Hello. Things that transpired in my absence:
Basketball got splattered by Purdue. Hello, reality. You suck. Michigan hadn't played terribly in a game anyone could see yet this year, but they did so yesterday, and those NCAA bubble dreams should be shelved. From the first Jajuan Johnson undefendable hook shot it was clear Purdue was on another level from Michigan's previous victims, especially on defense. Michigan had far too many possessions where the ball barely approached the three-point line until there were ten seconds on the shot clock. The resulting chuck-fest was reminiscent of Amaker's teams.
Michigan's comeback at the end of the first half was nice to see—Stu Douglass was so on fire he drove to the basket for an easy layup that wasn't blocked into the third row—but even as it was happening I was thinking "this can't last." Lo, it did not.
A side note: Purdue employed a strategy I've long thought is a low-cost way to lower your opponent's efficiency: a token press. Don't trap, don't get yourself out of position for easy buckets, just defend all 90 feet. Michigan crossed the half-court line four or five seconds later than they would have normally and often struggled to initiate the offense when the ballhandler picked up his dribble just past the line. On a half-dozen possessions Michigan had no semblance of an offense until half the shot clock was gone.
A kicker committed. I've searched for this a million times already so I know it's not out there but this, truly, is news that should be met with that bit of Monty Python and the Holy Grail wherein the animated peasants give a desultory "hurrah." The tubes don't have this because if you type "holy grail peasants" you get this a billion times:
Which is fine and all but doesn't have much relevance to Michigan's kicker situation. He's Matt Goudis, Tim all typed him up and stuff, and he should be a massive upgrade for Michigan's national-worst field goal kicking.
I'm most encouraged by the bit of the ESPN profile that says he's a "refined ball striker"—yes, yes, that's what she said—with a "motion that's very repeatable"—ditto—since Michigan went with a guy who didn't have great technique but made a lot of high school field goals in Brendan Gibbons and that didn't so much work out. I don't really care if kickers can hit 50-yarders since in most situations you're better off going for it in that portion of the field; give me a Garrett Rivas any day of the week.
Anthony Zettel committed… to Penn State. Guh. If Zettel was going to wait until the 28th of December, what's one more week to see if Rodriguez is retained or booted and if the latter who his replacement would be? That's a major loss for the class and a guy who will rankle every time he does something for Penn State, and one that would have been averted with one more win somewhere along the way this year.
Tate Forcier said a bunch of stuff. Angelique Chengelis scored an excellent interview with Tate Forcier at some of the Gator Bowl festivities. The bit most directly relevant to the "will he or won't he" stuff:
But not long after the UConn game, a posting on Twitter [ed: by that swimsuit model] said Forcier would transfer.
"That was like the fourth time I'd heard that," Forcier said. "I would have left if I was leaving. You just never know what can happen. It's God's plan. You don't know who's watching, and it's really what you make of it. So I stuck it out. It was actually after the UConn game that I just decided I'm going to stick here at least for this year.
"I think it took time for me. If I were to leave, I didn't realize what I would be leaving. One of the things I noticed, everyone who left would have had a shot to play if they would have stayed."
Forcier also says Michigan's system is "tailor-made" for Denard, that he "knows he can run" the offense but that "Denard is better in it, honestly." All of this sounds like a guy resigned to the idea he's a backup at Michigan if he stays, which is a mature way to approach things… and almost certainly provides strong motivation to depart after the year. He's certainly going to think about it:
"Anytime somebody says something to me about leaving, I say, 'I'm still here, aren't I?" Forcier said, pulling his jacket hard to make sure the Michigan logo is properly displayed. "You still see me with all this Michigan stuff on me. This is me. I'm already acclimated to everything here. The education is something you can't pass up.
"You never know what could happen. I just think it's really about what you make of it. When I get in (games), I try to do what I can do and make the most of it. I'm pretty much going to ride my own road. It's up to me."
I do have a credible-seeming email in the inbox about Montana getting a big time I-A QB transfer from a "west coast kid not on the west coast," FWIW, but even if that points to Forcier no names are in it. Since Forcier has a redshirt available it would seem to make more sense for him to transfer to another D-I school, anyway.
I hope he stays but you can't blame him for leaving. We'll always have triple overtime against Illinois.
Old man yelled at cloud. A guy in the News who literally writes Gil Thorpe wrote some thing about how Rich Rodriguez is a slippery money-grubbing so-and-so with a distinctly Hun disposition that's about what you'd expect from Gil Thorpe:
wsg Ming The Merciless
I'm not going to rehash the usual defense of Rich Rodriguez's contractual whatnot—in brief it's "John Beilein, saint"—but here's an oh snap from MVictors in response to the assertion that "Fielding Yost didn’t sign contract extensions and then flirt with other schools to extort raises":
“No matter how long Yost’s contract was (one-year, two-year, five-year) in his first decade, it was always a source of relief in Ann Arbor every late-Nov/early-Dec when he announced he was for sure coming back. Occasionally, there were reports he was considering an offer from, say, Wisconsin — or from the East. One year he even boldly and publicly disputed the wording of his contract as to whether he’d be allowed to coach elsewhere if he opted out of coaching Michigan. Another year he threatened to retire, he was so discouraged. Yost worked it masterfully to his own advantage."
If you think the response to this column has been harsh check out the comments on any Gil Thorpe online, wherein a bunch of snarky hipsters snark at each other about how terrible Gil Thorpe is.
Jim Harbaugh was like "oh no he di'in't." The report about Harbaugh signing an extension and staying at Stanford from the Stanford AD—always questionable—was obliterated by one Jim Harbaugh:
Harbaugh has yet to sign with Stanford, and when asked about his supposedly pending contract extension he stated:
"I haven't even discussed it."
Perhaps more interesting, when asked to respond to remarks from the Stanford AD implying that Harbaugh will sign the contract, "Maybe he misspoke."
Denard said he was "100 percent." Eeeee:
“He’s not banged up anymore,” receiver Roy Roundtree said. “He’s ready to go and he’s just getting the offense ready.”
Robinson didn’t divulge how much of an impact the injuries had on his performance, but he said while speaking at the team’s hotel that he was now “100 percent.”
Martavious Odoms became available for the Gator Bowl. Michigan's wide receiver depth gets a boost:
"Rodriguez says Odoms has been able to do everything in practice and should be good to go in the bowl game."
7-5 Iowa, fresh off a loss to Minnesota, beat Missouri. Good start for the Big Ten and a reason for the conference to be thankful the bowl matchups shook out the way they did—would Michigan have any chance to stay within two touchdowns of Blaine Gabbert and company with their secondary? Probably not.
The big story as far as 2011 goes was Marcus Coker bulldozing the Missouri defense for 200 yards and establishing himself the next obvious target for the wrath of Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God. If he's not struck down by providence, it looks like Iowa's got themselves a version of Beanie Wells the next few years.
Billy Sauer fought Bobby Goepfert. Seriously:
Billy's in the ECHL now. This kind of stuff happens.
Etc.: Ryan Mallett is an "overrated prospect who definitely should return" to Arkansas because he's got a bad case of the Stanzis (Stanzi as a junior, anyway). A few players had trouble getting to Jacksonville because of weather. There was also an "impromptu dance-off." Smart Football emerged from hibernation. Michigan will not have Jon Merrill and Chris Brown for the GLI (which starting tonight with a game against Michigan Tech) as both made the World Junior team. Craig Roh is a nice dude.
Rob Lytle. Rob Lytle was before my time, so I can't offer anything personal in reaction to his death at the young age of 56. Wolverine Historian has dug through his archives and posted an interview with him from his playing days:
"He was special," Hanlon said Sunday. "He had a confidence about him which never showed up as cockiness. He was just always a team player: 'What can I do to help?'" …
"You would never have known he was a great Michigan football player or professional football player," [Bruce] Madej said. "He didn't talk about it. He was anything but a big-timer. He was a nice, unassuming good guy. He was truly a good guy."
The second thing I will remember about Rob Lytle was his helmet. He played alongside some really tough and mean customers like S Don Dufek, DT Greg "Mo" Morton, S Dwight Hicks and OLB Calvin O'Neal. Most of these guys had Wolverine helmet awards completely covering the surface of their striped, winged, Michigan football helmet. Lytle's Michigan helmet was loaded with helmet awards too, but he front of the helmet was a mess. I mean, the Maize paint was all screwed up, scratched and blended. Lytle's head covering was put through so much abuse, you couldn't tell where the Michigan wings ended and the stripes began.
That thing's been through a war. Several wars.
Lytle had a great career with the Broncos after his Michigan days and Huckleby4Heisman collected some of the articles out of Denver, including what's probably the first and last Woody Paige column I'll happily link. From some NFL teammates:
"He wasn't the fastest guy in the league, but he got the tough yards every time," Morton said. "He would run through a brick wall for his team every time if he had to."
In his seven NFL seasons, all with the Broncos, Lytle rushed for 1,451 yards and 12 touchdowns and also had 562 yards receiving and two scores.
"He was an all-around player," Thompson said. "He ran hard. He could catch the ball well. He wasn't afraid to block. He was just an all-around good athlete."
The Broncos' vice president for corporate communications also has a post that's far more touching than his job title implies. RIP, Rob Lytle.
Soccer triumphant. Unless you are a Wisconsin fan, if you missed Sunday's NCAA tourney game against UCF you missed the most entertaining sporting event on Michigan's campus last weekend. Michigan launched 30 shots before overtime kicked in, then finally got the goal to put them over the top on a zinged-in free kick from Hamoody Saad that glanced off Latif Alashe on its way in but was probably destined for the net anyway. Also one of UCF's best players was rocking a Wesley Snipes in Demolition Man high top fade. It was wicked.
In the aftermath, the team performed a reverse field rush by running into the student section. Justin Meram was shirtless and airborne:
#10 Michigan takes on #7 South Carolina in the third round. Unfortunately, they also scraped an overtime goal against Duke so the next game will be on the road. There doesn't appear to be any TV, which makes me cranky. Game is Sunday at 2.
BONUS: Yes, Meram does have a year of eligibility left for football if he wants to try his hand at kicker, but my friend exclaimed "he's better than Robbie Findley" in all seriousness and it was tough to disagree. A pro career probably beckons.
So about those incredibly obvious trends I got torn apart for mentioning. I got torn apart by rival fanbases for suggesting two things this offfseason. One: Penn State's quarterback situation is alarming and dismal. Two: Iowa wasn't all that great in 2009 and was overrated going into 2010. It was looking pretty good for thing one until Michigan's defense showed up to un-save the day and Matt McGloin experienced two and a half games in which he was Brett Favre before turning into Brett Favre in the second half against Ohio State. PSU's 71st in passer efficiency and while that's not good it's not as bad as I thought it would be before the season.
The other thing, well… remember this?
I don't think Iowa will be bad, exactly, but I'd be less surprised by the Hawkeyes finishing fifth in the Big Ten than second.
And remember the BHGP response to this?
And I guess that's what is so sad about this. Because this is idiotic, and it is clueless, and it is so against character that it deserves to be called idiotic and clueless. Either Cook didn't realize it's moronic, which makes him the least likely moron I've ever met, or Cook knew it (the title gives it away), and that basically makes him Tom Dienhart this time. Regardless of the motivation, it's beneath him.
Iowa's now 7-4 and featuring in Doc Sat "Life on the Margins" posts about how Iowa's lost that old crunch-time feeling while Fight For Iowa should really be adding pictures of Henry The Otter of Ennui to a post titled "The Wastelands of Mediocrity" that went up even before the OSU game. They're headed for 8-4 since their last game is against Minnesota and will thus be at worst tied for fourth in the league (Penn State is also 4-3 and can match them by beating MSU in the season finale), but preseason skepticism about Iowa turned out to be something less than idiotic and clueless.
Something less than rabid careless monsters. Pierre Woods was chilling out in Ann Arbor, working as a groundskeeper and trying to keep in playing shape after the Patriots cut him earlier in the year. He did so by hanging out with Barwis, and is grateful:
“The guys at Michigan, man, they prepared me,” Woods told me. “Trust me. They prepared me. The head strength coach (Mike Barwis), the assistant (Parker Whiteman), I’m pretty sure they got tired of seeing my face up in there, but they allowed me to work out, use the facilities, go around, eat, everything. They treated me like family. You play at Michigan, you come back, they treat you like family. I got nothing but love for those guys and I appreciate what they did.”
Woods got back on the Patriots and is extending his NFL career somewhat. He did yoga with Mike Barwis and his family. Wolves doing yoga, basically.
Etc.: Wisconsin blog breaks down the 61-yard touchdown but starts after the guy is already through the line. That's 95% of the play! TWIS embeds the same things from the game column and tours that one USC board after the demolition at the hands of Oregon State. Michigan is going to a bowl game so AnnArbor.com brings out the same complaint from the previous academics investigation: academic folk get to go. Hurray for that being a relevant thing to bleat about again. The Daily on Troy Woolfolk's recovery from an ankle dislocation. Have a thought for the Michigan class of 2011, which started its career watching the Horror and finished it watching whatever that was against Wisconsin, with mostly crap in between.