The week leading up to The Game saw Michigan fans unite around the tragedy of a family losing their 5 year old son to DIPG, an inoperable brain cancer. When I saw the picture of Chad's father holding his son's lifeless body, I cried. I am emotional just thinking about it now. When I hear about parents suffering the death of a child, two memories from my childhood return.
When I was in sixth grade, a girl in my gym class collapsed in the parking lot and died. She had a condition that we later started referring to as, "that Hank Gathers thing." It was so sudden. One day, she was pretending to be a horse, running around at recess, and the next day, her parents were dealing with the thought of burying their daughter. We dedicated our yearbook to her, tried to heal, and move on with the knowledge that life is fragile so you should treasure every day, every moment. I didn't know her very well, but even now, 33 years later, I can picture her galloping around the parking lot, full of life and energy.
The next year, I found out that a girl in my class had leukemia. I knew her better as we were the two best math students in our class and were selected to participate in an accelerated math program. As such, we spent time together studying in the hallway, separated from the rest of the class. She was tall, blond-haired and blue-eyed, with long tan legs. I was smitten, but I don't think she noticed me or knew me as anything more than the geek she had to learn math with. Her illness dragged on for several months. She was hospitalized for a time, and then during the spring of our 7th grade year, she too, passed away. Given time to prepare for the eventuality of the situation didn't make things any easier. For the second year in a row, we dedicated our yearbook to another fallen classmate, tried to heal, and move on. Today, when I think of her, I think that she could have been the world's first Fields Medal winning supermodel.
In 1989, the movie, "Dead Poets Society" was released in theatres. In the movie, Robin Williams played an eccentric English teacher who exhorts his students to seize the day, "CARPE DIEM!" in Latin. It was rather fashionable at the time for people to exclaim, "carpe diem," as a reminder to make the most out of life. Williams' character quoted Thoreau, saying,
I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life
"Suck out the marrow," that was such a powerful image at the time. Williams, who outwardly gave the impression of a person full of life, later took his own life after losing a battle with depression.
What does all this have to do with a football game, a rather lousy one at that? Not a whole lot, admittedly, but this was the last game of the regular season, so it does seem like an appropriate time to take a step back and reflect upon our lives and our choices. This season will be remembered as Harbaugh's first as Michigan's head coach. But it will also be remembered for #ChadTough, and hopefully for all those good moments we shared as a community, from Chesson's back-breaking kick return against Northwestern to the defense's rallying together to stop Minnesota and Indiana at the goal line. For Jake Rudock going from the team's weak spot to it's strength, for Tacos and Peppers and an Aussie punter showing us how it's supposed to be done. I don't regret all the time I spent watching and writing about this team. What has made this season better than others of recent vintage is not the record. It's that my son has started to share my enthusiasm for Michigan football. Shared moments are so much more fulfilling, meaningful, and memorable, and so I say to Team 136, thank you. Your yearbook photo will be one that I remember for a long time.
(Thoreau's quote continues, "to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life." Frankly, I think Thoreau was a bit overrated. Who would want to live like a Spartan?)
Burst of Impetus
* It's hard to remember that this was a 4 point game going into halftime. Michigan started off the game playing well with two decents drive that combined for 17 plays and 71 yards. Neither ended up in points, but we were winning the field position battle. After Michigan stopped Ohio State on 3rd and 10, their two drives had combined to gain 27 yards on 9 plays. And then we ran into the punter, but the official called a "roughing the kicker" penalty that gave Ohio State a first down. They capitalized. Instead of grabbing the momentum, we gave OSU new life and they took advantage.
* I don't give burst of impetus awards for halftime adjustments because I don't know what happened at halftime, but something sure did. Ohio State scored quickly on their first drive and controlled the rest of the game as if RichRod, Hoke, and Gerg had combined to coach the second half. Perhaps, a team that had been running on fumes for the past few weeks finally hit empty on the old gas meter, and that was that.
The Two Jakes
* The Jake Hardock mind meld came to a conclusion on Saturday. Or would that be Jim Rubaugh? When I was mentoring under a soon to be retired engineer at work, we held monthly, "brain dump" meetings where my mentor would attempt to pass on his knowledge to me and another engineer one experience at a time. These were the types of things you don't learn about in text books. As I wrote above the link, Jake Rudock went from being the team's weak spot to it's strength after one season under Harbaugh's tutelage. Imagine what a QB can do with 4 or 5 years learning from Harbaugh. The future is bright.
* Jake Rudock was extra talented in his accuracy, going 19 for 32 (59.4%) for 263 yards (8.2 YPA). He completed one TD pass to Jehu Chesson.
* Jake Buttttt caught 5 passes for 54 yards.
NFL Route Tree Runners
* Jehu Chesson led the receivers with 8 catches and 111 yards. His blocked punt shows up in the boxscore as a 14 yard punt for Ohio State's "TEAM."
* Darboh finished with 4 catches for 68 yards. The refs let Ohio's DBs play very aggressively against him and that hampered our first half drives. By the second half, he figured out how to get open but by then it was too late.
* Jabrill Peppers led Michigan with 29 yards on 7 carries. It's not a good sign when a starting defensive player leads the team in rushing. I trust Harbaugh and his assistants to correct this situation going into next season.
* I will drink a lemonade if De'Veon Smith is not the starting fullback next year.
* Sione Houma ran 3 times for 12 yards.
Tacos and Peppers
* Ohio State's top three tacklers were it's three linebackers. This is even more impressive considering Michigan was spending most of the day passing the ball. Their linebackers were making plays against the run and the pass. Ours were not.
* Each one of our four main linebackers (Bolden, Gedeon, Ross and Morgan) should have had an extra tackle, as I saw each one of those guys miss a tackle on an Ohio State running TD. If we had held them to FG attempts instead of TDs, the final score would not have looked so bad.
* In the dot, dot, dot categories (the ones that show up as dots instead of zeros) Ohio State had 3 TFLs, 2 FFs, 1 INTC, 4 BrUps, 2 Sacks, and 5 QHs. Michigan had 3 TFLs, one 2 yard sack, and 1 QH. That's it. After filling up the boxscore all year with dot, dot, dot stuff, especially BrUps, Michigan had almost nothing to show. It's as if we implemented a brand new defense the week before the biggest game of the season and expected the players to perform as if they had been playing it the whole year long. It's as if we watched MSU throttle Ohio State's offense the week before and said, let's do the exact opposite of that. The second half meltdown of the defense was Gergian in it's inexplicability. Someone put the ooga-booga on the defense.
* We actually ran more total plays than Ohio State did, 72-69. There were 26 assorted special teams plays comprising 15.6% of the total.
* The only ST plays of consequence were the punt we downed at the 6, the punt we just barely failed to down at the 1 inch line, the roughing the punter penalty, and a nice Lewis kick return that was negated by a Michigan holding penalty.
* First downs were much closer than the final score would indicate, 25-20 for Ohio State. Yes, after being held to 5 first downs by MSU, they accumulated 5 times that many against us. Three OSU first downs came via penalty.
* I thought OSU's weakness was their passing game. We had a defensive game plan that allowed them to get by only throwing 15 times. Inexplicable.
* Third down conversions were 7 of 13 for them and 9 for 18 for us. Again, these stats don't jibe with a 29 point drubbing.
WHAT ARE THOOOSE?
* Before the game, my brother told me he had a ticket in row 2. I spent some time looking for him during the sideline shots but never saw him. After the game, I found out why as he texted me a photo from his seat. Turns out he was sitting behind Big Nut. I saw Big Nut at the game, but he blocks out the sun (or brother, as the case may be) and everything else behind him. My brother, Michael Thomas (NTMT) who had two less receptions than OSU's Michael Thomas, reports that Big Nut was quiet and polite, but it wasn't great sitting behind him because he never sat down and he had that stupid doll on his helmet for the whole game. No one will ever accuse Big Nut of not sucking the marrow out of life, but who wants to go through life as a Big Nut?
[Photo Courtesy Michael Thomas (NTMT)]