Preface: are things like they used to be?
Game day in Ann Arbor is an experience steeped in tradition. Nevertheless, the stadium experience, and with it the student section experience, has necessarily evolved, even just within my 6+ years in the NW corner. So to kick things off, here are some rapid fire questions/answers:
Flasks? Yup, though I will add that, at least in the lower sections, most students appear to have gotten less tolerant of drinking and drunkenness from other students. If you’re being positive and happy drunk, great we love you. If you’re incessantly bitching about the team, complaining about the players, generally being negative and happen to stumble into me, I’m getting event staff. And I wouldn’t be the only one.
Marshmallows? Uhh honestly I haven’t seen this in any season I’ve been there…
Beach balls? Have seen them recently, didn’t today.
Cow bell? Depressingly not yet this season. Other students reading this: we must fix this if nothing else
Travelling band? Nope (and I don’t think they have for a year or so but I’m not sure). Definitely remember being entertained by that in years past
International student experience: Very little experience here. I can say that in my section down in the row A area there aren’t very many (if any) international students. For the CMU game last year there were a small handful nearly first in line in the student queue, though from talking to them they were under the impression that the game started when the queue opened….
Engaged? Yes, mostly. It’s hard to compare to past years given that the Row A experience is a little different than that in Row 96… But the students are certainly no less engaged than any other segment (and for better or worse they booed the punt decision just as much as everyone else)
The clock finally wound down to all zeroes in what was a rather strange game at the Big House. We cheered as the team ran over to the stands and then back down the tunnel., the small handful of us that remained down by the railing packing up while trying to ascertain from the stadium police what on earth the rope sectioning off the field from the sidelines was for. Apparently it is for preventing a field rush. This year. Against Miami. With a chem lecture’s worth of people left in the stands. Ok. We turned to the people behind us,
“Have a great weekend.”
“See you next week.”
There, that right there is in a nutshell the problem that we had last year in the student section. We hear every week “how great it is to be part of something that is the team,” but the team is something considerably more than just the 11 young men in winged helmets on the field at any time. It is more than the full roster, the coaches, trainers, student managers and everyone else who could by any definition conceivably purport to be affiliated with the program. Or at least it was supposed to be. The team is supposed to be something that unites every single person wearing their maize and blue in that stadium, or watching it on TV, or listening on the radio, or running around with their fingers shoved in their ears until they could watch the game they’d
taped TiVo’d later. The team is the group of people in the stadium around you, who over the course of 6–8 games you got to know—those people who were as much a part of your game day experience as the people you chose to sit by. And last season the athletic department forgot that.
Given what we’ve heard or been able to read between the lines about much of what went wrong last season: lack of upperclassmen leadership, lack of cohesion on the line, or the many other instances of lacking “the team”, it seems only fitting that that disconnect spread deep into the fanbase. Instead of creating an element of the team, general admission pitted students against each other for the best seats in the stadium. The result was often ugly: students trying to sneak in late to get better seats, students yelling at each other, anger and hostility, lack of team.
This year things seem different. Is everything hunky dory in the student section? No. You still get the occasional person drunk to the point of falling on you, trying to usurp your seat, and degrading the fan experience for everyone around you. Fortunately event staff can deal with that pretty readily (especially if this person is in the wrong seat—as is often the case because, listen man, reading is drunk when I’m this challenging). But in spite of that, the cohesive, friendly, spirit seems to be back; at least in the superfan rows.
Unfortunately there’s been some lingering damage. As we all are aware with the recent struggles on the line, poor decisions from the past can linger for far into the future. During GA, the bottom of the student section was ill-prepared to correctly do the wave, or, for that matter, nearly any cheer. I naively thought that bringing seniors and grad students back down to the bottom would fix the problem. As today’s rather unfortunate attempts to start the wave while only up by a touchdown, and the subsequent inability to start the wave in the waning minutes of the 3rd quarter once we were up by 14, demonstrated, that isn’t quite the case. This year’s seniors haven’t had a decent wave experience or even good wave leadership in two years. Last time it went well they were in row 60; they had no part in starting it.
We can bring that experience back. It’ll take some effort and some creativity. We’ll have to re-teach them. It’s doable. It’ll be challenging, but for the fan experience, it needs to be done.
Seating Policy in Review—Take 2
So honestly, after last weekend, I expected to be writing about how we’d tailed off quite a bit from last week, how students had filtered in, but outside of student fans weren’t there before kickoff. Well by and large that wasn’t the case. While many, many seats stayed empty throughout the stadium, the student section filled in by and large on time, and to no worse a percentage than the stadium as a whole. 102,824 will make *every* section look empty. For what it’s worth, the new policy does seem to motivate students to show up on time, even after a dispiriting loss, even against an overmatched opponent. What the policy doesn’t do is motivate students to come in the first place, and to stay to the bitter end.
The first of those lies entirely on the athletic department. When our attendance is dropping to levels not seen since 1995, and student ticket sales dropped to less than ¾ of last year’s, it’s time to look long and hard about the experience we are providing for the students. Asking students who often have little if any income, many of whom are taking on thousands of dollars in debt, to pay increasingly outrageous prices for a lackluster home schedule is unsurprisingly going to result in a small, less effective student section. Not to mention less engaged alumni down the road. From those I’ve talked to who are on the new Football Student Advisory Council, it seems like the athletic department is now listening. Sometimes slow to act, but listening. Vendors selling $2 bottles of water in the student section: fantastic idea. Allowing people to again bring in unopened bottles of water or empty reusable bottles would be significantly better, and obviously the ticket prices are the big one, but it’s a start.
The second point is on us. It’s a culture thing and it’s sad to say that it’s changed as much as it has. I remember riding the bus as a freshman reading a Daily article (I didn’t know any better back then) that was discussing at length the tradition of students staying until the bitter end. No matter what happened on the field, no matter how bleak things looked, those who stayed, well you know. And those in my year really seemed to live that. Our first season was the fan crucible of 2008. We were rewarded with the Wisconsin comeback. We had our resolve tested with the rain, snow, sleet, and locusts for the Northwestern game. We were kicked in the metaphorical nards rivalry game after rivalry game. But after 2008 we were committed. We watched the team slowly crawl back to some modicum of relevance and it felt like our commitment and loyalty had paid off. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case for those who started in years after us. The seniors today weren’t on campus for RichRod. They didn’t experience that. They’ve had the opposite experience. They came in as freshmen and we won a BCS bowl. Since then we’ve underwhelmed. I have to imagine that, paired with that underwhelming performance, past classes (mine included) failed to adequately instill in the younger students the same rabid fandom that kept me at the 2008 Northwestern game to the end, and brought me from row 96 to row 14 in freezing rain despite numb everything. We were absolutely convinced in 2011 that the pain was over, our fandom had been vindicated. Michigan was back. We told the younger students about staying at games and cheering Michigan on to greatness. It appears that we may have missed the operative clause: “no matter what”. That too is changeable. It’ll be a slow process of growth back into “the team” but it’s doable.
Bringing back the student experience is not an overnight thing; we need to give them something to believe in. And with a team that has met its share of struggles and with an athletic department that seems more interested in the bottom line than the student experience, for all too many it’s hard to find that. Nevertheless change is possible. In my freshman year I attended my first UM BB game. They gave us free transportation, tickets, pancakes and a t-shirt just to get us to show up. They did what was necessary to get students there despite the underwhelming performance of the team. Since then we’ve been conference champions twice, have gone to the national championship game, and have won 6 of the last 9 against once dominant MSU (who had won 18 of the 21 games prior to the most recent 9). That basketball team got back to greatness because everyone was committed to doing what was necessary to bring it back. If the football team does make it back it will be because of the same reasons. If we want the student fan experience to come back to greatness, we of course need commitment from the students, but most critically we need the athletic department to let go of the processes that aren’t working, to stop focusing on things that should never have been the goal, and to do what is necessary to ensure that Michigan fans are not only part of the largest crowd watching a football game, but that that crowd has the best experience of any crowd anywhere in America, throughout the season.
I'm not going to lie, there's some strange goings-on in Boxscore land. Last week, Michigan outgained Notre Dame and nearly had as many first downs, yet was blown out on the scoreboard. This week, Michigan was statistically superior to Miami (NTM), yet, midway through the third quarter, I'm sure more than a few Michigan fans were having flashbacks to Akron. Miami's coach nearly had an aneurysm when they just barely missed a long pass. He believed they were in the game. Had that connected, well, it didn't so no need to go there. But that's not all. On MGoBlog's recap, Ace delved into the boxscore. Great read, but that's my thing, man. J/K. Brady Hoke even brought up some stats in his press conference. Numbers are flying everywhere. Today, I tried to find the boxscore on MGoBlue.com and notice they've moved it, reformatted it, and stuck a Chick-fil-A add right in the middle of it. Hey, MGoblue.com, haven't you heard, Chick-fil-A's not open on Sundays.
You may have noticed I changed the title. That's because I'm insanely busy this weekend, and I don't feel like diving into a Michigan-Not that Miami boxscore. I don't care how many Eagles fly overhead, this is just not a "Wow" event. It did get me to thinking back to simpler times. In the 70's and 80's, when Michigan had a stinker on the schedule and there was a threat to the 100,000 streak, we had something called "Band Day." High School bands from all over the tri-county area would be brought in to fill up the endzone seats. I'm talking about bands from Livonia, Novi, Romulus, and even from as far away as Troy. Prior to the game, all those bands would fill up the field and play one or two songs, and then march back to their seats. I always enjoyed the colorful pageantry that was Band Day. I say, if you are going to stick us with non-wow-events like Michigan vs. Not that Miami and there are ~10,000 empty seats, at least bring back Band Day!
Boxscore link: http://www.mgoblue.com/sports/m-footbl/stats/091314aaa.html
Burst of Impetus
* The saddest part of this game is that Norfleet's kick return to start the game wasn't sufficient to firmly plant the impetus on our side. Numerous turnovers made this a game for 2 1/2 quarters.
* I think there was a sequence of plays where we may have turned the corner on this running game and left 2013 in the rear-view mirror. With 7:24 to go in the 2nd, Michigan was tied 10-10 with Not that Miami. A pass to Darboh brought the ball to Miami's 40 yard line. After that, Gardner was sacked for a 7 yard loss. I was thinking, "seriously?" My hope is that what happened next is the harbinger of good things to come.
- Green, Derrick rush for 27 yards...
- Green, Derrick rush for 11 yards...
- Green, Derrick rush for 8 yards...
- Green, Derrick rush for 1 yard to the MU0, TOUCHDOWN
Run game established, at least against the Miami's of the world.
* Gardner was 13 for 20 for 184 yards and 2 TDs. He seemed to do well in the absence of Funchess. This could be good in the long run if he's able to build chemistry with Darboh, Chesson, and Butt.
* Jake Ryan had 6 tackles and 2 QHs and may be starting to get a feel for this MIKE thing.
1 and 2
* One week after I questioned what the coaches were seeing in practice to give Derrick Green the nod over De'Veon Smith, Green showed all of us. His vision was much better than last week, and I don't think this is a question of the opponent. The hole is there, and he either hits it or he doesn't. Against Notre Dame, he didn't. Against Miami, he did, over and over again to the tune of 137 yards on 22 carries. My guess is, Green was much more relaxed going against Miami, knowing that they are vastly inferior to Michigan. This allowed him to play with more confidence and his performance improved as a result.
* Smith looked a little slow to me, perhaps he's got a boo-boo. He had a couple negative carries on slow developing east/west type runs. I'd much rather they pound him inside and put him in attack mode. He recovered from a slow start to tally 44 yards on 9 carries for a healthy 4.9 YPC.
* Miami did not score 24 points. They only scored 10 because we gave them a short field due to turnovers.
* Joe Bolden led Michigan with 7 tackles, and he had one nice pass breakup.
* The defense is still not filling the boxscore in the dot categories, but we did get 5 QH's, 1 FF, 1 INTC, 2 BrUps, and 1 sack.
* Miami was held to 1 rushing first down and only 33 net yards rushing. I sense a trend developing...
* Miami only recorded 3 TFLs all game long; the two wide runs with Smith and the sack, for a total of 10 yards. I so hope this is no longer a thing worth discussing as we move forward.
* What look was Miami going for with their helmets? I can't decide if it was warmed-over vomit, or electrified vomit.
* We need Butt. A healthy Butt adds another dimension to our offense.
* Christian Kock punted 8 times for 301 yards. You know how when you apply for a personalized license plate and the DMV has someone review your request to make sure there's nothing offensive about it? Maybe we should do the same thing with peoples' names.
* M. Wamulumba recorded 1 tackle for Miami. Didn't Kid Rock sing a song about him? The lyrics went something like this, "Bawitdaba da diggy diggy Wamulumba da bang da bang." I think the Pewamo-Westphalia High School band played it at Band Day in '92.
In the aftermath of yesterday's game, I've seen a number of people claim that Shane Morris was "perfect" in his limited playing time. True, he was 0 for 2 passing, but both throws were dropped by their targets. I wanted to break down each passing play and see if his throws were as good as advertised.
The situation: 2nd and 7, ball on the Miami of Ohio 34
The play: Morris rolls out to his left...
...and throws to Keith Heitzman, who is fifteen yards downfield and five yards from the nearest defender:
The ball arrives precisely at the area directly in front of Heitzman's chest where one generally prefers to catch things.
Unfortunately, he fails to do so, and the ball passes through his arms, and bounces off this thigh.
CONCLUSION: Excellent throw to wide open receiver, pure drop.
The Situation: 1st and 10, ball on Miami of Ohio 23
The Play: Morris rolls out to his left again:
I'm pointing out these rollouts because I've seen some people claim that Shane Morris demonstrated a better pocket presence than Devin Gardner. Not so: two passes, two rollouts. Pocket presence: UNDEF.
Morris fires deep to Jehu Chesson in the end zone, who has a couple steps on the defender. Note the separation in this frame.
However, the throw is a bit behind, and Chesson has to put on the breaks. The defender closes the gap, and as the ball arrives, he has one arm on Chesson's back, and brings the other down, brushing off his face mask and settling in between his chest and his arms.
As he falls to the turf, Chesson actually does have the ball secured between his bicep and his forearm, but the impact with the ground jars it free to fall incomplete.
CONCLUSION: This throw was not terrible, but neither was it perfect. It was a bit behind the receiver, which gave the defender the time to close the gap and make a play, which he did well. A more accurate throw would have given the defender no chance.
On the day, Shane Morris had one excellent throw to a wide open receiver who dropped the ball, and one slightly off target throw which forced the receiver to try and bring it in with a defender in his face. It would be foolish to try to draw any sweeping conclusions from two pass attempts, but at a minimum claims of "perfection" should be put to rest.
Short & sweet today because I'm doing it from my phone thanks to being in the middle of moving! An upper level disturbance will move out of the Great Lakes Saturday, bringing some morning showers & clouds before more later-day sun as high pressure moves in. Chilly all day with temps staying a good ten degrees below normal, & a bit breezy. Really Mother Nature, seriously? It's September!
If you're up real early you may see some rain! (icymi -Because of the rain there are restrictions on tailgating at the golf course) Temps will hover right around 50 degrees early on around sunrise. Overcast skies with a couple sprinkles will be what we wake up to, with winds out of the north at about 8mph. Heading into mid-morning and early afternoon, we see a little decrease in the cloud cover. That'll help us get into the mid 50s for lunch, but winds will pick up too. Tie down the tent! Winds will be out of the NNW at steady 17mph, and gusts possible to 30mph (branches will sway, empty garbage cans may tip over).
Still hanging on to some clouds by the time we reach kick-off, and sitting at 61 degrees. Winds will start to drop, and although they will remain out of the NNW we'll mainly get rid of the gusts and steady winds are around 13mph.
Temps stay steady through the end of the first half, and seeing some sun between those clouds. Winds are down to 10mph, out of the NW. The temperature will drop during the second half so you may want to have the extra layer handy!
Still keeping some clouds in the sky to end the game, with a light NNW wind. We'll drop to 55 degrees, and enjoy it- as the cloud cover goes down, the temperature will fall quickly. We'll be in the mid 40s for the late night, and if you'll be out for last call, expect to walk out the door and be hit with 42 degrees! Go Blue!!
Christina Burkhart is a meteorologist for ABC in Flint, MI. She grew up in Ann Arbor and associates Saturdays with Michigan football. Go Blue!!
I didn't anticipate doing a wallpaper this week, but after Saturday's abismal outing I was inspired. This wallpaper is a take on The Dark Knight Rises movie poster. Michigan doesn't exactly need to crawl out of a giant hole in the ground, but they definately need to RISE up to be succesful this season. The photo of Devin Funchess is from Bryan Fuller's MGoBlog album on Flickr. Enjoy! Beat Miama (not that Miami)!
P.S. I didn't realize how much this looks like an Adidias ad.
[Ed-Seth: This is coming a bit late; he had it posted a week ago but I had a severe hangover on Sunday.]
Michigan kicked off the 2014 soccer season to mixed results last weekend. Michigan opened up their season on Friday, August 29th with a disappointing 1-0 loss at home to FIU but bounced back on Sunday afternoon with a 3-0 win over SMU at the Michigan Soccer Complex.
|Michigan Soccer 2014 Schedule|
|Aug 29||Home||FIU (L, 0-1)|
|Aug 31||Home||SMU (W, 3-0)|
|Sep 6||@||Columbia (L, 3-0)|
|Sep 12||Home||Maryland (5pm)|
|Sep 16||Home||Bowling Green|
|Sep 28||Home||Penn State|
|Oct 1||Home||Western Michigan|
|Oct 7||Home||Notre Dame|
|Nov 2||@||Michigan State|
|Nov 5||Home||Ohio State|
|Big Ten Tourney||Nov 8, 9, 14, 16|
|NCAA Tourney||Nov 20, 23, 29, Dec 5|
|College Cup||Dec 12, 14|
FIU 1 – Michigan 0
A 67th minute goal from FIU’s Donald Tomlinson proved to be the difference on Friday afternoon as Michigan’s season opened with a loss.
Despite controlling possession and pressure toward the end of the match, Michigan was unable to find the equalizer. FIU outshot Michigan 9-8 for the match and the home team only managed one shot on target, an effort by Rylee Woods.
Highly touted freshmen Ahinga Selemani and Billy Stevens both made their college debuts and transfer William Mellors-Blair went 90 minutes in the loss. Redshirt Senior Adam Grinwis started in goal for the Wolverines and made three saves.
Michigan 3 – SMU 0
Michigan bounced back Sunday afternoon to shutout the SMU Mustangs and notch their first win of the season. Goals from Marcos Ugarte and Colin McAtee in the first half gave Michigan a 2-0 lead going into halftime. McAtee added his second goal in the 76th minute when he cut inside from the right flank and sent a low shot past SMU keeper Michael Nelson from 23 yards out. McAtee, a speedy winger, doubled his 2013 output with the brace on Sunday afternoon.
Evan Louro made his first start in his Michigan career and came up with three saves to keep a clean sheet. Louro looked confident in goal coming off his line to punch several corner and free kicks and looked fearless in challenging two breakaway chances by SMU. Louro collided with an SMU player after saving one of those breakaway chances and left him wincing in pain and clutching his arm.
The middle portion of the contest took an ugly turn in the middle of the match, which saw a total of seven yellow cards and a red card for SMU defender Jacob Speed. Selemani got behind him and would have been all alone with only the goalkeeper to beat and Speed simply dragged him down for a clear yellow card foul. It was Speed’s second yellow and SMU finished the match a man down.
Urgarte looked confident and consistent playing in midfield and was probably the best player on the field for most of the match. His distribution to McAtee, Selemani and Mellors-Blair was solid going forward and paired well with James Murphy when needed to track back and defend. McCarthy also played well in supporting the back four and was a nuisance for SMU’s midfield all match.
The defense looked solid in the back and communicated well with one another. Stevens, Lars Eckenrode, Andre Morris, Ben Manko and Nick Lewin made up the back line as Chaka Daley shuffled substitutions to cover for Ben Manko’s yellow card. Manko, Lewin and Morris can all move between positions, which will be more important as the season progresses and Daley needs flexibility with that young back line.
On the difference between Friday and Sunday.
“I think our ball pressure was a lot better than it was on Friday. I think we were disjointed and all over the field on Friday and didn’t pass when we need to. They kind of cut through us way too easily in the first game and the pressure wasn’t good and we were facing our own goal way too much as opposed to having the game in front of us.”
On True Freshman Goalkeeper Evan Louro:
“He’s good…as a young player; he’s extremely confident and brings a lot of experience. He’s not really like a true freshman; he’s more like a junior, which is great for the guys in the group because he brings a confidence about him, a maturity and can stretch the game. The two keepers we have we’re excited about and how they’ll push each other.”
On the starting starting goalie spot:
We’re continuing to evaluate the goalkeeping position. They’re both excellent goalkeepers so I think it may be subjective to the game, we might make a decision on who’s number one, we haven’t made that decision yet.
“I think he (Marcos) was disappointed with his performance last year but it was his fault. He was injured in an 8 week season, it’s difficult to get going. We’re excited about what he can offer.
On the painful save:
"It hurt a lot, I was trying not to show it and look tough, but it hurt (ED: Louro showed me the gnarly bright red bruise/welt/get that thing looked at on his arm at that point)."
On nerves ahead of his first college start:
"I don’t really get nervous, maybe before the game but not during the game. I’ve played a lot of games; I can just jump in and be comfortable."
On getting First save of the match
“It’s huge. The first shot and you get it and you’re good and get the confidence rolling…it’s a huge deal obviously. “
Michigan hosts No. 12 Maryland tomorrow at 5 p.m. in its Big Ten kickoff.
Follow @umichsoccer for live updates
Daley hopes senior midfielder TJ VanSlooten will be healthy this week. He missed the first two matches with a calf injury.
Michigan Assistant Coach Tommy McMenemy was an All-American at Columbia in 2003 and was on the coaching staff prior to joining Michigan. Columbia was 8-6-1 last season.