“I can see clearly now the rain is gone. I can see all obstacles in my way. Gone are the dark clouds that had me down. It's gonna be a bright bright bright bright sun shiny day!”
Learn from yesterday...
First off I would like to give a shout-out to Nebraska fans everywhere, and sincerely say Welcome to the Big Ten. I had family members at the game yesterday, and between their accounts and what I have read in this space I would hope that Michigan Fans can hope to achieve the level of class that Nebraska fans epitomize.
This gravy is like a drug.
At some point in the third quarter I lost my mind and started calling every Michigan fan I know. It was like pinching myself repeatedly to make sure what I was experiencing was, in fact, real, and not just a defensive construct created by my brain to cope with the last few years. That game was epic and wonderful and tremendous even, but best of all it appeared to be part of a sustainable trend. This team is going to continue to rise, and it will be rising on the backs of the best coaching staff we have had in decades.
If Mattison can take this group of misfit athletes and create a fearsome defense, one can only imagine what he will do with the kind of talent Michigan is recruiting now. Michigan is 6th overall in scoring defense. They are showing sound fundamentals when tackling, wrapping up, forcing fumbles, all while shutting down one of the most potent rushing attacks in the country. Somebody, quick, pinch me again.
Borges deserves some praise here too. He still really, really wants this team to dominate from under center, this is clear. During yesterday's game though, whenever I watched Michigan get stuffed on first down from I-Form or Ace sets and muttered "Moar shotgun plz", the next play would be something from shotgun and would get Michigan's drive back on track more often than not. Borges probably could have gotten a win at Iowa, maybe even against Sparty, if he had gone with more shotgun earlier in the season. It is hard to blame the guy for going with what he knows though, and has the most faith in, when the chips are down. It appears that his faith is now in shotgun.
Last, but certainly not least, we have Brady Hoke. This guy has been the exact right fit from Day 1 on the job. Former players and coaches love him. His values are beyond reproach (seemingly at least, JoPa taught us all that you never can tell for sure). He is humble, doesn't pretend he knows it all, and surrounds himself with a staff that ensures success. He recruits astonishingly well. He has restored Michigan to the level fans are used to, and for that this fan at least is grateful.
Live for Today…
Several players/coaches should take particular pride in their accomplishments yesterday:
Greg Mattison - The Michigan defense and coverage squads on special teams put on a tackling clinic. All three fumbles were the very definition of forced - putting a hat on the ball or punching it out. The containment was good all day, holding a potent Nebraska running game in check without having to dedicate safeties to do it. The zone blitzing is perhaps most impressive. I had fun trying to figure out who was going to rush and who was going to drop. I was always at least half-wrong.
Fitz Toussaint - Fitz is making lateral moves that I just haven't seen from any Michigan back in recent memory. Mike Hart had the shiftiness, but lacked the size, acceleration and top-end speed that Toussaint has. Fitz is going to blow up the Big Ten next year - book it.
Denard Robinson - The best game in a long time for our leader and best. Denard looked completely in control of the offense. He was patient, waiting for plays to develop before zinging a TD pass to Gallon or cutting behind his blockers for a TD on the ground. Best of all, Denard finally hit a receiver perfectly on an endzone bomb. He made some more questionable reads on the read option, but overall it was a great performance.
Ryan Van Bergen - Only two tackles but one a sack and both were for a loss. RVB also recovered a fumble and was generally a disruptive force in the trenches. We are going to miss this guy.
Brady Hoke - What I forgot to mention above it that Brady Hoke has huge brass balls. The difference between scoring 3 vs 7 points didn't seem like much to me at the time; either way it would be a 3 score lead. The deflating effect it had on Nebraska though, when that fake FG succeeded, I mean - to some extent that was where Michigan put the game away. Similarly though, if the play had not succeeded, it could have been a shot in the arm for Nebraska and the outcome might have been much different. I don't think I could have made that call in Hoke's shoes.
Also of note: Kovacs!!!, Martavious Odoms adds another TD, Will Campbell no longer looks lost, Linebackers - We Haz Them, Mike Martin is Mike Martin and is Awesome
Hope for Tomorrow
So now we have our 9 wins, a number that should serve to satisfy the expectations of all but the most insane Michigan fans. All of my recent experiences re: The Game force me to keep my feelings guarded. Putting too much emphasis on the outcome of the next tilt does the rest of this season a grave injustice. This is something I understand on a cognative level.
But in my heart I know that this is Michigan's time to shine. The point at which they turn the corner and never look back. The Ohio team Michigan faces is deeply flawed. This Michigan team is close to being among the best I have ever seen. Revenge, legitimacy, pride... so much is on the line that it is impossible to be satisfied. Michigan must protect their house - and show the world that good can indeed triumph over evil.
Let's finish this.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Go Blue and stay safe!