Niko Porikos grew up in an NTDP billet home. Cool story.
By Heiko "My Name Does Not Lend Itself To Nicknames" Yang
Hello. So sorry about last week. From the feedback that we received, Mr. RoUMel and I realized that we needed a change in tactics after we both predicted a loss and negatively influenced the outcome of the game. You may not know this, but here at Punt-Counterpunt our number one priority is balance. Accuracy, while valued, is secondary. Last week we violated our first principle in favor of the second, so to atone for our error, we have decided that both of us will predict Michigan wins.
I assure you this is not disingenuous in any way whatsoever. I have been following the developments regarding the football team over the past week and analyzed them critically. My conclusion is that Michigan will be victorious today for the following reasons:
1. Changing quarterbacks is the appropriate remedy. Although this kind of move typically results in less favorable outcomes among most programs and we have no evidence to support that Shane Morris is in any way better than Devin Gardner, it is better than doing nothing. As we say in medicine when we take the Hippocratic Oath, “first do something,” because we all know that you can’t cure someone of a deadly illness by standing around.
Think about it like this: if Michigan had Ebola and the experimental drug were unavailable because he’s in San Francisco coaching the 49ers, what would you do? Brady Hoke’s expert recommendation is to give antibiotics, and I concur. No, it does not make sense because Ebola is a virus and antibiotics are for bacteria, but at least you would be doing something. And really, what’s the worse that could happen? If an Ebola patient lives long enough to develop C. diff diarrhea, you congratulate them for surviving Ebola.
2. Attendance will be kept above 100,000 at all costs. Yes, even if it means bundling tickets with Coke products or flat-out giving them away. Sure, there may be negative consequences of this in the long term, but at this juncture Michigan cannot afford to think about the long term. There is an immediate need for resuscitation. If your patient is bleeding out and you can’t stop it, you give them blood immediately, end of discussion. Try to match their blood type? No time. The only blood available was obtained from the black market? Don’t care, give it! But this is Michigan, fergodsa—? No, this is West Africa, and if the patient lives long enough to discover they have viral hepatitis or HIV, you congratulate them for surviving Ebola.
3. We have no idea what’s going on inside Schembechler Hall. Michigan is still abiding by its policy of keeping secrets and providing non-information regarding their personnel and game plan. This is highly advantageous because it allows the staff the freedom to focus and do whatever they want without daily criticism from fans and outsiders. It’s like admitting a patient and then not updating the family about anything until the patient is either cured or dead. If dead, you cite HIPAA as a reason for not divulging the fact that you gave antibiotics and unmatched blood. If cured, you congratulate them for surviving Ebola.
Michigan 5, Minnesota 4
By Nick RouMel
I have never felt this low, nor sensed this much despair. Even the RichRod years felt like a temporary blip, and hope for the future remained alive. But now … Wolverine Nation is in disarray, mean, ugly, and divided.
I was astounded last week at the comments Punt/Counterpunt generated. Heiko and I each picked a home loss. The reaction was swift and negative. “Disgusting.” “Yellow.” “Fire both of these idiots for these predictions.” “Fucking awful.” “Dong punch.”
Although I snickered at that last one, the feedback did sting. I don’t usually get such negative reaction to my writing, except in my day job from opposing counsel and judges - but I digress.
One comment in particular stuck with me: “What a fucking copout.......that's a coward's way to look at this game. So, if we lose then you can say "We told you so."”
Well, yeah, that’s the point of predictions. And despite what many readers may surmise, by and large our columns reflect our true feelings. Nor do I ever root against the Wolverines just for the satisfaction of an accurate call, nor get any joy if it comes true. But lately it has been very difficult to be optimistic.
That all changes this week. No, I don’t think our sick team is out of the woods, but I do feel we’re well enough to beat the Gophers. Forget how bad I may feel about criticism – if you’re a player or coach, it has to be a thousand times more brutal. Every time you pick up the paper, turn on the radio, or browse the internet, the inescapable message is that you’re all worthless bums.
I think this criticism has fired up the team. While I don’t generally ascribe to the philosophy illustrated below…
… there is something about the “us against the world” attitude that sometimes inspires extraordinary effort and motivation.
I am also hoping for a little personnel change to make things interesting. From the beginning of the season, I had advocated for Shane Morris to play quarterback. This is not to say anything against Devin Gardner. He is a gamer and a real talent, and I don’t think Morris is necessarily better. But my thinking has been, if you have two talented players, why keep one on the bench? Can you imagine a pro set with Morris at QB, Funchess and Gardner spread wide, the fast little guys in the slot, and a healthy Jake “One of the Butt Sisters” busting yards in the middle?
Not to mention Green, Smith and Hayes churning out those gaudy 6-plus yard averages behind a good offensive line. With the solid defense that we have, all we have to do is minimize mistakes and bonehead plays to be competitive in every game.
As such, Minnesota doesn’t stand a chance, regardless of who is behind center. I have to believe that we have done hit bottom – and that we start climbing out today.
Yes sports fans, my name is Counterpunt, and I make predictions. Dong punch this, suckas:
MICHIGAN 24, MINNESOTA 10
expect PLANES today apparently
By Nick RouMel
This weekend is already a success! I sold my tickets for $30 each, a significant improvement over the $20 I obtained for my Miami ducats. This does not include the cut taken by my friendly neighborhood protection racket.
Truth is, I cannot bear to be present during the Utah game. I fear a terrible result. I base this on several important factors.
One is Utah’s all time record vs. the Wolverines. It is just as good as that of several other formidable opponents, such as Alabama, Appalachian State, Auburn, Florida State, and Iowa Pre-Flight. The last time Utah played Michigan, they beat us in the Big House 25-23 en route to an undefeated 2008 season.
Reason number two is the disrespect afforded us by today’s opponent. Heed this from the Salt Lake City Tribune, contrasting the 2008 contest to this year’s game: “Back then, beating Michigan was a sign. It indicated the Utes … were ready for prime time. By contrast, this Michigan team might not be among Utah’s top five toughest.”
“Back then?” Ouch. Has it been that long since anyone considered Michigan a signature win?
Reason three is Brady Hoke’s all-time record against Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. It’s 0-2, both losses coming when Hoke coached San Diego State. This is conclusive evidence that Whittingham is in Hoke’s head, just as surely as that box of Little Debbies sits on Hoke’s desk.
Reason four is that the official attendance will be less than 100,000. In fact the stadium will be so empty that the best Carl Grapentine will be able to muster is “the largest crowd watching a football game anywhere in Washtenaw County today.” For the most part, I expect the fans who do attend to spectate with marked indifference.
And reason five, for my fear that Michigan will not prevail over Utah, is that I cannot overcome my overwhelming lack of confidence to predict a victory for this team - at least at this point in the 2014 season.
Sports fans, this may be a Punt-Counterpunt first – two picks for a home loss. Definitely not a milestone worth celebrating. Please accept the following with my apologies:
UTAH 24, MICHIGAN 21
By Heiko Yang
This is less Punt-Counterpunt than it is Delay of Game-Punt from the 37. What better to follow up disappointment than with more disappointment?
I agree with Mr. RouMel’s reasons for why Michigan is going to lose today, but I believe he’s thinking and feeling too hard. I prefer much simpler explanations.
1. Utah wears red. Over the last two seasons, Michigan’s record against teams wearing red is 3-6. That’s not good. It’s 4-6 if you include CMU last year because you think maroon is the same as red, in which case you probably also think corn is a vegetable.
2. I don’t know what the capital of Utah is. Does anyone? It’s probably obscure like “Cheyenne” or something. Wait, the internet says it’s Salt Lake City. That’s stupid, and I don’t believe. That’s like saying Detroit is the capital of Michigan, or New York City is the capital of New York, because having your biggest city be your capital is completely un-American. Stop being so un-American, Utah. Here in America we play with 11 players – not 12! -- and our wide receivers are not allowed to sprint toward the line of scrimmage before the snap, so don’t even think about it.
3. The entire Utah team went to see Maze Runner last night.
Michigan’s running backs feel like they’re in Maze Runner every other play.
4. There’s a guy on their team whose last name is Amaama, pronounced “ah-mah-ah-mah.” That reminds me pleasantly of that muppets song called “mahna mahna.” Please, Special K. Please play the muppets during the game. If you don’t, Michigan Stadium will be awash in my radiant disappointment while I will cheer loudly for Amaama if he plays, which he probably won’t, because he’s a freshman OL, and only at Michigan do we play freshman OL.
5. Today is September 20. The last time Michigan had a football game on September 20 was in 2003 when they played Oregon. And lost.
Utah 35, Michigan 21
[Editor's note: yes I know someone is supposed to predict a win against a middling Pac-12 team. Depression! Ennui!]
Yeah, it sure does hurt.
By Heiko Yang
Well that sucked. Not sure what more I can say about last week other than I can’t believe my pessimistic prediction (ND 21, UM 16) wasn’t pessimistic enough. I actually thought at halftime that Michigan could shut out Notre Dame in the second half and score a couple touchdowns, but of course that didn’t happen because why would anyone make any halftime adjustments.
One of the nice things about not covering the team anymore is I can choose to stop thinking about Michigan football during the week. I don’t have to go to depressing press conferences and ask inconsequential questions about game plans and then have to listen to it all over again while transcribing. I don’t have to open the mgoblog app or Twitter to read about how crappy Michigan played against Notre Dame and why the season is over. None of this is in my face anymore like it has been the last three years.
Except I still spend my free time scrutinizing postgame pressers, looking for the game column Monday around noon, waiting patiently for the UFRs, and scanning Twitter daily for developments. No matter how disappointing the result, I’m finding it impossible to mentally or emotionally distance myself from Michigan football.
Win or lose, following Michigan football is important for my happiness. I don’t know why. It’s an obsession that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, and it’s a weird feeling I’ve been trying to figure out for more than a year now. It’s counterintuitive that I can feel better by thinking about the very thing that makes me feel miserable.
So far I’ve concluded that the underlying reason for all of this might be -- idunno, hope? Certainly not hope in the cure-for-cancer sense, but more like hope as a coping mechanism. I think most you get what I’m talking about. No matter how badly a game goes, there’s always a degree to which every fan will rationalize the results and pick out the tiny glimmers of hope indicating that things weren’t as bad as they seem and that there might be a better outcome next time.
As Michigan fans, we’re lucky to have this blog to do the rationalizing for us. The weekly UFR is the ultimate tool with which to say, “Yeah, we scored zero points, but because of X, Y, and Z, we may be more likely to score more than zero points in the future.” Even when Michigan is losing, like it was the entire second half of 2013, there are individual performances we can follow week to week in order to find tiny victories, like Frank Clark’s emergence and Devin Gardner’s heroic performances in spite of staggering adversity. It’s always a thrill when these tiny victories come together in unison to give you that one perfect game or that one badly needed victory over a rival. Last game, it was good to know that there was improvement by defensive front and offensive line. Even though getting blanked by an absconding rival always sucks, it’s nice to believe that the team is taking a step forward from last season’s ineptitude.
I don’t think this tendency will ever change, and I don’t want it to. Michigan might be mediocre for the next five seasons, but many of us will continue to watch because we will always have hope that things will be better next game.
It isn’t a bad addiction by any means. It’s a weekly exercise in optimism, and there’s nothing weird or maladaptive about a way of thinking that someday might actually help lead to a cure for cancer.
Michigan 52, Miami 10
By Nick RouMel
Welcome, Heiko, to Wolverines Anonymous. Have a cup of coffee and take a seat.
We too used to live and die on the outcome. A bad loss would ruin our day, if not our week. Look at my friend Jim over there, sitting in the folding chair, with a half eaten powdered sugar doughnut. In 1980, he was driving, listening to the Notre Dame game, when Harry Oliver’s 51 yard field goal barely cleared the crossbar to beat Michigan, just as the fierce crosswinds that had been blowing all afternoon miraculously stopped.
Jim stopped his car on Washtenaw Avenue, got out, banged on the hood for a few miserable moments, and then presumably drove straight to the nearest bar. He still hasn’t recovered.
Today, Heiko, we are on the road to recovery. It has been a long, arduous trip. But we are no longer emotionally beholden to the fate of the football team. We have stopped tailgating. We put our tickets on StubHub and hope they sell. We do crazy things on Saturday, like spend time with our families. Heiko, for the rest of us in this room, it’s over.
Oh, sure, we do our share of cyberstalking. We check the score, furtively. In meetings, we scan MGoBlog, and nod knowingly at the sage insights, while our co-workers think we’re agreeing with the boss. Our hearts still leap a little bit when we score a recruit, like Jabrill Peppers.
And when the opening drive is hitting on all cylinders, that familiar longing returns. We dare hope. But reality intrudes, rudely. Like when you’re in a hotel bar in Toronto, watching the game with your wife, and it turns ugly. And you don’t even realize your wallet was stolen while you were hammering down Rusty Nails and yelling at the screen. Thank you, Hilton security. But I digress.
It’s not, Heiko. It’s not important for your happiness. It’s not a five year bump in the road. It’s not what it once was. It’s a diversion. That’s why you’re here. Have a coffee and doughnut, and pull up a chair. We can help you.
Yes, my name is Counterpunt and I’m a cranky old S.O.B. I haven’t cared in …
Whoa, what’s this report on my IPhone? John Harbaugh is tired of the Ray Rice mess in Baltimore and might be enticed to Ann Arbor? That would be a great fit! It could bring us back to glory!
Enjoy your doughnut, Heiko. I’m going to the game.
MICHIGAN 27, MIAMI 19
PUNT – Notre Dame 9/6/14
by Nick RouMel
I made it out of town for this week’s game. All around me are the reminders of the rich history of Notre Dame: travels down Notre Dame Street, and the majestic Basilica:
Yet the populace here seems unconcerned with tomorrow’s game. In fact, the only reference I’ve seen to football is an out-of-the-way sports bar last night that featured the Seahawks-Packers game. No, not this one:
In fact, the only reference to football in this town is the occasional obscure sign of the local squad, the Montreal Alouettes, the only team named after an herbed cheese spread:
Yes, sports fans, I am in Canada. The Notre Dame Basilica to which I refer is here in Montreal. It features no “Touchdown Jesus,” “First Down Moses,” or the only head coach in Notre Dame history who never lost a game, George “Resume Padder” O’Leary. (I mean seriously, why would you lie about whether you played football at the University of New Hampshire, a team whose motto is “Win or Die?)
Right now it’s looking like the only pregame pep rally available is at a Montreal Jazz Club, where I either made 8:30 PM reservations on the all-French web site, or sold my wife into slavery. I guess I’ll find out when we get there.
Tomorrow, I’ll look for a sports bar in Toronto to watch the Wolverines take on the Irish. I have to admit I was impressed by the opener. Our men were prepared and played well. Last year the most miserable performances were against the teams we had a right to take lightly, and those close victories for me stung even worse than the losses. It was nice to see us get out of the gate on such a high note.
Can the Wolverines sustain momentum, for a team it embarrassed last year under the lights at Michigan Stadium? You know the Irish want to end the rivalry on a high note, and maintain its slim lead in all-time-percentage over the Maize and Blue. But I have a feeling we’ll be feasting on poulet. Nothing will be left but the bones.
Pawk pawk PAWK!!!
MICHIGAN 28, NOTRE DAME 14
By Heiko Yang
Unlike Mr. RouMel, I am decidely not on vacation. However, I am also not in Canada, so I think we’ll call it a draw.
A couple years ago I did drive out with the MGoCrew to South Bend to watch the Michigan play Notre Dame, which ended up being the third worst decision I’ve ever made involving sporting events. This was the 13-6 game during which Michigan’s offense chose to donate generously to Manti Te'o's Heisman campaign rather than score points. The offense was the worst it had ever been under Al Borges, even by 2013 standards – which seems impossible. Yet somehow the defense kept hope alive all game.
But then on the final drive, Denard chucked a fade to Gardner, who was a receiver at the time (because who needs a viable backup quarterback?). The pass caused him to run out of bounds and collide with the corner of a metal platform about 10 feet from where I was standing.
Hope was dead. For a scary minute, I thought Gardner was dead, too.
Over the past few years I’ve learned to hate whenever Michigan has to play a road game. Horrible things happen during road games. Dudes get punched, ACLs get torn, and ulnar nerves get palsied. I don’t think any of the top five candidates for “Most Traumatic Moments of Brady Hoke’s Tenure” have occurred in the Big House, which is perfectly fine. Home is still a safe place, as it ought to be.
Michigan also just flat-out plays poorly on the road. Most of the blame fell on Al Borges and his frequently terrible game plans for road games, because for whatever reason he had a penchant for outsmarting himself in that situation. But the players didn’t help things much either, what with drops and blown assignments.
Now Borges is gone (may he retire in peace). The players are still here though, and they still have to execute the whatever the new game plan might be and stay focused at a rival stadium. This isn’t Northwestern or Illinois or Purdue; this is Notre Dame, where Sunday mass starts on Saturday night and the field is curved* to mock the idea that the earth is round.
I’m afraid they’re going to play poorly again. The Irish know they need to rattle Gardner. If they’re successful, the rest of the offense will fall apart, and the defense can do only so much before they succumb to fatigue and crappy field position. I guess that means that it all comes down to the offensive line to make sure the most important strand doesn’t unravel.
Is anyone feeling good about this matchup now?
Michigan 16, Notre Dame 21
*I assume this is actually for draining purposes, but it is still really weird to look at.
by Nick RouMel
Bo was dead. Brandon was quite sure of that. The Wolverine coaching legend died in 2006, just before #2 Michigan was to play #1 Ohio State. They lost that game en route to a post-Bo record of 50-41.
Brandon was trying to fix that. He had done everything, from restricting student seating to proposing fireworks. Yet here his team stood, on the brink of what might be another mediocre season.
And there Bo stood. The Bo statue, that is, at the newly renovated Schembechler Hall. Brandon liked to come here, to gain wisdom from his mentor, when he was in crisis.
Bo had never moved before. Not his statue, anyway. Brandon squinted. Perhaps he was just tired. Kickoff for the Appalachian State game was less than twelve hours away, and Brandon’d had a long week. He rubbed his eyes and turned towards his car, to go home.
“Brandon! Drop and give me twenty!” It must have been Nussmeier. He was a cutup, that guy. Thought he’d be a studious type, but when he showed up for his first meeting in an Al Borges mask, they knew he was a joker.
Brandon turned and froze. It was not Nussmeier, but Bo who stood before him. “Let’s take a walk, Brandon.” Brandon had no choice.
It seemed as if the walk to the stadium took hours. It was daylight when they reached the tunnel. Brandon was compelled to run, and was surprised to burst onto the field to a deafening roar. Michigan Stadium was filled, and Brandon was bewildered.
“Where are the flyovers, Coach? The big video screens? How will people be able to watch the game - or see Beyoncé?” Brandon’s eyes fixed on the student section. He saw happy young people streaming in with friends, choosing their seats. Some were carrying quarter kegs with game tickets taped to them.
Brandon wheeled to Bo, and gasped. “They’re sitting where they want?!!!!”
Bo wasn’t there. He was on the sideline, barking at #85.
Brandon smiled at the memory. He had come out of South Lyon High School as a quarterback, but in three years under Bo, he played only a few minutes of one game as a defensive end. He once said, “It was the best thing that ever happened to me. I was the hot-shot kid coming out of high school with nine varsity letters, and I learned that didn't count for very much.” Bo’s defenses gave up a mere 83, 57, and 68 points in Brandon’s three years with the team.
“The team.” Bo jarred Brandon from his reverie, reminding him: “It wasn’t about you. Or anyone else. It was only ‘the team, the team, the team.’”
“Why do you say it three times?” Brandon asked. But the ghost was gone.
Brandon awoke. Had he dreamed? He remembered a football game, a glorious win, and Bo was carried off the field. The scene abruptly changed. There was a tiny college, that came to the Big House without fear. They blocked a field goal, and won. They beat the storied Wolverines. It was called, simply, “The Horror.” Brandon smiled. Wouldn’t it be nice to have people remember that again? He showered, dressed, put on his suit and tie, and whistled “The Victors.” It was game day.
There was no such thing as ghosts - and Bo was indeed dead. Brandon was certain of these things. Yet for some reason, he felt a chill as the jets roared over the stadium.
APPALACHIAN STATE 30, MICHIGAN 28
By Heiko Yang
It was a dark and stormy night, the best of times and the worst of times … and uh … beware the ides of March, quoth the Raven … Rosebud.
Sorry Nick, I can’t do it. You win. Except for the part where you predict a Michigan loss, which I will get to in a moment.
But first, hello! It’s good to be back. I took a hiatus from the blog after last season to defend my thesis and then start clinical rotations, but I am so happy that it’s finally football season again and that I get to continue writing a weekly Punt (or Counterpunt, because Nick is an overachiever and finished his creepypasta like a month ago because he’s weird). Third year of medical school has been both mentally and physically draining, and I’ve been looking forward to having something to look forward to, if you know what I mean.
It is a little weird being a fan again. Not that I haven’t rooted for Michigan since the beginning, but for the last three years I’ve been watching Michigan games from the press box and following the team as a member of the media -- someone who is more or less in the know but not encouraged to emote about things for fear of being unprofessional. The way I dealt with this was with wry humor: whenever something good happened, I laughed. Whenever something bad happened, I laughed. And when Michigan State happened last year, Ace and I sat in a car in East Lansing and had an inebriated contest to see who could come up with the saddest song ever. Anyway, there was never any cheering or booing in the press box, but by golly was there a lot of laughter.
I’m glad I don’t have to do that anymore. As a fan, and as a student, I finally get to wear one of those yellow t-shirts I got many years ago and show up to today’s game 15 minutes late and then cheer freely with all my friends in section twenty-whatever. I think I’ve missed this experience more than I know, because I don’t think there is anything more cathartic than yelling opinions like an idiot at people who can’t hear you.
Well, nothing except putting your opinions on the internet. So here are my opinions for today:
The offensive line will be fine. They will be limited all season by size and experience issues, but playcalling will put them in a position to succeed, and they will be no worse than a middling Big Ten offensive line.
I’m more excited to see Jehu Chesson and Freddy Canteen than I am Amara Darboh and Dennis Norfleet. This is not a knock on Darboh or Norfleet, I just have this feeling that Chesson and Canteen will be bigger playmakers from people who have been privy to Michigan’s practices.
Devin Gardner is going to be rusty. It’s to be expected for a guy working with a new O-line, playbook, and playcaller. And coming off a broken foot. He will be throwing the ball away more often than not. But here’s a bold prediction: his first past of the season won’t be an interception, like what happened last year.
I’d like to see if Greg Mattison switches between “over” and “under” defense. Michigan could easily accomplish this while leaving the same players on the field, and it would be an interesting wrinkle for teams preparing for primarily an “over” look.
Brennen Beyer is going to get a sack before Frank Clark does.
I wasn’t here for the HORROR pt 1, so I feel like I can say this freely without feeling like a kid who just said “bloody mary” five times in the bathroom at a slumber party: Michigan is going to win easily because of sheer athleticism and being mentally prepared to quickly stomp out any sign of … hey why did it get so chilly in here all of a sudden?
Sorry, I digress. A couple more opinions: Adam has been doing a fantastic job with the press conference duties. Keep it up, man! (But try not to get carpal tunnel!) Oh, and I miss Al.
Appalachian State 6, Michigan 42
Something's been missing from Michigan gamedays since the free programs ceased being economically viable: scientific gameday predictions that are not at all preordained by the strictures of a column in which one writer takes a positive tack and the other a negative one… something like Punt-Counterpunt.
by Nick RoUMel
Let me just say this about that. Brian’s article “Fickle” of 11/26 was the greatest article of all time.
I read “Fickle.” I nodded with manifest resolve, and knew right then that I had given up on this game. It was that simple. Unlike Brian, I felt no guilt and sold my tickets. Do you know how clean Stub Hub is? Enter the bar code and PayPal give you the money. No muss, no fuss, and crazed OSU fans with Buckeye necklaces will be sitting in section 39, row 80, seats 5-7, singing Hang On Sloopy.
Should I do that, and deprive the Wolverines of that buzz? No. Dammit.
I acknowledge I was too cynical. I needed to talk to a Wolverine. So I caught up with Brandon Williams (DB, ’99-’02, with a pro career through 2008). Brandon is now involved in philanthropic work and is connecting former players and fans through social media, www.gobluetan.com. As always, he was engaging, thoughtful, and positive.
Let’s go back to that buzz. In 2001—Jim “The Little Penguin” Tressel’s first year— Brandon was on Lloyd Carr’s Wolverines. He told me there is nothing like it, entering the Big House, sounding like everyone in the stadium is talking at once—a buzz, a roar. Even at warm-ups, normally 60-70,000 meandering in, for Ohio State there were 100,000 strong cheering like crazy.
Michigan fell short in that 2001 game, 310 days after The Little Penguin’s vow at the OSU/Michigan basketball game that the fans would be “proud” of their Buckeyes in Ann Arbor. But according to Brandon, Coach Carr turned that timeline against Tressel. He created a secretly recorded film showing the Wolverines preparing for battle: day 250, in the weight room; day 144, in a team meeting; hard at work at practice; day 79.
During this preparation, Michigan would not see red. There was a rule, that no one could wear green or red during the football season. Brandon told me, if the Jimmy John’s delivery guy came to the weight room during the season, the players would chase him out—deliveries had to be made to the trainer’s room.
Best of all, in one pre-game practice, as the sun was setting, the team looked at the sky. It was red in the west, blue in the east. Larry Foote exclaimed "there’s more blue than red!" You may think that’s a little corny but Brandon told me, “The whole practice just blew up. Carr loved it.”
He added, “Coach Carr never said anything bad about Tressel. But the buildup for that game was the best ever. We didn’t fully understand how huge it was. Chris Perry told us, the Michigan–Ohio State game is being televised live in Times Square, from start to finish.”
He spoke about the rivalry. “When the game started, the emotions were high, it was a little dirty. But then things settled down. It was hard hitting.
“There’s nothing like it. I’ve played in NFL playoff games, Monday Night Football. But there’s nothing like a Michigan-Ohio State game.
“You have to understand. You’re not just playing for you. You’re playing for all the guys who have played before you. They watch, they come back, and they care. I watch the game every week and ten guys are texting back and forth, calling back and forth. You’re playing for all of us.
“That rivalry, it’s always there. You can play on the same pro team with an Ohio State guy, and you have a working relationship, but come April, you’re betting on the game, and you still hate their school.”
I asked Brandon, given the challenges Michigan has faced this year, what would he tell the fans?
“Relax! A few years ago we had three wins, you know? So relax. I don’t want Coach Hoke to leave. We hear [the internet criticism], and move on. But we don’t forget it.”
Hearken, Wolverine fans. It’s been a tough year. But as Mr. Williams tells me, you throw the records out the window this week. It’s young men playing for pride. And yes, they make me feel guilty for selling my tickets.
I get it, Brandon. I feel Brian’s frustration, but I am a Michigan fan. I see red this week, but I am behind these boys 100%. If you don’t get pissed at being a 17 point dog at home to these stupid evil Buckeyes, then there isn’t a blue bone in your body. It is indeed great to be a Michigan Wolverine.
MICHIGAN 28, OSU 26
by Heiko Yang
I turned on the Arkansas-LSU game last night just in time to see LSU’s center go down with an injury. His replacement was a guy whose name sounded awfully familiar: Ethan Pocic, a true freshman five-star offensive lineman from Illinois who had Michigan high on his list before Michigan said they were done recruiting linemen. Except at that point Michigan wasn’t really done recruiting linemen, so I think a lot of people were peeved that they let him get away. But that’s beside the point.
I watched the next series of plays with an eye on Pocic, wanting to see how a highly touted true freshman interior lineman would perform at a program like LSU, whose offensive line play and coaching isn’t a complete tire fire like we think it is at Michigan.
Pocic got blown up almost immediately. His inexperience cost LSU their running game (RB Jeremy Hill, who had been averaging nearly 10 yards a carry got stuffed repeatedly), pass protection (I think Pocic got smoked for the sack that knocked starting QB Zach Mettenberger out of the game), and another offensive lineman (Hill got tackled near the line of scrimmage and rolled onto the leg of the right tackle). There were a bunch of false starts, too. One guy was all it took to unravel the entire offense. It was a miracle that LSU was able to pull out the win.
As a Michigan fan, all I could think the entire time was, “It’s not his fault!” Offensive linemen are like a fine scotch: if you bring them out before they’re ready, it’s going to burn real bad. Michigan fans have known this since September. Michigan’s coaches have known this since they got to Ann Arbor. That’s why Brady Hoke has been hoarding offensive linemen the last couple recruiting cycles because he saw the roster in 2011 and his reaction was probably something to the effect of “Winter is coming.” And we need scotch.
Well, winter is here, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it but wait it out. It’s worth considering making changes to schemes and the coaching staff, but nothing will make the offensive linemen grow up faster.
Michigan and Ohio State will play The Game today with the Wolverines a multiple-score home underdog (the odds are so lopsided I think there was a prop bet somewhere pitting Michigan's total rush yards against Ohio State's margin of victory). A lot of the stadium will be red, and I won’t even be mad. While the Wolverines have needed some pretty spectacular heroicism just to avoid being 4-7, the Buckeyes have steadily ridden their run game to a 23-, soon to be 24-game winning streak. Honestly, it will take some sort of miracle for Michigan to stay competitive in this game, let alone win.
And I guess that’s really the one nice thing about good, veteran offensive lines: they make miracles unnecessary.
OHIO STATE 40, MICHIGAN 17