Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I Don't Believe What I Just Saw.....

Date:  9/10/11
Opponent:  Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Outcome:  W 35-31
Season Record (B1G Record):  2-0 (0-0)  
Time of Game:  8:00pm
Attending:  Eric Good, Chip Meredith, Rick Dunning

Pre-game pic
Pre-Game Festivities:  Rick and I had decided to hit Blimpy Burger early in the week.  We had plans to have a blimpy patty for every "gimmick" we could come up with for the evenings festivities.  At one point, I swear we were up to 8.  At this time, I can only come up with 6 distinct gimmicks being deployed by AD Dave Brandon and the Athletic Department:

  1. Night Game
  2. "Legacy" Jerseys (Drives me nuts anytime I hear people call them "throwbacks")
  3. Flyover
  4. Parachutists
  5. Desmond Howard Ceremony
  6. Gameday in town (not really Brandon's doing, but it counts)
A near perfect sandwich.  "T's Sweeping Style"
Unfortunately, we waited in line at Blimpy's for about 30 minutes before bailing.  At that point, we decided to walk across campus to Maize and Blue Deli again.  This week I had the #10 - T's Sweeping Style.  It's another fantastic offering by M&B with loads of corned beef, russian dressing, red onion, green pepper, swiss cheese, and of course, a fried egg on rye bread.  It was the first M&B visit for the boys.  They enjoyed it as well, or were at the very least very gracious to lie about it.

Following lunch, we decided to zing the football around a bit in the West Quad parking lot.  That party quickly ended when I rocketed one over Chip's head and nearly took out the rear window of a small Nissan.  We then ventured down to meet up with other friends in the RV lot at Ann Arbor Pioneer (more on this later).

Game Recap:  The first night game in the history of Michigan Stadium.  The setting was unbelievable from the start.  Most of the crowd was in place a half an hour before kickoff and the Victors was especially great with the crowd waving pom poms.

Following the flyover, which, given the speed of the vintage bomber, seemed like an epic miss on the part of the pilot (the flyover was more over the east skybox than the stadium itself), Michigan took the kickoff and promptly went three and out.  Notre Dame took over and went 57 yards in 7 plays, capped by a 7 yard TD pass from Tommy Rees to Theo Riddick.  The drive was eerily similar to Western's first drive last weekend in that Michigan offered very little resistance.  According to Eric, this was all "according to script".  I don't like the script thus far.  ND 7-0.

Michigan then went three and out again, followed by ND's 12 play 83 yard TD drive capped by a Cierre Wood 4 yard TD run.  Common elements between this drive and the first?  ND wasn't forced into a single third down.  I get very quiet and hang my head a bit.  Eric again tries to pep me up by saying "we're just trying to feel them out".  There's probably a Crying Game analogy in here somewhere.

Michigan finally got a first down on their third drive of the day, but Denard Robinson promptly followed that up by doing his best "Wade Starnes in the West Quad parking lot impression" by horribly overthrowing a screen to Vincent Smith.  End of 1st Quarter 14-0 ND.  My head sinks lower.

Despite ND's next drive starting inside of Michigan's 40, Notre Dame couldn't advance any further and Michigan finally forced a punt.  Michigan still couldn't do much in the following series which contained a horrible drop by Junior Hemingway.  It was about this time I started getting annoyed with the unfunny versions of Statler and Waldorf behind me.  Again, I'm not in the best of spirits at this point, but one of the last things you will hear me run down any of the players or coaches.  I'll definitely question play calls or strategy, but I'm not one to call players "terrible" or call for them to promptly exit the field.  Waldorf went as far to ask if the "Denard experiment was nearing the end".  Statler agreed "He's not a quarterback."  I bit my tongue.

Jordan Kovacs made a nice play on Tommy Rees' third down toss to force ND's first turnover of the game.  It was at this point that somebody in the Michigan booth must have realized that ND was pretty much selling out to stop the ground game on every play.  Michigan finally made ND pay for the strategy by hitting Junior Hemingway on the first of several long tosses on the day.  Hemingway made a nice adjustment on the ball and virtually boxed out his man coming down with the under thrown pass from Denard.  After Hemingway came down with the ball he made a nice move to dive for the pylon, getting the TD.  14-7 ND.

ND's next long drive ended when Tommy Rees' pass near the goal line intended for Michael Floyd was intercepted by JT Floyd.  It was Rees' second INT of the game, but was MUCH bigger error than the first because they were in the red zone.  Rees only had eyes for Floyd on the play and severely under threw his WR throwing away at least 3 points for the Irish.

Following another horrid drop by Roy Roundtree, ND took over following a punt and went down the field for a FG ending the half at 17-7.

The half time show featured techno/rave music.  Don't ask me to give you song titles.  I vaguely remember a snippet of Haddaway, that "Blue" song, and a Britney Spears tune.  I wasn't really paying attention to the music, because the Color Guard and Dance Team were dressed up as "The Gimp" from Pulp Fiction.  I'm not joking.  Proof below.

Michigan's D showed a little life early in the second half, stuffing a 3rd and 1 run for a 2 yard loss on the first drive, and forcing Cierre Wood to fumble on the 2nd.  Unfortunately, Michigan's offense was still stuck in neutral with a punt of their own and another bad looking Robinson interception.

ND then embarked on a 71 yard drive that ended with a 15 yard TJ Jones crossing pattern TD pass.  I'm not sure Michigan has stopped a late crossing route in about 5 years, if Michigan is in a zone, inevitably, the linebackers fail to redirect the receivers as they come across the field, I think UM was in man on this play, however, Van Slyke wass trailing the play badly and the result was an easy TD for ND.  24-7 ND.  The third quarter is nearing an end and there was absolutely no light at the end of the tunnel, and some people start to leave the stadium.  (SUCKERS!!!)  I wish Statler and Waldorf had left at this point.  They were unbearable.  I remember wishing I could throw a couple 180 degree right hooks in their direction as they continued their dogging.

The next drive started with the first bit of many magical moments in the comeback.  As Denard fended off an ankle biter, he found Junior Hemingway late across the middle who scampered 77 yards into the open field when ND's Gary Gray got victimized for the second time of the night.  Gray's night wouldn't get any better.  Michigan punched it in for the score on another crazy play when Stephen Hopkins' fumble on a 1 yard plunge bounced directly to Denard who scooped it up and walked into the end zone.  Whew.  24-14 ND.

The intensity of the crowd grew as Cierre Wood was smothered for a loss of three on 3rd and 3 on ND's next drive.  Michigan wasted little time going down the field following a terrible punt (predicted by Rick) by ND's Ben Turk.  The TD play Michigan scored on was high on the difficulty scale as Denard threw a jump ball to 5'8" Jeremy Gallon over Gary Gray (officially a scape goat now) cutting the ND lead to 24-21 with 10 minutes to go.  I imagine anyone who left the Stadium was now pleading with security to let them back in at this point.

ND's next drive appeared to be a soul crusher from the start, with Rees converting a 3rd and 15 with a 22 yard strike to Eiffert on another late crossing route.  However, following what I thought was a horrible pass interference call on Courtney Avery in the end zone, Rees inexplicably made another HUGE mistake as he apparently lost grip on the ball as he prepared to throw the ball to the corner of the end zone one more time.  Jibreel Black appeared to have pressure on the play, but as far as I can tell no one touched Rees or the ball. Can we stop with the "Tommy Rees just comes through" memes at this point?  He's now 0-2 this year and I count at least 3 very bad mistakes in those losses.  Ryan Van Bergen pounced on the fumble and Michigan Stadium went bezerk.  I remember thinking at the time, "I've never heard it this loud".  It would get louder.  Much louder.  As it quieted some, Statler pipes up "Boy, this defense isn't very good, but they're lucky".  I lost it.  I had heard enough.  I reenacted something akin to Brian Kelly vs. UCF on them.  In retrospect, the dude was probably right, but I couldn't believe that negativity was flowing at this point.  I believe I impolitely asked them to leave.  They didn't move, but I think they understood my point....that or they feared my face would melt a la Belloq in Raiders of the Lost Ark had they continued.

Following another under thrown jump ball into double coverage to Junior Hemingway for 45 yards, Denard followed up that bad decision with another jump ball to Jeremy Gallon who couldn't bail him out.  The pass was intercepted and many of us in the crowd lost a little hope.  ND took over with just over 4 minutes on the clock, but couldn't duplicate the success of the last drive and were unable to move the ball, culminating with the third 3rd and short stop by the Wolverine defense of the night.  Hope regained.

Gallon's 21 yard punt return set up the Wolverines at their own 42 yard line.  Following a first down, Kelvin Grady broke free outside the hashes for a clutch 27 yard grab.  Michigan then took the lead for the first time on a throwback screen to Vincent Smith for 21 yards.  It was a great play call, by Borges and would have been an easy TD had Taylor Lewan not TOTALLY WHIFFED on a block on the lone ND linebacker near the play.  The whiff was reminiscent of my buddy Jeff Grieve not being able to touch grooved whiffle balls in a tuxedo prior to another friend's (David Bunnell) wedding in Oakland.  (I wish I had the ability to paint that picture further).  I digress.  I totally lost my mind following this TD.  UM HAD THE LEAD!!  I remember standing there arms extended looking straight into the sky and screaming for about 20 seconds straight as loud as I could.  I cannot compare the sound level in the stadium to anything I've heard before.  The place was sheer pandemonium.  It wouldn't last.

Following a return out to the ND 40, the first good return of the night by ND aided by a line drive kick and a missed tackle at the 30, ND went downfield immediately to Michael Floyd who was (probably smartly) held by JT Floyd.  JT had no help over the top and was beat off the line by his opponent.  The 15 yard penalty hurt, but it was (at the time) much better than the alternative.  ND completed their comeback when TJ Jones broke free up the left seam.  I didn't mind Mattison's defensive call here with 11 men at or near the line of scrimmage to confuse Rees.  Unfortunately, Thomas Gordon (playing nickel on this play) allowed Jones a free release up the field while taking his short zone.  Marvin Robinson had absolutely no chance to get to the seam to make a play because Jones was running FRONTWARDS while Robinson had to turn and run while looking back to see what was coming.  Unfortunately, Robinson did pivot away from Jones and did have his back to him as the pass was thrown, but again, if Jones is bumped or redirected at the line, Robinson stands a much better chance at getting back in time to make this play.  Anyway, ND 31- UM 28.  30 seconds left.  It's very quiet now, but we've seen enough already to know that 30 seconds was enough time to get into FG range.  Especially with 2 time outs.

After Kyle Brindza kicked the ball out of the end zone, UM took over at the 20.  Gary Gray played goat for the final time when he followed Roundtree on a slant instead of watching Jeremy Gallon on a wheel route out of the slot.  Gallon caught the ball with nary a defender within 20 yards of him.  I had no reaction to this.  Coupled with the disbelief that someone could be THAT wide open, I honestly was still recovering from my primal scream following the Vincent Smith TD.  Gallon cut back across midfield.  I remember glancing quickly at the clock wondering how far he should take it up field before stepping out and/or going down to set up the FG.  He out ran a couple of defenders and finally stepped out at the 16 with 8 seconds left.  I was surprised UM didn't call a timeout to discuss strategy here, but Coach Hoke decided to try to keep the rhythm going and called for a final shot to the end zone.  Denard's final jump ball of the night found Roundtree in the right corner of the end zone.  My ears nearly split.  I just stood there.  Dumb founded.  What had I just seen?  Clearly, nothing like it ever before.  UM wins 35-31.

UM had scored 28 points in the fourth quarter.  The game was over....funny thing.  Statler and Waldorf patted me on the shoulder as some sort of peace offering.  No one left.  Many kept cheering, singing, dancing.  I stood there taking it all in.  I've never heard the stadium so loud.  The waving of the pom poms made the crowd seem like 1 living, breathing organism.  It was an amazing site.  One that I can't possibly describe with my amateur, technical writing abilities.   I kept thinking about Kirk Gibson rounding the bases after his heroic one-legged Game 1 homer and Jack Buck crowing "I DON'T BELIEVE WHAT I JUST SAW...".  I know now what Buck felt that night.

Amateur Analysis:  It was clear that ND was selling out to stop the run from the get go.  You can be sure that other teams will follow that game plan throughout the year.  Not only did Denard not look comfortable in making throws to beat the one on one coverage the receivers were seeing, a majority of them were of the jump ball variety, which seem highly unsustainable.  I would hope that Borges and the staff work on more crossing routes, and out patterns which are more of the short to medium range.

I'll need to watch the tape, but it seemed like Brandin Hawthorne and Will Campbell played pretty well in the 2nd half.  True Freshman Desmond Morgan got the start at the WLB spot, but was replaced in the 2nd quarter by Hawthorne.  Campbell played a lot of snaps after halftime.  I'll be interested to see how others grade their performances out.  Both guys were involved on a couple of the third and short stops, and I remember Hawthorne seeming effective in hurrying Rees on several throws on blitzes.

Play of the Game:  This one's pretty easy.  The clinching fade pass to Roundtree was a great call and nearly perfectly thrown.  The safety and nickel back went with Hemingway in the slot leaving Roundtree one on one in the corner on a double move corner route.  I've heard many analysts call the play excessively "gutsy".  Apparently, Herbstreit called for them to kick the field goal.  Honestly, the thought never crossed my mind.  Given the ease in which UM had moved the ball on the previous possessions, one shot to the end zone seemed safer than a kick from our non-trusted (at least not yet) FG kickers.

Moment of the Game:  In a game of several memorable moments, the cake topper will be the fact that after the whistle had blown and the clock read 0:00, very few people left the stadium.  All that stayed swayed and sang along to the music (yes, that garbage from Pop Evil was played).  Several people captured the moment and have posted it to you tube, but it's just not the same.

Other Nuggets:  
  • This was the first time in awhile I've gone to the south side of the stadium for pre-game.  I gotta tell you... I hated it.  No offense to our hosts is meant in anyway.  It was a great tailgate party.  It's just not what I want out of my Michigan Football experience.  I love parking up on Central Campus, finding some lunch on campus and walking to the Stadium down State Street past the fraternity parties, past the house parties, past the Bongo Man, and over to the Stadium with the Band on Hoover Street.  Maybe I'm just too sentimental for my days as a student...maybe I'm too set in my ways, I think the people who tailgate are missing out on a great part of Michigan Football Saturdays.
  • The scoreboard is still a mess.  Down and distance and yardage totals didn't update quick enough for most of the game.
  • "This is Michigan, for God's sake" is still funny.
  • I liked the Desmond Howard tribute.  I think the idea of putting a patch on the jerseys to commemorate the "legends" is great.  I hope they do it for more numbers.  I would guess #2 will be next.  What I don't want is the debates "is he worthy of the #21?" debates.  If it's available, and a receiver/RB/return man wants it, let him have it.   Other thoughts, if they do it for Tom Harmon they're going to have to bend the rules a bit, I'm not sure a RB will be wearing #98 anytime soon.  I would hope the #1 would commemorate Anthony Carter before Braylon Edwards, but I know that Braylon has some sort of endowment set up for the #1 jersey already.  Also, what happens if someone who gets to wear one of these "legend" jerseys goes on to have a brilliant career.  Do we split the patch?  Get another patch?
  • The "legacy" jerseys didn't look as bad as I feared.  The stripes actually worked with the helmet stripes.  I'm still not a fan of the jerseys they're selling at the MDen.  They're just too clownish.
  • This won't come across in blog form, but I need to memorialize anyway.  Following the parachutists, which seemed incredibly ill-timed (being that the band waited on the field for several minutes, I'd guess they were supposed to land during the final song or at least right after), my buddy Eric jokingly mentioned that another guy was coming in with the American flag while pointing at the Goodyear Blimp (which displayed the american flag for most of the game).  The lady in front of us who could best be described as "retired elementary school librarian"-ish turned around and looked at Eric with the biggest disgusted sour puss and "Are you kidding me?" look.  She looked like someone had just waved a baby's diaper in front of her face.  It was incredible.  We had a great time trying to recreate her face the remainder of the evening.
Post Game Meal:  We didn't leave the stadium till 1230ish so our options were pretty limited.  Gas station taquitos were my best option at the Speedway on Plymouth Road on our way out of town.  

Looking Forward:  Eastern Michigan comes to town next week.  Michigan should have the opportunity to rest up some of the wounded and get a look at some of the guys further down the depth chart.  I'd hope that Sophomore QB Devin Gardner plays most, if not all, of the second half in a rout.  The game will also be a good indication of who the staff is planning to redshirt as the bench should empty in the 4th quarter.

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff once again. Are you sure you don't want to include my exact quote on the shanked punt? Probably not Old Blue-appropriate, but the Gold Club wouldn't mind.