TO THE HOT TAKE CANNON
After watching the UMass game I went through a series of strange feelings:
- Relief. Game never in question, easy opponent dispatched, spread covered.
- Anxiety. The D-Line didn't look that good. Come to think of it, neither did the run-blocking.
- Relief. 2013 isn't far away, and we'll be transitioning from Borges-Denard Fusion to Manball.
- Anxiety. 2013 isn't far away, and we'll be transitioning from Borges-Denard Fusion to Manball.
Yes, the last two are the same. No, it's not a mistake. Here's what happened in my brain:
- I sure will miss Denard next year, but we'll be back to Michigan Manball without him. And our offensive line will be much better at run-blocking.
- Wait, why will it be better at run-blocking? Who will even be playing O-Line for us next year?
- SHUT-UP! SHUT-UP! SHUT-UP! Enjoy the win. Just pretend that Hoke will sprinkle magical Manball dust (wait, that doesn't sound right) and everything will turn out fine.
- No, you shut-up. I have to research this so I can sleep. Or so I can't sleep. AAARRRGGGGH!
Suddenly, I'm lying awake in bed, and going through the depth chart in my head. The one guy that seems to be playing good football on the O-Line is Taylor Lewan, and it's no secret that he's projected to get a 1st round NFL draft grade. We have to assume he's gone. Also gone from the line is...EVERYONE. Except Schofield. He'll stick around for his fifth year. Right? RIGHT?!!! And it's good that he stays...right? RIGHT?!!!
Let's just assume the whole line, except Schofield, is gone. Our new O-Line looks like this:
LT Erik Magnuson; LG Chris Bryant; C Jack Miller; RG Kyle Kalis; RT Michael Schofield
Maybe Joey Burzynski sneaks in there, but we're likely going with four (FOUR!) players with
little or no playing experience. And Schofield.
And I think, if we're geing honest with ourselves, that line doesn't look much better than this year's version. Sure, Bryant and Kalis should be better people-movers than Barnum and Omameh, but they'll be learning the position as they go. And a redshirt freshman left tackle? Ummmm...
Oh, and did I mention that Jack Miller is currently 6-4 and 288 lbs? Not exactly the size we're looking for at center.
My point is that our O-Line will be far from "Manball-Ready" and that we have much to fear about their abilities. Maybe we'll get some better natural push, but we're trading that for what will likely be a drop-off in pass-blocking. Erik Gunderson is currently listed ahead of Ben Braden, so I'm not holding my breath there. Blake Bars isn't currently listed on the depth chart.
On the other side of the ball, things don't look much better. BWC and Roh are gone. Pipkins should be seasoned, and hopefully in shape. Brink, Washington, Black, and Ash are all back, but like, seriously.
Our hopes will be tied to Pee Wee (NT) and Frank Clark (WDE), with Heitzman/Brink/Wormley/Strobel at SDE and Black/Washington/Ash/Brink at DT needing to just not screw it up.
The only logical conclusion is that next year will require the same patience with our lines as this year. This issue will be exacerbated by the lack of Denard...whether it's Bellomy or Gardner running the offense, it will be an offense that is trying to be pro style, and won't have a premier QB to run it. Gardner's growth will be stunted by his time at WR, and Bellomy looks like a solid-but-not-spectacular player. Navarre Light, if you will, with more mobility and a not-as-good arm.
I guess what I'm saying is that we'll really have to wait until 2014 before we have our Manball lines in place, and maybe then we can go back to complaining about the secondary.
After a 63-13 baby seal clubbing, this seems like as good a time as any to explain my lifelong obsession with Michigan football boxscores. When I was a child, my dad had a “connection” within the University of Michigan football program. This connection - for the purposes of this diary we’ll call him “Keith” – would send my dad what I believed to be insider information every year. It started with the pre-season media guide coming sometime in August, and continued with expanded boxscores very similar to what MGoBlue.com now posts. Anyway, back in the 70’s and 80’s the average fan was stuck with the two inches of boxscore info that the newspapers would publish. They consisted of the main stats – first downs, passing yards, rushing yards, and scores, and that was about it. What a boon it was to my 12 year old self to see who the leading tacklers were, who our all-purpose yardage leaders were, and on and on. Of course, I usually had to wait until Wednesday or Thursday to get these, but thanks to modern technology, all these stats are now at our fingertips with a few simple key strokes. Keith would also send us the cumulative game stats and many other interesting items.
The best thing about Keith was that he knew where the entrances were to the locker rooms at all the big 10 stadiums. Every now and then, we would meet up with him after a road game and wander over to the locker room. We’d wait a short while, and then the players would start exiting the locker room, one-by-one. A couple things stand out in my memory. One, those players always wore their navy blue sport coats with ties, and two, they would sign autographs. Of course, it was always easier to get an autograph after a win. One time, we lost to Purdue and the players just looked so down. That image to me captures ABC Sports “agony of defeat” much better than the skier wiping out does. At Minnesota, I got Anthony Carter’s autograph. ANTHONY CARTER!!! And finally, after one Wisconsin game I got Bo Schembechler’s autograph. I could’ve died and gone to heaven, man. What a thrill. So after I get Bo’s autograph, Keith says to me, “Steve, you’ve got to get this guy’s autograph.” Well, he looks like an older guy, possibly a coach, so I follow Keith’s advice and ask for his autograph. It’s Ron Kramer. At the time, I was like, “who’s Ron Kramer?” Yeah, youth is wasted on the young. Thanks, Ron, and thanks Keith. On to the link.
Burst of Impetus
- Seriously? You expected something here?
- For the gamblers, there was one huge play. I can’t overstate this enough. Late in the game, Michigan punted to UMass. UMass fumbled and M recovered, giving us a short field. M punched it in and we covered the spread.
Announcers’ Derpity Derp
- I’m moving this up this week only as a way to introduce the next section’s title. During one random play in the game, two M defenders ended up hitting the UMass ballcarrier at the same time, from opposite sides. The B1G Network announcer called this a “Malachi Crunch.” There’s nothing like B1G announcers breaking out a 36 year old reference to describe a play. For those still in college reading this diary, the “Malachi Crunch” refers to a demolition derby move employed by the Malachi brothers against Pinky Tuscadero, as shown in a three-part 1976 episode of Happy Days. Fonzi risked his life to rescue Pinky. Then, he baited the Malachi Brothers into trying the move on him. He moved his car at the last moment, causing the Brothers to Crunch themselves. I think providing you with this bit of worthless trivia is entirely consistent with my avatar.
- Did you know that Mike Cox went to Michigan? I hope no one was playing a drinking game based on that.
- Our defense has found an identity. They are a bunch of crazed Malachi brothers gang-tackling anything that moves. At least I hope so.
- We held UMass to 3.1 ypc. Some would probably hope for less, but I’ll take it.
- 23 players showed up in the defensive stats, including Paul Gyarmati who got a fumble recovery.
- Hawthorne was our leading tackler with 7. He was all over the field on special teams and late in the game. I don’t think he likes getting pushed to the third team.
- Unfortunately, the next three leading tacklers were all DBs.
- Frank Clark had two pass breakups. It seems like we always play teams that have athletic DE that jump up and break up passes. We finally have one of those guys.
- Joe Bolden got a sack for -24 yards, somewhat reminiscent of the Sugar Bowl. You want to keep going backward? OK, just let me know when you want to get sacked.
- 10 carries for 106 yards and 1 – “you’ve got to be kidding me” – type TD run.
- He was 16 for 24 passing for 291 yards and 3 TDs. Those 16 completions went to 9 different receivers.
- Denard had one poor pass/decision, throwing a pick-six, but better he do that against UMass than ND, ‘cause he rarely does that kind of thing, right?
- I have to give credit to the ref who called UMass for back-to-back chop blocks. First, for calling it twice in a row, and second, because the UMass blocker basically whiffed on the blocks. You know you are bad when you can’t even execute a proper chop block.
- UMass committed 10 penalties for 69 yards. I’m not sure if that includes the 24 yard penalty they got for intentional grounding, because the play-by-play link shows a 24 yard sack for Bolden AND the 24 yard penalty. I suppose I could figure this out, but we won the game by 50 points, know what I mean?
Bunches of Funchess
- After two weeks, I’m convinced. Funchess is the real deal. He was the first of eight Michigan players to score a touchdown.
- Gardner and Roundtree also caught TD passes. Roundtree’s was a bullet from Denard.
- Dileo broke a tackle allowing him to scamper for 66 yards on M’s longest passing play.
- In the first, and hopefully last, ever Magnus Bowl, Toussaint outrushed Mike Cox 85 to 76, closer than most people expected.
- Eight M players appear in the rushing stats, including Norfleet’s first carry and a TD for Taylor Lewan.
- Vincent Smith scored two TDs on his three carries.
- Ron Kramer’s #87 got the Legends Patch treatment. I kept trying to find #87 on the field. I finally gave up at halftime and clicked on MGoBlue.com. Congrats to Brandon Moore for receiving the honor.
- It’s a sad day for hexadecimalists everywhere as no one registered in the boxscore. I thought there would be plenty given how many players got in the game. I find it interesting that they show the defensive players numbers, but not the offensive players. Why is that?
Special Teams Stuff
- M’s average punt was 41.3 yards, but the average net yards per punt was 46 yards. That’s what happens when a couple punts doink off the returner’s helmet and go backwards.
- We kicked off 10 times. That’s always good.
I’ll Take Bullets for a Thousand, Alex
- The attendance was 110,708. Never let it be said that M fans don’t appreciate a good baby seal clubbing.
- First downs – M: 27, UMass: 15.
- Time of possession – M 30:57, UMass 29:03. Whew, that was close.
Outside the Boxscore
- I decided to drop the song of the game bit; however, if I had continued it, it would have been "Dream On," by Aerosmith since they are from Massachusetts and anybody thinking UMass had a chance, well, dream on. I have added this section to address TrippWelborneIdentity’s repeated critique. I’ll reserve this section for cigar smoking dudes, my brother, and whatever else happens to cross my mind, like my damn pipes leaking for the third time in 11 yards. Copper ain’t all it’s cracked up to be, folks.
- Denard will throw the "d'oh!" pick. It is frustrating to see it, but this isn't going away. It is great consolation to see 67% completions with 12.1 YPA, but "UMass" and all that. Michigan really needs next Saturday to be an outlier here.
- The Devins create a bit of a problem for the opposing defense. Maybe this isn't really a trend yet, but both Devins looked great on their respective TD catches, with Gardner's displaying the athleticism we have heard so much about.
- Toussaint is shifty and will burn you in space. After a slow start to the game, 2011 Fitz showed up and made several defenders look silly. Again, "UMass" and all that, but Michigan will need Toussaint to build on this performance.
- Michigan's Defense is "Bend But Don't Break". UMass couldn't bend it much, but they did have two 60ish yard drives in the first half and another that went for 11 plays in the third quarter. The middle looked soft again, allowing Cox to make some strong runs.
- The Devins - These two have completely changed the outlook for the Michigan passing attack. Now up to 5 combined TDs, I'd put the over/under for these two at 20.
- Roy Roundtree - Breaks through finally with his first TD of 2012. Kudos also to Fitz Toussaint for his first of the year and to Vincent Smith for punching two in from inside the 10.
- Taylor Lewan - Swam 5 yards through bodies to recover a fumble on the goal line for his first career TD. I can't imagine how that play must have looked from his point of view. Congrats also to Justice Hayes for his first career TD.
- Denard - 3 TDs through the air and one long one with his feet. 106 yards rushing keeps him on pace to top Pat White. I love that he doesn't tie his shoes but cringe every time an announcer has to point out how well he cuts in his socks. "D'oh" picks will continue, and must be accepted by fans, but hopefully a lesson was learned about when to reach out at the goal line.
- Will Hagerup - This guy is back and better than ever. I must have re-watched the 70-yard-in-the-air blast off the facemask of befuddled UMass return man 7 times minimum. Punts like that could be game-changers going forward.
Expect a beautiful September Saturday as high pressure moves through the Ohio Valley/Southern Michigan throughout the day. Clear skies overnight lead to a lot of warm sunshine for the start of the weekend, and we'll keep a light northerly breeze.
If you're up-an-at-em early you'll need some long-sleeves... 48 degrees for 8am, with mostly clear skies and a light north wind. We'll hit the 50s quickly after that, hitting 60 degrees for 10am. By the time you're putting the hot dogs on the grill for lunch, we're up near 70, seeing lots of sun, and feeling a wind out of the north at 5-7mph (you'll feel the wind on your skin, might have a few leaves rustle).
73 degrees for our kickoff with just a few clouds in the sky. Winds are out of the NNW at 5mph.
We'll keep a few fair weather clouds that have built in throughout the afternoon hours-but still keeping a lot of that sun! We'll hit our high for the day here at 75 degrees, winds out of the NNW at 5-9mph (may see a few twigs blow around with those leaves).
Mostly sunny, a light northerly wind, and temperatures lingering around 70 as you head out of the Big House. We'll see the sun turn to stars in keeping clear skies all evening, and the winds will gradually shift to be coming out of the east (still light) by closing time. Still in the mid 50s by 11pm, but dropping into the upper 40s if you're walking home late after celebrating the win! Go Blue!
Christina Burkhart is a meteorologist for NBC/ABC in Traverse City, MI, and temporarily for NBC25 in Flint/Saginaw, MI. She grew up in Ann Arbor and associates Saturdays with Michigan football. Go Blue!!
Some Big Ten supporters think the conference should stop scheduling Notre Dame, to "punish" the Irish for joining the ACC. They're making a fundamental error: thinking like a fan, rather than thinking like an athletic director.
Here are some basic facts:
Michigan and Notre Dame have played annually since 1978, aside from a couple of two-year hiatuses planned long in advance (1983-84, 1995-96, and another coming in 2018-19). Michigan has had seven athletic directors during that time, starting with Don Canham, who reinstated the series after a 35-year absence. You'd think that if playing Notre Dame were such a terrible idea, one of those ADs would have stopped it by now.
Even Bo Schembechler, who famously said "To hell with Notre Dame," didn't cancel the series during the three years that he was Athletic Director. Given his control over the program, it is hard to believe that Bo couldn't have put an end to it, if he'd really wanted to.
So, why does Michigan play Notre Dame?
The series has numerous benefits. It's a high-profile game that is always nationally televised. Travel costs are low. The game is competitive but winnable. Even in years that the Irish are terrible, the media always act like beating them is a Big Deal. The last three games, all won by Michigan, have created iconic moments that very few opponents could supply: Tate Forcier's coming-out party in 2009, Denard Robinson's in 2010, and Under-the-Lights last year. Since the series resumed, most of the games have been very entertaining, with 19 out of 28 contests decided by 8 points or less.
You might think that Michigan could easily replace Notre Dame with comparable opponents. You'd be wrong. A lot of those opponents don't want to come to Ann Arbor. (Dave Brandon recently tried to schedule Oklahoma, and was refused.) And outside of the Big Ten, most of the premier programs play in hot-weather climates, where a September game would put Michigan at a significant disadvantage. If you thought it was bad playing Alabama indoors, imagine what it would be like in Tuscaloosa.
In short: if Notre Dame fell off of the schedule, Michigan would be hard pressed to replace them annually with acceptable games against high-profile home & home opponents. Of course, somebody would come to play Michigan, but if you think the replacement game would regularly be as good as Notre Dame (in terms of prestige, TV viewership, excitement, or any way you measure it), you're kidding yourself.
The case for playing Notre Dame is even more compelling for Michigan State and Purdue. The Boilermakers have played Notre Dame every season since 1946. It is more important to them than any rivalry in the Big Ten, as it's the only game they play that is guaranteed to be televised nationally. No other Purdue game attracts so much interest. And there are probably no major football programs that would consider a trip to West Lafayette worthwhile. Cinncinati in 2016 is the most prestigious non-Big Ten, non-ND home game the Boilermakers currently have scheduled, supplementing a diet of directional schools, MAC programs, and the like.
The situation is quite similar for Michigan State. Remember their memorable overtime win vs. Notre Dame, which was the featured night game on ABC two years ago? They're doing it again tomorrow. Who else could the Spartans play, that would generate that kind of coverage? The Spartans have been elevating their schedule lately: they have future home & home series with Miami (YTM), Alabama, Oregon, and Boise State. But of that list, only Alabama matches Notre Dame in prestige.
I have no interest in helping Purdue and MSU recruit, but the fact is: to kids who might be considering playing football at those schools, an annual game with Notre Dame is a perk.
So I can only laugh when people suggest that the Big Ten ought to refuse to schedule Notre Dame, to "punish" the Irish for not joining the conference. It's a big like "punishing" Kate Upton for refusing to date you. Kate will do just fine, and so will Notre Dame. Oklahoma, Texas, Northwestern, and Arizona State, are among the teams that have scheduled the Irish in future years, in addition to their usual rivals (USC, Stanford, Brigham Young, Navy) and various ACC teams.
I'm not aware of any athletic director who resents the Irish for choosing to be independent. Athletic directors realize that games with Notre Dame are good business. Whether or not the Irish deserve their popularity, the fact is they are popular, because two large ethnic groups — Irish and Catholics — consider Notre Dame their de facto home team. This is why the major conference commissioners treat the Notre Dame athletic director like an equal; why they have their own network TV deal; and why they have their own entrée into the BCS, under conditions granted to no other school.
So to the extent that Big Ten schools for decades have found it useful to schedule Notre Dame, what exactly has changed? The answer is: nothing. Notre Dame always made clear that they intended to remain independent in football. All they've done is to leave the rotting Big East, as numerous other schools have done when the opportunity arose.
The match-up makes sense for both parties. As the weakest of the "Big Five" football conferences, the ACC wanted to make itself more attractive to television and the bowls. Notre Dame's strong academics are also an attraction, in the only available conference that is academically as strong as the Big Ten. Notre Dame gets access to the ACC's bowl tie-ins and a far better home for basketball and its olympic sports. It will play 5 ACC teams in football every year, but many of those teams have regularly played the Irish anyway.
Culturally, the ACC is a better fit for Notre Dame than any conference, including the Big Ten. The ACC already has five other private schools (if you count Syracuse, joining next year), including the only other Catholic school that plays FBS football (Boston College). The ACC footprint includes large Catholic and Irish populations, and Notre Dame alumni historically have tended to migrate east. Outside of the midwest, the East is Notre Dame's most fertile territory for recruiting. That's a big reason why the Irish chose the ACC over the Big 12, which was the only other major conference willing to admit the Irish on similar terms.
Numerous news stories have mentioned that the Irish will probably be re-evaluating their future schedules, now that they're committed to play five ACC teams per season, starting in 2014. If you add Navy, USC, Stanford, Michigan, Michigan State, and Purdue every year, that would leave the Irish with just one "flex" game, or none in the years Brigham Young is on the schedule.
So which rivals might Notre Dame play less often? The Irish consider USC and Stanford their most valuable rivalry games, because it ensures they play in Califorina every year, an important selling point for West Coast recruits. The Navy game has been contested every season since 1914, making it the oldest uninterrupted intersectional rivalry in college football. It's also practically an automatic win for Notre Dame. There's no way they're giving that up.
The three Big Ten rivalries have different costs and benefits for Notre Dame. They've played Purdue every year since 1946, and it's another game they usually win. However, very few people other than Notre Dame fans and Indiana residents care about the game, so it doesn't really help them with recruiting. Of all Notre Dame's rivals, Purdue really needs the game. Canceling it or playing it less often would really screw Purdue.
Michigan is the best known of Notre Dame's Big Ten rivalries, and the one that's the best media draw, but it's also the toughest for them. Michigan is one of the few schools (and the only one the Irish play regularly) that has a winning record vs. Notre Dame.
The Michigan State rivalry goes back to 1897, and since 1948 the two schools have missed each other just four times (1953, 1958, 1995-6). Historically, Notre Dame dominated the series (other than the 1950-63 period, when MSU was good), but since 1997 the Spartans have given Notre Dame fits, winning 10 out of 15. If Notre Dame decides that it doesn't need to play two state-of-Michigan schools, you'd think Michigan State would be seen as the dispensable game.
There is very little doubt in my mind that if the Irish want to keep playing, the Big Ten will continue to welcome them with open arms. In an interview with CBS Sports, Purdue's athletic director almost seemed to be pleading: "You have two schools in the state of Indiana with shared values -- their close proximity is a mutual benefit when it comes to travel and potential missed class time by the student-athletes -- so it only makes sense that we will continue to compete against them."
Dave Brandon told the Associated Press that Michigan wants to keep the series going, but that it would be up to the Irish. MSU AD Mark Hollis said that the school has a contract with Notre Dame out to 2031 that calls for four years on, two years off. So that ought to dispel the idea that Big Ten teams have any notion of kicking Notre Dame off their schedules.
Perhaps one scenario is that the Irish will continue to play Purdue every year, while alternating the Michigan and Michigan State series (2 years on, 2 years off). That's just one way it could play out. Because of the continuous tradition, the in-state proximity, and the fact that the Irish usually win, it's harder to imagine them playing Purdue less often.
For Michigan fans, the question isn't whether we want to play Notre Dame, but whether Notre Dame wants to play us. If the Irish are available, David Brandon will schedule them, just as the last six athletic directors that preceded him have done, over and over again.
Certainly it's always much more fun watching Michigan eke out a tight, fourth-quarter victory over a difficult conference foe, or take some highly ranked opponent behind the proverbial woodshed ala '97 Penn State or '06 ND (or ’93 Ohio!!). But sometimes it's nice to relax and just enjoy watching a tomato can get kicked in, beaten, and squashed--especially after a tough couple of games to start the season. So, I've been thinking back to some of Michigan's more enjoyable baby seal clubbings of the past: games in which the opposing team never had a chance going in, and things played out that way on the field. Here are some of my personal favorites from the past 20 years, with links to Wolverine Historian’s videos:
1) Michigan 52, Minnesota 17 (1995): Scott Dreisbach injured himself earlier in the week by getting his fingers caught in a lineman's jersey during a practice rep, so Brian Griese made his first start at Michigan. I couldn't find anything on the web with stats or a game recap or anything, but I remember Griese connecting on several long passes (to whom I don't recall, but our receivers at the time included Toomer, Hayes, a young Tai Streets, and tight ends Jay Riemersma and Jerame Tuman). However, I did find WH's video.
2) Michigan 65, Bowling Green 21 (2010): Say what you want about RichRod, but you have to admit that watching his offense tear apart weaker competition was football crack. UM racked up 721 total yards in that game; Denard had 129 yards on just 5 carries, and just about everyone on the roster got into the game (unfortunately, that included Devin Gardner, whose UM career may wind up being a year shorter because of it). If you want to relive the magic, here’s Wolverine Historian’s video.
3) Michigan 58, Indiana 0 (2000): One of the most flawless performances I've ever personally seen by a Michigan team; UM scored 45 points in the first half, punted only once all game (and for 67 yards!), and shut-out Antwaan Randle El (who had torched us for massive yardage the previous two seasons, almost beating Tom Brady in a 34-31 shootout in 1999). As always, Wolverine Historian is on it.
4) Michigan 49, Michigan State 3 (2002): If you are thinking, “What? MSU can never qualify as a baby seal!” then you probably don’t remember their 2002 team, which was a trainwreck smashing into the mother of all tire fires. But Michigan, angered (and rightly so) by the Spartan Bob/Clockgate heist from the previous year, showed no mercy to the hapless Spartans—beating them so badly that, when it was over, MSU finally put Bobby Williams out of his misery. This demolition was so incredibly epic that WH had to break up his video into two parts. Here’s uno, here’s dos.
5) Michigan 56, Illinois 14 (2003): Arguably the worst Big Ten team of the ‘00s, Ron Turner brought his Fighting Illini (who would finish the season 1-11) to the Big House for what would be its most lopsided thumping of the season. There wouldn’t have really been anything memorable about this game,except for the amazing Steve Breaston reverse-field 74-yard punt return TD (begins at 9:30 of this punt return compilation by WH, which is much more interesting than the rest of the actual game).
Obviously, this diary wouldn’t have been possible (and by “possible,” I mean “any good”) without Wolverine Historian’s videos. So, thanks be to him. And as always, Go Blue!