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“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”
Learn from yesterday...
6-0 starts for Michigan are rare.
Most of my life (33 years) has been spent rooting for a Michigan team that would win most Saturdays, live in the national rankings, and stub their toe early in the season. 4-0 or better starts have only occurred 11 times in those 33 seasons:
4-0: '78 '96 '09
5-0: '85 '95 '99 '10
6-0: '86 '97 '06 '11
The starts to the last three seasons have been a stretch that Michigan fans have not witnessed since the dawn of the Carr era. That exciting time back in the mid-90s culminated in a National Championship with the two seasons before ending in disappointment. We have had the disappointment x 1,000,000 these past two seasons (but thanks for the excitement RR); perhaps we are on the brink of something special again.
Looking back reveals that the last 4 teams* to start the season undefeated through six games have gone on to have very memorable seasons:
'86 - Jimmy Harbaugh guarantees victory over Ohio and delivers as Michigan goes 11-2 losing the Rose Bowl to a tainted ASU team.
'92 - Gary Moeller with a senior Elvis Grbac goes undefeated, winning the Rose Bowl over Washington and finishing 9-0-3 in the days before overtime.
'97 - Michigan goes undefeated at 12-0 and clinches a NC, winning the Rose Bowl over Washington St and a Heisman for one Charles Woodson.
'06 - Michigan starts out 11-0 leading up to the Game of the Century against #1 Ohio; Bo dies and Michigan ends up 11-2 after a loss to USC in the Rose Bowl.
That would be 1 National Championship, 3 B10 Championships, 3 11+ win seasons, and 2 wins in 4 Rose Bowl appearances. These are good tidings indeed.
*1992 not included in the 4-0 or better teams because of a tie against ND in the season opener.
Live for Today…
Halfway through the season, several Michigan players and coaches** should take pride in accomplishments thus far:
1. Brady Hoke – My pride in my team and the way it is coached couldn't be higher right now. Brady Hoke should be the clear front-runner for coach of the year at this point. He is the glue.
2. Greg Mattison – The defense continues to improve and despite looking overmatched at times they never quit. The half time adjustments against JNW were remarkable, forcing 2 turnovers and shutting the Wildcats out for the second half. If not this season, coming seasons will feature a top-10 ranked defense and a return of Michigan dominance. Mattison = Gary Moeller++.
3. Al Borges – Naysayers can go sit in the corner because Mr. Borges is having none of it. Al Borges is having the time of his life, making use of the treasure trove of speed and talent left to him by Rich Rodriguez. His understanding of the talent he has, and how to most effectively make use of it, grows with each passing week. He has this team rolling, and even a 3-turnover 1st half can't derail their confidence. I can't wait to see what he has in store for little brother. Al Borges is a Mad Magician.
4. Junior Hemingway – Senior Junior is what bails out the shortcomings of a Denard-led offense. His ability to go up and get jump-balls stretched the JNW defense and forced them to give up more space for Denard's feet to do what they do. We are lucky he stuck around, because without him this team is probably 4-2.
5. Denard Robinson – Junior Denard overcomes his mistakes. Credit has to be given for how he shook off that dreadful first half to win the game for Michigan in the second half. There has never been a player like shoelace, and there will never be one like him again I bet. His humble attitude, always positive, always smiling... it allows for turnarounds like we saw yesterday. You just can't keep him down. He obviously took the coaching-up at half time and came out a different player. I told my wife before Devin Gardner's TD that Denard was not really injured bad, he just wanted Gardner to get his shot. Just remarkable.
Also of note: Jeremy Gallon, Roy Roundtree (nice to see some production), RVB, Kevin Koger, Jordan Kovacs (Probably the only player that could rip off the QB's helmet without drawing a flag), Devin Gardner (clutch TD run), every position coach and basically everyone on the team. Great job guys.
*Adding coaches in here this week because this team is truly a reflection of their hard work and dedication.
Hope for Tomorrow
Of those 4 seasons, the current one reminds me most of 1997 so far. Much like in 1997, Michigan is coming off of consecutive seasons that started hot only to end in disappointment. In '97 Michigan started the season ranked fairly low by the standards of the time, and had to win over hearts and minds with each passing week. There was a hard-fought, down-to-the-wire win over Notre Dame after trailing at half time. There was a gritty, come from behind win over a B10 opponent (Iowa) for the 6th win that overcame a two-score half time deficit. That '97 team got better with each week and won through a very tough November schedule that included Top-5 ranked Penn St and Ohio teams.
I remember that '97 Iowa game well. That was the game that showed the difference of that team, of that season. Instead of folding yesterday, Michigan again showed that fight and persevered to stay undefeated. This team is starting to believe in itself and I am feeling big wins in their future.
I realize that this team is not on the level of the '97 team, but if you squint you can see some similarity. The '97 team had a dominant defense centered around a Heisman candidate that supported an offense with several nice pieces to it. This 2011 squad may have the opposite in a sense, though it is far too early to predict this team's ceiling. The upcoming opponents are perhaps less intimidating than those the '97 team faced down the stretch, so there is reason to hope. Championships are a distinct possibility; which ones remain to be seen.
Go Blue and stay safe.
I have to admit - I was VERY skeptical of Borges at first. He has completely won me over. That play action-WR screen to Gallon was a magnificant playcall. I think he's going to do great things with the talents of Denard, Gardner, and Morris over the next half-decade, and I couldn't be more excited for the future. That being said, the second half last night proved to me that "this isn't last year!"
for creating a fumble that Hoke clearly asked for (given his reaction on the sideline) in the 2nd half (even though they didn't score off that opportunity IIRC.) This team is coached to strip, bring pressure and take chances in the secondary like few teams in the past have been. They deserve all and every accolade for what success they achieve.
The improvements on D put it all on DR to make it happen. As Denard goes ... so does Michigan. I truly feel there is no limit at this point - though there are definitely obstacles to overcome.
A lot of the Hoke hire / Borges critics and pessimists have lost a lot of cred. Unfortunately that won't stop them from raising their ugly heads and try to be the smartest guy on the internet when the opportunity arises.
Ehemm... hrmm.. is this thing on? Thank you for the cue.
The 1997 team we are not. We've played only 1 or our hardest 5 games at this point, and probably did not deserve to win that one. We are better, but we are not Alabama either. We will go 3-3 for the remainder of the season, finishing at a solid but not dominant 9-3.
Fans, by nature, are irrational. We'll either be 12-0 or 0-12 depending on the previous weekend and current BA level of the fan in question... ie, I'll be GODDAMNED if any of you rational people tells me we're not winning a crystal football this year! 6-0! Bring on LSU, we'll put a whippin' on dem boys!
How about going for it on 4th and 1 on the 40 yard line in their own territory. Huge playcall. This is a great staff.
just the call had me dancing around my chair.
I have disagreed with both this 4th down call and the one a few weeks ago (sdsu?). This one especially was risky. If we get stopped northwestern goes up with a huge lead.
That said, I have been proven wrong both times...and I am very comfortable with hoke at the helm making decisions.
Last week: Hoke = Bo
This week: 2011 team = 1997 National championship team
Next week: Michigan, under Hoke, will win at least 57 straight games to best Yost's start duiring his first 5 seasons (1901-1905) as coach, going 55-0-1 before losing to the University of Chicago.
Seriously though, I am happy with .500 from here on out. There are some similiarities to the 1997 team, and it is just fun to make note of it.
Glad to see you're still lurking in these parts Blue Durham. Hope life is treating you well.
And I certainly understand your enthusiasm, and share much of it. Four out-of-conference opponents and 2 fairly weak comference opponents can give a false sense of security. And the fact that we have only played 1 road game, and that with a quarter of the stands Michigan fans. East Lansing will be a very different ball game.
Things are good down here; in the final stages of getting our next round of financing. Then I will be back to working 60+ hours of work and not following MGoBlog so much.
I plan on getting out of the biz soon, ~1.5 yrs and I'll be a doctor's wife. ;~) (Already am really, to a second year resident.)
We do plan on coming back to NC though, perhaps ~ Charlotte. I'll be sure to look you up.
It's amazing when you look back at that 2006 team and all the NFL talent. It would have been fun to see what our current coordinators and head coach would have done with that team. I have to admit to being extremely frustrated after the loss to USC, especially when Clay Matthews Jr. was basically laughing at our offense, saying they knew exactly what we were going to run, just like their coach (Pete Carroll) told 'em.
And I guess it means that the Pimp Hand was right all along in spite of all the skepticism. Hoke does seem like the right guy in the right place at the right time.
These coaches have totally won me over. That strip by Gordon to cause NUs 2nd turnover was beautiful. That's pure coaching and was entirely forced by the defense. Gordon stopped the runner, and waited to go for the ball until there was another defender to stop his progress. Hoke was stoked about it too. That was the first time I've seen him hyped up on the sideline. It was good to see.
Wow, you just compared this team to the '97 team and all I could think was, "That's a interesting thought," instead of, "That's crazy!" It's impressive the progress we've made from the 1st half of Western Michigan where the D very much resembled the tire fire that it was last year.
I don't think the ceiling for this team is National Championship, but I agree that the Big 10 is not completely out of reach. In any event it's been a hell of a ride so far and I now look forward to the future instead of dread it. Go Blue!