I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
ryan van bergen
1/3/2012 – Michigan 23, Virginia Tech 20 (OT) – 11-2, 6-2 Big Ten
Michigan got outgained better than two to one and probably squeezed the last bits of magic out of Brady Hoke's rectal horseshoe, but it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter until the Very Serious bullets that have no time for sentiment, the Very Serious bullets that didn't feel deeply guilty for not including Junior "Junior Megatron" Hemingway amongst the hallowed group of seniors who maybe could have sort of made Michigan itself again… except insofar as "again" is inappropriate to apply to a program that has not exactly made a habit out of winning BCS games doing so. The Very Serious Bullets were not ready to declare war on God for smiting David Molk—OF ALL PEOPLE DAVID MOLK—in the moments before the culmination of his career. And screw that. Screw a Very Serious bullet. Also logic, and reason, and causality, and all the other things that had no bearing on which team walked off the Superdome field happy.
This is what matters: Molk standing on the sideline watching the first offensive series and the feeling in his gut as he watched the last 60 minutes he'd wear the uniform evaporate. Logan Thomas saying something like "damn I'm tired" or "damn you're tired" to Ryan Van Bergen in the second half after yet another play on which a broken Van Bergen harassed—but did not sack—the brobdingnagian Tech quarterback. Mike Martin slicing his way into the backfield to put Tech into another third and long. Hemingway's hands finding the three inches of space needed for a touchdown. Confetti, the right confetti, and ugly shirts, and Chris Fowler talking to Junior Megatron, and people smiling.
What matters is that when Brendan Gibbons was asked what he thought about before the winning kick, he said "brunette girls" because Brady Hoke told him that's what he should think about.
This is not the best Michigan team ever assembled. It's not the most dominant. You know a lot of it was assembled by smoke and mirrors and Jon Falk's super-secret loose-fumble-magnet gloves. You're not eyeing that Alabama game next year and thinking "those rednecks are in for an… education. [YEAAAAAAAA]."
You, cold-eyed realist who gravitates to this place, are going to tell work colleagues who went to universities other than your own that Michigan deserved to win this game in no way whatsoever. And then your shit-eating grin is going to drive them from you.
I haven't watched the NFL in going on a decade now except in somnambulant Thanksgiving not-give-a-craps, but this holiday season happened to coincide with weekends and I was a guest without remote privileges. I caught a few last week. Amongst other exercises in vacuous non-speech, I ended up watching Aaron Rodgers make his publicist very proud after he respectfully dispatched Generic Opponent and then said things about his teammates.
The things he said were not so very different from what we usually get in college—like the game itself, public relations in the NFL is metal refined from NCAA ore—but in college things are rawer, emotions felt instead of managed. The brutal look on Danny Coale's face after his redemption was overturned is evidence enough of that.
The stakes in these games come from the stories of the players, and we get a relatively honest look at them over the course of their four years. After what must have been a crushing loss, The Key Play took to the internet not to light up coaching decisions or instant replay or VT's offensive line but to do this:
That team made me proud.
No we didn't win. I'm sure a lot of y'all are pissed about some play calls. I am. More carries for Logan. More carries for Logan. More carries for Logan. More carries for Logan, especially on short yardage situations. But this wasn't the Orange Bowl last year. We didn't get our balls beat in. We didn't get throttled. We didn't get out-coached. We didn't get out-played. No one punched us in the throat... And that's why it hurts.
I have an ache in my chest right now too painful for words to describe. We came sooooooooo close, but failed. That's a strong word, but it's accurate--we failed. We came to play. We came to fucking play this game.
That comes from Coale, a guy pressed into service as a punter who was asked to make a weighty decision and failed. A guy who was a centimeter away from redeeming himself by staking Virginia Tech to a seven-point lead as tall as Everest who then had his anguish revisited time and again by ESPN as Michigan positioned themselves for the identical field goal Tech had just missed.
VT fans love Danny Coale even if they hate the way his last game played out. He is why they care, even if their memories are bittersweet. God, have we been there. Entire generations of Michigan seniors came and went without beating Ohio State.
For the first time in a long time, we don't have to eulogize. Michigan beat OSU and won a
bowl BCS game for the first time since the 1999 season. Martin Van Buren was president of East Rhodesia and logic gates were chiseled onto rocks the last time a group of Michigan seniors went out like this:
Or a season ended like this:
Yeah, the game was the definition of a "yes, but…" experience. In the cold-eyed light of the offseason it will dampen expectations for next year. So what? Virginia Tech fans are thinking of Danny Coale this morning.
I'm thinking of Martin and Koger and Hemingway and Molk and Van Bergen and how there is no thought of what could have been, no thought of opportunities missed or goals fallen short of. Just that they stayed, and they made a BCS bowl, and they were champions of it. In the end, the seniors of Team 132 got what they came for. Now they will break the last link on the chain and tell those who follow they can make it anew.
NOT VERY SERIOUS BULLETS
Smooth. In the same fashion friend of blog Jerry Hinnen said "yes, thank you, finally" to someone dubbing Oregon's shinybits in the Rose Bowl "Destro helmets," I welcome the comparison of brunette-loving, Scott-Van-Pelt*-.38-Special-comparison-inspiring, suddenly-nails kicker Brendan Gibbons to Keith Stone:
Psyching himself up for NAILS
hangin' w/ Mister Cooper
Well done, unknown Iowa fan who knows iawolve, well done. After a season in which Gibbons has been sarcastically exhorted to put the ball through the uprights in all caps and with question marks, it is only right to break out some H tags in tribute:
GIBBONS: YOU PUT IT THROUGH THE UPRIGHTS!
Yea, and it came to pass that the season preview gave the kicker spot at least a 3 next year. Now please stop probably deserving false start penalties.
*[SVP is reminiscent of the Dan & Keith ESPN heyday. He is capable of making me enjoy an hour of Sportscenter. Like Gus Johnson and Alton Brown, he is a rare being of pure awesomeness that can exist in a lowest-common-denominator setting. SVP for president.]
Further evidence. Via BWS:
Nike shirts: making you glad your school is Adidas even if they did dress the team like the bumblebee girl from "No Rain" this year. If you thought copping a Def Leppard lyric was gauche, you did not see the Fiesta postgame.
Nike is now run by the immature cheese from Cheez-It commercials.
Stop complaining about being passed over. Mathlete:
For all the K St fans upset about the Sugar Bowl snub, Michigan won this one in honor of you, can't imagine winning 10 games like that
Kansas State did play in the Sugar Bowl. They were wearing Michigan's uniforms.
This is why you're Sparty. LeVeon Bell:
UofM proud that they had 8 home games, didn't play Wisconsin OR Penn St, AND lost to us? Yall can beat a average VA Tech team, be proud then
Sparty being Sparty. Just like this guy wearing green and white in the endzone where Gibbons nailed the winner:
I hope you enjoyed the last few years, guys.
VERY SERIOUS BULLETS
ALL RIGHT NOW WE HAVE A TALK. Holy pants the offense. This was the third time this year Michigan's offense was just beyond terrible; they lost the other two but horseshoed themselves the Sugar Bowl.
It was imperative that Michigan establish something VT had to react to, but they never did. Their big tactical innovation for this game was a not-very-spread formation with a TE, a tailback, and Odoms in motion for a jet sweep fake. That worked on the first play of the game when Odoms got the edge and then hardly ever again. I don't understand Michigan's emphasis on running to the perimeter against a defense like VT's that thrives on getting their safeties to tackle in space.
Meanwhile, Michigan receivers got zero separation all night, allowing VT to tee off on the run with impunity. Michigan needs an athleticism upgrade there.
It's apparent Borges wants to put guys in the box instead of spreading them out, forcing the opponent to respect the horizontal aspects of the defense, and then making you tackle and fill one on one; maybe that will work against a VT when Shane Morris is throwing to LaQuon Treadwell. It did not here.
Robinson likely shares some responsibility but it's hard to tell since the Sugar Bowl shorted replays for more commercials. I did notice a late third down and medium on which Robinson tried to fit it in a nonexistent window to Koger when Gallon was breaking open underneath. But mostly it just seemed like there was never anything there. It's one thing if the opponent is beating a block. Against VT it seemed like there was always an unblocked guy fitting the run and no one was ever open. Hard to move the ball like that.
Interior DL FTW. We in the M blogosphere may have been excessively optimistic about the offense but man did we peg the other side of that matchup: VT's crappy interior line pass protected well but could not get RVB or Martin blocked to save their lives. Wilson got hacked down at the line time and again, got some yardage outside when Michigan's run support on the edges was missing. Logan Thomas was not pressured much and picked Michigan's secondary apart with lethal accuracy.
This is kind of why I am worried about next year: taking away Martin and Van Bergen is going to be huge, and the rest of the defense is short of guys who seem like certainties to be players at their level next year. I've got Ryan and Kovacs and then…
Mattison's going to earn his money next year if Michigan treads water defensively despite returning eight starters.
Holy Van Bergen. Not only did RVB play every snap, and play well, he was injured early in the game and ended up like this:
"My foot just feels like rubber,” Van Bergen said after the game. “I couldn’t plant on it or anything like that.
“It actually went down, like parallel to my chin when I was in a pile. The next time I was trying to plant, I was trying to overcompensate for it, and I put it the other way and got chopped, so my toe was coming up to like the top of my ankle.”
Can we retroactively make him a captain? I'm serious. If the Bentley doesn't list RVB as a captain I might have to hack their site so it does.
Richt'd… right? Hoke game theory bits were a mixed bag. By decision:
- Fake FG near end of first half. Yes, it was a called fake. The problem was that a big chunk of the team didn't get the call, including Dileo's intended receiver, thus resulting in the Yakety Sex that was the deflected long-snapper reception. Hoke's verging on the territory where all go/kick situations on which there's a reasonable debate seemingly decided in favor of the kick will be expected to be fakes, thus depressing the EV of faking. At this point he's going to have to kick some dumb field goals if he's going to get that back.
- FG at end of first half. I was okay with it. A fair chunk of the reason it's a good idea to go for it on fourth down in those situations is the crappy negative-value field position it leaves your opponent in if you fail. When the half is ending that's not a factor, and given the way that half played out I was not super confident Michigan would punch the ball in from the two.
- Sending out the punt safe team on the fake punt. Obvious move given the situation and one that paid off when Coale pulled a Zoltan-vs-MSU miscalculation on the rugby option. If you're going to go there you should put it in the hands of your huge QB, not rely on a converted WR to make a high-pressure decision he's never made in a game before. This bullet is more about Beamer than Hoke.
- Not calling TO in an effort to get the ball back at the end of regulation. Also okay with that. Immediate TO sees you get around 35 seconds when the ball is kicked off; given Michigan's offense to that point in the game and season-long crap kickoff returns that did not seem like it had much value. Calling TO has a slight chance of flipping the opposing coach's thinking towards going for it, or at least it might if this wasn't Frank Beamer.
Richt-ing it in OT. It wasn't a full-on Richt. Richt idiotically threw away two downs to attempt a 42 yard field goal with a kicker who had been 6 of 16(!!!) from 40+ that range this year. Hoke/Borges at least shaved a meaningful five yards* off the attempt and went with a guy who was at that point 11/15 on the season. Given the way Michigan's offense had been moving the ball (not at all with plenty of OH SHI— near-INTs), the equation is significantly different than when you've got Aaron Murray. While I was a little annoyed they didn't flip it out to the WR and his massive cushion, I wasn't livid at the thought process.
Still, man… let Denard run the ball with the extra blocker in a spread formation and instructions to keep both hands on the ball. Upside is greater there.
The theme here is when your offense can't pick up two yards to save its life, old-timey decisions are correct. When the game is going to end with a score worthy of 1950, playing 1950s-era football is the move.
*[The Mathlete's preview post contains an apropos FG success graph showing a whopping 15% difference in success rate between a 42 yard field goal (around 55%) and a 37-yarder (around 70%) for an average D-I kicker, which I'd say Gibbons is. Same difference for a bad one, FWIW. It's only when you've got a Kaeding or the like that playing as conservatively as Richt did makes even the slightest amount of sense.]
The not quite catch. Someone on the twitters put it best:
Here it is:
It's incomplete because the tip of the ball hits the ground and it shifts in his arms when it happens. The ball has the potential to slide through his upper arms when it impacts the ground; ground aids catch; not a catch.
VT fans and players are pissed off and I can understand why. Again, they should remove the uncertainty here and say the ball hitting the ground equals no catch until you have made the proverbial "football move." That is a bright line rule that removes the controversy from plays like this and the 49% Hemingway touchdown against Iowa and the 48% Coale TD above. If it swings the game a bit towards defense that may not be a terrible idea these days.
More on the fake FG. I thought surely the refs had missed an illegal man downfield, but it does appear that when the pass is thrown Michigan linemen are within three yards of the LOS:
Whatever the screwup was it looked like VT had that well covered. Hoke's going to have to shelve the fakes for a while.
Countess. Hoo boy was that a rough ride for him. I hope you caught that first bubble screen of the second half—after Countess let his guy get to the sideline Mallory lit him up. He got burned on a double move that Thomas overthrew, generally could not match up with the extremely talented Jarrett Boykin*, and was a problem on both outside Wilson runs and a variety of 7-8 yard bubble screens.
*[Another way in which Beamer handed this game to M was continuing to run the ball when your QB is completing 70% of his passes for almost 8 YPA. M loses if Beamer pulls the Carroll and tells his OC to call no runs in the second half.]
Bubble screens. Ain't saying nothin'.
Woolfolk took a short video in the locker room and posted it to the twitter:
It's not 90 degrees off, it's artistic.
Comment of the week from beenplumb:
Go back to last year and tell us that our defense and kicker would win us a BCS bowl and try not to get punched in the face for lying.
Diarists are too hungover to chip in just yet. Seth did excellent work on the no catch in OT, but that's on the front page so you probably know about it already.
Players. Ryan tweets some photos from the field. Roh with the dudes I promised to name my firstborn after*:
Roundtree and… uh… I don't know.
This is a disturbing moment. Who is that dude?
Blog substances, local. BWS bullets:
Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen, and perhaps more importantly, the Virginia Tech offensive line, were as advertised. The interior of that offensive line is dysfunctional. Martin and Van Bergen were three yards into the backfield on basically every running play. The only reason they can pass block is that they keep retreating into Logan Thomas, at least long enough for him to zip a pass to one of his many wide receivers. I have no idea how a team with an offensive line that bad can win 11 games.
In a way, this is how the 2011 season had to end for Michigan. At the end of the Rich Rodriguez era, Michigan was a great offfense and then a smoking heap of wreckage. The defense was unconscionably bad. The special teams were barely above that level, most notably because the Wolverines could not kick a field goal. Michigan did dumb things like not knowing that a blocked field goal is a live ball. The turnover rate was terrible. This year was a palate cleanser in every way. In the end, Michigan won a game despite the offense being completely stymied. The Wolverines won by being good on defense, very good on special teams, and smart enough to avoid the mistakes that killed their otherwise superior opponent.
Blog substances, national. EDSBS:
It was a complete mess in so many ways, and in so many different ways than the other BCS games thus far. the numbers were appalling in their own unique way: Michigan had 184 yards of total offense, got doubled up by VT in terms of total production, had 12 first downs to Virginia Tech's 22, and still ended up covered in maize and blue confetti watching Junior Hemingway losing his shit gloriously when Chris Fowler asked him about the long path to getting here. This is not a very good Michigan team, but they are a very good Michigan team.
That should make sense if you've watched this team dodge bullets and narrowly avoid putting the car in the ditch on so many occasions this year, or come back against Notre Dame, or hold on despite doing almost everything they could to lose a late lead to Ohio State, or in this game scratch, claw, and somehow hold a more productive Hokies team in check until the final and inevitable kicking mistakes. This team was more fun than any other team Brady Hoke will ever have because they were not supposed to have eleven wins, and could not conceivably have piled them up like this. This team is the pound dog that saved your family from the fire. They are the college car that would not die no matter what you put in its gas tank. They are the party that came out of nowhere on a Tuesday night, and resulted in no hangovers.
Easily one of our favorite teams of 2011, and not just because we like calling Brady Hoke "Ol' Pizzafarts."
Bill Connolly breaks down the numbers:
4: Tackles for loss by Michigan's Jake Ryan. Michigan's defense played the bend-don't-break routine to perfection. They allowed five yards per play and seven trips inside their 40, but they forced five field goals and a turnover on downs at their four. Part of the reason for the success was that Ryan (must not make Sixteen Candles reference and reveal that it is one of my favorite movies of all-time ... must not make Sixteen Candles reference and reveal that it is one of my favorite movies of all-time ... must not make Sixteen Candles reference and reveal that it is one of my favorite movies of all-time...) was always around to make a big play. Ryan, Jordan Kovacs and Desmond Morgan combined for 22.5 tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss, and Michigan as a whole severely limited Tech's big plays. Just force them to keep inching down the field and eventually force a fourth down.
All of that sentimental bunk about Brady Hoke returning Michigan to its meat-eating essence or whatever, well, it actually worked out that way. It worked out far beyond the expectations of the most observant pilgrims of Oosterbaanian lore. No one in August was going out on a limb for a 7-6 outfit with no defense transitioning to a new coaching staff. As collapse-prone as the Wolverines were after fast starts under Rodriguez, no one was going out on a limb for them in early November, after losses at Michigan State and Iowa seemed to leave them back at square one. Since then, Michigan is 4-0 with wins over Nebraska, Ohio State and now Virginia Tech and abides in a state of Bo-like balance. Those who stayed fended off a fourth quarter Hokie rally to complete the circle.
I enjoyed this comment after the post:
This game proved that there is no pride or character in the big ten. When the only way you can win a game is by cheating and you are proud of it . I guess no one should surprised by the level of scandal in the conference. the attitude of the only real harm in disgusting behavior is being held accountable and the ends always justify the means is as base as it gets. to be beaten on the field as thoroughly as Michigan was on the field and be proud of a win that was a gift from whomever controlled that officiating crew is banal. That kid caught the ball everyone who has seen the replay from the angles available knows it including the replay officials and all of the Michigan coaching staff. ESPN made the staement that the only thing that matters is the final score. They and their Mid east Ohio valley values may be the real problem here.
Tom Fornelli has a format that demands he put words after the bullet HOW MICHIGAN WON. He begins "This is not an easy question to answer."
This was beyond weird, and exhausting to decipher. The Hokies controlled play, and had an apparent 20-yard touchdown pass in overtime overruled by replay. That gave the Wolverines their shot, and they took a BCS bowl victory and improbable 11-2 record with it.
THE MODERATOR: Welcome to the official postgame press conference for the 2012 Allstate Sugar Bowl.
We'll begin with Michigan head coach Brady Hoke. We've been joined by Denard Robinson, Junior Hemingway, and Brendan Gibbons.
At this time I'm going to turn it over to Coach Hoke, a few thoughts on the game, and we'll open the floor for questions.
COACH HOKE: You know, thank you. It was a great college football game. Two teams who played extremely hard, two teams that played for each other. I think Virginia Tech and Coach Beamer, they did an excellent job, when you look at how they defended us a little bit and then offensively and then you look at the Michigan Wolverines and how our guys stayed together, complemented each other.
We talked about playing 60 minutes of Michigan football. We played about 63 and a half, I think. So I'm just real proud, real proud of our seniors, real proud of how they took this football team last January and molded it and did a tremendous job.
And we always have a tremendous legacy of Team 132 that a lot of teams are going to have to try and match up to.
THE MODERATOR: We've been joined by Ryan Van Bergen.
Q. Brendan, it hasn't been a great Bowl season for kickers. You see him miss, and you go up. Just talk about what's going through your mind at that point and how good it felt?
BRENDAN GIBBONS: It felt good to go out there. Coach Hoke and the whole Team 132 had faith in me the whole season. Coach puts us in situations, two-minute drill every Thursday practice.
And it just felt good to make the kick for the team to help the seniors go out in a good way.
Q. Junior, you seemed to get very emotional after the game. What was behind all the emotion, just the victory? Was there something else? What does it mean to get the two touchdown catches and the victory?
JUNIOR HEMINGWAY: From the beginning when the coaches first came in, you know, we had to buy in and the seniors had to get the rest of the team to do the same thing, Team 132.
It was just a hard-fought season. And to go out there and do it for the underclassmen who now have a Sugar Bowl championship under their belt and for us to leave with the Sugar Bowl championship, it just shows our hard work, our determination, our resilience. And that's where most of the emotion came from.
Q. Coach, I'm curious: What do you think this win means for the program? Is Michigan back?
COACH HOKE: I was asked that the other day. Michigan never left. And some people may have thought that way, but Michigan never left. What it means is that we've got a group of guys, especially a group of seniors, who won 11 football games.
And it's only the fifth team in the history of 132 years of Michigan football to win 11. And so it's a significant task.
And these guys have grown as a team. We've grown as a football team and a staff, and there's a lot of love and respect that we have for each other.
Q. Denard, how do you describe the way this game went, just from your perspective?
DENARD ROBINSON: I feel like this was a team that didn't quit and we just kept fighting. We held everybody accountable for what we had to do to win.
Q. Ryan, Brady's talked throughout the year about what this season has meant to the seniors and he's in a way dedicated this year to seniors. Can you talk about what it meant for you ending it with so many challenges in losing Will and all that?
RYAN VAN BERGEN: We've had times where we had to face adversity throughout this whole season, and it kind of comes full circle for the seniors. Like you talked about, we faced a lot of adversity since we've been here.
This game was kind of just, you know, a microcosm for what happened to us so far as a senior class, and it's been an amazing turnaround for this year, and I think the seniors left an amazing legacy.
Team 132 will be the fifth team in Michigan history to have 11 wins. That's significant when you play in a program that has the tradition that Michigan has.
So we couldn't be more proud as a senior. I couldn't be more proud of the guys that we got the opportunity to lead. It's a full team effort. And we just stayed strong all season. It's a marathon.
Q. Brendan, did you know it was good when you hit it? How did you celebrate when you were absolutely sure?
BRENDAN GIBBONS: I thought it was good when I hit it. Felt good coming off my foot. How did I celebrate? I just wanted to celebrate with my teammates, and it felt good to celebrate with them.
Q. Denard said earlier in the week he wasn't second-guessing himself, whether he made a mistake throwing the ball to Junior Hemingway. After he throws that pick looking for Junior earlier in the game, goes back in the corner, I guess, what kind of confidence does Junior instill in you and what kind of confidence does Denard instill in you and your performance today?
COACH HOKE: I've always had confidence in both of these guys. And when you have a big target and a guy who has great timing, which I think is part why Junior makes a lot of those catches, and has a big body and bodies some people out of the way.
And so we've always had a lot of confidence in that combination and sometimes you are going to make plays. And you've got to have guys who can make those plays, and when they're the ones doing it, you feel pretty good about it.
Q. Junior, talk about your two catches.
JUNIOR HEMINGWAY: The first one, the play was called. I forgot what the play was. It was corners. So I saw how the DB was playing. I broke it off in front of him. I seen Denard getting ready to throw the ball, but I didn't know who he was throwing the ball at. He threw it up and, number one, didn't play the ball good. I caught it. I heard the safety coming over I didn't know if he was going to take me out or what. Snatched the ball in there, ran it in for six.
And the second one, it was an all-go play and I got behind the safety, and I was thinking in my head: Please, Denard, throw this up, please, I want you to so bad.
And he threw it up. He threw it up. And I made a play on it.
Q. Coach, a lot of people question the selection process for this game and said that maybe the teams weren't worthy. What do you think that the result of the game and the way that it transpired says about that proposition?
COACH HOKE: Well, you know, people always are going to have an opinion, and that's part of the beauty of college football, part of the beauty of the BCS and all that kind of stuff.
And I can tell you that team we played tonight is a pretty doggone good football team. And I think we're a pretty good football team.
So people are going to have their opinion. We just happen to disagree with them.
Q. Brady, a couple of things kind of related maybe. If somebody had told you you weren't going to have 200 yards of offense in this game and only have the ball for 23 minutes, how much trouble do you think you would have been in? And can you talk a little bit about what David Molk went through to even be on the field?
COACH HOKE: Well, you know, I'll answer the second question first. David, he's a warrior. He's a captain on this football team. He tweaked his foot during the pregame. And our trainers did a tremendous job, our doctors.
And he has a lot of pride in Michigan and he has a lot of pride in this offense. And so it means a lot to see him come out there and perform like he did.
What was the first question?
Q. Getting it done without offense …
COACH HOKE: Well, you know, you never know what you're going to get in any game. We just gotta be able, when the time's right and when either side of the ball needs to make a play, and we've done that through the course of the year.
The defense caused a turnover. We got a great turnover on the kickoff, their kickoff return, which was a big part of it. But to be honest with you, you know, you really -- points on the board. And that's what's at the end of the day. We had more points.
Q. Brady, you've been resistant, reluctant, throughout the year to qualify whether or not this season has met or exceeded your expectations for this season. Now that it's over, can you qualify if the season lines up with what you expected?
COACH HOKE: We go in with the expectation to win the Big Ten championship. And that won't ever change. Winning ten games or more are part of that expectation. So we didn't reach that goal. But I can tell you this group of guys got us a heck of a lot closer than we were before.
Q. Brendan, what was going through your mind as Virginia Tech calls time out and it's overtime you're lining up that kick and thinking about lining up that kick? What was going through your mind before the kick in overtime, during the timeout and all that?
BRENDAN GIBBONS: Brunette girls. Every time we were like struggling in kicking, Coach tells me to think about girls on a beach or brunette girls. So that's what we did. Made the kick. (Laughter).
Q. Brendan, I'm curious if maybe thinking about those brunette girls you may have false started on that kick. Replays appeared to show that you jumped a little early. Do you feel you might have beat the snap coming out there?
BRENDAN GIBBONS: I moved a little bit. Not really. But it's kind of like my false step approach. So Glanda and Drew did their job and I did mine to win the game.
Q. Denard, after giving up two field goals early, what helped you change to get the offense going?
DENARD ROBINSON: We knew the defense was stepping up making big plays. It was time for the offense to step up and make plays, and that's what we did.
Q. Coach, out there Al talked about how this really wasn't about execution, it was more about will. In some ways is it even more satisfying for you as a coach?
COACH HOKE: I think you're right. And Al's right. It was about will. When you play a game like that and we're both -- both teams are getting after each other -- and I can tell you down on the field it was physical. You could hear. And guys were playing football, and you could hear football. And so it was a physical game.
The one thing that's great about this football team is they've continued to stay together. And they've continued to complement each other. And that's exciting. And that's why we've won 11 games.
Q. Ryan, obviously in the crutches, just what happened in the end?
RYAN VAN BERGEN: I got stuck under a pile and my foot got bent down in an angle, so my foot was parallel with my shins, so that was an awkward angle. That was early in the game, and that was bothering me. I had a cut block actually fold it the other way. So I was just trying to battle it off.
This was my last game. Unless I saw a bone, I was going to try to stay in and fighting that off. The guys behind me, they filled the role really well. Jibreel Black did a great job at the end of the game.
Q. We talked about after the Ohio State game what this senior class means to you. After a game like this, a win like this, how are you going to remember them? How are you going to remember the team and how they set the foundation for your first year?
COACH HOKE: These guys have left a mark and one that -- I can tell you, the senior class, we'll always remember and always be proud to say that we had the privilege and the opportunity to coach them.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
(FastScripts by ASAP Sports)
Arnett: free'd. Derek Dooley backs down from the torrent of terrible PR, grants DeAnthony Arnett a full release. Clearly he is transferring to either Michigan or Michigan State at this point. There's conflicting information out there about his eventual destination; Kyle Meinke says "everything he's hearing" is MSU; earlier in the week Sam Webb said essentially the opposite on GBW before this all went down. We'll find out soon.
CEASE PANIC. You probably weren't panicking about the prospect of a QB like Denard Robinson making an early exit for the pros, but he has submitted paperwork to be evaluated. Remain calm.
Michigan junior quarterback Denard Robinson has filed paperwork to the NFL Draft advisory board, but he made one thing very clear Friday morning.
He expects to return for his senior season.
"Oh yeah, I expect to be back," Robinson said. "That's it."
The mean streets of Whitehall. Seriously.
I just don't even know.
Winning more hearts and minds. Dooley's quest to piss off every high school football coach in the country continues unabated:
“Coach Dooley said there is a ‘possibility’ you might not be coming to Tennessee,” Henderson told the AJC. “He said you have two options: ‘You can stay committed to us, wait it out and see what other players do. Or you can de-commit and try to get some attention from other schools but that doesn’t mean you can’t come to Tennessee’ or whatever. He was very iffy about everything. He wouldn’t say anything concrete. He kept on using that word ‘possibility.’”
“I thought it was a bunch of crap. I guess if Tennessee is out there looking for other linebackers, then I can go find another place to go. Tennessee is where I wanted to go, and that’s where I’ve been loyal to ever since June. But it is what it is.”
Henderson spent six months committed to Tennessee and now has about a month to find another landing spot. Derek Dooley's pants are still stupid and Clay Travis claims he is incensed when people order Chick Fil A instead of hamburgers. This is almost certainly false but we're done fact-checking negative things said about Derek Dooley at this here blog.
Emerging youngsters (and a fifth year senior). Kevin Koger talks up a few members of the team he believes will make some noise next year. Your winners are Jerald Robinson, Thomas Rawls, and Darryl Stonum. Stonum:
"He's been great for the defense," Koger said. "He's embraced what happened and grown from it.
"They talk all the time about how great a look he gives them on defense. I was talking to [cornerback] J.T. Floyd yesterday or two days ago about how he got beat a couple times by Stonum. We've got a lot of guys giving great looks."
Borsething. AA.com's pictures of the year capture somewhat insane women's basketball coach Kevin Borseth tebowing in agony:
Tim Hardaway also features, because of course he does. There is an M-football-specific gallery as well.
Stauskas balling out. I linked the video from Nik Stauskas's impressive weekend, what with the assists and being more than a 6'6" shooter described as a country's best. Here they are frontpaged:
follows up with some impresssions from Rivals, Slam, Dave Telep, and the like:
Southborough (Mass.) St. Mark’s senior Nick Stauskas is the perfect replacement for the scrappy Novak. Like Novak, Stauskas plays with a huge chip on his shoulder and is willing to scrap it up a bit with opponents. Stauskas is also an excellent shooter with deep range, a flashy passer and a guy who takes the floor with a significant amount of confidence.
Currently ranked No. 79 nationally in the class of 2012, the four-star wing is part of an excellent Michigan recruiting class and he should be able to contribute right away.
He's still outside of the Scout 100, something their primary analyst has said will be fixed when they redo their rankings. It appears Michigan's 2012 basketball class will be three consensus top 100 four-stars. This is exactly what everyone expected last January.
There's an 18-minute reel of one game Stauskas featured in; it still doesn't have Stauskas missing a shot but does give you a fuller picture of his game. Has some work to do on defense.
We need to cram some more stuff on those jerseys.
NEEDS MOAR ITEMS.
Formation notes: Since Brennen Beyer's fake injury kept him out of this game, Michigan had to adapt their big package. Behold a 5-3:
From top to bottom that is Black, Heininger, Martin, Van Bergen, and Roh on the line with Ryan, Morgan, Demens, and Kovacs in an umbrella behind them. Countess is pulled; Floyd is the lone corner and Gordon the free safety.
When there were more wideouts on the field this was the usual deployment:
Kovacs is rolled down into the box, reprising his days as a "bandit" in the 3-3-5. Rolling Kovacs into the box like this was referred to as "plus" in the UFR chart; any "plus" formation has a safety within four or five yards of the LOS.
Substitution notes: The usual most places. Very limited substitutions along the line, with Brink, Black, and Campbell getting a few snaps here and there. Mike Jones briefly replaced Demens at MLB during Ohio State's dispiriting 82-second TD drive after M had gone up 37-27; that came after the long Stoneburner catch and run that I thought Ryan was mostly responsible for, but more on that later.
Woolfolk started at safety but gave way to Gordon at times in the first half; the second half it was all Gordon.
A what-the-dickens-was-that-note: we talked about the oddity that was Michigan seeming to play with zero deep safety support the whole game in a Picture Pages earlier in the week. Chris Brown emails to suggest that what Michigan was doing was running Virginia Tech's defense:
Beamer and Foster also relied on a hybrid coverage of their own design: The "robber," run out of the "G" front. This coverage worked so well because it transformed an already run-heavy eight-man front into a nine man front, where they combined their 4-4 set with conventional two-deep principles: Instead of two deep safeties, they used two deep cornerbacks who split the field into halves. The free-safety then was free to play a "robber" technique -- that is, on pass plays, he read the quarterback's eyes and broke on intermediate routes, but on runs, where he truly became valuable, he was an incredible ninth run-stuffer in the box.
Although not the best against the pass, that wasn't the point. It was good enough (especially with dynamos like D'Angelo Hall at cornerback), and the focus was on stuffing the run or hitting the quarterback before he could release the ball.
That is exactly what Michigan ran much of the day, so keep it in mind. A fuller discussion after the play breakdown.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||Pistol 2TE||4-3 under plus||Pass||4||Hitch||Floyd||5|
|Kovacs rolled up for the plus. Posey beats Floyd(-0.5, cover -1) but the throw is late and upfield, turning a first down (or near first down) into a meh gain. Floyd comes up to tackle with help from Ryan, who dropped into coverage on a shorter out route. Martin spun off a block to get some token pressure on Miller, barely avoiding the -1.|
|O25||2||5||I-Form||4-3 under plus||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Heininger||1|
|I'm not sure what exactly this is supposed to be but I think it is an inside zone; the fullback does not head outside like usual here but attacks the strong side of the line, likely in an attempt to break keys for the linebackers. Herron takes the ball to the other side of the line as OSU zones. RVB(+1) slants under the backside G; Martin(+1) chucks his blocker, and Herron has to bounce out into Heininger(+0.5) and Roh(+0.5) who had set up in their gaps and combine to tackle.|
|O26||3||4||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel even||Pass||5||Flare||Ryan||5|
|Snag package for OSU to the short side of the field; Ryan is dropping into the snag and Miller goes with the flare to the outside; Ryan does a decent job on it but can't stop it before the sticks. Push. Could have gone either way.|
|O31||1||10||Pistol 2TE||4-3 under||Pass||4||PA Dig||Morgan||Inc|
|Speed option fake into a pass. Michigan's linebackers are suckered big time (Morgan -1, Demens -1, cover -2) and Miller has a huge lane in which to hit a guy on a dig route. He turfs the ball nowhere near his WR.|
|O31||2||10||Shotgun 2-back||4-3 even||Run||N/A||QB draw||Kovacs||15|
|M slanting to the short side with Roh dropping into coverage and Ryan blitzing off the slot. Ryan(-1) gets way too far outside and upfield and RVB(-1) gets way too far inside and upfield, opening up a huge lane. Demens(+0.5) does a good job to pop off a blocker and flow; Kovacs(-2) loses leverage and whiffs at Miller's feet, turning this from around five into a big gain that could be bigger but for that Demens flow allowing Countess(+0.5) to toss a blocker upfield and disconnect to tackle after the first down marker.|
|O46||1||10||I-Form twins||4-3 over plus||Pass||4||Waggle fly||Countess||54|
|Roh dives inside the fullback on a play action power fake and gives up the corner; that's probably his assignment with Kovacs overhanging. Spill that. Michigan has no one on the edge; Kovacs(pressure –2) and Morgan are there, there's a pulling G in protection, and both guys plus Demens back out into a zone drop. Miller can pull up and fire to an incredibly wide open receiver. Assuming M is playing this VT D, Countess(-4, cover –4) has the deep half and blows it. RPS –2; two on two coverage and a ton of time.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-7, 12 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|No pressure(-2) at all as Martin is doubled and no one else can beat a blocker. Miller steps up into more pressure than there actually is. M in a two deep here and nothing's open deep (cover +2). Miller's inaccurate checkdown costs them a few yards.|
|O23||2||8||I-Form twins||4-3 even||Pass||N/A||WR screen||--||Inc|
|Well wide. Looked like five or so.|
|O23||3||8||Shotgun 2-back||Okie two deep||Pass||6||Sack||Kovacs||-11|
|Regular okie has seven at the line. This just has six. That's because Kovacs is coming from the safety spot. Everyone else rushes save Morgan, who drops off into a spy zone; OSU goes max pro and Kovacs(+1, pressure +2, RPS +2) still gets a free run. He whiffs; RVB(+1) has slanted past an OL to help clean up; he can't tackle either. Kovacs(+0.5) cleans up from behind. Tackling -1? Yeah, I guess.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-7, 9 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under plus||Pass||4||Post||Countess||Inc|
|Good lord. Woolfolk moves up on the underneath route, Countess(-3, cover –3) is setting up outside of Posey, and Miller misses an 80 yard touchdown. Countess is still in the frame so avoids a –4 but this isn't good. RPS –1.|
|O20||2||10||Pistol 2TE||4-3 under plus||Run||N/A||Speed option||Ryan||8 (Pen -10)|
|With two TEs to one side and Kovacs blitzing weak it seems like Michigan's LBs have to do a better job of getting outside. They don't; Demens(-1) is slashed to the ground and Miller gets the edge for near first down yardage before Woolfolk comes up to shove him out of bounds; Ryan(+1) did a good job of holding that edge until he got held himself, drawing a flag. RPS -1.|
|O10||2||20||Shotgun 2-back||4-3 under||Penalty||N/A||False start||--||-5|
|O5||2||25||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel even||Run||N/A||QB draw||Van Bergen||-2|
|DTs stunt; RVB(+3) drives through a botched double that is botched because of the stunt and tackles Miller for loss. Given what we know about DT stunts it's possible RVB called this himself.|
|O3||3||27||I-Form||Nickel even||Pass||4||Post||Roh||Inc (Pen -3)|
|Roh(+2, pressure +2) speed rushes around Mike Adams and is tackled, drawing a holding call that will be a safety. With that guy tackled and only two other rushers Miller has plenty of time; Woolfolk has again come up on a shorter underneath route (on third and twenty seven!) and leaves Countess trailing Posey for a potential big gain; Countess(+2, cover +2) comes over the top to break the pass up. Still very dangerous. Picture paged.|
|Drive Notes: Safety, 9-7, 5 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O29||1||10||I-Form twins||4-3 even plus||Run||N/A||Iso||Morgan||4|
|Morgan(-0.5) takes the lead block at the LOS but does not funnel to his partner; Heininger(+0.5) makes a nice play to come off a block and start an ankle tackle near the LOS, robbing Herron of momentum and making it easier for the rest of the D to rally.|
|O33||2||6||I-Form||4-3 under plus||Run||N/A||Inside zone?||Van Bergen||1|
|This has an attack point outside the tackles but features a lead blocker and looks like inside zone blocking. So... yeah. Morgan(-0.5) and Demens(-0.5) get swallowed up on the second level and again they have Kovacs behind them so I think they're not doing so well; it doesn't look like M is slanting hard. The DL cleans up for them. Ryan(+1) takes on Boren two yards in the backfield; Van Bergen(+1) drives his blocker in to the backfield, forcing a cutback into Martin(+1), who tackles. Good thing, too. Demens was literally ten yards downfield by the time the play was over.|
|O34||3||5||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||TE Out||Morgan||Inc|
|Man, OSU's gameplan is go after Morgan, go after Morgan, go after Morgan. Here he's in eh coverage(-1, cover -1) on their ponderous TE Fragel; ball is high and over the hands of the target.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 16-7, 1 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O30||1||10||Ace||4-3 under plus||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Martin||3|
|Martin and Heininger take doubles; Martin(+2) holds up until his guy releases and then sets up so the RB comes behind him, then disengages to tackle. Heininger(-1) had been blown several yards off the ball and Herron can muscle forward for a few yards. Dangerous without Martin here. Next year's run defense might be shady.|
|O33||2||7||Shotgun empty||Wacky nickel||Pass||4||Hitch||Van Bergen||Inc|
|Martin as quasi LB with Morgan on the LOS. Martin(+1) comes on his unsurprising blitz as Roh drops off; this time he shocks Brewster with his explosive contact and is about to pressure Miller when he throws; RVB(+1, pressure +1) is in the lane and deflects the pass. Open for around first down yardage if not batted.|
|O33||3||7||Shotgun 2-back||Okie||Run||N/A||QB draw||--||24|
|Full on man up okie; Miller checks into a QB draw that goes for a bunch of yards because he's running at Morgan backing out into pass coverage and everyone else is rushing upfield. Kovacs(-0.5, tackling -1) and Floyd(-0.5) miss tough open field tackle attempts to provide bonus yards. RPS -2.|
|M43||1||10||I-Form twins||4-3 under plus||Run||N/A||Iso||Martin||7|
|Martin(-1) is doubled and gives ground, eventually dropping to his knees a couple yards downfield. Demens(+0.5) does a decent job on the lead block and does not let it outside. Morgan(-1) seems unaware he has Kovacs helping behind on cutbacks and is hesitant; instead of scraping over to the iso hole he sits behind the Martin mess in case Herron cuts back and can only tackle after he decides on a hole. Heininger(+0.5) was there on the cutback as well.|
|M36||2||3||I-Form twins||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Iso||Morgan||1|
|Morgan(+2) slams Boren at the LOS and gets outside at said LOS; RVB(+1) has slanted under a tackle and forces the play out, where Morgan ends it for little gain.|
|M35||3||2||Diamond screen||4-3 under||Run||N/A||QB draw||Van Bergen||4|
|Diamond draws four defenders, leaving six on six in the box with Floyd overhanging. Van Bergen... argh, man, he had this after splitting a couple guys; his penetration into the backfield looks like it will doom the play, and then Miller jukes upfield and Van Bergen(sadface -1) bites on it, falling uselessly upfield as the blocker he beat takes that momentum and amplifies it. Martin(+0.5) and Heininger(+0.5) do a good job to converge on the guy near the LOS; momentum carries them across the line to make. Spielman says this a hold but I don't necessarily agree; Van Bergen never forced the issue by disengaging because of the fake so it's hard to tell.|
|M31||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under plus||Run||N/A||Iso||Morgan||5|
|Morgan(-1) does not take on the FB block at the LOS and gets crushed a yard downfield, giving ground. Martin(+1) fights through a block to get to the hole and force a cutback; Brink(-1) is in for RVB and gets handled by single blocking easily. With Demens(-0.5) also fighting through a block not very effectively there is a cutback; Woolfolk fills with help from Demens.|
|M26||2||5||I-Form||4-3 under plus||Run||N/A||Iso||Kovacs||-2|
|I was nervous about this live because the line was Campbell/Brink/Black/Heininger and I loved this playcall, one of those Kovacs edge blitzes that gets him in unblocked for a TFL. It also got Heininger(+1) and Black(+1) past blockers into the backfield; with Kovacs(+2, tackling +1) roaring off the edge and tackling that's worth another couple of yards to the D. RPS +2.|
|Plenty of time(pressure -2); Countess(-3, cover -3) gets smoked in man coverage and should give up an easy TD but Miller misses. Picture paged.|
|Drive Notes: FG(45), 16-10, 10 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|M31||1||10||I-Form||4-3 over plus||Pass||6||Scramble||Martin||8|
|DTs stunt and Martin(-2) gets pushed out of the lane he has to be in, so when he and RVB get some pressure after coverage(+1) is there to prevent an immediate throw, Miller can bust out into a lot of grass. Demens(+1, tackling +1) makes a good open field tackle to prevent bigger problems after Michigan rushed six and let the QB through.|
|M23||2||2||I-Form twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Iso||Heininger||4|
|Heininger(-0.5) gets a double and gives some ground, though he fights through decently; Demens(+0.5) took on the iso block near the line and is the key tackler, though he is naturally giving ground as he does so. Morgan(-0.5) again not really relevant because he is hesitant.|
|M19||1||10||Pistol 2TE||46 bear||Run||N/A||Speed option counter||Roh||19|
|Whether this is brilliant improv or a called play Miller is busting backside on the snap and this is no field reversal based on the defense. Roh(-2) makes the cardinal and only mistake on the play by letting the guy outside of him. Out on the sideline on a counter everyone bit on understandably, it's JT Floyd, a blocker, and all of the air. Gordon(-1, tackling -1) could maybe keep this out of the endzone with an open field tackle; he whiffs. Understandable. RPS -2.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 16-17, 7 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O34||1||10||I-Form twins||4-3 under plus||Pass||N/A||WR screen||Countess||9|
|This is doomed from the start with Countess eight yards off and dropping on the snap. RPS -1.|
|O43||2||1||I-Form twins||4-3 under plus||Run||N/A||Iso||--||4|
|Campbell in; he's handled okay by a single block. Demens is running at the FB; Campbell and his guy get in the way. Both FB and LB are kind of like “what now?” If M's LBs were running hard maybe they stop this for a loss or no gain but that's not a good gamble on second and short. Basically a push.|
|O47||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Pass||4||PA dumpoff||Van Bergen||5|
|RVB(+1, pressure +1) slants a little, then beats the G and forces Miller to flush after an iso playfake. Miller breaks the pocket, gets pursuit from a couple of DL, and dumps it to Herron, where the LBs converge.|
|M48||2||5||Shotgun empty||4-3 even||Pass||4||Out||Morgan||Inc|
|Miller has Hall wide open for a first down (cover -1) as Morgan is keying draw on the snap; he misses.|
|M48||3||5||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Flare||Floyd||5|
|Roh(+2, pressure +2) again beats the LT, shoving him upfield as he tries to contain the speed rush and impacting Miller just as he checks down to his flare route after the first read is covered(+1). Floyd is there and shoves the guy OOB seemingly short of the first; they are awarded it. Hoke challenges, which is smart since it's not like challenges are actually useful in college and that's a big swing. He loses. Oh well.|
|M43||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under plus||Pass||5||Corner||Woolfolk||43|
|Pressure is not terrible but Kovacs(-0.5) should probably not get outside of Boren, instead he should hold up and not open up this lane. Miller steps up and finds a receiver breaking past Floyd and Woolfolk just as Roh spins off to deal with him. This is all Woolfolk(-3, cover -3) dying when Posey runs the same route that beat Countess.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 23-24, EOH|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O25||1||10||Pistol 2TE||4-3 under plus||Pass||4||PA sack||Roh||-1|
|Gordon in at FS. Speed option fake and then Miller pivots to the backside of the play. Roh(+1, pressure +1) gets into the tight end on this and then shoots upfield once the TE releases into his route, forcing Miller back inside. Morgan(+2, tackling +1) sees the cut and immediately attacks, which is both smart given the QB and his relatively piddly short zone assignment and effective because he makes an open field tackle. Heininger(+0.5) was pursuing to help as well.|
|O24||2||11||I-Form twins||4-3 over||Run||N/A||Iso||Martin||3|
|Ryan over the slot and blitzes. Martin(+1) is not doubled and owns Brewster, shoving him back and into the path of the play; Boren runs into that mess, as does Herron. There's nothing there but no one can get through to tackle; eventually Herron pops out the other side and gains a few yards before Morgan and Floyd put him down.|
|O27||3||8||Shotgun 2-back||Okie two deep||Run||N/A||QB draw||--||9|
|Exact same thing as earlier okie, with guys flaring on the edge and no one in the middle once Morgan drops into a zone and gets blocked. Kovacs comes up on the snap but from the wrong side; Gordon(+1, tackling +1) actually makes a really nice open field tackle to almost kick them off the field but can't quite manage it. RPS -1.|
|O36||1||10||I-Form twins||4-3 over||Pass||5||Waggle corner||Gordon||22|
|Gordon(-2, cover -2) beaten as he's poking his nose in the backfield; Miller has all kinds of time on the edge (pressure -2) and floats it in. RPS -1.|
|M42||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under plus||Run||N/A||Iso||Van Bergen||-4|
|A bit slower developing as this is going at the tackle; Van Bergen(+2) dominates his guy, drives into the backfield, and takes out the FB two yards behind the LOS. Ryan(+2) drives Stoneburner back three yards and when Herron bounces he runs into the TE. Slowed, he stops and reverses field. Van Bergen robs this of its danger by getting upfield and forcing it back again, then he comes back to tackle.|
|M46||2||14||Shotgun empty||Nickel even||Pass||4||Tunnel screen||Kovacs||7|
|Posey decides to abort mission for some reason. Not sure why, looks well set up. Maybe RVB coming back? Anyway, it's a good decision as Morgan is out there getting doubled and Floyd has to keep leverage; Kovacs(+1, tackling +1) comes up hard to tackle as soon as feasible but still a good gain. RPS -1.|
|M39||3||7||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel even||Run||N/A||QB draw||Van Bergen||3|
|No okie and this is better defended. M stunts; RVB(+1) comes through into the rushing lane and forces Miller away from lead blocks. Martin(+0.5) and Demens(+0.5) are in the area to hold this down to a moderate gain.|
|Drive Notes: lolpunt, 30-24, 4 min 3rd Q. Michigan moves it 40 yards and then the Hagerup thing happens.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|M32||1||10||I-Form big||5-3 eagle||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Roh||4|
|Without Beyer, Michigan's big package is a five man line with Black and Roh the ends with the usual suspects on the interior; Countess is lifted. This is counter action with the play going away from TE motion and an offset fullback. The DL eats this up, with Heininger(+1) and RVB(+1) coming through blocks into the hole; Martin(+1) has beaten a block as well but won't be relevant because Herron can bounce. Roh(-1) is in good position but not prepared to handle the bounce; Demens(-1) ate a block and ends up eight yards off the LOS [Ed-S: Not holding?]; Kovacs fills adequately but misses a tackle(-1). This does maintain leverage and slow Herron so that Martin can get him from behind, so no minus.|
|M28||2||6||I-Form twins||4-3 over||Pass||5||Scramble||Morgan||23|
|Play action. Michigan sends five with Floyd(-1) coming off the corner. He comes in hot and gets shoved way upfield by Boren; Roh is slanting inside of Adams; this opens up a big running lane (pressure -2). Morgan(-2, tackling -1) is in open space and lets Miller outside, turning a first down or so into a big gainer; Floyd does make some amends by tracking Miller down from behind. Without that this is a touchdown.|
|M5||1||G||Pistol Big||5-3 eagle||Run||N/A||Speed option||Heininger||2|
|They go away from the strength of the formation; Heininger(+1) drives playside of his blocker and forces a Miller cutback. Martin(+0.5) is the next guy; he's taking a double at the LOS and Miller has to go behind again. RVB(+0.5) gets an arm on Miller as he cuts behind the Martin double and all the way back here there's no blocking and a lot of Michigan players; gang tackle.|
|M3||2||G||Goal line||Goal line||Run||N/A||Iso||Ryan||1|
|Boren's motion brings Ryan(+1) to the line and on the snap he is unaccounted for by the OL; he drives right at the FB and gets him two yards in the backfield with outside leverage, forcing the play inside. With the DL sufficiently occupying the OL there is one guy blocking downfield, that on Floyd, and Demens(+0.5), Gordon, and Morgan combine to tackle after a modest gain. RVB(+0.5) made the hole small.|
|M2||3||G||Goal line||Goal line||Pass||N/A||Waggle sack||Black||-2|
|No sale! How many times do you see this become easy. Lots of times. Here Kovacs(+1, cover +1) and Morgan(+1, cover +1) flow out onto the receiving options and Miller decides to pull down. Gordon(+0.5) is out on the edge containing, forcing a cutback into Demens(+0.5) and Black(+1), who was unblocked on the edge and supposed to run himself out of the play or get chopped; he kept his feet and flowed from behind, making first contact and removing the chance of some Braxton Miller bull turning this into a TD. RPS +2. Michigan had this murdered dead, with five guys in the area by the time Miller got tackled.|
|Drive Notes: FG(21), 30-27, 12 min 4th Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|Panic at the disco here as OSU flips their TE and Michigan tries to flip their formation instead of just shifting to the under. Roh and Ryan are late getting to their destinations. Van Bergen(+1, pressure +1) beats Adams easily and is about to nail Miller from behind when he finds a wide open guy(cover -2) 15 yards downfield. Ball is behind the WR and not brought in.|
|Miller drops with a token but not serious PA fake; Michigan rushes four and gets nowhere near. Ryan(-2, cover -2) vacates his zone to run up on a dumpoff route by the RB and opens up a pocket outside of Demens, who has the initial route covered. If OSU is throwing checkdowns at this point in the game, fine. Gordon has bugged out for the deep routes and there is no support after Stoneburner clears the second level resulting in a big gain. Pressure -2; Demens had this covered at first and then OSU was able to adjust because no one got to Miller. RPS –1.|
|M44||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel even||Pass||4||Screen||Jones||16|
|Jones in for Demens at MLB, maybe he screwed up on the last play. M stunts and all DL are out of commission; a bigger problem is Jones(-1, cover -1) never ever reading this and getting killed by a WR cracking down; Avery gets picked off and there's no one until Gordon. RPS -1.|
|M28||1||10||Pistol 2TE||4-3 under plus||Pass||4||PA TE Drag||Morgan||20 + 4 pen|
|Gordon in the box with Kovacs deep. Morgan(-2, cover -2) sees the TE dragging across the formation and gets a shove but not early enough or well enough and that guy breaks past him into open space. Morgan doesn't bug out for the sideline after the shove and this opens up the corner; Morgan simply lacks the athleticism to catch up with a TE. He and Kovacs eventually get him OOB after a big gain. RPS -1. Kovacs(-1) gets a late hit call that is deserved.|
|M4||1||G||I-Form twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Iso||Floyd||4|
|RVB(+0.5) stands up his blocker around the LOS; Demens(+0.5) bangs the FB at the line, forcing it outside; Floyd(-2, tackling -1) is unblocked and attacking; he whiffs and lets Herron into the endzone on a play that should have gained a yard or two at most.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 37-34, 7 min 4th Q. Immensely disappointing here. M drives for a TD, gets awarded a FG, and OSU takes over down six with 1:59 on the clock.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||Shotgun empty||Nickel even||Pass||4||Post||Demens||Inc|
|Good time (pressure -1) on a four man rush; Miller throws a wobbler on a deep post Demens(+1, cover +1) is running right with. Very narrow window of opportunity here that Miller cannot hit. Still no safety over the top here... worrisome.|
|O20||2||10||Shotgun 2-back||Okie||Run||N/A||QB draw||Morgan||4|
|Miller checks and Morgan backs out before the snap. Instead of rushing the edges like M has before, Demens, Ryan, and Martin come inside; Morgan(+1) comes up to take on the center's block and sheds playside to help tackle with RVB(+0.5) and Martin(+0.5). RPS +1; Michigan baited OSU into blowing this down and running the clock; OSU burns their last TO. This will become relevant.|
|Plenty of time(pressure -1); Floyd(-3, cover -3) gets smoked on a double move and beat deep. Miller misses and everybody in the stadium dies from fright.|
|Four man rush gets RVB(+0.5, pressure +1) through on a slant; he's still getting blocked but he's threatening, so Miller pulls the ball down and starts moving. Lanes have opened up; Morgan(-1, tackling -1) seems like he's in a spy zone as he flies up to deal with what looks like it will be a scramble as soon as Miller busts outside the pocket. He misses, letting Miller outside. Floyd(+0.5) comes up and almost boots OSU off the field with a tackle at the sticks; Miller reaches the ball across the line as he leaps in the air.|
|O31||1||10||Shotgun empty||Nickel even||Pass||4||Sack||Van Bergen||-2|
|Morgan(+1, pressure +2, RPS +1) sent late as Roh drops off. OSU blows their pickup with the entire interior line trying to deal with a Martin/RVB stunt; Miller rolls away from the pressure and looks like he wants to fire deep but decides against it. Morgan is now coming from behind and Miller tries to come back to the other side of the LOS; RVB(+1, tackling +1) does a great job of anticipating that cutback and shooting up in the tatters of the pocket to sack.|
|Ryan(+0.5, pressure +1) is coming in unblocked until a guard manages to pop outside and block him; Miller can't count on this happening and decides to go to his hot read, which is a little drag that Morgan(+0.5) is there to tackle immediately on.|
|O39||3||6||Ace trips||Nickel even||LOL||N/A||Spike||N/A||Inc|
|O39||4||6||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel even||Pass||4||Hitch||Avery||INT|
|Decent time; RVB is coming around the outside and Roh threatens to sack if Miller tries to step up. He throws about a ten yard hitch to a seemingly open guy that Avery(+3, cover +2) tips and then makes a diving interception on.|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 40-34, EOG.|
What happened to all my beautiful defenses?
Mostly Devier Posey, and Mattison failing to account for Devier Posey because he'd played one game, and Jim Bollman going all Citrus 2008. Let's go back to the defense Michigan was running.
That is a run defense with two corners handling vertical routes from outside receivers, and if you've got D'Angelo Hall and the horde of quality VT corners plus a ton of pressure you can get away with it. Michigan did not get a VT level of pressure, whether because of OSU's OL or their fear of letting Braxton Miller's legs take over, and neither Floyd nor Countess had any prayer of covering Posey without help.
In the Picture Pages there were a couple plays in which Countess was beaten to the inside and not punished. The near 80 yard touchdown, for instance:
On the next play Countess recovered to get a PBU on the third and forever that would eventually be a Michigan safety. On their next drive, OSU would go three and out when Miller missed an open TE on third and medium. The drive after that they found themselves in third and medium again. Countess isn't going to get beaten to the inside again. He's done with that. He's learned. He's…
That same route burned Michigan just before the end of the half:
And then there was this WTF moment on the last drive:
That's all three starters in the secondary getting pwned by Posey. I'm giving whoever drafts him in the second round an A+ for their day.
Mattison's defense was a good idea for the version of the OSU offense we saw most of the year, the one in which Miller has 12, 15, 18 attempts, not 25. He was caught off guard by OSU going to the air and his secondary suffered some confusion—the first TD was just a bust. More than that, they were just incapable of covering Posey one on one. Four times Miller had Posey wide open for touchdowns: the two above, the mindboggling Floyd bite on the last drive, and the actual touchdown. Miller hit him once.
But he had to put Kovacs in the box to contain the OSU running game.
I get the idea but in practice it was pointless. Kovacs had three tackles and an assist:
- Sack after blitzing from safety depth
- TFL after weakside edge blitz
- Downfield fill from safety depth
- Not sure if this was his assist, another safety fill
I get going into the game with a plan but they stuck with it way too long; going to a two-deep shell and forcing OSU to execute underneath would have been far less harrowing. Miller's accuracy is just as goofy underneath. Michigan dared OSU to beat them over the top and OSU was like "okay."
I mean, look at the—
DON'T LOOK AT THE CHART
Look at the chart.
Note that a paucity of plays charted—only 40—means you should multiply numbers by about 1.5 to get an average day's work. I am going to work on something that fixes this variability for next year.
|Roh||5.5||3||2.5||Got safety; let Miller outside on speed option counter.|
|Black||2||-||2||Part of big third down stop.|
|TOTAL||41||10.5||30.5||Caveat: pressure was –1 and DL didn't get much of it.|
|Morgan||7.5||10.5||-3||Worrisome lack of athleticism evident on a couple plays.|
|Demens||5.5||4||1.5||Ate some blocks.|
|Ryan||5.5||3||2.5||Was not a major factor.|
|TOTAL||18.5||18.5||0||Going to be hard to maintain D without increased production from these folks.|
|Avery||3||-||3||Game ending INT only time he was thrown at.|
|Woolfolk||-||3||-3||One long TD on him.|
|Kovacs||5.5||4||1.5||Should probably be filed as LB.|
|T. Gordon||1.5||3||-1.5||Didn't give up anything huge.|
|Countess||2.5||10||-7.5||Could not deal with deep stuff by himself.|
|TOTAL||13.5||26.5||-13||Thanks for being inaccurate, Miller.|
|Pressure||13||14||-1||Erratic, usually based on blitzes.|
|Coverage||11||30||-19||Not so much.|
|Tackling||6||7||46%||Miller is tough.|
I generally give out –3 for wide open dudes who are wide open and only exceed that for massive busts like the first TD, so that –13 understates the carnage. Mattison got burned up in this game, possibly because OSU flipped their personality.
A note on what might seem like some abnormally high defensive line numbers: they did create a safety and basically crush any conventional rushing attempts.
On 15 rushing attempts of the inside zone, iso, and power variety OSU averaged 2.3 YPC. QB draws on which Mattison got RPSed in the okie and Miller scrambles that the DL is only partially responsible for account for 71 of Miller's 115 rushing yards; outside of that Miller averaged 4 YPC. So… yeah, the DL was hugely responsible for the stops Michigan did get. They were a little disappointing as far as getting pressure goes; they were nails against the run.
That's another reason the gameplan was disappointing. Given the way M's DL was beating up the OSU OL they could have gotten away with a safer defense. This was Mattison's version of the Borges MSU gameplan: way, way too aggressive. Bad now, encouraging from a program standpoint since it'll work a hell of a lot better when the defensive backfield is full of bluechips or dudes who beat out bluechips instead of freshmen and sleepers.
But we love Mattison!
Yes, yes. This was money:
It happens to everybody. You go into a game with a plan that falls apart upon contact with the enemy. Given what we'd seen from OSU earlier in the year the plan had sense to it, but M couldn't handle wildcard Posey, busted a couple times, and were caught off guard by the OSU gameplan. It happens. Michigan still got through, and it is worth pointing out that it wasn't quite that bad for the D. They picked up a safety and ten points were given up on drives that started around the Michigan 30. You should charge the D with about 26 points given up since they did get that safety and two field goals were likely after OSU got that starting field position.
Good? No, still no. Better? Yes.
What's this about being worried about next year's defense?
With the linebackers barely treading water most of the year it's a bit scary what might happen if the downgrade on the DL is severe. It was watching this play that gave me the heebie-jeebies:
If three different DL players (two and a half if we're talking about Ryan, I guess) don't execute well there isn't a linebacker in the picture once Herron makes it to the second level. That may just be the way the defense is supposed to go; if so you are heavily dependent on having players as good and active as Martin and Van Bergen. I wouldn't be surprised to see both current MLB starters see their positions come under threat.
The LBs were good at taking on iso blocks in this game but Morgan in particular struggles to scrape to the hole when there's any possibility of a cutback. That's better than being too aggressive but B- work at best.
If the defensive line is good next year, well, then we can just expect them to kick ass until Hoke or Mattison is out. Here's hoping.
Hey, have an unsung hero?
Yeah: Matt Wile. Remember Michigan's terrible kickoff coverage from earlier in the year? It was bad! I didn't like it.
That coverage has improved, but what's even better is the relative paucity of kick return attempts. Four of eight Ohio State drives that started on kickoffs saw Wile get a touchback. When Brian Fremeau debuted a special teams FEI Michigan was languishing around 80th; now they're up to 59th. Kickoffs (20th) are their best phase of special teams. A major reason for that is Wile started putting a bunch of them in the endzone. Thumbs up.
Ryan Van Bergen had a monster day, the best of his career. A fitting sendoff. Martin was also very good, and the two "also starring" members of the DL turned in big plays here and there. That DL laughs at all the Buckeye chatter about how no one on Michigan's team would start for OSU. Hell, the OL does too.
If you pool the two teams' lines and pick starters at their positions OSU gets two: John Simon at WDE and JB Shugarts at RT. I'm not taking a single other Buckeye OL/DL over their Michigan counterparts after watching that game. Will Heininger is flat-out better than Garrett Goebel. Just look at the RB YPC.
Mattison, the secondary.
What does it mean for the bowl game and the future?
Well, Michigan should probably take it easy with the hyper-aggressive-no-help coverage back there if Virginia Tech has a high quality wideout. I haven't watched any film yet to see whether Jarrett Boykin is that guy.
Anyway, the secondary was exposed. Countess is young and Floyd isn't ready to go up against a truly elite guy like Posey by himself; Woolfolk just never regained any form after his parade of injuries. Michigan needs reinforcements down the line.
The key matchup against the VT offense will be the Michigan DL working on that VT OL. If they can duplicate their success against OSU, David Wilson can be a scary dude and still creak out 3 YPC. That should mean a return to form.
[The Athletic Department made Ryan Van Bergen and Kevin Koger available for short interviews following the BCS bowl announcement. Brady Hoke was not available because he is currently in New York for the Football Hall of Fame Inductions. Hoke will be back for a Wednesday presser, and bowl practice will commence at the end of the week.]
Ryan Van Bergen
How does it feel to be going to the Sugar Bowl and playing Virginia Tech?
“It’s huge for us to be in the Sugar Bowl. It’s a great opportunity for us to this season off strong. We felt like we earned a spot in the BCS with our performance this year. We’re really excited to get one more chance to play as a group. It’s been a special year for us and we get one last chance to make a statement.”
Were you keeping track of all the games yesterday and which teams to root for?
“No I actually stayed off twitter and everything, honestly. I was just sick of hearing the different things and the different scenarios how it all could play out. Just figure let the chips fall where they may. Like I said, we feel like we deserve this spot and we’re really excited about the opportunity to play a good team like Virginia Tech.”
What does this change or add to your legacy?
“It gives us another opportunity. It’s been since 2006 since we’ve been in a BCS game, and I just think it kind of reestablishes what this team has been able to do and how we’ve come, especially with the expectations we had coming into this season. It’s a tremendous opportunity to put a final stamp on this year.”
This is the first time Michigan’s ever played Virginia Tech. How familiar are you with them?
“I can’t lie. I’m not very familiar with them at all. Obviously I’ve only had about two minutes to watch their game film. From the clips on ESPN, they looked pretty good. We didn’t get a chance to watch them too much this season, but obviously we’ll take them very seriously. They’re a very good team, a very talented team. Unfortuantely they’re going to be motivated off their loss to clemson, but they’ve got plenty of athletes, I know that.”
Did you hear what Kirk Cousins said last night about you guys?
“I didn’t catch it. What did he say?”
In a nutshell, that Michigan got to stay home and watch the game on a couch and Michigan State shouldn’t be penalized.
“I mean, if he wants to be able to sit on the couch and watch us play in the Big Ten championship game, then he can do that. We would have loved to trade places and have that chance and have that opportunity. All complaints aside, they had an opportunity to the Rose Bowl sitting right in front of them to grab, and they didn’t seize the opportunity. I think they’ll do well in the Outback Bowl, but best of luck, best wishes -- we’re going to the Sugar Bowl, and we’re excited about it.”
What does the January 3rd spotlight do for this program?
“It’s huge! It’s huge. It kind of establishes national relevance for Michigan as a program. It puts us back on the map, so to speak, as a national powerhouse. It will be great for recruiting, it will be great for the alumni and the fans, but the biggest thing for us: team 132 wants to play again. We’ve really grown close. We have great team chemistry, and the opportunity to play one more game on a stage as big as the Sugar Bowl is huge for us.”
Have you ever been to New Orleans?
“Never been to New Orleans, but I hear Bourbon Street’s pretty cool, so I’ll have to check it out.”
Hoke’s emphasizes winning the conference and rivalry games. Do you expect the same kind of emphasis for a bowl game?
“I know he’s going to emphasize the Big Ten conference and representing the Big Ten conference. It’s more than just about Michigan. It’s about representing the Big Ten conference on the biggest stage as possible. Obviously this is one of the biggest stages you can represent the Big Ten conference in, and we want the Big Ten conference to receive national attention as one of the best conferences in the country. We want to be able to beat out of conference opponents, and then kind of get respect nationally as a conference, and that’s something that we get an opportunity to do representing the Big Ten in the Sugar Bowl.”
How might this bowl game help erase your poor showing in the Gator Bowl last year?
“I think that that’s exactly what it is. It provides an opporunity for the guys who played last year and fell so short in that bowl game -- it provides us a chance to redeem ourselves and show that we can put forth a championship effort in a championship game, because that’s what this is. That’s why I think everyone’s going to be so well motivated and so excited for it.”
What was the reaction like in that room when the bowl game was announced?
“It was huge. It was something, like I said -- we all thought we were going to get it, but we weren’t sure if it was something that was going to happen, but we felt we deserved it. To have it finally and not on some kind of rumor or headline or something like that, having it on good authority that you’re going to that bowl game was huge for everybody I think on that team.”
How did you find out originally?
“We found out upstairs, a couple of us, and then through interviews and stuff like this, we’ve been kind of just notified. It’s been very recent, though …”
Has your roommate David Molk been insufferable since winning Offensive Lineman of the Year?
“Oh you know Molk. He’s such a jabberjaw that he’s so hard to keep contained. That’s all he does is run around the house and talk about how he’s a better O-lineman than me, and I told him, ‘I don’t even play O-line.’ No, I mean, I couldn’t be more happy for Dave Molk and what he’s accomplished. He works so hard, and he’s a tremendous worker, and as far as national accolades go, the sky’s the limit for him. I know that there’s still the Rimington to be announced, and I think he’s the prime candidate for that because he is the best center in the country hands down. I wish him all the best, and I have confidence in the fact that he’s going to be reward for the work that he’s put in.”
Your reaction to Michigan going to the Sugar Bowl?
“I mean, it’s really exciting. It’s a testament to how hard the team worked this year. It’s really good for the senior class. We’ve been through a lot, so it’s good to end on a high note.”
What do you see when you look at Virginia Tech?
“I mean, I can’t say them I followed them a lot this year. They always have good athletes, and I know Marell Evans has a couple friends on their team.”
Van Bergen said he stayed away from everything yesterday to avoid overanalyzing the BCS scenarios. What did you do?
“Oh yeah, I was actually the opposite. I was with a couple of teammates. We were over at Kenny Demens’s house, a few of us. We watched probably every game we could possibly watch throughout the day, and we were going over scenarios and all that. It was a lot of fun, though.”
Who did you think was going to be your opponent?
“We really didn’t know. We kept hearing different stuff. I distinctly remember JB Fitzgerald was so negative the whole day, but I mean we were just going through every scenario possible, googling all the scenarios as each game went on. Like I said, it was a lot of fun.”
What kind of stuff did JB say?
“Just being so negative. He said, ‘Oop, we’re going to the Little Ceasar Bowl in Detroit.’ He was being really sarcastic, and he was basically cheering for every team he should have cheered for. Yesterday if you were following him on twitter you would see that.”
When, where, and how did you find out tonight?
“Actually before our meeting -- Justin Dickens told us earlier, but I wasn’t supposed to say anything, so I kind of had to act surprised. Yeah I found out probably about an hour and a half ago, 7:30.”
What are your plans the rest of the night? Is there a team meeting?
“Yeah we have a team meeting. I guess we’re going to go over all the logistics and all that for about a half hour, 45 minutes. And after that probably just bask in the ambience.”
Ever been to New Orleans?
“Never. Never, but my roommate JB, he has a lot of family down there, so he says it’s a good time.”
What kind of spotlight will the Sugar Bowl provide your team after the season you’ve had and the struggles you had before this season?
“It’ll be a great atmosphere. It’d be great for the team, but it’ll just show everybody Michigan’s back, and we’re serious.”
Did you see Kirk Cousins’s comments after the Michigan State?
“Nah. I didn’t see anything.”
He basically said that Michigan shouldn’t go to a BCS bowl because you guys sat home and watched the Big Ten championship game.
“Yeah. I mean, we did get to recover a little bit, but I’d rather play in the Big Ten championship game. I mean, the inaugural Big Ten championship -- that says a lot of about the teams that played in it. We’d be happy to trade places, but it is what it is.”
Will you make this more of a business trip as a senior and a captain? Do you want this to be very focused?
“Definitely. We went down to Jacksonville and didn’t put on our best performance. It was embarrassing to say the least. We can learn from our mistakes. I mean, we’ll definitely have a little bit of fun, but the main thing is to go down there and win the football game.”
Do you think the focus will be different this time with a different coaching staff?
“No I think the focus is always to win the football game, but I mean it was just disappointing to put all that work into a game and have the outcome we did last year.”
What do you make of the prestige of the BCS games?
“I mean, it’s definitely exciting. One thing that people don’t realize -- I think we’re going to be playing indoors, and a lot of people on the team haven’t played indoors. I have freshman year against Minnesota, but it’s a lot different playing indoors as opposed to playing in Glick. It’ll be a different experience. The lights are a little bit different, but it’s going to be a great stage with a lot of people watching.”
They marched past in tight formation, the drumline rapping out their cadence, occasionally punctuated by a solemn chant of "Ohio!" The Game was over, by now a good 15 minutes over, and the devastation set in as pandemonium ensued on the field of the Big House. You could tell instantly from the looks in their eyes—many welled up with tears—that the Ohio State Marching Band was not marching nearly fast enough.
I knew that look, that feeling. For the seven years prior, that was me, just doing my best to stay composed—it's a game, after all—until I could find a place away from everyone, and especially away from anything resembling football—because, after all, it's really more than just a game. On Saturday, however, I stood in the front corner of the tunnel, watching a beautiful scene unfold while doing my best to maintain some level of professionalism. Despite being all-too-familiar with their pain, I felt no sympathy towards the opposing band; they were merely collateral damage in a world returned to its rightful state.
I was spoiled. Since my dad decided to move the family from San Francisco to Ann Arbor—home of his alma mater—in the summer of 1993, Michigan had gone 6-4 against the Buckeyes, and 3-1 in games I had attended. This included Tim Biakabutuka's 313-yard game in '95 and the Rose Bowl clincher in '97, when Charles Woodson cut once, then once more, and streaked down the sidelines towards our end zone seats.
It was the fall of 2003, and I was a baby-faced high school sophomore. My friend Amy sat down with me in the lunchroom at Pioneer and told me she had her grandmother's tickets for The Game, and I could come if I want. She already knew the answer. What she didn't know—what none of us could know—was that we would be watching the last Wolverine victory in the rivalry until we were both out of college. At the time, I watched the game with the full expectation that Michigan would win—despite the presence of some vest-wearing guy from Youngstown State named Tressel, who had inexplicably coached OSU to victory the previous two years—and when they did, we walked home with little fanfare. This was normal, and it was good.
After eight games, there is still no part of me that feels like a day in the Michigan Stadium press box is just another day at the office. That feeling was only reinforced as Jake Long strode by amidst awkwardly-loud whispers of "Is that Jake Long?" Meanwhile, a relaxed Gene Smith schmoozed with some unidentified bigwigs, the press box was announced as being full for the first time all year—yes, including the Notre Dame game—and Mike Rosenberg even made it for the first time since the release of the advance copies of Three and Out. In a year chock-full of remarkable scenes, this stood out as particularly surreal.
Still, once the game began, I fell into routine easily. Watch the play, attempt to think of something insightful, tweet (usually regardless of whether or not an insightful thought actually occurred), perhaps crack a joke to Heiko, rinse, repeat. At halftime, the nerves began to kick in, because despite seven years of misery the thought never crossed my mind that this game could end in anything but righteous victory.
With seven minutes left in the fourth quarter—not long after I tweeted "End of third quarter update: I'm dying inside"—I packed up my laptop and followed TomVH and Chantel Jennings down to the field. By the time we reached the concourse, we were practically running. Michigan held a three-point lead and was driving, and this was no time to be cooped up far above the action where anything resembling a partisan cheer is met with withering glares of contempt.
We watched, helpless, as Fitz Toussaint scored but did not score, as Denard ran it in only to be rebuffed by yellow flags, as Michigan settled for a Brendan Gibbons field goal, and then as Devier Posey ran right by J.T. Floyd, only to be overthrown by a margin too close to keep my heart from nearly escaping my chest cavity. The next thing I knew, Braxton Miller had spiked the ball on third down—to the amazement of the surrounding media members and the incredulity of the Buckeye fans in the visitor's section behind me—and then Courtney Avery came down with the football.
As Denard Robinson chucked the ball high into the sky, setting off the "bomb" celebration that so hilariously rankled Zach Boren, I was already walking onto the field. I never had the chance to rush the field as a fan, but now, thanks to a job I did not possess a mere four months ago, here I was accidentally walking right behind Fitz Toussaint as he answered a television reporter's questions.
Toussaint wrapped up his interview quickly and sprinted towards the end zone, to his teammates and their student brethren. I followed, snapping pictures on my phone and keeping an eye out for my younger brother, who had lucked his way into a front-row seat in the student section. By the time I reached the end zone, the stampede began—the players ran towards the tunnel as the first wave of students streamed onto the field, and for a moment I wondered if I would be trampled. I wasn't worried about myself, but instead hoped that my parents would understand that I died happy, doing what I love.
I snapped out of it, because getting bowled into by a drunk, screaming engineer in a "Shoelace For Heisman" shirt will kick in your survival instincts. I turned and went with the flow of the crowd, capturing a few poignant moments along the way: a homeless-looking Steve Everitt hugging Taylor Lewan, Brendan Gibbons embracing Mark Huyge, walk-on Zac Johnson—one arm raised in triumph—soaking it all in.
By the mouth of the tunnel stood Mike Martin—and I didn't realize it at the time, but he was next to John U. Bacon—and his look of pure elation nearly brought a tear to my eye. To the right, Denard Robinson flashed his 1000-watt smile as he was mobbed by adoring students, then lifted a cheerleader off the ground—Lewan would have been proud. The players, the fans, and yes, the media members, nobody wanted to leave. We were unleashing seven years of pent-up frustration, but more than that, we were basking in the joy of the players, the guys who have been through more than any others in program history.
After several minutes, when the team had finally gone off to the locker room, I slipped into the tunnel to watch the recruits—and, as it turned out, the Ohio State band—make their way through. The faces of the visiting prospects said it all: a mix of jubilation and wonder, the wide-eyed looks of those wondering if this all was real. Devin Funchess snapped out of his joyful daze just in time to sidestep an equipment box being pushed by some Buckeye band members—"Man, they're trying to kill me!"—then proceeded to laugh his way out, bouncing with each step.
Just when things seemed to be quieting down, the traffic through the tunnel thinned out, three men emerged from the Michigan locker room, smartphones in hand: Captain Mike Martin, the heart and soul of the defense; Ryan Van Bergen, the face of "Those Who Stayed"; and Will Heininger, the Ann Arbor native who turned down a potential baseball career to walk on to the team he grew up idolizing. They headed back into the fray, capturing the moment for eternity.
They didn't just stay. They had returned.