I saw a man walk yesterday. The steps looked labored and difficult. They could only be taken with the assistance of canes on each hand, but they were steps. Steps that doctors told this man he would never take again in his lifetime. This man took these steps in front of 113,000 roaring football fans and when he got to midfield, he did this.
They had to dip the banner so that he could touch it. Jumping to touch it was out of the question, but it was still as thrilling as watching all the great players of Michigan-past race out of that tunnel and leaping to touch it.
And as I watched this unfold from my seat in Section 39, the tears came. My wife looked at me and noted, "You're getting a little teary, aren't you?" I merely shrugged and said, "I'm watching a guy walk who shouldn't be, and we helped him do it...that's amazing."
I don't know Brock Mealer or anyone in the Mealer family. I had nothing to do with Brock Mealer walking on Saturday. I teared up just the same. I shed a tear for the pain and struggle that Brock must have had to endure for the past two years. I shed a tear for Shelley Mealer for all she's lost and hope that I would never have to face that kind of loss in my life. I shed a tear for the display of courage happening before my eyes. I shed a tear because it made me proud to be a Michigan Wolverine.
The past two years have been tough for Michigan fans, but it's nothing compared to what Brock Mealer and his family have had to endure. Many have said Michigan turned it's back on who we are when we hired Rich Rodriguez. To those naysayers, I want to tell them that I saw Brock Mealer walk onto the field of Michigan Stadium on Saturday. He walked to midfield and touched the banner. None of it should have been possible, but it happened. Despite what most have said, the University of Michigan is alive and well.
Impossible is Nothing. Go Blue!
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.