Few sports fans would argue that we needed yet another book about
the "Ten Year War" - the intense rivalry between the University of
Michigan and Ohio State football teams and their iconic coaches Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler. The subject has been covered voluminously in books, magazines, newspapers, and videos (I have reviewed a few myself).
So I have to credit Michael Rosenberg for coming up with a new angle to approach this classic subject. His book, War As They Knew It: Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, and America in a Time of Unrest,
uses the backdrop of the protest movement in the era of Vietnam and
Watergate to situate this sports rivalry within the culture and history
of the time.
This allows him to portray the players and coaches as human beings
with opinions and emotions beyond the football field while reminding
the reader that the university, and the surrounding community,
obviously had to deal with a lot more than just the success of the
But while this background is interesting - the different levels of
political agitation on the Ohio State versus Michigan campus for
example - what really makes the book shine is Rosenberg's portrait of
By placing Hayes in this historical context and by connecting his
work as a coach with his unique personality and background - his
inspirations, dreams and deep seated beliefs - Rosenberg captures Hayes
as a multidimensional person rather than simply as an icon or
Rosenberg highlights two figures, among others, who made an impact on Hayes life: General George S. Patton and Ralph Waldo Emerson.
And at key moments in the story we see how these influences made Hayes
the man he was. Military history and tactics were never far from
Woody's mind and he regularly used the language of war to describe
football. This is interesting but not shocking or hard to understand.
But Rosenberg's use of Emerson quotes to flush out why Hayes might
have acted the way he did or had the attitude he did jump out at the
reader. It is hard to believe that a Transcendentalist poet/essayist
would best capture the mindset of the famous coach but Rosenberg makes
a strong case that this is one of the most effective windows into
understanding Hayes' life.
Rosenberg also helps show how Hayes was a traditionalist in an age
of upheaval and conflict. He frequently visited the troops in Vietnam
and supported the war until the bitter end. He became friends with
Richard Nixon and was upset when the president resigned; l seeing that
act as cowardice in the face of your enemies.
Of course Hayes is most known for his temper on and off the football
field. Rosenberg discusses the theatrical nature of his temper when
trying to reach his team - and how this seemed to decrease in
usefulness over time. He also makes note of the role diabetes may have
played in his temper; including the actions that led to his being fired.
Hayes, however, always saw himself as a teacher. He was deeply read
in history (particularly military history) and was engaged with
politics and current events. Even in the era of student protests and
anti-war demonstrations he continued to reach out to young people and
he was always ready to decry what he saw as an assault on the
traditional values that made America great. Hayes may have been
increasingly at odds with the spirit of his age but he never stopped
wrestling with it and attempting to make an impact. His competitive
drive and energy drove him to never quit trying.
Hayes was clearly an incredibly unique individual who burst onto the
college football scene and left an indelible imprint. But he was also
a product of his time and time eventually passed him by; or caught up
with him depending on your perspective. There seem to be some
parallels with his friend Richard Nixon in this. Both men built
impressive careers before being brought down by poor judgment. And
both men attempted to live out the remainder of their lives so as to
not be defined by those infamous acts; with mixed success.
Rosenberg covers the other side of the field as well, but Bo
Schembechler doesn't stand out quite like Hayes. The iconic Bo really
develops after this "Ten Year War" period. Sure, the personality is
there but it doesn't quite blossom until after Hayes recedes. But this
history is a neccesary foundation for understanding the events that
were to come.
The other character who stands out in the book is Michigan athletic
director Dan Canham. Canham was a critical figure in the development
of modern college sports and in many ways made Michigan football the
marketing giant that it is. It seems off that this influential figure
is not better known outside of sports historians.
War As They Knew It is much more than a sports book. Sure,
it is a fascinating story about one of college football's greatest
rivalries and the coaches who put it on the map. But it is also a
valuable look into the time period through the lens of college
athletics. You don't have to be a fan of Michigan or Ohio state
football to enjoy the story because the characters and events involved
Of course, if you are a fan of either program and their legendary
coaches this is a must read. And really anyone interested in the
history and development of college football would do well to check it
out. You will come away with a better understanding of how the schools
became the dominant programs in the conference and even the nation at
times. And you will understand better the men behind these programs as
they faced each other in intense competition on the field and dealt
with the tumultuous times outside the stadium and practice field
This season has been hard. Most reasonable people expected struggles. New system, few returning offensive starters--all the usual (and valid) reasons have been listed. I think, however, few expected it to be this bad. And even if you did, the despair of actually witnessing the end of so many streaks-bowls, winning seasons, MAC domination, etc. has been painful. So as you leave the stadium Saturday or disgustedly turn off your TV, try not to feel too sorry for yourself. You will be surrounded by your loved ones today. You will sleep in your own bed. You may be blue for the next few days, but your life will return to normal. But if you do find the malaise too much to bear, snap out of it. You have it easy. Think about Paul.
Paul Bunyan has been with us since Spartan Bob fell asleep at the clock. In fact, Ann Arbor is his home. He likes it here. Except for an occasional short stay in (shudder) East Lansing, he has a pretty good life. He likes political discourse. He enjoys trips to the museum. He's not comfortable ending his sentences with "Brah".
Imagine his first terrifying moments. "What? I have to leave? Go with who--them?" Remember the gut wrenching scene from Kramer vs. Kramer? At least that was the kid's mom. His little wooden fingernails could not claw hard enough. "Wait, I've got an axe!"--useless. I can see him staring helplessly like that little boy being driven away by pedophiles in Mystic River. Packed up and carted away by mouth breathing barbarians with lower SAT scores than his old illiterate buddy, Pecos Bill.
Think of the first night. Imagine The Shawshank Redemption except with more sodomy. The tribal tattoos. The acrid smell of burning couches. His self loathing over his wooden arousal at being stroked by skanky, beer swilling harlots who managed to cobble together enough sentences on their admission applications to avoid LCC. Would he ever be able to look at a beer commercial again without a flashback? "My God, is that a mullet? What IS a Brah? Are they going to watch 300 again?"
He tries to turn his thoughts elsewhere, but this only makes matters worse. He thinks of his old pal, Babe. But the blue ox is over at the vet school. From 9-5 she undergoes painful, Mengele-esque experiments in which the researchers search for answers already discovered at places like Iowa and Indiana decades ago. At night, she endures unspeakable violations by drunken Spartans who are too hideous to even coax an MSU coed into bed. Can an ox have a pretty mouth?
So quit feeling sorry for yourself. Paul and Babe have to endure this horror for a year. Support RR. Get behind the team. Muster the resolve of Mel Gibson in Ransom--"Give me back my Bunyan!" Next year we must bring him home and keep him here. I only hope he can forgive us.
So, I was confused as the rest of you when Brandon Minor's apparently incomplete pass was ruled a Touchdown after a video review. I bought the ESPN commentary during the play, but thought I'd look into it more. The article mentioned by Bryan does look at the Rule Book, but only at one part. I decided to kill way to much time and read the whole thing.
I'll start with my conclusion, to spare you the reading: Minor's catch was in fact a Touchdown. Now, to the evidence.
We start with the basics (all quotes are from the NCAA Rulebook, downloadable in PDF here http://www.ncaa.org/wps/ncaa?ContentID=387):
"Field of Play
ARTICLE 2. The field of play is the area within the boundary lines other
than the end zones.
ARTICLE 3. The end zones are the 10-yard areas at both ends of the field
between the end lines and the goal lines. The goal lines and goal line pylons
are in the end zone, and a team’s end zone is the one it is defending (A.R.
8-5-1-X and A.R. 8-6-1-I)."
Based on this rather simple explanation, we come to the understanding that the End Zones are special areas on the Field considered separate from the rest of the Field of Play. Additionally, the pylons on the goal lines are in the end zone.
Now, let's take a look at passing:
"ARTICLE 6. Any forward pass is completed when caught by a player of the
passing team who is inbounds, and the ball continues in play unless completed
in the opponent’s end zone or the pass has been caught simultaneously
by opposing players. If a forward pass is caught simultaneously by opposing
players inbounds, the ball becomes dead and belongs to the passing team (Rule
2-2-7) (A.R. 2-2-7-III and A.R. 7-3-6-I-IX)."
This rule specifically makes a difference between catches in the end zone and catches in the rest of the field of play. Minor was inbounds when he caught the ball, having left the ground from the Field of Play; when he landed out of bounds, the play was already over, because he touched the end zone first.
"ARTICLE 7. a. Any forward pass is incomplete if the ball is out of bounds by
rule or if it touches the ground when not firmly controlled by a player. It also is
incomplete when a player leaves his feet and receives the pass but first lands on
or outside a boundary line, unless his progress has been stopped in the field of
play or end zone (Rule 4-1-3-p) (A.R. 2-2-7-III and A.R. 7-3-7-I)."
Further evidence: the ball was firmly in control by Brandon Minor; his progress was stopped when he hit the goal line pylon; the goal line pylon is considered part of the end zone. Thusly, Brandon Minor scored a Touchdown to confuse us all.
This makes sense, right?
Thomas VanHaaren interviews MD CB Travis Hawkins.
One of the top cornerback recruits on Michigan's board is Travis Hawkins. Travis is 5' 11" 180 pounds, and he runs a 4.42 40. He's considered a 4 star by the recruiting sites, and has only been playing at that position for this year. He's a talented kid, that has a lot of upside on both sides of the ball. Take a look at what he had to say.
TOM: How has your recruitment been so far?
TRAVIS: It’s been going well. I’ve been to Michigan and Oregon on my officials. I was supposed to take one to Penn State this past weekend, but our game was cancelled because of a power outage so I couldn’t go. I’m going to Maryland and Florida State also.
TOM: What's your favorite part?
TRAVIS: Just knowing that I’m wanted by the top colleges. Some of the calls from the coaches are pretty cool, to talk to guys that are famous. The stuff you have to go through is a lot, but it’ll be worth it.
TOM: Are you down to a top 5 or top 3? Who are they?
TRAVIS: I have a top 5. Maryland, Penn State, Michigan, Oregon, and WVU and Central Florida are in the mix too.
TOM: When narrowing it down to a top 5, what factors in to that?
TRAVIS: Academics are a big part, the environment on game day, my recruiting class is important to me, if I develop a bond with the other recruits. I’m a people person; I want to get along with my future team mates.
TOM: Is everyone recruiting you at cornerback?
TRAVIS: Most schools feel like I can play both sides of the ball, Central Florida will let me decide. Michigan said I can play both sides. Most likely it will be corner; I’m still deciding what I want to play.
TOM: I read that you liked Michigan and Oregon; they seem to be who you talk about most. What stands out with them, and what are the differences?
TRAVIS: Michigan’s academic advisors were the best of any visits. They are really glued to their success. Coach Rodriguez is really relevant, he’s a good coach. Maryland is up there too, and my mom wants me to go there, and stay close to home. The coaches are cool and I really get along with the players too. Oregon is my dream school. I took a visit, and I like the coaches. Their facilities are ridiculous man, and the players are real cool too.
TOM: Do you think that you and Jason Ankrah will be a package deal? Are you both looking at different schools?
TRAVIS: We’d like to be a package deal, but some schools he’s looking at and I’m not. Where ever I go I hope he goes, but it’s not a make or break thing.
TOM: What happened with Penn State? He tried to commit and then didn’t?
TRAVIS: It was a miscommunication between the two; they’ll take him whenever he’s ready. Penn State is everything I’m looking for in a school. We both like it a lot; I’m going to set up another official there soon.
TOM: Is playing early a factor in deciding where you go?
TRAVIS: Yea it is. Most likely I’m going to graduate early; anywhere I go I feel like I could compete, either on offense or defense.
TOM: Has anyone put out any offers with conditions? If we don't get this guy, then we want you?
TRAVIS: No, I haven’t heard any of that. No coaches have put that out there for me, which is good.
TOM: When do you plan on committing?
TRAVIS: My date was November 3rd, but I’m pushing it back to the first week in December, or if I take a couple more officials, I might just commit where ever I feel comfortable.
TOM: Is it hard to stay grounded, and stay focused with your newfound celebrity?
TRAVIS: Not really, I try to put it in the back of my mind. There are a lot of people in my community that look up to me, so it’s good to be known. But you got to know how to handle it. I’m handling it well. The all American stuff, I’ll be playing in the Army All American game. Where ever I go, I’m still going to stay close with the people in my community.
TOM: What do you bring to the table? What are your strengths and weaknesses?
TRAVIS: My aggressiveness is definitely a strength, the way I play both the pass/run, and this is my first year playing corner so they don’t look at my last year’s film. They look more at my potential. They see me playing corner, even though I played safety my junior year.
TOM: What are other coaches saying about Michigan this year?
TRAVIS: Nothing really, they’re having a down year and coaches bring that up. There’s nothing really negative that they say.
TOM: It seems like you've got a good training program for yourself, and you run a 4.42, is there anything you want to improve on for College?
TRAVIS: I want to work on my backpedal, if I work on my start on my 40 I think I could get it faster. I want to learn the skills a little better, since I haven’t played corner too long. Mike Barwis at Michigan was ridiculous. He was saying stuff I’ve never heard of. He had me doing some stuff in the weight room, I couldn’t believe it.
TOM: I can't be too biased, but Michigan will have some of the best facilities in 2010, there’s 110,000 fans at every game, good national TV exposure, the players consistently go to the NFL. Is there anywhere else that compares with what Michigan brings to the table?
TRAVIS: I mean just knowing it’s Michigan, the tradition is crazy. I really like the academics part and the coaches. I talked to Coach Rodriguez a lot he was real cool. So yea it’s a good place to be.
of the defensive break down is up, those of you that believe the crap about shafer not knowing what he's doing, or about bad schemes, or about us not playing man to man, and only rushing three, might be a bit upset about the first half... im sure the second half will be different, but only becasue michigan in the first half, stuffed what msu was trying to do. feel free to comment on the break down... Those of you that have listend to what i have been saying about what our main problems have been on defense, and what Shafer has to do to make up for them, will see what im talking about. Note without film, or brians UFR clips they might not be that good for ya, but oh well. I'm only doing it for you guys, so bite me if you dont like it.
since i have to have 200 words ill say this. The problem's are easy to see, but not easy to eliminate. I cant tell you how many times over the course of a season i have watched bad plays by bad players. You show it to them, you rep. it in practice, you think you get it, then BAM there it is again. If you have someone else that can play, then its an easy fix, if not, it takes months and months to teach technique that becomes second nature, and muscle memory.
Commentator Hat asked in a mgoboard post he made about Minnesota's defense, wondering aloud how they could elevate from the worst in CFB to more than serviceable this season, so much so that the unit is helping tp spearhead one of the most dramatic single season turnarounds in Big 10 and college football history. I have some thoughts on the Minnesota team, but rather than keeping that thread going, I figured I would hog all the glory and write a diary piece on the matter.
I like this Golden Gopher team as I have bet on them four times (all winners) bet against them once (a loss) and taken the Over in two of their games (one win, one loss). Needless to say, I have found myself watching a lot of the Gophers this season. Here's how I see their turnaround happened, with much of the focus on the defensive end, which began the question in the first place. One caveat is that I am banging this out at work, so it might be a little unorganized and not every fact 100% true. Hey, I am writing on a blog, what do you expect.......J/K.
Send in The Fixer
First year defensive coordinator Ted Roof has gained a reputation throughout his career of turning around previosly bad defenses and molding them into quality stop units. He was the DC at Georgia Tech for 2000 and 2001. In 2000, the Jackets were 12th nationally in rush defense and 20th in scoring D. In 2001, the defense was ranked 23rd in overall total D. After that season, he moved to Duke, where the Devils defense had put up similar numbers to Minny's D last season. In his first year in Durham, the Devils, who had had the nation's 113th ranked total defense the year before, had the league top rushing defense and in 2002, they were ranked 58th nationally in total D. He knows how to turn bad defenses around, even if the reclamtion project is taking place at a program not known football winning, like Duke. Or now at Minnesota.
Unfortuneatly, Roof was such a good DC that he got the head coach position at Duke. Typically, he failed there, as most would and was fired after winning only 8 games in a four year stretch as the head man. Make no mistake, however, this guy can coach a defense. Many have defended UM's DC Scott Shaffer due to his reputation of being one of the best, young up and coming DCs in the country. Well, that was Roof before he made the fateful decision to take the Duke head coaching job. Free from task of first head coaching gig at a lonely, lowly place for football, Roof has said he feels rejuventated. He's probably having the most fun coaching football as he's had in a long time.
The results show on the field. The Gophers were the worst in the country last year in total yards allowed, permitting 518 yards a game. This season, they're giving up just 362 per game, good for 68th nationally. They've improved from 36.7 points per game (109th nationally) to 17.1 points per game (20th nationally). Only 11 football teams across the land have picked off more passes than the Gophers oppurtunistic D.
The Fixer has succeeded in turning around another defense. He ought to be a strong candidate for the Frank Brolyes Award, given annually to the best asssitant coach in the country.
Cupboard Not Bare
The Gophers weren't devoid of talent, but it was far and few in between. However, Minnesota has received solid to great play from the holdovers of last year's porous D. They had a good defensive line to begin with with Willie VanDeSteeg, Garrett Brown, Lee Campbell and Steve Davis. Michigan fans may remember Davis as the freshmen phenon the OL could not block in the 2005 Jug Game. This foursome is probably among the top 3 DL's in the conference and have a combined 18.5 sacks and 21.5 TFLs. As long as you have a solid DL, you can creat a good defense, right? Deon Hightower is a solid LB. Kyle Theret at Safety was thrown to the wolves last year as an undersized true freshmen. He's responded with a breakout second season, leading the team in INTs and second in tackles. He has a Jamar Adams type of game and tackles anything that comes near him.
Jazzing it up with Jucos
So, the Gophers weren't devoid of defensive talent and had a pretty good defensive line to build off. Despite that, this defense would not be clicking had they not had an influx of new talent to work with. Roof was hired after the recruiting season, so this is all the work of Head Coach Tim Brewster. He dipped into the JUCO ranks and signed six guys to play defense, three of whom have stepped right in to revamp the Gophers back seven which leaked like a sieve all last year.
Traimaine Brock (1, FS), Traye Simmons (15, CB) and Simoni Lawrence (21, OLB) have been JUCO revelations for this program. Newcomers to the team this season, that trio represents three of the team's top five tacklers and have given Minnesota big play potential. What's interesting is not one of them is playing the position they played last fall in Junior College. Brock was a corner, but now a free safety, Simmons a safety, but now a corner and Lawrence, a safety, now an outside LB. Lawrence has really impressed me. He plays up on the line a lot, next to one of Minny's pass rush specialists, either Davis and VanDeSteeg. Folks, this is pretty tough to block. Lawrence has had a big season with 3.5 sacks, 6.5 TFLs and he's scored a pair of defensive touchdowns. He's a big play waiting to happen. I cant wait to see how Michigan blocks him.
Minnesota has gone from one of the worst turnover margins in the nation to one of the best. They were -15 last year, and this year, I suspect they're over +10. I dont have those at my finger tips. Obviously, the recrafted secondary has a lot to do with that on the defensive end, but credit here belongs on the offense on many levels. QB Adam Weber threw 24 picks in his freshmen season. He has 3 this season. Wow. Just wow. Michigan is heading for a -10 or higher turnover margin this season, but ask yourself, how much better the team would be if they get a reversal like the Gophers have had? Or even enough change in fortune to break even on turnovers. The Wolverines would be at least 2 wins better in the standings, if not more.
Yeah, but they've played a high school schedule
The Gophers have not played a murder's row of a slate and they have the fortune of skipping MSU and PSU this year. However, that should not detract from their accomplishments. Both last year and this year, they played BGSU and FAU. Last year, they allowed over 30 to each team. This season, only 20 points combined. Last year, IU, Illinois and Purdue all had scored more than 40 on the Gophers before November rolled around. This season, a combined 35 points between those three teams. Their schedule may be 'meh' at best, but its basically the same slate they struggled to a 1-10 mark against last year. This is no faux improvement.
Ok, genius, you lost me about 1,000 words ago. Does this have anything to do with Michigan?
Oh yeah, about that. Clearly, we should fire Shaffer and hire Roof the Fixer. Actually, thats not a bad idea, but Roof is probably going to get another HC coach in the future and will probably stay at Minnesota until that inevitable offer comes his way. And, I took an oath, with many others here ,not to seriously call for anyone's head in the first year. One thing I like about Roof as a DC as opposed to Shaffer is that he's not rigid with his system. He's basically putting his best guys out there on the field and turning them loose. They have a new DC, but unlike the UM players right now perhaps they're not as burdened by trying to learn a fancy new system, which, like their offensive counter parts, might not exactly match their own personal skill sets.
In Shafer's defense, however, you could argue that Roof inherited as many quality, proven defensive players as Shaffer did. Honestly, I dont think that is a far fetched argument. The defensive lines are basically a wash, perhaps a slight nod to UM. But the LB Hightower and S Theret are better tacklers right now than anyone in the Michigan Back 7.
What Roof has that Shafer lacked are all those JUCO trump cards that he's been able to insert into the lineup and play all over the field. I will not suggest that Michigan hand out scholarships to a half dozen JUCO prospects a la Brewster. But, the lesson here, though, is to be creative with where players go on the field. Would the Gophers be as good now if they played Lawrence at his JUCO position of Safety? No. In fact, they're better because he was moved to that hybrid OLB spot, where he's been downright dominant for stretches of games. With this year's freshmen and next season's recruits, we can only hope that Michigan can find its Brock, Lawrence and Simmons they way the Gophers did this season. And, if so, its reasonable to think (in large part due to the testimonials of GSimms) that Shafer will use those parts to the benefit of his Okie D.
Minnesota in 2007/2008 is a case study for Michigan. They had tremendous success under Glen Mason. They were in a bowl game virtually every year and Mason, while never breaking through into the upper ranks of the Big 10, still led the Gophers to its best era of football in years. They set records for having multiple 1,000 yard backs in the same season. But, they canned him in favor of a younger, more energetic guy who ran the, gasp, spread. A 1-11 season ensued with a lot of people tsk tsking the administration for making the coaching change. Now Michigan has all the pundits mocking them for going the spread route and ruining decades of tradtion. We see what Minnesota is doing in Year 2 of their spread. We can only hope Michigan sees similar improvement.
The only other item worth stressing is the turnovers. Over the last 25 years, 70 percent of the teams who finished the season with a negative, double digit turnover margin went on to improve their record the next year. And, in the Big 10 we've seen woeful teams climb significantly in the standings by rebounding their TO margin the following season. Penn St did the trick from 2002 to 2003 going from 4 wins to a New Year's Day Bowl. Illinois went from 2-10 in 2006 to the Rose Bowl the following. And, now, we have the Gophers after a 1-10, 0-8 in the league season, starting directly at January football.