Many years ago, I played the part of Tiny Tim in my grade school's production of "A Christmas Carol." My only line was to announce that Scrooge had provided the Christmas goose for supper. The class decided that we should have a prop for the goose, to make my part look more authentic. One of my classmates volunteered his rubber chicken. Having some dimensionality, we thought that would be better than a cardboard cutout of a goose. Fast forward to the night of the play. I enter stage right, say my line, and hold up the rubber chicken. The audience burst out laughing; I dare say, that's the biggest laugh I've ever gotten. I learned a very important lesson that night. Rubber chickens are funny.
Burst of Impetus
* For a game that finished with an 11 point margin of victory, and where Michigan had a 14 point lead for a large portion, the momentum seemed to go back and forth quite a bit. One could say that the deflected passes were huge. Like that old adage goes, "live by the deflected pass in the endzone, die by the deflected pass in the endzone." What? There's no old adage like that? Well, there should be. Anyway, each side benefitted from one of those, so I'm not choosing that as our burst of impetus. My burst of impetus award goes to Fitzgerald Toussaint, as I will explain below.
* Honorable mention goes to the 4th and 4 play late in the game, when 3 or 4 of our guys jumped offsides, only ND didn't snap the ball. We got back onside, blitzed and forced a hurried throw. Incomplete. Impetus back squarely with Michigan. Luck is when preparation meets opportunity, or something like that. ND had the opportunity to get a cheap 1st down. They weren't ready for it. Luck of the Irish? Not last night.
Captain Morgan's Crew
* ND only punted twice, after their first and second drives of the game. Perhaps that is why there is some grumbling about the defense. We did turn them over a couple times, stopped them on 4th down twice, and forced them to go for three FGs. Still, I like seeing the other team punt more than twice.
* As should be expected in a game where the other team threw the ball so much, our two leading tacklers were DBs. Taylor had 11 and Gordon had 7. Countess and Wilson round out the list with 4 of our 6 leading tacklers coming from the defensive backfield. I was impressed by our DB's tackling. I don't track these things, but there seemed to be very few broken tackles.
* We had 4 TFLs, 1 sack, and only one QB hurry. The four man line just wasn't getting to Rees. Neither was the blitz, the few times Mattison used it.
* In case you were wondering, Funchess did not get credit for a BrUp on the last play before half.
Ermahgardner, Young 98, Master of Social Work
* Devin is racking up nicknames as he begins his assault on the Michigan record books. At first I was against him being given #98, but now I realize he's the only guy who could wear it. Tom Harmon is known as Ol' 98. That makes Devin the Young 98. (P.S. the 100%BLU license plate was firmly attached to an Olds 98.)
* Additionally, Michigan created College Football. Innovation is in our blood. If we want our guys to wear bumblebee stripes, or M's instead of numbers, or our QB to wear #98, so be it. We're Michigan, FERGODSAKES!
* Gardner was our leading rusher with 82 NET yards, and he ran for 1 TD. He was also mistakenly called Denard half a dozen times. Hey, I get that, but he's making a name for himself pretty quickly.
* Gardner was also 21 for 33 passing for 294 yards. Phenomenal. (We won't mention the one brain-fart, considering it was his 7th game starting, not bad.)
V. Sinha Legends Jersey
* A few weeks ago, there was a post about incoming freshmen and "that guy." I think it was in an Unverified Voracity. Anyway, the point was, Michigan is a huge university, but there is going to be one guy you see everywhere, who will make you think the university isn't all that big. For me, that guy was V. Sinha. My gameday experience wasn't complete until I saw V. Sinha sporting his personalized, #21, "V. SINHA" jersey. I went to school during the Desmond Howard era, so I'm pretty sure V. Sinha's jersey was a tribute to Desmond. If this blog had existed back then, V. Sinha would have been the equivalent of Lloyd Brady or Facepalm Guy. Why do I bring this up now? Well, Brian, Ace, Seth, BronxBlue and all our favorite bloggers are going to have takes on this game, and in the hopes of not being overly repetitive, I'm providing my personal experience. My brother went to the game last night. Of all the things he could have taken a picture of and sent me (flyovers, Beyonce, Eminem, #98, the laser show, etc.) the one thing he sent was this photo of V. Sinha. Now like any great photo of a legendary creature (Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster, Sasquatch) the picture is a little blurry, but it's proof that V. Sinha is still cheering on the maize and blue.
* Gallon caught 8 balls for 184 yards and 3 TDs, and successfully deployed his cloaking device.
* Critically underutilized WR, Drew Dileo caught 3 for 18 yards, and had the other receiving TD. Kudos to Borges for calling that play on 2nd down. If ND holds us to a FG, it's still a one-score game. Instead, I imagine Borges going over his playsheet, thinking, hey, it's been awhile since we threw one to critically underutilized WR Drew Dileo. Let's do that. TD. Ballgame. I go to sleep happy.
* Is Jake Butt the TE with the frying pan-sized hands? I can't remember from all the recruiting profiles I've been reading. Anywhere, there were two balls that he could have caught that would have made us all breathe easier. On one, he drifted back instead of coming forward and highpointing the ball, allowing the ND DB to sneak in and break up the pass. Force that DB to go through you, Jake, and make the official throw his flag. He's a frosh. He'll learn.
20 Pound Cheeseburgers
* I somehow managed to forget to include this in last week's diary, when Derrick Green was listed at 220 pounds, but Glen Mason said he looked like he was a cheeseburger shy of 240 pounds. My apologies for the oversight, chalk it up to a first game mistake.
* Touss led the RBs with 22 carries for 71 yards. I was hoping for competence from the rushing game this week, and 166 yards, 4.3 YPC, and 11 first downs certainly qualifies. That's actually better than I expected. By forcing ND to respect the rushing game, Michigan was able to isolate WRs (Gallon) one-on-one and exploit the ND secondary. But it all started with some tough, tough running from Touss.
* Gallon, Norfleet, Green, and TEAM all carried just once. Green may be a *****, but it's clear he hasn't earned the trust of the coaching staff yet. If Touss hadn't been able to make it back from that gruesome injury, there goes the running game. Without the running game, ND attacks Gardner (ESPN had a split showing his ATT/COMP with and without ND blitzing, and the numbers against the blitz were less than stellar.) Fitz' ability to crank out 3-4 yards at a time made those 2nd and 3rd down throws that much simpler. Let's not forget that he was running behind three interior linemen with a grand total of 3 collegiate starts as of game time. That was a workmanlike performance. That was a man's performance. Every ounce of sweat and pain he endured during the off-season was like storing up impetus in a jar, to be deployed against ND.
* Once again, the linemen had no stats.
* Notre Dame did get 3 QB hurries and 1 sack. Frankly, against that D-Line, that's a victory for us.
Norf and Souf
* Norfleet had 1 punt return for 0 yards, and three kick returns for 78 yards. He ran the ball once, and caught one pass. Borges and Hoke were keeping this game in Gardner, Gallon and Fitz' hands. Norfleet will get his chances later this season.
I'm an international umpire
* There were a few questionable calls and non-calls during the game. Mid-way through the 3rd quarter, Brent Musberger mentioned that it was an all-ACC crew. After that, everything made sense. I kid, I kid.
* It was a relatively penalty-free game. Michigan was called for 6 penalties to Notre Dame's 2, until 2 late pass interference calls went against ND, making it 6-4. Notre Dame's penalties were arguably more damaging to them as we garnered 3 first downs by penalty to their zero.
* I have to disagree with Ace on the pass interferences. The ND player clearly shoved Gallon out of bounds, stepped in front of the pass and would have had an interception if he held onto the ball. He clearly gained an advantage by making contact beyond five yards from the line of scrimmage. Funchess' jersey was nearly torn off on the 2nd interference call. The only controversial part of those calls is that plays similar to them weren't called earlier in the game. Twice, I quoted Musberger as saying the ND DB was, "All over the intended receiver," but no call was made.
* Kalis got his first, off-setting, unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. After reading so much about his nasty streak, it was nice to see him get that first one out of the way. ESPN did not show the play, so we may never know how he earned that.
Fantasy Announcer Team
* Like Eminem, I was born in Southfield, Michigan. Makes me wonder what was in the water back then. Unlike Eminem, Brent Musburger would never be on my Fantasy Announcer Team. I love how he left Herbie off his team. That whole segment was so bizarre. As Eminem said, "I'm really uncomfortable now." Weren't we all. Best to just move on...
* I find it interesting that both of Michigan State's games so far have been delayed by weather. Had this happened, oh say, 10,000 years ago, the natives would have rightly decided that the land was cursed, burned everything in site, and moved on to appease the gods. And that's how I believe the couch-burning tradition got started in East Lansing.
* Shout-out to Seth's Robots.
* We had 25 first downs to their 23, but were more balanced with 11 rushing and 11 passing.
* Total offensive plays was split 50/50 with 72 plays for each team. We tallied an extra 50 yards on offense. We also took an extra 8 minutes and 8 seconds to run our plays. MANBALL UBER ALLES!
Dad was a pretty prominent member of our Parish. He was a lector and sang in the choir. So whenever we played Notre Dame, he was sure to get confronted by a Golden Domer after Mass. "Hey, ST2, are you really rooting against the Irish this week?" His response was simple and educational, "The University of Michigan was founded by a Catholic Priest and a Protestant Minister*, and UofM has more Catholic Alumni than Notre Dame." He left those Irish fans wondering why they weren't rooting for Michigan.
I'm pretty sure Dad would not have been pleased with Special K playing the chicken dance after the game. His response would most likely be something like, "We're Michigan, we don't mock our opposition. How boorish." And then when nobody was looking, he'd chuckle, because chickens are funny.
*Yes, the University of Michigan was leading the ecumenical movement decades before it became popular.
In the post-game press conference, Brady Hoke was asked, "If you were in our shoes, wouldn't you have started writing the story before the game ended?" He answered, "No." To which, he was asked, "Why not?" Let me attempt to answer for Brady. Quite simply, because we're Michigan, FERGODSAKES! That doesn't convince you? OK, how about a few examples:
On November 6, 2010, Michigan played a football game against Illinois that went to triple overtime. Had I been writing this diary back then, I'm sure I would have ended up with carpal tunnel syndrome; a lengthy boxscore that was. Michigan's defense had trouble stopping the Illini all game long. We were down to our backup QB, who managed to keep us in the game even with the defensive problems. The game ended when the Michigan defense stepped up and made a stop.
On September 10, 2011, Michigan played a football game against Notre Dame. Michigan got the ball with 28 seconds left on our own 20 yard line, trailing by three. A ridiculous pass play to Jeremy Gallon brought us into scoring range. Hoke went for the win. Roy Roundtree caught a TD pass which sealed what I thought to be Michigan's most improbable victory.
On November 10, 2012, Michigan played a football game against Northwestern. Michigan's defense had trouble stopping the Wildcats all game long. But again, Michigan's backup QB kept making plays to keep us in it. Michigan got the ball with 18 seconds left on our own 38, trailing by three. A ridiculous pass play to Roy Roundtree brought us into scoring range. Hoke went for the tie (more on that later) and Gibbons made the kick, sending us to overtime. The game ended when the Michigan defense stepped up and made a stop.
Yes, on occasion we do lose those types of games, but every now and then, and more often than you would think, Michigan wins. Impossibly, improbably, with a little bit of luck or good fortune, Michigan finds a way. That's why I would never leave a game early or give up on the team, or start writing a story before the story has completed on the field.
Burst of Impetus
* NW scored with 5:30 left in the third to go up by 10. Things weren't looking so good for our Maize and Blue Men. Our next drive started off slow: an incomplete pass followed by an 11 yard chop block penalty. A little screen pass left us with 3rd and 17 from our own 15 yard line. It was then that Borges went into ND '11 mode (jump balls for all). A deep pass attempt resulted in a PI penalty against NW. First down Michigan. Gardner then went to Gallon for 42 more yards. A short pass to Touss was turned into a 28 yard TD scamper by some nifty Fitz footwork. Even though we were still behind, Impetus had clearly returned to the M sideline.
* It's hard to be positive when you give up 27 first downs to these guys, but I'll try.
* NW ended up with 431 total offense yards. That's the same amount that Alabama,
the greatest team ever assembled, a pretty good offense, had against us. I never would have guessed that Alabama and NW would be equivalent at anything. After the Alabama game, I wrote, "If we can hold everyone else under 431, I’ll be happy." NW didn't get more than 431, so I'm not unhappy, I'm just confused.
* Thomas Gordon led us in tackles with 11, not a good sign. Demens and Morgan were next with 9 apiece. Considering Mattison substituted freely with the LBs, that's a lot of tackles.
* TFLs returned with a vengeance, as we recorded 8.
* Wistert Kovacs was all over the field. You might have thought there were three number 11s out there (there really should have been.) Kovacs had 5 tackles, a TFL and 2 pass breakups.
* I noticed Bolden playing in NW's first series. I was a little confused by that since the recent trend has been to go with Morgan and Demens almost exclusively. It seems like Mattison's gameplan was to rest his guys, knowing that they were going to be doing an awful lot of east-west running, and that it was likely going to be a 4 quarters game. The plan obviously worked, as Demens was fresh enough at the end to make the two biggest tackles of the day on successive plays.
* Continuing on this theme, 24 players recorded tackles, likely a record for the 2 seasons I've been doing this.
* In case it hasn't been said before, Greg Mattison is a genius. Have you ever seen a defense run a trick play? I'm not talking about zone blitzes or OKIE packages or whatever. That last defensive play was a legitimate trick play, akin to the Statue of Liberty or Halfback pass. From going with a 4-3 alignment all season long, to switch to a 3-4 with the DEs split way outside and then blitzing your two best defensive players right up the gut. That was madness and genius all rolled up in one.
* In his first start at Michigan, Gardner was 16 for 29 for 286 yards and 2 TDs.
* I went to the Rose Bowl where Vince Young destroyed our defense. I get the comparisons. It's early, but I think Gardner is the better passer and Young is the better runner.
* For not wanting to run Gardner, he still ended up with 9 carries for 47 yards and 2 TDs. Most were scrambles, not designed runs.
Bunches of Funchess
* Funchess only catch was an 8 yard TD. I thought he was partly to blame for Gardner's INT. It appeared he was waiting for the ball to fall gently into his hands, instead of high pointing the ball. This gave the NW DB time to get over and make the pick.
* Another inconsistent day (if you don't get the sarcasm, see last week's diary) for Jeremy Gallon. Seven catches for 94 yards with a long of 42. I'm betting he gets at least honorable mention Hoke double finger points in tomorrow's recap.
* Roundtree was in the right place at the right time, twice. The first time, Fitz' fumble went through his hands. The second time, the NW DB deflected the ball to him. This time, he caught the ball and set us up for the game-tying FG. That may have been the quietest 139 yard receiving day in M history, other than the miraculous deflection, of course.
And Justice for Rawls
* After last week, I thought Rawls had won the job, but this week it was back to the Fitz 2 YPC show (with the possibility of one long run that may or may not end in a TD or fumble.) Rawls gained 1 yard on 3 carries.
* Touss led us with 92 yards rushing, and caught one TD pass that was due all to his footwork.
Norf and Souf
* Norfleet had 4 kickoff returns for 107 yards, with a long of 37, but the real story of the return game was the 23 yard punt return from Jeremy Gallon that gave us hope near the end of the game.
* We were a +6 in net yards per punt, but a -4 in net yards per kickoff, and it could have been a lot worse.
* NW was penalized 8 times for 75 yards, while Michigan was penalized only twice for 26 yards. Some penalties are obvious, and some can be considered judgment calls. For example, when Gardner gets NW to jump offsides, that's an obvious call. When a NW lineman grabs a Michigan player's jersey, while it may be obvious to us, it's still somewhat of a judgment call. The reason NW was penalized so much more than us is that they made several obvious penalties.
* What frustrated me were the judgment calls that were not called on NW. On their first drive, the first time we've given up a TD this year on a first drive, an NW player grabbed Jake Ryan's jersey and pulled so hard, the "7" on Ryan's back ended up on top of his shoulder pads. I think that was on Trumpy's 21 yard run, also the first time in awhile we've given up anything to a running back. So for the rest of the game, I kept waiting for the Zonkeys to call a holding penalty on NW. If you think about, NW's style is to run a lot of east-west directional plays, which requires linemen (and receivers) to hold (there's that word again) their blocks longer than a straight north-south type running attack. That should make them more susceptible to holding calls.
* If you think I'm spending too much time on this, go look at the last play GIF where Demens makes the tackle. I watched that play a dozen times. Jibreel Black busts through the gap between the center and the guard. The center reaches behind Black, grabs his shirt, and pulls it down below his butt. No flag. Didn't matter as we made the stop, but that crap went on all game long and NW was called for at most, one holding penalty (the kick return that wiped out a TD, FWIW.)
Outside the Boxscore
* Last year, Brady went for the win against ND. This year, he went for OT. I think both decisions were correct, maybe just based on hindsight, but Denard had just broken ND's spirit, and we weren't sure about our FG kickers yet. Plus, we had an extra second to spare. Against NW, I just had the feeling that with a short field in OT, Mattison could play more aggressively and sell out against the run. Make Kain Colter beat you with his arm. NW's last four plays: run, run, run, run. Kain Colter was never going to beat us with his arm. Game, set, match, Greg Mattison.