chance of bowl: 13.6%
10/31/2009 – Michigan 13, Illinois 38 – 5-4, 1-4 Big Ten
To paint with broad strokes, I probably don't have much in common with 6'3", 290 pound black guys from Miami who think it's a good idea to play for Ron Zook. Our worlds are unlikely to intersect at a Lil Wayne show or the Ann Arbor Film Festival. Cory Liuget has probably never thought to himself "that reminds me of a Morrissey song." Of late, I think that all the time.
But at around 6:30 on October 31st, 2009, we both felt like we had been punched in the dong. In Liuget's case, this is because he had been punched in the dong:
In my case, and probably in yours, you had not actually been punched in the dong unless you had decided at some point that going outside with your buddies and punching each other in the dongs was preferable to watch the metaphorical dong-punching that started when Roy Roundtree's knee hit the ground at the one yard line and has not, to my knowledge, stopped. If you managed to miss this play and its aftermath because you were outside getting punched in the dong, congratulations: this is the one and only time when your decision-making skills will ever be regarded above average. Punch yourself in the dong in celebration.
Liuget got off easy. He was wearing a cup. My soul-dong has no cup, and it's taken a mighty battering in the last couple of years. Weary, bepunched, bruised, bepunched some more, the soul-dong cries out: why, gods who dictate which ghostly shadow genitalia get the full America's Funniest Home Videos treatment, have you chosen these dongs for maximum severe extreme punishment?
In the end, it doesn't matter. It just hurts when you don't move carefully.
You probably think I'm done with this riff on dong-punching. You get the dashes and the topic changes and then the topic comes back around to the previous item by the end of the column, with maybe some more dashes indicating where you should be prepared to shift thoughts. This, surely, is where a sentence can go by without the author mentioning someone getting punched in the dong.
No: the dongs. They are punched. This is what Michigan football has been since about the instant Drew Henson decided to take millions of dollars from the Yankees: the constant struggle to get your dong punched in new and interesting ways. Super-recruit quarterback leaves before senior year: kapow. New, wholly obscure Ohio State coach from I-AA is the anti-Cooper: tiger PUNCH. 2005: E. Honda hundred-hand-slaps your jibbly bits. 2006: more of a Tekken unblockable thunderfist with a huge-long windup that you think is going to be awesome until you fail to dodge the full testicle-crushing force of the blow and end up flat against the wall. 2007: Jack Bauer finds the bomb, finds it's a ridiculously tiny nuclear device, and decides to screw with you by placing it in the appropriate place before the Horror. 2008: A hundred E. Hondas hundred-hand-slapping your scrotum for three straight months.
2009 can be seen above: SURPRISE! You, Corey Liuget, think your dong is unthreatened late in a game you've turned into a blowout. You are wrong, and E. Honda shows up 75% through the damn thing just to give you dangly punishment.
As per usual.
Here we are, gingerly attempting to sit down without having any part of our anatomy brush up against other parts of our anatomy. Things just got raw, yo. Every place on the internet that didn't immediately repeal the first amendment(!!!) is burning.
I've been watching the same stuff everyone has for 1.5 years and here's where I am: it's blindingly obvious that some portion of the suck is Rodriguez's doing. After that huge reversal of fortune you have to back down from any previous stances you have about the program, its progress, and etc etc etc. That is a game-changing event. That game turned "Rich Rodriguez flames out in three years" at Michigan from a laughable notion to a possible one. Distantly possible, but possible.
I'm not sure what the suck is and how much can be laid on the current coaching staff. The Shafer hire was a poor one. Past that, the last couple years have featured four quarterbacks that were either freshmen or walk-ons, a disaster of an offensive line, and a defense that actually saw two walk-ons start against Illinois because they were preferable to the alternatives. I don't know if that's Jay Hopson's fault or just crappy luck that you're starting a guy who would never see the field because the options behind him are so poor.
I still think we aren't anywhere near the point at which we can chuck out Rodriguez's stellar previous track record. That is not an accident. The previous coaching staff was responsible for The Horror and was attempting to position Mike DeBord as a legitimate in-house candidate, so it's not like the vast program-killing screwup that is the defensive recruiting is an huge outlier in judgment.
On the 70-yard touchdown that put Illinois in the lead for good, two players were largely responsible: Leach got dragged out of position expecting a stretch and Kovacs took what he thought was a good angle but was not because he is a freshman walk-on. There are a lot of problems with the program that no one could deal with.
Rodriguez will be back next year with a mandate to get to a mediocre bowl, and he'll be under pressure to produce a serious team in year four. My confidence that he'll do that is waning. There's not much that would improve the situation; as we've seen the last two years, program continuity is a huge factor in any football team's success. Firing Rodriguez before he's thoroughly proven he can't make it work here is going to make the previous suffering in vain.
That's where I am. If you're elsewhere, fine, I can understand that after the huge reversal the past couple weeks. Before the 2008 season I dug out that picture of Bo and Canham and Bump Elliot and placed the fanbase in the center of it:
We are all Don Canham now. Rich Rodriguez comes in with a wildly successful pedigree but promises to finally tear down the culture of Bo’s program, to replace it with something uncertain. This has caused apprehension in some, joy in others, and disdain verging on hatred in a select group.
The program risks changing into something people drift away from because it has drifted from them, or, worse, something that you only wish you could drift away from. It also promises fireworks and fun and victory and a feeling that’s something other than that thing we’ve felt so much before. Other fanbases go through this every five or ten or fifteen years; for us it’s been 40.
I could welcome it, I guess, or celebrate it, or proclaim inevitable dominion over the land. But I don’t feel like it. Nor do I feel like fretting over imaginary scandals future. Like Canham, I just hope it works.
I still hope it works. It's getting harder to think it will. Next year will tell the tale.
- Michigan should prepare for an Ortmann suspension. Omameh is probably the guy who draws in, but he's been practicing at right tackle. Ricky Barnum is the nominal backup left tackle if the Baby Seal U game is an indication, but I don't think he's left tackle material; the real backups at tackle are redshirting.
- Michigan's losing their composure, yes, and it's clear there's a cultural divide on the team between guys like Odoms, who know from rough, and Carr holdovers who still seem pissed that this is what they got when it's not what they signed up for.
- Holy hell: turnovers. I'd mentioned this before but here's a useful diary post from Enjoy Life on Rodriguez's turnover history. It's ridiculous:
Aside from the ugly first year, West Virginia had a positive turnover margin every year of Rodriguez's reign, with double-digit years four out of six tries. It's not the system, and it's not the weather as it applies to the system—it gets cold and rainy in West Virginia, too. It's freshman quarterbacks and terrible defense.
- Also holy hell: what a disaster Mike Patrick is. One: if our starting center was actually named "Mossman" he would a superhero capable of enmeshing opponents in his velcro-like grasp and Michigan's offensive line wouldn't fail to pass block against a terrible team that had no pass rush coming into the game. This was not an error. He and equally idiotic Craig James called him "Mossman" at least six times.
Two: you just knew as soon as the goal line stand happened that the rest of the game would be Patrick and James going Favre on Terry Hawthorne tracking down Roundtree, and this they did, often failing to even describe the play in front of them in favor of yet more rapturous praise for Hawthorne. They should find whatever pasture they've put Maguire in and put Patrick in it, too. And then shoot it into space. It will be like the Little Prince!
Three: this is not Patrick's fault but after a couple games on ABC that were beautifully directed, this one missed a half-dozen plays.
- Mike Williams had edge responsibility time and again against Illinois and blew it when he wasn't getting blocked into the bench. He was spectacularly bad, just as he was against Iowa. I find it hard to believe Vlad Emilien is worse, and since he's played on special teams recently he's not getting a redshirt. Wonder if we see him a little bit more the rest of the season.
- It's really obvious why they moved Woolfolk to safety in spring now. What a terrible feeling it must have been to watch these guys play in spring practice and know you were going to die in the fall.
- Kovacs makes sense because there are literally no scholarship options at his spot other than Emilien and project true freshmen, but what is with Leach getting on the field in front of Fitzgerald or Demens? I'd say it's a failure to develop talent on the part of Hopson, but he's also the guy coaching Leach. All I know is that it's very bad when you have major recruits (Fitzgerald was just outside top 100 lists and Adam Patterson was a top-50 player) idling behind walk-ons.
- What happened to Shaw? Undisclosed injury?
- The offensive line's pass blocking is the biggest problem with the offense right now. Every week I go into UFR expecting that Forcier will have all these terrible scrambles and there's maybe one or two instances where it was optional. In all other cases, someone is bearing down on him. The line is getting crushed in the protection metric. I hope this is an effect of losing Molk more than anything else; also, Michigan doesn't have any options other than freshmen behind the starters now.
- I got emails from people asking why they couldn't post stuff on the blog. How do you attempt to post something on the blog without reading the single paragraph post at the top of it that says you can't post? And should this be taken as evidence that the people in question should not be allowed to post anyway?
- LVSC's initial opening line for the game: M –7. Vegas loled and set it at 3.5. But… hey… 3.5 point favorites! WOO MOTOR CITY.
BOX FTW. That's right. He does. I think he even enjoys it.
"Terror." It's terror. Weird press conference interlude via Angelique Chengelis:
My favorite moment from Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez's press conference Monday was when my esteemed colleague, Larry Lage of the Associated Press, asked if Rodriguez was on the field before the game when the Wolverines do "the circle of death"?
Rodriguez smiled uncomfortably and then replied.
"Oh, yeah, circle," he said. "I speak politically correct here. What are you talking about? That's our team unity circle that we have. Wow, Larry. You can get in trouble for saying stuff like that.
"It's our team unity circle. We're out there for that."
Apparently Lage pressed it, claiming "Circle of Death" sounds more intimidating, for which he gets 46 points, only to get shot down. But it's not "circle of death." It's Circle of Terror, as coined by MVictors. And it is terrifying. Never forget how terrifying it is.
Stop looking at the cheerleaders for a second. I've given Gregg Easterbrook the business before, but never has so much ignorance about college football been encapsulated in a single sentence:
As TMQ noted last month, going no-huddle all the time is just another way to be predictable, plus leads to rapid three-and-outs that send the defense back onto the field; but going no-huddle once in a while creates the element of surprise. … Michigan surprised Notre Dame by going no-huddle for the entire game, but the key word is surprised.
Michigan, of course, hasn't huddled since Rodriguez's arrival, and virtually every spread team in the country eschews the huddle. Gregg Easterbrook is either that guy from memento or hasn't watched a Michigan game in over a year, which means he should probably not talk about them.
Wait, wait. Yesterday I noted the Mouton punch-type action and opined that I thought he should miss Eastern Michigan, but that if previous similar actions didn't draw sanctions he wouldn't. I forgot about these twin Irish incidents:
The latter was flagged, the former was not, and neither player was suspended by Charlie Weis. I don't recall any media attention in the aftermath of either, probably because the opposing coach didn't specifically note he wasn't complaining about it.
There's zero precedent for suspending a guy who didn't even get flagged, AFAIK, and Mouton would be rightly pissed off if he was the first. This from Mike Rothstein…
Whether it was a punch or not, Mouton should sit against Eastern Michigan
Tate! The people have spoken and MGoUnderground has listened. The Tate shirt is available for purchase.
If you're interested in the details, Enjoy Life pretty much liveblogged his shirt purchase and washing. Everything is AWESOME. He cannot BELIEVE what a deal he got. CONSUME.
I really hope this is just random. If this sign is just random, it's funny. If it's an obscure sexual act—and these days punching BLANK almost always is—it's not:
There is, unfortunately, an Urban Dictionary entry for "Dolphin Punch" but there's only one and it seems obscure enough that unless it's this particularly house/frat that initiated the term they're literally talking about punching dolphins, which I approve of as a ridiculous fashion via which to express your disapproval. [Update: the house had a sign featuring a fist punching an incredulous dolphin, so it was literal. Good work, BOX.] Multiple emailers have mentioned that Drew Sharp—freshly returned to the local airwaves hoorah—spent a lot of time on WDFN the other day bemoaning this sign and others along the various frats and apartment buildings en route to the stadium. An emailer:
Drew Sharp was going on about how there were some "reprehensible" signs that he saw on the way to the game regarding Rosenberg. He said that he talked to unnamed "U-M officials", and was told that the Freep needs to understand that emotions get high when they write on a sensitive subject, and that their inaction was the first time that Sharp was embarrassed by his degree, blah, blah, blah, won't someone think of the children.
…So, I called in. I asked him and Matt Shepard where the signs were. Sharp hemmed and hawed, and it turned out that unsurprisingly, they were on private property (although one of them "might have been on campus"). They hung up on me before I could blast Sharp for what he is, but Jesus. No wonder the print media is dying- this isn't rocket science. Hell, even Shepard understood the First Amendment.
How is it that this man has a job that doesn't involve scrubbing something, but nothing too important?
While we're on the subject of, well, you know, Jay Bilas' latest insider piece argues along these lines:
If the allegations concerning Michigan are true, which would assume that the players making the allegations had a full understanding of what constituted countable and non-countable hours and what constituted voluntary and mandatory workouts, then Michigan is guilty of working too hard on football.
Which is nothing anyone hasn't heard—probably dozens of times—in the last two weeks. But Bilas has toned down the Amaker stuff after the Manny Harris elbow overreaction and remains one of the best analysts (alternatives: Vitale) in college basketball. Maybe Michigan fans can take him off the Enemies List?
And hey guess what now it's time to talk about Notre Dame. What the hell is Charlie Weis 1) talking about and 2) attempting to imply by this:
When Weis was looking at Michigan quarterback Tate Forcier, he said he couldn’t keep track of him because he said he bounced to four high schools in four years.
Forcier transferred from his original high school to Scripps Ranch after his freshman year, and then, you know, played at Scripps Ranch the next three years. Our source on this: Tate Forcier and his interview with Tom for Hail To The Victors 2009. Our hobo quarterback needs to grow a beard and get on the tracks, man, before all the other hobos laugh at him when he says he hasn't been to El Paso.
HOBO #1: You've got to go to El Paso.
FORCIER: I keep hearing that but I've never been. I mostly stick around Scripps Ranch High School because I'm the quarterback there.
HOBO #2: LOL wait till I tell Weis the exact opposite of this.
HOBO #1: Word. I remember our days at Our Lady. Remember what it was like to consider the vague possibility of touching a woman, even if she was the metaphorical embodiment of a religion and not actually, you know, a person?
HOBO #2: No.
HOBO #1: No, me neither.
FORCIER: Yeah… how about that. I'm going to take off, I have to go throw some ridiculously accurate passes. [leaves]
HOBO #1: 40 year mistake, that guy.
Hobo #1 revealed! It's Tommy Kilborn, sometime EDSBS guest columnist:
I certainly respect what the Nevada Wolfpack did, but they just couldn’t hope to keep up with the brilliant scheming by Charlie Weis and his offensive staff. The energy in the stadium was unreal! I saw several alums even stand during plays because they were so excited, though they did sit down quickly and courteously when the ushers came along to settle things down. You can’t blame them, ushers: Charlie Weis football in its full glory has that effect on people.
As always, Kilborn is a brilliant non-parody of Notre Dame fans. NDNation is going to look at you very sternly, Orson.
Speakin' of the hobo. Guy seems to have a good grasp of both train routes and defenses:
Mmmm talky QB porn. Also Rotel ad. I don't think I've ever even seen Rotel available in local supermarkets, but buy anyway. HOBO QB DIRECTS YOU TO.
Etc.: There is now a blog dedicated to Microsoft Paint as it relates to Michigan football. As you might expect, it is spectacular. Future expansion was part of the Michigan Stadium renovation plans. Mustaches for Michigan came off.