors"? Did they not notice when he repeated that when they asked him what he wanted for lunch?
Help me understand. I do not understand.
Also at Big Ten Media Days. Harbaugh finna get himself shivved bae*:
— Sean Churchill (@SeanChurchy) July 31, 2015
Also, and always, Beckman.
*[I think? I may have just said "Harbaugh I fart on myself" in teentwitterese.]
Also also at Big Ten Media days. Never let it be said this is not journalism.
"Saade is a self-taught taxidermist and says that the job can actually be quite lucrative." Got a lot of dead chipmunks around the house. Dunno why. Mother keeps saying something about mah sleepwalking. Mother says she don't wanna say when I ask why such a thing would happen. Mother says waste not want not. Mother don't remember which team won that crazy overtime game from a few years back on account of her blackout. Mother is pretty sure though. Mother is always right.
Mother says this is how it's always been and how it always will be, mother and the chipmunks and the always recovering on-side kicks and never ever havin nobody named Braylon she knows about, no nothin. That ain't even a name she says. Who ever heard of a name like that. Who ever heard of that.
Sometimes I think I ain't sleep-murderin no chipmunks but I know better than to say so.
You know, for a turkey that's on the lam there seem to be a lot of photos of it in the same place. God, I wish this had happened when I was in college.
If I could fight a turkey on my way to discrete math I would be so happy.
"Do not try to approach the turkey," she said. "We've gotten calls from people who have been trapped and unable to move because he's cornered them."
The symptom. It's hard to blame Devin Funchess for his occasional lackadaisical play last year. If I was suffused with ennui it's hard to imagine what he was going through. But that's the thing about coaching: it is your job to get people to play to the best of their ability. Brady Hoke did not do this, and Funchess was the best example last year.
Here is confirmation of that from what's annually the best thing to come out of Big Ten Media Days, Mike Spath's article where he offers anonymity in exchange for real talk:
"They had a guy that on paper was just a nightmare because he was so tall, and big - he was supposed to be a tight end but they played him at wide receiver [Devin Funchess] - and man all week our coaches just kept saying, 'We've got no one that can match up with him. No one that can stop this kid.'
"It was motivating and I was foaming at the mouth, but I built him up into this goliath that was going to take my best effort, and he took a lot less than that. He didn't seem to care at all about helping his quarterback out.
"Everything about him was half-speed. It was sort of like what they used to say about Randy Moss - when he knew the ball wasn't coming his way on a play, it was like he wasn't even out there."
Randy Moss made it work, and Funchess ended up a second-round pick. But you read that and it's just like… I knew that. And I knew that it didn't come from Funchess, it came from the program.
Ferentz finally under the gun. Matt Hinton surveys the situation at Iowa, which is still technically part of the same conference Michigan is:
“It’s been five years now of unremarkable football, is probably the best way to put it,” says Marc Morehouse, who took over the Hawkeyes beat at the Cedar Rapids Gazette in 1999, the same year Ferentz arrived in Iowa City, and who has seen more than his fair share of unremarkable football. “I’ve covered Ferentz since he’s been here, and the ‘hot seat’ concept has come up in the past, but I’ve never taken it seriously. … I’ve never bought into it, but this year, even in November, even in January after [the bowl game], I’m buying into it. OK, this is a real hot seat now. This is a hot seat year, no question about it.”
Ferentz has doubled down here by letting his starting quarterback depart for a team technically in the same conference. If Rudock does well and Iowa remains Iowa-esque, Ferentz will go from "can't afford to fire" to "can't afford to keep" in a flash.
All of this makes for a fascinating alternate history in which Michigan goes with the coach Lloyd Carr recommended if they were making an external hire. Things probably go better for a while. Does Ferentz take better advantage of Michigan's ability to recruit? Are they again that kind of 8-4, 9-3 team that Michigan was for big chunks of the 90s?
The end of civilization. Not with a bang but with a pun.
— Adam Jacobi (@Adam_Jacobi) July 31, 2015
Etc.: They promise to actually pay attention to the illegal men downfield rule this year. Now I like it when the Onion writes something about Michigan! A whopping 37% of top-100 players who aren't one-and-done transfer. Kellen Jones has been to Michigan Oklahoma Clemson Wisconsin Tampa Panama Mattawa La Paloma Bangor Baltimore Salvador Amarillo...
file [Bryan Fuller]
ONE OF US
Harbaugh: "As excited as I've ever been for the start of football season." Why? "I say that every year."
— Max Cohen (@MaxACohen) July 31, 2015
Q. I think it's always interesting how Ohio State and Michigan refer to one another. Brady used to call Ohio State "Ohio" and Urban calls them "the team up north" or "the rival." Do you have a special adjective for your opponent, your rival?
COACH HARBAUGH: No. Ohio State in particular? Just Ohio State. But great to see everybody this morning. Glad everybody could be here. Wonderful turnout.
Q. How much have you learned from Paul Chryst and Mike Riley over the years?
COACH HARBAUGH: So much. That's one of the exciting things about coaching in the Big Ten and knowing so many of the coaches. As you mentioned, Mike Riley, head coach at the Chargers when I was there, also Paul Chryst was a coach there and the staff. And some other connections. Jerry Kill who -- a lot of competition with my dad. My dad has always said that Jerry Kill is one of the best coaches that he's ever coached against. Pat Fitzgerald, had a chance to spend some good time with him in Ann Arbor this summer. Really appreciated. Came over and was keynote speaker at our football camp. So a lot of friends in the Big Ten Conference.
Q. I wanted to obviously focus, there's been a huge impact on your life in the days of Schembechler. Will you kind of incorporate those things that you will definitely keep in your system and maybe some of those aspects no way, I'm not going to do it the way that Bo Schembechler did it?
COACH HARBAUGH: Pretty much -- if we could do it the way Bo did it that would be something to aspire to. Not a day goes by really where I don't think about Coach Schembechler from the time I leave my house to go to the office -- I live about five houses away from where Bo lived. And no matter which way I take to work, whether it's Devonshire or Geddes or Stadium, I'll often think well Bo probably took this right on to Washtenaw or took this left onto Hill. I know he took this left onto State Street and parked my car and walked by his statue. Daily. I go to my office. I've got a picture of Bo -- there's a picture of Bo and myself when we were at the Rose Bowl in '87. And, yeah, so it's to have his work ethic, to run the program like he ran it, yeah, those are things to aspire to.
[After THE JUMP: Harbaugh was far more detailed about where he lives than his team.]
Q. Michigan's fan base has and will continue to be a perennial powerhouse in college football. It's kind of one of the advantages of Michigan football. However, over the last couple of years, a little bit -- the attendance because of on- and off-the-field problems, what is the team and the University doing to make sure that what is arguably the best fan section in sports, what are they doing to make sure that stays at 100%?
COACH HARBAUGH: Well, I don't know how many things you can really do. If people don't want to come to a game, you can't make them come. So -- but doesn't seem like we've had that problem at the University of Michigan as far as I can tell. So the spirit, the energy has been tremendous, I think everybody involved in Michigan and Michigan football is hungry for the 2015 season including the fan base.
Q. All of us who have good dads learned from them how to be a man. But what did you learn most from your father about coaching?
COACH HARBAUGH: My dad. I think of things like who had the most influence on me in my life, my dad, Bo Schembechler, Mike Ditka, Al Davis. With my dad, it was just -- he it was always my dad. He played catch with me, took me to games. And most of all, he just always believed in me. When it comes to advice whether it's personally or professionally, he is the one I go to. Sarah and my dad and there's others. But those two pretty much on every decision.
Q. Your return to Michigan has really reenergized people at Michigan, but it also created a buzz throughout the Big Ten. Did you expect that? And what do you think that means for the league overall and for Michigan?
COACH HARBAUGH: Well, I don't know. I don't know. Not striving to be creating any buzz. Just striving to coach the football team. Not trying to be popular or anything. Anyone who is popular is bound to be disliked. So just coaching football.
Q. What is John Baxter going to bring to the special teams aspect of the game? And how much time do you expect to be able to devote to that facet of the game in fall camp?
COACH HARBAUGH: He brings so much to the game. He's been coaching 30, 40 years right here from Chicago. Great Chicago guy. You talk about the city of broad shoulders and charismatic, knowledgeable football coach at the highest level. How much time we're going to devote? I've gone through this practice schedule meticulously over the last months. And a lot. We're going to devote a lot of time to special teams. It's an area we feel like we can improve and that needs to be improved. And starting with Coach Baxter, feel very confident that we will. He's just a heck of a guy to be around. Have you been around him? He's awesome.
Q. I have to follow-up on the Ditka comment since you mentioned him. What are some things you took from that experience?
COACH HARBAUGH: So many things. It's your coach. It's your coach. When you're a player, your coach is -- it's like family. There is your family. There is -- sometimes there's a favorite teacher that you had growing up, grade school or high school. There's sometimes a neighbor that you were very close to. Maybe somebody in the church or the clergy and your coach. And it's so close to your family that -- I had a chance to spend the evening with Coach last night at his restaurant. And Diana was there and Sarah was there and it was just really, really special to be with my coach. So, in fact, I picked up a Ditka jersey from the restaurant.
Q. Did you get it autographed?
COACH HARBAUGH: No, no, he didn't autograph it. But -- I'll be proud to wear that.
Q. Coach, it seems like you have a lot of options right now at running back. Is there a particular name right now that's especially impressed you so far?
COACH HARBAUGH: You know, that's -- I'm hoping that happens. We're at the start of camp here. And there will be plenty of license and plenty of opportunity for one, two, three of our running backs to assert themselves, come to the fore and be counted on. That we'll be watching very closely and hoping that occurs early here in camp.
Q. When you got to Michigan in the last several months, what is the -- what did you definitely figure out you had to change culture-wise or whatever?
COACH HARBAUGH: I really don't have that list in front of me right now. But just -- how long have you been at "The Columbus Dispatch"? '77. So I was thinking about this. Remember -- were you around when the Big Ten had the press caravan and go from -- on the bus, right? You go from -- that was the '70s. You never did it? Has anybody here ever done that, or is everybody too young? You can see why the game has gotten -- must have gotten a lot more popular since then. You could never get everybody here on a bus. My favorite story. Were you there when -- I remember reading this. The caravan went to Columbus and reporters got out of the bus, and they have chairs and sandwiches set up on the sideline for all the reporters. And if things are weren't going well in practice, Coach Hayes got upset and kicked everybody out of the practice. Threw a couple chairs. And all the reporters got on to their next destination a little bit earlier. I read about that. I would have loved to have been there.
Question off microphone. [ED: about how big the Ohio State game is.]
COACH HARBAUGH: Big, very big, as they all are. I don't compare really one game to the next but it's big. And you know, the biggest one right now is Utah. As Coach Kill talked about earlier. I mean, that's -- we've got the same type of opponent first game on our schedule. Great team. Did not fare well against them last year. We go out this year to play them first game in college football. I believe it's going to be the first game on September 3rd. We're preparing for it. We know it's coming. And that's where our focus is, you know, winning that game.
Q. What's your general take of the talent level that you have to work with there? You just need to get everybody going in the right direction and things should be just fine?
COACH HARBAUGH: Well, I mean it's like every year that your team changes, no matter what football team you're on. And it's a work in progress, every single season, every single year. And that's what we're enjoying doing. And it's coming along. And then you go through the winter conditioning and then the spring ball, and then the summer conditioning. And now it starts. This is the beginning, the training camp. And the rebirth of football, the rebirth of the season. And then you watch and you watch and you observe. And you can learn -- you can observe a lot by just watching. And I feel like I've been doing that. And I feel like our team is getting better every day. I really do.
Q. I saw a couple weeks ago you posted something from Paris on social media. That was you, right?
COACH HARBAUGH: Yes, sir.
Q. What made you go there in July? Were you able to stop being a football coach? Did you take anything away from that?
COACH HARBAUGH: Yes. The most important thing, Sarah and I, we figured this out that it's been eight years since we've spent more than a day just her and I and not all the kids and or some football function or some work-related thing. Eight years since her and I had just spent time alone, so we decided to go there and that's where she wanted to go. And I really enjoyed it. And yeah. Hopefully she enjoyed it.
Hello! We've been fortunate enough to have John Kryk, the Toronto Sun's NFL columnist, write for HTTV these last few years. Kryk is an invaluable resource when it comes to the early days of college football and has applied that expertise to a book about the intense rivalry between Fielding Yost and Amos Alonzo Stagg around the turn of the 20th century.
What follows is an excerpt from that book detailing Willie Heston's seventh-year-senior season, and the fights it set off.
Willie Heston (right) returned for a fourth and final season as a Wolverine in 1904. After graduating from the University of Michigan with a law degree in the (then) requisite three years, he studied literature in a tag-on semester.
Amos Alonzo Stagg -- the University of Chicago’s head football coach, athletic director, faculty head of physical education and self-appointed cleanser of Midwestern college sport -- disapproved. Although Stagg had had players at UC who similarly squeezed out every drop of eligibility, and he himself had played sports for six years at Yale (and even suited up for the Maroons in their inaugural 1892 season), he couldn’t resist slamming Michigan and Heston in the Chicago Evening Post on September 27: “The maroon coach cited the case of a rival institution that had a graduate return to take a post-season law course [sic] so that his great value could be utilized in the football eleven this fall.”
Stagg’s hypocrisy aside, this was after all Heston’s seventh season of college football, after three previous at a California teachers college now known as San Jose State University. But that experience at San Jose Normal never counted against Heston’s four years, presumably because of the conference rule that discounted any experience a student might gain at a college whose academics, or even just its football, were of a particularly low order. The conference arbiter, Clarence Waldo, in these years tabulated the Big Nine’s official list of colleges that did make the academic or football grade, and evidently San Jose Normal did not qualify.
Despite being injured in an elevator in St. Louis that summer, Heston probably was healthier in his senior season than he’d been since 1901. As Michigan’s opponents lamented.
In Michigan’s third game, a 95-0 obliteration of vastly overmatched Kalamazoo College in just 40 minutes of play, Heston might have rushed for more single-game yards than any running back before or since, at any level of college football. “As usual, Willie Heston’s performance was the headliner of the matinee,” the Michigan Daily reported. “A review of the game shows that the captain advanced the ball during the afternoon 515 yards — considerably more than a quarter mile.” Heston continually broke away on long gains and scored six of Michigan’s 16 touchdowns, four on runs of 65, 70, 85 and 65 yards.
How fast was Heston? The fastest man in the world in 1904 just happened to be a fellow UM student — Archie Hahn. At the Summer Games in St. Louis that year, the “Milwaukee Meteor” became the first man to win the Olympic sprint double: gold medals in both the 100 and 200 meters. Back then there was a 60-meter dash too, and Hahn won a third gold in that race. Two years later, Hahn won the Olympic 100 metres again. In 1901 he had tied the world record in the 100-yard dash (9 4/5ths seconds) and set a world record of 21.6 seconds in 200-meter straightaway dash, a race long since discontinued.
Michigan’s nationally respected track and field coach, Keene Fitzpatrick, doubled as the Wolverine football trainer. He marvelled at Heston’s breakaway speed and had this idea to help Hahn with his: pit the two men against one another in 100-yard match races on campus. Fitz did so some 200 times. Heston led Hahn at 30 to 40 yards every time. “At that point,” Heston recalled, “I could hear him go by.” Heston occasionally pressed Hahn to the finish but never beat him.
By 1904 Heston had refined his abilities as a running back that would have made him a standout in any era. His stiff-arms were viciously effective, with either arm. At 5-foot-8 and 180 pounds, he was stout enough to be an effective inside power runner. Perhaps best of all, and to a “remarkable degree” as a Michigan sports historian wrote in 1948, Heston was able to “maintain his feet” upon being hit, or leaping, or spinning, or making a harsh cut. “Willie Heston always ran low, with a wide-spread, pumping knee action. He had a cat-like ability to land on his feet, no matter how hard he was hit, his legs still driving forward.” He was unafraid to hurdle sprawled players, or low-charging tacklers — such as Eckersall in the 1903 UM-UC game. Heston first coined the phrase that became a mantra for running backs in the first half of the 20th century: “Use your searchlights and jump the dead ones.”
By 1904 Yost had tired of defending Heston’s strong play on the other side of the ball. Asked by a reporter in October if Heston was as good on defense as he was on offense, Yost “without thinking” quipped: “Why, really, I don’t know. None of my backs has made a tackle this year.”
[After THE JUMP: "a long ton of meat and bone and the thing moved with an average velocity of about eight yards a second"]
On October 12 Heston scored three touchdowns in Michigan’s 72-0 defeat of the College of Physicians & Surgeons in just 22½ minutes. A week later Heston scored three more times in a 31-6 defeat of Ohio State in 60 minutes. Two minutes into the second half of that game, Michigan fell behind on the scoreboard for the first time in the Yost era. The Buckeyes led 6-5 after cashing in a fumble by fullback Frank Longman. That snapped the Wolverines out of their lethargy. Four days later, the Wolverines beat the American Medical School 72-0 in just 23½ minutes — a worthless outing, as many of the med students appeared unfamiliar with the game.
It was hoped West Virginia — Yost’s Alma Mater — could provide a much stiffer test. But being a team rooted in glacial, doleful Eastern football, the Mountaineers had no idea what hit them in a 130-0 loss in Ann Arbor in 43 minutes of play. The Daily New Dominion of Morgantown wrote that the Wolverines appeared to the Mountaineers as “giant forms which seemed to be clad in football togs, but which acted as no football players ever seen in West Virginia.” Somewhat more seriously, one Mountaineer said this when asked how his team could possibly be beaten 130-0:
“Well, they had a long ton of meat and bone and the thing moved with an average velocity of about eight yards a second. When it collided with West Virginia, West Virginia scattered and the thing went on. Why, I played against a man that weighed 245 pounds stripped. He was faster than the fastest man on our team. Once he carried the ball two yards across the goal line for a touchdown with two of our men hanging on his legs. I had about twenty-five yards to run across the field once to catch Heston. He had at least fifty yards to run to escape me. When I got there he was gone. . . . All we could do was to line up down the field and wait until the bunch came along. Sometimes we would get them, and sometimes we wouldn’t — mostly wouldn’t.”
The Point-a-Minute machine screamed into unseasonably warm Madison on October 30. Yost figured Arthur Curtis and the Badgers would provide the best test of the year. The Badgers, now three years removed from their last Big Nine title, appeared formidable again. They’d won their four previous games of 1904 by a combined 218-0.
With 11,000 boisterous supporters cheering them on, the Badgers twice held on downs after the Wolverines had carried the ball nearly the length of the field, and the first half ended scoreless. But then Yost’s machine kicked into a higher gear and could not be stopped. Michigan scored five touchdowns in the second half, while the Badgers could barely gain a yard against the stout Wolverine defense, and UM won 28-0 in full-length 35-minute halves.
The Chicago dailies dredged up those old machine allusions to underscore Michigan’s impressiveness in their next day’s editions. The Tribune ran a page of photos of star Wolverine players under the header: “Cogs in Yost’s Great ‘Machine’ at University of Michigan.”
For the third consecutive year Michigan knocked Wisconsin out of the championship race before Thanksgiving. Only a warmup foe (this year Drake) and Stagg’s Chicago Maroons stood between Michigan and an unprecedented fourth consecutive Championship of the West.
* * *
Before Michigan’s emphatic win in Madison, Yost had fired this shot toward the Windy City, probably intentionally: “Wisconsin always plays us a hard game. They are the hardest team in the West to beat, much harder than Chicago. We have never had a great deal of trouble beating Chicago.”
Stagg surely saw the story, because it remains in one of his archived 1904/05 clippings scrapbooks. The Inter Ocean kicker headline that labelled Yost the “‘Hurry Up’ Genius” probably rankled Stagg as much as that quote below it.
Yost thus splashed another dash of kerosene on the UM-UC rivalry, and worked up Maroon partisans to set the stage for one of the oddest, most entertaining spectacles ever to take place at a Midwestern college football game — not the 1904 season’s climactic Chicago-Michigan game at Ferry Field, but the Chicago-Texas game at UC’s Marshall Field the week before.
As the Maroons lassoed the Longhorns 68-0, who did fans and reporters recognize sitting high up in the Marshall Field bleachers? Why none other than Fielding Harris Yost and William Martin Heston, scouting the Maroons in person. Yost had left assistant coach King Cole in charge as the Heston-less Wolverines faced lightweight Drake. Word of the dynamic duo’s presence spread fast. A Chicago newspaper described this one-of-a-kind festivity:
“Of even more interest to Chicago students than the progress of [the game] was the presence of Coach Yost and Captain Heston of the Michigan team, who closely studied every move Chicago made to aid them in beating the maroons at Ann Arbor next Saturday. Yost was the center of attraction on Marshall field, and as he viewed the game from a section packed with Chicago enthusiasts he was made the object of much good-natured fun. Long yells with Yost’s name on the end were given, and he was continually prodded with witticisms as to what Chicago would do to Michigan next Saturday.”
Yost just smiled. A cartoonist on hand captured the scene for one Chicago daily. He depicted the game as purely secondary attraction, with all heads spun in reverse, looking up at Yost and Heston.
The press box even got in on the fun. Troublemakers sent bogus scores of the Michigan-Drake game to the public-address barker, “to the effect that Drake had scored twice on Michigan,” the Tribune reported. At that, the catcalls really rained down on the Michigan duo — or up, as the case was. “Yost’s face was a study as he heard the ‘news,’” the Trib said.
“Well, what do you think of that?” Yost told the masses. “When the cat is away the mice will play. We should have known enough to stay at home, eh, Martin?’”
In fact, Drake kicked only one field goal, whose value this year had dropped from five points to four, in a 36-4 Wolverine win in 25-minute halves. Not that that would have mattered to the thousands of Chicagoans having the time of their lives at the expense of their arch-nemesis Yost.
Finally, when one jeering Maroon fan asked the Michigan coach aloud, “Why don’t you smile?” Yost could no longer resist. He quickly shot back, “We’ll smile enough next Saturday to make up for it.”
* * *
Heston, the last active varsity member of Yost’s 1901 championship team, suited up in a college football game for the last time on November 11, 1904 -- before a record crowd of 13,125 at sun-soaked Ferry Field in Ann Arbor.
Before kickoff, a film crew from the American Kinetograph Co. of Orange, N.J., captured establishing shots of the crowd, and the starting Wolverines even posed while a camerman panned the line, then shot game action. The filming worked — said to be the first successful film footage (and oldest surviving) of an American football game.
Few thought Stagg’s Maroons had much of a chance to beat the Wolverines. That included UC students, fewer than 50 of whom signed up for the school’s official trip package when hundreds had been expected.
Despite his public digs, Yost wasn’t overlooking the Maroons. He and Stagg liked to throw strategic curveballs at one another, and the Michigan coach had a doozy this year. Throughout his UM career, Heston played left halfback and almost always wrought his damage on runs around Michigan’s right end. For Heston’s swan song, Yost intended to run him more than usual around the opposite side, in part to stay away from Chicago’s All-American end Fred Speik. The new plays for Heston might have been run in the new formation Yost debuted in 1904, among dozens in his arsenal.
The new formation looked like an arrowhead of sorts, and it featured a novel means of attack. Behind either a balanced line, or a line staggered right with a tackle over, the three backs stationed behind the quarterback lined up not parallel with the line, as in “regular” formation — known by Woody Hayes acolytes 70 years later as the “fullhouse T” — but rather in an unparallel line ‘aiming’ just outside right end. From this formation, as the Chicago Journal’s football strategy expert Thomas T. Hoyne explained, Yost debuted a style of attack “setting an entirely new example in aggressive football for the country.” Particularly, it was the manner in which the backs hit the line. Rather than the ball carrier physically helped forward by the other two backs, in unison — to smash into the line as a conjoined threesome for maximum penetration force, as was done heretofore — Yost conceived this “repeater game” of sorts, Hoyne said. “The man with the ball hits the line, and just as he is being stopped, perhaps another one of the backs plunges into him from behind and drives him forward a little farther. A few seconds later the third back strikes the bunch and drives him farther still. This is an entirely new idea in football outside of the University of Michigan.” Indeed, it was the debut of the one-man ball carrier — albeit a sore ball carrier, no thanks to all those smashes from behind. Still, it presaged the sport’s future. Oldtime football men who watched the Yostmen execute these one-man runs against Wisconsin were stunned at their repeated success.
Stagg’s surviving strategic notes of 1904 contain formations he intended to use to defend against this new Yost brainchild. The Michigan coach must have seen something during the Texas game to be convinced that Stagg would overload his defense to match Michigan’s strength on formations tipping to the offensive right side, thereby leaving the Maroons’ other side vulnerable. Stagg’s notes reveal that very intention. Yost was ready for it. In the week before the Maroons game he installed new plays for Heston to run left, to Chicago’s vulnerable side, from right halfback as well as from his usual left. Yost’s only concern: Heston was uncomfortable and unsure carrying the ball in his left arm, after 43 games of mostly tucking it into his right arm.
Apparently Yost instructed quarterback Fred “Norky” Norcross not to use the new plays right away. The Wolverines didn’t need to. On their first possession, starting from their 38-yard line, they drove 72 uninterrupted yards for a touchdown, in 14 plays, to go up 5-0.
Chicago’s tiny, supremely athletic marvel of a quarterback -- Walter Eckersall -- pinned Michigan at its 15 with a long ensuing kickoff. (Teams usually elected to kick off rather than receive after being scored upon, a conservation tradition carried over from rugby.) The Wolverines kept right on marching. Ten plays later, from the Chicago 50, Norcross finally called one of the new plays for Heston around left end. The ruse worked. Heston circled the right side of the Maroons defense and burst for 42 yards, down to the 8 after Eckersall finally shoved Heston out of bounds. On the next snap, Tom Hammond scored for the second time and Michigan led 10-0 after another failed conversion.
Michigan wound up winning 22-12, a result closer than expected. The Maroons drove once for a touchdown in the first half, and Eckersall returned a Heston fumble for a second-half score. No team had scored twice on Michigan since 1900, before Yost’s arrival, and no college team had scored twice on a Yost-coached squad since 1899, when Yost’s Kansas Jayhawks surrendered 20 points to the formerly Yost-coached Nebraska Cornhuskers.
From a yardage standpoint, the game was no closer than the three previous Yost/Stagg clashes. The Wolverines outgained the Maroons 280 to 60 in the first half and 268 to 12 in the second. Other than the opening drive, when the Maroons moved 30 yards, and their first-half touchdown drive of 37 yards, Chicago advanced the ball but five yards on the day. Michigan’s 100 yards in penalties and fumbles helped to keep the Maroons in the game.
The Chicago youngsters — starters and inserted backups alike — put forth a plucky effort that won the admiration of the press and fans from both sides afterward. UC president William Rainey Harper sent a message of hearty congratulations to the team, closing with: “Never did an Alma Mater have more reason to be more proud of its sons.”
Said Stagg afterward: “I am proud of the team. There is not a quitter on it and all the men played a magnificent game against fearful odds. It seems strange the fatality that pursues us when we play Michigan. I wish we could meet them again with a whole team and let the twenty-two men fight it out. I would not be afraid of them.”
Yost said the final score would have been about 40-6 had his team not made so many blasted mistakes. When it was suggested to him a few days later that, per some reports in Chicago, the Maroons had been the equal of the Wolverines before all those key player losses and bad luck, Yost all but laughed: “Do you know how much ground they gained in actual scrimmage? Just about 65, while we gained over 500. . . . They claim we were outplayed but being outplayed like that will win us games right along.” As for the claim of “hard luck in having their regulars put out of the game,” Yost pointed out that Michigan scored two quick touchdowns at the outset with all of the Maroon starters in. “For my part, I wish the regulars had stayed in,” he said.
* * *
Heston was hailed as the hero of the game, despite his fumbles. He gained 239 yards on 38 carries, many around the left end. He thus finished his Wolverine career without ever experiencing defeat; Michigan went 43-0-1 in his four years. A Michigan alumnus at the time wrote to Walter Camp to sing Heston’s praises and claimed that “detailed statistics will show that in each of the past four football seasons, Heston gained more ground than any other two players in the country.” No such statistics survive to verify the incredible claim.
There is no way ever to know how many yards Heston rushed for at Michigan. Official statistics weren’t kept in college football until the late 1930s. Newspapers never published complete play-by-play accounts of Michigan’s early-season victories, and even if they did there were occasional discrepancies between the dailies as to the identities of ball carriers on various plays, and lengths of runs, etc. Nevertheless, long runs usually were mentioned in every game report. I have gleaned from them that Heston in his Michigan career had at least 40 runs of 20+ yards in length, and probably more. Of those 40, at least 22 runs were 35+ yards long, and 14 were 60+ yards long.
As the years went by, estimates as to how many touchdowns Heston scored kept rising, to as high as 110. Decades later he claimed the correct figure was 92. But contemporary newspaper accounts were quite reliable in this regard and usually agreed on touchdown scorers. Occasional mistaken identities were understandable, considering players did not wear numbers and touchdowns were scored perhaps half a field from the press box usually amid a thicket of collapsing players. The author’s findings nearly match the research conducted in 1958 by Steve Boda Jr., the NCAA’s long-time associate director of statistics. Boda counted 71 touchdowns for Heston. The author could not be so definitive. Depending on which discrepant accounts you choose to believe for two games — against Wisconsin in 1902 and American Medical in 1904 — Heston scored 69, 70 or 71 touchdowns. The NCAA officially credits him with 72, based mostly on Boda’s research. Boda furthermore concluded that in the 17 games for which he could deduce rushing statistics, Heston gained 2,339 yards and averaged 8.4 yards per carry.
What’s more, because of injuries and — in that one instance in Chicago — scouting, Heston played in only 37 of Michigan’s 44 games from 1901-04, and he played minimally in at least four. Thus, Heston averaged nearly two touchdowns per start. Entering the 2010s, the only player in NCAA history to average fully two touchdowns per game was Marshall Faulk of San Diego State from 1991-93.
To put Heston’s TD total in further perspective, no other player from the pre-forward-pass era (i.e., before 1906) is believed to have scored anywhere near 69-71 touchdowns. Colleges across the country by World War I enacted the three-year eligibility rule, after having permitted four or more years before 1906. The only player who came close to Heston’s mark until after freshmen became permanently eligible again in 1972 was the great Jim Thorpe of Carlisle. He scored 70 touchdowns in 44 games in 1907-08-11-12, according to the NCAA. No player after Thorpe scored as many as 60 career TDs until the 1980s.
Consider these additional facts when comparing Heston’s TD total to the moderns: the ferocity of pre-1906 football (his face was a bloody mess at the end of at least two games); he played both ways; there was no passing attack to loosen a defense; and protective equipment outside of a leather helmet, optional nose guard, shin pads and ridiculously large, pillowy knee pads was non-existent.
What cannot be disputed: Willie Heston was one of the most dominant players of any era in college football history. He was the first player to be named All-Western four times, and the first from outside the East to be named a two-time All-American.
* * *
After his Michigan career, Heston coached Drake in 1905 and North Carolina A&M (now N.C. State) in 1906 but won only 7 of 17 games. He gave up coaching thereafter.
Heston played in one big football game as a pro. He commanded $500 or $600 (reports disagreed) to play for Canton against host Massillon on Thanksgiving Day 1905, in a showdown of loaded Ohio pro teams. No one until Red Grange in 1925 would be paid more to play in a single game. But Heston showed up vastly overweight. On his first carry, he ran to his favorite side, the right, and attempted to cut upfield on a hay-covered portion of the field. The Massillon hosts had strewn hay to cover spots of pure ice, and Heston didn’t see the ice. He wiped out, snapping a leg bone. Massillon won 14-4. Heston’s football career was finished.
Thereafter, Heston pursued a law career in Detroit, rising to assistant prosecutor of Wayne County. He then became a judge on Detroit’s Recorders Court criminal bench for seven years. Heston ran a half mile a day into his 70s, entered the 1960s as one of the oldest living All-Americans and died on his 85th birthday in 1963.
SUMMER OF HARBAUGH PLUS FIVE MINUTE KLINSMANN RANT
Top five best Harbaugh things of the summer. Partial consensus. I give myself exactly five minutes to thunk my head about the Gold Cup, and I tell you when they start so you can fast forward if you're so mad
Vincent talks Team Gardens and fall camp and tells Fred Jackson stories.
We have our first-ever sponsor so what do we do? We have her on for a segment that starts out ridiculous and goes down/uphill from there.
If you're around Ann Arbor you have a 50/50 chance of knowing Liz (E.T.) Crowe (t: @beerwencha2) personally, but for the other half and people not from around these parts, Liz is a best-selling, (usually sports-themed, not exactly censored) fiction author, Ann Arbor real estate agent, craft brew consultant and blogger, and mom times three. She will be backing the Podcast this year so we can keep making it, and we had her on for a special entire segment in this one as an introduction. During the season we'll have briefer bits with her.
Where Michigan stands and where they may go.
"Across 110th Street"
"Sad Penance Raps," Open Mike Eagle
"Playing Your Game, Baby", Barry White
"I'm Not Part Of Me," Cloud Nothings
THE USUAL LINKS
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