First there were those two years of almost unrelenting misery. Then there was this offseason, the third consecutive in which seemingly every week saw another stomach-churning burst of negative publicity for things that don't matter very much individually but aggregate like nanorobots gone awry. Then there was all that sitting in the stadium as described on Saturday, envisioning different ways the future could play out, giving each a letter grade and having no grasp of which were likelier than others. Then there was Keith Jackson and a ribbon-cutting and a flyover and fireworks (Amurrica!). Then there was this:
There was a brief moment where I discreetly wiped my eyes and hoped no one was looking, and then there was another flyover.
By the coin toss I was bobbing up and down on an imaginary pogo stick, trying to do anything with the energy that threatened to shut my brain off. I was hyped up, yo. The only thing I can remember like it was Football Armageddon. It's probably for the best that I didn't have anything handy to headbutt.
I had no idea what was going to happen, but there were grades for all of it.
A+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++. Would watch again.
What was it like for Auburn fans the first time they saw Bo Jackson? For Georgia fans when they saw Herschel Walker? Was it like that?
I can't recall anything similar in the Michigan canon. Braylon had 80 yards against Washington, Hart 124 against San Diego State. Breaston touched the ball eight times. Manningham did once. I'm too young to remember Wheatley's debut. Defensive players are too infrequently involved, and their jobs too arcane, to have the same obvious impact. Receivers, too—even a stellar debut will see the guy touch the ball maybe ten times. It's an accomplishment for quarterbacks when their first starts don't end in flaming disaster.
It's only at running back that you can unearth some guy three standard deviations above the norm at various forms of moving, put him on the field, and give everyone the epiphany of awesome.
But even the debut of one of those Godzilla running backs doesn't compare because Denard Robinson had a Godzilla tailback debut and was one late fourth down conversion away from setting a Michigan Stadium record for completion percentage. Last year he was so clueless he couldn't run the offense, so transparently not a quarterback he went 14 of 31 with four interceptions on the season and played wide receiver against Ohio State.
So I think this might be literally true: Denard Robinson's performance against UConn was the greatest leap from one game to the next in Michigan history. Possibly college football history. He went from a guy who could not run the offense or throw the ball to one of the greatest statistical achievements* in the history of the program.
Nothing, not even the ludicrous fever dreams on message boards that rivals fans point at and laugh, could keep pace. Expectation was left in the dust by the end of the first quarter. The reasonable best case scenario fell away on the first drive of the second half when Robinson whipped a ball over the middle for sixteen yards on third and eleven. The possibility this was all a dream gave it up on Michigan's final drive when Robinson rolled out and lofted a touch pass to Kevin Koger. Not even fever dreams have that kind of audacity.
By the end, all that was left was reality, as unrecognizable as it is. Rival fans are reduced to stammering "buh-buh-but he'll get injured" in the hopes that will happen before Robinson gets a crack at their defense; 7-5 seems… eh… doable. After last year everyone's fighting to keep their hopes in check; this is proving very difficult indeed.
I kept biting myself in the second quarter, just to check about the fever dream bit. You build all this up in your mind before the season, think about the way things can go, say "Anything can happen, and the wait is over," and then find out you didn't really believe it. This was not part of the anything after all the months leading up to the pogo stick moment a minute before kickoff.
Because at some point around five minutes left, the energy drained out of the stadium. When Edsall called a timeout to get the ball back it was irritating and people booed. With a minute and a half left, I thought about the cold and what I should eat. I was bored, and thanks to that now I can't stand how far away next Saturday is.
*(313 against Ohio State still wins, I think, but it's hard to come up with anything else.)
PREBULLET SECTION OF REASSURANCE! Repeat after me: this was not last year's Notre Dame game.
UConn is likely better than that Notre Dame team; they beat them last year and returned sixteen starters from that 8-5 team that was so close to a major breakthrough, which is why everyone was calling them a sleeper until the point they were no longer that.
Michigan won that game with ten seconds left after Charlie Weis called a first-down bomb needing just one first down to kill the clock.
They got a free, highly irreproducible touchdown from Darryl Stonum.
They were outgained by 60 yards in that ND game; total yardage Saturday was 473-343, with 42 of UConn's yards on their pointless final drive.
A quick list of downers:
The Gibbons/Dileo pairing had serious issues. The missed XP was definitely on Dileo and the missed FG seemed like a bad snap, too. Van Slyke's return may actually be more important than you might otherwise expect.
Burned redshirts have driven me crazy forever and a couple the tossed ones this year boggle the mind: Ray Vinopal played on special teams and Dileo held, though that one may have been forced. I'm not going to throw a hissy about Gardner since when Mike Forcier is saying they "knew there would be disciplinary action" it sounds like Rodriguez was faced with an unpleasant choice between doing the logical thing for your program and enforcing squad discipline, but if Michigan goes into 2014 without a redshirt senior Gardner that will be a major missed opportunity.
I was irritated they played Will Campbell on special teams because he could redshirt if he's not even second team at NT. This is bad for multiple reasons.
UConn's quick snap on fourth and goal was a little grrr aarrgh.
Zero sacks (though Roh should have been given one on a Frazer rollout). Michigan didn't get much pressure from the front three. They did manage to get there with some blitzes but I don't recall anyone beating a UConn lineman straight up. (Roh avoided a cut block from an RB.)
And now that we're done with that:
One penalty! Three fumbles is more of a downer, but add it up and that was a clean performance.
Offensive production was considerably understated (and defensive production overstated) by how short the game was in terms of possession. Michigan had eight real drives. I'm not sure what the overall NCAA number is but it must be pretty close to the 11.3 the Big 12 put up last year. If Michigan had 11.3 drives they'd be expected to put up 42 points, which is a lot of points. Yes.
I hate time of possession. It is a unicorn stat. But people might talk about it a lot this year since Michigan had two drives in this game that ate up more than half a quarter. And given their situation that ability might prove useful: how awesome was it that Michigan got the ball back with nine minutes left and essentially ended the game? How much more awesome would it have been if they were up just seven points?
Running back concern is overstated. Their YPC was hurt considerably by the final drive, during which they plowed into the line to run clock time and again. Also, Shaw in particular seemed like he had to cut behind a defensive lineman slanting right into the play every time he got a handoff. I thought managing to avoid this guy and get positive yardage consistently was an accomplishment. That say something in UConn's scheme or the play of the line has to be addressed, though.
It was odd that Hopkins never got in but as the game wore on it became clear that UConn couldn't hold a QB lead draw under five yards, let alone one. I do hope he gets unearthed in the future since those carries are usually low upside and if we're going to spare Robinson some hits it shouldn't be on first and ten. Or, you know, third and fifteen.
Speaking of, it was a really weird experience for Michigan to run a QB draw in that down and distance and not have that moment of hate during it. My immediate reaction was "yeah, that seems like a decent idea." This was early, though, and it had not yet been established that Denard was capable of going 9 of 22, let alone 19 of 22.
I have never seen two guys running wide open in as much space as Stonum and Robinson did on the late Robinson-to-Robinson connection. There was one safety trying to figure out which guy to cover and literally no one else for twenty yards. RPS +3, baby. That's the kind of thing that happens in these offenses when the quarterback is such a threat on the ground. When Pat White threw deep, most of the time he was doing so to wide open guys. It's like when Debord ran a waggle for big yardage, except the base offense's run game picks up like six yards a play.
Speaking of: welcome to Michigan, Terrance Robinson. May you dream shake someone in the near future. (Conversely: surprising lack of Grady, no?)
After Roundtree went out, there were a few plays on which the skill position guys were Terrance Robinson, Odoms, Grady, Smith, and Stonum. It looked like the Lollipop Guild had run out there, featuring Stonum as Dorothy.
Mouton's getting good reviews and certainly seemed to be playing well. He brought the lumber on a couple tackles. I wonder if UConn's burst of run competence was Carvin Johnson-injury related?
The reports on band amplification have varied so wildly that the effectiveness of it must vary significantly based on your location. From section 44 it sounded pretty bad, with a clear delay between the actual band and the speakers; I couldn't hear anything except the drums on the amplification. At least Special K was prevented from doing anything except playing "Don't Stop Believin'" after the first quarter.
Unfortunately, I think that might be an artifact of the jam-packed dedication festivities. There's no time for that old time rock 'n' roll when you're running down the top five plays in Michigan Stadium history (which by the way: no Wangler to Carter? WTF, internet?), introducing a bunch of program icons and Greg Mathews, and so forth and so on. Unless they continue to fill those gaps with stuff, Lose Yourself threatens a return. They should just pick a top five list every week: top five catches. Top five runs. Interceptions, fumbles, comebacks, etc.
Also: Slippery Rock scores return. I credit Brandon.
The B-25 Mitchell bomber that flew over Michigan Stadium Saturday as a part of the rededication ceremonies was a similar model to the one flown over Tokyo by the Doolittle Raiders. The Doolittle Raid was an audacious plan by an unconventional man who felt a strong sense that, in the wake of Pearl Harbor, America had to do something to strike at the heart of the Empire of Japan, so what better than to design a crazy, shouldn't work on paper, never been tested plan that would break the Japanese of their long-held belief of invincibility, and boost American morale...
If it worked.
Braves and Birds is thrilled he's not the only one anymore. Denard is apparently a P-38 Lightning.
The good: UConn will never have to play against Denard Robinson again, and thank God for that. A few weeks ago I drew the ire of Michigan fans by saying I felt the Huskies had more talent than the Wolverines. Clearly, I was wrong. After yesterday, I'd say that on-balance, for every position but quarterback, the teams are pretty equal, maybe with Michigan grabbing a slight edge. But holy hell what a difference that quarterback makes. Video I had seen of Robinson didn't even come close to doing justice to the monster that he was yesterday. I don't care if UConn always struggles against mobile QBs, Robinson is something special.
The good: Michigan fans and Michigan Stadium. I can't say enough good things about the Michigan fans I met in Ann Arbor yesterday. They were a fantastic, friendly and knowledgeable bunch that created an incredibly welcoming and fun atmosphere. Inside the stadium I think the contingent of Husky fans acquitted themselves nicely, but they were completely overwhelmed by the size and passion of the Wolverine crowd. A fantastic experience all around.
Question, I thought by playing Gardner already burned his readshirt? But you say "but if Michigan goes into 2014 without a redshirt senior Gardner that will be a major missed opportunity." I thought there was a previous thread on that...
Yep, Gardner's normal freshman redshirt is burnt now. He could still be injured and receive a medical redshirt should he play in no games after Bowling Green, but yeah, its toasty. The other thing that is confusing is this: "I was irritated they played Will Campbell on special teams because he could redshirt if he's not even second team at NT. This is bad for multiple reasons." Will Campbell is a true sophomore. He can't redshirt unless its medically (someone please correct me if I'm wrong).
You can redshirt at any point in your college career. It doesn't have to be your first year in the program. You get 5 years to play 4 and can sit out, or redshirt, any one of them. So if Campbell never saw the field this year, they could treat it as a RS year.
I wonder what the percentage of players having a redshirt year taking that redshirt at any point other than their freshman year is. Its gotta be low. I think the reason Campbell played then is because the coaches have no false notions of him not playing at all this year. They wanted him to get the message that he needed to work to get back into the rotation, and if he does it, they fully intend to play him.
It has to be pretty low in football, but might be higher for other sports. I know that it happens a lot for Cross Country / indoor track / track runners. Often a runner will stay for 5 years and then use redshirt seasons as training seasons, avoiding the stress of racing for a few months by rotating their redshirt year through each of the three sports.
Like, say, Troy. Because you don't get a medical redshirt if you've still got a redshirt year. You have to use that up first. The medical comes into play if 1. you've played and get hurt or 2. if you've used your redshirt, as say a freshman, and get hurt later. Sometimes they'll grant you that 6th year.
I believe you're correct but Devin could get a wink, wink ,nudge ,nudge Hamstring or groin injury that causes him to miss the rest of the season after Tate's disciplinary issue is over. I believe it has to occur before 4 games are played or a certain amount of snaps are attained though. Maybe Campbell is just a disciplinary thing too since he came into camp over weight and he'll get reps soon, Like this Saturday or something.
I've never watched "Rudy" because I can't stand notre dame.
I might be wrong on this but I always thought you could redshirt any year out of the first four to get the fifth.
EDIT: Just saw the same point made below but I do believe it is correct. For instance, if Forcier were to come back strong, Gardner could still conceivably redshirt next year when the QB situation was further stabilized.
I actually think Devin can STILL redshirt this year. One or 2 plays does not automatically chew up one year of eligibility. I remember Tony Gant getting injured in the 2nd or 3rd game of the season in 84 or 85 (can't remember which). He broke his leg on a punt return vs. Wisconsin and was granted a 6th year medical redshirt.
It just so happens that Karsch and Anderson were talking about this this morning and they cited some rule that says you can still redshirt if you've played LESS than 50% of your team's games in the first half of the season (wording is whacky, but that's how they put it).
"the Spirit of Michigan...is based on a deathless loyalty to Michigan and all her ways....and a conviction that nowhere is there a better university, in any way, than this Michigan of ours" - Fielding Yost
In order to get a Medical Redshirt, Devin would have to see limited playing time in the first few games and suffer an injury. The option of a standard redshirt is no longer available this year. He could, in theory, take a standard redshirt either of the next few years if he doesn't see any game time.
I put up a tough front, but deep down I just want to be held.
Haha, that was fantastic. I missed posts like this so much. Please please please don't be a mirage and evaporate. If the team plays like that week in and week out, there are going to win a bunch of games.
I also can't wait to see the entire chapters of the playbook that we didn't open on Saturday.
Yes, me too! I almost wish we didn't display that pass to Robinson and saved it for ND. At the same time, I think that play will still work a few times, just need to get the opposing defense used to a few bubble screens, and then boom, we're in!
Sidenote, talking to some ND fans, they seem to think Michigan not playing Tate this week is to trick ND this week. I think that's a silly thought, but it's funny that they're starting to wonder what to expect on saturday.
the Slippery Rock score. The guy in front of me theorized that it had disappeared because SR plays night games, making the score unavailable for announcement during M games, but their schedule disproves that notion. In any case, I'm glad to see that great tradition return.
Also: their jerseys say "The Rock." How great is that?
Back in the 70s (and 80s, I think) the stadium announcer would read the Slippery Rock score after reading all the other scores from the major games. The crowd would go nuts when Slippery Rock won and boo loudly when they lost.
It was just a fun, quirky tradition -- the largest football crowd cheering wildly for a little school with an unlikely name. Most fans over 40 would probably remember it.
Don Canham actually had Slippery Rock play one of its games at the big house once. IIRC it drew a pretty good crowd.
I statrted going to U of M games in the 1950's with my U of M parents and they loved the Slippery Rock schtich. How long has this been going on ( can you here the Mo-town?) been going on.... Reaaly does anybody know when they first started announcing the score?
And those downers are legitimate, despite our collective basking in the afterglow. Will not rehash them here, but suffice to say, if a team slows down DR it will be very interesting to see how we react. I think this strikes the correct tone: amazement at DR, suddenly sprouting optimism, combined with some realism and remembering that premature exhilaration is um, embarrassing. Not that I know anything about that.
"We can't overestimate the value of computers: yes they are great for playing games and forwarding funny emails, but real business is done on paper. Write that down."
I was in section 43, 46 rows up and I think on a calm day the band with mics will be much better sounding. I didn't hear much echoing. It was just weird at times because of the random movement of air. The reason I say this is because the warthogs were not very loud when they went over us. I usually wet myself when those things fly over and this time they were not loud at all. I attribute that to the wind.
The band being amplified brings a whole new feel to the stadium and there really is no need for rawk music.
I do think the UFR will show a lot more pressure than you suggest here. Roh was terrorizing their backfield the whole first half. No sacks, true, but a LOT of hurries if I remember and they were relying almost exclusively on quick developing pass plays so not a lot of opportunities for sacks.
After watching Donovan McNabb, Vince Young, Troy Smith, Dennis Dixon, etc. shred the Michigan defense as dual threat QBs for all these years it feels really good to inflict that kind of helpless frustration on others. Now that guy plays for Michigan!
and you can throw Juice Williams in there. After more than a decade of watching these guys run all over us and wanting to pull your hair out and put a brick through your TV, we finally have one of our own. I thought one of Denard's most impressive plays was when 2 or 3 defenders converged on him in the pocket and it looked like a sure sack, but he somehow spun out of it and got the pass off. Even though it was incomplete, it reminded me of Troy Smith et. al. and how frustrating they were to watch.
Great, great post. I loved the Amélie clip. As usual, it captures our mood perfectly. A little snicker at "introducing a bunch of program icons and Greg Mathews" (I love the guy but . . . yeah). This whole thing just feels like waking up after a bad dream. Is it time for the 2006 OSU game yet?