As the saying goes, it's always darkest before the dawn, and things have gotten pretty dark around here. Recent events have motivated students to protest on the Diag and in front of the President's house. There have been daily discussions of boycotts, and numerous coaching change threads have blotted out the sun. When darkness is all around, what can one do to restore hope? Should we accept our fate and wallow in the depths of mediocrity? Or should we boycott games, kickoffs, or concessions? Should we question the team's spirit, the coaches' intelligence, or the athletic department's priorities? Should we complain that things were better in our day? Should we cry metaphorical tears at the loss of our Michigan? Games started at 1pm when I was a kid and they should always start at 1pm because Bo said so. Should we blame all our problems on noodles, ticket prices and Special K? I don't know about you, but when things are bleakest for me, I make light of the situation.
As a result, I decided mid-week to change up the format and give out light-related awards for this game, regardless of the outcome. I really didn't know what to expect from this game, except that there would be lots of punting. Unlike our previous opponents, I was a little familiar with Penn State, having watched them play against UCF and Rutgers. From that, I knew their offensive line was struggling, and Anthony Zettel is really, really good. In a match-up of two good defenses and two suspect offenses, we were treated to exactly what everyone expected. But how often does that occur?
Boxscore link: http://www.mgoblue.com/sports/m-footbl/stats/101114aae.html
Flash of Impetus
* I decided to Google "burst of impetus" so I could contrast that to today's award, the "Flash of Impetus." The first two links Google returned were to my diaries of Sept. 25, 2011, and Oct. 2, 2011. So that was no help. Simplifying the search to just "burst," I learned that a burst is an explosion. This makes sense in the context of Doug Nussbaum, sorry, Nussmeier's (darn espn announcers) focus on explosive plays. A week after Rutgers exploded all over our defense, the biggest unknown coming into the game was would Christian Hackenberg have enough time to replicate the Champagne Super Nova from the prior week. Mattison dialed up the pressure and eventually broke Hackenberg. At first, there was a flash of impetus, as a Penn State receiver dropped a pass that Delonte Hollowell scooped up and returned for an apparent touchdown. My heartrate didn't budge, as I was sure that was coming back. Why that replay took any more than 2 seconds is a question for another day. So like a flash, the impetus was there and then gone.
Burst of Impetus
* A definition for impetus is, "the force or energy with which a body moves." So technically speaking, the burst of impetus is an explosive play that moves a body. A body in motion tends to stay in motion, so these plays propel the team forward. In prior weeks, we thought Willie Henry's fatboy TD could be a burst of impetus. But the team didn't respond. There was a flash of excitement, and then nothing. In this game, on a play late in the 3rd quarter, the defense pressured Hackenberg, drew a holding penalty, and forced him to make a poor decision, lofting a ball that Jourdan Lewis intercepted. From then on, the rout was on as Michigan tallied the next three scores and turned a 13-10 deficit into an 18-13 victory. Hey, in this game, a five point advantage is huge.
* It was recently announced that three inventors won the Nobel Prize in Physics for their invention of the blue light emitting diode. As this is the top prize in physics, we will give this award to the top performer of the game, the defense.
* The defense held Penn State to 54 yards rushing on 35 attemps for a 1.5 yard average. Penn State was limited to 214 total offense yards on 68 plays, for an average gain per play of 3.1.
* The defense forced 5 punts, did not give up a fourth down conversion on three attempts, and tallied one critical turnover.
* Allow me to share my "cool story bro" story. Back when I was a student at UofM, I gave a paper at the Materials Research Society Meeting in Boston. This meeting had somewhere around 30 parallel sessions going on at the same time (hence, the word parallel.) Some of the more popular topics, like silicon, were granted the larger meeting rooms. Folks like myself who were studying compound semiconductors (like indium phosphide) got to speak in a closet in front of 15-20 people. At this conference, I overheard talk that Shuji Nakamura was giving an invited talk. He is one of the three fellows who just won the Nobel Prize. So I wandered over to that session's conference room. It was a little larger than a closet, but the interest was extraordinary for a compound semiconductor talk. I'm talking standing room only at a technical conference. This guy was already a rock star. This was over 20 years ago, when gallium arsenide was still regarded as the technology of the future ("...and always will be" is how that joke finished up.) Now, everyone's phone has a GaAs power amp and gallium nitride based blue LEDs are ubiquitous. At that time, no one thought a blue LED was possible because the defect density in gallium nitride materials was extreme, and defects cause non-radiative recombination, etc. So halfway through the talk, Nakamura pulled out an array of green LEDs (the pre-cursor to today's blue LEDs) and powered them up. The brightness was more intense than anyone thought possible. The audience was shocked, awed, and amazed. He explained how they were motivated to generate all LED traffic signals, and the green LED was the only thing missing. I had a feeling I was witnessing the future. And now, more than 20 years later, Nakamura has rightly earned his Nobel Prize. I was a witness to this due to my attending the University of Michigan. Damn right, I'm proud to be a Michigan Wolverine.
* When a quarterback is on, he's described as throwing lasers. Devin Gardner was 16 for 24 passing for 192 yards. His long pass was a 43 yard arc that was anything but laser-like, but Devin Funchess stepped in front of the defensive back, bobbled it a bit, and then strode into the endzone for a touchdown.
* Gardner also ran 10 times for 18 yards. Of interest, Gardner ran for 121 yards last year against Penn State. This year, through the first six games, he had run for only 131 yards. If the goal was to run Devin less to protect his health, that strategy has failed miserably as he looks as beaten up after 7 games this season as he did after 12 last season.
* I watched Auburn play Mississippi State before our game. Both teams feature a dual-threat QB. I couldn't help but think as I watched that game, "THAT! That is what I want from our offense."
Quantum Cascade Laser Award
* A photon is a single quantum of light, and so this award goes to #1, Devin Funchess.
* Funchess led the receivers with 7 catches for 69 yards and 1 touchdown.
Quantum Dot Laser Award
* What's smaller than a two-dimensional quantum well? The one-dimensional quantum dot, so this award obviously goes to Michigan's smallest player, Dennis Norfleet.
* Norfleet caught one pass for 24 yards, but it was a huge play. The game had settled down into a defensive struggle, and it sure looked like overtime beckoned. Gardner was able to complete one pass downfield to Norfleet and put us in FG range.
* Norfleet also returned two kickoffs for 52 yards and set some sort of record for kick return yardage, but that's not something I want to focus on because of what it implies.
Phosphorescent Light Bulb Award
* The phosphorescent light bulb I'm thinking of is that curly tube like one that replaces the common household incandescent bulb. You know, the one that looks totally out of place.
* Jake Ryan led the team with 10 tackles. He had three TFLs and a sack.
* I'm starting to get used to those compact fluorescents. Jake may be getting used to playing MIKE. We'll find out in 2 weeks.
* The defense tallied 11 TFLs, six sacks, and 2 QHs. I did notice a couple times Hackenberg was able to shake off a potential sack. I hope we practice sacking this week and next. The scout team QB better be needing some serious hot tub time is all I'm saying.
Neon Deion Award
* For the defensive back who played most like shutdown corner, Neon Deion Sanders. I contemplated not giving this out, but Jourdan Lewis did have one huge interception and was credited with 5 tackles. (That's about 4 more than Neon Deion averaged in his career.)
* I watched the end of the Minnesota-Northwestern game (yes, I watched a lot of football yesterday) and Minnesota's defensive backs had more BrUps in the 4th quarter than I think Michigan's had all year. For the game, Minnesota had 6 BrUps. SIX BrUps! Raymon Taylor was credited with Michigan's only BrUp.
* Quick tangent, I've been banging the Gopher drum all year. They are now 5-1 and face Purdue and Illinois next. They scored on a 100 yard kick return that was exceptionally blocked. Norfleet isn't going to bring one all the way back until the 10 guys in front of him execute their assignments. I'd take Minnesota's DB and special teams coaches any day. Gee, I wonder if there was some way to make that happen...
The Phoebus Cartel Award
* IEEE Spectrum has an article about the Phoebus Cartel and their efforts to engineer a shorter life span for the incandescent lightbulb; what we refer to today as planned obsolescence. This award is given to the awful coaching decision of the game, and will be given retroactively as follows:
Vs. Utah - punt with 10 men on the field and give up a punt return TD
Vs. Minnesota - start Shane Morris over Devin Gardner
Vs. Rutgers - hurry-up at the end of half to give Rutgers more time to score
Vs. Penn State - call a timeout with 3 seconds left in the half to allow PSU a risk-free opportunity to throw a Hail Mary. Seriously, what are the odds that we intercept the ball and return it for a score versus Penn State throwing a successful Hail Mary to their 6'7" tight end with their QB who has a rocket arm? Fortunately, we didn't get burned by this decision.
* Goes to the program most in need of shining a flashlight in all those dark corners. As bad as things are in Ann Arbor, this award goes to Penn State.
Debbie Boone, "You Light Up My Life" award
* Debbie sings, "And you, light up my life. You give me hope, to carry on."
* The winner of this award is Team 135. Carry on, men.