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.