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

bronxblue

September 2nd, 2012 at 9:36 PM ^

Great write-up, but I guess I'm not in the camp of dread about yesterday's game.  It was a bad idea when Brandon signed up the team two years ago, even worse after the transition, and especially poor after Alabama whooped everyone on its way to an MNC.  It happens.  I honestly think UM is a very good program, but to be elite it requires not only great coaching and recruiting, but also a shift in institutional outlook that I don't see many teams adopting.  And while this might sound like whining (and it probably is), the fact remains that there is a reason the last 6 NCs have all come from the SEC - it is a conference that has, on the whole, changed the way CFB runs.  Yes, some of changes are on the field - a focus on defensive line play, NFL-style defenses to counteract the wide-open offenses we've seen, etc.  But it also signals, unfortunately, a change even further away from the myth of the student athlete, of recruiting kids for 4 years and only taking those for whom you have room.  

Alabama signed 103 kids to LOIs the past 4 years (and the year before, they brought in 32(!)); Michigan 94 and that is partially due to the attrition from the coaching change.  MSU, a team that has had a stable coaching staff for years now, had 87.  OSU, the best team in the B1G for the past decade, reecruited 93, and that too includes a coaching change.  And Texas, craddle of football that it is, recruited 95.  And I know Alabama had a bunch of kids go to the pros the past couple of years, but so have other elite teams, and none of them have recruited this way.  It sounds like a broken record, but when you have 103 kids over 4 years (or 135 over 5 years), plus all of the other advantages Alabama has (good facilities, top-notch pay for coaches, recruiting hotbeds nearby, statistically-unbelievable "career-ending" injuries to kids at the end of camp), it shouldn't surprise people that they are this good.

So while it was sad to see Vincent Smith get hammered for 2-3 yards a pop all night, at least he was the one out there.  Not Fitz, who deserved to be suspended for his DUI.  Not some late-day 4* that Hoke brought in to replace a guy like Hopkins who didn't "work out" and is "too injured" to every play the game again.  I'm not for more victories and Alabama won fair and square on the field, but yesterday did nothing to change my view of either program.

 

Princetonwolverine

September 2nd, 2012 at 9:41 PM ^

Not too many teams get to play in the National Championship Game. We got to give it a try in the first game of the season. Oh well....there is a reason Hoke never says the goal is the win every game he only says the goal is to win the Big Ten. We are still on track.

crossvilliage

September 2nd, 2012 at 9:46 PM ^

I feel I should commend the Wolverworld for maintaining at least a shread of humor in spite of Jerryworld detonation.  We are nothing if we can't find humor in the worst of our days.  Kittens were a great place to go.  

 

The AD should be called out for ever signing the contract for this game... read .... greed at the cost of damaging a nasent team just finding its way.   The caoches and team would never have voted for this firing squad.  Pizza world and NCAA football are different.  

 

Go BlueWolves.  Stop buying Domino Pizza smack.

 

Vasav

September 2nd, 2012 at 10:13 PM ^

While I would rather have played a home and home and would rather not wear alternates, I am not going to blame him for scheduling Bama. I WANT to play Bama. To be the best you've gotta beat the best. We're not the best. Now we know and we get better.

jdon

September 2nd, 2012 at 10:07 PM ^

you do realize the game yesterday was a statement game?

I had hoped that we would state that we are on the cusp of being something special.  Instead I learned that while we may win 10 games this year, and we can be good, we are a long long way from competing with the big boys...

and that is why people are freaking;  many of us thought we were better than we are...

jdon

Vasav

September 2nd, 2012 at 10:09 PM ^

Some of us were hoping to be B1G title champs this season, Denard's senior year. This game means that A) the best of the B1G is 4 TDs worse than the SEC or ( more probably) B) we are a long ways off from Pasadena, and Denard will never smell roses.

It's a tough pill to swallow when you've had such high hopes

WolverineDAH

September 2nd, 2012 at 10:26 PM ^

Don't let Denard do what Denard does best, against one of the best teams in the nation if the the risk is losing him for his entire Sr. year.  While Borges was more conservative than normal I'm fine with this actually. Our only chance in this game was to let Denard be Denard, which may have then costed us having a healthy Denard for the rest of the year. It really stunk to be that hand-tied all game long and I hated this part of it. But really, he almost got hurt several times without the offense being that creative.

I think the coaches knew what they were up against and made sure they didn't lose their best chance at a successful season by putting all chips in for one single game against a far more experienced team.

While I don't like saying it - for this, I appreciate fans aren't in charge and coaches are.

Go Blue always and forever.

cjpops

September 3rd, 2012 at 10:20 AM ^

This game is and always was ultimately meaningless for Michigan. Win and it's the miracle scenario putting Michigan in the national championship hunt. Lose and it's just expected. Lose with Denard getting hurt? That's the nightmare.

It's already bad enough with Countess and Lewan (not sure how bad he's hurt) going down in a game where Michigan had nothing to gain by playing.

You think people are dark today with the outcome...imagine the headline of "Denard done for the year" on this blog. Yeesh. Let's play some opponents that matter, please.

imafreak1

September 2nd, 2012 at 10:35 PM ^

This is well written and hits the heart of it with the return the bad old days of Vinny Smith as a feature back.

However, for my taste it is over wrought and melodramatic. We knew Michigan had a tough row to hoe. We knew the Fitz suspension put them in a tough spot. 

It sucks to lose but in the context of the entire season and what we've been through in the past, it just isn't as bad as all this.

snoopblue

September 2nd, 2012 at 10:40 PM ^

It's on. Whatever happened against Alabama happened. I don't even want to call him little brother anymore because what we are will do to them on Oct. 20 is something you should never do to family. I know Hoke won't do anything about it, but I hope the players know the stakes have been raised. 

Michigan State players take aim at Michigan on Twitter

From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20120902/SPORTS0202/209020346#ixzz25N0icbFa

 

chitownblue2

September 2nd, 2012 at 11:18 PM ^

There is nothing worse than reading about the reflected pain felt by someone in the stands.

Awful, narcissistic, navel-gazing bullshit.

Ace, you are normally good. But fuck this post in the eye.

JamieH

September 2nd, 2012 at 11:45 PM ^

Who in their right mind thought running Smith horizontal to the LOS was ever going to work?  I mean sure, try it a few times just to prove what everyone already knew, but WHY DO YOU KEEP TRYING IT? 

I understand Borges is dealing with a QB that has terrible accuracy issues, but that doesn't explain why he keeps calling plays that have NO CHANCE OF EVER SUCCEEDING!  I'd rather see Denard repeatedly chuck wounded ducks into the Alabama secondary than watch Vincent Smith run yet again into the LOS with absolutely no chance of anything good ever happening.  At least our receivers have a chance to make a play on some of those passes.  Smith almost never had a chance.  He was being overwhelmed before he could even find a hole to make a cut into.

Running Smith repeatedly like that was hardly more effective than just taking a knee.  There was absolutely no where for him to run.

cozy200

September 3rd, 2012 at 1:01 AM ^

Were you near the corner and the DJ? We were next to the guys slamming their faces in a cooler and shotgunning beers right after. As i look back, best part of the night watching that germ pool. Also, rawls had positive yards mostly, why all the vinny smith love on 3rd and 2? Sad panda

BlowGoo

September 3rd, 2012 at 2:05 AM ^

The goal before and after his game remains the same: win the Big Ten.

Yes, this game as a yardstick as to how far we must go before the goal transforms into "win the National Championship" was a depressing reminder of how much further we must develop.

But realistically, we all knew/should have known that is hard to enter the conversation as a realistic NC contender with our lines.

And without lighting another fire, it kinda gets worse next year due to our past recruiting patterns being downright inadequate at bringing in talented (or indeed ANY) linemen.

So this sucks, but it's not surprising. In football, if you can't challenge their O-line, you can't stop the run without shortchanging pass coverage. So once you fall behind, it's kinda a choke hold.

Michigan has a way to go before it can build the lines necessary for a NC. And a necessary step towards that goal is winning the Big Ten.

Don't forget that, and get off the ledge. Our line problems don't exactly go away the next couple of years.

But depending on how we do in the B1G in the meanwhile, our line problems should DRAMATICALLY improve.

Alabama 2012 is an AMAZING team, and the SEC>B1G (and everyone else). Neither of those things were particularly insightful either before or after Saturday. It has been obvious.

So remember: we are en route, not arrived yet, and our goal this year was and still is the B1G championship.

And we are about as close to it now as we were BEFORE Dallas.

nmajali

September 3rd, 2012 at 2:22 AM ^

To be honest, Alabama players were big, fast, better, more well conditioned and they had unbelievable depth. To be honest Dave Brandon (God Bless his Soul) shouldn't have scheduled this game originally. And remember he even scheduled this game at a time Michigan was unranked, so it was supposed to be an even mr lopsided match up.
Maybe it helped in recruiting players fom the south, but damn it was bad. Granted if we had miraculously won, this would have been huge, but come on, who are we kidding!? We had absolutely no chanc unless we would've played like a complete underdog and amagined we were App State or Praire A&M and tried to milk the clock on every possession so we might have a chance of mounting a comeback in the 4th with something like 2 scores!!!
It was a madman's quest, I believe if we win the B10 this year it is just an indicator of how far the league has to go to catch up with the SEC at this point. Seriously what I saw in this Bama game was an NFL team playing against a college team.. Seriously, their 4th string RB had a higher average per carry than our first.. That is just wrong.. Our depth is miserable.. Any backup on the field couldn't match up to their players, why any great starter ( Robinson and Lewan) couldn't do anything against their backups...
God Bless our players and coaches, but 2 years ago we wouldn't beat Toledo, how did we think we could beat Alabama this year, it's a publicty stunt and not a logical game.. Let's hope we win the big ten, go blue...

nmajali

September 3rd, 2012 at 2:22 AM ^

To be honest, Alabama players were big, fast, better, more well conditioned and they had unbelievable depth. To be honest Dave Brandon (God Bless his Soul) shouldn't have scheduled this game originally. And remember he even scheduled this game at a time Michigan was unranked, so it was supposed to be an even mr lopsided match up.
Maybe it helped in recruiting players fom the south, but damn it was bad. Granted if we had miraculously won, this would have been huge, but come on, who are we kidding!? We had absolutely no chanc unless we would've played like a complete underdog and amagined we were App State or Praire A&M and tried to milk the clock on every possession so we might have a chance of mounting a comeback in the 4th with something like 2 scores!!!
It was a madman's quest, I believe if we win the B10 this year it is just an indicator of how far the league has to go to catch up with the SEC at this point. Seriously what I saw in this Bama game was an NFL team playing against a college team.. Seriously, their 4th string RB had a higher average per carry than our first.. That is just wrong.. Our depth is miserable.. Any backup on the field couldn't match up to their players, why any great starter ( Robinson and Lewan) couldn't do anything against their backups...
God Bless our players and coaches, but 2 years ago we wouldn't beat Toledo, how did we think we could beat Alabama this year, it's a publicty stunt and not a logical game.. Let's hope we win the big ten, go blue...

nmajali

September 3rd, 2012 at 2:22 AM ^

To be honest, Alabama players were big, fast, better, more well conditioned and they had unbelievable depth. To be honest Dave Brandon (God Bless his Soul) shouldn't have scheduled this game originally. And remember he even scheduled this game at a time Michigan was unranked, so it was supposed to be an even mr lopsided match up.
Maybe it helped in recruiting players fom the south, but damn it was bad. Granted if we had miraculously won, this would have been huge, but come on, who are we kidding!? We had absolutely no chanc unless we would've played like a complete underdog and amagined we were App State or Praire A&M and tried to milk the clock on every possession so we might have a chance of mounting a comeback in the 4th with something like 2 scores!!!
It was a madman's quest, I believe if we win the B10 this year it is just an indicator of how far the league has to go to catch up with the SEC at this point. Seriously what I saw in this Bama game was an NFL team playing against a college team.. Seriously, their 4th string RB had a higher average per carry than our first.. That is just wrong.. Our depth is miserable.. Any backup on the field couldn't match up to their players, why any great starter ( Robinson and Lewan) couldn't do anything against their backups...
God Bless our players and coaches, but 2 years ago we wouldn't beat Toledo, how did we think we could beat Alabama this year, it's a publicty stunt and not a logical game.. Let's hope we win the big ten, go blue...

Jonesy

September 3rd, 2012 at 3:43 AM ^

I'm not the type who usually complains about playcalling, and I do love me some Vincent Smith and his finger-guns, but I was pretty confused all game.  Every first down was Vincent Smith up the middle to little effect.  That didn't work all last year against teams far inferior to Alabama, what made them think it would work Saturday, and what made them keep doing it as the fails piled up?  I was pretty disappointed in the playcalling :(.

OHbornUMfan

September 3rd, 2012 at 7:38 AM ^

I earned pity and an evening of awkwardness as I used "not like this" to attempt to explain my feelings about the "McGloin for Heisman" Penn State game two years ago.  I think I used it better.  I wasn't at the game, and so my experience was vastly different from yours, but as I saw it, it didn't really matter how many times we ran Vincent Smith - Alabama was that much better.  A different/better scheme may or may not have netted some more points on offense, keeping the contest closer for longer.  The lack of depth and overwhelming talent on the Michigan defense meant that when Alabama wanted to score, Alabama was going to score.

Lraegerb

September 3rd, 2012 at 9:46 PM ^

My husband & I went to the game as well. Your description was spot on! It actually made me smile through the pain. Although, it made realize that the whole ordeal was just not a terrible nightmare & that I really paid $8.50 a beer x like 6 because i was trying to get so intoxicated that I might blackout the event all together...(note to Jerry, you may want to consider selling Jack by the bottle.) Even if I could have gotten drunk enough to forget that I been there, i would have eventually found the M-Den bag with the "Blue Beat Bama" shirts I had purchased & now can not wear for anything other than cleaning the house or yard work. I really don't want to go to work tomorrow , I'm going to get nothing but grief...if we had at least been competitive...DANG IT! (insert whiny southern twang that I've mysteriously picked up in the last 3 days)