Handle With Care

Submitted by Brian on September 21st, 2009 at 1:46 PM

[Editor's Note: Mad Men spoilers below. Abort now if you care even a little bit. UPDATE: you'll be safe if you skip the blockquote.]

9/21/2009 – Michigan 45, Eastern Michigan 17 – 3-0

Michigan quarterback Tate Forcier grimaces in pain after being leveled during third quarter action of the Wolverine's 45-17 win over Eastern Michigan, Saturday, September 19th at Michigan Stadium. Forcier left the game briefly, but returned to action later in the contest.
Lon Horwedel | Ann Arbor.com

I'd never heard 100,000 people moan before. I've heard gasps and anger and worry and fretting and relief. I've heard an involuntary yelp of hope after Drew Stanton went down in the game that would be Braylonfest. I've heard way more than my share of discontent grumbling. I know all the tiny permutations of discontent grumbling, actually. I could write a PhD thesis on discontent stadium grumbles.

I had not heard a unified, angst-ridden moan until Saturday when Tate Forcier got blasted as he threw the ball away and rolled around on the Michigan Stadium turf like he'd just been stabbed. I sort of felt like I'd been stabbed, too, and I went "uhhhnnn." So did everyone else as we simultaneously contemplated the Sheridans of yesteryear. But before we could open up the flak jacket and find the secret, Forcier popped up and Rodriguez stuck him in to hand off a few times, thus saving everyone an extra hour or two of painful contemplation. The most interesting thing to happen in the Eastern Michigan game expired without impact.

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It's quite a comedown to go from the Notre Dame game to this game in just about every way. Emotional involvement and excitement are obvious to anyone who saw the two teams listed as opponents. Hidden to folk who just saw the final score, but not the halftime one, was a reminder that the program remains, yes, under construction and that we should all be enjoying the competence instead of spinning out hopes for New Year's Day.

The main problem: Eastern Michigan ran the ball decently, and it wasn't on one long run on which Michigan can blame a random safety. EMU's long for the day was a 24-yarder by the quarterback and the dual-headed tailback pounded out 113 yards on 32 carries. That's 3.5 a pop and would have been totally acceptable if Michigan had flipped their first and second halves. (In the second half, Eastern put up 98 yards and no points on seven drives.) They didn't. Michigan gave up an 11-play, 79 yard touchdown drive and a 6-play, 36 yard touchdown drive, and did it mostly by running right at the side of the line not containing Mike Martin and Brandon Graham. For the day, Michigan was slightly better than Army and evidently terrible Northwestern defensively, which bodes unwell for the sky-high hopes you know you're secretly harboring. Search your heart. You know it to be true.

The evidence was clear enough on a selected few defensive snaps in the second half. With Mike Williams nursing a slight ankle injury on the sideline and Brandon Graham taking a breather, Michigan's purported first-team defense had three walk-ons playing. I can't remember a single non-fullback walk-on other than Nick Sheridan in recent Michigan history who saw playing time as extensive as three separate players have already gotten this year, and everyone remembers how Sheridan's experiment went. If Michigan is going to win games in the Big Ten, they're going to have to score a lot of points. They'll probably do this, but at the end of the year the stats are going to look more like one of those good-ish Northwestern teams from the late 90s, all shiny offensive stats and horrible defensive ones and entertaining games that give you no impression the team in question can hang with college football's elite.

And all of this is fine, of course. If Michigan's offense follows through on its first three weeks and the defense holds it together well enough to suggest competence in 2010, Michigan fans will and should be delighted. I'm not exactly breaking new ground by suggesting this team is not at the talent level you'd normally expect a Michigan team to be at, and I'm probably not surprising anyone by cautioning for patience. But I feel it has to be said after Orson Swindle and I had a conversation like this:

(11:23:10 PM) Orson: I cannot emphasize how improved by a random act of violent gore an episode of Mad Men was.. Paul being splattered with blood should happen every episode

(11:24:58 PM) Orson: "I live in Montclair." /SPLATTERED WITH BLOOD
(11:25:28 PM) Orson: "I went to Princeton." /SPLATTERED WITH BLOOD

(11:25:53 PM) Brian I prefer Harry, actually. "I cheated on my wife and actually regret it." /SPLATTERED WITH BLOOD. I also loved how the English guys immediately treated him as a horse that had to be put down.

(11:26:52 PM) Orson: "Oh no, he's done." "Quite right. No foot. Dead to us."

(11:27:04 PM) Brian "never play golf again"!!!

[Several more minutes of Mad Men discussion segues into this]

Orson: BTW, let me congratulate you on having a player sucker punch an ND player in the gut I'm serious. That is nothing but a great sign for your program.

(11:39:46 PM) Brian: It was the chin, actually. And we even got a totally unprecedented "you're going to be Miami" suspension out of it.

(11:40:57 PM) Orson: You are starting to get an idea of the vast power of the dark side.

[This continues for a while until:]

Orson: For once, I enjoy watching Michigan thanks to them. I think you're going to beat the f-- out of Ohio State this year.

You know me: I immediately attempted to convince Orson—who is awesome but prone to wild prognostications based on things the thinks are going to be fun—otherwise. It didn't take. "Whoah," I said, and then overreacted as you can see above.

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carlos-brown-eastern-90-yarder (caption) Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson (16) sprints to the endzone for a 36-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.  Robinson rushed for 60 yards and two touchdowns, but went 0-for-4 passing with two interceptions.  *** Michigan defeated Eastern Michigan 45-17 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, rushing for 380 yards, but passing for just 68 yards. Photos taken on Saturday, September 19, 2009. ( John T. Greilick / The Detroit News )

Right now, Michigan is an Easter egg dropped out of a window during an engineering competition. It's small. It's moving extremely fast. It's brightly colored and looks like it contains a good time. It is heading inexorably for something large and uncompromising, and all it has to protect it is a rickety structure slapped together last night out of Busch Light cans, foam, and an unidentifiable oozing substance someone found next to the refrigerator. It's probably not going to make it, but for the moment it's time to enjoy the wind.

BULLETS

  • Wooo complete Michigan wave cycle!
  • Man, I do not like the fact that Michigan has scholarship players who aren't true freshmen at DE and LB but chooses to play walk-ons over them. No offense to those guys, but they were walk-ons for a reason. Unless they are spectacularly advanced thinkers at the game, their ceiling is low and Michigan's defense has little upside as the season goes along. Brandon Smith can be excused since he was a safety until fall camp, but how do Kenny Demens and JB Fitzgerald not see the field in front of Leach? That's a bad sign for both their futures. Ditto Adam Patterson, who looks set to go down as one of the all-time pure talent recruiting busts. Even a huge disappointment like Kevin Grady has gotten regular playing time every year.
  • I do think I have an idea why Fitzgerald wasnt seeing the field: when he did he did not play well. I'll have to check the tape but IIRC one of Eastern's TDs was on his head. I really, really hope someone emerges from the linebacker morass this year. Right now it's terrifying.
  • Losing Molk is bad but it's way less bad than it was last year. Michigan has three or four options to bring into the lineup at RG—sounds like Moosman will slide over to C. Who were Michigan's options last year? Tim McAvoy?
  • Man, the backup tailbacks looked good. Remember this run?

    091909_UMFB vs EMU_MRM

    Michael Shaw has got to start wearing crazy tight oily jerseys, because he juked that Eastern safety out of his jock and deserved a spectacular touchdown run on this play; he didn't get it because that grab you saw actually held up. Shaw looked like Carlos Brown 2.0 in some ways and the opposite of Carlos Brown in others. The difference: Brown always looks like he's perfectly balanced and then falls over; Shaw always looks like he's about to fall over but stays up.

    Meanwhile, Vincent Smith's lone run featured an impressive juke of the backside defensive end and a first down thanks to a heads-up block from Denard Robinson, and Mike Cox got it YGM style on a weaving run on which he displayed his own impressive balance. With Fitzgerald Toussaint, Austin White and Stephen Hopkins on the way, the tailback spot will be just fine next year.

  • Meanwhile, how the hell did Carlos Brown end up getting tackled by this?

    carlos-brown-eastern

    Great game and all but sometimes the things that cause Carlos Brown to fall over are mystifying.

  • Students: it's impolite to start up chants when someone's hurt. "Tate Forcier" was fine, but there was a "Go… Blue" chant at some point when an Eastern guy was down. Poor form.

Comments

papabear16

September 21st, 2009 at 1:58 PM ^

Dammit, Brian, I do care about Mad Men, a lot, but I have to watch it on DVD since we don't get AMC. And now I can't read your recap of the Eastern game? Not cool, buddy.

Bryan

September 21st, 2009 at 2:34 PM ^

You know iTunes has the episode the next available in splendid HD. No need to wait until the DVD comes out next year.

Sitting in the student section in the front many of us were appalled at the Go Blue chant. Completely unacceptable. So too was cry that "you take our QB we take yours"

Crime Reporter

September 21st, 2009 at 2:15 PM ^

Brian, if I remember correctly, that defender, somehow, reached and hit the back of Brown's foot as he zoomed past him. It caused Brown, who was going at full speed, to trip. It would have been nice to get a touchdown on the very first play.

Big Boutros

September 21st, 2009 at 2:17 PM ^

Um, excuse me. You cannot chastise the student section for starting the "It's Great to Be a Michigan Wolverine" chant and then profess admiration for starting the wave with a 14-point lead. If you're going to call us out for inaccuracy or bad timing, go all the way.

Big Boutros

September 21st, 2009 at 2:32 PM ^

Eh, I think the one thing we can all agree on is that it's nice to have a football team whose performance engenders such confidence in its fans that they feel comfortable organizing the wave. It's definitely nice to have that back. My beef was rather vapid to begin with; the last thing I want to do is start an e-slapfight. All I was saying was:

If we are "supposed" to save the IGTBAMW chant for bigger occasions, then yes, a 14-point lead against Eastern is not big enough to merit the wave. Just epinion.

ThWard

September 21st, 2009 at 2:45 PM ^

No interest in arguing about something inane, either. I just read Brian's comment to be "nice to be in a game where the full wave can happen" and, for what it's worth (reader's note: it's worth nothing), 2 TD lead against EMU is fine for a full wave in my book. UM was imposing it's will at the time (you're damned right I went with a subjective, impossible to prove/disprove description of how UM was playing at that time to justify the wave. Boom!)

ThWard

September 21st, 2009 at 2:18 PM ^

Enjoy the wind.

I think the realistic among us know that UM's not going to be able to outscore every opponent, or that PSU/OSU's defenses are equipped to stymie a true frosh QB... but one thing's for certain. Sometime in the first half of the IU game, UM's team rushing totals will equal half of what they did in 12 games last year. That's awesome.

msoccer10

September 21st, 2009 at 2:26 PM ^

The situation on defense is very worrisome. There is clearly talent on the line and at DB, despite Cissoko's struggles, but man the rest look bad.

And thanks Brian for trying to keep the expectations real. While I would love to see us do better, I will still be very happy with 7-5.

Yostal

September 21st, 2009 at 2:27 PM ^

Rilo Kiley for the 2008 highlight video and now a game column whose title is shared by a Traveling Wilburys song covered by Rilo Kiley's Jenny Lewis on her solo album...screw it, it's a good song.

I must ask, what is the threshold for the Michigan wave cycle? Is it three scores? Is it a gut feeling?

matty blue

September 21st, 2009 at 2:30 PM ^

cue the 400-comment firestorm over when it's appropriate to chant, cheer, and how. on one side, the "i was there in nineteen-aught-seven" crowd (myself included) and on the other, the "'seven army nation' (sic) RAWKS and we need it to win, dammit" crowd.

go.

bouje

September 21st, 2009 at 2:36 PM ^

with the lack of scholarship 2nd stringer getting time and walkons getting time over them.

That is definitely not encouraging and makes me very afraid for Big Ten play with "POWER FOOTBALL HULK SMASH ME RUN FOOTBALL" football.

DocV8

September 21st, 2009 at 2:52 PM ^

I'm wondering how much of the PT decision is made by RR himself, and how much by GERG or the position coaches. RR has the well-publicized soft spot for walk-ons; have the other coaches (voluntarily or otherwise) also bought into that? Are the scholarship guys just not earning it during the week?

jamiemac

September 21st, 2009 at 2:39 PM ^

Eh, I was fine with the team's effort on Sunday.

From early in the second through the end of the fourth, EMU had six drives. Four ended in three and out, a fifth ended with a turnover on the second play and the sixth was the short field TD after the D-Rob INT.

The score went from 10-10 to 38-17 during that stretch. Like Brian hinted, if those had been the first drives of the game, we would all be excited not scratching our heads.

Anyway, here is what I saw: Eastern had continued success running the Priest kid, just like they did against NW. The difference? The Eagle ran that all day and NW never stopped it. Priest eventually got shutdown by UM.

And, most importantly, designed runs not only with Schmitt but their backup QB. They had not run those plays even once in either if the first two games. Didnt show up on film. So, UM was off balance.....rather than waiting until halftime, some adjustments appeared to be done on the fly because the D started to get three and outs in the second and quarter.

Without the Robinson pick near the end of the half, the blowout is on before intermission.

Meeechigan Dan

September 21st, 2009 at 2:43 PM ^

How remarkable that we can be legitimately worried about winning 45-17 and starting 3-0. I would have worked in Michael Vick's kennels for a year just to crawl to 3-0 by torn fingernails, and now I am sitting back with, "Well. That was a poor passing performance. It's not good balance to score 45 points in one fashion."

caup

September 21st, 2009 at 2:52 PM ^

I was going give Brian a list of very good walk-ons who played for Michigan in the last 25 years (Plate, Van Dyne, etc.) but then it occurred to me: the sophistication of recruiting has VASTLY improved over the last 10-15 years. The days of the unheralded late bloomers walking on and being solid contributors are pretty much a relic of the Information Dark Age.
With all the media exposure that HS football gets nowadays, if your program has multiple walk-ons playing I will grudgingly agree that this has to be, at the very least, a "cause for concern."

Having said that, let's not be walk-on racists. If these kids continue to MAKE PLAYS, we can just be happy fans.

pwnwulf

September 21st, 2009 at 5:09 PM ^

Remember that just because you're a walk on doesn't mean your no good. There are several reasons a player may be a walk on. The first is they may have gone to an obscure or very small high school that didn't get any exposure. Their head coach may not have any connections with people that can do the right things to get their name out. The last thing is maybe the kid had a bunch of offers from schools he just didn't feel comfortable with so he decided to try his luck walking on to a school like Michigan.

Erik_in_Dayton

September 21st, 2009 at 2:54 PM ^

When Tate went down I thought, "I sure do like Denard Robinson and I sure do respect Nick Sheridan and I sure do NOT want to rely on them at QB for any length of time this year."

I'm going to do my best to appreciate the heck out of every win this year, even a win over Delaware St.

Hannibal.

September 21st, 2009 at 3:37 PM ^

I don't remember walk-ons ever getting this much playing time either. Going into this year, I figured our defense to be a lot like our 2008 offense, and it looks like it is headed in that direction. I want to see how we hold up against Michigan State. They are going to come in with the same game plan as Eastern Michigan, only they have a lot more talent.

ThWard

September 21st, 2009 at 3:39 PM ^

Made me laugh. Not in a "haha, Brian got negged" way. But in a "people really don't understand the point of negging someone" way. I say this after getting negged for suggesting that UM fans that flip out at every non-glowing UM article are diluting the legit criticism of the Freep article, and that BooBoo's PI call was horrible.

And I also say this expecting to get negged for no reason.

Honestly - let's keep the negging for truly worthless posting, or posting that is unnecessarily dick. Not merely for disagreement.

wolverine1987

September 21st, 2009 at 4:43 PM ^

all of you "I'm just being optimistic, it's fun" posters who were asking if we could possibly make the MNC or a BCS Bowl this year. It's not happening. Instead of posting non-sensical homer content, be happy with the very likely 8-4 or 9-3 that we will get, which is GREAT considering where we were.

myrtlebeachmai…

September 21st, 2009 at 5:51 PM ^

by both DR and Brown.

BUT, did you notice their other defender? He of the incredible-sticky-palmed-your-run-ends-here hand tackle? Also above, got Brown and Shaw. We need to capture him and assimilate his powers into every one of our secondary guys.

Logan88

September 21st, 2009 at 6:21 PM ^

Man, I was so afraid that Carlos was going to hit a really big gnat or something and fall down-untouched by human hands-on that 90 yard TD run.

Regading his fall/phantom tackle early in the game: Was that Johnny Sears (#6) for EMU? Maybe, Carlos just felt bad for JS and "took a dive" to spare his fragile psyche.