Best and Worst: MSU

Submitted by bronxblue on October 26th, 2014 at 12:03 AM

For various reasons, this diary is going to be low on game-specific commentary.  The box score tells a pretty complete tale already; I don't think you need me to supplement the numbers to get the drift.  Plus, I need a little R&R.

Worst:  Our Place in the Dirt

Few lines have gotten me this excited about a movie more than Mr. Dirk Pitt intoning about the plight of the human civilization as we look to the heavens for a way to escape a dying planet before the last embers of humanity as extinguished.  From what I've read about the movie, it is all about scientists discovering a wormhole that (apparently) would allow faster-than-light space travel, Earth no longer being capable of sustaining life due to the effects of cataclysmic climate change, and Dr. Larch calling upon Rust Cohle and Fantine to travel beyond the solar system in search of new, habitable planets.  Throw in Christopher Nolan and some cool cinematic effects, and I am already making triple-redundant babysitter plans for opening weekend.  Doesn't look like I'll be missing much in the way of relevant football then.

For decades, Michigan fans looked at every season not just with hope, but with expectations.  They expected to compete for conference titles and bowl wins, to beat rivals and stay atop the college wins list.  To being, for lack of a better word, good.  The stars didn't always align themselves (and let's be frank, more times than not goals were equal parts hubris and idealization), but Michigan fans always had their heads up, dreaming big.

But since 2006, that hasn't been the case.  Sure, there have been glimmers here and there (most of 2011, the starts of 2009, 2010, and pre-Akron 2013), but they've all been mirages, pockets of air escaping a dying husk of a collective fantasy.  Michigan the football program isn't "dead", of course; it will rebuild (with a new administration and a new coach) and undoubtedly return to competitiveness on a national stage.  You don't post decades of winning seasons without being able to adapt and reform, and this fallow period will most likely be an historical outlier (and not a trend) when my kids look back 32 years from now.

But I'm talking about the future, of a generation of fans who are still figuring out what "Michigan football" means to them.  They'll know it for this period of struggling, but as the team improves these memories will fade away, and one day they'll look back and wonder what the hell was happening in Ann Arbor in the late 00's and early 10's, much like my generation wonders about Bump Elliott and the 60's.  But this generation, the current era of fans who only know Bo and Carr and "the Streak" and spoiling OSU's perfect seasons and consistently pants-ing MSU, those memories are being buried deeper and deeper under each blowout loss and non-competitive game, under every good coaching hire in Columbus and East Lansing, and every "great" alum chiming in with his #HOTTAKE about the current team.  This is our first taste of failure, and its one that will linger for years.

I'll be there cheering on Michigan in 2019 or whenever they are "legitimately" good again.  When they are beating MSU and OSU, winning 9-10 games consistently, and celebrating your first touchdown in nearly 3 games doesn't break Ace.  But right now I'm staring at the ground, powerless to effect change and just hoping that someone, anyone can make sense of what has happened these past 7 years and make it stop.  And yeah, I'm sure they will, but it will be hard to wipe away this much dirt, this much grime with a couple more wins against Sparty and a couple of shiny TV games.  It's going to take something truly significant.

Or maybe none of this matters.  Maybe this is just a cycle ever team goes through, the karmic payoff for 40+ years of bowl games and #1 selling merchandise.  Maybe Michigan's Circadian rhythm is just longer than everyone else's, its death and rebirth on a different timeframe than most others, and thus what feels unfortunate and untimely is right on cosmic schedule.

Worst:  11 Points

Michigan scored an offensive touchdown against MSU for the first time in 3 games, or to put into perspective, for the first time since before the world had 7 billion people on it.  Excuse me for a moment.

Best (I Guess):  No Hell in a Cell

You know how I know you know something about professional wrestling, dear reader?  Because you've heard good Ol' J.R. announce epic dunks, huge hits, and internet fails for years now.  And chances are you probably watched the original video of the Undertaker vs. Mankind in Hell in a Cell.  If you haven't, here's that memorable scene.

What made this match so memorable wasn't the novelty of the cage; it had been around in a similar form for some time, most prominently as part of WCW's WarGames gimmick match.  And the violence that is so easily lent to the caged environment had become far less jarring with the continued evolution and prominence of lesser-known federations such as ECW, which had co-opted the "hardcore" style previously found in Japan and (to a lesser extent) Mexico and Latin America.  No, what made these early Hell in a Cell matches iconic was the escalating brutality they displayed.  In the first, Shawn Michaels took a for-then rough bump to the floor, but it was still pretty controlled and "safe", basically Michaels jumping from the cage onto a free-cut table.  But when the Undertaker battled Mankind, any reservations or sense of self-preservations were thrown out the window.  Watch the video again, and see Mick Foley dive off that cage onto the floor.  When Ross cried out that Foley was likely dead, you could hear real concern in his voice.  We were still a year away from Owen Hart's tragic death during a pay-per-view making this kayfabe fear a reality, but this was still a grown fan flying off the top of a 20+ foot cage onto the concrete floor of an arena.  It was both terrific theatre and terrifying spectacle, and the fact Mick Foley continues to show the lasting effects of this and other, similarly-brutal matches cannot be forgotten.

Last year's game felt like Gardner was flung from the top of the cage.  We semi-joke around here about his ribs being crushed by MSU and that "breaking" him, but it was terrifying to watch and made me legitimately question whether or not referees should be allowed to pull a player for his safety.  The fact Gardner kept getting up was courageous in a sense, but at some point you just wished he had stayed down and everyone just go home.  But in a sad testament to the season thus far, I didn't think Gardner suffered nearly as much against a ferocious MSU front.  Yes he was sacked twice and hit a half-dozen more times, but it looked like a normal 2014 game, not a life-changing evisceration on national TV.  It was your typical slobberknocker between these two teams, and if we are looking for a silver lining at all, everybody seemed to leave the game with all of their bones and organs in the same general place.

Worst:  So Close

This is Michigan's gameplan in a single gif.  They had halfway-decent field position on a couple of drives, and moved the ball in fits and spurts.  But every time they had the hint of momentum, they'd go for an ill-fated flea-flicker, or fail to execute a simple bubble screen, or just run the damn ball on 2nd-and-9 for 1 yard and waste any opportunity to keep the game close.  It was infuriating, it was depressing, it was par the course for the year.

Worst:  Running Gardner

I saw a number of people arguing for Gardner to be more involved in the running game, the logical argument being that while his passing wasn't working well against MSU's stout defense (13/28 for 121 with 2 picks - including on pick-6), he likely would have been more effective running the ball compared to the rest of the team (which if you squint kinda came within the ballpark of 100 yards total).  And maybe in another world, with actual QB depth and a coherent offensive plan, I'd agree with you.

But we've seen the backups for UM at the QB position - Morris isn't close to running this team, and Bellomy has looked lost every time he's been asked to do anything with this team.  This game was lost as soon as the two teams had the coin flip, but (in theory) Michigan has a chance to finish 6-6 and make a bowl game with very winnable games against NW, IU, and Maryland coming up.  But if Gardner goes down and is replaced by either of his most-likely backups, the team might as well not get off the bus.  And though I'm absolutely of the belief that Hoke should be gone, he's still being paid to win games for the University of Michigan, and he is going to make decisions that will maximize his ability to do so.  That means keeping Devin Gardner as healthy as possible, and in a game where MSU was going to be teeing off on him at every opportunity, exposing Gardner to any more damage in a lost game didn't make a whole lot of sense.

Worst:  Saving Timeouts

It was beyond infuriating to watch Brady Hoke allow MSU to run a good 40 seconds off the gameclock to end the half before scoring their second TD to push the game to 14-3.  With MSU needing about a quarter of a yard on 3rd down, Hoke allowed MSU to run the play clock down before plunging forward for a score.  Even if UM stops MSU at that point and the Spartans kick a FG, a couple TOs used there conserves clock and gives UM a chance to at least get within long FG range.  But with a full complement of TOs, Hoke let the clock burn down, ran for a couple of yards on the last play of the half, and went into halftime with three timeouts and nothing to show for them.

I guess you could argue Hoke wanted to see if his defense could hold MSU without giving the Spartans a chance to consult on 3rd down, or that he didn't want to expose his beleaguered offense to another set of downs that could lead to a turnover or some other misfortune.  Those are all theories with merit in a vacuum.  But this is Brady Hoke and Michigan in 2014, and that this point try to win the F*CKING GAME and squeeze one more possession out of the game.  You'd already gotten a couple of gifts in that first half; any shred of confidence you could hang your hat on went out the window when you basically told your offense you'd rather regroup than try to matriculate the ball down the field in a minute.  Still...

Worst:  Hoke is the Worst A.I. Ever

This might be semantics, but I don't think Hoke is a quitter.  He's (sadly) calling the game the same way in the 1st quarter as he is in the 4th quarter.  He's like the worst movie version of artificial intelligence.  He doesn't learn from the past, he doesn't integrate new information into his plans, he isn't becoming sentient, and he sure as hell isn't turning the world's electronics against the humans.  He's a mediocre football coach who seems unwilling to break out of his gameplan to any meaningful degree, and that's why all of these losses feel the same.  With a lead he's maybe willing to take a couple of chances, but when he's down its all huddling, predictable pass plays, and punting for field position.  He's not trying to "look good" for his bosses or nab a "moral" victory; he's just coaching like Brady Hoke at Michigan.  Now, the fact that this style resembles a guy who is over his head and failed to install anything resembling a consistent, sustainable identity is another matter.

Meh:  Defense

They gave up 446 yards, 4.8 yards a rush, busted on a 70-yard TD pass, and never made life too uncomfortable for Connor Cook.  At the same time, they played 29 minutes of the first half, forced a couple of turnovers to keep the game close, stopped MSU on 4th down, and for long stretches of the game looked competent despite missing a number of rotation/starters.  I know the raw numbers say otherwise, but it did feel like the defense was up to the challenge of today's game, and had the offense been able to sustain anything in that first half the game might have been a bit closer.  I'm not saying there would have been an upset, but for a defense that hasn't caught a break all year, the turnovers in particular were a welcome reprieve from the muck and, had they been capitalized on better, might have kept the game more competitive.

Longer-term, it doesn't really matter what Mattison and his coordinators do going forward.  Like Hoke, they are gone in a couple of weeks, so complaints about coverages, line play, RPS, etc. are kinda irrelevant.  I could see a world in which Nussmeier is retained due to his relative newness to the program and the expertise of the coach coming in, but Mattison is going to ride into the sunset with Hoke.  He'll leave having improved Michigan's defense significantly from RR's time, but not to the level people expected after 2011 and, frankly, what was needed to keep this team competitive.

[EDIT:  Put this in comments section below, figured I'd add it here for completeness]

Best:  Showing Some Heart
I have 0 problems with Bolden planting that stupid spike into the ground before the team took the field.  It's a cheap motivational ploy, but honestly teams do way worse before and during games.  Any arguments about it "disrespecting" MSU, especially coming from a program that planted the MSU flag in the middle of Notre Dame's stadium after the game is the height of hypocrisy.  Dantonio wasn't there in 2005, but he has shown little class in the intervening years as it relates to UM, whether it be getting into a verbal fight with Mike Hart in front of the media, pulling guys from lockup to play against UM before sending them back, encouraging (or at the least not punishing) consistent "violence" toward Michigan players that results in helmets being yanked sideways and cheap shots on downed players, and generally being an asshole.  He's a good coach, but I haven't liked him since the day he arrived in East Lansing and that hasn't changed one bit in the intervening years.
This is a rivalry game, and I expect players on both sides to get amped up over it.  Bolden didn't leave the stake in the middle of the field during the national anthem, Michigan didn't take shots at MSU players deep on the sidelines, and they didn't really taunt or otherwise disrespect MSU (and to their credit, MSU largely kept it clean as well).  MSU players trying to justify running up the score by talking about respect is stupid and shows an inability to accept the fact you scored again because you wanted to, because you like to win and rub in the victory against your biggest rival.  It's the same reason Izzo was throwing alley-oops up a billion against Michigan in basketball, and why Morris told MSu to get the fuck off his court after they vanquished them.  
It's all a show by MSU at this point, this faux outrage at what happened.  They won the game handily, and look to be one of the better teams in the country.  The fact they continue to have a hard-on about really trivial stuff like gives fuel the overblown-but-still-existing inferiority complex that fans of both sides attach to this rivalry.  But for the record, I hope Bolden puts one of these down in the field the next time they play.

Best:  IU Defense  - The Best Gift a Sport Could Give

So my daughter is celebrating her first birthday next week.  Since she's been born, Michigan has basically lost every meaningful game and looked like a steaming crater of tires covered in bird shit.  So that's not a good thing.  But what IS a good thing is that they are playing Indiana, and with all due respect to Jamie Mac, I'm pretty excited to see Michigan get a chance to put the spurs to a bad defense for once.  It won't make up for the past 12 months, but it will give me something else to smile about, and would be a perfect gift for this little Wolverine-in-training.



October 26th, 2014 at 12:49 AM ^

Sounds like he hit a table first before hitting the concrete floor. It's not much, but it breaks your fall a little. When people say wrestling is fake, well, yes it is, but getting thrown off the top of a cage and falling two stories is real.

Minor quibble, I'd say we forced one turnover with Wilson's hit, and State gave us the other with a poor handoff.


October 26th, 2014 at 8:18 AM ^

Absolutely about the table, but those are cut to basically break on impact, and from a different angle Foley you'll see Foley partially missed it.  He also later was chokeslammed on the top of the cage and it gave way, resulting in him basically landing on his head in the ring and having one of his teeth shoot through his nose.

Given how bad/unlucky UM has been at recovering fumbles this year (I think it was Minnesota where the ball bounced off a couple of Wolverines and the ONE Minnesota lineman picked it up), I'll credit the defense with a fumble however they get one.


October 26th, 2014 at 8:21 AM ^

i walked away from this game not as impressed with state as i thought i'd be. i thought cook's mechanics were shaky and their defense, while good, is MILES away from being as good as they were last year. If we had a decent QB, we could have competed, and possibly won. the problem is our qb is not a qb and the offense is just fundamentally/mechanically not good. it actually looks like the oline is/has improved, but gardner is not accurate and when he was, our WR dropped passes, ran bad routes, etc. A team with a legitimate qb i believe could shred this MSU defense.


October 26th, 2014 at 8:32 AM ^

We saw Oregon kind of pick them apart, but outside of OSU I'm not sure they'll see a competent QB until the bowl game.  But yeah, it isn't an elite defense like last year.  

Coming into the season, I figured they would fall back a bit from top-5 to a top-15/20-ish defense, and that's basically where they are if you take all of the metrics together.  They've been protected somewhat by a meh schedule, and teams like Indiana that could have picked away at them a bit didn't have a competent QB when they showed up.

People talked about Cook as a first-round NFL draft pick earlier this year and I laughed then and I'll say the same now.  When he has protection he looks very good, but that's true of most QBs.  But get in his face and get him on the run and he's prone to dumb mistakes.  He's like a more mobile Cousins in that sense, and he'll have the same troubles in the NFL.


October 26th, 2014 at 8:58 AM ^

And I guess I'll add my little take on the Bolden spike, which I didn't realize had occurred until I posted:

Best:  Showing Some Heart

I have 0 problems with Bolden planting that stupid spike into the ground before the team took the field.  It's a cheap motivational ploy, but honestly teams do way worse before and during games.  Any arguments about it "disrespecting" MSU, especially coming from a program that planted the MSU flag in the middle of Notre Dame's stadium after the game is the height of hypocrisy.  Dantonio wasn't there in 2005, but he has shown little class in the intervening years as it relates to UM, whether it be getting into a verbal fight with Mike Hart in front of the media, pulling guys from lockup to play against UM before sending them back, encouraging (or at the least not punishing) consistent "violence" toward Michigan players that results in helmets being yanked sideways and cheap shots on downed players, and generally being an asshole.  He's a good coach, but I haven't liked him since the day he arrived in East Lansing and that hasn't changed one bit in the intervening years.

This is a rivalry game, and I expect players on both sides to get amped up over it.  Bolden didn't leave the stake in the middle of the field during the national anthem, Michigan didn't take shots at MSU players deep on the sidelines, and they didn't really taunt or otherwise disrespect MSU (and to their credit, MSU largely kept it clean as well).  MSU players trying to justify running up the score by talking about respect is stupid and shows an inability to accept the fact you scored again because you wanted to, because you like to win and rub in the victory against your biggest rival.  It's the same reason Izzo was throwing alley-oops up a billion against Michigan in basketball, and why Morris told MSu to get the fuck off his court after they vanquished them.  

It's all a show by MSU at this point, this faux outrage at what happened.  They won the game handily, and look to be one of the better teams in the country.  The fact they continue to have a hard-on about really trivial stuff like gives fuel the overblown-but-still-existing inferiority complex that fans of both sides attach to this rivalry.  But for the record, I hope Bolden puts one of these down in the field the next time they play.



October 26th, 2014 at 9:32 AM ^

Here's my rebuttal:

I could agree with you if this team showed any sort of the same fire during the game. But they don't. Their QB takes a cheap shot, no one steps up to protect him. Someone gets in a UM player's face, they back down (including Bolden yesterday. An MSU player got in his face and he just meekly backed away). Last drive of the game, Joe Bolden and the defense get run over seven straight times for a TD. They are soft in comparison to their peers. 

The stake thing is symptomatic of the program Brady Hoke runs. Its faux toughness. Its all talk. They never actually back it up on the field. Again, the thing that Brady Hoke lauds the most is the thing that his team completely and totally lacks. 

And I don't disagree at all with Dantonio taking it personally. He uses it to keep himself and his team fired up. He turns these things into motivation, the same way a guy like Michael Jordan would invent slights to keep himself going. Compare his fire with Brady Hoke's simple grin after the game. One guy looks like a leader, the other guy looks like he can't remember where he parked his car for the third time this week. "Now, where'd that sucker go!"


October 26th, 2014 at 9:44 AM ^

Yes and no.  Michigan got into it with Cook a bit, and there was quite a bit of woofing out there.  I think we ascribe toughness with being a boisterous and, well, a "dick", and that's not what I care about.  UM and OSU have brawled numerous times, with players on both sides dancing on each other's logos and the like.  That isn't tough; that's just stupid.  QBs take shots all the time, and if any team jumped and fought eahc other over every instance we wouldn't have most games.  Also, taking a cheap shot at a QB doesn't show toughness any more than getting in a fight afterwards does.

As for the last drive, who cares?  The defense had played valiantly, forcing stops against MSU and creating turnovers.  They kept this team in the game, and the fact they kinda gave up the ghost at the end while MSU was trying to drive a point home about some imaginary slight doesn't strike me as a lack of heart.  Carr's teams weren't fighters more times that not; they just beat you.  The Yankees don't plunk guys too often; they still win World titles.  You can win without being bush league.

As for Dantonio being like Jordan, Michael was notorious for being a pretty horrible teammate, but he won so I guess it was fine.  But Dantonio being a dick in victory shouldn't make him out to being a great leader; I've seen and read enough press conferences with him after losses to highlight how childish he can be.


October 26th, 2014 at 10:34 AM ^

Yeah, I disagree with pretty much everything you just said. 

When your QB gets destroyed like ours have this year by cheap shots, at a certain point you've got to stand up for him. Michigan never does. Michigan's team doesn't. They all just stand around blankly wondering why their QB looks like he's been run over by a truck. 

Sure the game was over. But after you planted a fucking stake in the ground and pretend to be tough before the game as some sort of symbol, it'd be nice if you could at least play till the whistle. Again, when its real, this team shows no toughness and no heart. Running seven straight times to score isn't bush league, it drives home a point. Driving a stake into the ground to prove how tough you are and then laying down on the last drive is as pathetic as it gets. 

Speaking of Carr's team: In 2002, Michigan had the ball with 2:30 left in the game after a pick. They proceeded to throw a pass and score another touchdown. The final score was 49-3. Was Carr bush league? 

If you're calling Dantonio childish, then Michael Jordan and everyone like him is childish as well (did you see his Hall of Fame speech?). Its the same idea. You make slights bigger than they are for motivation. That's part of the reason why MSU can take 2-3 star guys and win and why Michigan can take 4-5 star guys and lose. 



October 26th, 2014 at 11:09 AM ^

You are within your right to feel how you do, but nothing you are saying is going to change my mind.  I doubt this will change, which is fine.

Retaliation is bush-league, and while I'm all for protecting your players, going over and popping a linebacker after the play isn't going to stop it.  I've yet to see that type of response lead to lasting change in the way a team is treated by the opposition; if anything, the referees need to start calling a tighter game and stop it from escalating.  The conference suspending a guy for burying his helmet into Morris's jaw would do WAY more to cut down this crap than Kalis planting him from behind.

The team did act "tough" - they played hard and competed.  They held a team scoring 47 points a game to 21 until the last. meaningless dick-measuring drive by Dantonio.  And just because Carr was a dick in 2002 by throwing a TD doesn't show toughness; if anything, you'd have hoped Carr would have taken his 42-3 lead and be happy.  I absolutely believe that if you don't like the other team scoring you better stop them, but a coach pouring it on in college because he wants to prove a point seems pretty bush league when you are asking teenagers to do your dirty work.

I get that you are mad at the team and its performance; I'm pissed too.  But all of this "they aren't tough enough" is the absolute embodiment of internet tough guy syndrome.  It's super-easy to sit behind a keyboard and talk about how people you don't know and don't interact with are fucking up.  But I have absolutely no doubt that everyone wearing a UM jersey is trying his best out there, is working hard during the season, lifting weights, putting their bodies through hell to try to win football games.  They are as "tough" as the 2012 team or any of Carr's teams.  They just aren't that good right now.

And I don't buy this 2-3* argument beating UM's 4-5* kids.  MSU has decent recruits, and many of them are 4-5 years into the program and starting.  Michigan doesn't have a senior on that offensive line, and have one senior on the entire offense.  Look at the NFL and show me the mountains of MSU kids playing right now - there are a couple, but not nearly as many as you'd expect.  Dantonio has his system and it works in college, and he's cultivating talent in a stable system.  But if the next head coach comes in and starts beating their asses, it won't be because Dantonio suddenly stopped "coaching up" his kids; it'll be because UM started getting the most out of their talent.

Finally, Jordan and guys like him are dicks.  They are assholes.  Just because he won a bunch doesn't change that, and it isn't something I'm trying to emulate.  



October 27th, 2014 at 7:31 AM ^

I really have to ask: Have you ever played anything competitive in your life? If you have, I'd be shocked because I have never seen an athlete/former athlete:

Say that cheap shotting a teammate warrants no response.

Care about "running up the score" (as much as you can call running seven straight times running up the score). Every single person I've ever had as a teammate or spoken to as an athlete/former athlete has always felt that its far more humiliating for an opponent to take it easy on them. 

Your opinions on both reek of someone who has simply never been in either position. 

And its not being an "internet tough guy" to call this team soft. They are soft. I'm not saying "OMG THEY ARE SO SOFT I COULD BEAT UP FRANK CLARK", I'm saying relative to their peers (MSU) they lack in the toughness their coach aspires for them to have. And all the things I've spoken about show that. 

Its Kyle Kalis talking about "blood on the field" then watching his QB take a shot to the head and do nothing. 

Its Devin Gardner talking about playing Hoke off the hot seat and then being the worst QB in the Big Ten

Its Joe Bolden driving a stake into the field at Spartan Stadium and then getting run over on the first and last drives of the game. 

Its Brady Hoke and his endless talk about "physicality" and "toughness" and having a team that can't run the football or him apologizing to Dantonio. 

This team is all talk and it starts from the top (go read our ADs letter from last year, which has made its way to the board again). 

I like how you say you "don't buy the whole 2/3 star" thing, but then your entire paragraph is pretty much evidence of how you buy it. 

And finally, I guess you'll be the only person against the hiring of Jim Harbaugh if it happens. Because guess what we would be getting? An asshole. A dick. 


October 27th, 2014 at 6:09 PM ^

I doubt you'll read this, but I figure since you were inclined to call out my competitiveness I might as well respond.

I've competed at lots of things in my life, both as part of a team and as an individual.  Name a sport, I played it.  And all of my coaches preached being tough and playing with heart, but they chewed our asses out when someone hit a kid after the whistle or flagrantly fouled a guy on the way to the basket.  You got beat, do better next time.  But, again, hitting a guy after the whistle because he's a dick doesn't prove anything, and you can "retaliate" within the confines of the game without breaking the rules.  Or you could do what MSU did and chop-block Willie Henry during the 4th quarter and get him out of the game.  That definitely showed me how tough MSU is.

You keep using "soft" and "toughness" but you never really define it, except to say you want it to be more like how MSU carries itself.  I disagree, and every time you keep repeating the mantra of how "X team's wouldn't take this" or "Y should have done something", it doesn't make that definition any clearer.  UM is worse than MSU from a talent and scheme perspective, and maybe that is what you are getting at with the 2/3* thing.  It isn't motiviation because of a stake in the ground or having the killer instinct; it's being a better-coached, more-experienced team and beating a tire fire of a program.  But this was the same refrain I heard under RR, and the same we heard under Carr toward the end when they were getting their ass beat by Oregon, USC, and OSU regularly.  It's trying to find some deeper meaning in being bad at football, and I'm not buying it.

And yeah, I'm not a big Harbaugh fan.  I'm sure he'll win here, but I honestly don't think he'll stick around like a Saban or a Spurrier if he comes back.  He'll go to the NFL in a couple of years when the Browns or the Jaguars drop a dumptruck full of money on his doorstep, and then we'll be back to this same song and dance.  And yeah, his pissing on Michigan while at Stanford rubbed me the wrong way. 

I want a coach more like John Beilein, a guy who knows his stuff and is motviated to win but doesn't have to turn the assholeness up to 11 each time.  There are coaches like that out there, and Michigan should be able to find one.  But they'll be seduced by all this BS about "toughness" and "tradition" like they did with Hoke, and it'll be Jim Harbaugh or Les Miles and a subset of this fanbase will orgasm into their Bo Schembechler books and I'll just shrug and keep watching.


CRISPed in the DIAG

October 27th, 2014 at 5:42 PM ^

Acutually, the Yankees DON'T win World Series titles any more and they do plunk guys about as much as anyone.  Especially when St. Jeter does his patented lean over the plate.  Girardi's a run of the mill old school dumbass - the ass-plunk is coming, it's just a matter of when.

Other than that, I agree with your point.


October 26th, 2014 at 9:39 AM ^

Thanks BronxBlue for articulating exactly what I have been unable to. The fracas over the stake thing - I just don't get it, especially from our side. Dantonio's faux indignance is predictable and silly. What Rose Bowl winning team cries about the other team's disrespect, especially when the other team has been losing badly for years? But the moral indignance from our fans just seems misplaced to me. What are our players supposed to do, if their coaches aren't inspiring them to play with heart and passion? 


October 26th, 2014 at 10:08 AM ^

Dantonio has gotten his players to play with heart and passion for 8 straight years againt UM, winning 6, and all without silly ploys like planting a stake.  Every coach uses whatever he can to motivate his players, but the difference right now is that Dantonio and his staff keep it in the locker room, while Hoke and his staff allow silly stuff like this (and stomping the logo at midfield last year) which just makes you like bad when you lose by double digits.  To answer your question: what team that has been losing badly for years does something like this to give an opponent that's been beating you something to get fired up about?  It's just not smart.  

Frankly, I don't think the stake is that big a deal.  It's silly, but if you want to go that route, be my guest.  But it's dumb if you think 1) MSU isn't going to attempt to use it against you as motivation, and 2) UM fans wouldn't be indignant if the roles were reversed.  You can bet your life that if MSU walked in and planted a stake in AA, Hoke would do exactly what Dantonio did and play the disrespect card.  Every coach would, because it's their job to motivate.  There's the whole "this is our house" thing in sports and teams take exception to "disrespect" of that house.  



October 26th, 2014 at 10:18 AM ^

Dantonio's welcome to use whatever tactics he chooses; it's his team, and if that really is his way to motivate, then they must be buying in. He's just not a "high road" coach, never has been. He doesn't win with grace. Maybe that doesn't matter to your team and if not, then you're square. But if we're comparing, being a bad winner is far worse in my book than some college players doing something that you deem not smart to motivate themselves. 


October 26th, 2014 at 10:37 AM ^

you're singling out Dantonio for something that literally every coach in the country would do.  UM planted the stake (again, I have no problem with it) which they knew MSU would find disrespectful and you're calling out Dantonio for responding?  It's obvious you hate the man, but take off the maize colored glasses for a second.  

When you walk into an opponents stadium as a double digit underdog that's been getting owned in a rivalry and act like you own the place, don't be surprised if the other team doesn't like it and bitch slaps you if they get the opportunity.  I don't care about the stake but it's a sign of arrogance and disrespect.

And I don't know where you get that Dantonio doesn't win with grace.  What has he done or said to give you that opinion?  Running up the score yesterday?  It's not like he was passing the ball.  He ran it every down and UM couldn't stop them.  You probably shouldn't expect mercy when you pull a stunt like the stake at someone else's stadium.


October 26th, 2014 at 12:28 PM ^

As much as I dislike Hoke as a coach, I can guarantee you that he would not explicitly say to the media, the other team put a stake in our turf and so we ran up the score. Guarantee it. Many coaches choose to have their play and the game's outcome do the talking. 


October 26th, 2014 at 2:00 PM ^

"you're singling out Dantonio for something that literally every coach in the country would do"

This is about as wrong as someone can be.  Somewhere approaching 100% of coaches in the country would absolutely take a knee to end a game up by 17 with 40 seconds left. The fact that not only he had his team running plays, but had his RB go out of bounds just so his offense could run another play and get a TD is the definition of running up the score and something that would be much closer to what literally NO coach in the country would do.

I doubt many coaches give a flying fuck what opposing team players do in the pregame, especially with regards to a 6 inch stake. And I sincerely doubt "literally every coach" would prop that up as a "spear" and something that greatly disrespects them.

The point is, I hate how everyone is treating this as Sparty being "justified" for acting like total dicks at the end of teh game. I'll keep saying it...I don't want anyone ever claiming that MSU runs a  classier program than Michigan, because they absolutely do not. A "high road" guy does NOT run up the score for some flimsy reason like a "spear". A "high road" guy would take a knee and shrug the "spear" thing off saying "I think the scoreboard speaks for itself".



October 26th, 2014 at 2:30 PM ^

in the entire second half.  That is hardly running up the score.  Yes he pushed across the late TD, but he did it to prove a point - when you act with good sportsmanship, you'll get it in return.  When you don't, don't expect it.

Dantonio has not had this problem with any other opponent on his schedule in nearly 8 years.  There are countless times he put in backups and/or took a knee at the end of a victory.  But when UM pulls a stunt that is all bravado and swagger that they know is a hotbutton in sports (protect 'our house, etc.) they deserve to be taught a lesson.  Dantonio views these kind of antics as inflammatory, trying to make a statement or make the other team look bad (i.e., we can do what we want in your house).  Why should he put up with that?

My point about "singling Dantonio out" refers only to playing the disrespect card.  Every coach does that.  Every.  Single.  One.  That is why coaches tell their players not to talk during the week before a rivalry game - no bulletin board material for the other team.  Because they don't want to give their opponent anything to rally around.  Not all coaches would handle it the same way.


October 26th, 2014 at 2:38 PM ^

You are just copy-pasting arguments here, so whatever.  

I honestly don't know if Dantonio has gotten into it with other teams (I believe he said some things to Wisconsin's coach a couple of years ago, but I could be wrong), but I also don't see how it is relevant here.  Brady Hoke hasn't gotten into anything with anyone in his 4 years at UM.  Dantonio HATES UM, so of course he's going to fixate on it.  

Every coach doesn't talk about opposing players to the media, justifies scoring a meaningless touchdown as teaching people a lesson, etc.  You can believe that if you want, but you aren't providing anything substantial to support your claims.

I'm a little surprised you are wasting this much time on a Sunday at a Michigan blog, though.



October 26th, 2014 at 10:44 AM ^

by a reporter about Mike Hart's comments.  That's very different than seeking out Hart in the media to wage war.

Hart said it first, Dantonio responded to a question.

Again, I don't care that they all do this, but don't whine about running up the score when you get it shoved back in your face.


October 26th, 2014 at 1:01 PM ^

Not everyobdy clamors for him.  I think he's a dick; I haven't wanted him but it looks like that's the direction.  But regardless, Carr was a dick at UM too, but I don't think we'll see Harbaugh go into multiple press conferences and call out players on the opposing team for various "injusticies".  If he does, then I hope people take him to task for being a petty little man.


October 26th, 2014 at 11:16 AM ^

Dantonio can do what he wants to motivate his players; I just think its funny how he made a point of calling out the culture of another program about it.  

And again, Dantonio is no saint out there.  He yelled at Hellinski during a coaching conference because he thought the UM coach was talking too much about Michigan for his liking.  He's had questionable handling of players and got into a verbal fight with Mike Hart because of some rivlary-week trash talking.  He's entitled to being pissed off at Bolden and to use it for motivation, but if you are asking me to give a shit about his feelings or somehow find fault in a player showing some passion against a rival in a way that doesn't appease his opponent's sensibilities, you are barking up the wrong tree.


October 26th, 2014 at 10:20 AM ^

Dantonio's point is that you should respect your opponent at all times.  Hate them, yes.  Try to beat them, yes.  But always respect them because they work hard and are good people too.  Stuff like "little brother", or stomping the logo, or planting a spike are signs of disrespect.  Is it kind of dumb to use these little ploys to motivate your players?  Yes, by both sides, frankly.  But both teams do it, there's nothing wrong with it, and UM should quit whining about MSU "running up the score" when UM knowingly did something that would be considered disrespectful.


October 26th, 2014 at 10:28 AM ^

I don't think Dantonio needs any excuse to run up the score. I didn't take offense to that at all, and would expect it. In terms of showing disrespect, wasn't painting the Block M green a show of disrespect? The whole thing is ridiculous. We hate each other; this isn't some sort of gentlemanly game of badminton. Neither side needs an excuse to beat the crap out of the other one on the scoreboard.  

You Only Live Twice

October 26th, 2014 at 10:39 AM ^

Sparty, this blog is titled "MGoBlog" so it shouldn't be a shocker if guys here have something to say about the score at the end.  If that bothers you so much, does MSU not have a message board where you can converse with people who will agree with you? 

Second point.. I'm just not thinking that Mark Dantonio preaches respect for Michigan. 


October 26th, 2014 at 10:54 AM ^

that many of the commenters here don't like the score at the end.  I just try to add some perspective, that's all.  I like coming to this blog because the writing is great and the analysis is top-notch.  I am a frequent lurker but usually only comment around MSU-related topics.

Second point: Dantonio absoutely preaches respect for UM.  He respects them as a rival enough to hate them, take the rivalry personally, practice and play hard and try his best to beat them.  All despite that fact that UM is down right now.  He could have mailed this week in and maybe still won the game, but he didn't because he owes it to UM (and his players/recruits) to give it his best.


October 26th, 2014 at 11:23 AM ^

but don't expect mercy when you come in blaring bravado and pulling silly stunts when you haven't earned it.  It's the epitome of arrogance.  and don't be surprised when it gets shoved back in your face.  yeah, because he could.

you don't like getting scored on in the last minute?  tackle somebody.


October 26th, 2014 at 11:52 AM ^

Admit you scored because you could.  That's fine.  To me, him talking to the media, justifying why he did it beyond "I could" is arrogance.

But I guess it doesn't matter.  Your team won; good for them.  Go an enjoy the win; you basically have one more meaingful game before you have a chance to play in the first playoffs.  And for the record, I went to MSU for grad school and lived through the JLS years, so I get that the fans are happy about being nationally relevant for the first time in decades.  But I didn't like Dantonio was hired, and his behavior as HC as it relates to UM hasn't endeared me to him one bit. 


October 26th, 2014 at 1:58 PM ^

has virtually never run up the score.  On anyone.  There have been many times in past games against lesser opponents where he put the 2nd and 3rd string in and/or took a knee in the final minute.  So he could have run up the score, but didn't.

Yesterday, he did.  Not necessarily because he could, but to teach a lesson that when you exhibit poor sportsmanship with this kind of behavior, don't expect good sportsmanship in return.  Dantonio has consistently called out past UM teams for arrogance and entitlement, and now he's in a position to push back about it.


October 26th, 2014 at 2:16 PM ^

And there is nothing at all arrogant or entitled about Dantonio "teaching a lesson" to Michigan about somehow "disrespecting them" even though Michigan did not disrespect them at all. 

Sure, call it disrespect, even if it wasn't. Sure, retaliate to it, fine. But this reasoning in no way defends Dantonio as some morally superior guy. It in no way completely justifies his actions.


October 26th, 2014 at 2:48 PM ^

Good to see that when Dantonio has the clear advantage he's more than happy to "teach" the weaker team a lesson.

The Kool-Aid must taste great in East Lansing.  Just stop wasting your time selling it here.


October 26th, 2014 at 2:51 PM ^

Dantonio has never done this to another opponent.  Ever.  He didn't even do it last year against UM even though the game was well in hand.  That is despite Lewan's tough talk and overly-aggressive behavior.  So maybe it's something about the behavior of UM that he is responding to.


October 26th, 2014 at 2:58 PM ^

Or maybe you are grasping at straws to feel better about something?  The fact you are arguing that Mark Dantonio isn't a dick to other programs (which I honestly don't have evidence either way and you don't either) as jsutification for him being a dick to Michigan is completely irrelevant.  He doesn't need to teach his opponents any lessons; how about he focus on his team and leave an opponent he won't see for another 365 days to their own devices.  I don't remember Hoke saying they beat MSU in 2012 to teach Dantonio and his team about permitting their players to yank helmets and take cheap shots at players at the end of plays.  But oh yeah, that doesn't fit into your narrative about Mark Dantonio being a leader of men and Michigan being a cesspool of childish antics.  

Seriously, go and enjoy yourself and this win.  Maybe join whatever circle-jerk is going on at RCMB right now with Hoke's needless apology.  But you are absolutely wasting your time here with these weak arguments.


October 26th, 2014 at 11:21 AM ^

Read my earlier comment, but this definition of "respect" apparently is unilaterally decided.  I'd argue yanking Denard's helmet around his face while under the pile doesn't show a lot of respect.  I'd say running to the media to bitch about another player is not very respectful.  Yelling at an assistant coach from the other team during a clinic (in front of a bunch of HS coaches) isn't very respectful.

And I heard all of the MSU fans complain about Carr in 2002 when he ran MSU off the field with a late score.  "Respect" is one of the least meaningful words in sports today because it is 100% subjective.  

I congratulate MSU on their win because they played well, but getting worked up about a stake in the ground or some stomping on a logo is a torch you're going to have to carry alone.