I did not make this headline up
9/10/2011 – Michigan 35, Notre Dame 31 – 2-0
is this real life?
Not only can Denard Robinson redefine All-America teams, average nearly 500 yards per game against Notre Dame, and pilot the most insane fourth quarter Michigan Stadium has ever seen, but he can sum up what happened on Saturday in a single word:
If you still need evidence that Denard can do things other people can't, there you go. Because I've got nothing. I can gape, slack-jawed and twitching, if you'd like. Oh, and I can put my finger between my lips and go "brrrrrrrrrbbrbrbrbrbrbrbrbrrbb" with crazy googly eyes. Also I can spin in a circle going "yip yip yip yip yip."
These are my capabilities. All other functions are currently offline. Attempt to access higher cognition and you will receive 503 Gateway Not Found.
That's fine. There's nothing to say that "brrrrrrbrbrbrbrbrrbrbrb" doesn't cover anyway. I am so high, you guys. I don't even know what I'm saying.
Seriously. I'm really struggling here to put words in the computer. I guess… okay.
The thing I really really hated about the first three quarters (other than everything) was the way the offense made Denard mortal. This extended beyond the usual reasons 90 yards of offense in a half make you homicidal. Not only were we lost and hopeless in our first serious game after returning nine starters from one of the nation's most explosive offenses, but the guy who didn't transfer when his offense got fired out from under him was busy playing out everyone's worst-case scenarios.
I don't think I can take football games in which I'd rather have Alex Carder than Denard Robinson. A return of freshman Denard looking like a sad panda is too depressing for a multitude of reasons but mostly because just look at him:
Shoehorning him into an offense that doesn't fit him is a crime against man and panda and manpanda. He had to be dying in the first half as he flung balls to Tacopants and ran waggles the entire stadium could predict. People twittered me about moving him to RB so Gardner can get on the field. I couldn't block them from my phone. The tweets sat there, whispering evil things into my ear.
As I projected Denard's state of mind my own got inky black. The road ahead seemed like another two years of painful rebuilding towards a goal Denard will never see, his career relegated to that of Brandon Graham when Desmond Howard seemed in reach. It's going to kill me if Denard ends up a really good player on a mediocre team for the duration of his career and Michigan doesn't end up making anyone who wants 16 in the future wear a patch with dreads on it. It's going to be worse if he's not even a really good player. Someone is at fault for this travesty.
I was running advanced equations of blame assignment amongst Bill Martin, Rich Rodriguez, Al Borges, Dave Brandon, and bloody fate when Denard rolled out. Corralled by a Notre Dame defender, he stood perfectly still but still delivered a game-changing dart to Junior Hemingway before two more ND players could close in.
From there the delirium took over.
That game was delirious because of the many improbable events stacked on each other. Jeremy Gallon jump-ball touchdowns. Tommy Rees's aiming device locked on Michael Floyd. Tommy Rees throwing a ball backwards for no reason. More jump balls to Junior Hemingway and Roy Roundtree and Jeremy Gallon turning invisible with 23 seconds left. All the reasons it left you with your finger between your teeth are reasons to wonder about the smoothness of this transition (not very), the repeatability of such miracles (even less).
This isn't to blame anyone—it seems that coaches are who they are and as much as I want to, you can't hire a guy based on the two years left you've got with Denard. But I hope I'm not the only one who felt a sense of foreboding in the midst of the joy and relief. We've seen this script the last two years, and never has it been as rickety.
Michigan has to fix some stuff—lots of stuff—by the Big Ten season. The stakes are only Denard's career, everyone's faith in the Ethical Les Miles theory of Hoke's success, and the very survival of pandas in the wild. I'll take the escape. I wonder what happens when the drugs wear off and real life reasserts itself.
For now, though:
The game is ova!
Non-Bullets Of WHAT?
Pantheon placement. I think this is below Braylonfest—but only just—in the competition for Best Comeback Ever (that people 32 or under remember). For Michigan to pull Braylonfest out they had to recover an onside kick and survive not just triple overtime by an oft-forgotten 50-yard field goal attempt at the end of regulation that was set up by a horrible pass interference call.
A good proxy for the level of kickass in your comeback is how many people left the stadium early. While there were some people who took off when ND made it 24-7, they don't compare to the legions who left early during that MSU game. And winning that eventually got Michigan a Rose Bowl appearance. The season-long significance of this ND game is going to be lower.
It easily beats out the Buffalo Stampede game, since it's not against Minnesota or in the Metrodome, and then it's a long way to fourth place.
As far as best game ever… it depends on what you're rating it on. I like my defining victories to be well-played and not hinge on the opposing quarterback throwing the ball backwards for no reason. In terms of pure drama it's up there but with both teams unranked and not looking likely to defy that I'd say most Ohio State games before we stopped being competitive had more salt to them. We lost all the ones that came down to the last play, though.
The entire Denard interview. If you missed this, you should fix that:
Commence the bitching about the offense. Watching Michigan run a play-action bomb from the I-formation after averaging exactly two yards per carry out of the I on previous attempts was exactly what I was beating into the ground over the offseason. No one is scared of Michigan's crappy backs running power out of the I-form so no one has to cheat to it. Thus instead of Worst Waldo plays featuring Roy Roundtree and twenty yards of grass we got a lot of hopeful downfield jump balls into excellent coverage.
Michigan was lucky as hell to get most of those. That was a Jeff Bowden special right there. I'm not alone in this. There has to be some adaptation now that we know the relative success rates of manball and Denardball. When Denard's averaging 7.5 YPC (sack excluded) and the rest of the backs under are 2, power is a lost cause.
Denard has to be the focal point of the offense, fragile or no. And the new offense seemed to remove Denard's legs as the primary threat without actually reducing his carries: he had 15 carries* in just 50 snaps. Project that to last year's 72 offensive snaps per game and Denard would have carried 22(!) times. What's the point of throwing away snaps on two-yard runs from the I?
Primary thing that may just work. "Chuck it up to Hemingway" may be the world's most primitive passing game but dang if it doesn't work. Hemingway not only has great leaping ability, he's enormous and therefore capable of boxing out opponents. Add in an uncanny knack for being able to high-point the ball and he's a hell of a lot like Marquise Walker before Walker got the dropsies as a senior.
Primary thing that did work from under center. Vincent Smith's throwback screen touchdown was a great call since it used Denard's legs. He rolls, defense freaks, he throws back, Smith should have an easy touchdown if any of the offensive linemen block that one linebacker, Smith makes it happen anyway. Contrast with the earlier screen where a short Denard has to float a ball over a guy leaping in his face and ends up throwing it eight yards too far and getting it picked off.
And introducing… Facepalm Guy. The facepalm guy from the sad fugee face picture in the "So I Was Like" post: the the new Lloyd Brady? He's already won an award for "Media Criticism" from Doctor Saturday.
1) He caught ESPN's camera's capturing his facepalm moment and gave them an oh-no-you-di'in't:
2) After the game he… well, he did this:
Can a brother get a Facepalm Guy touchdown Jesus photoshop?
(HT to MGoUser Haterade.)
Defensive events. Brandon Herron and Mike Jones were supposedly out with injury but if I had to guess they were not so badly hurt they couldn't play and Michigan was trying out their other options at WLB. Desmond Morgan started, played poorly—he got trucked like he was in a BTN practice highlight-type substance—and was yanked. Then Brandin Hawthorne came in and may have been plausible. He knifed into the backfield for one key TFL on third and short. I'm guessing he was at least partially responsible for a number of Cierre Wood runs that went for big yardage, but we'll see. WLB remains a sore spot.
The other sore spot is an alarming, unexpected one: WDE. Craig Roh had zero tackles for the second straight week and while he did get a QB hurry or two he seems less impactful from that spot than he did last year. I mean, last year he split two ND linemen and picked up a huge TFL en route to a +11 day. This year he'll be lucky to break even. Hopefully he's still sick. I wonder if we see more Black in the short term.
How did Jordan Kovacs only have eight tackles?
BONUS: Will Campbell got held! By an offensive lineman!
Special teams. Matt Wile has been at least average spelling Hagerup, and with only one more real-ish game left before the latter returns it looks like Michigan will escape that suspension without much real damage. I still hate the regular punt. If ND's John Goodman hadn't made inexplicable fair catches he had tons of room on two of Wile's five punts despite Wile's excellent hangtime.
The patch thing. It's pretty cool. Some potential tweaks and additions:
- Should we un-retire numbers? I could get behind a 98 if it meant someone was going to be sitting in front of a locker that said Tom Harmon. You'd have to ask whoever the nearest relative is.
Further locker room additions. Everyone who's been an All-American should have their name engraved in a fashion more understated than this legends designation…
...but still be there. Having Chappius and Oosterbaan and Friedman and McKenzie and Dierdorf and Long's names up in the locker room would be a nice way to recognize All-Americans past.
- Next up. AC and Woodson. If they don't put the retired numbers back in circulation. Jake Long would probably be next up way down the road.
- The patch is too big. That's just, like, my opinion, man.
So there's this. Exploit your children for fun and profit:
Profit not applicable.
Pom-poms and RAWK and crowd noise. Is it just me or was the stadium not actually very loud when it would help out the most? The pom-poms encouraged people to use their hands shaking pom-poms instead of making noise and while the piped-in music was indeed loud, when it cut out the people in the stadium making noise were largely going "OH oh oh oh oh, OH oh oh oh oh" instead of "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA." The latter is louder.
Putting aside the insults to the Great Tradition they represent, is the noise level created by the frippery mostly cosmetic? It has seemed much louder in Michigan Stadium—I was frustrated as I was screaming myself hoarse on the last drive while people around me shook their little plastic thingies. Plastic thingy shaking is not that intimidating, people.
And then there's the guy two rows in front of you who's shaking the thing constantly so you can't see the game. In the South they have a protocol about these things: raise that thing above your shoulder during a play and you're not getting that arm back. Here we get them every five years or so and there's always someone who thinks row 14 is the last one.
ST3 goes inside the box score. Michael Scarn says trying to describe that game was like taking a picture of Bigfoot. Post-ND MonuMental riff by ppToilet. (You can't choose your username, man, it chooses you.) MonuMental himself shows up to modify his Denard action figure for the occasion.
Pretty much the best. An obviously drunk Jeff at Maize Pages digs up the fantastically entertaining Roundtree-Shaw Newlywed game BTN video in response to the delerium.
Photo galleries and assorted media. Pregame shots from MNB Nation. Other shots from MNBN. The Shredder took a zillion shots. Tailgating from AnnArbor.com. Also the game. Here's a great stadium shot from Melanie Maxwell:
Also here's this dude:
The whole gallery is worth checking out.
Wolverine Historian put together a 28 minute highlight reel.
Column-type events. Wojo. More Wojo. MVictors also fills you in on the techno viking behind Hoke: yes, it's Steve Everitt, and no, you do not want to get between him and his cubs. Kyle Meinke says Denard was a big part of the offense and the running backs weren't and that's not so cool. Florek in the Daily.
UGA/M dual-fan Michael at Braves & Birds wonders whether it's better to play poorly and win (as Michigan did) or play well and lose (as Georgia did).
Entertaining serieseses of bullets. MVictors:
On the sunny side, they pulled out all the stops in the press box for the media on hand. Witness the butter dish of victory:
This might have been Brandon's special bonus.
[Robinson's] total of 446 yards and 5 touchdowns was excellent, but how he got there was strange. Through three quarters of football, he was 4-for-14 passing (if that accuracy rate sounds familiarly horrible, that's because it's the same as Michigan's kickers circa 2010) for 136 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions. In the fourth stanza, Robinson went 8-for-11 for 217 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception, plus a recovered Stephen Hopkins fumble that he turned into a touchdown.
That graph is intended as a baseline estimator for a team's real-time win probability and is independent of situation, but the site also offers a crude win probability calculator, which, while it's calibrated to an NFL scale, can at least give us a decent estimate of how unlikely Michigan's victory was: four percent, Michigan's win probability after Notre Dame's slot receiver scampered into the endzone without a defender in site. Denard Robinson laughs at your probabilities and says, "Really? Oh man, that's crazy," and throws the ball to Jeremy Gallon standing alone in the Notre Dame secondary.
Maize and Blue Nation wins best headline: "The Denard. The Denard. The Denard."
National takes: Adam Jacobi marvels and notes that Robinson couldn't throw the ball even when he was completing passes; he also points out that uh… the Big Ten is not so much this year. Doctor Saturday:
Here, instead of merely covering poorly, Notre Dame subsequently failed to cover Wolverine receiver Jeremy Gallon at all, incredibly freeing him for a 64-yard sprint to the Irish 16-yard line with eight seconds left for a) A couple shots at the winning touchdown; b) A shot at a field goal to tie; or c) A confused catastrophe that left 110,000 people contemplated mass hara-kiri. With all of every one of those people secretly fearing c), Robinson delivered the dagger.
Robinson was, again, heroic for Michigan. He has brutalized the Irish the past two seasons, rolling up a mind-boggling 948 yards of total offense to go with eight TDs. His performance in the fourth quarter Saturday night was downright epic: 7 of 9, 202 yards, three passing touchdowns to go with six carries for 24 yards and another TD. In all, he accounted for a staggering 226 of his team's 229 yards.
In Case You Live Under A Rock
9/3/2011 – Michigan 34, Western Michigan 10 – 0.75-0
Q: What is awesome about the above photograph?
A: Brady Hoke's Joe Paterno impression. Look, ma, no headset.
On a day that lacked much in the way of emotional import—Brock Mealer did not touch the banner, Denard Robinson did not introduce himself by plunging from the heavens, mostly I felt hot or wet—the thing to do was read too much into the future of Michigan football based on little. We're going on even less than the rest of college football is after their opening-weekend bludgeonings since Mother Nature and inflexible regulation prevented a full game from being played. Things are fuzzy.
They'll remain that way for most of the season. Hell, they'll remain that way until Michigan's OL/DL depth chart crisis passes in two to three years. But I got the things I wanted the most, the things I spent large sections of the offseason hoping for, arguing would be true, or declaring to be the only sane thing a sane person could do.
BRADY HOKE IS NOT RICH RODRIGUEZ IN RE: COORDINATOR MEDDLING
Rodriguez's problem was never his selection of defensive coordinators, it was his refusal to trust them to do their jobs. The thing about Hoke is this: he does. At SDSU he hired Rocky Long to run a 3-3-5; Rocky Long ran a 3-3-5, and it was pretty good, and now he's the head coach. He hired Al Borges to run a passing-oriented West Coast offense; Borges ran a passing-oriented West Coast offense that wasn't quite as good as Michigan's in FEI's eyes but was still top 20. If he "gets" anything it's that he's a former defensive lineman with a narrowly defined set of assets that does not include being a genius of any variety—he's never been a coordinator. So he's hired two guys with very long, very successful resumes to do that stuff for him.
PRO STYLE IS INSANE STYLE
Switching to an actual pro-style offense would be doing exactly what Michigan did last year when it installed the 3-3-5 despite the total unsuitability of its personnel for the scheme.
DON'T FRIGGIN TOUCH ANYTHING OR I'LL CUT YOU
MOAR SHOTGUN PLZ
Check, check, good enough. Michigan was 70% shotgun.
The offseason was spent exploring the a disconnect between Brady Hoke's words and his teams' actions. The fear was that This being Michigan, for God's sake, would change his attitude from "whatever works" to "the expectation is for the position." That latter was the infamous Carr-era slogan that symbolized a stubborn adherence to out-executing the opposition. It led to things like a thousand Mike Hart zone stretches where he made four yards only after dodging guys in the backfield. I really, really did not want to go back to the days when Michigan's running plays could be described as "left" or "right."
Brady Hoke's words said the first play Saturday would be power; Brady Hoke's team ran the QB stretch that was amongst the most frequent playcalls a year ago. As the game progressed it was clear there had been quite a few modifications. It was also clear that there was enough of the Denard offense in there to go to it when Michigan needs to.
This would have been obvious to all if Denard hadn't chucked a QB Oh Noes well behind Drew Dileo on Michigan's final touchdown drive. If that's accurate Dileo scores on a play eerily similar to those of last year and everyone except Craig James is talking about how different the offense isn't.
That's good right now, and better down the road. It's been a long time since Michigan fans could say their head coach hired the best people for the job and let them get on with it.
Non-Bullets Not About Football
Brady Hoke knew this would happen. On the way back to the locker room his team speared themselves some dinner.
Increment the Grimsrud meter. Last year when Michigan decided that terrorists were likely to explode the stadium with sealed, clear bottles of water, everyone complained until David Brandon rolled his eyes and offered the plebes a freebie for the opener because it was hot.
On Saturday it was ninety degrees and you could buy a not-even-cold bottle of water for four bucks, get a complimentary three-ounce dixie cup, or hit up the Absopure stations. At least until they ran out:
Connor Dean, a Michigan student working at one of the Absopure Hydration stations at the stadium, said his station had exhausted nearly its entire 450-gallon supply of water by halftime.
Dean said a hydration station would typically go through about 225 gallons of water for an entire game. “This is crazy for a normal game,” Dean said.
The athletic department got lucky as hell that the skies opened up shortly afterwards. Even as it was the number of people conking out because of the heat overwhelmed Huron Valley Ambulance:
With temperatures on the field reportedly reaching 120 degrees, the heat overwhelmed fans at Michigan Stadium. Huron Valley Ambulance says the high number of heat-related cases it handled caused it to call for backup from the Ann Arbor Fire Department.
HVA officials said a count of the number of fans who've been treated for heat-related concerns would not be available until later Saturday, and they were too busy to provide even an estimate.
"It's extremely busy at Michigan Stadium,'' said Terry Pappas, communications supervisor for HVA. "We have multiple heat-related incidents and the Ann Arbor Fire Department is helping.''
If it's really about safety, the Absopure stations should be handing out 25-ounce bottles of water that cost ten cents instead of providing little cups you have to wait for and can't get back to your seats effectively. The athletic department's horseshit doublespeak about safety and convenience increased those issues so they could hawk some extra bottles of water. They're using 9/11 as cover. That's appalling.
Apparently posting We Are ND was the right idea for the wrong reasons. We have officially Freekbass'd ourselves, as the Dog Groomers' song was played three times to amaze and delight people who would rather hear these guys…
we are… DOG GROOMERS
we will… SHAVE YOUR DOG'S HAIR INTO A PLEASING SHAPE
also we have a band!
…than the Michigan Marching Band.
We're worse. While they've got a rapping hobbit, We Are ND was an internet-only phenomenon quickly clarified as a student project. It aired once at some banquet or something. We're playing music from The Best of Hot Topic in the stadium. This is the inevitable result when middle-aged middle-managers from Middle America try to be cool: massive failure.
What was so bad about a guy in the band beating out a steady rhythm as the crowd chants "Let's Go Blue"? Why does "This is Michigan, for God's sake" apply to running power off-tackle but not keeping the stadium atmosphere intact? Is there someone in the athletic department who really wishes he was running a regional arena in Charlotte, NC, with an ECHL team and regular WWE visits? Why does the guy on the left still look like an accountant? Who is the guy on the right kidding? Is the bald guy in the middle just photobombing this shot? I fear these questions are unanswerable.
In the spirit of ND Nation banning "Michigan sucks" posts, I will end taunting ND about We Are ND until piped in music is excised from the stadium. We are We Are ND.
Meanwhile, our band is metal. Western's band said "screw this" and showed up in white T-shirts and shorts so they wouldn't die. Ten of them still had to be treated for heat issues. Michigan's band roared out of the tunnel in full dark-blue regalia; while we don't have casualty numbers for them the mere fact that none of them died before completing the anthem is metal. One firehorse for the band.
Analogy to mandatory minimum sentencing goes here. The NCAA's CYA guideline about lightning strikes was the reason Michigan couldn't finish (or all but finish) yesterday's game. The sun had already come out by the time the teams finished getting off the field for the first delay, and that was the reason there was more than a few minutes left on the clock when the seriously dangerous storm rolled in.
Anyone looking at the weather radar could tell you that by the time they delayed the game it was perfectly safe, but lawsuit avoidance rules everything around me, and thus we get a silly abbreviated game that makes the value proposition of a 70 dollar ticket to watch Western Michigan play even dodgier. Boo.
Argh. So last year I'd get to my seat and tweet personnel stuff I noticed in warmups. This year I did the same and just got a bunch of replies that can be summarized as "duh." This is because the U announced suspensions/unavailability an hour before the game. Next time it would be nice if M could do that earlier or not at all. kthxbye.
Non-Bullets About Football
Depth chart/practice rumor updates. The offense was as expected. Brandon Moore got some time as the second TE, which is good.
On defense, Frank Clark had gotten hyped up this fall but it was Brennen Beyer who got a ton of time as a rush end. His main contribution was opening a few cutback lanes for Western. Also infrequently seen: Brink and Heininger. I'm guessing that's an artifact of playing a passing spread… but we'll see a passing spread next week. I'm hoping the massive substitutions were because of the weather and that RVB/Martin/Roh will get way more time against ND. Herron was a surprise starter at WLB and Avery started opposite Woolfolk.
I received a bunch of tweets predicting Carvin Johnson would not score well in UFR, and then he was replaced by Marvin Robinson. Will be interesting to see if that works out.
So weird in so many ways. The game would have been short even if it was long, if you know what I mean. There were all of two drives in the first quarter and Brandon Herron robbed Michigan's offense of two opportunities. As a result the offense only had five and a half drives to work with. They scored 3.5 touchdowns and went three and out twice.
Short term prognosis: grimmer? Less grim? We'll have to see what the UFR looks like but Western went up and down the field against Michigan in a manner reminiscent of everyone against last year's D… and scored ten points. Michigan forced two turnovers with QB pressure and held the best quarterback in the state to 5.9 YPA.
Hack out the Kovacs sacks and WMU averaged 4.9 YPC, which is not good when you're playing a MAC team with two fresh JUCO transfer backups at guard. Also hoping that's a result of the heavy rotation.
The offense had those three and outs, and because of the weird nature of the game that was enough for their output to seem somewhat worrying. They did give the impression they were about to blow the doors off when the game got called, having just blown down the field in three plays and moved the ball into the Western half of the field when the game was called.
Pressure existed. When Mattison figured out rushing four wasn't getting home he turned things around by blitzing like mad. One series late in the first half saw him go cover zero three straight times. On each play a Michigan player would tear up the middle unblocked, forcing Carder to chuck it off his back foot. JT Floyd made a play on the first; the second two were hypothetically open but Carder couldn't get it right because he was busy eating someone's facemask.
Hurray lack of GERG.
Running backs. Toussaint's getting good reviews everywhere and it'll be no different here. To me his most exciting moment was an eight-yard run late when he was cutting behind the backside tackle. He momentarily looked like he'd head inside of Lewan, sucking the linebacker inside, then burst back behind him to pick up good yardage. That was a "whoah, he can do that?" moment reminiscent of his high school film.
My only complaint is that on his long run he tried to truck the safety instead of angling away from him and probably cost himself 10 more yards. That mentality is helpful when he's running up the middle, maybe.
Kovacs preview 2012 preview. There is a 100% chance this is one of the images used for Kovacs next year:
Things I miss. A couple tactical decisions that seem suboptimal:
- The spread punt. I thought it was remarkably effective at holding down return yardage because it gave you six gunners instead of two. When Michigan punted, if the returner got past the first two guys he had 15 yards before the next wave showed up. The only disadvantage is the near-impossibility of faking from it.
- No huddle offense. I liked the concept of tempo as something you were capable of shifting on a regular basis, and it seemed like a good idea to remove the burden of calling audibles from the quarterback.
This is not an endorsement of Rich Rodriguez. Hoke uber alles.
COUCHDATE! Alex Carder, pictured above, just turned the ball over three times and averaged a terrible 5.9 YPA—more than a yard less than the national average—against last year's #108 defense. What do you think this means, Graham Couch?
This weekend — considering the performances of Carder, Denard Robinson and Kirk Cousins — in everyone's eyes, it should be a viable argument, even if not a certain one.
… Even though I truly believe Carder is the best college QB in the state, this column was an interesting social experiment alone, though it wasn't intended to be. … the argument against Carder by so many who had barely heard of him — and the manner in which they argued — was absurd.
It was an interesting social experiment: can a beat writer actually get criticized for being an embarrassing homer by a fan of the team he's covering? Survey says:
As a Western alum living 2k miles away, I really wish the Broncos had a better beat writer.
Sorry GC but I hate your style and you come off as a whiny, rambling, non-objective homer. I can appreciate the passion you have for defending our boys but just put the shovel down because you're digging a deeper hole for yourself. Just stick to the facts and give us information about our teams. You lose all credibility and professionalism as soon as you try to sell the reader your opinions.
Circle gets the square. /gameshow'd
AnnArbor.com surveys the changes at the golf course and find people are happier this year but still a little peeved that there had to be any changes at all.
MVictors and John Kryk find previous times when Michigan games have ended before full time. They're mostly from the days when you could accidentally play a 23-minute third quarter before anyone noticed. Greg also explores whether or not Brandon Herron's interception return TD was the longest in Michigan history or if Tom Harmon has him beat.
Shooting Blue returns with a long gameday review. Pop Evil "could only be worse" if the lead singer clubbed seals while Godwinning himself. Maize and Go Blue hit up Oklahoma this weekend and returns with a trip report.
Column type things: Wojo references the "numbingly familiar" defense. Get Rid of the Seaward is enjoy its first Michigan season in a while with normal LDH levels, which means cancer remission. Denard on Toussaint. Maize And Go Blue recaps the game. Holdin' the Rope:
As the rain fell and Brady Hoke patrolled the field as if he'd been around for a while already, as if it was undeniably his field and his program and not one that had just been handed to him only 8 months ago, it was hard not to come away with certain vague feelings of goodness, that something that was more good than bad had just transpired, a feeling of warmth that may or may not be ephemeral. The Era of Good Feelings continues. James Monroe's got nothing on Brady Hoke.
Aaaaaand the Hoover Street Rag "writes under the influence of muscle relaxers and pain killers."
More bullets can be found at TTB…
Apparently it doesn't matter who coaches the special teams, whether it's an offensive or defensive guy, etc. Some Michigan fans hated that defensive backs coach Tony Gibson was in charge of special teams because he was one of only four defensive coaches under Rodriguez. Now an offensive guy (tight ends coach Dan Ferrigno) is coaching special teams, and they're still bad. Kick returner Kelvin Grady doesn't look like anything special and made a bad decision to leave the endzone. Brendan Gibbons had a low extra point attempt blocked. Western Michigan averaged 31 yards per kickoff return and consistently had excellent field position.
and The Wolverine Blog.
And if you're looking for a few bullets on Michigan State, A Beautiful Day For Football provides. Sounds like that OL is going to be a problem. Also Minnesota and Northwestern had meaningful outings—Heiko will debut a weekly thing covering opponents tomorrow.
4/9/2011 – Michigan 2, Minnesota-Duluth 3 (OT) – 29-11-4, season over
There's a track on the Robert Earl Keen live album I've listened to incessantly since I was maybe a junior in college in which it's just him introing a song with a story. It's about how he went to the second Willie Nelson Fourth of July Picnic. Keen lies that he was "about 27 years old" at the time and had a date—his first date ever. He had so much fun in "the Willy Way" that he had to go take a nap.
He woke up from his nap to hear a man on the PA announcing that there had been a fire in the parking lot and that 40 cars had burned up. The first winner: RHP 997. Now, you might wonder why Keen and I remember that so well. In Keen's case it's because it was his car. In my case it's because I've listened to this story hundreds of times.
Keen's obviously devastated by this news, but his date laughs. Keen reminds her "we don't have a ride"; she responds "I do." Keen is introduced to Tarzan and Adonis, who promise to "take care of her, man." She departs. Keen is left with not enough of a car to carbon-14 date and no date when just a few hours ago he having the best time of his life.
He sits down.
He sits down on the grass. On the burnt grass, the black, burnt dirt and grass, and he weeps. "Big, old, giant tears."
I don't know, man.
I've got a post in the hopper titled "the bottom" that details the stunning descent in Michigan athletics that started when Bo died the day before Football Armageddon and to my eyes stopped on January 17th when Greg Mattison was hired away from an NFL team to coordinate Michigan's defense. Since then the basketball team exceeded anything approximating reasonable expectations, Jim Tressel and Ohio State seem to have started a long, ugly process of implosion, and the hockey team deflected its way to a 50-50 shot at glory. We are finally on the way up.
That doesn't mean they are. Hagelin and Scooter and Hunwick just saw something slip through their fingers they'll never get back. I guess Hunwick has a shot next year but a quick look at the roster shows a team that should be happy to extend the tourney streak—in all likelihood this was it for Tiny Jesus. I'm trying to decide whether this is actually worse than last year. At least last year promised this year; right now it's hard to see Michigan back here for years, like when Boo Nieves is a sophomore and whichever 2013 forwards stick might be awesome. Next year's impact help is playing in the OHL.
So I'm not sure when that shot will come again. Maybe it will be next year—hockey is bizarre that way—but despite a season as frustrating as a conference championship can be by the end I was deeply, deeply invested in Hagelin and the kids who gave him a flag and our 5'7" third-string walk-on goalie with a story the Air Bud producers would send back as too hackneyed. The hours after the North Dakota game were one long shuddering as my body gradually remembered things other than pure terror, and to lose—to frankly deserve to lose—after that was like all the horror described last year but with more finality. That happened and won't happen again and it wasn't enough.
Keen goes on to room with Lyle Lovett and carve out a career as a minor country star who doesn't have to give a crap what Nashville thinks, but being a musician doesn't come with eligibility restrictions. I spent Saturday thinking of all the guys who came and went during Michigan's long championship interregnum: Cammalleri and Comrie and Shouneyia and Hensick and all the other brilliant 5'8" guys college hockey makes into gods. Jed Ortmeyer, who has more work ethic in a finger than I do in my entire body and once killed two St. Cloud players in the first five minutes of a tourney game at Yost. Jack Johnson. Milan Gajic and his magic ability to not score spectacular goals. Jason Ryznar and Craig Murray always seeming way better than they were. Al Montoya sitting in the penalty box. Brandon Kaleniecki living inside the goalie's jersey. Jay Vancik convincing me he was an NHL player. Bob Gassoff, who I once screamed "why even give him a stick?" in the general direction of.
I wrote about the fans and thought I'd write about them after—I guess I am, but not in the way I wanted to. Today we add Caporusso and Vaughn and Hagelin and Langlais and Winnett and Rust and Hogan to the list of people to valorize at some point in the indeterminate future.
As Keen was dripping onto the grass some guy from the festival came up and said "the least we can do is let you meet Willy," but Willy had to go jam with Leon Russell. Many years later he recorded one of Keen's songs as part of the Highwaymen—this is all in the story.
At some point Michigan is actually going to win another goddamned national championship and some of this will be redeemed. Not all of it, though. Shawn Hunwick is never going to do that again, and nothing's ever going to match the Swedish flag and my complete failure to get people to replace all words in the goal cheer with "bork" when Hagelin scores. Things come and go; this one has gone and I'm stunned at how much I miss it already.
Seriously, No Bullets
Why this is so early in the morning. You see, Rudy, the fiancée's dissertation is due today and it's like 350 pages and I edited all of it and at one point there was a sentence with three different serial commas in it and my head exploded and I haven't actually gone to bed yet. So 1) early post because I decided it was now or never and 2) I am going to bed and will see you tomorrow and will bump Tom's weekly when I wake up this afternoon. kthxbye.
Okay, one. Congratulations to Duluth, who got a deserved win. I don't know what it was, but they spent the entire game turning Michigan's defensemen. Were they just blown out from the North Dakota game? I find that hard to believe when they had two days off and Duluth also played, but I hadn't seen anyone get around Michigan's D with that consistency all year. Since that includes UND and some other very good teams I wonder if the semi just took too much out of them.
It's impossible to be mad at a team with no previous titles and so many guys with awesome beards that don't match their blonde hair; congrats.
4/7/2011 – Michigan 1, North Dakota 0 – 29-10-4, national championship berth
[Ed-M: M 2, NoDak 0 if you count the empty-netter but it felt like 1-0]
42:40: The first time I looked at the clock. You'll note this is still in the first period. At this point I was a bit uncomfortable with the way things were tilted and wanted them to get to the locker room to regroup so they could get back on the relatively even footing it seemed they'd grasped. I mean, North Dakota seemed better but there was a bit in there where this looked like a plausible hockey game.
40:59: Ref gives Michigan embellishment call as player tries to hop around defender to grab the puck. Furious.
40:00: Exhale. Pop on twitter to complain about Rust's elbowing call. Think back to the 2003 Yost regional final when Mark Mink turned a harmless shorthanded CC turnover behind their own net to a wrap-around goal. Remember shouting "you haven't done anything all year but I FORGIVE YOU" at Mink. Half wince at persistent complaints about amount of playing time handed over to Ben Winnett over the years, half take credit for goal since universe tends to say "oh YEAH" at blog assertions.
39:30: This isn't going well. Already.
36:55: Derek DeBlois is headed off the ice when the puck approaches the bench; he hesitates for a second, looks like he's going to play it, and then continues. They call too many men.
34:55: Michigan kills another power play without really letting North Dakota get set up. That's their third; at no point has UND looked dangerous.
35:00: Still not going well at all.
33:03: Ref fails to call a matching minor on a Sioux slash. Power play.
29:50-ish. Hunwick robs Chay Genoway as he plunges into the slot, Eric Werner-style. He receives a cross-slot pass. A pass that goes from one prime shooting area from another is completed and Hunwick makes the save with his body. He's outside the crease as he does this.
29:05: The point at which I look at the clock and say "over half this period is gone" with sudden relief and realize I have been looking at this hockey game as the world's longest penalty kill since the 42:40 mark. I admit this to myself now. We are going to look like Wayne State against Colorado College the night before Mink scores the goal that forgives all: lined up on the blue line like men being executed for treason.
25:00-ish: Gregoire turns Langlais and comes swooping in on net right-to-left. He's on his forehand and has the entire net; Hunwick slides with him and stones him.
24:12: Hunwick drinks water. A friend who sits in the end zones at Yost told me that Hunwick is finicky about his water. Whenever a ref comes by to drink some his body language reads "why do you have to be like that?"
20:00: Exhale. Type "shitshitshitshitshitshitshit" into twitter because at this point analysis is impossible. I'm pretty sure Clare isn't playing much and there have been points when the fourth line has gotten trapped in its own end against the Frattin line that I can remember now but it's fight or flight.
18:00: Ten percent.
16:00: Twenty percent.
15:51: Frattin plays in on Malone as Glendening gets beat around the corner. Hunwick goes for a poke check and gets it; I realize this about five seconds later since the animal terror had been focused on the area behind Hunwick where the puck would pop out as the inevitable, devastating five-hole goal was scored.
I think about how I've seen this story before.
In 2004 Boston College was bombing Al Montoya but Michigan was hanging on to a one-goal lead thanks to goals from Mike Brown and Andy Burns—basically Winnett, except Burns was a defenseman scoring his first of the year. After a hectic nine-minute stretch without whistles in which Michigan finally started playing BC even, Michigan gave up a goal off an offensive zone faceoff. Whole self deflated, etc. BC won in overtime; shots ended up 42-15 BC.
12:33: I am being hunted. A shadow passes to my right as I scurry, tiny legs whirring through wildflowers. The shadow is getting larger.
10:01: AAAAAIIGH FRATTIN—HUNWICK!
I have no idea where the puck is but I don't care because it's not in the net. Air Force did this to us. God, we were good that year.
When I came home my then girlfriend had someone over. I said nothing, went into the bedroom, and closed the door. She silently brought me a glass and some whiskey, and I thought she was as wonderful as anything could be in a universe of total blackness.
9:32: Nothing much is happening righ—DON'T EVEN THINK THAT
8:50: Merrill holding call. This is all my fault.
6:50: Merrill comes out of the box without North Dakota getting much more than a point shot, but Michigan gets stuck in their end just as the penalty expires and is clearly gassed. I remember a game against Maine in which Michigan was down to five defensemen, one of whom was a walk-on, but not like Hunwick is a walk-on. Like a walk-on walk-on. They mostly played four guys. Mike Komisarek was a giant, a future pro who was unbelievably good, but by the end of the game he could barely move, and Maine put the Comrie era to bed.
The puck slides to the blue line, but not out. The linesman doesn't see it that way. Good linesman. I take back everything bad I've ever said about offsides.
5:00: Seventy five percent.
4:00: Now counting in minute increments. At 3:14 I decide there are three minutes left. I hate that 2:37 is still three minutes. 2:16: two minutes. Kill one power play. Come on.
1:13: Goalie gone. "Get it out," someone screams. The puck does not get out.
57.5: A pass slithers out from behind the net and manages to avoid the mess of sticks and skates camped out there. This memory does not require a refresher from wikipedia because it's terrifyingly recent: UMD just scored into a wide-open net against Notre Dame on this exact same pass. Hagelin throws himself at the shot and blocks it. The puck turns heel and ends up right back on Trupp's stick. He walks into the slot and lets it loose; Pateryn has thrown himself at this one and the puck deflects into the corner. It's thrown back out into the same spot on the ice, where Trupp waits; Hagelin has recovered and chucks the puck into the other corner.
44:1: UND recovers and throws a couple passes around the perimeter. The second one is one-timed; Hagelin is again there. He blocks it. Puck turns back into an American hero by somehow lying directly at Hagelin's feet after the block. He's attacked by the defenseman who just fired it; Hagelin evades him; Michigan breaks to center ice three on two; Hagelin passes it over to Caporusso as another Sioux player comes up to stop him; Louie does the same when the last remaining defender approaches him at the blue line; Scooter—of course it is Scooter—slides the puck into the empty net.
Someone tries to shake my hand or something and is hugged.
I didn't want to lead the post with this but there was quality work done on the board last night, most of it inspired by this guy:
[click for big]
Usually bird-flipping maniacs don't look like accountants. Our previous experience tends more towards lawyers:
Two things to note:
- Louie Caporusso giving him the bird right back—I didn't even know you could do that in a hockey glove.
- See the guy in the white giving a death stare that moves from Scooter to the bird-flipper? Yeah, if you watch the Winnett goal that guy flips off Winnett. North Dakota fans: classy.
Complete this photoshop espectacularrrrr.
Hell Yes Bullets
Random guys who played well unexpectedly. Luke Moffat had as much of a game as you can have as a third/fourth liner in a game where you're pinned in your own end most of the time. Melrose was all about Rust, and with reason. Moffie was not exploited—he went with Frattin in the first period and tied up his stick, turning what looked like it was going to be a dangerous chance into a weak shot Hunwick had no problem with.
Rust. RUST. I think we're getting a sense of just how silently good he is. Michigan's late-season renaissance has come with Rust logging huge minutes against top lines and it doesn't seem to matter who's on his wing. A win tomorrow makes Shawn Hunwick a legend and it should probably make Rust one too—Schwartz, Frattin, and UNO's big guns have little to show in three nerve-wracking games. If UMD says the same tomorrow he instantly becomes the most underrated Michigan player in the last decade.
Ref complaint. Seriously, the reason people say "keep your head up" is so you can get hit in the head with someone's shoulder, and calling a charge on Michigan after an obvious charge on North Dakota makes me want to die, not to mention a trip on the goalie late in the game that was totally ignored. Yost Built heard it was Scott Hansen from HE and immediately said "that's the guy who waved off the Ryznar goal in Buffalo"—so, yeah, basically any time Michigan gets a HE crew they will have screwed Michigan at some point in the past.
ESPN non-complaint. Melrose was all about North Dakota last night and people were all about ripping Melrose, but he was right. This was a "sometimes the best team doesn't win situation" and it was obvious on the ice. Kudos to Michigan for doing what they needed to but asking Melrose not to marvel at the Sioux is asking him to turn a blind eye to reality. Red agrees:
“I’ll tell you, they’ve got to be stunned,” Berenson said. “I know we were in '97. We were stunned. There’s so much momentum built up in your season. They rolled through the season, they rolled through their playoffs, they rolled their playoffs, they rolled through the first regional.
“But they’re stunned. They can’t believe it. They’re going to second guess themselves.”
Michigan just beat '97 Michigan. That team was stacked, and saying so doesn't make you a bad dude.
Also, I love Gary Thorn so much.
Gurrrrrgh. Someone retweeted Lee Moffie apologizing for nailing some dude in the crowd:
I followed Moffie since that's entertainment right there, and then it suggested I follow "ajtrea23," which is obviously AJ Treais even if the number is messed up, and I clicked through. Treais's bio:
University of Michigan 13'. The Andover High School 09'. A less dynamic version of TJ Hensick.
My spidey sense told me to Google this and sure enough:
Tell Winnett I'm so so sorry.
The highlights in non-picture format:
Yost Built on the flipper:
didn't you feel like that when Andrew Volkening shut us out 2-0, despite the Wolverines outshooting Air Force 43-13? Didn't you feel like that when Ryan Miller beat us 1-0 in a game that we outshot Michigan State by a 31-13 count?
This is how it feels to have the goalie that makes opposing fans do...well...that.
Sioux fans are going to think about this game--this season--for the next decade as the one that got away. This is going to be their 1997. The year their team was near unbeatable during the year, actually unbeatable for the 2 1/2 months heading into the tournament, and that damn tiny walk-on goalie slammed the door on them.
3/20/2011 – Michigan 71, Duke 73 – 21-14, 9-9 Big Ten, season over
This is the point where the author is obliged to disclaim any belief in moral victories, whatever that means.
Wikipedia's article on the concept is a poorly-written stub that goes right to the sports definition before making a couple of flaccid thrusts in the direction of applicability outside of sportswriting disclaimers. Those thrusts are getting crushed to death by rocks but keeping the land in the family, dying at the Alamo, or dying at Thermopylae and seem to indicate the anonymous author has never heard of a Pyrrhic victory. That last link goes to a much, much better article that indirectly confirms that "moral victory" has no currency amongst the sort of people—scientists, historians, television fans—that make for good wikipedia articles. Moral victories, and disclaiming them, appear to be the exclusive domain of people who have just watched their sport-ball team exceed expectations just enough to suffer an agonizing loss.
After disclaiming the moral victory, the author then explains why he feels better about the sport-ball team in question than he did before the sport-ball match in which his team was defeated agonizingly, which kind of seems like exactly what a moral victory is. This makes the disclaimer the equivalent of "I'm not a racist, but…": a lie meant to deflect criticism.
I hate the concept of moral victories and denounce anyone who accepts them. Truly, the only thing worth striving for is numerical superiority, and claiming mitigating factors when you have not achieved numerical superiority is indicative of a diseased mind and probably communism. Love it or leave it.
That said, we totally just beat Duke.
Not, like, you know, when it comes to numbers or anything, but definitely when it comes to not embodying class privilege and being able to parse sentences about Grant Hill's family. Also almost in the numbers. In fact, if Evan Smotrycz was allowed to exist within three feet of a Duke player on a basketball court, we totally won. I will see you all in the Moral Sweet Sixteen, where we will play Butler despite the fact they're in the actual Sweet Sixteen—that's how crazy that Butler game was.
John Beilein had Michigan sing the Victors after the Duke game. I renounce my renouncing of moral victories. We are moral national champs.
I think that last bit might actually be true: in an "exceeded expectations" tournament Michigan is a one-seed. A quick glance at the Sweet Sixteen reveals chalk, the occasional mid-major expected to be good in-conference that pulled out a couple wins at the right time, the eleventh Big East qualifier, Florida State, and a couple of powers bouncing off down years. The only competition comes from the two MWC teams, San Diego State and BYU, and Ohio State, and none of those teams were responding to a victory over a hated rival by saying "too bad this isn't likely to help score an NIT bid."
I've been searching for a Michigan equivalent and in my memory can only come up with the '97 national title team. Unless there was a basketball team that outdid this year's—unlikely—I think you have to go back to 1969 to pull another team that so wildly exceeded what was expected of them*.
So no one's mad. No one's thinking about the other places in which the sun shines and the band plays and men laugh, because though Michigan's Casey struck out on a last-ditch floater no one expected to get anything out of this season other than yet another test of how much grim tolerance you can squeeze out of your pores.
We got much more than that: wins over Michigan State, a tourney bid, a grisly human sacrifice in the first round, and something that was most definitely not a moral victory in the second. We got an Aneurysm Of Leadership, a triple double, Drunken Sailor Assault Basketball, epic Smotrycz wallpaper, a genocidal campaign against backboards, Zack Novak alternate universe posterization, "Get off my court," Tim Hardaway mouthpiece thousand words, Hardaway fighting Harris for efficiency supremacy in context (and eventually winning!), Hardaway engaging killswitch, Matt Vogrich elevating himself into a photoshoppable entity (right), Zack Novak fouling out on five attempts to take a charge, and possibly more muppets than the last three football seasons combined.
We got a season, even if numerical superiority was not acquired against Duke. Next year they threaten to create a program here. If people are naturally leery of an '09 repeat, remember this time around slackers will be bled on by Zack Novak.
*[There was probably a point at which a hockey observer went "whoah," but they were so few and far between then that I'm not even sure that counts. The other main candidate is the '06 football team but in the end they were just another Rose Bowl losing team, so I think that puts them in a second tier.]
The engoodening. How does it do? That question is worthy of a post, or a series of posts, but here's a paragraph or two off the cuff anyway.
Engoodening #1: getting Smotrycz most of his minutes at the four. This would be a combination of development from Smotrycz and Horford. This year the only thing worse than having 6'4" Zack Novak guarding enormous leaping machines like Trevor Mbakwe was having Smotrycz do it, so he ended up at the four and Michigan's defense had a hard cap on how good it could be. Michigan was above average in rebounding nationally but click that conference-only box on Kenpom and Michigan turns red and ends up eighth. They're worse (ninth) at defending two-pointers. Getting Horford significant minutes seems like it will improve both numbers since he's easily Michigan's most athletic big. Insert tallest midget joke here.
Engoodening #2: vicious competition at the guard spots. Adding Burke and Brundidge and getting another year of development from floppy-haired assassin Matt Vogrich will put Douglass's minutes under threat and give Michigan an option other than panic when Morris is on the bench. Though I'm not as down on Douglass as the rest of the internet—he consistently draws the other team's top perimeter scorer, though Michigan's propensity to switch screens makes this not quite as impressive as it would be on other teams—he's an obvious target for opposing teams playing pressure defense and very rarely does anything good happen when he attempts to create a shot. Either he'll get better or someone will take his minutes.
Other bits: Jordan Morgan becomes less of a foul machine, Hardaway shoots like he did over the latter half of the season, Darius Morris develops a corner three a-la Richard Hamilton, leaning a bit more on the bench—for perspective, Michigan is actually more starter-dependent(337th in bench minutes*) than they are young(335th)—makes the starters more effective.
*[This is impressively low in a pool of 345 but isn't good for last in the league. It's not even good for second-to-last: OSU and PSU are both lower. If Sullinger and Buford leave OSU could be in for an ugly year; Penn State is going to be atrocious.]
A rocket to Kenpom. If you're wondering what a 30-point bludgeoning and a two point loss at a "semi-away" venue against the #2 team in the country does to your computer rankings, it makes for an implausibly huge leap. Michigan is now #23 on Kenpom, up from 44th before the tournament IIRC. Tennessee lost ten spots in a single game-type substance.
That's still only good for fifth in the league (Purdue, Wisconsin, and OSU are all top ten and Illinois is 17th) but everyone in front of them is getting smashed by graduation and possibly early draft entry. It's still amazing that if you take every possession Michigan played this year, and adjust it for the strength of schedule only 22 teams would expect to do better.
His Old Kentucky Home. I hope this is the last thing I have to say about people who obviously didn't bother watching the Fab Five documentary, but I bet you a dollar Jim Nantz has done this at some point:
It must be awkward for Clark Kellogg to sit next to Nantz as he goes on his righteous crusade without having even the vaguest grasp of the facts. Nantz managed to indict four people who didn't do anything wrong in the eyes of the NCAA and repeat the canard that Rose said anything at all negative about Grant Hill's family, something Grant Hill, Michael Wilbon ("Calvin and Janet Hill were left hanging out there, depicted as anything other than the model parents that they are"), and now Nantz have asserted.
This is literally everything Rose said about Hill's family:
"I was jealous of Grant Hill. He came from a great black family. Congratulations. Your mom went to college and was roommates with Hillary Clinton. Your dad played in the NFL and was a very well-spoken and successful man. I was upset and bitter that my mom had to bust her hump for 20-plus years. I was bitter that I had a professional athlete that was my father that I didn't know. I resented that moreso than I resented him."
In the end this just confirms everything Jalen Rose thought as an 18-year-old—Hill is still the person the world accepts, and asshats like Jim Nantz can't see through the red mist to see that literally the only things Rose said about Hill's family were they were "great," mom went to college, and dad was "well-spoken and successful."
The charitable interpretation is that Nantz is too stupid to parse the above quote, but I don't think that's true.
Morris return reiteration. Just in case:
“Yep,” Morris said when he was asked if he was definitely returning next season.
This echoes what Morris said a week ago, when he said “yeah, I’m here man. I’m not going anywhere.”
Chantel Jennings in the Daily. Matt Vogrich had his car covered in post-its. He cleared off enough to see and left the rest there. Surprise! No one who was zero years old in 1993 wants to talk about the Fab Five. Stu Douglass epic throwdown vs Tennessee. Also more evidence that taking a picture of Tim Hardaway, Jr., is always a good idea:
2/25/2010 – Michigan 3, NMU 2 – 22-9-4, 19-7-1 CCHA
2/26/2010 – Michigan 5, NMU 0 – 23-9-4, 20-7-1 CCHA – Champions
My AP Biology teachers were not very good at anticipating how much minutia an average high school student could write down in 54 minutes. They consistently wrote tests that were ten minutes too long. This compounded itself over the course of a day, so when we showed up for the last hour there was always a class full of frantic scribblers occupying our seats forever. Forced to wait, definitely not making any bus, and unbound by anyone showing up after us, my class would dribble out of the room anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes after the official end of the school day.
Except for me. Pointless memorization was my jam, man. I blew through the tests in a half hour, then waited outside for a friend who would need a ride. I'm sure this privately infuriated my teachers since most of my time in their class was spent asleep. If I'd failed a test or even not done so well they could have swooped in with Life Lessons, maybe even called my mom to describe what a terrible student I was. But as long as I was the only guy finishing their insane tests on time they were powerless.
Michigan has not been a particularly entertaining hockey team this year. They've been gritty and frustrating and occasionally elegant but only from the back end; Hagelin has been fast and Hunwick surprisingly effective. They split with an awful MSU team and didn't look like they even belonged on the same ice as Miami. They blew leads to tie seemingly all of their nonconference games. They didn't score much in the way they were trying to. It's been jarring.
Even this weekend they spent the first 90 minutes asleep. On Friday, Shawn Hunwick and some emergency defending saw them scrape a win they didn't seem to deserve. On Saturday it was looking like they were going to do the same after the first 26 minutes saw 12 shots total, one of them an attempted pass by Hagelin that a Wildcat deflected into his own net. Since I was watching the internet feed on my computer my melodramatic twitter feed features an existential crisis, incredible frustration, and the phrase "awful, awful, awful."
After the existential crisis the previous class shuffled out and Michigan got down to business. There was a humorous scene in which they wrote so fast smoke rose from the paper. When it cleared no one was even mad two goals had been waved off because four others had stood.
What was that? Was that something that's been there all along but isn't unearthed on the regular, or was it just like Michigan starting the Minnesota basketball game off 6 of 6 from three, a statistical fluke? Should we call Michigan's mother to tell on him?
I'm not sure we can. The test is in and it says "A":
No matter how deeply suspicious we are or are not, the test says "A". Michigan may have gotten blown out of Oxford but Miami won four fewer games in the league. On Saturday Notre Dame had three goals disallowed and scored none against Western Michigan. They did not put a knuckling puck through the Bronco goalie with 40 seconds left, then flick one into the top corner with two left. They allowed twelve more goals than Michigan and scored only three more. I'm still not sure how that's true but it is. Last year Michigan finished seventh in the league, and this year they won it.
Now we come to the knee-buckling section of the schedule. Last year Michigan reached this point down their starting goalie, playing a first-round series for the first time in forever and staring down the barrel of Michigan State, Miami, and someone else if they were going to extend their tourney streak. They did, and then they were robbed of a Frozen Four bid in one of the program's all-time classic games. They died like Vikings, turning their league D into a B.
This year they've got a much easier road. They've guaranteed themselves an at large and won't face either of the CCHA's other elite teams until the final. Hold serve and you're one game away from a one seed and a friendly bracket.
I don't know what to think. Maybe the subtler qualities really do exist and this series of narrow victories is just what happens when you're a really good defensive team that lacks magic midgets. I've never deeply cared about a team like this. Maybe this is what life is like when you've got six good to great defenders and Scooter Vaughn is vying to be your second-leading scorer. Or maybe the Miami series was a dark preview of what will happen whenever Michigan meets an elite opponent.
I'll know in the next month. They've got an A so far, but the only thing that matters in this class is the final. This is not fair. It is, however, college hockey.
The usual extreme detail from mfan_in_ohio.
Somewhat briefer: for a moment on Friday night Michigan had fallen to tenth despite their win against NMU, but when the dust cleared from the weekend Michigan moved up into a tie for fourth(!) despite losing OSU's record and gaining MSU's in their TUC category. Then a butterfly flapped its wings, sending MSU below .500 RPI. Voila:
Bracketology stuff usually has Michigan playing RPI/CC in the first round and getting the winner of Union/UMD in the second if they get there. Stop the season right now. I want to get off.
How did this happen?
Merrimack blew up. The lead people including myself thought was unassailable evaporated in a single weekend as meh Maine (14-10-6 before the weekend) swept. I think we PWR watchers underestimate how quickly teams high up in the RPI can backslide if they get swept. Merrimack has terrible Providence this weekend and can only lose ground—sweeping leaves their RPI basically where it is now.
WCHA teams did too. UMD only got one point out of their weekend with CC, and UNO split with Denver—the exact result Michigan wanted.
CCHA playoffs rooting guide:
- In the first round you want Alaska over MSU, NMU over BGSU, and OSU over LSSU. NMU [M: 2-0 against them] can approach the cutoff with a sweep and OSU [3-1] can get over the hump with one. MSU [2-2] is thousandths away from the cutoff and if they don't lose things could get ugly. OTOH, this might not be so bad. Unless BGSU pulls a massive upset MSU would then play Michigan in the second round. Michigan could put them right back under .500. Even if they didn't the record would then be 4-2, which whatever.
- Second round assuming no upsets: Michigan, obvs, over OSU or LSSU. NMU over Miami, as that would make them a TUC. Ferris-WMU doesn't really matter since it appears the Bulldogs are locked in as a TUC, and neither would ND-Alaska.
- At the Joe it probably won't matter as long as Michigan wins.
The most important other thing: Die, Denver. You die and go to hell. Also, pull hard for UNH against BC this weekend.
Non-Bullets Of Silverware
Wat. If you were one of the dedicated few ripping the NMU radio guy a new one on twitter as you watched the B2E feed you might have wondered what the hell Michigan players were doing after the game, unless you were also one of the many who played NHL 94 incessantly. Michigan Hockey Net digs up a junior team doing the same thing. I'm impressed guys who were about three when '94 came out have even heard of it.
Feed BTW. It probably wasn't worth seven bucks if we're talking about a random midseason series. With the title on the line, though, I shelled out both nights and was relatively impressed. Negatives: the quality is not super high and you aren't getting replays. Positive: the feed was very smooth. I missed maybe a minute of game time total to internet hiccups.
The quality wasn't good enough for me to be able to say much about specific players, however. It was tough for me to figure out who was who most of the time.
One exception. Hunwick bounced back huge on Friday night after a disappointing series against Western. He stole that game. On Saturday he had very little to do, so points to the team defense there.
Highlights. HT to Michigan Hockey Net for digging up highlights from Friday and Saturday. Friday:
That post from MHN has a bunch of other stuff including Andrew Cogliano fighting someone much bigger than him.
“You’re instincts take over on a play like that,” Burlon said after Friday’s game. “(Hunwick) was the goalie on that one, but then, I’ve got to play goalie. You do anything for the team to get the win and that was just one of those plays.”
Yost Built hasn't updated. Frowns.