"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
Thirty Minutes Of Hell
When Mike Debord plays rock-paper-scissors, he always picks rock.
Rock totally beats scissors. Why would anyone pick anything else? Sure, occasionally someone will throw his own rock, but this is Michigan. We can out-execute their rock. And there are rumors of this thing called "paper". Apparently it beats rock, which seems darned unsporting, but Mike Debord will believe that when Mike Debord sees it. We can probably out-execute paper, too. Some people will hypothesize that the potential existence of paper warrants the occasional scissors throw, but only three things can happen when you throw scissors and two of them are bad. The idea of throwing "paper" is to be regarded with naught but scorn. Oooh, a Snickers bar! Mike Debord likes Snickers and will let pet monkey Bonzo call a series as he enjoys a candy bar.
Hey, Bonzo scored a touchdown. Now we're ahead. Let's go back to rock. Rock beats scissors.
Rock, rock. Definitely rock. Rock. Judge Wapner's on at ten.
I had a dream literally moments ago that jolted me awake at 8:30 -- this is early for me -- after a weekend of getting up insanely early to drive to or from Chicago and drinking heavily. In this dream, Michigan was playing some team. It might have been Eastern, it might have been Washington. After an impressive opening touchdown drive, Michigan sent walk-on Nick Sheridan out to play quarterback. He completed a third down post. Then Michigan sent out four offensive linemen -- no right guard -- as the PA announcer said that today they were honoring the Bellevue Wolverines, singled out Steve Schilling as Michigan's lone Bellevue-ian, and ran behind him. Schilling could not out-execute three defenders and the play went for a loss. Oops let's punt.
This proceeded, as Michigan clung to a 7-0 lead whilst rotating in a vast cast of characters that had no business on the field and calling ridiculous plays that were destined to fail. Perhaps the best exemplar of the ridiculous things Michigan was doing came when yet another walk-on quarterback entered the game -- Michigan's fifth or something -- without even so much as a jersey. Instead, the new quarterback wore a Judd-Nelson style 80s jean jacket with The Realests spray-painted on it sort of where a name would go if this was an actual jersey and not an item of clothing ripped directly from The Breakfast Club. Also spray-painted on the jean jacket was the number seven.
It was at this point that I lost it. (This didn't seem like the trigger at the time, but the Michigan coaching staff inserting bloggers into the game and not picking me must have been intolerable.) Finding myself standing on the sidelines, I ran across the field between plays with the intent of finding Mike Debord and berating him or headbutting him so that his nose bled and bled and bled and Bonzo had to take over (note: don't try this, kids! MGoBlog does not advocate acting on the crazy id impulses of your dreams!) and that Michigan would yank The Realests and put in its actual starting quarterback and run actual plays. But all I found over there was my father. We crabbed about the playcalling and looked on dolorously, waiting for lightning to strike and for Michigan to blow it.
Eventually it rained.
If respected Rocky Mountain News columnist Paul Campos can let our mutual acquaintance JJ write entire columns, I can yank the most perfect metaphor ever for what Michigan football seems to be in 2007: a unit of Redcoats in the Revolutionary war walking down the road in a block, getting picked off on all sides by guerrilla fighters. They drink tea and think "by crumbs, these chaps will never make it in a real war" and feel superior to the elusive guys who are cutting them down by the dozens.
And, of course, we won. By a seemingly comfortable score, even. No doubt this will be chalked up in certain Pravda-esque circles as grumble grumble BLOGS(!) grumble downfall of public politeness grumble internets bleah. Michigan won by twelve points and the nuts on the internet are livid. See how unreasonable they are. But it's not the nuts on the internet who inserted Chad Henne for the first drive of the game, watched him score a touchdown -- albeit one aided by a fortunate fourth-down facemask call not relevant to the play -- then sat him on the bench and ran Mike Hart zone left for two yards for the rest of the first half. Against a team that let Duke's quarterback -- who plays for Duke, which is Duke, people, friggin' goddamned Duke -- do this:
Northwestern stacked the line, leaving its corners on an island the entire first half, and Michigan called rock. Because eff you, that's why. The results: oops let's punt. Or miss chip shot field goals. They did this because they were playing Northwestern, nevermind that the Wildcats were clearly moving the ball up and down the field against Michigan -- over 300 yards in the first half alone -- and that Michigan had proven quite thoroughly that it couldn't stop the spread attack of a I-AA team. Nevermind that a play here and there and Michigan would have been facing a truly formidable halftime deficit against a team that lost to the above-mentioned Duke team. Nevermind that every time Ohio State threw it deep they scored a touchdown. Nevermind all that: throw rock. We will out-execute their paper.
We might forgive this outburst of stupidity if it was a one time thing, or something that Michigan might learn from. Obviously, it is not. Michigan arrogantly assumed its front six could stop a zone read play and sat in a cover two as Appalachian State shredded them for four first-half touchdowns. On the other side of the ball, a slightly dinged Mike Hart watched Brandon Minor take 13 handoffs for 3.8 yards per carry -- Hart would finish at 6.2 even if you completely remove his 54-yard touchdown run that briefly gave Michigan the lead -- and lose a fumble despite Michigan still trailing a I-AA team. The vast stubbornness, arrogance, and outright stupidity of Michigan's coaching staff led to the most embarrassing loss in college football history... and three weeks later they let a virtually identical script play out. They will never learn. They will always play football like it's 1978 and Northwestern's starting a 190 pound defensive tackle. And it will cost us. It already has, dearly.
To reiterate, to be as clear as possible: there is no excuse for what happened yesterday. Pulling Chad Henne when he was clearly healthy enough to play and telling Ryan Mallett to hand it off time and again into a stacked line -- no, I don't buy that Mallett's just failing to check off into pass plays; even a freshman can count to eight (or nine) -- when that was clearly not working turned a game that Michigan should
win 90% of the time into a game it wins 50% of the time. Michigan's failure to take advantage of the nation's 114th-ranked pass defense is criminally negligent coaching of the sort that led to Michigan's loss to Appalachian State. The historical record is clear: Michigan does this all the time. Lloyd Carr should be extended a hearty handshake at the end of the year and given a gold watch whether he wants it or not, and Mike Debord should be the next head coach of a North Korean Pop Warner team because it's still 1972 in North Korea.
Bullets that we are specifically not aiming at anyone in particular because violence is wrong, man.
- This was my first trip to a Northwestern game; it was worth returning. We drove to a lot maybe ten minutes from the stadium on Lake Michigan, parked there for free, and were surrounded by Michigan fans, some of whom were making bratwurst wrapped in bacon. Nice. Also, Tyler Ecker was there, as was Hot Dog Man. (Hot Dog Man? Hot Dog Man.) I managed to not spend the hour before the game screaming "why didn't you pitch the ball?" until I got cold-cocked, so I've got that going for me.
- Everything at Northwestern is named: the press box, the locker rooms, the weight room, the ring of honor, some terrace. I was busy looking for Stewart F. Mandel Pole, but there doesn't appear to be one.
- It must be really frustrating to be a Northwestern fan and to have fewer than half the fans at "home" games against Michigan.
- Did Michigan miss either of its starting linebackers at all? Maybe Thompson, as there were a lot of gashing runs in the first half, but there didn't appear to be a dropoff from Graham. And where is Jonas Mouton? This has gone on too long for a little ankle sprain. Brandon Logan was his replacement.
- A Brandon Harrison blitz worked. Me == stunned. It came from the backside, so Bacher couldn't side-step it.
- Yeah, Jason Gingell is officially not a good kicker. What happened to KC Lopata?
- Another hideously frustrating thing: as soon as it looked like there was even a chance at a field goal for the lead, Michigan went back into its caveman offense. Third and long after two running plays led to a bullet Henne post for a touchdown. We scored almost in spite of ourselves.
- The zone game is showing serious flaws in year two. We have no play action that isn't a waggle and precious little in the way of available misdirection.
- We do have some, though. Where was the TE-pull thing?
- This was another log for the "Lloyd Carr always coaches like he has a killer defense and a pounding ground game no matter the facts on the ground" theory.
- Pregame prediction: 27-17. Final score: 28-16. Oh, how I wish I wasn't right about that.
- Maybe we could cut down on the spleen in the comments? There was righteous complaining all weekend, which is fine and something heavily featured above, but we can just assume that anyone defending the coaching staff is an Ohio State plant, ignore them, and keep it constructive... maybe?