Come tailgate, support kids. A reminder that you can join us and former players tomorrow at the Go Blue Bowl Tailgate organized by Marlin Jackson's organization (specifically through the efforts of an extraordinary lady named Kat Mills). This is for charity so suggested minimum donation of $5 if you're just coming for the Q&A and more if you plan to drink beer and hang for awhile.
A couple of Marlin's high donors deserve recognition: Huron Valley Financial, the Bank of Ann Arbor, and MDen. Christians Catering is bringing food, and the Beer Grotto in Dexter is providing the beer. Full details at the link.
If you ask me, it's better to go. Everyone wants to do something to demonstrate that Michigan fans are fed up with a director who treats this program like his personal play toy, and that the public who do own this public institution are sick of it being hoarded, and its name besmirched by dishonesty and obfuscation (Best & Worst).
But for the record, I'm not in favor of boycotts, walkouts, late arrivals, or any other form of protest in which the protestors miss a snap, because I think it misses the target while undermining the one thing we all care about the most.
I know after the Minnesota game that Brian called for a boycott of Maryland if Brandon and Hoke were still here, and I know what name's on my paychecks. I know the players aren't made of glass, and that they're well aware that the vitriol toward the people in charge is not directed at them, although they generally take attacks on their coaches personally (they chose them after all).
But I didn't know until fairly recently why it's so important to them that fans show up: To a player, fans equal energy. Human brains are not wired to grant conscious access to the body's full capacity. Put a hungry lion behind the 20th fastest man on the planet and Usain Bolt will be left in his dust. Whatever our expectations for athletes we paid massive sums to see, they cannot escape their own psychology.
CSG president Bobby Dishell's heart is in the right place, but he's wrong: you're not hurting the players; you're hurting their performance.
Athletes draw motivation from the crowd. Michigan Stadium's size is a huge recruiting tool because an athlete brain understands intuitively that 109,000 shouting faces will get more out of him than 84,000. The number gets in their heads, but empty seats do as well. Go watch September baseball at a bad team's venue long after they've been eliminated: it's crap. Every play that your seat is empty contributes a tiny bit to Michigan (and, coincidentally, their opponent) playing a bit worse.
Weigh that against the maximum that you will realistically move the decision of Mark Schlissel. Your empty seat speaks, but you can also be in that seat screaming "Go!" at Blue to the furthest extent of your vocal capacity whenever they take the field or need a boost, and screaming "Fire Brandon!" whenever he starts trying to blast you. I think we can get that message across while taking a cue from old blue, and using this weekend to show the players we haven't checked out on them. You can make a statement with where you choose to put your ass, but that's hardly the most effective communicative tool in your anatomical package.
Here's what I suggest we do tomorrow: From the moment the band finishes marching off until kickoff chant "Let's Go Blue!" as loud as you fucking can. At the end of the the game, win or lose, stand in your seat and chant "Let's Go Blue!" AS LOUD. AS. YOU. FUCKING. CAN. In between, scream your head off on Penn State 3rd downs, boo the attendance lie, and sprinkle in "Fire Brandon!" as necessary.
Let's leave Hoke alone, since it does us no good if he loses the team now, and his fate is sealed to his record (Ron Utah with some candidate grades) so any more dogging from us is superfluous. ST3 made the case that the coaching staff has cost Michigan perhaps three wins with strategic errors: dumb-punting vs. Utah, starting Shane, and giving Rutgers that end-of-1st-half drive. I think it's more accurate to say that these coaching errors put Michigan at a small strategic disadvantage, and that the team is not so good that it can win without every scrap of advantage it can get.
Yes, showing up and laying off the coach is what Dave Brandon wants you to do. Fuck him; we come to root for Michigan.
The media trend of the last ten years is a demonstration of the power of hope. There are now three national networks covering recruiting, plus ESPN, plus a cottage industry of who-dat bloggers who get picked up by these national networks far faster than actual journalism majors get picked up by, you know, newspapers. (Michigan has no journalism major, which explains why you can't throw a rock at a sports editor without causing him to hire a Daily grad.) This site alone saw two guys snapped up and almost hired a third who was snapped up just a bit later. Meanwhile, newspapers continue to give us Drew Sharp and wonder why they're withering on the vine.
Here's all you need to know about recruiting sites: they can charge for content on the internet. Hope, man. Hope.
Because the next guy is always going to be The Guy. The Guy will rescue us from the purgatory of not being Alabama and deliver us unto glory. He may be a defensive back, or a running back, or a quarterback, or a defensive lineman. He is going to be Woodson or Adrian Peterson or Andrew Luck or Jadeveon Clowney—except Clowney's defense just got torched for 41 points and lost.
Jadeveon Clowney! Indisputably The Guy, and somehow still not. If Jadeveon Clowney can't be the guy, well… there's always the recruiting sites. It's college football. The next arrival is always just around the corner.
Devin Gardner turned in what I can confidently state is the worst play in the history of organized football—I have watched all of it from Pop Warner on up—and was still awesome Saturday night. Awesome. I do not mean this in the Spots-gave-me-extra-wings way. I mean this in the light-from-the-sky, tremble-at-the-power, bow-down-lest-we-all-perish kind of way. If I could use the words "yea" and "lo" genuinely, I would deploy them now. The numbers are amazing. The numbers do not do it justice.
Here's the thing about Notre Dame's defense: it's going to be just fine. Gardner ate plenty of defensive lineman Saturday, usually after delivering a perfectly-placed dart. Notre Dame blitzed him almost two-thirds of the time and got the one huge mistake and nothing else. Notre Dame defensive backs were, with rare exceptions, in position to make a play on anything other than a perfectly-placed ball. They could not make plays without committing pass interference, called or not, because Devin Gardner was spitting hot death all night long.
If you happen to rewatch that game you'll see did-that-just-happen surgical strikes even more impressive the second time around.
On third and goal from the 14, Drew Dileo screwed up his route. He ran next to Gallon, bringing a third defender into the area. Gardner fired a ball in between all three guys that hit Gallon in the hands instead of the chest because KeiVarae Russell was riding him like a horse. Earlier in the drive he'd tossed up that back-shoulder throw that he might have been attempting against Central Michigan when he got hit, and Gallon plucked it out of the air. Russell was there. He just couldn't do anything about it.
By the fourth quarter, Gardner and Gallon had become so proficient at the back shoulder fade that Notre Dame was actually sitting on it, which I have never seen before. There were a lot of things last night that I haven't seen before in a winged helmet, that have traditionally been the province of passing specialists like Texas Tech. They tried to man up Crab, once, and Texas Tech beat the #1 team in the country without a running game or defense. Michigan has at least one of those.
In the aftermath, Michael Crabtree looked a lot like you did at some point last night:
IS THIS REAL LIFE
Oh and Gardner led the team in rushing at 7.5 yards an attempt. He might be The Guy. Gardner hinted at this kind of thing over the last six games, and now he has delivered. You could feel it coming, maybe, but Michigan just graduated a guy who was The Guy, like Jadeveon Clowney is, and could not get over the hump, like Clowney. Even in the world where talent comes through it doesn't always end up steamrolling the opposition.
Devin Gardner just left Notre Dame a two-dimensional smudge in the rear view mirror, and now it's downhill for a while. Shovel on a little more coal, and let's watch old 98 roll.
Parkinggod has the Michigan stuff:
And Notre Dame has some things that Notre Dame did right:
Brady Hoke Epic Double Point Of The Week. How does a guy who threw four touchdowns at nearly 10 YPA and ran for 90 additional yards split this award? Well, to get the award by himself he has to be a separate entity from guy who caught eight of his passes for 184 yards. This does not appear to be the case. DevinJeremy GardnerGallon, come on down.
Honorable Mention. Thomas Gordon and Jarrod Wilson (invisible all game in a good way), Drew Dileo (THROW IT TO DILEO), Brendan Gibbons (your record-holder for kicking consistency /2009 version of your head explodes), Blake Countess (drifted off his man for critical INT), Brian Kelly (thanks for not running the ball).
SPECIAL NEW RULE. Doubling points from this game because I can.
Epic Double Point Standings.
1.0: Devin Gardner (ND), Jeremy Gallon (ND) 0.5: Cam Gordon (CMU), Brennen Beyer (CMU)
Brady Hoke Epic Double Fist-Pump Of The Week. Since it featured Borges screwing with ND, an NFL dart from Gardner, a crazy spin move from Gallon, and Chesson The Destroyer reveling in the blood of the fallen, this is an easy pick:
Honorable mention: Countess's game-changing interception, Jeremy Jackson catching a long handoff for seven yards because ND is playing in the parking lot against Jeremy Jackson for some reason, Fitz Toussaint using a tackle attempt as an awesome juke to dart 20 yards when Michigan really needed something, either of Gardner's perfect back-shoulder throws to Gallon, Gardner nailing Gallon 40 yards downfield, and Gardner taking off on a zone read so open you'd think Stephen Threet was running it.
Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.
8/31/2013: Dymonte Thomas introduces himself by blocking a punt. 9/7/2013: Jeremy Gallon spins through four Notre Dame defenders for a 61-yard touchdown.
[After THE JUMP: offense, defense, and everything in-between. Plus incredible chicken gif!]
11/17/2012 – Michigan 42, Iowa 17 – 8-3, 6-1 Big Ten
M. Ward – Helicopter
A couple years ago Carl Hagelin lasered a wrist shot off the post and in directly in front of my seats at Yost. It was senior day; there was a second left in overtime. I saw the puck rise all the way and knew its path was true. In the aftermath I wrote about a kind of envy I have for old-timers who have only their burned-in memories of these titanic events:
…while I've been craving video boards at Yost for years there's something beautiful about not having the thing you just experienced altered by someone else's perspective. Since the Werner goal isn't on youtube no one can tell me he wasn't wielding a scimitar, wearing an eyepatch, and screaming "hhhhhyarrrrr" as he swashbuckled towards the net. I'm pretty sure the unicorn he was riding was named Steve.
Those days are over but thanks to Carl Hagelin Yost got one last opportunity to walk out of the building buzzing about the thing that just happened in your head, and only your head.
I feel aftershocks of this when I'm on the radio with Craig Ross and the topics get twisted around to 1970s basketball refereeing and Craig gets a little frothy and a guy calls in to froth a bit with him. I love this. You don't even know. I have no idea how much of it is accurate but I've double-checked my brain with Youtube enough by now to know that the things we have in our head are a lot further from the untrammeled gospel than it seems.
When you have this presented to you directly, it's unsettling. You think you remember everything about these blazing moments in your sports fandom and it turns out not to be so, and you wonder about all the other things you may not have right. Before anyone could check their brains, the tower in your head could go unchallenged.
A part of me wishes that Denard turning Tanner Miller into a chasing ghost was gone, extant only in all of us who saw it, slightly different but equally validating and valedictory and satisfying in all of our heads. I mean obviously not, this would be terrible, I can recite Keith Jackson's call of Charles Woodson's OSU punt return (Woodson's got one block… he's got another block… one more and he's gone!) from memory and hear the three separate roars from the crowd without even cuing it up. Obviously not. Despite the memorization I just watched Charles Woodson return that punt eight times. This site is dedicated to archiving the events and the feelings behind the events. Obviously not.
But… maybe a little. If that was just there and gone, well, seeing that would be something. Like watching Tom Harmon. Like experiencing the rage of playing Indiana in a dusky, mustachioed 70s basketball arena where television was just a rumor and your brain the only repository of a precious thing—the life you lived.
"It still haunts me today to not play your senior year," said Smith… "To work that hard at something and have that happen is devastating. It could have led me the wrong way."
It was not particularly reassuring. At some point I thought I realized I'd seen the last of it, and I started thinking one of the things stuck in my head that calls itself forth at times: "And I sat down on the grass, on the burnt grass, on the black, burnt, dirt and grass, and I can admit this now: I wept. I cried big, old, giant tears."
Because memory is unreliable I had to plug it into Google and got two hits and realized that this was the Robert Earl Keen story I'd warped into a column about Michigan hockey losing the national title game two years ago after staying up all night editing my now-wife, then-fiancée's dissertation. I did this just now, and read it, and yeah. This is what I felt when I thought about the black burnt dirt and grass:
At some point Michigan is actually going to win another goddamned national championship and some of this will be redeemed. Not all of it, though. Shawn Hunwick is never going to do that again, and nothing's ever going to match the Swedish flag and my complete failure to get people to replace all words in the goal cheer with "bork" when Hagelin scores. Things come and go; this one has gone and I'm stunned at how much I miss it already.
Except the stunned part, because obviously not stunned more like openly dreading forever.
Denard got a ceremonial snap, and ran for three yards, and then got another, and ran for four yards. Collectively they are the Michigan fanbase's favorite first-quarter plays to set up third and three ever. It became clear that we had been granted a reprieve from the future.
The sun was out, shining on Michigan's present and future as each senior took a bow. Vincent Smith hacked down men much larger than him and scored on a throwback screen. Jordan Kovacs took a quarterback escaping into space and turned it into a tackle for loss. Roy Roundtree was Worst Waldo open for a touchdown.
And on another option play, Denard eschewed a pitch that was there, accelerating outside of Thomas Rawls to the corner, where he faced down an Iowa safety. One juke later, he was tearing down the sideline. A hundred ten thousand took it and put it in their memory. I was there. I saw it. I can tell you about it, but it's something you have to experience for yourself.
As the day descended into a blissful victory lap, Denard audaciously reversed field for another big gain en route to exceeding 100 total yards on 15 touches. On each play, you could feel the stadium burst with anticipation. Please give me one last thing to have here. He did, twice, and the cloud that dogged Walter Smith evaporated.
After, I walked down to the tunnel and watched him go, young and old alike reaching down for one last moment.
Brady Hoke Epic Double Point Of The Week. You can no longer be denied, Devin Gardner: 18/23, 314 yards, six total TDs. I be like dang. More about Iowa being the worst thing ever a bit later; setting that aside, it's remarkable that Gardner throws an out and you're just like "this is extremely likely to be on target and moving fast when the WR catches it." His accuracy and comfort with the offense grows weekly, and when he needs to have his legs bail him out those are still around.
Honorable Mention. Jeremy Gallon (133 yards receiving without getting a gift long TD, let's not think about the punt), Roy Roundtree (gift long TD but hey 83 more yards), Denard Robinson (8.1 yards a touch), GERG Davis (your QB completed 19 of 26 passes for 7 YPA), Jordan Kovacs (I just like Jordan Kovacs), Will Hagerup (did not wander off to Ypsilanti at halftime, wondering if he should transfer to a school at which he would see the field).
Brady Hoke Epic Double Fist-Pump Of The Week. It must be Denard Robinson juking Tanner Miller to the ground. Yes. All of the that.
And then he felt he was being unfair so he ran out of bounds.
Honorable mention: Denard reverses field on dinky flare pass, Gardner to Gallon for a juggling 50 yard catch, Roundtree goes Worst Waldo on third and seventeen, Vincent Smith throwback screen for old times.
Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.
11/10/2012: Mattison baits Fitz, Kenny Demens decleats Northwestern, game over. 11/17/2012: Denard WOOPS Tanner Miller in Big House finale.
Iowa caveats apply. Large Iowa caveats apply. Several plays were comically wide open as Iowa's secondary was ruthlessly exposed for the clown college it is. Only the incompetence of Big Ten passing attacks obscured it previously. Meanwhile, Devin Gardner is now eligible for social security after one particular goal-line passing play.
Late in the game, Iowa quit. Caveats apply. Large ones.
Let's ignore all caveats! Holy pants. The combination of the Devin Gardner-oriented slick passing game with spicy deep bombs combined with Denard Robinson carrying the ball to annihilate Iowa's defense utterly. Michigan scored touchdowns on their first six drives and were going in for another when Micah Hyde made a pretty badass interception on what would otherwise have been first and goal for Michigan.
Gardner's accuracy is getting creepy—a couple of underthrown deep balls were short only because their targets were so vastly wide open that the only way to not score a touchdown was to miss them, and the corner routes he's throwing are consistently on the money. This was the third straight game he hit Gallon in the numbers on a deep bomb—on this one Gallon had a guy draped all over him and still brought it in.
More than that it seems like Gardner just has a certain je ne sais quoi about him. The scrambles are a big part of this. There's more to it, though. In this game just having the patience to sit and wait a million years on that play where he could was an asset, and then he had that brilliant improvisation fling at Roundtree…
…that caused Dave Pasch to manically exclaim he was "JUST TOYING WITH THE DEFENSE!!!" He was.
As we go along here I'm moving away from thinking things like the yakety sex touchdown against Minnesota are not sustainable items you can count on to keep your offense going game in, game out. Gardner has kept a ton of drives alive with his scrambles and his ability to adjust on the fly—neither of which are Denard assets.
Horrible defenses all, yes. Inability to run for two yards without a quarterback involved, yes. Still.
Inability to run for two yards without a quarterback involved. …looked like it might be going away as Toussaint popped a couple nice gains—one of them on a real live successful option pitch from Denard—but then Toussaint sustained extreme damage and it was back to the salt mines. Rawls, Hayes, and Smith combined to acquire 35 yards on 13 carries, 2.7 per. Yeah, a number of those were short yardage. Still, a long of eight yards was acquired, and that was when the entire Iowa defense freaked out about Denard only to get the counter pitch in their face. Runs on which offensive line blocking was relevant topped out at six yards.
This is just something that must be accepted. Michigan is not going to get much of anything up the middle against Ohio State, and must be able to throw effectively. It'll be interesting to see if Ohio State tries to match John Simon up against Michael Schofield or lets the Lewan/Simon throwdown go down. Either way, Whoever Versus John Simon is the single most important positional matchup in the game.
Rawls hype level descending. Not very far from a low baseline since the Purdue blip up was only a couple carries, but descending. To me he seems very Kevin Grady so far and it's hard to see him getting anything against that DL and OSU's speed to the outside. I don't know what they can do about it, though. Smith is the same thing, more likely to make a man miss and far less likely to grind out YAC.
Hayes and Norfleet clearly don't have the coaches' trust, which is unfortunate because the role Michigan needs to fill when they go to that Fritz package is the darting outside guy who can tightrope the sidelines no problem when he gets that counter pitch or juke a defensive back when he gets the option. I have the feeling that sometime next year one or the other will get an extended run, do well, and leave us all wondering why they couldn't get on the field in 2012 (probably because they can't block).
Meanwhile, while I'm not writing off Rawls the trendline there is not heading towards anything more than a short-yardage guy. A short yardage guy that bounces it way too much.
Nefarious Ohio State plans. Michigan has not called more than a couple runs for Devin Gardner yet aside from short-yardage run/pass rollouts that have turned into half-scramble/half-intentional-run touchdowns. The reason has been obvious: if Gardner goes down Michigan is rolling with a one-armed Denard and Russell Bellomy. This has been a logical thing to do.
I think they have to break the seal on that in the Game.
I'm not suggesting Gardner takes off 20 times or anything, but some dose of Gardner/Denard inverted veer action seems like a big opportunity to hit something big. The problem with working Denard into the gameplan as a not-quarterback is that he basically can't block for reasons of inexperience and elbow, so how do you work around that limitation? To date, Michigan has given him the ball and used him as a decoy.
They'll continue doing that, but it's time for the Denard/Devin Mesh Point. By making Denard the tailback and running the veer, they either get Denard on the edge without contain or option someone off, thus blocking someone with Denard without actually blocking someone with Denard. Add in the potential for play action off that look and you've got my #1 must have thing for OSU.
Toussaint damage. I am probably not informing you of anything you do not know when I say he has broken bones in his legs and is done for the year. A reader pointed out this study done on 31 soccer athletes that saw the subjects with twin fractures return to competition an average of 40 weeks after their injury, which would be just before next season.
If he can't get back in time for 2013, he should be able to apply for a sixth year. His first redshirt was due to a shoulder injury.
Citizens for Dileo. If a ball is thrown at Drew Dileo and hits the ground, it is pass interference and should be an automatic flag. Now please let the man return punts.
Could have gone better. Iowa's touchdown drive was pretty alarming. And even if Vandenberg was making all the three yard passes, it's a little disappointing when the opposing QB goes 19 of 26. Some of that was inexperience, some of it scheme—on a late third and four Michigan moved Gordon down late and used him as a man defender on a TE out successfully; previously they were using linebackers making tougher run/pass reads.
HOWEVA, I don't think I'm as down as Hoke was after the game. Guy seemed downright dispirited by a team that barely scraped over the 300 yard mark thanks to a jerky onside kick and 22 meaningless yards before halftime. Iowa went three-and-out on four of their first six drives. If the ref doesn't throw a terrible roughing the passer flag on Jordan Kovacs, they would have been facing fourth and eleven at the 32 on their field goal drive. By the time they put together the 81-yard-drive that rescued their yardage from the abyss it was 42-10 and Kovacs and others were cooling their heels on the sideline. Iowa is bad and having them do anything is bad; I'm not really sure they did much of anything other than throw it at their tight end.
Weisman coming back was a big help for them. The difference in quality between that guy and Garmon was obvious, and he still only managed 3.9 YPC.
The game in a nutshell. Michigan third down conversions: 9/12 with two of those failures subsequently converted on fourth down by Devin Gardner. Iowa: 6 of 14 and 1 of 3 on subsequent fourth downs.
worst roughing the passer ever (Upchurch)
Godspeed, Kovacs. I may get all blubbery about Denard but if Devin's going to do the things he seems like he is doing, Kovacs might actually be the guy I miss more next year in on-field terms. Do you people remember that Michigan used to give up huge long touchdowns all the time? Like, weekly.
Kovacs's utter reliability has turned Michigan into a defense that essentially never gives up anything without a chance to redzone you to death. He is literally the best safety I have experienced as a Michigan player, walk-on be damned, status be damned. All hail Kovacs.
Iowa tight end cloaking device. I like it much better when Greg Davis is operating it because the end results are decidedly non-Moeaki. Mattison likely has something to do with it.
Weekly Devin Gardner lookalike photo. Not necessarily a thing, but after Hipster Devin last week it's a thing this week because…
…because it's a thing.
Brady Hoke FTW. Moments that make you think "boy I'm glad that guy isn't Michigan's coach" are flying fast and furious these days, what with Minnesota's leading receiver bombing Jerry Kill in a 4000-word tumblr post by way of announcing a transfer and Bret Bielema punting from the Ohio State 30 and Mark Dantonio punting on fourth and medium down three with three minutes left—a decision that slashed his team's chances by a third.
It is impossible to conceive of the first thing happening under Brady Hoke. Jerry Kill seems like a decent guy and doesn't have the opportunity to tell his side of the story, but it's hard to picture anyone on Michigan's team even having a side of the story. I mean, Hagerup interaction post-OSU-atrocity. QED.
And while I wouldn't put it past Hoke to freeze up in the heat of the moment (everyone does sometimes) his game theory decisions are near-perfect in two years at Michigan. Saturday, Michigan faced fourth and goal at the one, sent the kicking team out… and called timeout because Hoke was like "wait I am Brady Hoke." While the ensuing touchdown turned out to be unnecessary, it was the right move and it paid off.
Usual statement of preferred policy: all freshmen get to buy tickets; after that you have to show up by kickoff at half of the games to renew.
Iowa: home of the hyphen. Iowa's moved from Inexplicably Great White Wide Receiver—who now makes his home in Minneapolis when he's not bombing Jerry Kill and leaving—to Somewhat Good Hyphenated Name Guy. They're multiplying now: Iowa iced Kevonte Martin-Manley, Henry Krieger-Coble, and Louis Trinca-Pasat this weekend.
Best: Those Who Came and Stayed Will Always Be Champions
I know that everyone has talked up last year’s seniors as epitomizing Bo’s “Stay and Be Champions” motto, but I’ve always felt this Senior class has been given a short shrift considering the environment that existed when they decided to come to UM. The 2011 class came to UM with a fair bit of uncertainty, what with a coaching change and a shift in offensive and defensive systems, but they all arrived on campus in a world where UM hadn’t missed a bowl game since Nixon was in office and had only one .500 record over that span. Like everyone, they figured UM would, at worst, suffer through a “down” season of 8 wins before challenging for more titles.