i hope this post title is emo enough for mgojen
Glanzman, from the not-Copper Bowl.
[Ed-S: change of format; Ace is asking the questions]
Ace: It's sad that this needs to be asked, but here we are: If not for the fact that you're contributing to this blog, would you watch any more Michigan football this year, and why/why not? If you have tickets, what are you doing with them?
Brian: I dunno man, I just go. At this point it's a habit so ingrained that changing that is a legit scary thing. That's one of the most frustrating things about all of this: you can't just walk away. If this was anything other than sports you'd just go "this is dumb" and quit it. Like R.E.M. releasing Up. That was all, R.E.M., we are now done, thanks for Life's Rich Pageant.
I'm now in uncharted territory, though. Michigan's losing to Utah and I'm not feeling much of anything; against Minnesota I'm just laughing like a guy walking to the gallows. I don't even mind them losing very much because I'm not going into any games with hope something will happen, and every L is another nail in Brandon's coffin. I have no idea how close to complete that coffin is, what with reports ranging from nonexistent to juuuust about done, and at this point I really need that guy to not be in charge of our program anymore.
So... I would probably be going and sitting in mute sadness interspersed with outbursts of yelling at the coach when an obviously bad strategic decision is made. That's already what I'm doing.
I'm planning on going to the next two games and then seeing what happens before Maryland.
[After the jump, Butt.]
9/6/2014 – Michigan 0, Notre Dame 31 – 1-1
I set a new record for earliest departure from a Michigan game Saturday: 10 minutes and change, besting the 2007 Oregon game that I left with about six minutes left. And I feel… okay, I guess.
Ace and I did the podcast Sunday and it's actually kind of good. This is a far cry from previous podcasts in the aftermath of doom. The Alabama one was barely worth recording, and we knew it at the time. This one runs down the suck but there's a jaunty air and no one seems like they're taking the bar exam after a 72-hour bender.
We are used to it. And hey, man, Michigan outgained Notre Dame. I know we lost 31-0 but that was nowhere near as emasculating as that aforementioned Oregon game or the 2008 Ohio State game in which Brandon Minor was the only Michigan player who looked like he was in college instead of high school or last year's Michigan State game in which Michigan acquired –48 rushing yards. Or maybe it was but we can't tell because our football testicles have been ground away by the sandpaper of the last seven years and all we feel is increasing smoothness.
Oh man. This feels really smooth.
I can't even remember why I didn't want this bit between my legs to be so flat you could try to set a land speed record over it.
I don't know, man. You only have one thing to base predictions of the future on: the past. And the past suggested that Blake Countess was a pretty good cornerback who couldn't cope with Tyler Lockett. It didn't look like that on Saturday night. It looked like Tony Gibson was in town again.
Notre Dame built its unassailable lead on a series of man press-type coverages on which ND would break to the inside unmolested without a Michigan cornerback even there to tackle on the catch. That is a recipe for disaster. With Raymon Taylor knocked out and Channing Stribling burned just like Countess was on his first play, Michigan had no choice but to throw Countess out there again. He promptly ended up yards away from Will Fuller on the fade all the inside stuff had set Michigan up for.
Countess had six interceptions as part of a pretty good pass defense a year ago and while that was a passive zone thing you kind of figure that guys capable of doing that will be capable at man coverage.
That was emphatically disproven on Saturday, throwing the entire offseason into question. The deck chair shuffling of defensive coaches touted as the path forward now looks ludicrous.
- you're going to give your defense an extreme makeover based on pressure and man-to-man coverage and
- you rearrange your coaching staff so that your new cornerbacks coach is a guy who has never played or coached the position before and
- then your corners are a complete fiasco in their first real test, then
people are going to think that's a bad idea man.
By all accounts Roy Manning is a terrific recruiter and enthusiastic, dedicated coach. He's just not a secondary coach. That kind of random insertion at position X is something lower-level (like, DII) schools do because of limited resources. Michigan found itself in that position because…
I don't actually know. That was not a rhetorical pause.
Best as I can figure, Hoke loathes firing anyone. For most of last year it was expected that Borges would return because those were the vibes the program was emanating, and the about-face there still has conspiracy theorists asserting that Brandon made him make the switch. Approximately 80% of emails to me this offseason were some variant of FIRE DARRELL FUNK FERGODSAKES, and it's hard to imagine many programs sticking with the offensive line coach after that.
Meanwhile Hoke's standoffishness with everyone outside the program is increasing daily. Everyone inside the velvet rope is golden. Everyone on the outside is garbage. The bunker mentality is suddenly warranted, at least.
Getting blown out 31-0 by Notre Dame is a gamechanging event. You can feel it in the nonsense decisions Hoke made in the second half. Michigan played turtle ball that saw Michigan run 35 seconds off the clock between snaps in the middle of the third quarter; they left Funchess and Gardner in the game deep into the fourth quarter. Let's look like we're trying without actually doing so. Make it look good for the boss.
Gardner ended up taking a lethal cheap shot on the final snap, and no one in a winged helmet seemed to notice or care. That was eerily reminiscent of the hockey team a couple years ago when Mac Bennett was the recipient of a dirty hit at the end of a 5-1 blowout at the hands of lowly BGSU. No one responded, and it was obvious they were cooked.
Hoke talks about toughness constantly, but when asked to defend their quarterback they walked away, to a man. Maybe that's Taylor Lewan's fault too.
This program has a real knack for blaming the people who aren't around anymore for its current failings. Let's detail those real quick: Michigan is 3-7 in their last ten games with wins over Indiana, Northwestern in three overtimes, and Appalachian State. Brady Hoke was 16-4 with Denard Robinson as his starting quarterback and is 11-9 since, excluding the Nebraska game he went out of. Michigan has one road win over a team with a winning record, that over 7-6 Illinois in 2011. The trajectory is not good.
This is a breaking point. Either Michigan comes to Jesus, or they break. It was at this moment that Michigan hockey turned to Andrew Copp, a freshman, because it was clear no one else had any of that leadership stuff, and charged towards respectability. They ended up short, but it was better than that BGSU game in which they couldn't muster a third-period shot until 15 minutes in.
There's time yet to salvage something, Lloyd Carr-style, but little reason to believe such a thing is possible. One thing's certain: we are running out of people to blame other than the ones in charge.
From the ND perspective, not that there's any other possible:
Brady Hoke Epic Double Points Of The Week. Devin Funchess (#1) was real good at catching the ball, especially that one time they targeted him downfield at the end of the third quarter.
#2 Willie Henry was a key component of a run defense that held Notre Dame to 72 yards, sacks and whatnot excluded.
#3 Ryan Glasgow was also a key component of that run D.
Epic Double Point Standings.
6: Devin Funchess (#1, APP, #1 ND)
2: Devin Gardner (#2, APP), Willie Henry (#2 ND)
1: Ryan Glasgow (#3, ND)
0.5: Kyle Kalis (T3, APP), Ben Braden (T3, APP)
Brady Hoke Epic Double Fist-Pump Of The Week.
For the single individual best moment.
Honorable mention: Nothing.
Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.
AppSt: Derrick Green rumbles for 60 yards.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK. Other than everything it has to be the fourth-and-three conversion on which Countess was nowhere to be found. That led to an ND touchdown that opened the margin to two touchdowns.
Honorable mention: Matt Wile misses two field goals to end longish drives and put Michigan in a hole. Gardner has Chesson wide open 20 yards downfield in front of his face, holds the ball, and gets annihilated, fumbling. Countess torched on a fade.
AppSt: Devin Gardner dares to throw an incomplete pass.
ND: Countess nowhere to be found on fourth and three.
[After the JUMP: things. probably!]
3/30/2013 – Michigan 72, Kentucky 75 – 28-9, 15-3 Big Ten, season over
same damn shot
About three hours later, I realized I was on the same damn road, passing the same damn Indiana towns with ominous overtones in their names.
I was feeling the same damn way. I wanted the miles to evaporate faster than they were, to put all that behind me, to have a stiff drink at home. Mostly I just wanted to sit on a couch and exhale until everything had left my body and I flopped over on my side, inert, until the smell of bacon revived me in a day or a week or a year.
I kept trying to do this exhalation thing, and it was not working. I spent most of the game fearing the immaculately-coifed Kentucky fan in front of me would turn around and ask me to stop breathing so hard on her neck, whereupon I'd have to explain to her husband that yes I may be making your wife's neck uncomfortably moist but you see I am trying to expel my soul which really no that's not what I'm saying oh I see I've just been punched.
We made quite a crew in section 228: me trying to not die and not exist at the same time; the lady who is mercifully tolerant of moist neck; the XXXL Kentucky fan next to me complaining that the refs were treating Stauskas like a pretty pretty princess after every possession; the two Michigan bros a few rows in front of me taking their fashion cues from Macklemore and standing after every basket to make karma-obliterating woofing noises; and the unaffiliated mother with her family on the way to spring break trying to commiserate with me about how the Kentucky fans who made up about 90% of our section were just unreasonably into sports.
It took her a while but I think she finally put me into the unreasonable bin after the teams traded dagger three pointers with a few minutes left and the sun came through the floor of Colts Location Stadium, blasting us all with a heat only she noticed.
The boxing metaphor is inescapable. I have seen many basketball games; this one is the one that defies you to compare it to anything else. And it was specific: this was not the kind of boxing match where a Cuban with ten thousand amateur fights comes out and touches you up for twelve rounds until he's ahead on all the scorecards. This was two dudes with noses that might as well already be broken strolling out and windmilling at each other until one looks like Chernobyl… and he's the guy still standing.
Max Kellerman talks a lot about how great fighters are not like people, because when they get hit witheringly hard they don't want to dig a hole and lay down in it for a while. They instead get mad and start hammering back. This is an easy thing to feel you are capable of when not being hit witheringly hard, and pretty much the entire point of boxing is to strip this feeling from victim after victim. I have no illusions about my response to being hit like that. I will put my head in my hands, check twitter, and be nearly incapable of standing. One day I'm just going to fall over. I've made my peace with it.
Michigan—this Michigan team, this dead Michigan team—is not like that. They dug out of enough ten point holes midway through the season to demonstrate that, surely. Here every time Kentucky would threaten to pull away Stauskas would swoop into the lane or Morgan would collect a rebound and finish against Kentucky's never-ending assembly line of skyscrapers, or Robinson would nail the late momentum-shifting corner three that has become a trademark over the past month.
If Calipari had ran out to midcourt with a shovel and started whacking Morgan with it while screaming "WHY <whack> WON'T <whack> YOU <whack> DIE," this would have made total sense to everyone in attendance. Kentucky was hitting three pointers and taking zero jumpers otherwise. They rebounded 63% of their misses(!). Michigan was there, riddled with bullets but still lurching forward.
As the game went on and the temperature rose, the building knew. There is an odd shift in the dynamics of an arena once it becomes clear to everyone present that they are watching an out-and-out classic. The stakes, already astronomical, ratchet ever-higher as the imperative to not lose this game, to win this game, to have this thing in your heart forever for cold nights and funerals, reaches critical mass. I mean, what if Michigan loses in overtime to Kansas last year? It does not bear thinking about.
So Michigan executes its version of that Syracuse possession with about seven missed shots in four seconds except Jordan Morgan wills the ball in the basket with his goddamned mind, and then it's just one guy taking a bad shot that looks improbably true.
It was probably the guys tweeting that they were watching Cosmos and regretting that they were responsible adults with children instead of super high and watching Cosmos that put me in this frame of mind but on the same damn road I started thinking about how space was unfathomably large, cold, and empty.
We'd just exited what was temporarily the saddest Culver's in America, on the vanguard of a highway of silent maize-clad Michigan fans acknowledging each other with a sigh and a shrug at chain restaurants and rest stops. In the fifteen minutes it had taken to eat, the twilight had turned definitively into night. The sun down, I tried exhaling again. Still nothing.
You know, I was basically okay. I thought about Jordan Morgan and the Kentucky fans all screaming out defensive instructions to their players whenever Stauskas touched the ball and figured out the exact tenor of my sadness. I had been eroded in the presence of the sun, and was glad for it, but now that place was getting smaller and farther all the time.
We were an outbound comet, hoping, waiting for the next opportunity to feel the stellar wind blow.
Jordan Morgan. Uh…
— John Mozena (@johnmoz) March 30, 2014
I'm not actually sure I can or want to do that. Usually those kind of things are reserved for the Cazzie Russell types but these days anyone that good exits before he can… well, I kind of want to say "program icon status" but if I say "Trey Burke" one of two images pops into your head so that's not quite right. But they're awesome and gone so fast it feels a little weird putting them in the rafters. (Being a Kentucky fan these days must be the weirdest experience in sports. Entirely new team every year.)
Watching Morgan's up and down career end with a tournament run in which he was one man trying to hold back the hordes… it does make you wonder. Morgan is the embodiment of the program's straight arrow up in the Beilein era, and he is an epic twitter troll with two engineering degrees. Save a Tyler Hansborough/Russ Smith type who is awesome but has one critical flaw in his game that prevents the NBA from swooping in on him, it's hard to think there are going to be many more deserving four-year guys.
Nik Stauskas. If that was the last game, and I'm guessing it was, he went out with a bang. I think swooping layups and rim attack after rim attack against Kentucky may perk up NBA draft executives' ears.
It is kind of crap luck that the guys Beilein turns into killers are so so good that they're two or three and out these days. As Morgan demonstrated, seniors are nice to have. You're up, Caris.
Welp. Michigan was set to win this game despite getting bombed on the boards, just as it had been ordained, but Kentucky, the #249 team in the country from three, went 7/11 behind the arc on looks that were mostly contested. If you find randomness on the street, slug it in the gut and say that's from MGoBlog.
SOFT THREE-DEPENDENT BEILEIN. That's continually the line from MSU fans. Michigan from two against freakin' Kentucky: 20/39. Michigan State versus UConn: 7/17. MSU took 12 more threes than twos. Shirtless AXE bro, heal thyself.
(Two point baskets by players who will probably return to MSU next year: 1, by Dawson.)
The NCAA tournament remains great. Hunter Lochmann probably had a stroke when he realized that absolutely no piped in music would be provided. Wait until they see a February NBA game, he thought, 'I'm Gonna Make You Sweat' is gonna make YOU sweat.
Do you know what they did during TV timeouts? Nothing. They put some trivia up on the scoreboard. There was the occasional announcement. Otherwise the commercial breaks were bands playing music and nothing else. It was amazing.
No one left at halftime, muttering about how if they can't hear "Ceiling Can't Hold Us" there's no point to sports. "Why will no one direct me to make noise?" this nonexistent person asks. "Where is my kiss cam? Are you guys even having a sporting contest? GIVE ME MY HAT SHUFFLE."
Anyway, for all the commercialism the NCAA packs into their every waking moment they have really minimized it for the event itself. The tournament is a national treasure for that reason. Michigan should emulate that instead of the ECHL.
Except for PA announcer guy. It started off poorly when he called Caris LeVert "Caress" LeVert and continued for the entire two games; even when not doing that the Colts Location Stadium PA announcer sounded like a terrible parody of a smarmy PA guy instead of a PA guy. Imagine Rob Schneider doing PA guy, and then make him worse at it. Oy.
Stagger. My one problem with the tournament setup is one I'm sure everyone shares: what is up with the game stagger in the Sweet 16? There's no reason MSU and Virginia should be going down to the wire at the same time Kentucky and Louisville are melting down Colts Location Stadium. Also you have large video boards; when game action isn't going on those should be playing other games.
Basketball of the future. Michigan wanted to force Kentucky into two-point jumpers. Nope:
With that distribution it's a victory that Michigan only gave up 48% from two in the second half, and yes, Daryl Morey is subscribing to Calipari's newsletter.
Stats! This game created or cemented a few remarkable ones.
@JohnGasaway It was the highest combined offensive rebounding percentage game of the entire season among two D1 teams
— Jordan Sperber (@hoopvision68) March 31, 2014
Moral Victory: Michigan finishes with an adj. offensive efficiency of 124.1. That's the best in the KenPom era.
— Drew Hallett (@DrewCHallett) March 31, 2014
He doesn't care about this now, but Jordan Morgan set the Michigan record for best FG% in a season (70.0%) and a career (63.1%).
— Drew Hallett (@DrewCHallett) March 31, 2014
70%! For a below-the-rim center. John Beilein is a genius, man. Also, best offense in 11 years (shhh, don't mention the rule changes).
Dammit. I said I wasn't going to think about McGary what ifs. Impossible not to, though. Imagine Morgan bumping down to the 4 for big chunks of this game with Mitch's crazy defensive rebounding on Dakari Johnson. On the other hand…
Michigan won the Big Ten by three games was a coinflip away from the Final Four without Burke, Hardaway, and McGary. I'd say let that sink in, but it should have been doing so for weeks now and it hasn't and it probably won't. The shots Michigan took should have had them down and out since they don't recruit at a super-elite level, but instead they blew through a conference that had three Elite Eight teams. And even though they're likely to take more NBA hits this offseason, they should enter next year as one of the conference favorites. It boggles the mind.