ryan van bergen
[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.
11/26/2011 – Michigan 40, Ohio State 34 – 10-2, 6-2 Big Ten
Odoms via the Detroit News. Koger/Fitzgerald and Denard via Eric Upchurch.
Slightly more than a week ago, people better-prepared than I commemorated the fifth anniversary of Bo's death. I remember where I was, sitting in the room I was renting in a house that would be foreclosed on as Tom Orr, a Buckeye fan whose wife still worked for the TV station Bo did a show for, emailed me the things I didn't want to hear.
I had a thing I'd mostly written the night before about that year's Game, the one I did and still call Football Armageddon. It was an overdramatic thing based on a Sufjan Stevens song about the apocalypse. I wasn't sure about it. As I read it, panicked because I had to say something and what would I say, two things occurred to me. One, that the overdramatic thing was now on point. Two, that the part I hadn't written the night before about my father burning into coal—because it was impossible to—now sat there, obvious.
Ryan Van Bergen was in high school. He'd committed to Lloyd Carr months before. He was going to Michigan, fergodsakes. David Molk had ten thousand zits on his face. He was going to Michigan, too. Neither had the slightest idea.
Four years and two coaches later, the two of them sat in a room. They decided. What they decided was: that was not happening again. They decided they would stay. They loved Michigan, and they weren't going out in a disjointed mess. Their new coach reinstated an old tradition and they became captains unlike any in 40 years. They found their own way. There was no one save Brandon Graham to learn from, and there's only so much Brandon Graham can do.
I'm not really sure how or why but Denard Robinson stayed, too. It's possible Molk threatened to kill him.
In these decisions, in these moments, in these actually-kind-of-idiotic thought processes that led all of these players to stay here for a second or third coach, in a place that too easily booed them when they failed to live up to the expectations set for them, Michigan became Michigan again.
What is Michigan but a succession of players who chose the winged helmet and spent their four or five years in it trying to perform to the level previous players had? And how difficult would that be when your predecessors had either not lived up to that standard or abandoned you? Who was Ryan Van Bergen supposed to look up to?
By the time everyone else came back, Molk and Van Bergen and Martin and Koger and Woolfolk and the rest of the roster had already decided. Amongst themselves, for themselves.
This program needed that to pay off. It needed to stop feeling sorry for itself, being at war with itself, sabotaging itself, stop hopping on the radio to trash this that and the other, stop needing to be trashed on the radio for this that and the other. It needed to finally bury Bo, and move past the strife caused by his absence. Only one thing could do that: beating Ohio.
They did, and now there are legacies.
That picture is David Molk to me. Hugging his quarterback and killing a press conference. Sealing a blitzing linebacker on a second-half stretch. Piloting one of the best rushing attacks in Michigan history.
That picture is Ryan Van Bergen to me. Destroying that Indiana drive after botching the call on the line; leaving OSU with his winged helmet thrust as far in the air as his 6'6" frame would take it.
Amongst the tackiness, that was real. That's what I waited for. One story of redemption from someone who did nothing wrong. I've sneered at the "Michigan Man" concept ever since it became a cudgel to use against the wrong head coach. The idea there was anything particularly special or deathlessly loyal or kind or mature about the program's alumni was ridiculous after the way the last three years played out. But no more.
These are Michigan Men; this is their season.
After the game I loitered at my family's tailgate until the champagne was gone and then walked home. These days I make the walk to and from the game by myself. The people I used to walk with aren't around anymore.
At first this seemed lonely. I remember walking down Packard behind a father and his kid after The Horror. An elderly guy who kind of seemed stoned came out onto his elaborately flowered lawn and asked "they didn't really lose, did they?" The father nodded ruefully; the elderly guy shook his head. I remember getting body-checked into a car after last year's State game. I remember shivering the whole way after Northwestern '08.
On Saturday the sky was slate, the gunmetal November sky that goes with head coaches in shirtsleeves and sleet and the grim reconciliation with the elements via which the Big Ten footprint acknowledges both winter and mortality. Being outside, in Michigan, in late November, is usually a defiant variety of stupidity—a last taste of being outdoors before December closes in and the world becomes a thing briefly tolerated between heated areas. In the Midwest, football is to winter what spit from a condemned man is to a firing squad.
Saturday was also warm, warmer than any Ohio State game in memory. As I walked, alone, past the lurid green turf the field hockey team plays on I watched fathers play with sons. A tailgate across the tracks provided play-by-play as I passed by: a speed option the kid playing quarterback turned into a trick play by going out for a pass after he pitched. He was open; he dropped it; I filed it (CA, 3, RPS +1). The tailgate burst into sympathetic "awwws."
I kind of lost it passing behind the bleachers, just then. I came out the other side, and looked back, and saw two #16s and a #1 running around, catching and throwing, four-foot-five at best. Mottled clouds passed overhead. Two shades of gray were pushed by wind. It seemed to me like the closer, darker ones were giving way to the lighter background.
It felt like spring.
Photoset from Eric Upchurch and the Ann Arbor Observer:
This is a great shot you might see in next year's season preview:
Molk brought his trident:
WE MUST EAT
Pregame hype video:
Give it to Old Hat Creative. Two consecutive years these have been great. Aaand JBrons provides a panorama:
BRADY HOKE EPIC DOUBLE POINT OF THE WEEK. 14/17 for 10 YPA, 3 TDs, 0 INTs, 170 rushing yards at 6.5 YPC and two more touchdowns… uh… yeah. It was Denard Robinson's day. If he'd played like that week-in, week-out he's in New York and Andrew Luck is asking for his autograph. Alas, it was not to be.
Robinson didn't eat up passing yards with screens or long busted coverages, either. His long on the day was the 28-yarder to Dileo that CJ Barnett jumped. That's a disaster if it's even a little bit off; Denard made an NFL throw into Dileo's outstretched hands. The post TD to Hemingway was a 20-yard dart and the Odoms touchdown was thrown into space so tight I'm not even sure you could call it a "window." It was more like a keyhole.
Hypothesis: do you think Borges did something to Denard's throwing motion? That might explain his progression from inept in the nonconference schedule to decent, if limited, in the Big Ten to assassin against OSU. If Denard can extend that performance across a season… holy pants. The scrambles and draws have opened up for him the past couple weeks because his passing has been enough of a threat to demand attention.
Honorable mentions: Brady Hoke (for reasons discussed below), Al Borges, Fitzgerald Toussaint.
EPIC DOUBLE POINT STANDINGS.
3: Denard Robinson (Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan, Ohio State)
2: Brady Hoke (San Diego State, Northwestern), Fitzgerald Toussaint (Purdue, Nebraska)
1: Jordan Kovacs (Western Michigan), David Molk (Minnesota), Ryan Van Bergen (MSU), Mike Martin (Iowa), JT Floyd(Illinois).
Future annoying conversations may be (unsuccessfully) pre-empted by "Ohio State 2011." On the podcast last week we talked about Hoke's natural aggression and how there would be a point in the future when it does not work out, thus spawning a week of extremely annoying conversations. This game is an uzi in the math camp's arsenal.
Hoke went for it on fourth and one on the OSU 40 in the first quarter. Hopkins got it easily and Michigan punched in a touchdown. Ohio State punted on fourth and four from the Michigan 36; Michigan moved the ball to midfield before the disastrous Hagerup non-punt set Ohio State up with the same field position they'd have had if they'd picked up the first down. Later, Fickell kicked on fourth and goal from the Michigan four down six.
I punched all these decisions into Advanced NFL Stat's fourth down calculator; it spat out that Hoke was right and Fickell wrong with a total margin of 3.2 expected points and a total shift in win percentage of 7%*. And their assumptions are based on NFL models where four yards to go is an automatic passing down; taking the game situation into account (it's spread mad college and both quarterbacks are unstoppable on the ground) it seems like much, if not all, of Michigan's final margin of victory came from the decisions the head coaches made.
How much more of a travesty is the Toussaint overturn if it puts Michigan in fourth and goal from the 25 down four? Orders of magnitude. How confident are you that Michigan wins that game without the offense ripping down the field in the fourth quarter? Not at all. Michigan does not win this game without…
*[I know you can't just add WP differences up like that but the differences are small enough that it shouldn't matter.]
Controlled aggression. How would you characterize the first year of the Hoke era if given only two words? I don't think you could do better than sniping a couple Hoke used to describe Denard's game:
"Denard went out there as a quarterback of Michigan and went out there to help his teammates and be accountable to his teammates. He couldn't do it by himself and no one ever does, but I thought he played an aggressive, controlled football game."
Controlled aggression. From Mattison's okie blitzes that get an unblocked guy while dropping seven to Borges going for points in the fourth quarter Saturday to Hoke's decisions to go for it on fourth down to Hoke's ability to not strangle Hagerup (better man than all of us), "controlled aggression" is the story of Michigan's 2011… and its future.
I could not have been more wrong about Hoke. He's not the milquetoast win-by-not-losing sort. He's not even average. He has a gut feel that is on par with every RPG minimaxing engineer out there. Forged by the fires of MAC defenses, Hoke has learned to push when he should and pull back when he should. I would not want to play poker against him.
I know Hoke talks about toughness and physicalness even if the latter isn't really a word, and that's fine and important. It's half of the equation. The other half is putting your guys in position to take advantage of that. Hoke does that. MANBALL: pretty much not pejorative anymore.
Speaking of the Toussaint overturn. So the overturn at the end had the stadium baying for blood. Mike Pereira on that:
Why they even considered overturning this as a touchdown, I’ll never know. There were two definitive replays that the booth had to look at, and in my opinion, one showed that the ball might have been a foot short and the other one looked more like it was a clear touchdown.
This decision seemed to be based on the first angle only. Even that, to me, was not conclusive, because when the video was stopped it was not clear whether the knee was down.
Pereira also tackles the Odoms catch/recatch that got Michigan down to the six, saying it was the right call. Myself, I'm not sure why they reviewed it or why it took so long. I do wonder how you align this logic with the Junior Hemingway 49% touchdown against Iowa:
The fact the ball hit the ground does not make the pass incomplete. It becomes a question of maintaining possession. Odoms’ hands remained on the ball, and though the ball moved a bit, he did not lose possession. In order to reverse this ruling, I think you have to see the ball come out of his hands after it hit the ground.
I think ball hitting ground should be no catch unless you've already made the proverbial football move. That's clear. What we've got now is ambiguous.
And, then after the game, the fans just like, start banging their hands together. Michigan's grenade celebration caught the ire of Zach Boren:
"I lost so much respect for michigan after they won [and] threw the ball in the air acting like it was a grenade.
This is a great rivalry, and to take it to that level of disrespect is just so uncalled for. Act like you have won before [and] treat this rivalry like it should be treated."
Their family would never participate in anything so crass as celebrating amongst their teammates. They are a respectful bunch.
A stoic group of respectful people, those Borens.
[HT on the bolded zinger to MichFan1997.]
To get the bags of urine thrown at you you have to be in Columbus, though. Atmosphere skeptics will not be cowed, but this is high praise from a guy who would know:
The OSU-Michigan game today was the closest thing to a big soccer game I've ever been to. Kept thinking of USA-Mexico in Mexico.
Carey has been to USA-Mexico in Mexico, which… whoah. That is a hell of a comparison to make.
Weekly Borgeswatch. Beat up or not, that was an Ohio State defense that entered the game 16th in total defense and 12th in FEI*. Michigan rolled them. Eliminate the Hagerup disaster, a sack, and the kneeldown and Michigan averaged 6.4 YPC. Denard hit 9.8 YPA. They should have scored 44. They won that game with a functional turnover margin of –2—the Hagerup disaster is a 60-yard loss of field position and the Avery INT was superfluous—and their defense giving up 34. That's fantastic.
Borges's last three weeks have been superlative. It's still frustrating that a couple of poor gameplans cost Michigan against MSU and Iowa but Borges corrected course and lit up defenses ranging from excellent to okay the last three weeks of the season. Before the season I predicted that Michigan's YPC would drop by a yard; with the bowl game to go it's only down about a quarter of that. Passing efficiency has dropped (23rd to 39th) but YPA is actually up a couple tenths of a yard. The interceptions are the major issue, and a decent chunk of those featured wide open receivers the QBs ignored.
Some regression was expected even if Rodriguez stuck around, so the net transition cost on offense kind of seems like… zero. Fumbles have been a huge factor (last year: 29, 14 lost; this year: 17, 6 lost) and I don't think there's a whole lot of coaching in that, but at this point there's no denying Borges has kept the offense humming.
Imagine how good they could have been with bubble screens! [kidding! srs.]
*[Although… I'm getting suspicious of that metric when it has Rutgers #1 in defense and Miami(!!!) #2 in offense. Miami hasn't gone over 20 points since beating Duke; they lost to FSU 23-19 and to BC 24-17. They beat USF 6-3 and are 73rd in total offense, 64th in scoring. There is no combination of circumstances that could make them the #2 offense in the country. FEI is failing sanity tests this year.]
BCS hootenanny. Michigan actually fell a slot in the BCS standings this week thanks to Wisconsin turning Penn State into paste. They're 16th; they need to creep up two spots* to be eligible for hypothetical Sugar Bowl against Houston. One of those is a given since the Big Ten title game loser will fall behind them. The next is likely as long as Georgia loses the SEC title game.
If Georgia doesn't things get dicey. Then you're hoping for Iowa State to beat KSU or Oklahoma State to annihilate Oklahoma to the point where disgusted voters drop them immensely. With KSU a 12 point favorite and Oklahoma State a 3.5 point favorite, neither of those things seem particularly likely. Baylor is also a threat to jump Michigan if they beat Texas—if it's close the computers will likely side with the Big 12 team. Baylor's favored by around 3. MFan_in_Ohio has a complete rooting guide.
The only scenario in which Michigan feels entirely safe is Georgia and Baylor both losing. Anything else and it's going to come down to the margins. Not getting the BCS game would be disappointing, but mostly from a program prestige point of view. The likely opponent would be better in the Citrus: Arkansas, Georgia, or South Carolina. Also, New Orleans vs Orlando is a blowout.
If fewer than 10 teams are eligible for selection, then the Bowls can select as an at-large team any Football Bowl Subdivision team that is bowl-eligible, has won at least nine regular-season games and is among the top 18 teams in the final BCS Standings,
Otherwise it's top 14.]
Fitzkrieg* III. If Brady Hoke gets It, Fitzgerald Toussaint has It. Fitz is averaging 5.8 YPC this year and that's with a majority of his carries coming against Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, and Ohio State. That is tied for the 14th best YPC in a single season (100 carries minimum) since 1949 and the second-best since Biakabutuka's 1995 campaign. (Denard's 2010 beats him out at an incredible 6.6 YPC. Tyrone Wheatley's 1992 season stands alone as the best in Michigan history. Wheatley picked up 1357 yards on 185 carries—eleven more than Toussaint had this year. He averaged 7.3 YPC. Holy pants.)
[active players bolded. also players from the last 15 years.]
Adjust that for schedule strength, and… well, Toussaint is pretty good, especially when Denard Robinson is taking a lot of attention for himself. If Michigan can find a tight end (possible) and adequately replace Huyge (likely) and Molk (er…), an Al Borges with a year of experience dealing with these guys could put up some silly numbers.
Have to keep that line healthy, though.
*[Now spelled right and everything!]
I'm just sayin'. Fitz did bust a long one on I-Form power late, but it didn't exactly go as planned:
That cuts behind something that's supposed to be a downblock. Usually that's doom, though not when you've blasted the DT five yards downfield.
With Denard and Toussaint propelling Michigan to its best running game since the Big Ten was only vaguely competitive, can we assert that running quarterbacks do work in the Big Ten and that the spread is a pretty good system for running the ball? After all was said and done, Michigan beat OSU—put up more points on OSU than they ever had—by running a shotgun centered offense that tore it up with the inverted veer. Kudos to Borges for adjusting; I hope we don't say "that was interesting" and go back to statues for the next decade.
I say recruit 'em all and let Borges sort 'em out. Mobile QBs who don't pan out can turn into Marvin McNutt; I don't think M should turn down Shane Morris but if there's a Devin or a Denard around… man, this stuff really works.
Everyone's spent the last year comparing this offense to RR's last one, and saying there's no dropoff. That's true. Now let's compare it to the Carr offenses featuring oodles of NFL draft picks. Hmmm.
Facepalmin': THE REVERSAL. Facepalm guy after the OSU game:
That's goddamn right.
Epic photobomb. Via the internets, here's Josh Garnett, Jake Long, and Eric Magnuson* plus a Heisman-level photobomber:
The wife saw this picture and said "why does Jake Long look strange" and I said "because he's next to people approximately his size."
*[Hockey fans will appreciate that I almost called him "Kevin." #hardcore]
Where are the safeties? So the disturbing thing about the game was Braxton Miller trashing the secondary. It could have been a lot worse than it was, but Miller's accuracy rating is still in the 50s so he overthrew a bunch of dudes.
No one was exempt: Floyd, Countess, Woolfolk, and Gordon each got burned (Kovacs was mostly used in the box and did not have an opportunity.) Some of that is Michigan showing a consistent one-high and Bollman exploiting that with receivers that, for the first time all year, seemed way more athletic than Michigan's secondary. Other parts were just inexplicable, like whoever the free safety was on the first touchdown sucking up on a covered Posey instead of covering the deep guy. I'll have to check the tape; I'm kind of concerned this is an '06 situation where whoops we have this huge throbbing vulnerability.
Floyd getting suckered on a double move on OSU's last drive was the worst. Have to stay over the top then and make Miller execute his way down the field.
Special K's magnum opus. Piping in "Build Me Up Buttercup" during Ohio State's final drive. Well done, you flatulent twit. Eleven Warriors:
"Sweet Caroline"? "Don’t Stop Believin’"? Nice traditions you’ve got there. I didnt think anything could make the car keys thing less embarrassing. I stand corrected.
Chris Grovich of BSD:
Note how lame the Big House is with Journey blaring? That's you, Penn State gameday experience. A million times over.
Apparently Hunter Lochmann openly admits he's courting casual "families of four from Grand Rapids." Court casual fans and you get casual fans. Michigan's athletic department has no understanding of how to build long-term loyalty. The concept does not occur to them.
I would like to point you to Those Who Stayed, the post-Minnesota game column, again.
The play of the game, or at least one of them, is not recorded in the boxscore in a meaningful way. After Hagerup’s failed 4th down conversion, osu took over at our 31. They got down to our 5 yard line, and had 1st and goal. A couple strong defensive efforts lead to 3rd down.
On the next play, according to Chris Spielman (we were never shown this,) osu tried their TD pass to Stoneburner play, the one that got him TDs on ~ half his receptions this year. Only this time, Kovacs stayed with Stoneburner, and forced Miller to keep it. Jibreel Black (Jibreel Black? Yes, Jibreel Black) kept outside leverage, wrapped up Miller and forced the FG.
At the other end of the field, we did the same thing, only their 3rd string strong safety, Storm Klein, bit on the playfake leaving Koger wide open for the TD. (It may not have been Storm Klein, but for the purposes of this narrative, I’m going with Storm Klein.)
It was Zach Domicone, and it only serves him right for being such a tool on special teams. More than once I saw him attempt to goad Michigan players into personal foul penalties, but no sale.
I am also tweaked for the option fumble when they finally ran it with Odoms in motion, which fair enough. Denard got instant pressure which made the pitch a difficult one and the corner was wide open. Hopefully they get that straightened out eventually. Also we totally need to add the Braxton Miller speed option-whoops-seeya play.
Fitz Toussaint - Denard is light-years more effective with a true home-run threat in the backfield with him. The read option becomes almost impossible to stop if read correctly. Only having 2 negative yards against Ohio in 20 carries is remarkable. It is a crime that the zebras took your TD away, go get 3 next year.
There is narrative about the point that doesn't work with a blockquote but is worth clicking through for. Also more Hagerup hilarity.
[escape pauses gifs]
And MichiganMan2424's cool story bro about meeting Fitzgerald Toussaint's mom on his way home from the game spawns other cool stories on the board.
Media, as in unwashed blog masses. Hoke pointing from Hoke Points and the AP:
MGoVideo provides a Hoke Nyan Cat:
We need one of these with a Denard head and football body, I think.
Michigan fans had hoped for an easy victory over Ohio State. A blowout. A cake walk. But that's not how good stories are told. Even ones written not on the page, but between the lines of a college gridiron. For after 7* consecutive losses, the task was too important. After three years staring into the football abyss, the final push toward the mountain top demanded it be the hardest.
The hero's journey must never be easy.
For future reference, reasonable Joseph Campbell reference == autolink.
Sap's decals. TWB bullets. MVictors bullets plus cookie photo. Maize and Go Blue recap. TTB bullets. MZone autopsy. Holding the Rope gets the word "gyre" in there, one-upping Maize and Blue Nation's "whirlwind." Smiling Kovacs hug leads The Michigan Fanatic. BWS column.
The HSR is all in my head with their theme:
If you're a Michigander, you know that winter is miserable. As much as the first snow fall of the season might be entertaining and even maybe a little bit pretty, while snow days may be a nice respite from the daily grind, the reality is that it's cold, dark, wet, and miserable. You stay inside, you may get seasonal affective disorder, and you wait for spring. You may be so desperate for any sign of spring, you seize false hope, only to see the snow return with a vengeance, the darkness fall. No matter what the calendar says, the end of winter is a feeling and you know it when it happens.
Forever Saturday leads with the Van Bergen photo above:
I was briefly concerned yesterday that I would wake up at some point and realize that it was all just a dream and Michigan had in fact not beaten Ohio State for the first time since shortly after I graduated high school. It's Sunday now. It's really over.
The words: I do not have them. I just keep telling people "Michigan beat Ohio State!" and making weird sounds that apparently are some combination of exhilaration and relief. That's all I can do after that.
The national view comes from Jacobi:
WHAT MICHIGAN WON: Michigan beat Ohio State. Wait, let's try that again: MICHIGAN BEAT OHIO STATE. The 10-win season is absolutely nice for the Wolverines, but they've been circling this game on their calendars since time immemorial, and to get a win in this rivalry after eight years of futility is a major, major accomplishment for Brady Hoke and his charges.
LOSER: Michigan's classless fans
Look at them, rushing the field and celebrating after Michigan beats a 6-6 team. Act like you've been there, guys, right? The nerve of it all!
We're kidding, of course, because the cathartic value of a win like that, erasing eight years of misery and futility hard-wired into to Michigan's identity as a football program, would be off the charts even if Ohio State were coming into the game 0-11. But we're still talking about a bowl team here in OSU, and one that gave Michigan all sorts of fits over the course of the game. You have our full blessing on this field-storming, Michigan. And if anyone says otherwise, well, haters gonna hate. Feels nice to have haters again, doesn't it?
Yes. Exactly. Boren butthurt tweets == Tears of Unfathomable Sadness. So sweet.
In the context of the entire season, though, it was an exclamation point on a legitimate return to form. Unlike 2007 and 2008, the Wolverines didn't endure an embarrassing flop against a major underdog. Unlike 2009 and 2010, they didn't blow their fast start with a depressing November fade against the meat of the Big Ten slate. They were never blown out, and after their dramatic comeback to beat Notre Dame in September, none of their subsequent wins were close. Last week's evisceration of Nebraska was Michigan's best game in five years, a complete win over a real opponent, and the first unmistakable line of demarcation between Brady Hoke's first team and Rich Rodriguez's last.
Media, soon to expire variety. Dispatch, you disappoint but do not surprise:
You tools should have the MANBALLS to reverse your cute little counter, but since you don't have the resources to find out anything about OSU's compliance, or lack thereof, it's not a surprise you don't. You suck.
It probably was tougher and crazier than they expected, but when the Wolverines finally beat the Buckeyes 40-34 Saturday and the fans swarmed the field, one thing was clear: It's back on, mercifully and manically.
Reset the clock. Reset the rivalry. After seven straight losses and 2,926 days, Michigan ended the agony against Ohio State and took another big step back to national relevance.
Michigan had just ended an eight-year drought — it was 2,926 days, to be exact, as coach Brady Hoke's sign not-so-subtly reminded his players inside Schembechler Hall — by beating archrival Ohio State. And Michigan's senior class had just ended a perfect home season the way few, if any, of them could've imagined.
So as the students came streaming onto the field to celebrate in Michigan Stadium, and the Wolverines started running off it to do the same in their locker room, a trio of defensive linemen — Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen and Will Heininger — lingered just a bit longer.
Mienke assembles facts about Denard Robinson's day:
Robinson's five touchdowns are the most by a Michigan player in one game against Ohio State.
Robinson is the first Michigan player in the modern era to score at least two rushing touchdowns and two passing touchdowns in back-to-back games, and is the first Big Ten quarterback to accomplish the feat since Iowa's Brad Branks in 2002. He had two of each against Nebraska.
More at the link.
The Daily's Tim Rohan:
Those who stay will redeem themselves.
Ryan Van Bergen stayed.
While his teammates mobbed Courtney Avery, whose interception for the Michigan football team sealed the 40-34 win over Ohio State on Saturday, Van Bergen slowly walked to the sideline, his hands on his head.
He flipped off his helmet, collapsed on the blue bench and wept.
The crowd’s roar was deafening as Jake Ryan pulled Van Bergen close, whispering in his ear. Then Craig Roh did the same. They told Van Bergen how much his leadership meant, how much of an impact he had on them.
Denard Robinson and David Molk
The color is weird on some of these because I forgot to change my camera settings until halfway through.
David, can you talk about the poise of your quarterback and the mindset in the huddle during the game?
Molk: “I mean, he did great. It’s apparent how he’s matured throughout the season, how he’s matured with me watching after him. He did great. As an offense, we did great. We drove down the field. We were always composed. We were always ready for another drive. There was absolutely nothing that was going to stop us today.”
For both of you, can you put in words what this win that was seven years in the making means to you?
Molk: “I mean, seven years really doesn’t matter. It’s the fact that we won today. That’s all that counts. This is a game that I played in. This is a game that we played in today --”
Denard: “Oh yeah.”
Molk: “And this means the world to us.”
Can you talk about the emotion of the last couple minutes when the touchdown got called back and then they had the ball?
Denard: “We just said we had to do it again. We have to try and score again. That’s it.
Molk: “Yeah, and just to relate to what he said. Obviously we’ve been through stuff like this [going] back to Notre Dame and games last year. This is something that we’re used to. We never give up. Doesn’t really matter what happens, we know how to fight through it.”
Denard, your center just said you weren’t going to be denied. It looked like you specifically on a lot of those runs weren’t going to be denied. Was that your mentality there?
Denard: “Yeah. I was out there playing for the seniors. I played my heart out, and the guys did too. That’s what happened.”
This was probably the most efficient performance of your career. What went into that?
Denard: “I was just doing what I had to do -- playing for the seniors and playing for Michigan.”
Molk: “He’s matured as a quarterback and matured as a player. That’s a natural progression when you get more games and more plays. He’s done great.”
Borges has talked about big plays being important to your offense. Can you comment on your ability to be a quick-strike offense?
Molk: “I mean, you always want to score as fast as possible. Depends on the situation, but I mean, hell, if you can get 60 yards or 20 yards whenever you want it -- I think that most of our plays can break like that. It just depends on how they’re blocked. If they’re blocked correctly, they can go.”
Can you talk about what Brady Hoke is trying to infuse in this team and program?
Molk: “He is us, we are him. I love him. I love how he coaches. I love his leadership ability and how he does it. I’d do anything for him.”
Ablauf: “Denard, do you want to answer that?”
Denard: “I guess he wants everybody to be accountable for everything we do. That’s what we do every time, all the time.”
Can you touch on why the running game was so effective today and throughout the season?
Denard: (points to Molk) “Big guys up front. They open holes, and me and Fitz run through the holes.”
Molk: “When you’ve got a guy that fast, he makes plays. Same with Fitz. Those two can hit a hole, and they know where to go, and they know how to read a defense throughout.”
Emotions of last couple minutes, same question as above.
Molk: “When the interception came, it was kind of a, ‘There it is.’ That’s what we needed to turn. That’s the momentum changer we needed to completely lock this game down. The defense stepped up. They did what they had to do when the time came. This was a team win. It wasn’t an offensive victory. This was a team victory against Ohio State.”
Can you touch on the fact that this is the first time in a long time that Michigan has had two 1,000-yard rushers in the same season?
Molk: “I mean, it’s great. That’s a credit [to] our schemes as an offense. It’s a credit to Coach Borges. It’s a credit to Coach Hoke. It’s a credit to this guy.” (Puts arm around Denard) “It’s a credit to Fitz and the rest of our backs. It’s a credit to our receivers for blocking. It’s a credit to the offensive line for playing their heart out on every play.”
What does it mean to you as being one of the runners?
Denard: “I’m just glad to be in the offense. I’m glad to be playing with these guys. I want to be nowhere else but with these guys … I’m glad I stayed.”
For a senior class that’s gone through so much, how does it feel to finish the regular season like this?
Molk: “It couldn’t feel any better. Going through what we’ve gone through -- this is my third coach, third offensive coordinator, third O-line coach, third strength coach. It’s been a lot, and it’s been a rollercoaster that for some reason seemed like it would never get good. But you know what, we kept fighting. It’s just like the old saying goes, ‘Those who stay will be champions.’ We all stayed, we all stayed together, we all were one as a senior class, and we made sure our entire group -- our entire team -- stayed with us. That’s why we are where we are now. It feels great.”
Denard, this week you passed Tom Brady in career touchdown passes.
Denard: “I really don’t look at stats. I’m just glad to be a part of the team. Whatever happened that’s good for the team, that’s what I did.”
Where did that postgame celebration thingy come from?
Molk: “I mean, that’s something we’ve done every Friday. We have a little short practice, and at the end of the practice, we do our take-a-knee formation. Take a knee, we all get together, Denard throws the ball up to the ceiling, and once it hits, like a bomb explodes, we all fall.”
Your offensive coordinator took a lot of heat for the short-yardage call against Michigan State. Talk about his guts to come back to that play.
Molk: “I mean, he’s an offensive genius. I love how he calls plays. You could question some of them, but at the same time, they’re absolutely genius when they work. I love what he does.”
Ablauf: “You wanna say anything, Denard?”
Denard: “Same thing.”
Hoke made the senior day activities very personal. Was that somewhat of a surprise?
Molk: “I don’t know if it was necessarily a surprise. Then again, I haven’t seen the past senior day kind of things. That’s who Coach Hoke is. He’s a very personal coach. He’s almost a friend. If I ever came back 20 years from now, the first guy I’d find -- I’d call Coach Hoke. That’s who he is.”
Molk: “Kisses? I don’t let him kiss me.”
Hoke wasted no time building up this rivalry when he got here. Was there anything he said before, during, or after the game today that drove it home to you guys?
Molk: “I mean, I don’t think there wasn’t necessarily anything that he’s said other than preparation that he’s given us over the past 12 weeks for this entire season. It came down to what the seniors put out. I spoke to the team multiple times. Koger spoke to the team multiple times. We all put in our two cents and brought this team tightly together and focused on one goal: beating Ohio.”
How would you describe your feelings after playing your last game here?
Molk: “You know, like I just said with his question, it’s been a long time. We’ve been through a lot of stuff, but then again, in the end, you truly realize what this place means. The power that that block M has on your chest. I love Michigan. There’s no doubt about it. I don’t care what we had to go through. I love this school, I love this university, I love this team, I love my teammates, I love my coaches. This is great. This is what college football is. I’ll never forget it.”
If you reflect on the past year, how much more do you think you’ve thought about Ohio State than in previous years?
Molk: “Probably 1,000 times more. That was the foucs of everything. We said ‘Beat Ohio’ after every team meeting. We said ‘Beat Ohio’ after almost every team breakdown on the field. This is what we wanted, and we wanted to prove it and we did it.”
Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen
OSU had more success against you than you probably expected, but can you talk about the defense making that last play at the end and having the game rest on your shoulders?
Van Bergen: “We were kind of, I think, as a defense, embarrassed that we had given up that original touchdown. We mixed up two coverages -- the exact same coverage -- twice. We feel like we let our offense down. Our offense performed spectacularly today. There’s no other word to describe it. They were excellent. Defensively, we’ve been excellent all year. We really wanted to be able to let the offense hand the ball off to us, so to speak, and let us take this game in for them, and we let them down once. We said, as we came over to the bench, ‘It’s not happening again. No way.’ Coach let us dial up a couple different things, let us run a couple stunts inside that were successful, and we came up with a big play.”
Did they do anything to surprise you or were they just a lot better than you thought?
Martin: “They’re a good team. They did a good job executing on their side of it, and they were successful with a few things. Defensively, we wish we wouldn’t have given up some things, but like I said, we made a few adjustments in the fourth quarter, and up front, with our line, running a few stunts and they were successful. We knew it was going to come down, and for it to come down for us defensively was something that we were going to put on our back and make sure we came through for this team.”
You guys have been here for a long time and have been through a lot. What’s your emotion right now?
Martin: “You know, the mix of the excitement of winning, and also this is my last game with this guy, the seniors, and this time, and this stadium -- it’s bittersweet, I guess I could say, but it’s a special place to be.”
Van Bergen: “I’d like to add to that. An amazing amount of pride -- that was one of the best team games we’ve played regardless of the score, regardless of the stats. The offense performed. Underclassmen, seniors, defense performed when they were asked to step up. I think me and Mike as seniors and leaders of this team couldn’t be more proud of all the guys. Every single player.”
How do you feel about finally getting it done against Ohio State on your last shot at them?
Van Bergen: “I think me and Mike would probably agree that we’ve been hoping since we were kids that we would get the opportunity to win a Michigan-Ohio game and it be on our backs. You couldn’t ask for a more picturesque situation as far as coach saying, ‘Ryan, Mike, Craig, and Jake, you guys do what you want up front. We’re going to play a coverage behind you, and hopefully you can get there with four men.’ Allowed us to that. Me and Mike had a pretty big play, I think on second down or something like that. It was amazing. It was the greatest feeling in the world.”
Can you talk about your legacy and what it means to you?
Martin: “You know, we’re just really caught up in this right now. That’s something we worked so hard to get to this point and make sure that we were successful and how much we’ve harped on this game. This was a big game for us and this program. For us to take this step as a team is huge and something we’re never going to forget. These fans and this fanbase will never forget, I think. Whatever happens, happens for the bowl game, and we’ll take that and look at that when the time comes.”
How big was the goal-line stop to force an OSU field goal?
Van Bergen: “I mean, it’s almost like it was a metaphor for our season. We’ll give up some plays, we’ll give up first downs, but you get us in a short yardage situation as a defense and make us feel like we’ve got our backs pinned up against it, we’re successful. We emphasize that. We practice it all the time. It’s been consistent, I think, throughout our season. Third and one, third and two, short yardage, you’re gonna try to run the ball on us? We’ve been good at it. And Jibreel Black -- give him credit, because he made a tremendous play on that boot. That’s probably one of the best plays I’ve ever seen him make. Being very disciplined against a really good athlete.”
Can you talk about your relationship with Coach Hoke as defensive linemen?
Martin: “I’ve grown so close to Coach Hoke and Coach Mattison as well. Coach Hoke, he coaches the nose guards a lot, so we sit in his office and we spend time with each other, watching film, whatever it might be. The guy really cares about this program and these guys, and he’s the most genuine coach that I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with and be coached by. I know Ryan and the rest of the guys on the team will say the same thing. He’s a guy that truly bleeds maize and blue and really cares about these guys. To get [the win] for him and this program and my fellow seniors, that’s what it’s all about.”
What was it like watching two touchdowns get wiped off the board at the end?
Van Bergen: “I swear, we have the most touchdowns called back on review. I don’t even like review anymore. You know, actually looking back at it, yeah I mean, it was disheartening, but at the same time, our defense had already made up its minds that we want this game to come down to being on us. The fact that it added a little pressure to us probably made us excel in that situation a little more. We probably would have been a bit more passive had we scored that touchdown. I think the aggression and the way we went out and came after the quarterback and jumped routes and stuff, I think we did a tremendous job with that.”
What was the mood like around the team on Friday?
Martin: “The most intense focus that this team has had the entire season. We’ve done a great job of preparing through the week, and that’s something that Coach has talked about since day one. We’ve done a great job from Sunday and Monday and all the way up to the game, preparing and doing whatever we can to make sure we’re successful. The guys on this team knew, like Coach says, ‘Whatever your role is, do it with the most intensity and the hardest and the best that you can.’ Each and every guy did that, and that’s what it came down to.”
Van Bergen: “Like Mike said, everybody was extremely intense, extremely focused. I would say we were perfectly at the edge of confident and cocky, meaning we were still on the confident side and we were full of confidence, but no one had underestimated or overlooked Ohio as a team. They’re a tremendous team, their record doesn’t indicate how good of a team they are, and yeah there’s hatred between the rivalries, but you have to respect an opponent. We had a good amount of respect for them -- just enough -- and we balanced that with confidence. You could sense there was a really good vibe going around on the team.”
Can you talk about the coaches allowing you to call your own plays on the defensive line?
Martin: “You know, I really just think it comes down that Coach has a lot of faith in us up front. The senior leadership up front, and for us to be able to communicate and recognize things, it’s on our part of being smart players. Ryan does a great job of recognizing things and echoing it down the line. When we do it together, it’s just something where Coach can give us the green light when it comes to certain situations. He has the faith that we’ll get the job done.”
Van Bergen: “I think our film study’s unparalleled throughout college football. We watch so much film we’re prepared for the play before it happens. I think we all do a great job with that defensively all around.”
You have seen a lot of Denard’s great games. Do you think this is one of the best games if not THE best game he’s ever played at Michigan?
Van Bergen: “I don’t know if I’d say it’s his best game he's ever played at Michigan. He’s had like 500 yards of total offense before. I don’t know what he had today, but you could tell that this game mattered big time to Denard. The way he ran that ball, you have not seen him run that ball the way he did with the style that he did in a while, just because he was getting first downs, moving the sticks, dropping shoulders. I couldn’t be more proud of him and the rest of the underclassmen who, you could tell, were just fighting with every breath they had for the upperclassmen, the seniors.
Martin: “I saw on one play, Denard lowered his shoulder like Ryan said, and I’m looking at Ryan like, ‘Man, look at this guy.’ I’m expecting him to do it, but the intensity he did it with and he had no doubt in his mind he was going to get the hard yards and the first downs and the touchdowns. Ryan’s like, we want to win, the guy wants to win. It’s just that feeling where everyone was pulling their weight and doing what they could do to make sure Michigan won today.”
How badly did Michigan need this win?
Van Bergen: “I want to say that Michigan probably needed this win to solidy what we did this season as a program. I didn’t want to say it before the game because I didn’t want to put the pressure on my teammates and stuff like that, but I think it solidifies what we’ve done this year as a team. This game is more than a win in the column. It’s bigger than that. It encompasses way more and our team feels like we finished the season. I think our team, all our teammates emphasized that. We finished the season and we went out the way we wanted to go out. We went 8-0 at home for the first time, I think, ever. Just amazing. So proud of everyone on the team. The team effort was amazing.”
What’s the last snapshot you take from Michigan Stadium today?
Martin: “I told someone earlier that Ryan and I and Will Heininger went out to the field after, and we just kind of stood out there and soaked it in and look at what this team had done. It’s special and it’s something that we’ll never forget that we did together.”
Van Bergen: “I think my biggest memory ever is going to be talking to Mike postgame -- me and Mike had a conversation. I’m not going to go into it, but just knowing that we accomplished what we accomplished and achieving that goal was huge for a lot of us.”
Kevin Koger and Jordan Kovacs
Can you talk about your touchdown catch as maybe the culminating moment of your career?
Koger: “I’ve always said my dream has always been to catch a touchdown in the Ohio State-Michigan game. I finally did that, so that means a lot to me and my family. It was a great play call. I was fortunate enough to slip inside the end and run to the corner wide open. Denard found me wide open. He could have run it, but I was so wide open I guess he found me.”
Kevin, what were some of things you said to the team as an Ohio guy this week?
Koger: “I mean, it’s different than any game we’ve played all season. It was definitely the most physical game I played in personally -- I can’t speak for everybody else. It was definitely a lot more physical and the mistakes we had earlier in the year, that wasn’t going to cut it. That wouldn’t have won us the game.”
Kevin, what was going through your head after the game was over? Did you think about guys you played with who never beat Ohio State?
Koger: “First and foremost I wanted to just find a teammate to celebrate with, and I found a lot of those. Guys were running around there crazy like a chicken with its head cut off. But just like the Martell Webbs of the world and the Jon Ferraras of the world that didn’t get a chance to beat Ohio State, hopefully they can live through us because we definitely did it for them and the team.”
Jordan, what were you struggling with as a defense today?
Kovacs: “Well we knew that they were going to be a tough offense to stop. Braxton Miller’s a great quarterback. He made some big plays, he’s going to make some plays for them in the future. I think he got loose a couple times, made some big plays, and defensive backs, we probably didn’t do a good enough job of keeping the ball inside and in front. We gave up a couple big plays. We had guys like Kevin on offense to bail us out and make some big plays for us. We’re excited about the win and we’ll take it. It wasn’t the prettiest, but it’ll do.”
Have either of you heard Hoke say the words “Ohio State”?
Koger: “Nope. Nope.”
Kovacs: “Haven’t heard it.”
Did he ever explain why?
Koger: “No. Just an unexplained mystery, I guess.”
Jordan, considering how much the defense struggled in this game, how excited were you to have that final defensive stand at the end, and was it appropriate the final play was intercepted by a defensive back?
Kovacs: “Right. As a defensive player you wouldn’t want it any other way. To be playing Ohio in the Big House, the defense has to make a stop. We had an opportunity to redeem ourselves and Courtney came up with the big play. At that point, I was kind of looking for the flag. I figured there’s got to be one coming. I ran to Courtney and celebrated, and it was an exciting win. It wasn’t pretty, like I said, but we’ll take it.”
Does this game and this season mean Michigan is back?
Kovacs: “We hope so, you know. We are excited with the 10-win season and beating Ohio, but there’s still work left to do. We strive to win Big Ten championships. We didn’t get that done, but we’re going to enjoy this win and we’re going to enjoy the bowl game.”
Koger: “What he said.”
(click the little pics for previous entries)
We're talking about these seniors. And I figure now's as good a time as any to specify exactly what we're thankful for. It's not simply loyalty to an institution: that for its own sake can lead to otherwise good institutions looking the other way when their members do awful things (see: MSU, OSU, PSU, SEC). Except for an extremely abstract and debatable conceptualization of Michigan as a "good guys" program, what our seniors have done by sticking through the "least rewarding Michigan careers in decades" is not a good because of a higher universal cause it served.
Whom it served was themselves (for they did get degrees), their fellow teammates who stayed, and most importantly for our purposes, us. We thank them for this because Michigan football, for reasons we can't quite articulate without sounding at least a little bit foolish, is massively, massively important to us. And while you can debate whether Michigan's football is—relatively or absolutely—a beacon of morality, or whether caring this much about the athletic derring do's of 22-year-olds is a healthy thing, what nobody is debating is that this thing called Michigan could have become something much less than it is today, and that these seniors, these seniors, saved it.
JUNIOR-JUNIOR JUNIOR JR.
Kenneth Earl "Junior" Hemingway had his own personal angry X–hating god. Services were split on him, depending on whether leaping (tremendous) or speed (sub-mendous) was the high school scout's attribute of choice. Part of that disagreement was, as you probably guessed, because of an injury his junior season. At times in his Michigan career Junior was sidelined with a bum shoulder, sometimes mononucleosis, sometimes a pulled hamstring, sometimes a sprained ankle, sometimes a sprained knee, sometimes an "abrasion," and sometimes another bum shoulder. And sometimes…
The mono struck shortly after that tantalizing catch in '08. Hemingway wasn't allowed to go near his teammates, except his roommate Mike Williams, and even then they had to label their videogame controllers so as not to spread the Junior juju. That was Junior's low point, but the resulting medical redshirt did give him this season (he played as a depth guy in '07).
A National Honor Society member and academic achievement winner, as the story goes (I haven't confirmed this but it matches most students' experiences including mine) he earned enough credits before the end of the '08 season to qualify for "junior standing," meaning Junior spent three years (academically, chronologically, redshirt-) as a junior, which I find fascinating. Possessed of remarkable body control, when Hemingway was available he was Michigan's go-to possession receiver who got tons of YAC, some inexplicable, some simply inconceivable:
"Junior always wants to make big plays," [Denard] Robinson said. "I think he's one of the best receivers in the country."
The same year Hemingway arrived, Michigan's offense transitioned to a zone running scheme. While MANBALL likes centers with enough mass to move massive nose tackles out of the hole, the perfect zone center is a guy who's really strong but also really nimble and really smart. A zone center who can get playside of a DT who's lined up playside of him, and seal that guy off—this is called a reach block—has pretty much created an instant 6 yards for the offense. It is also the hardest block for any offensive lineman to make. I learned this in October of 2008, when somebody first said that David Molk is the best offensive player on the team.
I have a thing for short people. My wife is a generous 5'0. Desmond Howard made me a Michigan fan. When Mike Hart graduated I never thought another player could ever displace him as all-time favorite Wolverine. Because football is weird the guy who would was already on the sidelines.
At one point Molk was a 5'6, 175-lb high school freshman. Then he discovered the weight room and it was love at first lift. Whereas most of Michigan's on-hand interior guys were a terrible fit for Rich Rodriguez's spread 'n shred and Barwis's legendary weight room, this hit-loving, high-motor, high-attitude, high-academic, low-elevation lineman was born for it.
In 2008 Molk never missed a single offensive play. The ones where he reached some dude and Brandon Minor went RAGE-ing into the secondary were interspersed with plays where the whittle guy got tossed into the backfield by various Ogbu monsters and inadvertently kicking Sheridan in the dong (3&O). Molk responded by getting stronger, winning the Iron Wolverine Award as the best-conditioned Michigan lineman. By his sophomore year he was a Lombardi and Rimington candidate and Michigan's offense came alive. Then he broke a foot against EMU, Moosman moved to center, and the offense wasn't as good. Molk came back from the foot (and surgery) for the first series against Penn State and Michigan went 70 yards in the opening scoring drive that consisted almost entirely of 7-yard gains. During that drive Molk tore a ligament in his knee, God canceled Christmas, and all things that ever happened again were the bad things.
If you are concerned that Molk's impending graduation means the dong-punching will start again, this is not an unreasonable fear.
Molk did return in '10—said he: "It's been almost eleven months. Somebody is going to pay."—and was a Rimington finalist and First Team All Big Ten, leading the way for Denard Robinson's Heisman candidate year despite more injuries that Molk refused to talk about. The one we knew knocked him out in the 3rd play versus Iowa. That hurt the rest of the year, though you'd never hear that from Molk. Here's a snapshot of Molk from half-time of the Wisconsin game:
David Molk decided to pull himself up, and he wanted his teammates to come up with him. They were slumped in their stalls, ready to concede, when he stood up and marched around the room. "Hey, Michigan! Are we fucking scared? Because we're playing like it! We are all on our fucking heels. ALL OF US!
"We gotta drop our fucking nuts and MAN UP! We are NOT lying down! We are NOT scared! We will fight! We will FIGHT! And we will GET AFTER THEM!
"Everyone STAND UP! Stretch out! I mean it!"
"Get up!" Van Bergen said, and they did.
"We're gonna hit 'em in the fucking face," Molk said, "and they'll cry! They'll bleed! NOW LET'S GO!"
The offence went out and played the best half against the Badgers that Wisconsin saw all year. But the defense played the worst and Michigan lost 45-28.
Then Rodriguez was fired. Despite the accolades Molk's stature and the NFL's style didn't make a jump to the pro's likely. Not that Molk ever thought about it…
"A lot of thigns had to happen to go 3-9—not because of the coach, but because of the transition. Every guy who had a chance to leave, left. That tore our team apart. We lost starters, backups, you name it. There were only half of us left.
"We're a family. I love all you guys. No matter how much shit I give you—I love you. If we don't' stay together, we'll never make it. This program stays together. I don't want to see anyone leaving. If you do, we'll be crappy for three more years.
"I love Coad Rod. He did everything he could. But now it rests on us."
JUST JUMP ALREADY … (after the jump)
UPDATE: Dangit. I forgot to pump this: the Blood Battle is going on RIGHT NOW. Defeat OSU, get cookies.
RIP Bo. Five years ago today.
Black and Blue. Hey, kids. That documentary about Gerald Ford, Willis Ward, and Georgia Tech is being screened for free at the Ford Presidential Library at 7 on Friday. If you're not going to the hockey game, hit it up. I am, so I can't, but if anyone does end up going a review in the diaries would be nice.
I let do… wat? Demar Dorsey features in the Detroit News saying things that are unexpected:
The passion for such a goal runs so deep in Dorsey that he claims he would try out for the team as a walk-on if a scholarship isn't available.
"If I can get into the school, I know I'll find a way to make the team," he said. "Nobody knows how bad I want it." … "I'm in the same state!" Dorsey said. "Why would you miss out on your best shot in the state? C'mon, Brady Hoke!"
You'd think the cynical crap he got from the local media would have turned him off on the entire state, but I guess not. Guy has goals. Unfortunately, with Michigan's class near-full, its APR hovering in a dangerous zone, the coach who recruited him gone, and Dorsey still carrying academic question marks from his high school career, a reunion is exceedingly unlikely.
Too bad. I'd love to see certain local folks twist themselves into pretzels trying to contrast this version of Dorsey with the one that proved Rich Rodriguez was Mark Dantonio.
UPDATE II: Apparently Dorsey is a 2013 prospect, so it's somewhat less of a longshot. Still a longshot.
The bump. Ace mentioned this in the morning but it's worth repeating: Scout's latest rankings see three Michigan commits (Joe Bolden, Tom Strobel, and AJ Williams) rise significantly with only one (Kaleb Ringer) dropping. Conspiracy theories about Michigan commits dropping all the time should be shelved this year.
BONUS eeee recruiting accounting: Michigan currently has thirteen commits in the Scout 300—actually all in the top 250—and virtually everyone they're still pursuing is also amongst that number. It seems like the only way they won't end up with 17 is if they strike out on two of their three high-end WR targets and have to pick up a decent three star instead.
Marvin Robinson's lawyer: better than Jerry Sandusky's. The Robinson POV on his court thing:
Mason said Robinson already has an Xbox. In fact, he has two, Mason said. The student who reported the theft is an acquaintance of Robinson's, and Robinson has been in his room on "various occasions," Mason said. They trade Xboxes, he said. Mason, a U-M graduate, said it's not uncommon for a student to go into another student's room.
"I lived in Michigan dorms and I used to walk into my room and find people sitting there, watching TV," he said.
Robinson is going to cooperate with university police and Washtenaw County prosecutors, Mason said, adding that Robinson has no criminal record.
"He goes to class," he said. "He goes to study hall. He goes to practice. And he goes to church every Sunday with his mom and dad."
His hearing has been delayed until January. No idea if that's an accurate picture of the situation but I'm guessing Robinson is still on the team when this is resolved.
In 2062, this will be an article about Toledo. Apparently beating Michigan in 1962 was a big deal:
Bob Devaney earned his first signature victory on that sunny September afternoon in 1962, upsetting the Wolverines 25-13 in what was supposed to be, according to the Detroit Free Press, an “opening-day breather” for the home team.
The rest is history.
Michigan went 2-7 in 1962.
Van Bergen FTW. A bit more on Van Bergen's stunt stunt last weekend, and the study that generates it, from the Daily:
Every Tuesday, the coaches hand out the scouting reports. Van Bergen usually finds the tendencies and play consistencies watching film on his own. Sometimes he’s right, and sometimes Montgomery has to straighten him out. The answers are always in the binder. In practice, the scout team gives the defense simulations of what they’ll see in the game.
“It goes from there to the game,” Montgomery said. “ ‘Hey Coach, this holds up. Every time they do this, it’s accurate.’ Then they start to believe.” …
Van Bergen knew Iowa was going to sneak its quarterback when it hurried up to the line on a fourth-and-1 two weeks ago — he and Martin snuffed it out.
The past three weeks in particular, Montgomery said, Van Bergen has been well versed in the opponent’s “meat and potatoes” (Hoke’s term for tendencies and key plays).
No wonder they’ve been his best three weeks of the season — 13 tackles, five tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.
He knew what play Purdue was going to run in the shadow of its own endzone, based on a tip — alignment, personnel, formation or all the above. He told Martin, who then ripped through the line for a safety because he knew what was coming.
Unless he has a long NFL career (not entirely out of the question), Van Bergen is going to be defensive line Mike Hart as soon as he graduates—the guy everyone follows in his coaching career, hoping he returns.
I was listening to the BSD podcast this week for various reasons mostly having nothing to do with football, but I did get a football tidbit when they had Ramzy from Eleven Warriors on. He mentioned that you can pick out OSU passing plays because their n00b receivers only look at their wristbands when it's a pass. That'll probably get hammered out by the time the Game rolls around; given the widespread antipathy for Bollman OSU will probably be tipping things in ways not so easily addressable.
More Van Bergen. I like Ryan Van Bergen.
"The year my class came here was after the 1 versus 2 Ohio (State) game and Michigan went to the Rose Bowl," Van Bergen said, referring to the 2006 season. "That was my expectation — we're going to play Ohio to go to the Rose Bowl every year I'm here. I was going to have coach (Lloyd) Carr for my whole time here, and it was going to be great.
"The amount of adversity that has been encountered by this senior class, especially the fifth-year guys, I'd be hard-pressed to find another group that has survived and now thrives in that situation. I don't know how much people even realize how dedicated these guys were."
"I guessed three times it was going to be a pass just by their formation, and I was right all three times. So I was like, 'You know what? Eff this, I'm doing it.' Mike went with me. He jumped in and it was successful."
(Angelique bowdlerized "eff this" to "forget this"; Heiko reports that it was "Eff" but not the full Molk.)
What’s Nebraska’s greatest position strength? Greatest weakness?
It’s not really a matter of position strength as it is a matter of depth and experience. It’s kind of a catch 22 for NU right now. NU’s best defensive player is a linebacker, Lavonte David. And, Will Compton has steadily improved. So, its a strength, right? The problem is they are very weak/thin at linebacker after those two. The same could be said for the secondary. Alfonzo Dennard is a stud, and they all feed off of him. At times, they play well. At others, they are very suspect. It’s the same story at running back – a strength because Burkhead is stud, potential weakness because it’s only freshman behind him. When he got nicked up against Northwestern, it hurt the offense a lot.
As far as a a true strength for NU, I can’t overstate how much quality special teams play has helped the Huskers so far this year. Brett Maher’s punting was important last week. He’s done a great job as a kicker this year too. The NU return game has been strong too. That’s the stuff that quietly helps win games.
Tight ends: pro-style requirements. Today in "quoting everything Chris Brown writes" we focus on tight ends. You may remember an emailer questioning Michigan's decision to take Pharaoh Brown as a tight end because defensive ends seem more valuable. I wrote then:
I get the vibe that tight end is going to be a big deal with Borges. If we're headed to a collection-of-plays Boise-style offense, having a diverse set of tight ends is a key component. Having a 6'6" guy who can run some is a major help in your effort to whiplash the defense from huge power running sets to spread passing attacks. What do you do when the opposition has a guy who can block a defensive end but can't be covered by a linebacker? Brown may be that guy.
Now Brown tackles the transformation of the Patriots offense from a full-spread passing attack back to something approximating NFL norms:
[In response to Rex Ryan blitzing his spread to death] Belichick went out and drafted [tight ends] Gronkowski and Hernandez.
Hernandez is more of a pure receiver, and his chief advantage is as a substitution/personnel problem: If he's in the game, you don't know if he'll line up as a tight end or if he'll split wide so that Welker can play the slot, forcing you to decide whether to put your cornerback on Welker or Hernandez, potentially creating advantages in both the run and passing game. But Gronkowski is a true triple-threat from the tight-end spot: He can block, he can go out for passes, and he can even block and then go out for delayed passes. Multiple defenders have to keep their eyes on him. And against such a threat, Ryan can't sell out with the multifarious blitzes overloaded to one side or the other, simply in an all-out effort to get Tom Brady. The presence of the tight ends—where will they line up, what will they do—dictates terms back to Rex Ryan, who would much rather cut loose and go on carrying his father's torch as the destroyer of pretty-boy quarterbacks.
Having Brown, Devin Funchess, and AJ Williams* in one class isn't overkill if a two-TE set is going to be the closest thing to a base offense Michigan has, and if you can split out a 6'6" dude like Brown that makes the whiplashing even whiplashier. There are a lot of things to get excited about in this recruiting class but the diverse, athletic set of tight ends they acquired is high on my list.
*[I know a lot of people are talking up Williams as a tackle. I think that's a possible endpoint for him but if that move ends up happening it won't be soon. Michigan will need him to play as a freshman.]
Etc.: Extensively reported NYT piece on Penn State makes McQueary look a little better, everyone else look worse. The NCAA left its SharePoint site open to the public for a while. Can't go two weeks in the Michigan blogosphere without someone posting some latin. BWS picture pages the Ryan/Kovacs speed option destruction.