Formation notes: Much of the game was spent with Michigan in 2WR looks, leading to a lot of 4-3's like this with the linebackers shifted over the slot and a cornerback overhanging. When the receivers were split instead of twinned Michigan either got a straight up 4-3 even with two deep safeties or a shifted 4-4 look.
When Michigan spread the field, Nebraska defenders would go with them. Against three wide looks you got this:
And against four wide looks it was usually this:
Occasionally a safety would screw down but there weren't enough snaps with Denard on the field and M in a true spread to test it. Interestingly enough, I saw both Oregon and Arizona run double stacks last weekend like Borges does, except when they ran double stacks those stacks were damn near the edge of the field.
Substitution notes: Nothing new except for the obvious switch at QB. Rawls still can't get a snap. Funchess is playing all over the field, but rarely as an in-line TE.
You had to be happy with how you were moving the ball in the first quarter until you got into the red zone …
“Yeah. We got in sync pretty good. We had three drives of ten plays or more. Mix of run and pass was pretty good. I felt like we were starting to really get into sync and it was unfortunate. We’re not doing a good job of finishing drives. That’s our main focus for this week, particularly in the red area. This is not the first time it’s happened.”
Seemed like some plays were there to be made in the red zone, though.
“Yeah. There were some opportunities. There’s some opportunities, but it’s -- we have to run the ball better in the red area, too. I have just found in my experience as a coordinator that the best red zone years we had are the years we were able to rush the football for a touchdown probably about 60% of the time or better. That’ll really improve. It gets increasingly more difficult to throw it down there, obviously, because of the condensed field.”
“Well obviously I’m disappointed. We’re disappointed as a defense. I don’t believe we played at the same progress or the same way that we have been playing as far as moving forward. And we’ve got some things we’ve got to get corrected and still work towards becoming a very good defense. There were times in that game where we did play, but as a whole, we needed to play better to win that football game.”
Do you feel like you took a step back?
“No I don’t think we took a step back. I think that was the first game where our lack of communication hurt us, and it always will. It wasn’t because of the noise. It wasn’t because of it being loud or anything like that. In a game where you’re playing against a high tempo team, you have to make sure everybody gets set. That’s everybody’s job out there. It won’t hurt you until it does, and it did. When you go at fast tempo, that’s one of the things they try to get done, and if you’re not a tremendous defense, then you all have to be exactly on the same page all the time, every player. If one guy isn’t or two guys aren’t, and they’re not hearing it or they’re not completely set on the check, then you’re going to find little cracks, and those cracks become big. That’s what disappointed me.”
So you saw Michigan's backup plan in case Denard gets knocked out early in a competitive game. The plan was Bellomy. And you saw Bellomy. With regard to the skills, talent, and preparation required to be a competitive Big Ten quarterback, Bellomy was terrible. The offense immediately imploded, Michigan's Rose Bowl chances dropped to "not likely" and we were left facing the bleakness of a Robinson-less future.
So long as nards were left to nard we were perfectly content to ignore things like an apparent lack of receiver talent, or whether the redshirt freshman backup QB we snake oiled away from Purdue could perform well enough in an important game scenario that nobody would think to ask about Jack Kennedy. We could even be blasé about what appears to be persistent offensive coaching mistakes. It was all masked by Wheeeeee!! Saturday the whee was taken away and we got our first real glimpse of the structure they're building underneath it. We've got questions.
1. When your freshman QB is 4 of 21 with 4 interceptions on the year, why not try the junior 5-star quarterback you've got playing receiver?
Everyone can pick a moment. For me it was Russell's first completion of the game, a 12-yard pass to Kerridge:
Alright open man! Get there! … It's still not there. Okay coverage isn't there yet either. But what's taking so long? Did it just sail? No it's on target. Okay here it comes. Catch! First down on the Utah thirty-eigh…oh dear god.
We already knew how bad it could get, but this suddenly looked like we had an outer bound for how good it could get. The feet weren't set, and a guy was coming toward his face, and he got rid of it to the open receiver for 12 yards. Except Kerridge had been open over there for several seconds. And then with that entire windup the ball delivered is a full Sheridan.
With the opponent blitzing their brains out there's going to be open receivers, and Bellomy can learn to find them quicker. But the guys can't stay open so long that defenders won't arrive sometime during the three seconds the ball's in the air. The weird dropsies when Bellomy is throwing the ball could be related to this as well. Accustomed to catching zippy Denard passes, the receivers I imagine are getting thrown off by the the extra half-second of waiting for the ball to arrive. They're losing focus, putting their minds downfield or setting off internal alarms that the coverage is arriving. You'll note in this game more than a few of Russell's open targets were lit up upon reception—the personal foul on Jackson is a good example. Simply the anticipation of such a hit is a known cause of drops.
The scary lack of arm strength raised a few questions, like why he was recruited in the first place if a cannon is a pre-req for Borgesian offense, but a more pressing and more dire query is how bad can Gardner be if they've got this dude under center instead of him?
He's playing receiver. In fact, for all his faults at receiver, he's better at that than our other options. It falls a little flat to say if he's not out there Jeremy Jackson would be, since Jeremy Jackson is out there all the damn time. More to the point, Gardner practiced all week at receiver, and sending him in unprepared would have been unfair, would undermine his confidence, and probably resulted in yackety crap like that which ended the 2011 Michigan State game.
Your brain as it watched Bellomy could not compute this because fan brains tend to hit the panic button and authorize the flinging of excrement in the hopes of finding anything that sticks. This is why it nodded sagely at things like "throw Cullen Christian in there" when the 2010 secondary was staggeringly bad. It cannot compute that things could possibly get worse. The thing is, things can possibly get worse. Obviously the coaches felt that putting an unprepared Gardner in to run "Gardner and stuff" wasn't an option.
Hoke made sure to stress the "if you don't practice during the week at quarterback you don't play" thing in his postgame presser, getting it in as a response to questions about Denard's readiness for Minnesota. I take that as a not-so-subtle reminder that this staff has more patience than the last one, and more patience than the fan-brain. Their plan seems to be if Denard goes down in-game it's Bellomy, but if we lose Robinson for a week or more, Gardner will be preparing for that game.
Mario Ojemudia has a "thing" and "stuff." You think I'm making this up but I'm not.
Denard has a tingly thingamaling that has not completely resolved itself yet.
"Sun came up on Sunday" / file
“I want to thank Wolverines for Life and the transplant center for all they do. To Tucker, who you heard from earlier. We’re glad to have you here and glad to be part of it. I know we have a couple guys who are pretty involved who were part of it. Thanks for that.
“As far as where we’re at right now football-wise, we need to do a better job from the perspective of a coaching standpoint, because it starts right there. It starts with me. We need to play better football. We need to play better in the red zone from an offensive standpoint. And part of that and most of that is you have to be able to run the football in the red zone. That’s an important place because in the throw game, it shrinks down there a little bit. Your verticalness of what you can do and being able to run the football is a big part of it. We didn’t do that well obviously the other night, but that’s something that will take a front seat and center during this week as we get ready to go to Minneapolis. It’s an important game for multiple reasons. Number one, it’s in our devision. It’s an opportunity that we get back out on the field, which we need to go to, and the Brown Jug is part of that great rivalry and tradition and trophy that we’d like to keep here in Ann Arbor.”
10/27/2012 – Michigan 9, Nebraska 23 – 5-3, 3-1 Big Ten
Well, it finally happened.
Pundits and opponent fans have been predicting the demise of Denard Robinson ever since he picked up that snap against Western Michigan, but the series of bumps and bruises that frightened Michigan fans every third game had never really cost Michigan anything. In 2010, Tate Forcier came off the bench to lead Michigan to a frenetic victory over Illinois and nearly did the same against Iowa. Last year, Devin Gardner shepherded Michigan through the second half of the Illinois game. When Denard's boo-boos knocked him out for halves instead of plays, Michigan got through just fine.
They were always tempting fate, though, and upped their bet that the football gods' vast malevolence was laser-focused on the Iowa running back situation by moving Devin Gardner to wide receiver in the fall. That seemed like a risk worth taking.
Unfortunately, the containment field is down.
yes, it's true. this man has no elbow.
First it leaked from the Iowa running backs to their offensive line, which suffered two season-ending injuries minutes apart last week. This week, the Big Ten set to murdering football in the morning and afternoon, then this happened to Marcus Lattimore's knee:
By the time Friday night rolled around the ambient malevolence levels in college football were so high that Notre Dame won a marquee matchup to enter the national championship shortlist.
So of course Denard would be knocked out of a potentially fun, definitely important game by falling harmlessly to the turf, thus turning the rest of it into a death-march trudge. AIRBHG is no longer contained. The forces of wheeeee that (mostly) preserved Denard through three years of running at top speed into Manti Te'o have been overrun by the forces of grinding doom football. Now we're all boned. Hail Saban.
And so it came to pass that words never before spoken—words so impossible CFL teams who don't even think it's weird they're all named "Roughriders" cock an eyebrow at their assemblage—came to pass.
I don't know, man. I felt ill for most of the second half but it's not like anyone is at fault other than everyone. I mean, if RR doesn't implode or Forcier is a normal person who goes to classes or Michigan doesn't hire Hoke three weeks before signing day, maybe the guy backing up Robinson has a prayer of moving the ball forward. Maybe the wide receiving corps is not so awful that it must include Devin Gardner.
In the aftermath you've got the columns declaring Gardner's move to WR a stupid idea, but I haven't seen anyone reference the column questioning it they wrote before last weekend. It's easy to be a backseat driver after whatever that was. Meanwhile, Gardner is this crappy receiving corps' #2 WR, #1 if you discount Jeremy Gallon's 150-some yards on screens.
Gardner's not good. The alternative is throwing more than four balls in the first half to Jeremy Jackson. They've needed their crappy, crappy receiver who is also a quarterback even if he is dropping a 50-yard pass in most games. Whether Gardner is worth an extra three scores against Nebraska is… debatable. His performances to date suggest he is not.
Michigan was always rolling the dice on Denard's health, and that was the move to make. Didn't work. That's life as a rickety program that's endured two coaching transitions in three years—when you have to go to the bench you get tumbleweeds.
We're now entering the period of time when most program shortcomings can be blamed on Rich Rodriguez's recruiting, which is only a slight transition from the period of time when most program shortcomings could be blamed on Lloyd Carr's recruiting fade and represents very little improvement when the one completely awesome guy at the most important position is removed from the equation. It turns out that Michigan 2012 minus Denard Robinson is pretty much Michigan 2008, and that the only thing saving us from the abyss was Denard staring down a decision to stay or go and not pulling the Mallett.
He stayed, but in the game that probably decided if he would be a champion or not he watched from the sideline because his elbow hit the turf the wrong way. Malevolence is out of control these days.
"He's got that nerve (injury), he hits it the wrong way (or) gets hit (and it's hard)," Hoke said. "The difference (today) was he didn't come back in. But, he gets better as the game goes on." …
Asked whether or not he was concerned Robinson wouldn't be available next week, Hoke replied "No." He also said the normal rehabilitation process for this type of injury is mainly rest and time.
He'll probably be fine by Tuesday and start against Gophers. Every time his elbow brushes up against the softest kitten in Minnesota the collective intake of breath will be audible. Sounds fun, and by "fun" I mean "paralyzing."
That said, there is a clear narrative of decline in the defensive performance. Nebraska's first eight drives gained a total of 148 yards. Their last four gained 178. It's not easy going out there after a blizzard of three-and-outs. This would be better measured by plays instead of TOP.
BLAME BLAME BLAME BLAME. Why are we here at QB? LET'S BLAME PEOPLE WOO
Rodriguez's horrible recruiting at the skill positions: 40%. If Michigan has a decent deep threat at WR, Gardner is playing QB and Michigan may salvage that game. Instead, RR recruited receivers are… 2011: nobody. 2010: Jeremy Jackson, Ricardo Miller, Jerald Robinson, DJ Williamson. 2009: Je'Ron Stokes. The only one of those guys to see the field is Jackson, and he's essentially a skinny tight end. That 2011 class may not be RR's fault, because there were…
Unavoidable transition costs: 10%. RR's WR recruiting would look slightly better if Sammy Watkins was included in that group, but once he got fired Watkins was gone.
Darryl Stonum's inability to just do what the court tells him to: 10%. Relevant to previous two bullets: we're desperate for a guy who has three catches for Baylor. Baylor's offense is pretty good, but he can't even get on the field.
The Process: 20%. Maybe Michigan gets a guy more ready to play if they're not scrambling with three weeks left. Maybe Michigan recruits one dang WR in 2011.
Hoke not taking a quarterback last year: 10%. Always take one every year. If Michigan has another freshman around maybe he's better than Bellomy.
Hoke inexplicably passing on Devin Lucien: 10%. Lucien has 10 catches as a sophomore for 6-2 UCLA and their #12 offense. He still wanted to commit to Michigan after the transition, and Michigan said no by saying they wanted him to play DB.
There. It has been blamed. Seriously, though, the Lucien thing drives me nuts.
I'm not there. As soon as Denard went out and it became clear that Bellomy was light years away from readiness I was pretty much like whatever. There's not much you can do when you already can't run without your QB and the guy you put in is overwhelmed and throwing moonballs.
Before that happened, Michigan was moving the ball decently and poised to score to go up 10-7. That's okay I guess—but we're also talking about a team that is 90th in the country in run defense, so…
I saw this: after Nebraska got torn up by Hundley and Miller it seemed clear they went back to the drawing board and were going to play it safe. When Michigan put 4 WRs on the field, Nebraska responded with two high safeties and 5.5 guys in the box. Michigan ran the ball and got five, six, seven yards virtually every time. That's stealing.
I mean, when I was learning about the spread some years back I watched the videos Rodriguez put out about his offense. When he talked about making a run/pass decision based on the safeties, his general rule was one deep safety was a run, cover zero was pass. The idea that someone would maintain two high safeties against his offense never even crossed his mind. Nebraska was doing it, and Michigan didn't force Nebraska out of it. I don't get it, man.
The truly crappy thing is it's going to be four or five years before we have any real read on whether Borges is any good. At this point, year three is going to be Michigan rolling with a true freshman QB—probably, anyway—and four new OL starters—probably, anyway—with what's likely to be a horrible WR corps. Anything other than an awful offense next year is a point in Borges's favor. Hurrah transition.
But Auburn? No. 2004 Auburn had the following guys on that team: QB Jason Campbell (first round pick), RB Ronnie Brown (first round pick), RB Cadillac Williams (first round pick), OL Ben Grubbs (first round pick), OL Marcus McNeill (second round pick), Ben Obomanu (seventh round pick, still in league, had 37 catches in 2011), Devin Aromashodu (seventh round pick, still in league, had 26 catches in 2011), and Courtney Taylor (sixth round pick, now in CFL after 2008 multiple sclerosis(!) diagnosis). When you can call anything and have future NFL players on both ends of the exchange that doesn't say much either.
First Nebraska touchdown: where is that? Nebraska's first touchdown was a route that exploited Michigan's man coverage. An inside receiver ran a little hitch designed to pick the outside guy, the outside guy ran a post to eliminate the safety over the top, and the inside-inside guy used the pick to get open by yards. It didn't really matter if the receiver who ended up targeted was able to get separation naturally; the play got it for him.
Where is that from Michigan? I can't recall a wide open downfield guy that got open strictly by the play design. Gardner's been open some when DBs fall over or suck up on a double move or something; not so much the play bits.
This wasn't actually a problem last year, when Michigan quarterbacks made sport of ignoring the the wide open guys Borges was machining downfield. Is it just Junior Hemingway's absence?
I think they watched film. Congratulations, Nebraska: you are apparently the only Big Ten team to ever watch tape of the Michigan offense and leap on the throwback screen. It's not exactly hard to find, since the first time Michigan goes under center in any game is virtually guaranteed to be the throwback. It's pretty bad when everyone in the room I was watching said "throwback screen" as soon as Michigan lined up in ace.
Q: why is that play consistently run from under center? There doesn't seem to be anything about it that would require it to be.
Bellomy. Well… that wasn't very good. The most disturbing thing was probably one of Bellomy's few completions—a ten yard wheel-ish route run by Kerridge that picked up a first down and took just decades to get where it was going. Accuracy issues and a tendency to scream in horror during plays themselves (@ right by Upchurch) can be fixed with time. The arm strength deficiency probably can't.
That particular throw made me wonder why Michigan recruited the guy at all since it seems like the #1 thing on Borges's radar screen is the ability to laser it in just inside the sideline. Hurrah Process/unavoidable transition costs. Boy, is next year's offense going to be a wow experience or what I tell ya.
Offensive line. I'm not entirely sure how they did since once Bellomy came in it was open season and Michigan settled into a routine that exposed them to the same "eight of them, five of us" problems that Michigan experienced against MSU. Hoke was not impressed.
Ryan got edged. When Michigan gave up some yards it was often on the edge when various Nebraska players broke contain. The most spectacular incident was when Abdullah broke Cam Gordon's ankles…
…but it happened to Ryan a few times. When Nebraska was not bouncing it outside they were getting very little; excellent day from the interior DL and the LBs.
Roh beastmode. Also Roh, who took the opportunity presented by Abudullah being assigned to block him to destroy Martinez in a hilarious beastmode sack. If you've ever wondered why tailbacks always cut block guys on pass protection, that's why.
Where is Rawls? I don't know what happened to Toussaint but at this point I'm not even irritated at Vincent Smith carries because it's not like Toussaint is consistently making yards past what the blocking gets him. Meanwhile, Rawls ends up watching, even when Michigan deep into Bellomy panic time and trying to run from under center.
I'm sure there's a reason they don't trust him yet; whatever it is it must be pretty bad. If you're down to running power from the I-form—and Michigan was—you might as well find out if your backup guy can break some tackles.
Defense: stepping towards elite. Nebraska entered the game averaging 512 yards and 42 points a game, leading the league in rushing yardage, pass efficiency, total yardage, and points per game. Michigan held the Cornhuskers to 326 yards and 23 points. Six of those points were field goal drives of two and five yards in length. Without turnovers, that's 17 points.
Relative to the quality of opponent, that's their best performance of the year by far and a major step away from criticisms that Michigan's defense hasn't actually stopped anyone. If the offense doesn't implode with Denard out those numbers are undoubtedly better, probably under 300 yards for the game for the Huskers.
Not relevant but worth it. This happened after Northwestern's win over Iowa:
It speaks for itself except for the fact that guy's wearing #1.
Michigan + Nebraska == refereeing atrocity. The Roundtree catch that was overturned was one of those plays where it's not clear either way because of the goofy fuzzy catch rule and should be left to stand, and then you've got that terrible terrible late hit call and some terrible terrible pass interference calls both ways. This combination of teams is not good for ref sanity.
Cats! So hey like if you follow me on twitter I'm sort of sorry for retweeting like 30 cats into your timeline except not really. People started sending them to me, so clearly there was a need. Here is another cat if you are not satiated.
* As bad as we played, the first downs were close, 20-18 in favor of Nebraska. Of course, 6 of our first downs came from Nebraska penalties.
* Nebraska's 20 1st downs translated to 326 total yards, we managed 188 total yards. At least we were efficient with our first downs. Why get 20 or 30 yards when you only need 10?
* We won the TOP, 31:36 to 28:24. Yippee. We did control the clock early, and I was expecting that to pay off in the fourth quarter when we should have been able to grind down their defense, but then, you know, Denard got hurt.
Edit: I forgot the main silver lining, BELLOMY CAN AUDIBLE!
Duct tape. It's was held together with duct tape, hope, and rolling dice. And now the questions will come for the coaching staff, although any questions to Greg Mattison will likely consist of "Why can't you guys score too?" But we caught a glimpse of a future we will need to face all too soon, a future without Denard Robinson. That future consisted of three field goals total output on offense.
You watched the second half perhaps with some hope that Spring Game Bellomy would emerge but save for a few late first downs it wasn’t really even close. I swear I caught Jeremy Gallon staring off into space after the RS freshman was calling a pass play early in the second half and remember thinking, “Gallon knows this ain’t happening…”
That play was the horribly underthrown toss (yes, headed for Gallon!) which was easily picked off by Nebraska.
Also, Denard's jacket was old school split M style now verboten.
Three Bellomy interceptions rushed the defense back onto the field and into quick-change situations. Nebraska started drives in Michigan territory, including one on the four-yard line. There’s a good excuse.
“No,” Kovacs said. “We take pride in that. Our motto is: ‘Spot the ball.’ It doesn’t matter where the ball’s at, just put the ball on the field and we’re going to go play defense and not let them get any yards.”
That's a Rodriguez-era phrase that remains as mysterious today as it was when it was introduced and probably should have gone in the bonfire with GERG's playbooks and stuffed beavers and hair. I guess that's appropriate for the reappearance of the 2008 offense. If someone says "hold the rope" any time soon I'm going to hide under the bed.
The red balloons floated upward, little harbingers of doom dotting the night sky. I didn't know what to make of it, but it could not have been anything else but that. Or, maybe they were just balloons.
Something's been missing from Michigan gamedays since the free programs ceased being economically viable: scientific gameday predictions that are not at all preordained by the strictures of a column in which one writer takes a positive tack and the other a negative one… something like Punt-Counterpunt.
By Ken “Sky” Walker 10/27/2012
Whew! That game vs. Sparty was way too close! Glad Blue was finally able to get past State and shut up all those Spartan lovers. Very sweet to hear the dejected tone of the MSU player’s in their postgame comments. I do have one problem with last Saturday’s game however—why was I surrounded by people clad in green & white? I was very disappointed by the large number of folks who opted to sell their tickets, to a rivalry game no less. Come on Michigan fans, is it really only about the money?
You can bet that Maize & Blue will be hard to find in Lincoln tonight. Just from the numbers who showed up in Ann Arbor last year, I’m thinking it will be a solid sea of red. I have to say that at least the Nebraska fans I spoke to were knowledgeable, well behaved, if not downright cordial (of course their team was getting feasted on by the Wolverines—that does tend to lessen one’s spunk). And while I’d love to check out the game day atmosphere in Memorial Stadium, I’m kind of sketchy about a road trip to Lincoln. The last time I deigned to attend a game in the Big Ten hinterlands (that would be Champaign, Ill.) the eau de fertilizer was a bit overpowering.
Nebraska is promoting this game as the first in college football historybetween conference teams with at least 850 all-time wins. While that is a unique occurrence, I’m more impressed that Nebraska will also be celebrating 50 years of consecutive sellouts. Think about it. Michigan just had their 242nd game with 100,000 fans or more. That’s somewhere between 20 – 24 years, playing 10 – 12 games per season. Fifty years of sellouts? I don’t know if I should be wowed by this or lament the fact there’s no other outlet for Lincoln sports fans other than Nebraska athletics.
The rub in this is that the Wolverines are going into the lion’s den. We’re talking a Columbus type environment. While I think it won’t be anywhere near as nasty, there’s still going to be 87,000-plus fans looking to see their Cornhuskers to avenge last year’s debacle in the Big House. Brady Hoke’s teams have had some trouble in road games during his tenure. It will be quite a feat if Michigan can get this road win, having just had an emotional victory over MSU.
We Michiganders are fortunate to have plenty of outlets for our sporting interests. Top notch ones at that. I’ll have to see if Counterpunt will venture out with me to watch Michigan/Nebraska and the World series. It’s just that tonight, I think we’re going to be drowning our sorrows.
Michigan 20 Nebraska 27
By Nick RoUMel 10/27/12
I remember January 1, 1998 like it was just 15 years ago. Michigan had completed one of the most remarkable seasons in its storied history. It had gone undefeated in glorious fashion, in the process knocking off #7 Colorado, Notre Dame, #15 Iowa, #14 Michigan State, #2 Penn State, #23 Wisconsin, and #4 Ohio State, to complete an undefeated 11-0 and earn a spot in the Rose Bowl. They were the unanimous #1 in both the AP and USA Today polls, in the last season before the BCS came to destroy our way of life.
Michigan’s defense was astonishing, giving up less than 10 points a game, including a total of only 78 points in the entire Big Ten season. (In contrast, in 2010, Rich Rod’s defense allowed 65 points to Illinois in a single game. Yes I know we still won. Shut up and listen to Grandpa.)
The Penn State game in 1997 was our favorite, as Punt will attest. Facing the undefeated Nittany Lions in Happy Valley, we tailgated from 7 AM in a steady drizzle with our insufferable Penn State hosts until crushing their hearts with a 34-8 victory. That same day, Nebraska remained undefeated by engaging in Sparty-like documented cheating to beat Missouri when a downed receiver purposefully kicked the live ball to another receiver for a touchdown to send the game into overtime, which Nebraska eventually won. The Cornhuskers still affectionately refer to that play as the “Fleakicker.”
Confident in our season of destiny, we did not think too much about Nebraska’s lucky victory. Michigan went on to demoralize Ohio State to earn a Rose Bowl berth against the Washington State Cougars, who won a weak Pac 10 that year with the gifted but stupid Ryan Leaf at quarterback. We could all but taste finishing the season as the unanimous #1 pick in the nation.
Back to January 1, 1998. With just 29 seconds to play in the Rose Bowl, Michigan led 21-16 thanks to three long Brian Griese passes, two to Tai Streets, and a Charles Woodson interception in the end zone. It was not a blowout, but it was convincing. A late punt pinned the Cougars on their 7 yard line with just 29 seconds to play.
Two long passes later, Washington State found itself on Michigan’s 16. One of those passes was controversial. The WSU receiver shoved Charles Woodson out of the way before catching the ball. The official reached for his hanky, but for some reason, did not pull it out. As seconds wound down, Leaf spiked the ball for one last play. The whistle blew. In another controversial call, officials said time had run out.
At that point, Michigan fans felt just as much relief as euphoria. We turned to watch the Orange Bowl, where the Peyton Manning led Tennessee Volunteers would face the now #2 Nebraska Cornhuskers. An injured but game Manning had no mobility and was manhandled by the swarming Cornhusker defense. After the game, Nebraska quarterback Scotty Frost was interviewed. In a moving tribute that still makes me sick to recall, Scotty made a shameless plea to voters to choose Nebraska #1 over Michigan. He argued this would be a fitting cap to the career of their retiring coach Tom Osborne, but he could not resist adding a dig against Michigan. As quoted by the Ann Arbor News:
“If you can look yourself in the mirror and say if your job depended on playing either Michigan or Nebraska to keep your job, who would you rather play?" Frost remarked after the game. "You watched the Rose Bowl and the Orange Bowl. Michigan won with a controversial play at the end. We took apart the third-ranked team in the country.
"The second point I have is: I can't see how any coach outside the Big Ten or the Pac-10 would vote for Michigan.”
The coaches complied, leapfrogging Nebraska over Michigan for the #1 final spot in the coaches’ poll, while Michigan managed the #1 vote of the writers (AP). Watching that on the news the next day almost made me spit out my Pina Colada, under the California palm trees.
I have not forgiven Nebraska since. Nor Tennessee for that matter, nor Peyton Manning, nor Missouri, nor the sentimental coaches who screwed Michigan to give Tom Osborne a parting gift. Not to mention perpetual tackhead Ryan Leaf, and the official who swallowed his whistle when Woodson got shoved.
In fact, Counterpunt is feeling unforgiving these days to just about everyone, including Punt - who dares to pick Nebraska to beat Michigan today. Why, Punt? Did Scotty Frost get to you too?