10/20/2007 - Michigan 27, Illinois 17 - 6-2, 4-0 Big Ten
oh well, maybe not. I'll try again.
Greg Mathews was dragged down by his facemask; fifteen yards on what otherwise would have been fourth and long, another opportunity for Zoltan the Inconceivable to blow your mind with a 67 yard punt. A play later Mario Manningham was clubbed late out of bounds; first down at midfield. Michigan dutifully clunked its way to a fourth down and punted even though the refs kindly overlooked a blatant holding penalty. Zoltan lofted one to the ten as the Illinois returner settled under it, motioning for a fair catch. He dropped it.* Michigan recovered it. Two plays later Adrian Arrington took a reverse and threw into the endzone for the winning points. My hands shot skyward.
Not so impressed was the person accompanying me, a baseball enthusiast at her first football game with little tolerance for the ad-hoc and often arcane set of rules cobbled together to make the sport clatter along without imploding. (Attempting to explain what, exactly, constituted holding proved too baffling a concept for both explainer and explain-ee; eventually I just said it was like pornography -- I knew it when I saw it -- and left it at that.) To her, the whole series of events that had just transpired was sordid and cheap and wide receivers can throw the ball? So why don't they throw it always? And what's with the random events? Where is the storyline? Why is this so ugly? Etc etc etc.
This was slightly annoying. I, of course, still had my arms above my head, signaling touchdown, and Person Accompanying Me was busy criticizing impending victory moments after an audaciously successful trick play. She was basically right -- Illinois handed us the game, but only after we had attempted to hand it to them and then they had attempted to hand it back and then we had attempted to hand it back back -- but, like, come on now. Sure, this had all the beauty of the Soviet Bloc interior of Memorial Stadium, about which more later, but victory was likely ours. Eventually that counts for something.
After the thing had finally come to its disjointed end, a sense of relief filtered in. Michigan survived a potential minefield. It was ugly and sordid and dirty but it was a win, and now Michigan is going to play Ohio State for the Rose Bowl unless the roof caves in against both State and Wisconsin. This is a long way from 0-2 and being a national laughingstock; Carr has once again picked his charges up off the mat and driven them towards respectability. We can wish this peculiar talent of Carr's was less firmly established, but we should be thankful for it at the same time.
Let's try again: November 17th for all the marbles, at least in Bo's world, and a chance at a happy ending for Carr and Henne and Hart and Long and us.
- Adding to the ugliness was the inside of Memorial Stadium, which looks like it was built in a Warsaw Pact country circa 1952, all concrete so gray the term "gray" seems insufficient to describe its grim colorlessness. The tenor of the place turned North Korean at halftime when the student section held up a series of placards that created various effects: block Ms and Is, goal posts, the ABC logo, "Zook" spelled out in orange and blue.
- The outside, it should be noted, is quite pretty.
- Are Illinois fans issued "Muck Fichigan" t-shirts upon matriculation? Seemingly 30% of the crowd had them, including several middle-aged men who looked otherwise respectable. Next year in the MGoStore look for shirts that just say "Nobody Cares About You," perfect for Illinois or Michigan State or, well... anybody on the schedule. Wooo 21st century scheduling.
- Watching from the endzone was a terrifying experience because without much of a vantage point -- the Memorial Stadium field is not sunken at all -- it looked like virtually every Illinois play was going for an 80 yard touchdown before Adams or Englemon came in to tackle. Don't know if its an artifact of the scheme or the spread, but the safeties had 18 tackles between them... our linebackers were not doing much of a job.
- I am starting to get concerned about Mallett. He should be better by now. The interception should never have been thrown, he fumbled two more snaps, his accuracy is lacking, and early he scrambled out of trouble, directed Greg Mathews to run a route away from the defender and inexplicably held onto the ball even though Mathews had broken wide open. He should be better than Clausen.
- At this point in his career, Steve Schilling is mediocre at best.
- When did Carson Butler get so ponderous?
- Is there any plausible explanation for the Henne-Mallett substitution pattern? Obviously they have no faith in Mallett and the offense turns into run run throw punt when he's in there; Henne was able to tough out his injury and return. Did the coaches really think a damaged Henne was worse than Mallett, and if so how does that square with their playcalling?
- Illinois fans have a bad rep amongst Michigan fans, but we had no problems. The guys directly in front of us were friendly; the third quarter was mostly spent having sarcastic chuckles at the ineptness of both teams.
- Why did we have to use a challenge on the Arrington touchdown? Credit to Lloyd for deploying it there, but how blind does the replay official have to be to not immediately signal for review? That's a crucial play that was eventually overturned... how can it not be close enough for another look?
- There is a place near campus called CO Daniel's. The floor there is just like the floor in hell.