[A bit of mgofiction for a slow thursday before the game. Hope you all enjoy. Or not.
-- Coach S.]
[Fade into the locker room, just after the Wisconsin game. Coach Rod takes center stage, and starts speaking.]
COACH ROD: "I'm going to say one thing to you, men. One thing."
[Cut to the last drive of the Wisconsin game. Michigan down by 4, 35-31. 1st and 10 on the Michigan 24 yard line. 2 minutes, 13 seconds on the clock. Frank Beckmann announcing.]
BECKMANN: "Denard takes the snap, running right. Cuts back left, just tripped up! Gain of 5 on the play. 2nd and 5 coming up."
BRANDSTATTER: "He's been hard to stop today, huh Frank? Kept Michigan in this one almost by himself, over 300 yards of offense and three touchdowns. You think he has another touchdown left in him?"
[Cut back to Coach Rod, in the locker room]
COACH ROD: "It's been a long year. Remember spring practice? Remember those long weeks you put in during the summer? Well, it's been a long year for me too. Did I do everything right? Hell no. I've made mistakes. Who here hasn't? We made some honest mistakes, and get raked over the coals for it. Wasn't easy for me, wasn't easy for my family. But as Mufasa said, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Have we been killed, men? Are we dead?"
[Cut back to the game]
BECKMANN: "Denard back to pass, zings one over to Stonum, who drops it. Big third down coming up."
BRANDSTATTER: "Nice read by Denard, saw the corner playing a little off Stonum there. But gotta catch those easy ones. Don't want the drive to die here..."
[Back to the locker room]
COACH ROD: "Hell no! Not dead yet. No, not dead. And therefore, stronger. We are stronger. WE ARE STRONG."
[Coach Rod takes a deep breath, looking around the room. All eyes are on him.]
COACH ROD: "I want you all to think about what this team means to you. To be part of it. To contribute to it, no matter how big a contribution, or how small. Just like that little play out there on third down, right Kelvin?"
[Back to the game]
BECKMANN: "3rd and 5. Big play, not much time left, lots of yards to go for the win. Denard back to pass, passes down the middle to Roundtree, caught it! Roundtree dragged down from behind -- oh no, fumble! Who got it?"
BRANDSTATTER: "I saw Kelvin Grady running behind the play, and I think he just might have dived on the ball and gotten it. We'll have to see who's under that pile of white and red."
[The refs slowly peel one Badger off the pile after the other...]
BECKMAN: "Michigan ball! What a hustle play by Kelvin Grady! The play of the game! First down Michigan, ball at the 44 yard line. One minute and thirty on the clock. The Wolverines aren't dead yet!"
[Back to the locker room]
K. GRADY: "That's right coach. Like you said, never give up on the play."
COACH ROD: "That's right Kelvin. Never give up. NEVER give up. NEVER GIVE UP! This team has been down, this team has been beaten, but never once did I see any of you hang your heads. You kept fighting. The Wolverine never stops fighting, even when it's down. Even when it looks like the fight is lost, the Wolverine never quits. We fight to the end, win or lose, live or die. Right Stephen?"
[Back to the game. Michigan has advanced the ball to the Wisconsin 31, but it is now 4th and 1. Time is running out.]
BECKMANN: "Game on the line here. 4th and 1. Hopkins in the backfield, two receivers split right. Denard takes the snap, hands to Hopkins, who's hit in the backfield! He keeps his legs moving, spins, and dives, and drives the defensive tackle back. It's gonna be close!"
BRANDSTATTER: "I thought he was stopped short but he kept pushing! Depends on the spot, but he just might have gotten it."
[Refs bring out the chains...]
BECKMANN: "First down!! By the nose of the ball. What a second and third effort by Stephen Hopkins! 48 seconds left. Clock momentarily stopped thanks to the first down."
[Back to locker room. Hopkins nods at Coach Rod]
COACH ROD: "That's why we've been working this year, men. All year, every day, every hour in that weight room. It's for that yard when you need it on fourth and one and the whole game is on your shoulders. It's at that time when you see who is the better man. That is why we work so hard. THAT IS WHY WE WORK!"
[Nods around the room, and grunts of agreement. Coach Rod takes one more deep breath, and speaks again, his diction now at its peak]
COACH ROD: "But like I said, I've really only got one thing to say to you. One thing! It's not hard to guess. It's what we've been waiting for. And when the game clock ticked down out there a few moments ago, it's all I could think of. Just one damn thing!"
[Cut back to the Wisconsin Game. It's now 4th and goal, very little time left on the clock.]
BECKMANN: "4th and goal on the 2 yard line. 13 seconds left. Here it is, Michigan fans. 8-3, or 7-4? Win, or lose? What's the play call here Brandy?"
BRANDSTADTTER: "I think we all know who's getting the ball on this one, Frank. I just hope his shoes stay on."
BECKMAN: "OK, Here we go. Denard takes the snap. Takes a step forward. But then he steps back, jumps, and throws it to a wide open Koger. TOUCHDOWN MICHIGAN! TOUCHDOWN! He jump passed it on the last play of the game! Michigan is going to win, 38-35! The crowd is going crazy!"
[The stadium erupts, and then the band. The Victors will play on into the night... Cut back to the locker room]
ROD: "Just one thing on my mind after that game. Can you guess what it is? Denard?"
DENARD (softly): "Beat the Bucks."
TATE (louder now): "Beat the Bucks!"
ROD: "The rest of you all?"
TEAM (screaming): "BEAT THE BUCKS!"
ROD: "THAT'S RIGHT, JUST ONE THING: BEAT THE DAMN BUCKS! Now get outta here and celebrate. I'll see you Monday, and I tell you what, men: They better be ready down there in Columbus."
[Fade to black]
Now that we're seriously into the season, I thought it might be time to see how we're doing as compared to last year. Some people around here like tables (called "charts"), but methinks charts are hard to read. In fact, that's why last year I started plotting the Hennegraphs and other related graphical views of data B. Cook has put together.
And hence, a graph of some key offensive statistics across the first ten games of the year, for both 2009 and 2010:
Click here for the full-sized graph, which is much easier to read.
The graph plots a number of statistics across each game of the season. On the left are all the number for 2009, and on the right the numbers for 2010. The bottom-most graph shows points scored in each game; the next graph up shows point differential (how many points we scored minus how many points the opposition scored); a similar set of graphs for how many yards our offense accumulated and yard differential (yards gained minus yards given up) are shown above those.
I also took some liberty of moving the 2009 Delaware St. game to before the Big Ten Season so that the comparable games are in the same part of the season.
These graphs I believe allow one to make a few observations about how much the team has progressed since last season. And so I do:
- In 2009, we were outgained in yardage, often significantly, in virtually every game against serious competition (the Big Ten team and Notre Dame). I think it is reasonable to make the case, and the record indeed shows, that we were just a bad Big Ten team.
- In 2010, there is only one game like this: the MSU game. We have thus made a jump, at least to the middle of the pack, and possible higher (which the next two weeks will play a significant role in determining).
- In 2009, a number of Big Ten games were quite close despite the yardage differentials. Is this a testimony to the fact that the team is actually pretty tough mentally, never quitting in games even though they were getting pushed around? It is pretty amazing how close the team was to having a pretty good seasonin 2009.
- In 2010, in many ways our record is worse than our yardage numbers. This has a lot to do with turnovers undoubtedly, and is a great sign for the 2011 season.
- Your observations go here.
A lot of this is well known and obvious for those who follow the team (i.e. mgoblog fanatics like myself), but I thought the visualization was a nice way to see the differences between 2009 and 2010. Certainly, it can be shown to any idiot who claims we haven't made much progress.
Enjoy! And please do suggest other items to include on said graphs; it is not hard to scrape the data from the espn box scores.
And the game rolled on. Denard left, Denard right, Denard up the middle. Molk opening up a hole, Webb making a block, Odoms shoving a cornerback downfield. Block, block, block; tackle, tackle, tackle; most decisively, win. I was thrilled, ecstatic. But strangely: saddened. Why? Because I found myself with one simple wish: for Bo to have seen it.
I don't know how he'll put it years from now when he's looking back on it, but I think it is safe to say: these past few years have been some kind of waking nightmare for Coach Rod. One damned thing after the next. Accusations of the loss of tradition, assertions of cheating, and the stark reality of losing. Mostly, the losing, probably; but the other things, well, they didn't help.
There were those who got confused over what a Michigan Man was. They thought it meant "descended from the Bo coaching/playing tree". A bad, awful definition, failing the most simple of tests. Yost? By this definition, nope. Crisler? Sorry. And thus, Coach Rod? No chance. He wasn't from Bo. He wasn't of Bo. And thus, from the hills of West Virginia, Coach Rod was the dreaded Other. He was a charlatan, a simpleton, a snake-oil salesman. He was no Michigan Man.
His practices were too tough, there was too much cursing, yelling; they're driving the players off. Where are the family values? But remember this: it is said that for Bo's players, game day was a relief; it was the practices during the week that killed them, that they were afraid of. By the time they got to the game, well, that was the easy part*.
Practice Makes Perfect
On Saturday we saw something that had long been lost in Michigan Stadium. A level of toughness and execution we haven't seen too often this past decade. I remember seeing it once, in 2002, when Iowa came in and blew us off the ball in a humiliating 34-9 loss. And again when Oregon came and dismantled us in 2007. And I remember thinking: when did they start doing that to us? Shit, it used to be the other way around. Maybe we saw glimpses of it from time to time (OSU 2003 comes to mind), but that was the exception that proved the rule. Something from the old era was lost, missing, gone.
So this is what Saturday really was. Not just a win. Not something for Coach Rod to get the media monkeys off his back. Yes, it will do that (for a time, until the next loss), but that's not what was important. Because what Saturday represented was much more. Yes, the form was different: the spread and not 3-yards-plus-dust-cloud. Yes, the emphasis was different too: more offensive-minded than defensive, perhaps. But there was a critical sameness: tough, hard-nosed football. Block. Tackle. Execute. Bo-style football. The basics. The essentials.
There is a story Bo tells in John Bacon's book**. It is about how Bo felt after the 6-6 season. Maybe the game was passing him by, he thought. He went to some clinics taught by one of the young hot-shots of the time. The hot-shot, as Bo tells it, described all the new schemes they were using on defense. But one coach had the presence to ask, "If your schemes are so good, why did you give up so many yards last year?", to which the hot-shot replied, "Well, we probably didn't spend enough time practicing tackling." Blocking and tackling, that's what the game is about! It reinvigorated Bo. And that is what we saw Saturday. And it reinvigorated us all.
There were a number of milestones this past Saturday. One of the best debuts by a U of M QB ever. The first time in 21 years, as told touchingly by Michael Taylor on WTKA this morning, that an African-American took the helm of our beloved team. The first win of the season, and perhaps the first real win of the Coach Rodriguez era.
But make no mistake. There was really nothing new here. This was a Michigan Football renaissance. Emphasis on "re", as in again. A re-birth. Of what Bo created here long ago, what he first shouted to the world with a stirring 24-12 win.
The 1969 Upset of the Century
I don't believe in God, or Heaven. I don't think Bo was up there somewhere looking down on the game. But I do wish he could have seen it. Because when that hole opened up courtesy of Molk and company, and Webb came across to seal off the UConn linebacker, and Denard burst through on his way to the endzone, it wasn't some fancy new offense or scheme that did it. It was the blood of a hundred young men who don the Maize and Blue each week. It was the sweat they put in on each long, hot, grueling summer day. It was the tears they cried when Brock Mealer reached for the the banner and touched it, ever so gently.
It was goddamned Michigan Football. From a Michigan Team, coached by a Michigan Man (in the truest sense).
And Bo would have loved every minute of it.
Those who stay...
* From the excellent reminiscing of "Those Who Stay" by Curt Stephenson. Not particularly well written, but a fun read nonetheless.
** Pretty sure this is where I read it. May also be in Albom's book. Both should be read, of course.
[Ed: Bump for truth.]
"Remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were." (Marcel Proust)
We all begin these stories with two simple words: "I remember." That is how mine begins too.
I remember my dad turning off the TV, too agitated to even watch, even when we won.
I remember how the game often fell on my birthday, and the common result: one friend or the other's present to me were two tickets to see the event. What better gift?
I remember the first time I saw it in person, 1985, or at least the first time I remember seeing it in person. It wasn't a particularly nice day (when is it nice in November?), and a distinct chill settled over the stadium when Cris Carter caught a leaping touchdown to bring that team within three. Far too much time on the clock. The sky looming gray, threatening. The lights were on, casting an unusual glow on the field. And on 2nd and 7, trapped deep in our own end, a young Jim Harbaugh faded back into the pocket, looked left, and stepped firmly into Michigan History (at 8:11 in the clip below):
What I remember most about that play: the sudden roar of the crowd as the ball landed in Kolesar's hands; the entire stadium standing up to see what happened (blocking my own view, mostly). What I could see: on the side of the field where I was, Harbaugh laying on the ground, a referee huddling over him to make sure he wasn't hurt. Yes ref, he's OK. He just won The goddamned Game.
I remember too the next time I saw the Game in person, Earle Bruce's last. The bitter disappointment of losing, but the small secret pleasure of seeing a beleaguered coach, just fired from a job he loved, carried off the field by his team.
I remember God's seeming reply to Bruce's firing. And thus He spake: "So you don't want to go .500 against Michigan, huh? How about 2-10-1?". I remember irony.
I remember many years of living on the west coast, with The Game being one of the few games I knew I'd be able to watch, one of my few connections to my past, my roots. And who can forget: Shawn Springs slipping, Charles Woodson intercepting/receiving/punt-returning. And yes, I remember Timmy.
When we talk about the Game, that is all we talk about: our memories. This is why the current plans to tinker offend. It is as if someone is reaching into your mind and altering those memories that you hold so dear. As a movie plot, maybe. As something for our collective football hive mind, not so much.
We all remember so much about that one day in November. As Proust points out, our memories may not reflect reality. I know, for example, that somewhere in my mind, Crable didn't get flagged for a late hit, and we won that damn game. But, good or bad, they are our memories, and as fans, they are what we cherish about this silly but beautiful pastime.
When Delany, Brandon, Smith, and the other nominal powers-that-be decide, for good reasons or bad, to move the Game, they are not just changing the schedule. They are changing our memories, changing the sights and sounds in our minds. Not destroying them. But lessening them, cheapening them.
And this is why we write letters, post diaries, join facebook groups. A vain attempt to protect our brains, our memories. Our maize and blue blood telling us to strike out at this agent; it seems harmful, it smells foul. And perhaps, also, as one last vain attempt to ensure that for our next generation of fans, these same sometimes wonderful, sometimes terrible memories will one day be theirs, too.
I know too much on this topic has already been said. But as I woke this morning, this is what was in me. I imagine it is in many of you too. So if I offend for yet another post on said topic, well, sorry about that. Perhaps I shouldn't apologize, though. As Disraeli said, "Never apologize for showing feeling. When you do so, you apologize for truth."
As the football season approaches, I find myself checking into this wonderful site on an increasing basis. Replace "increasing basis" with "every 5 minutes", and that last sentence will be true. Yes, the fall fanaticism is upon us.
Here they come
As well all know, MGoBlog* is an incredible and irreplaceable resource for Michigan football** fans. It has a unique space in the blogosphere, and we all, as fans of U of M football, are lucky and privileged to have it.
So why am I writing this diary? To get some more mgopoints? To state a bunch of obvious truths? No, rather, to first state a concern, and then suggest a possible solution.
These are truths you can handle, actually
The Concern: Brian Leaves MGoBlog
The concern is simple: that one day, perhaps sooner rather than later, one Brian Cook may pack up and decide to do something else with his life. I'm not saying this is going to happen, and I certainly have no particular indication that Brian is anything but happy and content as leader of the mgoblogosphere, but each time I read one of his brilliant articles, I find myself thinking: this guy is going to get swept up by some bigger media outlet. His writing is terrific, heartfelt, funny, thoughtful, and even occasionally poetic (I could link to dozens of examples here, but what is the point? You all know what I mean).
This is a train leaving a station. Imagine if Brian were on it?
Envision, if you will, the tragedy that would result. Certainly, my own personal Michigan football experience would be greatly lessened***. Worse than any freep scandal or crazy coaching search, the thought of Brian Cook leaving this fine site for some greener pastures is too painful to consider.
The Solution: MGoBlog Day
So let's not consider it. Or rather, let's take steps to make it less likely. What I suggest today is an alternative: a celebration of the best. Specifically: let us create an unofficial MGoBlog Day. On this one day a year, each of us would tune into the site, perhaps write a little bit about why the site is so great for us, but, more importantly, DONATE. If each serious reader donated as little as $5 or $10 or $20 (or much more, if desired) each year, I suspect Brian and company would become notably better compensated for what he does, and presumably this would (perhaps greatly) lower any future possibility of Brian thinking of moving onto some bigger or different stage. Let's make Brian rich!
Pledge Drive: Everyone hates these, but...
This NPR-ish pledge drive would just take place once a year, which begs the question: which day should such a celebration of all that is MGoBlog take place? The day that came to my mind is this: the last Thursday before the first game each year. This year, it would be 09/02 before the UConn game. Why this day? Well, as that first game approaches, I think we all sense with great anticipation the beginning of the season. Thus, some time right before that first game is when I appreciate MGoBlog the most, and look forward to the season full of UFRs, Unverified Voracities, and all the other standards that this blog has created for us. And why not take advantage of the fever pitch that is undoubtedly building anyhow?
Fever Pitch: actually not a bad movie
The most important thing about having such a day is that it serves as a reminder to donate. I have donated a few times myself, but personally can never remember when or how much. By having a single day where we all donate, it simplifies things quite a bit. Kind of a "subscription" of sorts, but still in the pure voluntary spirit that has driven the site thus far.
Anyhow, it is just a thought. I would be curious to hear your thoughts on this idea. Some questions to ponder:
- Should we have such a day?
- If so, does the day proposed (the last Thursday before opening day) make sense? If not, which day?
- If agreed to, how can we track progress of donations? Would Brian be willing to state how much was raised on that day? (at least a ballpark figure?)
Your input is truly appreciated****.
* What is the proper capitalization, anyhow?
** Yes, there are other sports, but come on
*** "greatly lessened" = "would suck a lot more"
**** well, not truly. but kind of. isn't that good enough?
Coach Schiano here. You might remember me from such fine diaries as MGoStatistics, Visualizing the Hennechart (aka the Hennegraph), and some other forgotten gems (the last being a drug-induced haloscan rant of epic proportion). Or you might not. But at least those stats got some front page love from blogmaster-in-chief Brian, despite the purported "diss". PYTHON RULES!
In last week's post, we summarized some word counts over the years to definitively show that Brian is awesome, which he is. What left a bad taste, however, was the weak attempt at the end of that diary to summarize word usage via a single Wordle. Yes, Wordle is awesome, but no one Wordle can this blog describe, as someone famous once said; probably not somebody associated with Wordle, though.
Thus we bring you a deeper analysis of the blog via the simple tool of Word Frequency Analysis (WFA). By simply counting how many times a word is used, great insight into this blog and its content can be achieved. Or, at least, mild amusement can your way be brought. Minimally, sentences can in Yoda style be written.
The results below come from (somewhat arbitrary) comparisons of the frequencies of different words. The conclusions come from my brain. Thus, the former can be trusted, and the latter should likely be dismissed. But hopefully each analysis is clear: a table, with a list of (frequency, word) pairs, where frequency is the number of times that particular word appeared in mgoblog over its entire lifetime, 2004 until present.
And now, for the results! Brace yourselves, this gets ugly.
First, we analyze how often particular sports are mentioned:
Now, an analysis of how often various places are mentioned:
Now we study the popularity of various coaches:
You might find yourself wondering about the dominant mgoblog receiver. If so, we give you the receiver analysis:
Who is mgoblog's favorite running back? Well, this was an easy one to guess:
Onto the quarterback competition:
And now we study two particular schools of football philosophy: Lloydball and Tresselball.
Speaking of football philosophy, we also study the dominance of the spread:
Now we move onto more important matters, like the study mascot names:
Finally, if you'll indulge, we'll get into some slightly more off-topic terms. Let's start with food. What about the food preferences of mgoblog? Sadly, not much data here, making us wonder if Brian eats very much or is rather some kind of blog-creating Cyborg sent from our future UofM overlords to get us through these rough times (possible, no? hmm? HMMM?). But from what we could find:
Being a blog of international repute, mgoblog also mentions some people of differing nationalities:
Brian also uses his fair share of saltier language. For example:
"I suppose it is possible that Germany is a plant biology major and spends his time before the snap screaming "I gonna sprout all up in your ass, mothafucka*" at the quarterback, but it seems unlikely."Classic.
Sorry, one last set of bad words:
Just keep moving folks, keep moving. And let them never be mentioned again. Speaking of which:
Just keep moving folks, keep moving. And let them never be mentioned again. Speaking of which:
We end with some fairly random studies. First, a gender study yielded the following information about the different types of "boys" mentioned on the blog:
And we conclude with some word counts that we noticed "coincidentally" ended up at the same frequency. Or did they?????