Yesterday's game showed me just how different it can feel to be a college football fan. It was strange to question whether Michigan was legit, to wonder if we might be embarrassed by a blowout loss in our own Bigger and Newly Redecorated House. Every turn in our favor filled me with relief more than excitement. In the end I felt calm, with none of the jubilant, happy-dancing, shake my ass celebration that followed last year's blowout opener. It seems that the last two seasons, and especially last year's collapse, have allowed my brain to be more detached from the game emotionally. I am happy and relieved that we won, but I am afraid to jump on the wagon that could be heading for another cliff.
I do think this year will be different though, because I learned some things yesterday...
- Denard Robinson is so awesome, he deserves to have his name spelled out in its entirety whenever it is written or spoken.
- Michigan is capable of good turnover Karma after all, what with recovering all three bad fumbles/muffed punts committed. (Gallon, really? WTF?)
- Michael Shaw is possibly the best compliment to Denard Robinson at tailback because of speed. When the two of them come together for the exchange the defense almost has to commit before they know who has the ball in order to have a chance at stopping the play.
- UConn showed what happens when the defense does not commit. The combined speed of Shaw and Denard Robinson tears the defense asunder.
- We are spoiled at Michigan when it comes to sure handed receivers.
- GERG has installed the first defense I can recall that seems to actually "bend" but not "break." The lack of big, game-changing plays was refreshing.
- Giving up yards while making the other team sustain a drive can actually be a recipe for success. The one turnover of the game seemed almost scripted to illustrate the virtues of this defensive approach.
- Ipso-facto, I guess GERG is actually a good coach that maybe we can all have a little faith in.
- Craig Roh is going to be a huge factor in this defense's success. When left unmarked (or marked by a TB) he creates big problems in the backfield. Marking him leaves less beef to stop Mike Martin and Co.
- Jonas Mouton and Obi Ezeh are good at some things at least. Mouton can really deliver the wood, and Ezeh is a sure tackler. Hopefully they can show continued improvement. Our run D up the middle still looks pretty bad at times.
So the opener is a win once again (YAY!). ND may expose our defense more with their spread attack, but after watching them some yesterday I feel good about our chances. If Charlie was still their coach I would be penciling in a win. I think we should be ready for some regression on offense though. Studying the film from the UConn game will no doubt give the ND coaches an edge that UConn couldn't have. Can a defense focused on stopping Denard Robinson actually slow down this offense? There is still much to learn...
Shout out to Kovacs who looked even better than last year. Dude is still way undersized and gets dragged at times, but he was no doubt in great position to make plays.
Also let's all try to keep away from the Tate bashing. That is a 19yo that played his heart out for this team a year ago, only to be sitting at 3rd string now. I could plainly make out that he was simply trying to hide from the cameras at the end of the game and we should all try to have some respect for what he is going through. For all sorts of reasons this team needs him and I hope he feels that and stays.
Edit: I forgot to mention our lack of penalties. One personal foul at the very beginning and that was all she wrote. The discipline of this team, should it hold going forward, may be what keeps the results mostly positive.
Nothing I say here is in any way intended to disrespect our defense - I think it's fairly well established that we have some significant challenges there and this has been more than adequately covered elsewhere.
That said, I think we saw today who our most important defensive player is, and I think it is Denard Robinson.
14/19 3rd down conversions? 36 minutes of possession? Nearly 200 rushing yds? 19/22 passing for 188 yds and a score? No pics?
All of that adds up to our D being on the field less, reducing their error opportunity and keeping them fresh. If our offense continues to click like this I think that we will see a lot fewer 2nd half collapses. Defensive coordinators all over the B10 are in for some sleepless nights trying to game plan for Michigan this year.
What a great day for Michigan - I know we all got excited last year only to crash when the B10 season started but I do think this is different. UConn is not Western Michigan, and Denard is deadly not just for his speed, but for the way he's grown into the system.
And he's still just a baby!
Life is good - very, very good. Sure, the B10 season will bring tougher challenges - but Denard is the goods. This really doesn't seem like last year. THIS is the electricity we were hoping for when we brought in RichRod. When the talent on the defensive side catches up...
I hate breaking news, or debunking things (see Sam McGuffie transfer), so I don't know what's going to happen with Tate. I spoke to his Dad, and here's some quotes from our conversation. He was adamant that Tate is not transferring. These can all be found on my twitter page, too.
"As Tate's father, and someone who would advise him, a transfer isn't something I want to be a part of. Sometimes you think, man, do they want him there, but we don't think that's the situation. Rich Rodriguez has also been straight with us."
"Tate knows Michigan is the biggest and best stage out there. I know he has mixed emotions, but this is in his blood."
"He was feeling a little like a caged animal on the sidelines. He knew the cameras were on him, and that they were looking for an emotional reaction, so he was trying to hide his face with the towel. He was not pouting. The cameras kept prodding, and egging him on, so he got upset about it."
"This is a good growing experience. The way I see it, it's a long season. You saw today that they're going to need two quarterbacks. The Big Ten schedule is a tough schedule."
"We knew some disciplinary actions were coming down the pipe, so we kind of saw some things that others didn't. Not everyone knows and sees everything that goes on on the inside."
"This is like a boxing match, and the advice I give him is ride it out baby, ride it out. Those who stay will be champions."
"I talked to him after the game briefly, and I think we're ok. All I want to do is think positive of this. Tomorrow is a new day for him."
"I really think Rich Rodriguez is trying to make a true leader out of him on and off the field. Again, no one sees everything that goes on inside. Tate is a competitive, emotional kid that was having mixed emotions. He was happy as hell that they won, but upset he couldn't be in the game."
2012 DE Chris Wormley has already become a fan favorite, and has been added to everyone's wish list for the '12 recruiting class. He was in the Big House today for the game, and told me he enjoyed himself. "It was good, I talked to the coaches a little bit about things," he said. The hot topic with Wormley was that although he's a Michigan fan, Ohio State currently leads because they were showing him the most "love."
Now that September 1st has passed, and the coaches are allowed to make more contact with him, they're making every effort to do so. "The coaches told me how much they want me. I want them to keep doing that, and just make me feel better about them," said Chris. It seems that time and more communication can cure that, which the coaches will continue to do.
I asked him if this visit, and the win, helped Michigan's chances at all. He said, "Yeah, a little." Chris likes to play it close to the vest, but I think this was a step in the right direction for him. The coaches invited him to the game, and will be able to now show him more "love."
Quick Game recap:
The QB was super great, Michigan finally has a running QB that fits in the system and having Tate there as a backup makes us really comfortable. One Robinson established himself in the game it was super, opened up the passing game and opened up the option and opened up the option of using Running Backs.
The RBs were impressive, both of them, Shaw had a weird fumble that was recovered by Webb and had a weird run that lost 8 yards, but otherwise both played mart football and Smith is really fast too.
The Offensive Line, to me they are the the MVPs in this game, wow was that really a great line, I think Barwis gave them strength and speed. Opened lanes for that QB and RBs and allowed 0 sacks.. Nice!!
The WR/TE, both excelled, nothing special, they did block downfield, Koger excelled with a couple of big receptions, the rest helped so much in 3rd down situations. A couple of good catches and no real drops to be worried about.
On the defensive side, its official, Michigan will be playing true contain, allow 7 to 12 yard receptions and don’t allow big plays. With the exception of that one really lucky reception where the ball bounced a couple of times, Michigan really didn’t allow any big plays. Both JT Floyd and # 4 Gordon played great.
On the D-Line I would like to say Roh is a stud, he was in there all the time, pressured that QB a lot. I still believe the DL, DEs and LBs could’ve had even more pressure on the QB, but it was enough for this game. The Run defense was not really impressive, I think we will need to tighten up there to have a chance against the run happy offenses of the Big Ten.
On Turnovers, again JT Floyd great great play with Obi Ezeh recovering, I do believe the DBs could’ve had a couple of picks late that were dropped, its just lack of experience there.
Special Teams not impressive at all, that return fumble could’ve been a disaster! The punt was ugly with a great roll, and the Kicking game was ugly, one bad short kick and one missed XP, that falls under really bad kicking, we’ll call it first game jitters for now.
Coaching, just super great.. good job Rich Rod
In all, 4 names that have to be mentioned, Denard, JT Floyd, Roh, and Gordon. And as a unit the O-Line gets my vote for being the true workhorses of this game. Congrats everyone, GO Blue, was worth the 9 month wait.. my call was a 21 point win (off course I was being optimistic!!) but a call is call, and I guess I’m ecstatic.. wish I was in Ann Arbor to celebrate .. Hail to Victors.
so Here we are. 10,000 km away, and 10 years removed from graduation. But my heart still lives in Ann Arbor. It's midnight on a saturday and by all rights I should be out getting blitzed and dancing the night away. Instead I'm sitting in my comfy chair, glued to my computer screen, counting down the hours until kickoff.
Why does such a trivial thing as football mean so much to me? Why do I care so much about the fates of men I have never - and probably will never - meet? How can such a silly thing give me so much joy and drive me to so much anger?
I grew up mid-michigan. An asian kid in an all white town. Football was the one outlet for all the pent up frustration and aggression that was unsuitable for an overly civilized world. Without football, I might have turned out like this: http://inmyroom.org/wp-content/uploads/2007/04/cho_large.jpg
For me, football has always been about the emotions it stirs.
But I also enjoyed the status it conferred. I loved the feeling of walking around school in my jersey on gameday. I liked how the cheerleaders knew all our names and gave us treats and presents. It made me feel special, in a good way. I didn't have to be just another asian nerd who was good at math.
I loved running out of the locker room in a big pack, through the banners. I can still hear the roar of the crowd and band. I liked seeing my name in the paper, even if it was just a boxscore in the lansing state urinal. I was tickled to be interviewed for the 5th quarter and watching myself on TV. This was back in 1994, before youtube, before a million cable channels. Football made me feel pretty special.
And I knew the game. I'd watch every NFL game on sunday with my grandma. I could see how Lawrence Taylor would just destroy people. How we could fight THROUGH a block to blow up a run. I'd watch NFLfilms on HBO nonstop. Admiring how Bill Walsh would take advantage of opponents' tendencies and schemes.
So, football offered so much. It was physcially, emotionally, socially, and mentally stimulating.
When I decided to go to Michigan, most of that continued even though I was not good enough to play division 1 ( or probably even division 2). Too short, too slow. But being a fan in the stands was almost as good. The comradarie was still there. The emotion was still there. The intellectual analysis was still there. And when I would return home, to the heart of Spartoon country wearing my maize and blue, the status was also still there.
Our team was better than your team. And they all knew it.
Sure they would put on a brave face and try to take pot shots at us. "Your coach is a a drunk", "You suck in bowl games", "We're just as good". But deep down, they knew they weren't.
And then, some amazing things happened. We got a new coach. Lloyd's first year as HC was my first year in the stands. We beat OSU. Biakabutuka ran wild. We finished 8-4. We were 8-4 the next year too. Remember when people were angry with LLoyd for going 8-4? And now we'd be ecstatic if we got to 8-4...ㅜㅜ
But we beat an undefeated OSU team again, thanks to some kid named Griese. Remember when we expected to beat OSU, even if they had the higher ranked team? Remember when we could make fun of John Cooper proclaiming Feb-10, 2001 to be his day in honor of his record against us...
The next year was pure magic. I had been going through a rough point in my life, drinking too much, thinking about transferring, or changing my major, or... I don't know what... something. I withdrew from all my classes and went home to sort things out. But Michigan was living a dream season in football. Even being away from campus, I could still feel like a part of things by watching the games on TV.
As stupid as this may sound, Michigan football probably factored as much into my decision to return to Ann Arbor as anything else.
And I was there. I was at the games I could go to. I saw Woodson's interception against MSU.
I watched Daydrian Taylor's hit against the PSU tight end on TV.
I gave about a million high 5's to friends and strangers when Andre Weathers got the pick 6 to make it 20-0, and we all knew we were going to the Rosebowl.
I rushed the field after the OSU game, nearly getting pepper sprayed. But it didn't matter. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
So was driving to LA with all my friends. Waking up hungover on new years, filing into that stadium. Such an awesome day. And they served BEER! Ice cold beer. The best beer I've ever had in my life on that dehydrated sunny day in the middle of what would be winter in Ann Arbor.
AND WE WON! Do you remember? Woodson leaping 20 feet in the air. Tai Streets scoring on long bombs. Ryan Leaf completing every damn 3rd and long. And then the ending was so confusing. Everything happened so fast. We had them pinned way back. But those cougars were cheating. They pushed off woodson. They faked an injury. OUTRAGE! The ref pulled out the flag. HE WAS WAVING HIS DAMN HANDS WITH THE FRIGGIN FLAG IN HIS DAMN HANDS! But he didn't throw it. And the crowd was booing the loudest "boo" I've ever heard.
But it didn't matter. WE WON! We won it all. It was chaos everywhere. I didn't know if I should take pictures, or rush the field or, or, or, just sit there like an idiot balling my eyes out. So I did all three.
And then Griese was given the MVP. The guy that threw a chair through the window at Skeepers. The walkon who was banished from the team. The overshadowed child who played under his father's glare with the whole country watching. So I cried some more. REDEMPTION. For him and me. I graduated with honors two years later, making the dean's list every semester after that.
That was the highest of highs. But It wasn't long until we reached some pretty bad lows. We had high expectations and then lost to ND. And I got stuck in a 4 hour traffic jam on the way home. That sucked. And then we were losing to McNabb by 17 the next week before I could even get to my seat. But the team improved. Every year we were very good. Always so close, but so far from winning it all again. There was the Drew Henson fiasco at MSU. Anthony Thomas's fumble against Northwestern. I remember thinking after those games when I didn't blame those kids. I blamed the fact that those teams were even within a touchdown of us at all. Remember when we could feel like other teams were so inferior to us that we should NEVER lose to them? ... ...
Even as I moved from city to city, and people came into and out of my life, Michigan football was a constant in my life. A blissfull reminder of goodtimes past.
That is, until last year.
Last year I gave up on the team. And sadly, it didn't make much difference in my life.
I tried. I was excitied. I was full of hope. I supported a guy who would later become a felon. I saw our team have nail biters against some of the best teams in the country. But I also saw a defense that was undermanned. I saw raw inexperienced players on offense. I saw a roster in tatters.
And what's worse is that I saw a team quit. I saw a team regress. I didn't watch the last four games of the season, because I already knew what the outcome would be.
With the season over, I stood back at arms length. I was fed up with recruiting rumors. I was sick of people leaving the program. The transfers, the defections to the pros. I thought the first year was a mulligan, but it continued.
Remember when Lloyd would threaten a kid with transfer papers, but then the kid would rise to the challenge and get even better? Now it seems that when a kid is challenged, he just transfers. Where is our support system? What is going on?
I don't want Rich Rod to be fired. That would probably be the absolute worst thing for this program. I want to be full of hope. But our situation at DB is not only discouraging, it's downright frightening.
So I wanted to take this moment, the calm before the storm, to remenisce about how things used to be.
This is going to be a long season. Even our best hopes for this year would have been a terrible dissapointement just a decade ago. I'm sure I'll get angry. I'm sure there'll be mitigating factors. So the only thing I can do is to not completely flame up the board after something frustratingly infuriating happens.
But I do have some hope. Our offense may very well be good. And maybe I'm in for a surpise on defense. I hope so. But I'm not expecting it.
Someone once told me that the key to happiness is having a reality that exceeds your expectations. Well thanks to "Angry _______ Michigan Hating God", my expectations are quite low.
Unfortunately, as I sit here 10,000 km away, Michigan football has already lost some of the things I most loved about it. I have no fellow alumni near me to cheer with. And I'd rather not discuss football with the green&white relatives (or even the friggen purple relatives, OMG I don't even feel superior to northwestern fans anymore).
Anyway, to wrap this up, I'll list some of my hopes for the season. A few years ago I wrote a wishlist, none of which came true. So now I don't even have wishes. Just hopes.
1. I hope we win 6 games
2. I hope we go to a bowl
3. I hope Denard Robinson has a better passer rating than Terrelle Pryor
4. I hope the stadium is louder than ever thanks to the new architecture and mic'd band
5. I hope we win more than one conference game
6. I hope we don't have any (ANY) more injuries in the secondary
7. I hope we beat OSU
8. I hope we beat MSU
9. I hope we don't have any more transfers
10. I hope Richrod won't be fired.