This Week's Obsession: Senior Sendoffs

This Week's Obsession: Senior Sendoffs

Submitted by Seth on March 11th, 2015 at 12:00 PM

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Fuller

The Question:

Ace: Since Michigan just had a low-key Senior Day to send off Max Bielfeldt, this seems like a good time to ask: What's your favorite Senior Day memory? (Any sport may apply.)

-----------------------------------------

The Answers:

Dave Nasternak: Back when I was in school—while Football was just starting its decade+ of beatdowns to OSU and Basketball was...well, it was pre-Beilein (mostly)- the place to be for sports in Ann Arbor was Yost. My Senior Day story(s) come from the Ice Hockey team. Hockey in the CCHA was weird. Not bad, but weird. If you were good enough -and Michigan generally was- you hosted a playoff series at home after the regular season had ended. So, while there was Senior Day, there was also Last Game At Yost Day. In the 06-07 year, TJ Hensick's Senior Day came super early.

Guest starring Jeff Tambellini. Bork!

It was February 3rd. It was the back end of a home-and-home against Western. Michigan won 3-1 but...it was relatively uneventful and everyone knew we'd see the seniors for one last series. They somehow managed to play 3 more series of road or neutral ice games before finally coming back to Yost for the CCHA Quarters. After disposing of Western in Game 1 of a best of 3, we knew Game 2 would be it.

It was really bittersweet for me. I was also a senior and while I hoped to get into Grad School at M, I thought it could be my last game at Yost, as well. TJ Hensick might have been my favorite M athlete when I was in school. He burst onto the scene as a freshman, leading the team in points. He would end up leading the Wolverines in scoring 3 of his 4 years, finishing 2nd in his sophomore year.

After his junior season, I'd read that Hensick was close to signing with the Avs, but decided to give it one more go at Yost. While the year didn't end up the way any Wolverine dreamed, Hensick had another phenomenal year. In his Last Game At Yost, Hensick didn't disappoint. He tallied 4 points, 3 of them being goals for his only career hatrick at home (I'm pretty sure). Michigan won very comfortably, 8-3. While Michigan has had a handful of great players since -Porter, Kolarik, Hagelin, Hunwick, now Hyman- there hasn't been another Mighty Mite center (especially with that kind of puck control) since. I taped Hensick's Last Game At Yost (on VHS!!) and later converted it to dvd. I still get a little choked up, watching it.

A season later, Kevin Porter's last series at Yost was also a weekend to remember, including The Day That Yost Changed. My bronze medalist might be Chris Perry's Senior Day, as I made it onto the field as a wide-eyed freshman...but I'll leave those games for someone else.

[Hit the JUMP for Swedish flags, the one that preceded Molly, and some non-hockey we swear]

One Frame At A Time: Minnesota Past

One Frame At A Time: Minnesota Past

Submitted by Ace on October 4th, 2013 at 2:58 PM

When we last met, Jeremy Gallon had rocket boots...

...and Devin Gardner made that "run around forever until somebody gets open" thing work out pretty, pretty well:

Also, Jake Ryan single-handedly destroyed a reverse. Get well soon, please.

[For a veritable stampede of GIFs from Minnesota games past, hit THE JUMP.]

Unverified Voracity Grumble Rumbles

Unverified Voracity Grumble Rumbles

Submitted by Brian on June 11th, 2012 at 1:20 PM

Laser third downs and such. Wolverine Historian pays tribute to John Navarre, and even manages to get a still of the Buffalo Stampede selected as the introductory picture:

That's some youtube wizardry there.

Congrats on Olympic trials… and not dying. Michigan men's gymnast Sam Mikulak finished third in the men's gymnastics senior nationals and will appear at the Olympic trials as a result. He escaped a scary situation to do so:

Determined to make a good impression this weekend in St. Louis after missing last year's U.S. gymnastics championships with two broken ankles, Mikulak didn't flinch when he realized the parallel bars were loose.

After he had already started his routine.

"I thought the bar was going to fall and I was going to die," Mikulak conceded.

This comes a year after Mikulak managed to break those ankles on the floor exercise. Mikulak taped his ankles up and finished the meet because he only thought he'd badly bruised himself. The Olympic trials are in three weeks. USA Today has more on Mikulak's story.

Camp, basketball version. Michigan's Elite Camp was over the weekend, and while the effects were significantly less dramatic than last year's when the entire 2013 recruiting class was gathered, one Keita Bates-Diop was in attendance. Joe Stapleton on his appearance:

Keita Bates-Diop (2014, Wing, Illinois Wolves)

Keita was probably the only player in attendance who is a “lock” for a Michigan offer on June 15th. He didn’t appear to be in his element during the 5-on-5 scrimmages but his skillset was more than evident in the drill portion of camp. Everything he was asked to do he did easily. His concentration and coordination was on display and it separated him from his peers. During the 5-on-5 scrimmages Keita didn’t exactly stand out but did what his team needed from him in this guard-filled camp: he rebounded the ball well, finished in the post, and played smart defense. Bates-Diop’s performance jives with what we’ve seen this spring: he has all of the tools but needs to become one or two notches more aggressive within a game setting. Still, he was solid and definitely the best player in attendance.

As the blockquote says, Beilein only offers after that's officially allowed in four days. At that point you'll see Bates-Diop and a few others like Devin Booker get them. It doesn't seem like anyone will drop right away, but I don't think anyone other than maybe the coaches was expecting to get four commitments last June.

There was one surprise 2013 name to watch, a kid named Vitto Brown out of Bowling Green, Ohio who you may remember being the one tall guy in that video where Mark Donnal goes bonkers. He was impressive but remains a 6'7" post player. I'd guess Michigan keeps him on the radar in case they get more attrition than they expect. Right now they're full.

There's also a bunch of stuff on 2015 recruits at UMHoops if you're interested.

Camp, fantasy version. Both the Women's Football Academy and the Men's Football Experience also happened recently. Fluff video ho:

Also there is one for the men. The big news resulting is Devin Gardner switching to #12 and Drew Dileo possibly switching to #9. Angelique Chengelis participated. Money was raised. I have no comment about this.

Brady Hoke is irascibly old-fashioned about something. He's like that about everything, yes. Here's a specific instance:

"You can take all these stars and the way all these guys are rated and all that, and that's great for the fan base and the public," Hoke told reporters last week. "But we've had some pretty good players here that probably would have been two-star guys.

"Tom Brady probably would have been a two-star guy. He turned out OK, I think."

Other recent Hoke rumble grumbles concern the playoff format—concerned about too many games and too much travel for parents—and year two with the same team.

Could have gone better. Michigan lost to Army 27-6 in 1954. Newsreel footage of that:

That bomb is totally offensive pass interference.

This game would be Michgian's last loss against Army. Michigan won the next two years and then a couple times in the sixties; the two teams haven't played since 1962.

Lines. Some real actual lines from Vegas:

  • +12 vs Alabama
  • +1 at Notre Dame
  • -6 vs Michigan State
  • -2 at Nebraska
  • -2 at Oho State

That Alabama line has gotten a little less depressing after periods where it was supposedly +14.5, though I'm not sure you could have gotten a bet on that in an actual casino at any point.

Most of these lines are in the "I don't have any idea" range. When team X is favored by less than a field goal that's basically a coinflip. Could be a nervous fall.

Old school UFR. MVictors enjoys old-timey diagrammed wire photos of the Mad Magicians, and I'm with him:

mad_magicians[1]

What's wrong with Fielding? Peregrine falcons have been named inconsistently:

After receiving hundreds of submissions through the university's Facebook page, four peregrine falcon chicks that recently hatched in a nesting box atop University Hospital have been named Bo, Fritz, Lloyd and Yost.

The university selected the winning names after inviting the community to participate an online naming contest. The names reference former head football coaches Bo Schembechler, Herbert (Fritz) Crisler, Lloyd Carr and Fielding Yost.

This drives me crazy.

Etc.: Caris LeVert signs a thing, is now official. Hockey will play Cornell at MSG on November 24th, the day of the OSU game. Glenn Robinson continues to throw down dunks. 2011 four-star C Brian Bobek leaves the OSU team after plunging down the depth chart. Red Hot Chili Peppers troll Columbus.

Michigan Museday Has a Senior QB

Michigan Museday Has a Senior QB

Submitted by Seth on May 9th, 2012 at 8:11 AM

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MGoArchives/Upchurch/MGoArchives

Michigan goes into 2012 with the rarest of all birds (recently at least): a senior returning starter at quarterback. Since we can't count half a season from an injured Henne, the last time we saw this senior-type thing under center was the last time a QB wore 16: Navarre. It's been nine years!

History too has been a bit rough on senior QBs. Brady shared much of his last season with Henson. Todd Collins played almost as much as senior Grbac, who took away half of Michael Taylor's seminal season, who nabbed the bulk of Demetrius Brown's last year.

Since Bo's first year Denard is the 14th senior starter at Michigan. The other 13, by stats:

Season Name Comp Att % Comp TD Int Yds Efficiency
2007 Chad Henne 162 278 58.3% 17 9 1938 130.5
2003 John Navarre 270 456 59.2% 24 10 3331 133.6
1999 Tom Brady 214 341 62.8% 20 6 2586 142.3
1997 Brian Griese 193 307 62.9% 17 6 2293 140.0
1994 Todd Collins 186 288 64.6% 13 10 2518 146.0
1992 Elvis Grbac 129 199 64.8% 17 12 1640 150.2
1989 Michael Taylor 74 121 61.2% 11 3 1081 161.2
1986 Jim Harbaugh 180 277 65.0% 10 11 2729 151.7
1983 Steve Smith 106 205 51.7% 13 8 1420 123.0
1980 John Wangler 117 212 55.2% 16 9 1522 131.9
1978 Rick Leach 78 158 49.4% 17 6 1283 145.5
1974 Dennis Franklin 58 104 55.8% 8 5 933 146.9
1970 Don Moorhead 87 190 45.8% 8 6 1167 105.0

I'll save you some of the suspense: those are good efficiencies. And when that starter wasn't dinged it made for awesome seasons. Even counting '07, over these 13 seasons Michigan went 127-26-3, went to Pasadena 7 times (plus an Orange and Sugar and no bowl one year when Michigan finished 3rd overall), finished in the Top 10 of the Associated Press 11 times (avg finish: 7th), and won a National Championship. Small sample size and whatnot, but special years do seem to follow the seniors around.

Let's all shake our fists at: Chad Henne shoulder-hating god. Three shakes!

images50414_390376945601_322051_nangry-fist-shake2_871

You also probably already figured that since players generally improve year to year, that senior quarterbacks are best. What I'm looking at here is whether there's maybe something about being a senior, whether its age, or whether that mythical senior tag has some weight. To the charts!

Senior Quarterbacks-age

Click embiggens. The mythical senior tag didn't seem to do anything except as a function of experience. When broken up by age it wasn't any different than when broken up by how many passes he threw before coming. What age does seem to do is reduce variance. Look at the grouping of 5th year seniors (light blue). There's not enough data here to make a conclusion but I am intrigued by this concept of 5th year players producing no worse than a rating

A better way to decide if age or class means anything at all would be to use the Mathlete's database. Mathlete: you should do this some day: chart year to year improvement of quarterbacks and see what the progression curve looks like. What I'm doing here is just working with Bentley numbers for Michigan quarterbacks, since at least for these guys I can trust we know most of the exigent circumstances behind IMG_4709different swings. Just pulling returning starters and major contributors. In: John Navarre's 77 attempts in 2000, Tate Forcier's 84 attempts in 2010. Out: Drew Henson's 47 attempts in 1998. Show things:

Year Avg. Eff Change Denard
Senior +1.4 ?
Junior +16.6 -9.8
Sophomore +7.3 +58.0 (!)

<----Upchurch

Denard's freshman to sophomore leap was high, not unheard of. Rick Leach leapt a ludicrous 76.1 points in efficiency between his freshman and sophomore years, a matter of going from 32% completions and 3 TDs to 12 interceptions to 47.6% completion rating and a 13/8 TD/INT ratio. Michael Taylor made a leap similar to Denard's between his Junior and Senior seasons (first and second as at least a part-time starter). Drew Henson, Jim Harbaugh and Demetrius Brown also had huge leaps forward as juniors. If you're smelling a trend, these were all guys who to varying degrees considered "mobile" quarterbacks.

Visualized:

Senior Quarterbacks

The way efficiency is wired, a shift in TD/INT ratio, a shift in completion %, and a shift in yards per attempt. Big chart of returning passers (either starters or guys who got a significant amount of playing time the year before) so we can see if any one of these factors might stand out. Bolding numbers that I think made the difference:

Season Name Att Att-DIF Comp% DIF INT/TD
DIF
Avg-DIF Efficiency Eff-D
1976 Rick Leach, So 105 +5 +15.6% +10/-4 +2.5 151.1 +76.1
2000 Drew Henson, Jr 237 +147 +9.4% +15/+2 +3.0 159.4 +49.6
1985 Jim Harbaugh, Jr* 227 +116 +9.8% +15/+1 +2.2 157.9 +49.6
1988 Demetrius Brown, Jr* 84 -84 +9.5% -5/-16 +1.8 158.2 +45.5
1991 Elvis Grbac, Jr* 254 -12 +6.7% +4/-4 +1.0 161.7 +24.5
1989 Michael Taylor, Sr* 121 -1 -1.1% +6/-1 +1.1 161.2 +22.8
1974 Dennis Franklin, Sr 104 +37 +2.0% +4/0 +1.0 146.9 +21.4
1996 Brian Griese, Jr* 61 -177 +4.0% -10/-8 +1.8 137.7 +19.0
2006 Chad Henne, Jr 328 -54 +3.5% -1/0 +1.0 143.4 +13.8
2003 John Navarre, Sr* 456 +8 +3.9% +3/+3 +0.8 133.6 +11.4
1999 Tom Brady, Sr* 341 -9 +1.6% +5/-6 +0.1 142.3 +10.6
1978 Rick Leach, Sr 158 -16 -2.4% +2/-3 +0.4 145.5 +10.6
1993 Todd Collins, Jr* 296 +195 -1.5% +10/+4 +1.6 149.3 +9.4
1973 Dennis Franklin, Jr 67 -56 +5.8% -2/+3 +1.3 125.5 +8.8
2002 John Navarre, Jr* 448 +63 +1.6% +2/-6 +0.2 122.2 +5.7
1970 Don Moorhead, Sr 190 -20 -1.4% +2/-1 +0.1 105.0 +4.6
1996 Scott Dreisbach, So* 269 +163 +2.6% +9/-6 -0.5 126.7 +2.8
1997 Brian Griese, Sr* 307 +246 +5.5% +14/+4 -0.9 140.0 +2.3
2010 Tate Forcier, So 84 -197 +5.6% -9/-6 -0.2 130.2 +2.0
1982 Steve Smith, Jr 227 +17 +5.8% -1/+2 -0.3 125.1 -0.6
1983 Steve Smith, Sr 205 -22 -0.3% -1/-5 -0.7 123.0 -2.1
2005 Chad Henne, So 382 -17 -1.8% -2/-4 -0.3 129.6 -3.0
1990 Elvis Grbac, So* 266 +150 -4.7% -8/+6 +0.1 137.2 -3.0
1994 Todd Collins, Sr* 288 -8 +0.7% -3/+4 +0.3 146.0 -3.3
1986 Jim Harbaugh, Sr* 277 +50 +1.1% -8/+5 +1.1 151.7 -6.2
2011 Denard Robinson, Jr 258 -33 -7.5% +2/+4 -0.4 139.7 -9.8
1992 Elvis Grbac, Sr* 199 -55 -0.1% -8/+6 +0.0 150.2 -11.5
2007 Chad Henne, Sr 278 -50 -3.6% -5/+1 -0.7 130.5 -12.8
1977 Rick Leach, Jr 174 +69 +4.1% +2/+1 -1.5 134.9 -16.2
1980 John Wangler, Sr* 212 +82 -4.8% +8/+2 -3.8 131.9 -30.1
2001 John Navarre, So* 385 +308 +1.8% +11/+12 -1.2 116.4 -30.8

Bolded things of note: If I bolded the name or the amount of attempts you can just discount that guy since his year to year stats are thrown off by a huge difference in his role, e.g. John Navarre went from a guy who murdered MAC teams to full-time Big Ten passer who chucked things in the direction of Marquise Walker. Rick Leach basically learned how to pass a football (to his teammates). Henson and Harbaugh had matching junior leaps as they grew from leggy guy who might throw to polished passers.

jwanglerDemetrius Brown had his numbers saved by Bo halving the amount of pass plays and going full-tilt option. Tom Brady stopped had a major turnaround in TD/INT as a senior, while Todd Collins and Jim Harbaugh went the other way. Johnny Wangler looks to have suffered (EDIT: was this when Carter injured? This is before my time.) his senior season, as YPA dropped terribly and completion suffered a little. I'm not sure Grbac's TD-INT ration can be explained by the similar loss of Desmond Howard—it's possible Dez's Heisman campaign simply separated itself from two similar yet pedestrian seasons.

What does this all mean for Denard? Most of the seniors touched up their games. Most had their big leaps as juniors, but I should point out of the 13 guys to make the biggest one-year leaps, 8 of them were redshirt juniors or seniors, i.e. Denard's age. Also working for him is running the same offense that he did last year. The transition ultimately came more to him than the other way around, though, so don't expect miracles. Working against him will be the loss of his favorite target, and the effective replacement of a tight end for a second back, which isn't always great for the passing game. Unless a deep threat emerges from the unknowns in the receiver corps, expect his YPA avg. to dip again, with a corresponding rise in completion % (something most seniors seemed to have done). I'd also venture Denard will cut down further on his interception and probably get his TDs up the same as Michigan's mite-y backs and receivers score more with screens. +4/-4 would be excellent. Meanwhile the team will win 10 games, place in the Top 10, and end the season in Pasadena, because that's what Michigan senior quarterbacks do.

A Guide For Former Players Speaking In Public

A Guide For Former Players Speaking In Public

Submitted by Brian on May 27th, 2011 at 12:19 PM

 

Desmond Howard Profilebrian-griesejohn-navarre-2

YOU TOO CAN OPEN YOUR MOUTH IN PUBLIC WITHOUT GETTING PEOPLE MAD

braylon-edwards

NOT YOU

Don't. This is the easiest and best way to go about it. What does everyone think of David Baas? Exactly. We think David Baas won the Rimington award. We do not think he has some weird grudge against his younger doppleganger or is Joe Morgan.

If you have to, do not say anything about Denard. Nothing you can say about Denard will meet the standards of the Michigan fanbase, which thinks he is made of rainbows and sweetness and light and will brook not even the slightest criticism. For instance, saying

You looked fantastic for five games against nobody. That's what you did.

…as a way to "blast college athletes' sense of entitlement" is taking a cheapshot at a guy playing opposite the worst defense in the history of man. Many people will make the internet annoying for a day until the next outrage.

More importantly, it's inane because Denard is the least entitled athlete at Michigan in a very long time. We get it: you hated Rich Rodriguez to the point where you'll roll your eyes at Denard Robinson. You can stop it now.

If you do say something about Denard, at least own up to it. Desmond Howard's response to this was to claim his comment was about "fans and the media," and while the fuller context of the quote does soften it somewhat it mostly emphasizes how bizarrely inappropriate it is to grab Denard Robinson of all people as a "perfect example" of entitled kids.

I mean, it's not like there's anyone else in Michigan's recent past that fits that bill slightly better—

Ryan Mallett publicly drunk

If you have successfully piloted your speaking away from Denard, don't imply the kids currently on the team are lazy and soft. This is called "projection," a malady that often befalls middle-aged men past their glory days. The people on the team have worked very hard for little reward because there are a lot of people who aren't on the team for various reasons. So when you say the effort was "lacking" or Michigan "toughness" is back you are telling Ryan Van Bergen, who can stuff your desk-job-having ass in a can, that he's failing you.

This isn't very nice. Also, the opposite is in fact the case.

If you have managed to not talk crap about the players, you are most of the way home. Congratulations! Now you've only got three topics left:

  • Rich Rodriguez is the devil. Accurate! So very accurate. But also played out. Everyone in the room will be envisioning you beating on a dead man. How did that go in the last season of The Wire? You didn't watch The Wire? You only read Rudyard Kipling books? Well, let me tell you: not so good. Also it was biting dead people but telling you that is pointless until David Simon writes a book of illustrated allegories featuring animals. How hard would I buy this book? So, so hard. I digress.
  • Shuffling the fullback so you can run a power play at a defense that knows what's coming but is powerless to stop you is the only way to play football. Also very, very true but so obvious in the aftermath of Rodriguez being the devil that it hardly bears mentioning. You are trying to bring the Wisdom Of The Michigan Program to the public, but the public already knows that part in its bones. Fooling people is for communists. The wages of spread are turnovers.
  • Brady Hoke is a cuddly bear-god who you, 6'9" high school tackle Zach Banner, should definitely play for. Now we are talking. This is a matter that the public is uncertain about—just look around here a few months ago—and Zach Banner is definitely uncertain about, being one of the few high school players in the country who has not leapt to play for our magic-poopin' cuddly bear-god. This is a topic of major interest amongst laymen and scholars and may result in honorary degrees from prestigious institutions if expounded upon at sufficiently withering, recruit-ensnaring length. Bonus points(!) awarded for pointed contrasts with Jim Tressel.

Escuche y repita. Like last year's Ohio State season, the last three years never happened. They are the Godfather III, the lying-newspaper-guy plot from The Wire, the Brian Ellerbe era… right… forgot. Kipling. Forget this bit.

Remember: the last three years never happened and therefore cannot be commented on BRADY HOKE MAGIC POOPING BEAR GOD SAY IT DO IT NOTHING ELSE

SPECIAL BO-ERA DUDE ADDENDUM: it is not racist that Corwin Brown was not hired by Michigan and you should stop saying that because it's not helping Corwin Brown any.

Of The Decade: Best Plays Part II

Of The Decade: Best Plays Part II

Submitted by Brian on July 30th, 2010 at 1:57 PM

Previously in this series: ESPN Images, Michigan's offense, Michigan's defense, Worst Plays of The Decade 7-11, Worst Plays 1-6, Best Plays Part I.

6. Buffalo Stampede

2003 Minnesota: trailing 14-0, Michigan has driven to around midfield. John Navarre chucks a WR screen to Steve Breaston, who throws it back to Navarre. Forty yards later, we all have beards and Michigan is within seven points.

At some point in the 2003 Minnesota game I needed to get off the couch after something enraging had happened. I was on it with my girlfriend at the time and she sort of ended up on the ground as I executed my plan. The couch was low to the ground, she was unharmed, and in the aftermath the incident seemed funny. At the time all I could do was clench and unclench my fists.

Michigan would eventually deploy an all-shotgun offense in the fourth quarter that shredded Minnesota for 24 points and win the game on a Garrett Rivas 33-yarder, but at the time it was grim. It would have been more grim but for the trick play of the decade:

In the aftermath a friend immediately called me screaming "WHAT." It wasn't a question. It was just "WHAT." That. From seven year's distance it appears to be the slowest, most awkward touchdown convoy in school history.

Eventually it was key in Michigan's comeback win and Rose Bowl berth but really it's just here for its sheer improbability.  It was one thing to run the transcontinental with Drew Henson; doing it with John Navarre—and getting a touchdown out of it—is pure audacity. This, by the way, is why Minnesota bloggers will never do a Worst Plays of the Decade list.

5. In ur base killin ur d00dz

MGoRetro: Pit Bull.

branchmorelli_thumb1

Penn State, 2006: it's second or third and long or something again, can't remember, doesn't matter, and I'm back in the pocket and I know I'm going to die. My offensive line has proven itself entirely hypothetical at this point. So I'm going to die, and it's not going to have any purpose. But this time I actually get a faint semblance of protection and I manage to find an open receiver—I'd forgotten those even existed—and I hurl it out there. And if Alan Branch hadn't driven his facemask into my shoulder and run through my tiny hoo-man body and left me in a concussed heap on the ground I would have gotten to see a first down. Which would have been nice.

But then I might have had to play the rest of the game instead of getting an emergency cup of pudding repurposed from JoePa's stash. So, yeah. I could go either direction, as long as it's 180 degrees from wherever Branch is going.

When Michigan fans are (unwisely, these days) attempting to tweak their Penn State coworkers this play, and the iconic image from its aftermath, is their go-to option. That's a meaningful statement when you've got most of a decade's worth of gloating to choose from, including another play on this list.

As for the significance of the play, Penn State had bounced back from its early decade malaise in a big way in 2005, going 11-1 with the only loss featured a bit higher on this list. By the time the PSU game rolled around in '06 it was obviously the only thing standing between Michigan and a 1-vs-2 matchup against Ohio State at the end of the season. Michigan's last four opponents would all finish with losing records; the only road game was against Indiana. When Anthony Morelli got blasted out of the game the decks were clear.

More than that, though, Alan Branch being in ur base is emblematic of the first ten games of 2006, when the Michigan defense was 1997 all over again and things were, briefly, back on course.

4. "Oh, wide open"

MGoRetro: Quod Erat Demonstrandum

Notre Dame, 2006: Late in the first quarter, Michigan and Notre Dame are tied 7-7 after exchanging terrible interceptions when Chad Henne drops back to pass and launches one deep. Pat Haden breaks the suspense before the cameraman can catch up to a streaking Manningham by declaring "oh, wide open." When Manningham finally appears he is running under a perfectly thrown ball, all alone.

Michigan entered the 2006 game uncertain of its place in the college football universe after a frustrating 7-5 season this blog nicknamed the "Year of Infinite Pain," if only to highlight how sheltered the Michigan fanbase has been in the aftermath of the last couple years. And if Alan Branch sending Anthony Morelli to his happy place was emblematic of Michigan's run to Football Armageddon, Mario Manningham getting ten yards clear of the nearest Notre Dame cornerback was the moment the Year of Infinite Pain became part of the past:

Manningham would score twice more on deep balls as Michigan leapt out to a commanding lead. They didn't look back until the second quarter of the Ohio State game.

51596685TP006_MichSt_Mich 3. Braylonfest Part III

Michigan State, 2004: Braylon Edwards skies over yet another Michigan State defensive back, tying a game in which Michigan trailed by 17 with under nine minutes to go.

Braylon Edwards was the most frustrating great player in Michigan history, prone to terrible drops on easy throws and legendarily not "on the same page" as Lloyd Carr. But he was great, and never greater than the last eight minutes of regulation in the 2004 Michigan State game. If they gave out Heismans for a single game, they would have had to give Edwards two for this one.

It almost wasn't anything, though. In this game Michigan was driving in the third quarter, down 17-10, when Edwards fumbled around the 20. He was creeping towards the goat side of the ledger when DeAndra Cobb ran That Goddamned Counter Draw again and outran Ernest Shazor to the sideline and the endzone. But when you're down 17 with under eight minutes left, what is there to do other than chuck it up and tell the onside kick team that they should try really hard?

I remember many things about that game. I remember being cold as hell as the game dragged on and the heat fled from the stadium. I remember going over to a friend's house afterward and being told by his roommates that they had actually left immediately after the DeAndra Cobb TD. I remember another friend telling me that a State friend of his had turned the game off as soon as Michigan hit the field goal to get within 14—he didn't even wait for the onside kick. I remember turning around and jovially telling the State fans behind me that it was good that MSU missed their last-second 52-yard field goal attempt to win after a terrible PI call, because if it had gone in there was no way they were getting out of the stadium alive. But mostly I remember the shadows that gave the whole enterprise an otherworldly feel. It's without question the best game I've ever been to.

The pick here is the game-tying touchdown, as at that point victory seemed inevitable and the comeback was complete. Without it, the others are just coulda-been plays like the Mike Hart touchdown in the Horror.

2. Phil Brabbs is absolutely not going to make this field goal

Washington, 2002: Phil Brabbs hits a 44 yard field goal as time expires to beat Washington.

I've interacted with Phil Brabbs a little bit since he came down with cancer and I've read his blog and am wearing his bracelet, so I have a little insight here. The bracelet says DOMINATE and his blog has pictures of him DOMINATING various things from hospital ice cream to IVs to chemo drugs. Sometimes he makes his adorable children DOMINATE things. He's kind of like anthropomorphized Brawndo. So I'm betting that when Brabbs strolled onto the field after a preposterous sequence of events set him up with a potential game-winning field goal in the 2002 season opener, he was totally psyched to dominate himself some 44-yard field goal.

In this, he was utterly alone.

I'm sure his parents and wife tell him that they just knew he'd hit it, but after a career debut in which he missed 36 and 42 yard field goals badly enough for Michigan to send out Troy Neinberg on a 27-yarder that he shanked, no one in Michigan Stadium thought a 44-yard field goal with no time left on the clock was going in. This includes those nearest and dearest to him. I was just hoping it went forward.

Naturally, Brabbs did this:

Dominated.

Though Washington would end up one of the country's biggest disappointments at 7-6, they entered Michigan Stadium a top ten opponent. The moment the kick actually went through the actual uprights and everyone looked at the guy under the crossbar to make sure they hadn't hallucinated it, then looked at the other guy under the crossbar to make sure the first guy hadn't been hallucinating too, promised grand things. (That would fall apart in a ridiculous loss at Notre Dame in two weeks.)

1. The New Math

MGoRetro: The New Math.

Penn State, 2005: With one second on the clock, Mario Manningham catches a deep slant to beat Penn State 27-25. 86 = 1, as Michigan State would learn in 2007.

Why is this number one? It didn't end up mattering, and it was already clear it wouldn't since Michigan was already 3-3 and headed nowhere in 2005. It was the end of a classic game that swung dramatically from one side to the other, but other games were better and meant more.

I think it's that :01 on the clock, the knowledge that that second was precarious, fought for by Lloyd Carr after the clock ran after a Michigan timeout, preserved by Steve Breaston's best Tyrone Butterfield impression, and ironically Joe Paterno's fault for getting his team an extra two seconds on what they thought was their game-winning drive. Michigan was living on borrowed time. It seemed like they'd been given a chance to go back and right wrongs. Scott Bakula was at quarterback.

Meanwhile, Michigan was locked in an existential crisis unknown for decades. The 1984 season could be written off as a fluke since Jim Harbaugh's broken leg threw everything into disarray and Michigan bounced right back afterwards; 2005 was entirely different. Michigan had never been 3-3 in my recollection. My brother and I spent a large chunk of the game being bitterly cynical about everything. We felt justified about it after the killer Henne fumble/botched extra point for two combination. We'd collectively decided to dull the pain by withdrawing emotionally. This was working for a while, and then the team decided to give the middle finger to the cosmic middle finger, getting off the mat twice. The culmination:

In the end, the game served as a reminder that bitterness is no fun, faith is rewarded, the kids on the field are more resilient than we are, and sometimes they can let us borrow some of that. A lot of the plays on this list were diminished by subsequent events in which Michigan failed to live up to the promise they had in that one moment, but this one has been magnified by the awful last couple of years. It promises a light at the end of the tunnel.

Honorable Mention

Drew Henson bootlegs his way into the OSU endzone to seal the win (2000) … Chris Perry puts the OSU game beyond doubt with a slashing bounceout TD to make it 35-21 (2003) … Breaston returns a punt for a touchdown against Indiana … Northwestern … Illinois … etc … Manningham's worm after the ND game (2006) … Chris Perry punches it against Penn State in to seal a win in Michigan Stadium's first OT game (2002) … Ron Zook seals the Outback Bowl by calling a reverse pass that Victor Hobson intercepts (2002) … Alain Kashama beats the Sex Cannon to a fumbled ball in the endzone, finally fulfilling four years of Canadian Reggie White hype (2002 Outback) … Jacob Stewart picks off Asad Abdul-Kaliq in the Buffalo Stampede game and returns it for a touchdown (2002) … Garrett Rivas finishes the Buffalo Stampede game with a field goal (2002) … Chad Henne hits Tyler Ecker for a game-winning touchdown against Minnesota and executes nailcoeds.exe (2004) … Braylonfest Part I … Braylonfest Part II … Braylonfest Part IV … Brian Thompson recovers an onside kick, greatly aiding Braylonfest parts II through IV … Jason Avant's catch against Northwestern (2003) … Marquise Walker's catch against Iowa (2001) … Jerome Jackson pops through a nonexistent hole against Iowa to establish himself useful, then scores the game-winning TD (2005) … the snap sails over Jimmy Clausen's head on the first play of the game (2007) … Michigan cracks open the Battle of Who Could Care Less against Illinois with a reverse pass (2007) … Manningham outruns Justin King to tie Penn State (2005) … Mike Hart drags Penn State tacklers for five of the most impressive eight yards of his career (2005) … Lamarr Woodley kicks off Yakety Sax (2006) … Prescott Burgess returns a Brady Quinn interception for a TD(2006) … Mike Hart levels Sean Lee on a blitz pickup (2007) … Arrington's catch against Florida (2007) … A ludicrous Ryan Mallett decision—pitch it backwards to Carson Butler as he's being sacked—works out (2007) … Steven Threet takes off on a 60-yard jaunt against Wisconsin (2008) … Denard Robinson fumbles the first snap as Michigan's quarterback and WOOPs his way for a touchdown (2009) … Darryl Stonum returns a kickoff for a touchdown against Notre Dame (2009) … Forcier hits Greg Mathews on a circle route to win against Notre Dame (2009) … Tate Forcier hits Martavious Odoms on a perfect seam for the game-winning points against Indiana (2009) … Forcier's mansome final drive in the rain to tie Michigan State (2009) … Brandon Graham demolishes Glenn Winston (2009) … Brandon Graham demolishes Everybody (2009).

Acknowledgements

A major reason this series came together is the tireless effort of Wolverine Historian, who put together video for almost everything on the list. Also a hat tip to parkinggod, who had HD of last year's ND game, and akarpo, who helped out with some of the clipping last year.

Of The Decade: Michigan's Offense

Of The Decade: Michigan's Offense

Submitted by Brian on July 20th, 2010 at 12:14 PM

A series covering Michigan's aughts. Previously: obsessive ESPN image breakdown.

This is a fairly standard pick-your-team exercise covering the 2000-2009 seasons. One note on the methodology: instead of considering careers we will consider individual years.

QUARTERBACK

john-navarre John Navarre (2003)

There are only two real options since Michigan saw two players occupy seven of the ten available starting slots and was robbed what should have been rampaging senior campaigns by Drew Henson (signed away by the Yankees) and Henne (constant injury). They are Navarre's first-team All Big Ten performance in 2003, the—sigh—last time a Michigan QB actually beat Ohio State, or Henne's junior year, when he could hardly be blamed for an Ohio State loss in which he guided his team to 39 points.

Season totals for those two years:

  Att Cmp Pct Yards YPA TD Int
Navarre '03 456 270 59.2 3331 12.3 24 10
Henne '06 328 203 61.9 2508 12.4 22 8

Very little to choose from. Both ended up losing to USC in the Rose Bowl in games of approximately equal competitiveness (not very), though Navarre's trip seemed more doomed by fate—one USC touchdown set up by a ball bouncing off Braylon's heel and ricocheting directly to a defender—than Henne's.

The edge is Navarre's if only because of that attempts number. Michigan '03 relied far more heavily on his arm than Michigan '06 did on Henne's, passing 47% of the time to '06's 37%. Yes, Chad Henne threw less than 40% of the time in 2006. That just goes to show the Lloyd Carr ideal: have a defense so ridiculous that you can grind out low-risk touchdowns against everyone not named Notre Dame and Ohio State. It did work once, and it almost worked in '06.

Digression over. Your shocking winner is John Navarre, a guy who was utterly and unfairly loathed during his wobbly sophomore year—during which he should have been watching Henson, anyway—to the point where it was hard to figure out where his transition from liability to asset occurred. Whenever it was, it was before the 2002 Ohio State game. Michigan spent that running into the line for nothing on first and second down before deploying Navarre to pick up the third down with a laser-accurate pass to Edwards, Joppru, or Bellamy. Edwards lost a critical touchdown on a questionable offensive pass interference call and Navarre was blasted from behind on what should have been the game-winning drive. Michigan was only able to get down to the OSU 30 before they had to take a shot at the endzone with the last seconds on the clock. My friends and I wrapped arms around each other during the timeout, and I thought he could do it.

Second String: Henne (2006).

The obvious runner-up. Other candidates are inferior seasons by the above two quarterbacks, Henson's eight-game run as Michigan's starter in 2000, and then the horrible last two years. Since Henne concluded his career during the MGoEra we can turn to a column written after the '07 Michigan State game for a summary of how he played:

I first thought "Chad Henne is a robot" a long time ago.

It was the middle of 2004. A then-freshman Henne strode onto the turf at Michigan Stadium facing a four point deficit against Minnesota. The ball was on the Michigan thirteen; the clock read 3:04.

Five plays and 56 yards later, Henne zeroed in on Z45 Part A Subsequence C Tight End Tyler Ecker, Rabbit-Hunting Mormon, crossing in front of a Minnesota linebacker; various servos and hydraulics kicked in. Henne flung a pass into Z45PASCTETERHM's outstretched arms, declared GOAL COMPLETED, and initiated nailcoeds.exe.

This weekend, now-senior Chad Henne strode onto the turf at Spartan Stadium facing a ten point deficit. He was 6 for 19 for 83 yards at that point, 47 of which came on a single bomb to Mario Manningham. The clock read 7:35.
Henne had been awful. Whether it was the unpredictable wind or his separated shoulder or some combination of the two doesn't really matter. He had been missing open receivers all day, flinging balls into the turf or the sideline or taking sacks he didn't have to. He and Brian Hoyer were locked into a duel to see who could torpedo his team's chances more thoroughly; Henne was winning. In the Michigan section, faith was running low. On the Michigan State sideline Jehuu Caulcrick was exhorting the Spartans to remember this moment, the moment they beat Michigan.

Caulcrick forgot one thing: Chad Henne is a robot.

On the last two drives he was 12-14 for 129 yards, flinging wide open outs, finding Mathews on a critical third and long, and looping perfect touchdown passes to Greg Mathews and Mario Manningham. He was ruthless, precise, and busy calculating digits of pi deep into the millions. He has a heart of nails and lungs made from old tires; his hair consists of pipe cleaners cropped short and his bones are discarded pipes. You have to whack him in just the right spot at just the right time to get his late-model Soviet guidance chip to seat itself in his shoddy southeast Asian motherboard.

Excellence was good, man.

RUNNING BACK

chris-perry Chris Perry (2003)

A bloody fight here. Your candidates:

  Att Yards Avg TD Long Catches Yds Avg TD
Anthony Thomas '00 319 1733 5.4 18 68 17 271 15.9 1
Chris Perry '03 338 1674 5 18 63 44 367 8.3 2
Michael Hart '06 318 1562 4.9 14 54 17 125 7.4 0
Michael Hart '04 282 1455 5.2 9 34 26 237 9.1 1
Michael Hart '07 265 1361 5.1 14 61 8 50 6.3 0

Close statistically with Perry's herculean, 51-carry Michigan State game pushing him past the two main contenders in terms of carries. Perry was much more frequently used in the passing game, though a 70-yard screen TD for Thomas against Ohio State made him more explosive. Thomas surpasses everyone else in terms of yards and has a significant edge in YPC, but as we're about to see a large part of that has something to do with the preposterously stacked 2000 line, which currently has four NFL starters and one Hall of Famer. Hart and Perry never had that luxury.

Perry wins here, though, for the silverware. This is in addition to the Doak Walker:

The Bo Schembechler Most Valuable Player of the 2003 football team, Perry was a finalist for the Heisman Memorial Trophy, placing fourth in the balloting. He led the Big Ten with 128.8 rushing yards per game and was named the 2003 Big Ten Conference Offensive Player of the Year and the Chicago Tribune Silver Football Award recipient as the Big Ten's MVP.

It's brutally hard to leave out Mike Hart, but the methodology here favors the one supernova season over Hart's four (three and half) years of merely being awesome. Perry's gliding cuts and Navarre's addiction to him as an outlet win.

Second Team: Mike Hart (2006)

I know by the stats this is Thomas, but the stats don't reflect Hart's remarkably ability to glue the ball to his ribs when not inside the five against Florida and the infamous Northwestern game Thomas gave away without even being touched. Hart couldn't quite stay healthy enough to get past Perry, and that very reason makes me want to crumple up this post and start over with a career-focused outlook but it's postin' time and this is pushing 3000 words and the monster must be fed, so here he is and we're all a little bitter at Chris Perry for winning the Doak, but only just today. Hart, too, came in for summarizing in a game column, this one after the '07 Penn State game:

Mike Hart does not care. He does not care that he is the size of Toad and runs about as fast as Richard Nixon, who is dead. He does not care that Michigan ruined everything the first two games of the season as he rode a bike on the sideline. He does not care that some people think he should shut up. He does not care that his legs are on someone else's legs and there is no possible way he can worm the ball to the goal line. It takes someone like this to pull you back from despair and ennui, to turn emo week into something other than emo year.

Mike Hart does not care what came before.

All he cares about is getting there.

Third Team: Anthony Thomas (2000)

Okay, Thomas did fumble against Northwestern but he also put up 1733 yards by RAGING his way directly at defenders. The original Brandon Minor, Thomas was briefly an NFL star before his inability to change direction without bouncing off something caught up with him.

FULLBACK

Kevin Dudley (2004)

Dudley was the inspiration for this description of the fullback's job that still lingers on as one of phrases I'm proud to have turned:

Minus Dudley, last year's fullback spot was manned by a motley crew of confused squat guys more likely to whiff entirely than crush a linebacker into a white-hot furrow of snapped limbs and smoke.

For this, and his ability to create that furrow, he gets the nod.

WIDE RECEIVER

Braylon Edwards(2002-4, pick a year), Mario Manningham (2007), Steve Breaston (slot)(2006)

It's a brutal competition when a guy who went eighth overall in the NFL draft and another guy in the midst of what will be a productive 10-year NFL career don't make the first team, but Michigan was blessed with a ridiculous wealth of options. Since the team has moved to a spread system and even before that used a three-wide formation as its base for virtually the entire Breaston era, we will include him as the prototypical slot ninja.

The first winner is obvious. For all his problems catching simple slants, Braylon Edwards remains the second most terrifying receiver to ever put on a winged helmet:

This is not up for debate.

The second outside receiver slot is a war between the junior years of David Terrell and Mario Manningham. The stats:

  Catches Yards Avg TD Long
Terrell '00 67 1130 16.9 14 57
Manningham '07 72 1174 16.3 12 97

Like quarterback, there is little to choose from. One small push in Manningham's direction: he rushed for 120 yards on 19 carries; Terrell had two rushes for 12 yards. (Terrell's team played one fewer game than Manningham's did, but Mario was suspended for the EMU beating in '07, so they're even as far as playing time goes.)

Both labored through iffy quarterback situations, with Manningham saddled with about four games' worth of Ryan Mallett and another four games in which Chad Henne's shoulder was essentially nonfunctional. Despite this he lit up the heart of the Big Ten schedule, going six straight weeks with more than 100 yards receiving and at least one touchdown, with the high point a five catch, 162-yard performance against Minnesota. He was shut down in the Ohio State game that year as Michigan chose between a one-armed Henne and a then chicken-brained Mallett, but rebounded to post 131 yards of total offense and a touchdown in the Citrus Bowl against Florida.

Meanwhile, Terrell was saddled with a freshman Navarre through the bulk of the nonconference schedule. That didn't matter much statistically, as he put up at least 82 yards and usually just around 100 in the games Navarre was forced to play in, but it didn't help. When Henson returned it was a steady diet: about six catches, approximately 100 yards except for the Penn State game, one win over Ohio State and a bowl nuking of Auburn (34 yards a catch on four receptions and a touchdown).

The verdict: Manningham by a nose, who had fewer opportunities to make an impact in Michigan's injury-stricken '07 offense and added more production on the ground than Terrell did. This is a reversal from the All Carr team, FWIW.

Finally, Steve Breaston is included as a slot receiver on my first team since Michigan fullbacks were increasingly situational players as Michigan moved to a modern passing offense, and then a spread, as the Henne era progressed. Dudley was the last true fullback to be able to claim anything approximating a starting job, and even before that there were a couple years in which BJ Askew was the team's top FB. Over the course of the decade the third receiver got more playing time than the FB.

Anyway, the third receiver goes inside one of the outside guys in a place called the slot and the man who defined the position at Michigan in the aughts was all-purpose ninja Steve Breaston. Nicknamed "Black Jesus" before he even saw the field by cynical messageboarders wary of his massive practice hype giving way to a skinny version of Grady Brooks, Breaston took all of one game to establish himself a threat, returning four punts for an average of 26 yards against Central Michigan. By the Illinois game he'd set a team record for punt return yardage despite having two long touchdowns called back on irrelevant penalties; subsequent opponents refused to kick to him. As a kick returner he took one to the house for the first time since the 80s against Minnesota, returned virtually every kickoff to midfield in the '05 Rose Bowl, and set up The New Math Henne-to-Manningham connection with another return to midfield against Penn State the next year. Steve Breaston went to work immediately.

As a receiver Breaston was the inspiration for the UFR receiverchart, which was a direct response to people complaining about Breaston's hands. They weren't necessarily wrong—the Year of Infinite Pain kicked off in earnest with a 17-10 loss to Notre Dame in which Breaston got open deep twice and dropped sure touchdowns—but the chart did its job, showing that Breaston's hands were an overrated flaw. His best year was '06, and while he never recaptured the magic of his freshman year in the return game that was largely because teams stopped punting to him (and Michigan, infuriatingly, refused to double the gunners). Only Anthony Carter, also the guy preventing Braylon Edwards from being the bar-none most terrifying Michigan receiver of all time, stands between Breaston and the title of Michigan receiver you'd pick to throw a bubble screen to if your life depended on it.

Second Team: David Terrell (2000), Jason Avant(2005), Marquise Walker (2001)

Terrell was just discussed. No one else quite matched his productivity save Marquise Walker, and when Walker and Terrell shared the spotlight Terrell was the man.

Avant, meanwhile, is the player I'd pick if someone was holding a gun to my head and said he'd pull the trigger unless Michigan converted this third and five. I still remember the fourth and two pass at the end of the 2004 Ohio State game that clanged off Braylon's hands, and remembering that I really, really wish that ball had gone to Avant. Here's why:

At some point during 2005 Avant dropped a third down pass that hit him in the hands, and that more than anything was an indication that it just wasn't Michigan's year.

Avant also might be the nicest guy to ever play for Michigan—up there with Brandon Graham. The only person who can't root for Avant is Christopher Hitchens.

Walker was a combo of Avant and Edwards, blessed with Edwards's leaping and Avant's ability to make the spectacular catch but cursed with Avant's lack of electric speed and Edwards's tendency to drop routine balls. It seemed like the latter flaw was something that popped up after he sustained a brutal hit early in his senior year; after that the footsteps got in his head and he alligator-armed a couple passes per game. That may have been a result of his increased deployment; once Terrell left for the NFL he went from 49 catches in a supporting role to 86 as the man in Navarre's bumpy sophomore year. He did do this:

And that alone is worthy of mention.

TIGHT END

bennie-joppru Bennie Joppru (2002)

There is no competition. Joppru came from nowhere to become John Navarre's safety blanket, a big white Minnesota version of Avant before Avant was around. By the time he'd finished his breakout senior season he'd set a Michigan record for tight end receptions that still stands and worked his way into the second round of the NFL draft. The Texans took him, whereupon he tore his ACL in training camp every year.

Second Team: Bill Seymour (2001)

It wasn't a good decade for tight ends. Seymour was a steady two-year starter that didn't get injured all the time, have meat for brains, or fail to pitch it to Steve Breaston. He wins basically by default.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Jake Long (2007), Steve Hutchinson (2000), David Baas (2004), Jon Goodwin (2001), Jeff Backus (2000)

The first three are cake easy. Jake Long was dominant and became the first pick in the NFL draft. Hutchinson went in the first round to the Vikings and is in the midst of a Hall-of-Fame NFL career. Baas won the Rimington award. All were All-Americans their senior year. Lock, lock, lock.

The right side of the line is trickier. We're not distinguishing between right and left tackles because players tend to move to the left as they get better, we're just trying to assemble the best possible team. So we'll flip Jeff Backus from left to right tackle and put him opposite long. Backus was first round pick of the Lions and has started 144 NFL games, all with the league's most sad-sack franchise. At Michigan he was All Big Ten two years running and won the Hugh Rader award as Michigan's best lineman those same two years, sharing it with Hutchinson and Mo Williams on 2000's ridiculously stacked line.

The other guard spot is something of a downer compared to the All-Americans surrounding him, but Jon Goodwin was All Big Ten in 2001 and, unlike a couple of other ABT recipients later in the decade, seemed to deserve it. He's still in the NFL with the Saints.

Second Team: Adam Stenavich (2005), Adam Kraus (2006), David Brandt (2000), Steve Schilling(2009), Mo Williams (2000)

Williams is the most obvious, another member of the insanely stacked 2000 line who is still in the NFL. Sharing a best lineman award with Hutchinson and Backus is no shame, either. Stenavich is next, a two-time All Big Ten selection. This blog caught the end of his career and found it to be pretty good. He edges out Mark Ortmann, another good-not-great left tackle. The interior is something of a mess. Brandt, the final member of the insanely stacked 2000 line, gets a tentative nod over Dave Pearson and David Molk's freshman(!) year; Kraus and Schilling are the best of an uninspiring bunch, with Kraus's 2006 better than his '07.