Thirteen

Submitted by Ace on September 2nd, 2012 at 6:02 PM

I'm writing this at a Starbucks in the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, already one 20-ounce beer deep after a most depressing lunch at a nearby Chile's. I packed three shirts for this trip, all maize; my 2006 student football shirt draws pitied looks from those in red, hollow stares of sadness from fellow Michigan faithful.

Last night, I surveyed the carnage from my perch in the second deck; all I could think of was Switch, staring at inevitability.

Not like this.

Not like this.

Vincent Smith rush for 3 yards to the Mich 34 for a 1ST down.

The one Alabama fan I spoke to at length has but one question as we prepare to go through security and enter Cowboys Stadium. He is the archetype of the middle-aged Tide male, red polo with the script 'A' tucked into his khakis, carrying the air of a man who's seen the bottom of many a bottle.

"So, do y'all really think you have a chance?"

The question isn't spoken derisively, at least on its surface—like the others, he's almost disarmingly polite. Over the course of the next four hours, this particular trait goes from charming to infuriating.

Vincent Smith rush for a loss of 1 yard to the Mich 33.

The two words are reflex, easily deciphered by the amateur lip-reader any time an Alabama fan appears on the behemoth jumbotron, spoken any time two groups of fans pass in the concourse, emblazoned on T-shirts, seared into my soul.

Roll Tide.

Vincent Smith rush for 1 yard to the Mich 33.

Denard Robinson's third carry comes on the first drive of the third quarter. The scoreboard reads Alabama 31, Michigan 7.

Had I known this was the plan, I'd have watched from my couch.

Vincent Smith rush for 2 yards to the Mich 40.

Vincent Smith's fourth carry comes on the first play of the second quarter. To this point, Michigan's 34 yards of offense are almost entirely offset by their 25 penalty yards.

Had I known this was the plan, I'd have not watched at all.

Vincent Smith rush for a loss of 2 yards to the Mich 38.

Alabama's five-star running back, Dee Hart, hurtles down the field and connects flush with Dennis Norfleet. This is a kickoff return. Hart is on the coverage team. Had he stuck with his initial commitment to Michigan,—and after yesterday, nobody can blame him for not doing so—Hart would have started at running back for the Wolverines. He certainly would not have played kickoff coverage.

Half of the stadium erupts. It is not my half.

Vincent Smith rush for no gain to the Mich 5.

My friends and I enter the stadium at six o'clock local time. After locating our section, we exit the concourse to stand at the railing behind out seats and stare agape at the jumbotron. It is as advertised, so mind-blowingly large that it takes every effort to avert my eyes and watch the players on the field. I briefly note how much larger the Alabama players look before going back to ogling the screen.

A 30-something man wearing crimson from head to toe strikes up a conversation. He tells us that he's really a Michigan fan, too, and still was trying to decide upon a team for which to cheer. He is gregarious, pleasant, and wishes us all the best when we head to our seats.

I hate this man.

Vincent Smith rush for 2 yards to the Mich 12.

Seven Wolverine defenders—Joe Bolden, Keith Heitzman, Mario Ojemudia, Ondre Pipkins, Terry Richardson, James Ross, and Jarrod Wilson—make their career debut.

None can stop the bleeding, of course. They are but freshmen, and freshmen cannot save you here.

Vincent Smith rush for 3 yards to the Mich 25.

Each Miller Lite costs $8 at Cowboys Stadium. This is criminal, of course, but the alternative is so much worse.

I'll take two, please.

Vincent Smith rush for no gain to the Alab 46.

Thomas Gordon finishes with nine tackles, leading the team, and—in my memory, at least—missing at least as many.

God bless Thomas Gordon. He tried, long after the point when I'd given up hope.

Vincent Smith rush for 1 yard to the Mich 15.

Hours before kickoff, we park in Lot 10 to begin tailgating. The signs for the lot bear the image of a Dallas Cowboys legend of some sort, though I don't recognize the face. We are next to a Wal-Mart. It is a stark reminder of where we are, and where we are not. By the time this sniveling jackass graces the big screen...

...I'll have vowed never to attend a regular season neutral site game again.

Vincent Smith rush for 22 yards to the Alab 48 for a 1ST down.

Vincent Smith—God bless him, too—finally turns the corner on his 11th carry, scampering 22 yards before screeching to a halt in front of an Alabama safety, falling to the turf when his legs cannot dance as his panicked mind intends. A Michigan fan behind me then utters the stupidest sentence in the history of man:

"He could’ve gotten about three more yards if he ran through that guy.”

I nearly miss Devin Gardner's touchdown two plays later as I frantically tweet to save the quote for posterity's sake.

Vincent Smith rush for a loss of 1 yard to the Mich 7.

This morning, before we load our luggage into the rental car, my friend Dan grabs an unopened 12-pack from the trunk.

Last night, in our haste to reach the hotel and never talk about that again, we forget to drink away our sorrows.

Vincent Smith rush for 2 yards to the Mich 28.

We find ourselves in the exclusive club section of Cowboys Stadium. We shouldn't be there, but Dan's girlfriend has that invaluable charm that renders such things moot. After a day of drinking and ignoring more basic needs, I am hungry. The concession stand offers a $13 Kobe Beef BBQ Burger, so of course I order one.

I eat my burger on a marble countertop. I state unequivocally that it's the best burger I've ever eaten, and long after the beers wear off I stand by that statement.

That turns out to be the highlight of my evening. An hour later, Alabama is up 21-0, and I've barely had time to get comfortable. I gaze at the field, resigned.

Not like this.

Comments

ST3

September 2nd, 2012 at 6:17 PM ^

In a total team effort, you single out Vincent Smith? Really?

I will not let Vincent Smith become this season's Obi Ezeh.

Or is this an indictment of Borges?

What would your game plan be against that Bama defense? Run Denard 26 times until he's broken down and nothing remains for the rest of the season?

Or Touss for getting suspended for this game? 

Finish your beer and relax. Things will get better.

flysociety3

September 2nd, 2012 at 6:33 PM ^

I think you misunderstood the post... He didn't say vince you suck... It's not Vince's fault he is horribly misused... It's just a commentary on the utter and complete heartbreaking failure that was the 2013 cowboy classic...
I think the Vince run out of shotgun to the left 13 times is a perfect framework for the helpless, mindless display on the field..

Matched up pretty well with how I felt/ feel after being there

Good write up, ace

Edit: at least that's how I took it... I love Vincent when he is used properly, and I love the toughness and effort he's given us his entire career... I just didn't feel like ace was blaming him

snarling wolverine

September 2nd, 2012 at 6:54 PM ^

But it does come off like he's singling out Smith, even if he didn't mean it that way.  And really, given that Toussaint was suspended and that Denard averaged 2.7 per carry (with a long of 9), I don't think we had a lot of great options.  Our OL got owned.  It didn't matter who had the ball.

I don't think our failure to do much on offense is even the big story.  Ace picked us to score 20 points.  Brian picked us to score 15.  We scored 14.  It was the other side of the ball that really underperformed relative to expectations.

 

 

 

MGoBlue96

September 2nd, 2012 at 8:32 PM ^

for Denard also included a couple of sacks. Without those sacks that average was closer to 4-5 yards a carry. That's not greater either, but it is enough to keep you out of 3rd and long on every single possession. I understand not having Denard carry the ball 20-25 times against Alabama's defense, but I don't see how anybody can sit there and defend him only having 2 carries at halftime, and for his first carry to come when it was 21-0.  Not just that , but why was there no misdirection plays of any kind? According to the scouting report on here that was one of the few things Alabama's D has been suspicible to the last couple of years. The offensive playcalling in general seemed very telegraphed and made things easy for a defense as good as Alabama's. I think Borges has done a pretty decent job overall, but this makes the third loss in 2 years where his playcalling was suspect. 

Jeff09

September 2nd, 2012 at 6:44 PM ^

Pretty sure this is an indictment of Borges. I don't think we win with that game plan in any circumstance. Not that we would have won by running Denard 20 times... But it would have been closer right? The question is would that have been worth it, to expose Denard and still lose...

Don

September 2nd, 2012 at 6:17 PM ^

but it wouldn't have mattered who was carrying it—Fitz, Rawls, Hopkins, Hayes, or Denard himself—none of them would have had any more room than Smith did. Our OL blocked nobody.

snarling wolverine

September 2nd, 2012 at 7:27 PM ^

Well, if lots of people are missing the point, then it probably wasn't articulated well.  (The "insanity is rushing vincent smith thirteen times against alabama" tag didn't aid my understanding of the "true" point any.)  

Michigan's entire team played like crap and the defense, especially, performed worse than expected, but Ace's story from the game goes on and on about how one player played, with the implication (IMO) that his performance was pivotal in the game.   Obviously, that's a stretch.

 

 

 

Hyphen

September 2nd, 2012 at 7:49 PM ^

Watching Vince grinding out one to two yards per carry was used as a metaphor for the grueling emotional experience of watching this game as a fan. Not that watching compares to the emotion on the field. I have enormous respect for all of the guys who didn't give up, especially Smith. I'm sure Ace does as well.

wolverine1987

September 3rd, 2012 at 9:54 AM ^

It was also an indictment of Borges IMO, and that indictment is right on. By any measure, the game plan on offense was terribly misguided. Having said that, as Don and others have stated, we would have lost anyway even with a proper plan. they are better than us, flat out.

Blue boy johnson

September 2nd, 2012 at 6:51 PM ^

I think you mean run blocking mostly, because from my untrained eye, the passes were there to be had, and if we could have passed better the run blocking would have been better. Not a knock against Denard, it's not his game, but a ball control passing attack was probably M's best option against this Alabama team.

Glimpse of the future. Ball control offense. Unfortunately we didn't have the personnel to pull it off.

Borges game plan was solid but we couldn't pull it off because we couldn't make the pass/catch. 2 or 3 years from now when our WR/TE's average 6'5'' and the QB is a more accurate passer Alabama, or anyone else for that matter, will have a much tougher time stopping Borges ball control attack. M will have big physical receivers who will give all defensive backs fits. I don't care who the defensive back is, it is going to be very difficult to match up with a guy like Funchess or Darbroh, or Chesson, especially after these kids have a couple years of S&C. That's without even mentioning the manchild TE known as AJ Williams.

Nick Sparks

September 3rd, 2012 at 12:16 PM ^

Everyone and their mother said before the game that our best bet was to try to test them through the air. We tried, it started out pretty rocky. After doing our best to set up the run, we test the trenches with the toughest guy on our team and our battering ram. We fail... bitterly. Al then looks at what the defense just might give up at the half and comes out throwing Denard at them in that fashion.

Was it too little too late at that point? Of course. Did it turn out to be a poor plan against this Alabama team? yep. But hindsight's 20/20. If the passing game connected it would be a different story. If we weren't getting mauled in the trenches without an answer at running back  this conversation would look a lot different.

This game was about learning where we were against a team like Alabama. It's a shitty lesson but there was only one way to learn it. Let's not blame the guy for providing the answers that we didn't want to hear. Not saying Ace did this of course. I dig metaphors and that one was spot on, it was almost a cathartic read. I'm just saying.

turtleboy

September 2nd, 2012 at 8:22 PM ^

If Lewan and Schofield return next year then we could have a very good offensive line, though. Lewan, Kalis, Miller, Bryant, Schofield. Each player around 300+ of good weight, each with at least 2 years of coaching up by Dr Funk-enstein, at least 3 with a known nasty streak, all recruited to play the position they're at, most with experience. If Lewan leaves for the NFL then we have Schofield, Gunderson, Braden, Magnuson, and likely AJ Williams by that point to pick from. With an eye to the future the coaches will likely play most of those guys this year anyways. For sure Braden, Magnuson, and Williams will be raw this year, but by 2013 they should be respectable, especially because of the coaches emphasis on the trenches.

mrawatson

September 3rd, 2012 at 11:46 AM ^

What does the fact that OSU can't play in the title game have to do with how good they are? After the first quarter OSU looked very good both on offense and defense (especially against a first round NFL quarterback who will break Ben Rothlisberger's school passing record this year). UM on the other hand looked unprepared.  Not what you expect from UM football.

 

I was watching an ESPN video a week ago that took you into the OSU practices. The coaches were lean and intense. Like Bo was in 1969 (I was living in Ann Arbor then and I remember his intensity - I am probably the only person to wear a OSU tshirt to a UM football clinic in front of Bo and live to tell the tale). Bo had players quitting because the practices were so intense.

 

Later I watched a ESPN video of the UM coaches - some were tired-looking Pillsbury Dough Boy types (Mattison, Borges)(Really - that was my impression. Not trying to be unnecessarily unkind). I did not see the same level of intensity. Also, you can't have an offense that focuses so heavily on one player  - Robinson. Once he gets banged up there is no one to step in for the offense.

 

Unless UM pickes things up a notch, last years victory over OSU may only be a temporary interruption of UM's version of OSU's "Cooper Years" with UM. Lets hope things pick up at TSUN so that THE GAME is still THE GAME (like it last was in 2006 - I was there for that one too.).

jmblue

September 2nd, 2012 at 6:50 PM ^

Let's be honest: we could have given those 13 carries all to Denard and we still would have gotten killed (and he may have as well).  He practically threw his back out trying to get three yards on one play and it ended up not even standing up.

I love Denard for (among other things) his willingness to throw his body around to help the team, but I can understand why it makes the coaches gunshy.

 

 

Indiana Blue

September 2nd, 2012 at 6:46 PM ^

it feels like I've puked and I can't find any water, toothbrush, toothpaste ... anything to cover up the taste in my mouth.  This is going to be the longest week since September 2007.

I know its only one game ... but, I think I'm gonna puke again.

I need a tailgate in Ann Arbor soooooo bad.

Go Blue! 

Greg McMurtry

September 2nd, 2012 at 6:55 PM ^

Offense would have been much better. Bu the D was still terrible. Also of note: most Bama fans were cool, respectful, didn't talk shit. 99% of them had a red shirt (tucked in), khakis and a Beiber haricut. The girls were amazingly hot, although were also all wearing the same clothes. The guy wearing "Ohio" clothes at the game should've got a beatdown although I don't think that he did.

jackw8542

September 2nd, 2012 at 6:50 PM ^

is still the leaders and best.  The one comment with which I really take exception is the one about Dee Hart:  "Had he stuck with his initial commitment to Michigan,—and after yesterday, nobody can blame him for not doing so—Hart would have started at running back for the Wolverines."  That makes no sense to me.  There is nothing that could make me regret having gone to Michigan, but for Hart, it seems as if he elected to sit on the bench at a lousy school where he will probably get a lousy education instead of going to a great school where he would have played and gotten a great education.  Seems like a bad choice to me. ""