My wife and I made a planes, trains, and automobile-like trek from Minneapolis (I know, I know, my handle is DCBlue, but we just moved to Minneapolis 5 months ago and I don't want a new, geographicly-correct handle) to Ann Arbor for the Notre Dame game. It was pretty horrific, travel-wise. We caught a 10:00 a.m. flight to Chicago, rented an SUV, drove to Oak Park to pick up our tailgating stuff from the couple who we share our 4 season tickets with, and drove to Ann Arbor. Worth it? Abso-fucking-lutely.
Some observations from Ann Arbor and the game:
1. It kind of surprises me, but it's easier to get into a decent restaraunt on Saturday night after the game, rather than the Friday before. There was a wait of 1 to 1.5 hours at all the places on Main Street on Friday night (we ended up heading to Red Hawk and got in immediately). On Saturday night, we went to Real Seafood and only had to wait about 10 minutes. Must be that everyone wants to wait in traffic. FWIW, my advice is to consider going out to eat and then getting out of town, if you have time.
2. I've been going to games since the late 80's as a teenager, and have had season tickets for over 15 years. The Notre Dame game ranks up there as one of the biggest emotional roller coasters I've ever seen in person. Not as consistently euphoric as the 1995 Biakabatuka game, as it was clear in 1995 from the beginning that Michigan was going to roll Ohio State. Not as much expectations as the 1997 Ohio State game with a shot at the MNC on the line. Penn State 2005 comes close, but I just didn't think that was as good of game. It ranks right up there on my personal list of best memories at the Stadium.
3. I'm previously on record HATING the idea of RAWK music. That being said, if it is inevitable then there must be a little more thought put into the actual execution of the play list. I mean, sweet Jesus, how hard is it to make sure the actual upbeat parts of the songs are played at the appropriate moments? There were a couple of times where the music started way to late and had to be cut out as the play started. Hint: If the song has an intro that the crowd must wait for before responding, don't use it. I also tend to agree with my wife that the Black Eyed Peas' Tonight's Gonna Be a Good nite would be a nice addition to the play list. Even as a traditionalist, and as much as I hate to admit it, the crowd responded to the music.
4. Not to sound like Charlie Weiss, but from my view in Section 6 (site of the Mathews catch, thank you) it was obvious that Brandon Graham was getting absolutely smothered in holds. I think the pic of the ND lineman covering his entire face says it all. As I recall, nothing was called on that played and ND connected on a first down pass play. I realize holding could probably be called on most plays, but some of the shit that was going on with Graham was borderline felonious.
5. The Stadium was loud. Not sure I'd classify it as "Oh my God, this place is so much louder" but it was noisy. Section 6 is largely a sit on your hands type of section, but I was proud of some of the Blue Hairs who actually were standing and yelling.
6. With #5 being said, I wanted to punch the 50-ish guy behind me who started yelling "down in front" at halftime so he could get a better sightline to watch the band. I refused, and told him, "It's halftime, dude, you can stand." I wanted to tell him that we should have been standing for the entire time.
7. Our seats are right in front of a handicapped seating area in Section 6, making it very unpopular when we stand up. You can maintain a good sightline to the field, even when the rest of the lower section 6 is standing below the reserved handicap area. This bums me out, actually. I'd much rather be standing. That being said, I can only hope that when I'm in my 90's, I at least have the option of being there in a wheelchair, like the guy I spoke with who was wearing an M hat backwards. Looked better than Tony Romo.
8. Most of the crowd stayed and cheered after the game until the team left the student section area and headed to the tunnel. It also got REALLY loud in the concourses after the game, with Go Blue and It's Great to Be A Michigan Wolverine. Good stuff.
9. Boubakar had a really rough day. You know it's rough when you're bailing out immediatley and the receiver's are still getting behind you. All that being said, he still was an aggressive tackler. I wish he would have held onto the pick he dropped (and likely would have scored on). I may be crazy, but I think he'll bounce back. The ND recievers were nightmarishly good.
10. Chad Henne may be a robot, but I'm not sure Tate Forcier is human, either. It's a quality I admire in Michigan quarterbacks.
Watching the program getting slapped around on the field last year cut me to the core and listening to the slapping around going in the media this year has been salt in that cut so I can't think of anything more gratifying than a big win over a big (and ranked rival) in a back and forth game to start to heal that cut.
Far more personally, I heard about the Phil Brabbs thing earlier that day from one of his former teammates. Cancer holds a nasty place in my soul as its taken a bunch of my family members and threatened to take my sister nine years ago when she was a sophomore at Michigan. College kids aren't supposed to worry about that kind of thing and that cut is still very fresh in my head too. Although I don't know Phil Brabbs I felt inspired to post this after reading Brian's comment about Phil Brabb's diagnosis when he mentioned "Vada Murray is horrible enough. Brabbs is younger than I am."
Most of us think about cancer as something that primarily effects people when they're older or after they've been smoking a pack a day for 20 years but I can tell you from having had to sit with my sister in the UofM Comp. Cancer Center and meeting some of the people receiving chemo around her, everyone is at risk. Sure there are things people do to increase their risk, but cancer doesn't discriminate and there were more than enough babies, young kids, and surprisingly enough, plenty of high school and college age kids in there as well. This is a point that Phil, Vada, my sister and many others know all too well. All of those are the reason I helped start the Bernard "Pat" Maloy Scholarship at Michigan to help Michigan undergrads who already had to battle through cancer or who had to deal with a family member fighting off cancer (I apologize for being annoying but once again, if you wish to help out we're holding our online auction of Michigan sports memorabilia at http://www.umich.cmarket.com and we would certainly appreciate your support and you get something cool to put on the wall in the man-room as well). Vada is only slightly older than me with kids who are just older than mine. Vada met up with me this summer to sign items for the the Maloy Scholarship Auction and described how he woke up one morning sore with what he thought was a pull in his side from working out. When he rubbed his hand over it he felt a bump, went to his doctor and was sent forward for a CatScan which revealed his tumor. Even a former professional athlete is susceptible to cancer. Can't imagine. Can't even think of how I would break that one to my kids if I was in Vada's shoes. I should add that Vada is doing VERY well. Way ahead of where patients with his diagnosis typically are at this stage.
So anyway, we get bombarded with messages of this fundraiser and that charity. No one is more worthy than any other. Just don't make the mistake of filing them all in the mental spam-box. Find one that's relevant to you and get off your rear and do something to pitch a hand in. It doesn't even have to be financial. Go donate blood or bone marrow. But the need is great, even in the University community.
On a more personal and much more self-indulgent tangent, the last thought I had when a tear started to well in the corner of my right eye, was the fact that I was present to see it. See, I had to leave the 3OT Michigan/MSU game a few years back because I had organized a charity Halloween event and had to get to it. For the same reason I missed the entire 2005 Michigan vs. Penn State game. Finally, I took my then 3 year old daughter to last year's Michigan vs. Wisconsin game and had to leave after the third quarter because she couldn't sit still any longer. So finally, FINALLY I got to see a classic game with a classic outcome to its conclusion in Michigan Stadium.
Somewhat of a disjointed posting I know. Guess it stands for two points. (1) Amazing what winning a big football game can do for the spirit (2) We're all capable of helping out with something in life to make it better for someone who is suffering. We all know someone whether in person or one of our former football heroes. Now go out and do something about it.
I was shocked when I read on mgoblog about Phil Brabbs and his fight with multiple myeloma. When I'm not cheering for Michigan I am a resident physician in the area. Multiple myeloma is one of the most insidious and devastating diseases to see, not only because of the difficulty in treating it, but also because of the co-morbidities that accompany it (bone fractures, weight loss, etc).
For such a young person to have it - let alone a Michigan Man - it feels even worse.
So if you have the time, I strongly encourage you to sign up for the National Marrow Donor Program and help out Brabbs or other people suffering from hematologic diseases. It's incredibly easy - all they do is swab your cheek and then run the tests at their lab to get your HLA-type (a fancy term that categorizes your bone marrow) and then see if you are compatible with anyone who is suffering from multiple myeloma, leukemia, etc. If you are compatible with somebody, they call you and then you go to a local center to have your blood drawn. They then run further testing on your blood to confirm you are a match. If so, you can then decide to donate marrow. Don't worry - no large needle will drill into your bones during this process. Rather, it involves you sitting on a recliner while hooked up to a machine that gently filters your blood. You literally just donate blood. And they might even give you a cookie afterwards.
If you're feeling super-ambitious - and the Michigan community often is - you can even set up a bone marrow donation drive. I've helped set one up, and the good people at the NMDP will come to wherever you are and do all the heavy lifting. If there's any interest at all in the mgoblogging community I'd be willing to help.
A guy from my medical school passed away at a young age from leukemia while waiting on a donor, and many more do every day. So again, I urge you to consider this. It's a small gesture on your part but it literally can save the life of someone.
Thanks for reading and Go Blue! Keep Brabbs in your thoughts/prayers/whatever, just like you did at the end of the Washington game in 2002 (though this time for a totally different reason, yes).
Brian used to write about "badges of fandom" after some of the great Michigan comeback wins after being down late. Namely the Wisconsin game last season and the Penn State game in 2005 and the MSU game the year prior. It made me so sad to see those three people leave such a great game early, especially when they probably pay thousands of dollars for the privilege of sitting in the front row, in section 4. Everyone who bought tickets both for the whole season and who came to this Notre Dame game definitely earn badges of fandom in my mind. There was a shockingly high turnover of people not renewing season tickets for this year, because they had given up on Rich Rodriguez after only one season...but in a way it is like a great purge of all the old codger Michigan fans who complain about missing the old days, and never stay for the times that Michigan has a memorable comeback win. They are the ones who missed out on this game, and if the only drawback is giving the true Michigan fans the chance to buy a ticket to a game or finally move up the season ticket waiting list, then it is fate that we all got to witness the defining moment (so far) in the Rodriguez tenure and start to believe that Michigan will be OK.
I salute everyone who was inside the Big House until the end, making it the loudest I have heard in as long as I have been going to games (since about 5 years old in the Desmond Howard days).
But on to another thing that struck me, and that was the Irish band. I had to sit two rows behind them for four hours, and they really earned some respect from me. They were loud (but respectful), never sat down, and definitely overpowered the faint sound of the Michigan band coming out of the other corner. And at the end of the game, even though some of them looked like they had just had their kitten thrown off a skyscraper, they lined up, and raised their instruments to play the Notre Dame alma mater, "Notre Dame, Our Mother" as all their remaining fans joined in singing. Ohio State does the same thing after games, even after ones they lose, and it always gives me pause at the undying love these bands and fans have for their schools.
I *always* stand there in silent respect and watch these traditions, out of a love for college football, and it also always reminds me that Michigan foolishly doesn't do their own version.
I have been quietly hoping for years that someday, Michigan would take up the same tradition...to especially overshadow the shameful "You Suck" chant after third down stops...but it never happens. I think this might be the year to start that tradition, because Michigan only ever plays "The Yellow and Blue" once at homecoming, and that's it. Rich Rodriguez has done a fantastic job getting some new things going at games and pumping some new life into a somewhat sleepy fanbase. I hope there are others out there who would join me in possibly getting RR to start an alma mater tradition to go along with singing "The Victors" in the student corner after games. After all, we want to show up the Irish and Buckeye bands in every way, don't we?
Go Blue, and here's to hoping for some more magic before the season is done!
My son was a Michigan fan, but not a Michigan Football Fan until Saturday. On games days, he would (with prompting) wear Michigan clothes and would cheer when dad cheered, but was really more interested in Star Wars, Legos or "playing" than watching the game. After the game, he would remember who won but not the details. In short he was going through the motions and not really committed.
This always perplexed me. We raised him right. The only sports paraphenalia our kids are allowed to were are Michigan or the Detroit Red Wings. The kids all learned to boo Ohio State at an early age and the Victors was one of the first songs they learned.
Part of it is my fault. We have had season tickets since he was born, but until Saturday he had only been to 3 Michigan football games. This is due in part to his own soccer/hockey schedule and in part due to my wife's desire to go to the games as well.
Also, he was scarred by his very first game at the Big House. The 2006 Northwestern game. We had spoken for weeks that at football games we only leave our seats at halftime and that we stay for the whole game. He was ready and he was excited.
We dressed as dryly and warmly as we could but it was miserable (I don't know what the actual temparature was but it felt like it was 36 degrees and it rained nonstop). He started shivering before the end of the 1st quarter. He made it until halftime on the promise of getting out of the rain and hot chocolate. At the half, we crowded under the stadium and got our hot chocolates. One sip . . . two sips . . . No effect, I look closer and he is on the verge of tears. I tell him that "it is ok if he wants to leave." I carry him back to the car, wet, frozen and shaken. He perks up a little on the drive back and listens to the game but isn't really interested. Verdict: still a Michigan fan (phew).
Game 2 was the 2007 Notre Dame game. He enjoyed it, but it didn't seem to make an impact on him. Verdict: still a Michigan fan
Game 3 was the 2008 Utah game. He was hot and uncomfortable and again he enjoyed it, but it didn't seem to make an impact on him. Verdict: still a Michigan fan.
Game 4 was Saturday. He was excited about going to the game, but not to the same extent I was. While we carpooled with our friends who sit nearby, the adults talked about the game and my son read his Captain Underpants book.
We arrive at the game early to watch warm ups. My son's most important concern is what is he going to get. Nachos. Fine choice. Works well with my pre-grame routine of Mr. Spots. We watch the warm ups while he eats his Nachos.
First half. He is standing on his seat for every play, but midway through the 2nd starts leaning against me in his "I'm tired" sort of way. Halftime comes, he's so tired he doesn't even ask about going to the bathroom. Good thing, I doubt we could have made it there and back during halftime. He spends halftime, trying to take a nap on the bench.
Second half. He gets up and is watching the game, but still leaning against me. As the quarter progresses, he gets a second wind and starts watching more intently and cheering louder. By the end of the game, he is standing on the bench without leaning against me and screaming as loud as he can. At the end of the game, he wants to be picked up so he can see the team in the corner singing the victors. He joins in.
Sunday morning. He sees me watching the game on DVR. Climbs onto the couch and watches it with me. Providing commentary as we go. "I remember that play dad." "Watch what happens next dad." "When can I go again dad." Verdict: Michigan Football Fan.
Weis' halftime speech
He told his guys their mistakes were the only reason they had not already put the game away. That is not a 100% unreasonable assessment of the first half, but...functionally stupid. You hear that, you think, "it's true, we're a lot better. We'll pull away easily once the penalties stop." What Notre Dame needed to hear was something to keep the fire there. Something like "we're only up 3--this is their stadium and to leave with with a win we will have to wrench it from them with the fight of our lives." ND could not have looked more listless on our opening 3rd quarter drives. There was no fire; it was like they did think the game was easily in hand, and the scoreboard would inevitably catch up to reflect the superior play. Instead things changed in the 3rd quarter. We started to outplay them.
What an underrated kid. And to begin with an aside, one of my favorite Mgoblog diaries ever was the one a few weeks back where someone broke down the joy of watching Odoms block out in front of a long run in the game at Minnesota. Great insight, great story, so true. It made me appreciate his Denard block that much more the following week...Well if you watch the Stonum kick return TD you will see that for the second straight week our longest big play run was sprung by a monster block from tiny Martavious. There was a guy in Stonum’s lane. Odoms--the other returner back deep--kept his eyes fixed, timed his break perfectly, and hurled his whole body into him. He was frozen in place. Stonum was past them both, made the one cut he needed, and ran free. Great block, good fundamentals, huge heart. Is he not Wermers' type of crowd? Who would not want to play next to a guy with that kind of enthusiasm and selfless guts. He is a less featured player this year, but you don't see him Clemonsing on us, and I don't expect he ever will. He doesn't block like a guy that would mope. I love that kid.
He also made two huge catches in the final drive. Forgotten now, he made a ridiculous grab with a man draped all over his back on a critical 3rd down. [EDIT: multiple posters have already pointed out the same stuff for Odoms--apparently he is not forgotten; good for our fans].
Nice to see him have a great game at Michigan. He made a huge catch down the sideline when it was 0-0, and provided the perfect bookend with the decisive TD. That dig route was a thing of glory. Route running matters. So does a QB with accuracy and timing. That play looked easier than it was.
Ouch. Honest appraisal demands at least one negative observation. I don’t want to be mean, so I will not go into details, but wow. If you ranked all Big 10 linebackers on a two factor scoring system of (1) decisiveness and (2) ability to not get washed out of an interior run play...he would not torch the competition. If you want a microcosm of Ezeh's performance, locate him on the final ND touchdown run. Suffice to say that is not where you want to find your inside LB on a power running play.
Cissoko (& rest of D)
On the more-maligned Cissoko: I have more sympathy for him. He was playing NFL talent, injured, in one of his first career starts. Yes he was beat several times. But he continued to stay fierce and confident even when the action on the field made this seem mildly irrational. That is a good thing...On the rest of the defense I have no major comments. The pass rush was poor, but the holding was ubiquitous. The pass yards were high, but the receivers were other-wordly. I thought Warren was excellent. I am not going to fault him for standing in the same vicinity when Floyd finally landed after catching a ball 10 feet up in the air...I am glad Stevie Brown once again made a big play. I am almost starting to feel guilty for blaming him for everything that when wrong in my life in 2008...and who was that safety?? I am glad that at least he knew he was on the team, so he knew to show up beforehand and put on a jersey and everything.
Charlie's decision to pass
I do not like Weis. His next-day whining is just the latest example of everything wrong about him--not a winner, not a leader, self-indulgent, doesn't think ahead, name drops Tom Brady when his name should be kept holy and sacred, etc. I do not like the guy. But I don’t think the late-game passes were as dumb as everyone now says (with the benefit of hindsight and their spectacular failure). In that moment, with ND having a chance to win the game with a first down or two, and our secondary having been abused the way it had...are you really telling me you weren’t praying for 1 yard runs up the gut? That you weren’t terrified when Clausen launched one deep? The stadium held its breath, and not in a 'something great's about to happen' kind of way. It was a 'dear god no' kind of anticipatory silence. You want to make plays that make your opponents feel that way.
Based on the way that game was going, I do not blame Weis for wanting to try to win with the ball, rather punting away and pinning his hopes on stopping a pretty-good offense using 4 downs with nothing to lose. I would want my coach to do the same. As for the type of pass, Brian makes a great point, it may not have been wise. But the other way to look at the lobbed fly pattern is that while calling any pass was aggressive, calling that particular one was relatively conservative. There was no time in the pocket, no risk of a sack/fumble. High likelihood of a catch or interference call. On that first pass Warren just made an outstanding play. On the second, Evans just wasn’t looking for the ball. If Floyd was was still in that 3rd down pass may have sealed the game. And just like that Weis is a genius--blah blah blah, say the pundits, he didn't sit back, he played to win, trusted his guys, etc. You see my point. Throwing was not stupid strategy in my opinion. Although I think a play-action pass to Rudolph would have been a surefire death nail. Thank god he didn’t call one.
There is not much for me to add. We all saw the same things. What a joy to watch someone who can (1) see our open guys and (2) get them the ball. What a strange sensation to watch a QB in a winged helmet drop back, see the pocket collapse, see him sprint for his life, and be envisioning anything other than impending doom. By the final drive, the blitz was breaking through our line and I was having what must have been the same internal reaction as Tate--no big deal, is somebody open downfield? I have watched several QBs that could scamper away from a pass rush and keep scanning downfield. I’ve never had the pleasure of cheering for one. It is great.
As terrific as Tate was, Minor and Graham remain our proverbial Peters. Upon those rocks we will build our football team. Graham, unfortunately, was swallowed up by the jersey seizing spiderweb of ND behemoths all day--tough labor for him. Minor, though, was able to break through. No one thinks he was 100% healthy. But who could tell he wasn’t when he had the ball on Saturday? He started each half with powerful, assertive runs that exploded into the ND backfield. He got us rolling, gave us confidence. Gave us a lead at the start of each half. Matthews got to celebrate the game winner. Stonum got conference accolades. Tate has enjoyed a season’s worth of press adoration the last 48 hours. Minor did his work quietly, particularly in light of all of the wildness that came after he made his strongest contributions. But he was huge. Passing picked up in the second half after our running game finally began to look threatening at its beginning. Minor did that. Great game from a big-hearted player.
I won't lie--I really like the guys on this team.