I thought that I had seen the worst offensive gameplans possible. After last night, I have now seen even worse.
also duty-free guys falling over and grabbing their shins
I'm writing this at a Starbucks in the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, already one 20-ounce beer deep after a most depressing lunch at a nearby Chile's. I packed three shirts for this trip, all maize; my 2006 student football shirt draws pitied looks from those in red, hollow stares of sadness from fellow Michigan faithful.
Last night, I surveyed the carnage from my perch in the second deck; all I could think of was Switch, staring at inevitability.
Not like this.
Not like this.
Vincent Smith rush for 3 yards to the Mich 34 for a 1ST down.
The one Alabama fan I spoke to at length has but one question as we prepare to go through security and enter Cowboys Stadium. He is the archetype of the middle-aged Tide male, red polo with the script 'A' tucked into his khakis, carrying the air of a man who's seen the bottom of many a bottle.
"So, do y'all really think you have a chance?"
The question isn't spoken derisively, at least on its surface—like the others, he's almost disarmingly polite. Over the course of the next four hours, this particular trait goes from charming to infuriating.
Vincent Smith rush for a loss of 1 yard to the Mich 33.
The two words are reflex, easily deciphered by the amateur lip-reader any time an Alabama fan appears on the behemoth jumbotron, spoken any time two groups of fans pass in the concourse, emblazoned on T-shirts, seared into my soul.
Vincent Smith rush for 1 yard to the Mich 33.
Denard Robinson's third carry comes on the first drive of the third quarter. The scoreboard reads Alabama 31, Michigan 7.
Had I known this was the plan, I'd have watched from my couch.
Vincent Smith rush for 2 yards to the Mich 40.
Vincent Smith's fourth carry comes on the first play of the second quarter. To this point, Michigan's 34 yards of offense are almost entirely offset by their 25 penalty yards.
Had I known this was the plan, I'd have not watched at all.
Vincent Smith rush for a loss of 2 yards to the Mich 38.
Alabama's five-star running back, Dee Hart, hurtles down the field and connects flush with Dennis Norfleet. This is a kickoff return. Hart is on the coverage team. Had he stuck with his initial commitment to Michigan,—and after yesterday, nobody can blame him for not doing so—Hart would have started at running back for the Wolverines. He certainly would not have played kickoff coverage.
Half of the stadium erupts. It is not my half.
Vincent Smith rush for no gain to the Mich 5.
My friends and I enter the stadium at six o'clock local time. After locating our section, we exit the concourse to stand at the railing behind out seats and stare agape at the jumbotron. It is as advertised, so mind-blowingly large that it takes every effort to avert my eyes and watch the players on the field. I briefly note how much larger the Alabama players look before going back to ogling the screen.
A 30-something man wearing crimson from head to toe strikes up a conversation. He tells us that he's really a Michigan fan, too, and still was trying to decide upon a team for which to cheer. He is gregarious, pleasant, and wishes us all the best when we head to our seats.
I hate this man.
Vincent Smith rush for 2 yards to the Mich 12.
Seven Wolverine defenders—Joe Bolden, Keith Heitzman, Mario Ojemudia, Ondre Pipkins, Terry Richardson, James Ross, and Jarrod Wilson—make their career debut.
None can stop the bleeding, of course. They are but freshmen, and freshmen cannot save you here.
Vincent Smith rush for 3 yards to the Mich 25.
Each Miller Lite costs $8 at Cowboys Stadium. This is criminal, of course, but the alternative is so much worse.
I'll take two, please.
Vincent Smith rush for no gain to the Alab 46.
Thomas Gordon finishes with nine tackles, leading the team, and—in my memory, at least—missing at least as many.
God bless Thomas Gordon. He tried, long after the point when I'd given up hope.
Vincent Smith rush for 1 yard to the Mich 15.
Hours before kickoff, we park in Lot 10 to begin tailgating. The signs for the lot bear the image of a Dallas Cowboys legend of some sort, though I don't recognize the face. We are next to a Wal-Mart. It is a stark reminder of where we are, and where we are not. By the time this sniveling jackass graces the big screen...
...I'll have vowed never to attend a regular season neutral site game again.
Vincent Smith rush for 22 yards to the Alab 48 for a 1ST down.
Vincent Smith—God bless him, too—finally turns the corner on his 11th carry, scampering 22 yards before screeching to a halt in front of an Alabama safety, falling to the turf when his legs cannot dance as his panicked mind intends. A Michigan fan behind me then utters the stupidest sentence in the history of man:
"He could’ve gotten about three more yards if he ran through that guy.”
I nearly miss Devin Gardner's touchdown two plays later as I frantically tweet to save the quote for posterity's sake.
Vincent Smith rush for a loss of 1 yard to the Mich 7.
This morning, before we load our luggage into the rental car, my friend Dan grabs an unopened 12-pack from the trunk.
Last night, in our haste to reach the hotel and never talk about that again, we forget to drink away our sorrows.
Vincent Smith rush for 2 yards to the Mich 28.
We find ourselves in the exclusive club section of Cowboys Stadium. We shouldn't be there, but Dan's girlfriend has that invaluable charm that renders such things moot. After a day of drinking and ignoring more basic needs, I am hungry. The concession stand offers a $13 Kobe Beef BBQ Burger, so of course I order one.
I eat my burger on a marble countertop. I state unequivocally that it's the best burger I've ever eaten, and long after the beers wear off I stand by that statement.
That turns out to be the highlight of my evening. An hour later, Alabama is up 21-0, and I've barely had time to get comfortable. I gaze at the field, resigned.
Not like this.
I thought that I had seen the worst offensive gameplans possible. After last night, I have now seen even worse.
Didn't play a few snaps just to give a speed back a chance.
What's worse? GERG's defense or Borges playing calling last night?
I think Borges deserves some of the blame here but not as much as he has been getting by many since yesterday. Denard just didn't make the correct reads when assigned to. He rarely ever pulled and ran. We had opportunities in the passing game and they didn't work out.
Borges could have had his best game ever and we would have still lost by 20.
What an excellent post. I don't see it as singling out Vince. He's been a favorite of mine since he arrived. He has the heart of a Wolverine and the body of a player Saban would cut from the Alabama roster, except he wouldn't have been recruited by Alabama in the first place. His effort last night – along with Denard and Gordon and almost everyone else – was admirable. That it came up so short isn't their fault.
After Nebraska last year, I began to get the feeling that it was a charmed season. Major injuries mostly didn't happen, footballs bounced the right way, and the schedule didn't approach this year's brutality. We may be in for a splattering return to earth, or perhaps Hoke and company will find yet more rabbits in their hats. But there was nothing about last night – and certainly nothing about Vincent Smith – that makes me wish I'd been born with a bloodline that doesn't run Blue.
We got beat by the best team in the country-The #1 offensive line. We are 2-3 yrs away and we will be able to compete with guys like Bama. We will still win the Big Ten with maybe 1-2 more losses. How many freshman played? 10-13! We will have the talent and the depth in 2-3 years. Slow your roll-It was obvious to me that the play calling was to protect Denard more than anything in order to win the Big Ten. Now, they will never say that but I believe they went in with a game plan to see if they could run someone else and try and hit some passes without risking Denard, even though he still got banged up. Again, the Big Ten is weak again this year. We are alright peeps.
Alabama oversigning ...
... the new CJK5H?
You realize that resorting to the "our school is a better academic school" argument just makes us sound incredibly entitled and whiny? We lost, let's take our lumps, and move on. Don't be disrespectful.
By the way, I'm an EE grad from Michigan.
Oh the irony
We share your sentiment.
Once I realized it was over (1st qtr), the anger vented at Borges, Denard, offensive line, defense (all of them), Brent, Herby, my dog, my wife, my kids, my neighbor, began to turn to laughter. In fact, at one point I was so giddy I thought I was losing my mind. The kind of laughter that happens once you realize the situation is hopeless, and there nothing left to do but laugh.
Now I will seek to find joy in any SEC team that loses this year, just because.
Alabama fans were great. That said, Sweet Home Alabama breaking out at Boomer Jacks mildly packed with Tide fans while we were trying to watch the toledo/arizona game and drown some sorrows was an experience I could have done without
good post, Ace.
I still had a fun weekend down there. It was great to see so many Michigan fans from every corner of the country. We represented a lot better than what people expected. We'll have a better time in Pasadena in January. Book It
Ace I think is really getting pretty good at writing, it is great to see.
This game made me feel like Clark Griswald after he gets his Xmas bonus.
Where's the Tylenol?
Defense defense defense. Bama was cruising on offense, it didn't matter who was their tailback. Also, miller lite is the worst beer created, $1 drafts is a rib off.
was the clear realization that we will never see a Denard-like QB at Michigan again. I realize by current recruits and coaching styles that a different mold fits the desired system...I get that. But I had hoped that Borges would have developed a hybrid pro-style, spread option QB by experience with Denard. But it's clear he is determined to make Denard what he is not. That tells me he's not discovering the beauty and value of having a two dimension QB, and will not pursue one in the future. Granted, I think Borges will resort back to running Denard more now - just like he did last year after trying to force Denard into being Brady. But his change will only be a result salvaging the season and working with what he has got, not moving in a direction he thinks is ideal. In other words, we are heading back to Lloyd ball.
Get off the Meth
I mean, he made a perfect first pass of his career ... right to Tacopants for an INT.
You're out of your goddamn mind if you think for a second that Hoke and Borges would push Denard out of the QB spot for a redshirt freshman or a junior with few meaningful snaps in his career. I understand it's the point of a message board to vent and throw around ideas but this is just plain stupid. No. Just no.
I hate the argument about height... I get it, but it is so fucking myopic...
And you are doing the same thing Borges is doing by not accepting the fact that Denard could be a great college quarterback if they just let him spread and shred.
I hadn't noticed
Borges has worked his ass off
Nothing makes me so optimistic for the rest of the season than posts like this. Remember last year when there was a ton of calls on this board for Gardner to be the regular QB after Denard's early struggles? Remember what then happened the rest of the season?
I was secretly hoping for 12-0 and a shot at the national title, but I'll take a repeat of last year's 10-2 in a heart beat, especially if that puts in the Big10 championship game.
Denard and the whole team (except maybe Gallon) had a lousy day yesterday. We still have a number of tough tests ahead of us (ND, MSU, Nebraska, probably OSU), but every game is winnable. Last night sucked, but I still feel good about tomorrow.
This is a 4-5 loss team this year if Denard stays at QB. Teams know how to defense him.
No one told Ohio State, Nebraska, Illinois, or pretty much anyone else last year. But I suppose if by "teams know how to defense him," you mean "be stacked with NFL talent." In which case, yes. They do.
Denard has looked mechanically good in practice and was making good reads and checkdowns but got too wound up (an admitted tendency) going into the game and made mistakes?
Also, i'm under the impression that Borges agrees with most posters here in that Denard's legs should be his last checkdown but Denard still hesitates to take off and tries to force throws?
I seriously doubt we're heading back to Lloyd ball, even if i agree with you that Borges hasn't made enough adjustments out of his comfort zone to keep Denard in his.
I'm hoping you are not saying that you understand football?????
I was there and you captured the despair spot on. And the seemingly endless mind numbing handoffs to Smith is the perfect summation of it all.
Had one Alabama fake ass sorority girl say "Roll Tide y'all sorry we had to beat ya" as we were walking towards our vehicle in the fourth quarter, all I could muster to say was Go Tigers it was my only defense since Auburn lost.
Are you saying she had butt implants?
Isn't Auburn's mascot The Tigers too?
She fake as hell.
if i went all the way to Dallas to watch us get our asses kicked.
Nicely done Ace. This was the best article I have read on this site considering the circumstances. You captured the feeling of despair and hopelessness in excrutiating fashion. Not like this.....
All I had left was screaming ' War Eagle' at the top of my lungs by the second quarter every 30 seconds. I made one guy laugh and he told us to beat Auburn in the Citrus Bowl, fuck him.
This perfectly summed up the night, for Michigan, and for me. Smith had a couple (like 2) of great carries when he was properly used. He made a couple of excellent runs to the outside, turned the corner around some excellent blocking, and got most of, if not more than, a first down. Running him up the middle, over, and over, and over again just seemed like a play designed to go nowhere, though. Like Borges knew it would fail, but did it anyways, sacrificing downs to "keep the defense honest" or whatever lame reason why he kept calling it. Denard was a much better choice up the middle, evidenced in his touchdown run, but up the middle was a bad idea from the beginning. Not sure why it was the major focus of our gameplanning.
I'm still baffled why we did not run more to the outside.
Great storytelling, albeit a sad story.
stay competitve against an obviolsy bigger, stronger, more athletic team. It's that simple. Alabama, at this point in time, is a much,much better football team. They have recruiting advantages on top of our recruiting disadvantages for the scheme being taught vs the scheme the players were recruited for and a complete lack of depth at all vital positions.
Bama ran four different tailbacks all of whom looked all world compared to anything we put out there. Why, their O-line is 'NFL' compared to our midlle B1G Dline. Also we have a Qb who is simply not a pocket Qb and he had to be last night to beable to play the rest of the season. The coaching staff had to know the game was virtually unwinnable with all the film and knowledge they have of both sides. The country saw it last night and now we know how incredibly far we have to go to get where they are.
I don't think under the current rules and enforcement by the NCAA we can ever get there. Michigan and the B1G play by a different set of rules than the SEC, especially Bama and LSU. It will take 3 more years of recruiting and coaching by this staff to get Michigan to any kind of upper level SEC quality team. Getting to their elite may not be possible playing by the rules.
If we get there, the rest of the B1G is in trouble!
Best writing yet from Ace. Good work!
I have to say Ace's credibility as a burger connoisseur has taken a severe hit.
Seriously. Has the man had Casey's, Blimpy, or Sidetrack? Nonetheless, great piece. I'm glad Ace is going to be writing more columns like this (well, not devoted to a loss).
Hate to burst your bubble...but that was not Kobe beef you were eating. Most likely was certified angus sirloin.
That was a tough one to watch. The game went exactly how we needed it not to go. Injuries, exposed youth, lack of depth, wrong players for the game plan. The team goals are still intact, and attainable. Win the Big Ten. The Team, The Team, The Team!
Great write-up, but I guess I'm not in the camp of dread about yesterday's game. It was a bad idea when Brandon signed up the team two years ago, even worse after the transition, and especially poor after Alabama whooped everyone on its way to an MNC. It happens. I honestly think UM is a very good program, but to be elite it requires not only great coaching and recruiting, but also a shift in institutional outlook that I don't see many teams adopting. And while this might sound like whining (and it probably is), the fact remains that there is a reason the last 6 NCs have all come from the SEC - it is a conference that has, on the whole, changed the way CFB runs. Yes, some of changes are on the field - a focus on defensive line play, NFL-style defenses to counteract the wide-open offenses we've seen, etc. But it also signals, unfortunately, a change even further away from the myth of the student athlete, of recruiting kids for 4 years and only taking those for whom you have room.
Alabama signed 103 kids to LOIs the past 4 years (and the year before, they brought in 32(!)); Michigan 94 and that is partially due to the attrition from the coaching change. MSU, a team that has had a stable coaching staff for years now, had 87. OSU, the best team in the B1G for the past decade, reecruited 93, and that too includes a coaching change. And Texas, craddle of football that it is, recruited 95. And I know Alabama had a bunch of kids go to the pros the past couple of years, but so have other elite teams, and none of them have recruited this way. It sounds like a broken record, but when you have 103 kids over 4 years (or 135 over 5 years), plus all of the other advantages Alabama has (good facilities, top-notch pay for coaches, recruiting hotbeds nearby, statistically-unbelievable "career-ending" injuries to kids at the end of camp), it shouldn't surprise people that they are this good.
So while it was sad to see Vincent Smith get hammered for 2-3 yards a pop all night, at least he was the one out there. Not Fitz, who deserved to be suspended for his DUI. Not some late-day 4* that Hoke brought in to replace a guy like Hopkins who didn't "work out" and is "too injured" to every play the game again. I'm not for more victories and Alabama won fair and square on the field, but yesterday did nothing to change my view of either program.
Not too many teams get to play in the National Championship Game. We got to give it a try in the first game of the season. Oh well....there is a reason Hoke never says the goal is the win every game he only says the goal is to win the Big Ten. We are still on track.
While I would rather have played a home and home and would rather not wear alternates, I am not going to blame him for scheduling Bama. I WANT to play Bama. To be the best you've gotta beat the best. We're not the best. Now we know and we get better.
Jesus Christ. It's one freaking game. What the hell is wrong with people?
you do realize the game yesterday was a statement game?
I had hoped that we would state that we are on the cusp of being something special. Instead I learned that while we may win 10 games this year, and we can be good, we are a long long way from competing with the big boys...
and that is why people are freaking; many of us thought we were better than we are...
Some of us were hoping to be B1G title champs this season, Denard's senior year. This game means that A) the best of the B1G is 4 TDs worse than the SEC or ( more probably) B) we are a long ways off from Pasadena, and Denard will never smell roses.
It's a tough pill to swallow when you've had such high hopes
some navel-gazing crap