[ED: Ken Walker will be playing the role of Nick Roumel this week.]
By Ken "Sky" Walker
October 25, 2014
I’m sure none of this column’s readers expected to see that by line again – I certainly didn’t. When Nick proposed that I might be a guest columnist at some point in the future, I believe my response was ‘I suppose that could be a possibility.’ Funny how a lukewarm response to a question posed this summer can lead to Nick telling me “I’m going on vacation, you’re writing ‘Punt’ next week.” And that this guest appearance should come for the Michigan/Michigan State game, during one of the worst periods in UM’s football history, well that’s just a bonus.
I’ve got to admit, I haven’t read a single PUNT/COUNTER PUNT since I stopped writing for it. Believe me, it’s been a blessing. The mess that Michigan football has become is heartbreaking. Even the initial Rich Rod season wasn’t this bad. There are so many empty seats in my section I’ve had plenty of room to stretch out nearly every game. My buddy Jim has been to one game this year.
This is a Michigan alumnus, who has on game day, driven from the Ohio–Pennsylvania border to almost every game for the last 25 years! You can hardly give away tickets these days. No long waiting lists now. Television and radio spots advertising game packages are just an embarrassment. And don’t get me started on the ‘Coke’ promotion. This is “Michigan Football”?!
Fact of the matter is, the athletic department has sold its soul to the devil, that devil being the almighty dollar. We’ve got a bunch of marketing guys running this program and all they seem to be concerned with is how much profit they can wring out of the fans. They’ve gotten totally focused on promoting the game day experience. I‘ve got news for you fellas, the game day experience starts on the field. The “Michigan brand” is winning football games. That is what matters above all else.
Alright, I’m done venting. There’s a game to be played in East Lansing (again) and the Wolverines have to find a way to win it. How we feel about the A.D., the coach or the quarterback doesn’t matter Saturday. As Michigan fans, we have to back our team no matter what.
While I doubt that even with two weeks prep, this coaching staff can scheme a winning game plan, here’s hoping they do. Because these repeated loses to the Spartans just suck. But as I have no interest in traveling up I-96 to see the game, maybe I’ll just play a round of golf and catch the second half. It’s supposed to be a great fall day – might as well enjoy some of it.
MICHIGAN - 17 MICHIGAN STATE - 31
By Heiko "My Name Does Not Lend Itself To Nicknames" Yang
Hello, old Punt. Hope retirement has been treating you well. Don’t worry, I’m not completely devastated or anything to know that you haven’t been reading my work. Yeah man, it’s great to see you. I’m not crying, YOU’RE CRYING.
I HAD A DREAM -- excuse me. Sniff. Ahem. I had a dream last night that Michigan ran power to the left on its first play against MSU. Fitz Toussaint bounced outside and outran the defense 75 yards for a score. It was wonderful. And never mind the surrealism here -- do you know how long it’s been since I’ve had a happy dream about Michigan football? 2011. I started having nightmares in 2012, when I had a dream a few days before the Alabama game that Stephen Hopkins got tackled and exploded into a million bloody bits. It was gross, and I woke up feeling pretty strongly that football is too violent and we should stop playing it. All of my subsequent dreams have been similarly horrific.
Until last night, which is why I think today may be a good day. I’m not saying Michigan is going to win … but I’m saying there’s a chance.
Having a bye week was important. You know your team isn’t doing well when the bye week is the highlight of the season, but I think it was particularly positive for Michigan for several reasons: the wounded got a chance to heal, the shamed got a chance to hide, and there’s still no sign of ebola in Ann Arbor, which helps everything.
Most importantly the bye week was a chance for the team to reflect and reset. Michigan’s problem over the past couple of years has never been a lack of talent or toughness or whatever silly buzzword (“hunger”) people are throwing around these days. It’s a fundamental flaw in philosophy, which isn’t something you fix with more practice. You fix it by taking a break and realizing that you’ve been doing things that are fundamentally idiotic.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not expecting Brady Hoke to suddenly have an epiphany about offensive tempo or spread punting, which is why I don’t expect that he’ll be coaching here much longer. But I do hope that someone like Doug Nussmeier, who has experience with a variety of offensive styles, would take a little more ownership of his position and assert his expertise a little more. And I also hope that the players would be able to identify things they can do within the framework of the game plan to minimize the disadvantages inherent in the game plan. I don’t know if this kind of thinking has happened before, but a bye week before a rivalry game seems like a good time to start.
For the past few seasons Hoke has been captaining a ship that’s drifting towards imminent disaster. Short of outright mutiny, it’s going to take a lot of creativity from the crew to right the course. If the hurricane looming in the horizon doesn’t inspire some sort of change, then nothing will.
So should we all batten down the hatches to be safe? Absolutely.
But I’m saying there’s a chance.
Michigan 21, Michigan State 17