The perfect photo for this column

View from the Sidelines: Rubbing it in Comment Count

Ethan Sears November 4th, 2018 at 1:08 AM

Early on in the fourth quarter, the game out of hand, Michigan Stadium’s ops people decided to go for the kill. Zombie Nation blasted from the speakers. The fans played along, mocking Penn State with its own chant. On the very next play, David Long picked off Trace McSorley, getting to the Nittany Lions’ 12-yard line before, mercifully, being taken down.


That’s what this game was. Taunting with reckless abandon, kicking someone when they were down, then rubbing their face in dirt for good measure. Michigan beat down Penn State 42-7, but it was more than a beat down.


All week, the talk at Schembechler Hall pegged this game as personal. We heard about Don Brown’s lack of sleep, about the disrespect the Nittany Lions showed at the end of last year’s game. A lot of the time, talk is just that — talk. On Saturday, we saw what personal looks like.


[After THE JUMP: An obligatory shot at James Franklin, but also a column]


“I understand that Penn State tried to run up the score last year,” Shea Patterson said. “... Our mindset was to play our game, and if we had the chance, we were going to run it up too.”


Much as the first half was dominated by a comedy of errors from James Franklin, it was also clear from the outset that the Wolverines were, simply, better. After Michigan coughed up a 25-yard catch-and-run to Pat Freiermuth on the Nittany Lions’ first play, Chase Winovich and Josh Uche proceeded to wreck McSorley with two straight sacks. That set the tone for the rest of the game.


The Wolverines were in the backfield constantly, buoyed by Rashan Gary’s return. As a team, they finished with five sacks, six tackles for loss and a home inside Penn State’s head.


“It’s not their spirit being broken, it’s our spirit feeling unstoppable,” Winovich said.
“That’s just the feeling I got. … We got to that point and as soon as we get to that point, we’re a tough team to go back from. We’re a more mature and veteran group. We know how to get to that level just playing our best game.”


The revenge tour trope has long been played out, an inevitability from the moment Winovich declared it. But, as the Wolverines followed touchdowns with Saquon Barkley’s windmill arms and mimicked McSorley’s home run celebration on the sidelines, it was hard not to feel it in full.


“You get in that mood, you get in that game mode — in my mind, it’s almost like all bets are off,” Winovich said. “That’s why I said, it’s fine if you want to laugh at running the score up and have a jolly old time. In my mind, it’s fair game, it’s football, that’s what it is. At the same time, I’m not gonna get mad, or you can’t get mad when stuff like that happens back at you. I had some fun with it.”


Michigan poured it on, adding another score after Long’s interception, then tried as hard as possible to keep the shutout. Jim Harbaugh challenged a call, a rarity — not when the game was still in hand, but when the Wolverines were up 42-0 and Penn State was trying to play out the string.


After the game, a reporter asked Harbaugh about Michigan’s aggressiveness at the end of the game and the personal nature of it. The coach seemed almost incredulous in his response.


“What, how personal it was? They’re personal,” Harbaugh said. “Yeah, these are personal. You want to strive for happiness, strive for elation. You want to win.”


Of course, this was more than wanting to win. It was wanting to dominate, to bully, to leave an impression. Consider it done.


Three weeks ago, the Wolverines came into Wisconsin with questions to answer, knowing the next three games would define their season. They wanted to be taken seriously as a national title contender, let alone a Big Ten contender. Doing that meant winning at least two, if not all, of their next three games.


On Saturday, they left Michigan Stadium having answered the call. They won all three games. Convincingly. There’s no questions anymore — other than Dylan McCaffrey, who suffered a broken collarbone on Saturday, there aren’t even any injuries to get worried about.


The defense is terrifying. Patterson is the best quarterback Harbaugh has had since arriving in Ann Arbor. Higdon, barring unforeseen circumstances, will blow through the 1,000-yard mark next week. The offensive line held its own against the best run defense in the conference, then the best pass rush in the conference in subsequent weeks.


Yeah, this team is a contender alright.





November 4th, 2018 at 1:52 PM ^

More than contender. I'd argue #3 behind Bama and Clemson.  Only potential weaknesses are field goals and an unlikely regression of the OL. If we handle the next 3 games in similar fashion to these last 2 we'll have all the momentum and will be the favorite to win it all.

L'Carpetron Do…

November 5th, 2018 at 10:04 AM ^

Alabama looks like the best team I've ever seen, if anyone beats them before the playoffs I'll be shocked. I watched that LSU game on Sat night and Alabama thoroughly handled them. LSU is pretty strong but they also never have a dynamic offense so maybe that's more on them than Alabama being so good? I don't know, but Alabama sure looks downright scary.

Still Alabama looks like suspiciously good. I understand that they're #1 and are undoubtedly the best team but I don't understand how they can be an a whole other level as every other team. They played a major rival, ranked #3 in the country and made them look like a high school team. They look so much bigger, stronger and faster than everybody else; they're suffocating on defense and unstoppable on offense and they hardly ever fumble or throw the occasional interception. They're terrifying. 

Arb lover

November 4th, 2018 at 9:51 PM ^

Don't be so sure we don't get put ahead of ND because of 1) statistical improvements and 2) CFP committee statement on what matters/eye test, etc.

By numbers ND should have been ahead of LSU (based on production and win/loss), but they didn't pass the "eye test" that LSU did. It's also a shot across the bow that ND wants to be semi ACC but not participate in the championship game (so doesn't play the only good ACC team). They were adverse to putting two teams from one conference in last year but did so because nobody else deserved it, and they have been adverse to putting in a team that did not win/play a conference championship. That's two partial strikes against ND even prior to the season.

Last week ND was 4th to our 5th. They had played opponents with a combined win record of 28W/20L (58%) vs P5 teams, and had gained 204 points and given up 114 (1.79pts/vs opp) vs P5 opponents, 3 quality opponents and 6 power 5 teams in their 8-0 record. During that same period we had played P5 opponents with a combined record of 30W/18L (63%) and had gained 194pts vs 92 (2.11pts/vs opp) vs P5 opponents, with 4 quality opponent and 5P5 wins in a 7-1 record. (With head to head loss 1st game of the season by a TD at ND, at night, with on field ACC refs).

After this week, ND has played opponents with  a combined win record of 36W/27L (57%), and has gained 235pts and given up 136pts (1.72pts/vs opp), 3 quality opponents and 7 P5 team wins in their 9-0 record. Michigan however has played opponents with a combined win record of 39W/24L (62%), and has gained 236pts and given up 99pts (2.38pts/vs opp) pvs P5, with 5 quality opponents and 6P5 wins in their 8-1 record.

In short, since last week, Michigan has continued to face opponents with a higher winning record than ND at 62% vs 57%, has drastically improved its points gained vs P5 opponents compared to ND (2.38 vs 1.79; read, Michigan is scoring 60% more of what its opponent scores than ND is), and has 5 quality wins vs P5 to ND's 3 which is much stronger than 4 for Michigan and 3 for ND as of last week.


November 4th, 2018 at 6:05 PM ^

LOVE the enthusiasm, but we'd be a decent size dog to Clemson & a large dog to Bama (as of early November).

I hope we can get to 3rd seed to avoid Bama til a final, but barring ND losing I don't see that happening. 

And of course there's the crazy Catch-22 of a ND loss actually hurting our SOS, which might allow them to justify jumping UGa or OU over us, so...

Best to focus on what they CAN control, and Win The Games!


November 4th, 2018 at 7:56 PM ^

That justification would still be very week.

It'd be a 1-score loss on the road to another 1-loss team in Week 1, vs. a 20-pt blowout to a 2-loss LSU vs. a 3-pt loss to a 3-loss team in the middle of the season.

And our wins are as good (better) than anybody's.  If ND goes down, we should be the very clear #3.

Wolverine 73

November 4th, 2018 at 3:22 PM ^

Yes.  And isn’t it wonderful to kick the crap out of a team that tried to score a TD on the last play of the game a year ago when they had a huge lead, a team that was laughing at you as they ran up the score the previous year, a coach that displayed the least sportsmanship since Woddy went for two in 1968?  Damn, I enjoyed this game.


November 4th, 2018 at 4:27 PM ^

If I would have said in any of the threads with preseason prediction talk that we would win these three games by a combined 101-27, while the defense allowed 17/58 for 221 yards passing, only 256 run yards and a total of 487, you all would have called me delusional and fanboy or just plain nuts. And I would have questioned my own sanity as well.

Yet here we are.


November 5th, 2018 at 7:20 PM ^

I stuck with my 11-1, conf champs, final 4 appearance prediction after the ND game and have had an inexplicable confidence in the teams ability leading me to not really even be that nervous before games this year, which is odd for me. I can't help but wonder if some of that blind optimism was out of bare necessity for survival, but I could get used to this. 


November 4th, 2018 at 6:50 PM ^

I can't explain how happy I am that we can run the ball with ease against Michigan State and Penn State. Over the past ten years we've had so many Septembers where it seemed like maybe we had a run game back at Michigan but it never proved true (I'll admit there were a lot of us though that saw the fools gold in out of conference play those years). Anyways, just love being able to run the ball and control the flow of the game. 


November 4th, 2018 at 7:20 PM ^

Don't forget, the Revenge Tour has another stop, in Columbus.

We have won some big games but we haven't won any titles... yet.  Let's win the Big Ten and then let the chips fall.


November 4th, 2018 at 7:29 PM ^

Two dance parties also broke out on the sidelines after the last two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. I have no video, but I can attest that Chase does have some quality dance moves.


November 4th, 2018 at 8:15 PM ^

I was there in person with my son--his first game. We watched the second half at section 2 row 6 about the 35 yard line right behind the defense. In person these guys are so fast and tough it's crazy. PSU had zero chance in that game, just a complete domination everywhere you looked.


November 4th, 2018 at 8:22 PM ^

So I have been invested in Michigan football since the early 1970s.  One of the themes I have seen play out over and over is Michigan playing to the level of competition and other teams dreaming of playing them tough all year.  So I can't wait to see this week if that happens vs Rutger.  

My gut says no way, not this group.  They have too much experience losing for that.  Still, it's another challenge this team has to prove themselves against on the way to bigger things.  Over my time following the team, that has been the single greatest killer of great seasons.   


November 5th, 2018 at 7:13 AM ^

No doubt, the team is like what I remember from the Bo Schembechler lineage: mentally tough and creates fear in the teams they play. Stanley Jackson  ( BTN - OSU) said it well, “ they are scary.”