2011 notre dame
Hey, Butch Woolfolk, are you excited for the game tonight?
Agreed, Butch. How do you feel about it being the last Michigan-Notre Dame home game for the foreseeable future?
We're on the same wavelength, Butch.
[If you're wondering "why?" those are from the intros to the '81 ND game. For many more GIFs from Notre Dame games of the past, hit THE JUMP.]
Dear Diary was going to be in this spot this morning, but the site was 504-ing and I couldn't get at all my precious tabs. So instead you get Esther McCleery.
My good friend Nate is certainly the most interesting person I've ever met. He's one of those diamonds from the middle of nowhere that the University of Michigan goes out of its way to collect, the nowhere in this case being Eastern Kentucky and the middle being a small town called Grayson. I'll save you his list of accomplishments because he'll be famous enough one day for all of them to end up in a book.
In a town like Grayson hoarding is one of the things that register on a list of pastimes. While sorting through one trove Nate found a stack of old copies of Life magazine and brought them with him to our college reunion last weekend. Inside he found and framed enough ads for bourbon to keep Kentucky bars well-tchotchke'd for a decade.
This he was doing at the breakfast table on Saturday morning while another friend and I were trying to justify to our wives why we're blowing what could have been a Europe trip on a few upcoming Saturdays.
That's when Nate serendipitously discovered an article on Homecoming in the November 1959 issue. Hey it's our band:
That's the only photo in the article that's pointed at the field. Life's photographer instead spent the 4th quarter with his camera turned toward Class of '34 alumna Esther McCleery. I'll reproduce that for you now:
HOMECOMING SPIRIT at game is shown in the mobile face of Mrs. Esther McCleery, class of '34 at Michigan. Above Mrs. McCleery screams, "Go, Team, Go, this is it!" as Michigan, behind 16-10 in final quarter, intercepts pass deep in Wisconsin territory. "All right, Blue," Mrs. McCleery bellows. "This is it, we've got 'em now."
But a moment later Michigan fumbles and Mrs. McCleery's face falls (below)
In the final minutes of the game, she dejectedly watches Wisconsin wrap it up with a field goal. "We've had it but good," she mutters.
But she brightened. "Next year we'll get 'em," she says.
Everyone ought to see Notre Dame du Paris (NOTE-rruh Dahm) one time in their life just to appreciate the feats of art and engineering that mankind can accomplish when we feel like it. To understand why we'd ever build such things, first you ought to experience something like Notre Dame at Michigan, since there are few other things in the world—other than gaining or losing another human being—that can make you truly appreciate the depths of emotions that make being a human animal quite worthwhile.
29 days, Esther.
The BCS is now talking about a four team playoff and even Jim Delany is in. This is sort of about declining attendance (but not really), sort of about declining viewership (indirectly) and 1000% about this graph from a Neilsen "State of the Media" report on sports.
And then football:
Both the big basketball increase and big football decrease can be explained by external events. CBS finally realized it was the 18th century and split first-round games across four channels instead of forcing you to watch Local State U beat up on a 15 seed when Kansas (always Kansas) is suffering an incredible upset across the country. The BCS moved off broadcast to cable. But when paired with declining interest, the cavern between postseason formats screams "grit your teeth and do something literally everyone else wants."
BONUS: Nielsen lists the five most-watched games of the year:
1 vs 2 games, the Rose Bowl, the 3 vs 4 Fiesta, and random Michigan games not featuring awesome teams.
[HT: a message board!]
via The Shredder
- South Florida, 23-20 (L)
- @ Michigan, 35-31 (L)
- No. 15 Michigan State, 31-13 (W)
- @ Pittsburgh, 15-12 (W)
- @ Purdue, 38-10 (W)
- Air Force, 59-33 (W)
- USC, 31-17 (L)
- Navy, 56-14 (W)
- @ Wake Forest, 24-17 (W)
- Maryland, 45-21 (W)
- Boston College, 16-14 (W)
- @ No. 6 Stanford, 28-14 (L)
Rankings/Standings: Unranked; borderline Top 25 team receiving a couple votes in each poll.
|Scoring:||30.5 ppg, 44th||20.9 ppg, 28th|
|Total:||424.1 ypg, 34th||348.8 ypg, 34th|
|Rush:||166.0 ypg, 51st||147.1 ypg, 58th|
|Pass:||258.1 ypg, 33rd||201.7 ypg, 34th|
|T/O margin:||-13 (+13, -26), 115th|
Season recap [wsg ed-S taking a metaphor way further]: Year two of the Brian Kelly regime was rough sailing. It wasn’t that they lost four games; it was that they lost four games in creative and terrible ways.
The Irish entered the season ranked 16th in the nation only to drop their first two games in television-shattering fashion. This mass destruction of TV sets explains why nobody now remembers their 31-13 thrashing of Michigan State. Those old CRTs had to go anyway though, and this meant the few Notre Dame fans who hadn't checked themselves into some sort of facility for the psychologically damaged and turnover-prone got to watch Tommy Rees and co. beat up some mediocre teams (and a couple more turnover meltdowns to rivals USC and Stanford) in crystal high-def.
There were some close, ugly wins here and there, but the story of the 2011 Irish was dominance split and bookended by wanton TV carnage.
Notre Dame’s biggest problem was with turnovers, and if you really want to point fingers (you do) you’d be epic-Hoke-double-pointing at the Irish quarterbacks. QB Tommy Rees and backup Dayne Crist combined for 19 TDs and 13 INTs plus a handful of fumbles that put Kelly on the fast track to vascular dementia. But then yea in the last half of the last game there came in sophomore Andrew Hendrix to lead an almost-comeback v. Stanford and rekindle hope for the future. Hope might have been 11-24 for 192 yards, 1TD and 1 INT but it does come in a golden dome.
That 20/14 TD/INT ratio is not so good if you’re a passing spread offense. To compare, Tony Pike and Zach Collaros combined for 39 TDs and just 8 INTs during Kelly’s last year at Cincinnati.
Coaching clearly contributed. Despite being equipped with two explosive running backs and a powerful offensive line, Kelly relied too much on his turnover-prone quarterbacks to make plays.
Stephen Dunn / Getty Images
This led to him turning purple when they did something stupid, which was often.
The playcalling cost them the game against USC and contributed to a couple other losses. Against the Trojans, RB Cierre Wood and RB Jonas Gray combined for 43 yards on a paltry 9 carries. It’s only fitting that the game-breaking play was a fumbled snap as Crist dropped back to pass on third-and-goal from the one.
via The Chicago Tribune
That said, the Irish were approximately two plays away from a 10-2 season and a possible BCS bowl.
They looked like a BCS bowl-contending team on paper. The Notre Dame offense came well stocked with skill players who should have been able to make up for the signalcallers’ weaknesses given the right coaching and game planning. The defense was filled with talent too, and despite some horrific breakdowns here and there they shoulda woulda have posted better stats had the offense not been coughing up the ball every other series. Their front seven demolished Michigan State’s run game, and we all remember what they did to Michigan’s offense for most of Under The Lights.
The defensive unit as a whole also held Matt Barkley and Andrew luck to mediocre performances, and it was the defense that allowed the Irish to survive the ugly games against Pittsburgh and Boston College to prevent the team from going 6-6.
In sum, the Irish had enough talent on both sides of the ball to stack up to the best teams in the country, but turnovers and embarrassing collapses during big games condemned them to a disappointing season.
Best win: No. 15 Michigan State
Worst loss: All of them.
When Michigan played them, we thought they were as frightening as: A seven year old with an M80 because they were as prone to hurting themselves as they were to hurting other people. Fear level = 6.
But now we know they are as frightening as: A 13 year old with an M80 -- about the same as before but now with a recently discovered, poorly developed taste in fashion. 6.
What this win meant for Michigan: Every flaw born of the coaching transition got exposed in this game: ineffectiveness from the I-formation, no intermediate passing game, Denard’s interception-fest, NFL blitzes without NFL-calibre players, and the clear lack of a number one running back despite the promise shown a week earlier. All the warts were well lit and on full display, yet somehow Michigan still managed to win.
That’s not to say the Wolverines didn’t do anything right and don’t deserve credit for the win as much as Notre Dame deserves credit for the loss. The game did also provide the first glimpses of the defense’s third-and-short domination, the emergence of Jeremy Gallon as a reliable weapon as a return man and receiver, the rise of the “jump-ball” offense (a.k.a. say what you want about Denard’s passing, but all your defensive backs are belong to Michigan’s receivers), the inaugural supereffective throwback screen, and abundant reaffirmation that Denard still has It.
Over the course of the season the Wolverines would work out most of the bad things while retaining most of the good things. Sounds simplistic, but if that isn’t QED for the superior level of coaching at Michigan, I don’t know what is.
The biggest disappointment about the win over the Irish is the Irish. Notre Dame losing their first and last games meant that the Wolverines beat a tough team that was ranked neither at the time nor at the end of the season. It doesn’t really matter now because Michigan made a BCS bowl anyway, but having the second-best beaten opponent be more competitive down the stretch wouldn’t have hurt.
And it totally felt as awesome as: Watching this video over and over and over.
“But he’s a poor thrower!”
Bowl game: Champs Sports Bowl vs. Florida State, Dec. 29 at 4:30 p.m. EST
I said I would write a final opponent watch to recap the season. This is not it. I'll have that one next week.
About Last Saturday:
Bad guys - 0, Good guys - a billion
(more after the jump)
(Wait. Which one is Michigan playing again?)
About Last Weekend:
No. 16 Nebraska 17, No. 18 Michigan 45 (W)
"Guess why I smile a lot."
"Uh, 'cause it's worth it."
The Road Ahead:
Ohio State (6-5, 3-4 B1G)
Getty / via the Huffington Post
- Akron, 42-0 (W)
- Toledo, 27-22 (W)
- @ Miami, 24-6 (L)
- Colorado, 37-17 (W)
- Michigan State, 10-7 (L)
- @ No. 14 Nebraska, 34-27 (L)
- @ No. 16 Illinois, 17-7 (W)
- No. 15 Wisconsin, 33-29 (W)
- Indiana, 34-20
- @ Purdue 26-23 OT (LOL)
Last game: No. 21 Penn State 20, Ohio State 14 (L)
Recap: Recap. Have to do a recap. Last recap. Gotta finish by the end of Tuesday. Tuesday's over. Damn. Gotta finish by Wednesday. One-day-late Championship recap. Okay.
... Ohio State fell into a hole early. Penn State RB Stephfon Green took a run up the middle, evaded some tackles, and sprinted 39 yards for a touchdown. 7-0 Nittany Lions.
The ensuing Buckeyes drive stalled because Ohio State C Mike Brewster snapped the ball into his ass while QB Braxton Miller was in shotgun formation. (I think this is when this particular bad snap happened. Bad snaps happened many times throughout this game. I think Brewster ended up blaming it on his gloves.)
Penn State drove and got a field goal, miring the Buckeyes in their third 10-0 deficit in as many weeks.
Ohio State wasn’t dead, though. Not yet. Miller ran the option to good effect and scored on a 24-yard keeper; most of the Buckeyes’ large chunks on the ground came from his option keepers, which is to say he kept the ball every time. He and Denard are both members of the “never pitch” movement.
That’s not anything relevant, but I google imaged “option keeper” and it’s what I got.
Also, WR DeVier Posey returned from suspension. He didn’t make a huge impact (4 catches, 66 yards), but he was pretty much the entire passing offense, and he did do this.
All of this game’s points were scored in the first half before the allure of B1G football got the better of both teams. Penn State scored another touchdown and field goal in the first half but failed to convert on a redzone opportunity in the second half when Ohio State turned the ball over on a fumble.
On that possession, the Buckeyes defense mounted an impressive goal-line stand to keep the Nittany Lions out of the end zone.
The second Buckeye touchdown came in the second quarter when Braxton Miller found TE Jake Stoneburner on a deep crossing route in the end zone. It was an impressive throw. Something tells me that he might eventually be pretty good when he’s given a real offense to work with.
You probably know the rest. Ohio State drove ferociously for a Hail Mary opportunity in the final minutes, but the first fourth-down conversion fell short when a Miller scramble, set back by a false-start penalty, fell short of the first down marker. The second attempt after a quick Penn State three-and-out fell incomplete because Penn State actually knows how to cover receivers. Unlike you, Wisconsin. For shame.
Right now they are as frightening as: Voldemort down to his last Horcrux.
Michigan should worry about: When you look at Miller’s highlight reel, the thing that stands out is that he scrambles effectively to buy time for his receivers to get open. He keeps his eyes downfield, and his instincts are usually good when it comes to finally tucking and running. A lot of his game-winning or almost-game-winning touchdowns came when he danced around in the backfield for some length before finding his target.
To get to him, Michigan’s secondary will need to stay on receivers for a lot longer than they’re used to, and D-line discpline will be essential. If he’s able to break through the containment, Miller will make plays.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: The Nittany Lions rushed for 239 yards on not that many carries. Their running backs consistently found enormous holes in the Buckeyes defensive line and frequently had to be tracked down from behind by linebackers. It looked like Ohio State’s defensive line was caught in pass rush mode at the wrong times -- the ends were way overcommitted, allowing the backs to run right by them.
Next game: No. 15 That School Up North
(more after the jump)