Sunday, December 07, 2008

First Rays of a New Rising Sun

The first thing that struck me at the game yesterday was the number of people in Duke gear at Crisler, as well as the number of people in Maryland or UNC gear. Hate knows no bounds I suppose.

We made our way to the seats and we began assessing our chances. I had said one chance in one hundred when I bought the tickets in October, but that one chance was worth it. When Michigan beat UCLA, that number jumped up a little, maybe one chance in ten, but that fell a little bit when Coach Beilein's team lost to Duke the next night at Madison Square Garden. All we wanted was for Michigan to stay close for a while, maybe make Duke play from behind a little, and let the chips fall where they may. What we got was somewhat more remarkable.

Take a look at the game flow and you can see that it never really was a game that either team seized control of at any point until very very late. But this game was also rare in that its signature moment ended up being the tipping point. Let us step back for a moment to see how we got there.

I've only seen Michigan a couple of times under Coach Beilein, and I liked the idea of what they were trying to do, and against UCLA, I felt that it was coming together, that maybe this could be the end of the drought in the Big Dance, and at the very least, maybe something that would be worth watching through the long winter. I was also still getting to know this team. I knew Manny Harris was special and I was excited to see DeShawn Sims inserted in to the starting line-up, but my knowledge of the Zack Attack (Novak and Gibson) and Kelvin Grady's stealth magic would only present itself during the course of the game.

Duke had just beaten a very good Purdue team in West Lafayette on Wednesday, so it was going to need a pretty much perfect game to beat them, I thought. The key would be simple, if Duke's threes didn't fall, Michigan had a chance.

I've always been convinced that opposing teams struggle to shoot at the tunnel end of Crisler, because it's a weird shooting background, and Duke's 2-for-17 shooting in the first half may have laid testament to my theory. But there we were at halftime and Michigan was up by two points. I was hesitant, but I wanted to believe.

The moment was simple though, with about nine minutes left in the second half, Duke had just taken a three point lead and it looked like Michigan was going to be forced to play catch-up for the rest of the game. All of their hustle, diving for loose balls, keeping rebounds alive, bouncing balls off Duke players to get the ball back out of bounds, it was going to be too little to get the win. But then Michigan set up their offense on their end of the floor, having beaten the Duke press, and found Zack Novak in the corner for a wide open three. Tied at 53, Greg Paulus missed a three, DeShawn Sims who looked like a man possessed grabbed the board, launched a beautiful pass down the floor and seven seconds later, Novak, again, in the corner, another three, and Duke took a time out. Crisler was loud, it was Yost loud. (Props to the Maize Rage for being there an hour before the game and for committing to the team wholeheartedly. Well done ladies and gentlemen.) The entire arena believed it could be done and sure enough, Michigan never trailed again.

It was not a cakewalk the rest of the way, it seemed like every time that the Crisler crowd was ready to blow the roof off the building, Duke would hit a big shot and quiet the crowd. But the boys never let it bother them, they counter-punched every time. They hit their free throws down the stretch, and soon enough, the court was stormed, the plaudits came in, and Michigan basketball signaled that it may, in fact, be back.

It will take some time to figure out if this game really means something. If Michigan falls down in the Big Ten season, then it's just a high point in another wandering year. But for now, I will prefer to think of this as Hendrix stated, as the first rays of a new rising sun, and hopefully one that will shine for a nice long day.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Liveblog: Hockey at Sparty, 12/6/2008

Good to see we're getting the same level of great Comcast broadcasting we all know and love. Art Regner is nearly inaudible as the Spartan band is still getting miked.

Michigan gets a nice opportunity on Lerg in the first minute, but he stops the initial shot and the rebound. Gazley then gets a chance, but Hogan (yep, he's out there) stops it. And Scooter Vaughan's going off for a bit of a hook on Leveille.

Oooh. Michigan gets a shorthanded opportunity courtesy of Tim Miller and Lerg dives across to stop him on a long wraparound. Then Hogan makes a nice save on the other end. 1:15 left in the penalty...and it's killed.

Even without the power play, MSU is spending a lot more time in the Michigan zone tonight than last night. 15:30 left. Palushaj's line is out there, and now we see some sustained time in the MSU zone. Ooh, drop pass from Caporusso, but Palushaj can't get a clean shot off. Shift change. Winnett intercepts a pass at the MSU blue line, but can't keep his feet. Naurato passes to behind the net, a shot is made, but Lerg has the post covered. We're at the first break.

And we get our first scuffle of the night. Lerg juggles a shot, and Turnbull is engaged with Turek, who directs him into the post, and then takes offense.

Langlais breaks up a potential 3-1, thank goodness. And now Naurato takes an penalty for interference, in putting his elbow through Shelgrens head. And it's Summers, again, having a great opportunity to drive the net, but Lerg stays with him and denies the shorty.

Fardig bulldogs around the MSU net again, with Miller backing him up, and forces Lerg to freeze the puck again.

Things have just gone Comcastically pear-shaped with the broadcast here. But we've got a draw in the Michigan zone, 0:41 left in the penalty, and 8:59 remaining in the first. Michigan sends it down the ice, but State comes back quickly and the shot is deflected into the netting.

We're bak at full strength now. 5:45: Llewellyn gets a nice shot on Lerg with a little traffic, but it bounces off. Lot of back and forth action now. Summers tries to go from blue line to goal, but MSU's going to get a hooking call, I think. We'll find out when we come back.

  1. Cable in the Classroom is still a thing?
  2. You have to give MSU credit for getting a Nick Drake song for their university spot

Hagelin gets a sweet opportunity from the right faceoff dot on a pass from Burlon, but in the time he needs to settle the puck, Lerg gets over to make the stop and freeze the puck.

Oh my goodness. Fantastic wraparound opportunity from Kivisto hits the post and drops into the crease for Hogan to freeze. Final break of the period, under 3:00 to go.

MSU icing. 1:21 left in the 1st. I noticed Glendening out there for the first time on that last shift. Lebler's out. DQ? Hogan stops a long shot from the blue line with 9.6 seconds left in the period. The period ends without further heroics.




Last night's box score lists Lebler with a game misconduct, so this seems like Red's decision, and I have to agree with it. Lebler has a history of taking hitting-from-behind penalties and should have figured out what not to do by now.

Carl is late for his inter-period interview with Art Regner. Carl slams the Wolverines' level of intensity in the first period, so I think Red's looking for a little more out of them in the second stanza.

They don't show it very well at first, but MSU's exuberance gets the best of them and Tropp goes to the box for cross-checking with 19:18 left. After a Michigan opportunity, Crowder gets a shot in on Hogan. MSU's concentrating on defending right in front of Lerg, keeping 3 guys down there and one man up, harassing the man with the puck. One more rush. Couple shots on the power play, but nothing too dangerous.

Llewellyn and a couple of Spartans exchange pleasantries. Rust tries to shake a defender, but the defender picks the right side and bodies him away from the puck.

Apparently this game may or may not still be an official sell-out. Really?

COMCAST, SHOW THE GAME, NOT THE GRAPHIC.

We're at the break. 12:36 to go in the 2nd.

Caporusso took a rising shot that Lerg gloved, but he dropped the puck. However, he covered up before anyone had any chance at it.

Fightin' round the world! Llewellyn decks Crowder with a clean hit, but then follows it up with an extra elbow to the head. Crowder then goes off and winds up in the box too. And Llewellyn gets the extra pair, so MSU has a powerplay for the next 2:00. About 11:00 to go. And Petry immediately scores on a shot from the high slot. He put it just under the crossbar. I hate dumb penalties. MSU 1, Michigan 0.

Another penalty coming up, but this time it's MSU in the box. 10 minutes to go now. We look like we're dragging here. Turnbull drives the net, but MSU cuts off the pass to center. Summers has a shot from just inside the blue line. Powerplay ends after State clears a loose puck in front of Lerg. Oy. With Merrifield coming out of the box, MSU gets a 2 on 1 that morphs into a 3 on 2. The trailer gets the puck and shoots wide. Michigan takes the puck up offsides, and we're at the middle break.

Hogan steps up as MSU takes another mid-wrange wrister in transition. We haven't won at Munn since '04-'05. Scooter Vaughan comes in to take a short wrister, then Lerg has to slide over quickly to handle the second chance from the other side. Naurato gets demolished by Petry, but the elbow is borderline and he gets whistled for it. Eh. I'll take it, I guess. 1:30 left in the PP, 5:41 in the game.

Ooh. MSU gets a jump up-ice, but Langlais takes the puck away. As he tries to come back up, Crowder cross-checks him right in front of the ref and he's going to the box. On the delayed penalty, Caporusso comes in on Lerg, but it goes wide.

YES! Shot from the blue line by Pateryn is handled by Lerg, but Turnbull is in the right place to put home the rebound. Michigan 1, MSU 1.

We have an additional 1:42 left on the Crowder penalty and keep the puck in the MSU zone after the draw. You can hear the goal chant. AND HERE WE GO AGAIN! Wohlberg's pass from the red line to Turnbull is deflected, but Lerg can't cover up before Turnbull pops it past him. Michigan 2, MSU 1.

2:06 left after an MSU icing. Michigan's got a much better jump to their step following Turnbull's goals.

With about 40 seconds left, Winnett digs one out of the corner, but neither of his linemates are ready for the centering pass.

The puck goes in the back of the net behind Lerg again, but the whistle had clearly blown.

And so we have another end-of-the period fisticuffs session. Petry took a shot from Czarnik right after the buzzer to kick it off.



Red thinks we've been trying to get too cute with the puck, and he's definitely looking for more effort and more intensity from his team in the third.

Man. Schepke's shot leads to a huge rebound, but Michigan clears the zone. MSU's next shot bounces off Hogan, but this time off to the side. The next time we aren't so lucky. Hogan stops the initial shot, but Gazley is left entirely alone as he comes up and neatly fires it behind Hogan after it rolls off his stick on a clear attempt. Michigan 2, MSU 2.

Oof. Wohlberg almost gets one with a defender hanging all over him.

OH COME ON. We give up a 3 on 1 to MSU and it's Gazley again. Vaughan made a horrible steal attempt and ended up hanging Hogan out to dry when Llewellyn ends up being the only man back. MSU 3, Michigan 2.

We've just crossed the 18:00 mark. MSU's getting physical around their own goal. At 16:28, Vaughan gets back this time to break up a 3-on-2 and sends Petry sprawling into the post.

MSU wins the draw. Wohlberg leads Caporusso too far on the outlet, but Michigan gains the zone anyway. Icing on MSU at 15:50. Fardig loses the draw, but Michigan keeps it in the MSU end for a little while longer. After an exchange of possessions, Langlais fires one in on Lerg, but Fardig can't collect the rebound. Hogan hangs on in the Michigan zone to set up another face-off, which Michigan wins. Burlon stickhandles up and passes off to Naurato, but Lerg handles the one-timer.

Rust tries a spin-o-rama to pass to an open Hagelin in the slot, but it rolls off his stick. On the other end, Llewellyn decks his man. Play comes back the other way and Llewellyn's in the middle of it on that end too when extracurriculars erupt around Lerg.

We're playing 4-on-4 after everything is sorted out. Wohlberg and Sturges are in the box. Palushaj is a stickhandling monster, but we're back to full strength on both sides without incident.

7:44. Nothing much has happened in the meantime. Not a lot of dangerous chances on either end. MSU is dedicated to protecting that 1-goal lead. Even with the puck deep in the Michigan zone, only three Spartans are anywhere near UM territory.

Palushaj gets his stick held, and that sets up a Michigan powerplay. Michigan gets some pressure on the delayed penalty, but Lerg freezes it and, with 5:59 left in the game, Michigan goes on the power play. Wait, what? We're 4-on-4? Ridiculous.

OHH, Tim Miller couldn't put one away behind Lerg. Hagelin circles and fires, but Lerg handles it. Hagelin to Rust, who deflects it, but it goes over Lerg. Vaughan can't hold it in after a Langlais shot and we get a shift change. Back to 5-on-5 with 3:55 left.

WOOO!!! Burlon's been doing a lot of handling the puck. He jumps up and gets the outlet pass. When Crandell jumps over to attack him, he slides the puck across the goal mouth to who else but Carl Hagelin who bangs it home. Michigan 3, MSU 3.

Vaughan follows up a missed shot and digs the puck out of the corner. Palushaj gets the puck near the middle of the Spartan zone and passes over to Wohlberg in the slot, who immediately passes to Caporusso on the backdoor and that puck is BURIED. Michigan 4, MSU 3.

1:31 left in the game. The puck gets tied up behind the MSU goal under Czarnik with 1:04 left. Lerg is pulled as soon as MSU can clear the zone. It's a mess down by the UM goal. DAGGER! Winnett lifts it out, Turbull collects it near the MSU blue line and puts it in the back of the net for his hat trick. Michigan 5, MSU 3.

17.9 seconds left. Turnbull's first career hat trick, which sounds about right. Michigan wins at Munn for the first time since 2004. Nice comeback effort, twice eclipsing an MSU one-goal lead. Turnbull had a great game, Hagelin stepped up, and Michigan overcame what had been a sluggish performance. What a fantastic weekend to be a Wolverine.

Approve

(Julian H. Gonzalez, Detroit Free Press)

Friday, December 05, 2008

Liveblog: Hockey vs. Sparty, 12/5/2008

Michigan seems to have opened things up with a spring in their step, getting some shots in on Lerg early. Turnbull had a nice open-ice hit on a frosh defenseman. Man, Lebler had a couple of great looks at the net, but Lerg was tremendously quick. A lot of the action is centered on the corner where the zamboni doors are. Damn. Caporusso tried a slick move to get Wohlberg a tap-in, but couldn't do it, as he was running out of space in front of the net.

And here we have the first dirty Spartan play of the night. Caporusso got railed in the back by Gentile. He was about a yard away, and his head went into the boards. Dangerous, filthy play. Scooter wastes no time in settling that score and a full-fledged brawl breaks out. Caporrusso was mixing it up with Daultan Leveille. Gentile should be gone, no question. 5:00 + DQ. He's at least getting the misconduct tonight.

Anyway, they line up to drop the puck with Michigan having a one-man advantage. Nobody can find a seam, then Naurato makes a bad pass that lets Crowder come down the other way, but it isn't dangerous. The first shot is a weak one from the point that Lerg handles easily. Summers drives the net and tries to tuck it short side, but Lerg holds the post. Dangerous pass on the give and go from Naurato back to Czarnik, but it's just a broken up chance, not anything more serious. Sparty's in all of our passing lanes. Only a minute left on the PP. GAHHHHHHH. Giving up a 2-on-1 with a puck that hopped outside the blueline. Llewellyn got tripped up by the linesman trying to handle a pass back to the line from Wohlberg. Vaughan took the passing lane away, but Hogan couldn't stop Schepke's shot. MSU 1, Michigan 0.

OHH. Loose puck right in front of Lerg and Wohlberg roofs it just over the bar. He lifted Petry's stick and had it sitting there. Oh well.

6:00 break. The ice is so entirely tilted in our favor, but we're not getting too many really dangerous looks. We're being kept along the boards with bad angles and clogged lanes. Need to get more shots on net.

Turbull just destroyed Adam Henderson. A weak shot, Lerg covers up, Winnett skates in...vanilla stuff. And he gets jumped. Turnbull gets in the middle of it too. Matt Crandell's heading to the box with Turnbull. Scooter got a good look at the net, but Lerg handles it. Caporusso tries to find Palushaj in front of the net, but the pass goes behind him. After a Sparty possession, we get a change. Summers does well to handle Gazley coming up on an intercepted pass. On the other end, we get an odd stoppage in play.

Things are starting to get chippy out there, you might say. Players on both sides are trying to make the big open-ice hit. Crowder goes to the box for something. Someone for Michigan went too, because we haven't actually gotten serious about this yet.

Palushaj made a nice move, knocking the puck off the boards and around Crandell, making a move in on Lerg, but he's held on the play.

Well, here we are now. Another scuffle breaks out. Tropp gets a subtle elbow and then goes off on Wohlberg, who really doesn't know when to quit. We only have 1:40 left in the period. We're going to continue 5-on-5, but Tropp is given a misconduct. BAH. Puck loose in front of Lerg, and we're getting a weak call for goalie interference on Palushaj. 1:00 left and 1:40 on our PK.

NICE hip check by Vaughan, absolutely taking his man (Tim Buttery) right off the puck and breaking up an MSU possession. Hogan is sharp off a draw to make a save. And at the end of the period, Summers takes a chop and shrugs it off, rather than kick off Round 4.


Teddy bear toss! Woooo!

MSU doesn't threaten on the remainder of its powerplay. Fardig levels Nill in the neutral zone. Michigan has numbers momentarily, but Sparty catches up. Another interference call. This is idiotic. Palushaj again. I fail to see how it's a penalty when he's CROSS-CHECKED into him b--

YEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Summers creates a turnover, Rust jumps on it, and feeds Summers crashing the net trailed a beaten Petry. He backhands it behind Lerg and we're tied at one.

Anyway. Turek cross-checked Palushaj and Palushaj went to the box because Jeff Lerg is made of porcelain.

Fardig gets a nice block, as MSU is still on the power play. MSU is trying--- Ooooh, nice stop by Lerg. Michigan is flying up-ice, Wohlberg has his man beaten and Lerg goes post to post to slam the door when he's fed by Summers.

Penalty over. Dull, this game is not. Sooner or later Wohlberg's going to come up with something.

And he intercepts a pass and feeds Palushaj, but Lerg is in position for a stop without too much danger. Seriously? Again? These stoppages are mostly the back of the net lifting up. Puck goes over the boards and we're at the break with 13:37 left in the second.

Fardig was left alone in the slot with the puck, but Lerg was hugging the post. MSU comes back the other way, but the Wolverines are quick enough for Burlon to catch up and take away the tap in. Sprague ends up in the net.

YESSSSS!!! Wohlberg!!! The Caporusso line is buzzing, and Palushaj slides the puck across the slot to Wohlberg, who just gets his stick under him to knock it past Lerg. Michigan 2, MSU 1.

Whoa. Pateryn absolutely destroys Sturges in front of the bench. Offsides, and we're at the break at 9:23.

Naurato gets surprisingly good composite on a rolling puck inside the blue line, but Lerg has a clear sight line and stops it. The #1 line is out again. Burlon kicks it low and Palushaj stickhandles, looking for space or a man. Wohlberg skates out from behind the net and puts a shot off the goalpost. They hold it in, Caporusso skates out from behind the net into the slot, draws a crowd, and backhands the tap-in over to Palushaj. AWESOMENESS. Michigan 3, MSU 1.

And we're getting all fighty again. Rust is coming down through the slot as Lerg is jumping out to cover the puck. Rust is going to the box, and this is more deserved than either of Palushaj's, IMHO. Two Wolverines in the box, so it looks like we'll be down a man, with Czarnik joining Rust. It's Petry in the box for MSU.

MSU controls off the draw, but the shot from the point is deflected wide. Oh, Hogan. Schepke's shot is dangerous, and Hogan gives up a weak rebound as he's lying on his face. He gets up just enough to deny the follow-up from the next Spartan. Yikes. Why isn't this game over now? 0:30 left in the power play. Hogan makes a save though screened. Gazley has a good look, but Hogan denies him. By far this is the best pressure MSU has had all night. Penalty expires. 5:00 left. MSU still has a buzz from their effort on the power play. Kind of a dangerous feeling here.

Michigan steadies the ship, and we make it to the break when Lerg covers up.

Look, that was dumb. Lebler, you're a moron. Instead of taking the puck and putting it deep into the MSU zone, he elects to rail Ben Warda from behind and it's an obvious 5:00 penalty. I thought he'd taken care of that imbecilic tendency after last year. He's no stranger to this!

MSU isn't buzzing the way they were before just yet, but they're getting solid chances. I hate, hate, hate such stupid penalties. MSU icing. 35.5 seconds left in the period, 2:54 in the Lebler call. We make it to the end of the period without further significant action.


The FSN penalty clock isn't on, but I think we've got about 1:19 left in the powerplay. We're doing an excellent job thus far of holding strong and denying access to the offesnive zone. A lot of long clears. About 30 left now. Llewellyn hits Winnett who launches a long shot that Lerg handles without trouble. MSU's been better on draws than you'd expect. Hagelin plays the puck back into our zone to kill the rest of the penalty. There's some trouble clearing, but we get it out. Another easy shot on Lerg and he freezes again.

Caporusso gets called for what may or may not be offsides. Turnbull came up lame on his last shift and uses this to stretch out.

The pace is starting to pick up. Michigan gets soem opportunities, but Lerg handles the shot and the follow-up. Llewellyn emulates Scooter and gets a solid hip-check on Turek. Petry dogs it a little and the ref doesn't give him the icing. After a stoppage, we find out that Turnbull blocked a shot with his right ankle. Ouch.

Caporusso does some beautiful stick-handling to bring the puck all the way up-ice and is rewarded, as it looks like a Spartan is headed to the box. It's Sprague for tripping. We're at the 14:00 break.

Ooh, and we're getting a 5-3 powerplay. 1:23 left in Sprague's penalty, and Turek is impounded for cross-checking. Caporusso, Hagelin, and Palushaj are out. Burlon takes a shot from the blue line, then sneaks in, but his shot is wide and bounces to Lerg. Hagelin gets called for a crease violation and the puck goes out of the zone. MSu's done well with the 5-3, it's now 5-4. Turnbull is back out and looking OK. MSU gets another clear, and this PK is over for them. Turek comes out looking for the puck. Turnbull dumps it into the MSU zone and we get a change. Winnett finds the puck at his feet, can't control it for a shot, but corrals it and passes across to Summers. His shot is wide, but goes RIGHT to Wohlberg for his second goal of the night. EXACTLY what we needed there; extend the lead in the third. We've got about 9:00 left in this one as we head to the break. Michigan 4, MSU 1.

WE ARE A HOCKEY SCHOOL! Everyone follows Turnbull as he gets the puck from behind the net. He kicks up to Pateryn, who gets it to Naurato all alone at the edge of the circle, and it's Michigan 5, MSU 1.

Comley takes a time-out. Lerg was totally hung out to dry on that last one. He hasn't given up a single bad or even mediocre goal this game. It's the rest of the team letting him down. Palmisano will replace him in goal.

Obvious tripping call on Gazley, taking down Rust at the blue line. This could get out of hand. Caporusso is the object of a knee-on-knee hit, and he comes up limping. Could be a sell job. At least, that's what I'm hoping. So we're 5-3 for a while. Michigan is content to do nothing but make passes, with this game well in hand. 5-4 now. Palmisano makes a stop on a shot through traffic. Louie's back out there. He looks fine. Penalty over, 4:30 left.

WE WANT MOOOOOOOORE GOALS! Burlon drives the net and gets his first collegiate goal. Michigan 6, MSU 1.

And we take a roughing call with 2:35 left. OK.

Rust gets in the middle of a pass across the goal mouth to break up an MSU chance. I really want to hold this score for the rest of the game. Fardig clears it, and he's been his usual bulldog self on the PK tonight. And I'm pretty sure the crowd just got a "You're welcome" after we crossed the 1:00 mark.

Michigan runs off the last 55 seconds without incident. We haven't beaten MSU this badly since 1996, when it was an 8-1 margin.

Quick thoughts: Summers was a beast on both ends of the ice. That first goal, the shortie, that got us moving, and it was a result of the hard work he'd been doing all game. The Caporusso-Palushaj-Wohlberg line was the other standout tonight for the Wolverines. Wohlberg, in particular, looked fired up for his first game against the Spartans and came away with a well-earned pair of goals and it could've been more. Don't have a letdown tomorrow, boys. I'm sure Hogan's getting the start.

The only real minuses were on special teams. The power play couldn't crack MSU with a pair of 5-on-3's and a 5:00 major. And on the other side, Lebler's penalty for hitting from behind was indefensible. If Gentile gets a DQ, so should Lebler. Tomorrow's going to be interesting.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Liveblog: Basketball vs. Norfolk State

Tip off. Norfolk State controls. Quick walk down by the block and M gets the ball.

Manny Harris gets the first shot and draws iron.

Norfolk State takes a quick shot and can't hit

Gibson draws iron out past the free throw line

Another miss from the Norfolk State Spartans.

It's a brickfest out here. Nobody can hit. But at least we're rebounding. We've had at least five of them on this possession. Anthony Wright had his pass knocked out and we get yet another miss after the inbound pass. 0 for 7 to start.

Gibson rebounds a State rebound and gets wrapped up for a foul on the floor. Manny Harris has the ball ripped away after a quick pass. Harris hustles down the floor and just gets in front of Aleek Pauline. The ref near the play lets it go, but the guy down the floor calls a blocking foul. Pauline hits both. NSU, 2-0.

The teams exchange misses on the next pair of possessions. Ice cold. Ice cold. 0 for 10. This is horrendous. Norfolk State matches Anthony Wright's horrendous shot, but Michigan turns it over on the other end out of bounds. 15:54 left.

"Hangover game" is mentioned for the first time. Corey Lyons hits a bucket, but it's taken away as he walked first. Commercial sign.

Merritt brings the ball up. Stu Douglass finally gets Michigan on the board with a 3-ball. Michigan 3, NSU 2.

Lyons takes a three but it rattles out.

Zack Gibson quickly gets the ball under the basket and is fouled. The shot goes down, but Gibson can't make the freebie. M 5, NSU 2.

NSU gets another bucket to go, but it took an obvious charge so the score remains unchanged.

Jevohn Shepherd is stuffed on a layup try. There's a tie-up under the basket and Michigan retains possession. Sims hands it to Douglass, who launches a long, off-target 3. 14:00 left, and NSU lets fly their-own ill-advised long ball. Manny Fresh gets rejected on a layup. Then he takes the ball from out of bounds and passes it straight back to the seats.

NSU finds an open man near the basket and he has an easy 2. Jevohn Shepherd answers with a three. UM 8, NSU 4.

Manny Harris sets up a beautiful alley-oop to Deshawn Sims. UM 10, NSU 4.

NSU finally gets an offensive rebound, gets it back outside and posts Kyle O'Quinn up. Shepherd fouls him and he goes to the line. He makes one. UM 10, NSU 5.

CJ Lee almost throws it away, but Zack Novak gets it over to Kelvin Grady, whose 3 almost drops. NSU can't get a good shot, and Grady finds Novak down in the corner where he buries the three. UM 13, NSU 5.

Kelly O'Quinn gets a feed from Corey Lyons and gets an easy two. UM 13, NSU 7.

Sims can't get it to drop. NSU can't either. CJ Lee spots up with an open 3 and misses. 10:00 left. NSU bricks another. Kelvin gets Novak a good look and it rattles out. NSU is short on a spinning layup. Novak goes back to the corner and drains it. UM 15, NSU 7.

Kelvin Grady picks up a legit blocking foul and we have commercial sign again.

Norfolk in't taking their usual quick shot this time, trying to drive the baseline, but they pick up another charging foul. 8:43 left.

Merritt brings it up. Michigan works it around the perimeter. Novak drives and kicks it out to Anthony Wright, who drains the 3. UM 18, NSU 7.

NSU drops a floater from the lane, but it's waved off. NSU retains possession. Foul? I don't know. NSU grabs another rebound and Joseph Dorsett-Jeffreys gets the putback. On the way out, NSU's Michael Deloach picks up a technical. UM 18, NSU 9. 7:58 left. More commercials.

Dow AgroSciences is trying to sell you herbicides by talking about the B-2 Spirit (aka the Stealth Bomber). I don't know, I just like the pretty pictures.

We hit the freebie. UM 19, NSU 9. Can't add, but we get a block and a steal on the other end. Novak gets the ball on the break and hits his layup. UM 21, NSU 9.

A cloud of white jerseys is drawn to the ball in the lane, but the man on the baseline can't get the reverse layup to fall. The rebound goes out, but Michigan controls the next rebound. Anthony Wright hits a midrange jumper on the other end. UM 23, NSU 9.

NSU earns a trip to the line on the other end and hits 1/2. UM 23, NSU 10. 6:31 remaining.

DeShawn tries a three, but it's way long. Corey Lyons misses a three. Novak comes off the run, gets the ball, spots up a deep three and buries it. UM 26, NSU 10.

Yeah, Kelvin Grady can't guard a 6'11" guy. UM 26, NSU 12.

Wright makes a backdoor cut and heads to the charity stripe for two. He hits both. UM 28, NSU 12. Novak and Sim out, Cronin and Douglass in.

OH! A rebound turns into a sweet fast break. Harris to Douglass, who can't finish, but Harris finishes with authority.

NSU gets it down into the post again. Cronin fouls him low as Harris gets a block. They miss both.

Cronin executes the give and go, but finishes awkwardly and it doesn't fall. After a quick NSu possession, they forget about Harris and he throws down a nice feed. UM 32, NSU 15. Exchange of baskets. Michigan can't quite get the break together and NSU comes back the other way and Deloach gets his layup. But Michigan is already going the other way and Grady dishes to Wright for the easy bucket. UM 36, NSU 19.

Cronin annoys Quinn enough, and again Michigan is going the other way quickly. Manny Harris finishes for two. UM 38, NSU 21.

NSU slows it down and Aleek Pauline gets a jumper. UM 38, NSU 21. Michigan should have been able to run out the half, but Grady gives up the ball and the NSU player goes the remaining length of the floor. UM 38, NSU 23. 3.8 seconds left. Douglass manages to get a shot off, but barely and it isn't close. Down ending to a half that started agonizingly slowly, but started rolling our way when we started exploiting the transition game.

12 assists on 16 baskets, we have a 28-19 rebounding advantage. Looks good. And after the horrendous start, a 41% field goal percentage is better than expected.


Second half. DeShawn Sims makes NSU's shot difficult, and Merritt gets a look he can't convert down low. Transition defense completely breaks down and NSU gets a quick alley oop. On the other end, Manny gets a putback.

"Economic problems" "Michigan football". Drink. Manny! UM 42, NSU 25.

Wright loses his man under the basket, but recovers, and with the help of DeShawn Sims, gets the man to move his feet for the turnover. A Wright 3-ball from the point draws iron. Monroe strolls right around Manny Harris and makes the layup. UM 42, NSU 27.

Manny draws contact on the other end, misses the first, and makes the second. UM 43, NSU 27.

NSU draw the shot clock down to 8 before going inside, where the shot is blocked by Sims and/or Harris, leaving them no time for a second attempt. On the other end, Wright drains a long three. Quick possession on the other end results in nothing. Sims has to save the ball under the basket, kicking it back out and eventually getting it back for the jam. UM 48, NSU 27.

Deloach jumper is an airball out of bounds. Commercial sign.

Douglass almost loses the ball, but hangs onto it and Grady knocks down another three. After the slow start, we've been on fire from downtown. It's that Beilein offense. UM 51, NSU 27.

Wright to Douglas, who kicks out to Grady. No good. Trade of possessions, and Norfolk finds the hole in the transition and gets a layup. UM 51, NSU 30.

Michigan can't get a bucket, but Grady makes the quick steal in our offensive zone and feeds Harris, who earns a trip to the line and knocks down both. UM 53, NSU 30.

Another steal, but the Douglass pass is way too high.

NSU splits the defense, but can't hit the layup. They get the rebound, but Michigan wrestles the ball away.

Manny tries a step-back three and hits the front of the rim. NSU can't get anything to go down. Michigan loses another ball out the baseline.

Deloach tries a baseline floater that won't go down. Manny Harris gets the steal and takes it himself for a layup. UM 57, NSU 30. Douglass gets another quick steal and dishes to Manny, who misses the first layup with a couple defenders in his face, but gets the putback. UM 59, NSU 30. The frustration is starting to bubble over for the Spartans.

Michigan is on a 15-3 run and Manny goes for a rest.

Cronin to Shepherd to Grady, who misses, and then Shepherd's there to throw it down. UM 59, NSU 30.

11:20 left. NSU is symied in their attempts to go inside. A ball goes off a foot out of bounds and Michigan will take over again.

Shepherd should've driven the baseline but held up. Grady got an open look but couldn't hit. Shepherd cleans up. UM 61, NSU 30.

Shepherd spots up a 3, no good. Aleek Pauline goes baseline and earns a rare Norfolk State trip to the line. He hits 1/2. UM 61, NSU 31.

Manny draws attention in the lane, opening up Sims who misses 2, gets his own rebound each time, and gets the 2. UM 63, NSU 31.

Before I finished writing, Michigan had the ball again. Shepherd finishes the play. And Sims gets another transition basket. UM 61, NSU 31, and this game is in garbage time with 8:45 left. When we hit a 40-point lead, this live-blog is over.

Anthony Wright does well to break up a pass, but the ball sits down and the now-open NSU player can get an easy 2. Then Merritt gets it stolen and NSU bombs a quick 3 to make it UM 69, NSU 35.

Seriously? What the hell? We're getting sloppy. UM 69, NSU 37 after another steal.

Shepherd double clutches his layup and gets it to go down. UM 71, NSU 37 for a moment before NSU gets a transition basket. UM 71, NSU 39.

3 opportunities before NSU is allowed another bucket. UM 71, NSU 41. This is weak. Beilein thinks so too, and he calls a timeout.

Grady to Wright to Shepherd to Douglass on the wing and he hits the 3. Shepherd gets another steal and feeds Douglass, who's going to the line after the break.

Woo! We're with the basketball band performing "Can't Turn You Loose."

Douglass makes 1/2, and it's UM 75, NSU 41.

Tentative under the hoop, not wanting to foul. NSU gets 2.

We're content to drain time here. Douglass takes a 3, but it doesn't fall.

OK, we're up by 30 with under 5:00. Sporadic updates.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

I want you to hit me as hard as you can

I was sitting with the Michigan Marching Band in Ohio Stadium in 2002 and 2004 when the fans rushed the field after Ohio State's victories. I watched as 100,000 people and 200,000 middle fingers slowly filed past us on their way out, tearing up chunks of sod and throwing it at us.

I waited patiently as this happened again in 2004 as the fans chanted "no more Rose Bowl" (right before Iowa beat Wisconsin to send Michigan to the Rose Bowl, since the Big Ten tiebreaker rules are no match for an opportunity to cheer for your team against Michigan).

video

But this Saturday was different, for reasons besides the obvious players/records/bowl streaks. Where we were once met with scorn, fury, and projectiles, we now faced incredulity and pity.

Why are you here?
Do you guys actually like Rich Rodriguez?
Why haven't you left yet?

Why bother with insults? What peg could you possibly knock us down? "You suck" is a fact; what can we do besides shrug and agree?

This season has dulled the intensity associated both with the feelings I got when we lost a game, and the reactions and behavior from OSU fans in Columbus. 3-8 plus five in a row will do that. The only thing worse than OSU fans' dangerous, irrational hatred is their resigned indifference. I long to be hated again.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Bad

"We're a Big Ten Football Team, we come from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Like all programs, it has its good, and it has its bad. This is a song called "Bad."

--Bono (if he were a Michigan football fan)

(Also, if you haven't already, go read this. I'll wait, and if you don't come back, I'd more than understand. It's that good.)

I was trying to find the right metaphor to sum up this season, and I went looking for a song to sum it. The coaching search was "Read My Mind" by the Killers, but nothing had struck me (maybe because I lack a deep or even passing knowledge of the slow sad songs prevalent in the country genre) until this morning.

Every morning I wake up to the same ten song CD I custom cut for my alarm clock, one song from every good U2 studio album, in a logical order. It opens with "Desire" because that songs opening sounds like an alarm ringing. The songs progress and as I get ready to leave, if I have timed it right, the opening notes of "Bad" (the "live" Wide Awake in America version) play. It's an auditory symbol that I need to get my ass in gear, which is ironic because it's also my favorite U2 song. When I heard the notes this morning, I paused and thought about the opening line of the lyrics.

If you twist and turn away.
It you tear yourself in two again.
If I could, yes I would
If I could, I would let it go.
Surrender, dislocate.

At its core, without knowing the meaning, context, or origins, "Bad" is a song about escaping something, something painful, something that needs to be departed. It's about watching someone rend themselves in twain over something that you, on the outside, cannot control, no matter how much you wish to do something. It's a powerlessness and a hopelessness in the face of the destiny of others. We cannot control it and yet we have invested something into that person or that thing knowing full well that any affection or disregard we have for it may not have an iota of influence on the impact or direction it takes.

If I could throw this lifeless life-line to the wind.
Leave this heart of clay, see you walk, walk away
Into the night, and through the rain
Into the half light and through the flame.

If I could, through myself, set your spirit free
I'd lead your heart away, see you break, break away
Into the light and to the day.

In this case, this is what we're left with for Michigan football this season, something that means so much to so many of us that we want to throw out a lifeline, make things better for them because we know in doing so, it would be better for us. But again, we are left wanting, waiting, wishing, but ultimately, without power. Our belief in all that we have done is tested by the lackluster, tempered by disappointment.

To let it go and so to find away.
To let it go and so find away.
I'm wide awake.
I'm wide awake, wide awake.
I'm not sleeping.

Were but it a dream, that we could just wake up tomorrow and everything was better, or at least unwritten. But we've been well aware of what has happened during this season, we cannot forget or let it go, no matter how hard we try. We are stained with this as fans, but the stain does not ruin what was perfect as much as it adds character to something that perhaps seemed a little too good to be true. While others heap scorn, ridicule, derived from a jealous place within the human heart or the darker recesses of the mind, we absorb the blows, because the results have rendered us all but moot. We withdraw in to our tribe, stare at each other across the fire, and know that the stars above us speak of days before and days to come.

If you should ask, then maybe
They'd tell you what I would say
True colors fly in blue and black
Blue silken sky and burning flag.
Colors crash, collide in blood-shot eyes.

If I could, you know I would
If I could, I would let it go.

We have seen the true colors of many a Michigan fan this season. Those who walked away after Toledo, those who have stuck it out in the hope of being rewarded down the line, those who are confused, sicked, maddened, or confused, and a majority of us who couldn't walk away if we tried. Our maize and blue blood has seeped into our eyes, from the bitter tears of defeat and the sheer madness of anger without a worthy target. But the operative word is "could". For those of us here still standing at the end of this, we couldn't walk away. Some would call us loyal, others mock us as fools. We may not even know the difference anymore, but here we stand, and here we hope, because we cannot let it go, but not for lack of trying.

This desperation, dislocation
Separation, condemnation
Revelation, in temptation
Isolation, desolation
Let it go and so to find away
To let it go and so to find away
To let it go and so to find away

I'm not a huge fan of digging around for the meanings of songs I love, because I feel that all too often, it strips them of their magic. But I remember being told by a very dear friend of mine when I was in college that this song was about a friend of Bono's who overdosed on heroin on said friend's 21st birthday. What I also learned is that Bono did not know that that was his inspiration at the time, it was only later he realized it. Something powerful and horrible inspired something beautiful and meaningful for others. That's too often how tragedy works, how we rise from the ashes, our own ashes whether we realize them or not, we find something deeper to try and make sense of it in our own minds and perhaps help others. Bono, as he is apt to do, has reflected that this song is also about any form of addiction, and maybe it's time that we realize that there are similarities; the epic highs, the dizzying lows, the withdrawal like symptoms, there are parallels. But it's not a perfect analogy, because I think many of us could truly walk away if we wanted to, which means that it is a choice, that we are here for whatever reasons we have convinced ourselves are real, or others which may not be on the surface, but we hold deep in the heart. But in the end, it's not about us, it's never about us, it's about how we reflect the light of others, and what we do with that reflection. Shall we cast our light upon others, to make things grow, to light and heat others, or shall we use it to blind, or shall we merely cast it in upon ourselves. We make the choice, we hold that power, but we do not actually possess the light. Only they do, and some years, the light is dimmer than others, but it is there.

It's a scar, but a well-won scar; earned in battle in part because we stayed until the last man. Our numbered were diminished, but they were there. The loyal remained, the faithful held fast against the sweeping currents of reality and negativity. We could not change what had happened, we could not spin the results as hard as we tried. We looked to where all of college football lives, the past, and the future. The present is so fickle, so transient that meaning is lost as soon as the moment passes. So we examine what has been and what we hope shall be. We look for meaning in the past in a dire attempt to draw parallels to the future. But the past cannot change and soon this season shall reside there. We will tell the stories; sometimes when prompted, other times with motivations never necessarily clear to us, of what transpired this season. We will remember this season, in a context of which we are unsure now and may not know for a while, however long a while is anymore. But somewhere along the line, the memory will seep in and you won't even realize it was there until after it was gone. All you're left with is a scar, and a story about how you got it, and perhaps in the telling of the story, you can find peace with whether or not the scar was worth it.

Thank you, bless you, and Go Blue.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Of Football Faith, and Crises therein.

"For Michigan fans, football is a religion. And the Ohio State game is Easter."

--Paul Hennessy, Eight Simple Rules

I've always liked this quote from the moment I heard it because I know that it's true for a large number of people, whether they are willing to state this as such. (It's also how Geoff and I landed on calling the first weekend of the NCAA Hockey Tournament "Hockey Christmas", but I digress.)

But it calls to mind a crisis of "football faith" which I have been having this season.

I can accept the losses, not in a way that I am happy about them, but in the nature of "darkness must exist so that we can know what light looks like." You need a down season every now and then to appreciate the good ones (and the great ones) when they come along. It keeps you humble, honest, and hopefully reaffirms that which you believe in.

My problem with my "football faith", such as it is, lies in the fact that I know I love Michigan football. I believe in it as passionately as I do few other things (though my priorities are still in family, friends, faith, America, and the inherent goodness of mankind, I'm not out of balance on this), it is a constant, it is a means by which I measure time, and it can and has been an short hand version for all of the things which I do hold dear (team over individual, combining hard work with talent, honesty, integrity, tradition, and long term success.). Yet, in loving Michigan football, I also think that I don't hate Ohio State enough.

I realize that most Michigan fans do not obsess over Ohio State in the same way that many Ohio State fans obsess over Michigan. I shall not get in to the reasons for this disparity, because that's neither the reason I am writing this, nor am I sure enough in my reasons that I think that they could stand confidently (basically, they're opinions based on loosely gathered facts.) Yet, I feel like I am missing out on one of the key tenets of the "faith". If I believe in "the father, the son, and the Holy Yost" (OK, that was probably blasphemy, but I couldn't resist the pun), do I not also need to believe equally as passionately in hating the Buckeyes? I've tried, but I also know that in disliking the Buckeyes, I also don't exactly like Notre Dame, or Michigan State, or Penn State either. (This doesn't even count schools like Illinois or Minnesota which claim a rivalry with Michigan with which we are only faintly aware at times.) I absolutely love when Michigan beats Ohio State, and I die a little inside when the Buckeyes earn another pair of gold pants, but I just can't develop the level of negative feelings towards Ohio State that I have on the positive side for Michigan. Sure, losing to Ohio State lingers, because it's usually six weeks (this year, longer) before Michigan has a chance to win again. It hurts, and I know it hurts the players more than anyone else, on a level that we as fans can only vaguely and tangentially understand. But knowing that this pain lies there, and the joy of winning is so great, it still does not raise the level of passionate loathing in me.

Perhaps it's just the nature of who I am, in that I would rather view a Michigan win over Ohio State as a success for Michigan rather than a Buckeye failure. Maybe I would rather focus on the positives because I believe too much of sports has become about the negative. Maybe I just needed to talk it out with myself, to look within myself to understand that this is OK, that Michigan fans need not be the blue-clad reflections of the Ohio State self, that fandom can exist in many flavors and many shades and that the ontological arguments of one's "football faith" are open to debate and discussion and continued examination. That could be the biggest thing of all, when one's "football faith" is shaken, to ignore those questions is to follow blindly, but to confront the challenges, face the tough questions, and to hopefully come out the other side with stronger "football faith", renewed by the knowledge that herein lies greater depth than previously held. One can only hope.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Get a Life!

Start with "Rodriguez says some college football fans need to get a perspective on life"

Mix with this...

And you get...below the jump.

(Addendum: 12:00 PM Wednesday: I just want to point out. In the wake of Brian's post about this topic at MGoBlog, I am well aware of the full context of Rodriguez's statements and this is more about the overblown reaction (and maybe poking a bit of fun at myself, as I am both a fan of Star Trek and Michigan football) than it is thinking that Coach Rod did something wrong. Thank you.)

[ open on an exterior shot of the "Laurel Manor" with a sign reading "Welcome Michigan Fans." ]

[ dissolve inside ]

[ A sign on the wall reads "82nd Annual Michigan Football Bust -- 2008" ]

Mgoblue1997: FireDrewSharp! Check this out!

FireDrewSharp: [ wearing "Worst State Ever" t-shirt ] Oh, outstanding, man!

Mgoblue1997: Original 1998 team photo, right before they added Henson!

FireDrewSharp: Oh, how much was it?

Mgoblue1997: Sixty dollars!

FireDrewSharp: Ohhh.... They got any left?

Carl Grapertine [over loudspeaker:] Attention Michigan fans, now available in the Kipke Room... copies of Gary Moeller's single record, "Any Tie is a Good Tie." Right now, in the Kipke Room.

Victor Valiant: [ making the Michigan "Hail" pump ] Hey guys!

FireDrewSharp & Mgoblue1997: Hey Victor Valiant!

Victor Valiant: How you guys doing on the trivia quiz?

FireDrewSharp: Awesome, you... hey, you got Yost's middle name?

Victor Valiant: [ smugly ] Harris!

FireDrewSharp: Bennie Oosterbaan's career winning percentage?

Victor Valiant: .630!

[ FireDrewSharp and Mgoblue1997 snicker knowingly to each other. ]

Victor Valiant: What? Am I wrong? Am I wrong?

[ more snickers ]

Bill Martin: Attention! Attention! Hello everybody! Welcome to the 82nd Annual Michigan Football Bust... Well! ...here in Livonia, Michigan. A few announcements.... Ah... first... ah... a wonderful new... ah... item has just been added to the M Den. It's a program from the 1975 season!

Michigan Fans: Oooo! Ahhh!

Bill Martin: Yeah! It's a very special item, I'm sure you'll enjoy it, and it's ONLY... thirty dollars.

Secondly, we have some exciting guests at the Bust today, so let me introduce them to you right now. First, we have the amazing safety Marcus Ray. Now you all remember him as the guy who played in the backfield in 1997 with Charles Woodson ... before he played for the Scottish Claymores of the World League.

And next up is Ryan Mundy, the former Michigan defensive back who transferred to West Virginia, and ah... I understand life with the Mountaineers *was* somewhat turbulent... kinda like living with a Buckeye!

Michigan Fans: [ knowing laughter ]

Bill Martin: Yeah! Well you'll all be able to meet Ryan in the Bump Elliot Wing where he'll be signing copies of his new book, "Yards After Mundy"!

And finally, the man you've all been waiting for, this is his first Michigan Football Bust, I know he's thrilled to be here, the head football coach of the University of Michigan himself, RICH RODRIGUEZ! [ Rodriguez walks to the podium. ] Now Rich's here to field a few questions so just fire away!

Michigan Fans: Coach Rodriguez! Coach Rodriguez!

Rich Rodriguez: Alright, the first question, uh, go ahead!

FireDrewSharp: Yeah! Okay, um, when you were gonna have Sheridan pass, okay, for the last time during the Northwestern game? I was wondering, like um, w-w-what was going on with the offense in that particular....

Rich Rodriguez: Uh... the Northwestern game?

FireDrewSharp: Yeah!

Rich Rodriguez: Um... you gotta give me a score and situation, see, cause it's 20 days and it's a long time... a down and distance... uh....

FireDrewSharp: Yeah, the Northwestern game, that's where it was like 30 degrees and you had a lead at the half and you let Northwestern score 14 unanswered points to win the game?

Rich Rodriguez: [ scowling ] Oh oh, yeah right, I remember, okay uh... what's the question?

FireDrewSharp: Well um, I was wondering if you could settle a bet for me and my friends, okay? Um, like, when you... um, called for the pass for the last play? And you rolled Sheridan out to the right? Um... who was his hot read?

Rich Rodriguez: [ lengthy pause, incredulous expression ] I-I-I don't know! I mean, it's been a long time! I, uh... I don't know that! Uh, okay?

FireDrewSharp: [ disappointed ] Okay! Okay!

Rich Rodriguez: Anybody? Oh, all right, go ahead! You? Go ahead! You in the funny shirt!

Victor Valiant: [ wearing Rodriguez style adidas polo] Okay! Another bet... okay... on your 2009 recruiting class... alright? How many total firm recruits do you have?

Rich Rodriguez: Uh... 21.

Victor Valiant: Wait, wait... is that including the kicker that was committed late last week?

Rich Rodriguez: [ stunned pause ] That kicker committed officially?

Victor Valiant: Friday!

Rich Rodriguez: Well I... guess it's 22 then!

Victor Valiant: ALL RIGHT! ALL RIGHT! [ congratulated by his friends ]

Rich Rodriguez: You know, before I answer any more questions there's something I wanted to say. Having received all your emails over the years , and I've read your message board posts, and some of you have traveled... y'know... hundreds of miles to be here, I'd just like to say... GET A LIFE, will you people? I mean, for crying out loud, it's just a college football team! I mean, look at you, look at the way you're dressed! You've turned an enjoyable little job, that I did as a lark for a few years, into a COLOSSAL WASTE OF TIME!

[ a crowd of shocked and dismayed Michigan Fans.... ]

I mean, how old are you people? What have you done with yourselves?

[ to "Mgoblue1997" ] You, you must be almost 30... have you ever kissed a girl?

[ "Mgoblue1997" hangs his head ]

I didn't think so! There's a whole world out there! When I was your age, I didn't watch college football! I PLAYED IT! So... move out of your parent's basements! And get your own apartments and GROW THE HELL UP! I mean, it's just a football team dammit, IT'S JUST A FOOTBALL TEAM!

FireDrewSharp: Are- are you saying then that we should pay more attention to the recruiting trail?

Rich Rodriguez: NO!!! THAT'S NOT WHAT I'M SAYING AT ALL!!! HEY, YOU GUYS ARE... THE LAMEST BUNCH... I'VE NEVER SEEN... [ walks away from podium ] I can't believe these people... I mean, I really can't understand what's....

[ Bill Martin argues with Rodriguez off-mike, shoves him, Rodriguez shoves back harder.... ]

Carl Grapertine: Uh... that was Rich Rodriguez, ladies and gentlemen. Uh, I'd like to remind you Michigan fans that we have some fine refreshments from all over the Big Ten... Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, 7-Up, Orange Crush, I believe. We....

[ Meanwhile, Bill Martin waves the contract in front of Rodriguez, who then reluctantly returns to the podium.... ]

Rich Rodriguez: Of course, that speech was a "re-creation" of the "Angry Coach Rod" from um..., um... [ Bill Martin whispers ] my final game as West Virginia coach... uhh... called... [ another whisper ] "The Pitt Game."

[ Michigan Fans get happy, applaud ]

Rich Rodriguez: Yuh, Yuh, so thank you... and, and... Hail to the Victors...

[ Michigan Fans make "Hail" arm pump.... ]

Rich Rodriguez: So everybody... cheer them again, cause... THIS TEAM'S AHEAD AND WE'RE GONNA WIN THE BIG TEN, Y'KNOW? RIGHT! ALL RIGHT! THE BIG TEN!

[ fade out ]

(The scariest part of this: I thought it would take three hours to pull off. With find/replace, twelve minutes.)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Freezing to Death

On 30 Rock last season, Liz was defending the idea of getting back together with her loser ex-boyfriend Dennis. Liz said that if you give into it, you just start to kinda feel numb and warm and then you just get sleepy. Jenna pointed out that this is exactly what it's like when you freeze to death. Liz came to eventually realize that Jenna was right.

Standing in the end zone at Michigan Stadium yesterday, in the cold, wind, and wet, I realized the metaphor is also apt for this Michigan football season as well.

I was going to go in to this long sojourn as to how exactly apt the metaphor was, and I wanted to do some research, and landed on this 1997 article from Outside magazine and I didn't want to do it. Read the piece and it's not even funny. It's horrifying, and as bad as this season is, it is mild in comparison.

That said, yesterday was the worst game, from a weather standpoint, I have ever attended at Michigan Stadium. I was at Boston College in 1996 when the skies opened up and I got soaked to the bone. This was worse. I was at the deluge against the Chips in 2006 and could not return to my car, because it was a mile away. This was worse. I was dressed for this weather, I was layered, I was covered in plastic and the like, and I was still freezing. The only solace I had was that Michigan was playing OK, not great, but had a lead.

When you're cold, you can't recognize friendly faces, and you start to not think correctly, so I was seduced once more in to thinking that Michigan would just play as they had in the first half and keep things on the level and get away with another win. I was cold, I was wet, I couldn't feel my toes, and I just wanted the game to be over, and perhaps, more than anything else, I wanted this suffering to be worth something, and a win would go a long way towards being worth something.

I won't recap the annoying manner in which the third quarter went down, as I lost feeling in my fingers and my toes. I won't hammer the officials for the quick whistle on Donovan Warren's interception return, or the mysterious disparity of penalties called on Northwestern (one false start on the first play of the game, one delay of game purposefully drawn for punting room), or the lack of pass interference flags late in the game. I was cold, I was wet, and now I was angry.

The thing is, as soon as I warmed up, I was fine with the loss. I had mildly expected it (as I have become accustomed to this season) and winning the game would have salvaged some pride, but not much else. It was cold, it was wet, it was miserable yesterday, in many ways an apt metaphor for the Michigan season in 2008. The good news is this: The next time I'm at Michigan Stadium in late August or early September 2009, it may be wet, but it will likely be sunny, humid, and warm, but more importantly, Michigan will have a clean slate. This season will be a part of history, hopefully something to learn from, something to grow on, but it will be in the past. It will be a part of who we as Michigan fans are, but hopefully, it will not come to identify us.

Snow can blanket the ground in a visually clean slate, but in the end, it's cold, it's wet, and it has a way of making you feel lost and without direction. When the snow has gone, a new season will emerge, hope will spring eternal, and something new will grow in place of what has happened.

Friday, November 14, 2008

WTI: Cake!

Craig: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Whatever This Is. I'm Craig Barker, thanking our service veterans...
Geoff: And remembering the 90th anniversary of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
Geoff: So Saturday was more than a little unexpected.
Craig: It's a good feeling around these parts, a strange and missing feeling this season. We're looking at Michigan, a winner!
Geoff: It's been a lot longer than we're used to since we could say that.
Jeremy: It reminded us how fun winning is - especially winning unexpectedly.
Craig: Indeed. The difference between enjoying a win and praying we don't lose is hugely different
Geoff: I thought that with Threet out, the way our defense had played at Purdue, and the way Minnesota had simply handled Illinois, we were looking at a missing Jug until 2011. I'd assured the Gopher in the office of it. But then Minnesota went three and out, and we drove down to score. It was only a field goal, but then it was another three and out.
Jeremy: Pretty soon Sheridan was leading the receivers on screen passes, Justin Feagin was breaking off 40 yard runs, black was white, and up was down.
Craig: And for 60 minutes on Saturday, almost everything clicked.
Jeremy: And in the end, the one enduring constant remained as it should be.

(h/t: Varsity Blue)
Geoff: It wasn't quite a fully-functional battle station, but it was a reasonable facsimile.
Craig: And it proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt: Michigan is a dome team.
Geoff: It's too bad about Purdue and Toledo. We would have dominated in the Motor City Bowl.
Geoff: The most satisfying part of Saturday's performance, for me, was the defense. Time and time again, they stepped up.
Craig: Indeed. Punishing hits across the board. The way Morgan Trent blew that Gopher up, it was like he was Carl from Caddyshack.
Jeremy: It's frustrating that it took the players themselves to request they play in a 4-3, but their wish was granted and they delivered.
Geoff: They made Adam Weber look like he was constantly overwhelmed, a mediocre-at-best Big Ten QB.
Craig: But the question is, what does this mean for this weekend?
Craig: I was shocked to learn that Michigan is favored (screwing me mildly on my annual bet on the Michigan/NU game.)
Jeremy: It means a jubilant, warm welcoming as the team takes the field.
Craig: It means that we can hopefully get one wave in this season.
Geoff: Win or lose on Saturday, we should hear "Thank you, seniors."
Geoff: We'll at least have The Cake.
Craig: And it will not be made of ashes and rusty nails.
Jeremy: The Cake! And we're inching ever closer to the moment when the music now known as "the blues" will exist only in the classical record department of your local public library.
Craig: Thankfully, according to Change.gov, "the blues" may have earned a stay of execution until 2012.
Geoff: Forget the library, I want to know what "the blues" will be known as in The Future.
Jeremy: Until 2004, it was set to expire in 2006. I guess, like most things, it will happen when Carl says it happens.
Geoff: Maybe he'll get another request to take a number out of the mix.
Craig: As long as Carl and his spotter stop fighting this season like they're in an Pinter drama. (Seriously, I may be alone on this, but no other season has seen Carl and the spotter who puts down and distance up on the scoreboard disagree as much over yardage as they have this year.)
Geoff: They need to talk to the down and distance guy at Notre Dame
Jeremy: That guy was *immediate.*
Craig: That guy was spot on all the time
Geoff: Do we know what the "America Rocks" show will consist of? "Born in the USA"? "R-O-C-K in the USA"?
Craig: Oh please say "No More Kings" and "I'm Just a Bill".
Jeremy: Opens with "Born in the USA" by Bruce Springsteen. Then "America" by Neil Diamond. Then "God Bless the USA" complete with standard biyearly American flag unfurling
Craig: Because you can't boo freedom?
Geoff: Even in Columbus.
Jeremy: Trying to guarantee applause at OSU, I guess.
Geoff: I'm hoping that Kafka starts for Northwestern. Not because I think he's a step down from Bacher, but because the jokes write themselves. "Kafka appears to have woken up this morning as a giant bug and not a QB"
Craig: You gotta get contain on the bug though
Geoff: He'll hurt you if you don't.
Craig: It'll be a real Trial
Geoff: His offensive line is trying to put up a Castle around him
Craig: He's the kind of quarterback Rhett Miller writes love songs about
Jeremy: I'm no good at these jokes. I'm waiting for the quarterback named Calvinandhobbes or Spartanmarchingband.
Craig: It's years of quiz bowl experience, Jeremy, which means these jokes are really just therapy for Geoff and myself.
Geoff: Meanwhile, the Michigan hockey team took their biennial trip to Fairbanks
Craig: Michigan's effort in Alaska is what you expect. Win one, lose one, see Russia from the rink.
Geoff: We got a split, which is decent. With all the injuries, I've revised my expectations for the team down a bit.
Craig: I think we are compelled to do so. Two key defensemen. Michigan can still play with any team, but they're not blowing the doors off everyone.
Geoff: I think this is the kind of team to scrap its way into the tournament and see what happens. It's not the kind that'll have the regular season we saw last year.
Craig: They're going to need to win the games they should win on paper
Geoff: We do have the good fortune to play a lot of games at home in the second half of the season.
Craig: Yes, the schedule does seem to favor Michigan down the stretch. It also appears that there is no team stepping out in front and saying "We're the ones to beat" yet this season
Geoff: All I want to see is an NCAA tournament berth and a placement in the Grand Rapids regional, and then we can take it from there.
Craig: Works for me
Jeremy: the Grand Rapids regional would make too much sense.
Geoff: Yeah. I'll buy my tickets again only to see Huntsville come back to town.
Craig: By the way, it's been a while so my mad props to the Yost crowd for their Halloween weekend effort. Tremendous across the board! Well done!
Jeremy: Did Frankenberry make it?
Craig: Yes, and Frankenberry, if you're reading, PLEASE get your costume cleaned. You can send HSR the dry cleaning bill.
Geoff: With that inspirational message, I think it's about time to call it a day.
Craig: Indeed. Until next week, enjoy the cake, enjoy the seniors last home game, and above all, Go Blue!
Jeremy: And while we still can, enjoy Scotty B and his Blues Band. Go Blue!
Geoff: Go Blue.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Coach Carr for Governor

As some of you may have seen, George Perles, the one-time Michigan State football coach and athletic director and current member of the MSU Board of Trustees, is considering a run for governor in 2010. We here at the Hoover Street Rag applaud this, largely because it got us thinking.

There is but one man who can lead the State of Michigan out of its current morass and into a cycle of perpetually solid, if unspectacular, years. That man is none other than former Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr. Coach Carr has the managerial and executive experience, the background in civics (he was a high school history teacher after all) and is generally well liked still around the state. Below the jump, some of the highlights we could expect to see from a Carr administration.

  • No more "you'll be blown away", all State of the State addresses would report that the state of Michigan is "tremendous".
  • Vocabulary of state officials would be increased thanks to Governor Carr's unabridged dictionary outside the door of the governor's office policy.
  • Governor Carr schedules one of his first meetings with the press with Maureen Dowd.
  • Press conferences become testy when WXYZ-TV hires Todd Harris to become its Lansing bureau chief.
  • LaMarr Woodley offered command of Michigan National Guard.
  • Mike Hart named director of the Family Independence Agency.
  • Charles Woodson considered so valuable to the Michigan government, he is compelled to work for the executive, legislative, and judicial branches without regard for the constitutional issues this raises.

    This is all we had, but please feel free to add your own in the comments below.

  • Sunday, November 09, 2008

    Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder

    It had been a long time coming. Certainly as long a gap as I could remember. They had all started in the same hopeful way, getting a lead, going in to halftime with a decent chance to win, only to watch it all fall apart in the second half. It was as if we had used all of our good second half karma for the season in that win over Wisconsin. Now we were facing five straight losses, and Nick Sheridan starting at quarterback. I was certain the Jug was going to stay in Minnesota until 2011, because on paper, and in my heart, I couldn't see how Michigan could pull it off.

    The danger of football is also its beauty: It is utterly unpredictable. You may correctly be able to predict the winner of a game, but it's unlikely you'll be able to predict how it is going to happen. So to see a 7-2 team at home hosting a 2-7 team, it wouldn't matter which team was in which helmets, the 7-2 team should win. It didn't matter that Michigan had never lost in the Metrodome, that Michigan hadn't lost in Minnesota in my lifetime, the Brewster Crew was likely going to come out and send Michigan to its eighth loss.

    But something strange happened. Nick Sheridan didn't utterly suck. He was making plays (as were his receivers. Michigan was moving the ball. It converted a fake punt. There was almost a hint of swagger. The defense was aggressive, and if not ball hawking, they were letting Minnesota know that they weren't going to go anywhere, particularly on third down. All of the things that had driven Michigan fans crazy in the last five weeks weren't happening. But still, there was cause for concern. We were only getting field goals, and while Michigan's defense was pitching a shutout, there was worry that those field goals would be a portend of our doom.

    That's why the second half was amazing. Nothing bad really happened. (OK, Brandon Minor got hurt, but we don't know how bad yet.) Michigan's defense kept playing well. Michigan's offense kept getting the job done. Minnesota never put together a great drive and Michigan was able to stop them short of the end zone every time. Michigan was going to win, and it felt strange.

    During the broadcast, ESPN showed that Minnesota coach Tim Brewster had moved the trophy case for the Little Brown Jug in to the locker room, the empty case hopefully serving to motivate the Gophers to reclaim what they want and what they prize perhaps much more highly than Michigan. But perhaps what Michigan needed to put everything together (if a little too late for 2008) was to realize that not everything was gone yet. It's a small token, as someone said, Michigan really only cares about the Jug when we don't have it, but if that small token served to bring Michigan together for sixty minutes on Saturday, served to get everyone on the team to work as one, to execute at the top of their game, to make plays and play hard for the entire game, then so be it. The Jug is in Ann Arbor until 2011. There isn't an utter emptiness in Michigan football in 2008, just disappointment. We can only hope Michigan can build on this next week, find a way to win another game, and then give it everything they can in Columbus.

    In the end, it felt really good to win yesterday. I think I almost ended up appreciating it more than other wins just because it had been so few and far between this season. I'm not sure if this is learning humility, or just learning that winning is better than not losing, but either way, thank you Michigan for putting it together on Saturday. Now, let's build on it.

    Saturday, November 08, 2008

    Dome Sweet Dome

    Michigan secures an undefeated record for all time in the Metrodome and secures the Little Brown Jug until 2011. All is right with the world for one Saturday.

    --Glenn Miller Orchestra, "Little Brown Jug", 2005.

    Sunday, November 02, 2008

    Why You Should Watch...

    There's not a whole lot to say about this Michigan season that either hasn't been said or that would do a lot of good. In each of Michigan's last four conference games, we've seen Michigan take an early lead, only to falter down the stretch in the second half. There is hope given, only to be snatched away. This week, playing a measurably bad Purdue team, the same thing occurred, this time a late touchdown to give the Boilermakers a 48-42 win.

    So some of you may be thinking "That's it, I'm done. They're terrible and I am not going to watch the rest of this season circle the bowl." Well, in the spirit of optimism, allow me to make the case why you should. Here now, my top ten reasons you should watch Michigan's remaining three games of the 2008 college football season.

    10). Because you need to do something before the Michigan hockey game comes on.

    Seriously, next weekend Michigan is playing in Alaska. That game starts at 11:35 EST. You're going to need to do something on your Saturday. Remember, the hockey team, despite devastating injuries on defense to Mitera and Kampfer (whom, though good to see him walking again on Friday night, it was a little disturbing to see him in the full neck brace), is playing pretty well, save one horrible game in Boston.

    9). Because Brandon Minor is still playing hard and looking good.

    Seriously, Minor went for over 150 yards yesterday and had three touchdowns. In a season of chaos on offensive, with nary a line to protect him, Brandon Minor is running hard, finding holes, making holes, taking hits, and finding the end zone. One wonders what might have been if he had not been dinged up for parts of this season.

    8). Because you're insanely loyal.

    You've likely never had to deal with a bad Michigan season before. Hell, we thought 7-5 was a terrible showing in 2005, and now it's something we'd happily trade for at this point. But you're a Michigan fan. You don't fold the tent just because this season isn't going your way. There's a reason we're called the Maize and Blue faithful after all. We stick with it. (Besides, if you watch the Lions every possible Sunday, you have no excuse on this one.)

    7). Because in college football, anything can happen.

    I'm not saying Michigan can or will score an upset in its last three games, all against teams that have 7-2 records. What I am saying is that stranger things have happened in college football in this season, and an unexpected 2008 Michigan win would just be par for the course.

    6). Because you need to see who will still have a starting job in 2009.

    You need to know that Booboo is looking good, though still getting burned on occasion. You need to know that Mike Martin has stepped up in key spots. You need to know that Stephen Threet is not the worst quarterback in Michigan history, despite what the mainstream media might be telling you. Most importantly though, you need to be able to make a case for what you believe based on what you have seen, not on what you have read.

    5). Because there's only three games left.

    If you have made it this far, you can make it through three more games, the last three Michigan games you get until September 2009. You love Michigan football more than this hurts.

    4). Because there will be cake.

    The Northwestern game will mark not only Senior Day at Michigan Stadium, but also the return of the Michigan Marching Band's Cake formation. That's a positive, no?

    3). Because Zoltan Mesko is having an award winning season.

    It may be hard to believe, but Michigan might have an individual award winner even in this lowest of low seasons. Our beloved space emperor (of space) leads the nation in net punting and his efforts honestly looks like he has a football howitzer, dropping smart bombs just inside the 20 time and again. Punting may give you a sense of nausea because Michigan's defense will be coming on the field, but the majesty of Mesko's efforts are just fantastic.

    2). Because if you want to call for Coach Rodriguez's head, you better be able to explain exactly what he's done to deserve it.

    Basically, if you're going to make crazy rants, you better well at least know what you're talking about. Or else we can ignore you, which we probably should anyway.

    1). Because those who stay will be champions.

    I do realize I'm falling back on the old chestnut here, but I firmly believe it to be true. I believe that you need to sit through this season because it makes the wins all the more sweet. We have no birthright to winning football, we must instead realize we're like every other great program, we're going to have some down time. As long as it leads to something greater down the line, it shall be worth it.

    It's not easy being a Michigan fan, but nothing worth having is ever easy. Go Blue, and remember, it's great to be a Michigan Wolverine, because it's always great to be a Michigan Wolverine, even this year. Even when the chips are down and the breaks are going against us.

    Monday, October 27, 2008

    Third Down...of DOOM!

    I whipped up a quick MGoDiary about how Michigan's third down defense has spelled its doom this season, particularly in the last three games.

    I posted it there in tribute to Brian's strong penchant for data analysis and NOT because I am trying to win a t-shirt.

    You can find the post here.

    When you look at it, oy.

    Sunday, October 26, 2008

    Where Do We Go From Here?

    Let's start with doing the right thing. Congratulations to Michigan State and its fans. You were the better team this year and you got a well deserved win. That's it. No back-handed compliment, no vows of revenge, no warnings for the future. Just a simple nod of congratulations. See you next October.

    It was a strange feeling last night to realize that for the first time in my life, I want a Michigan season to be over. I never have felt this way before. The end of the season always meant the longest period of waiting for a new season to start. But this year, I'm just looking at the last four games and waiting for the conclusion. It's a strange feeling, because I refuse to give up on the season, but I also don't know how much more of this season I can take.

    I don't know what else to say. In each of Michigan's last three Big Ten games, Michigan has taken a lead, only to see the opponent roar back with a metric ton of unanswered points. The defense, which was bend, but don't break, is not giving up massive plays, particularly on third and long. The offense is maddeningly inconsistent, which I will attribute to the youth and inexperience of the starters, but even still, it just boggles the mind to see things happen that you just know aren't right.

    But, what are we to do? We can't make them play better? We cannot urge them on to anything more than what they do already. We can't tell them to practice harder, or to "make plays". We're kind of stuck here. But we are here. We're here because we choose to be here. Because we have committed ourselves to something larger than ourselves, rain or shine. We're here because in the dark, we learn who we truly are as fans. We're reminded how much certain other segments of the college football world holds us in disdain for who we are and revels in our failure. But mostly we're here because it's where we need to be.

    So, where do we go from here? We sit, we wait, we hope, and we're reminded that sometime next August, we'll be 0-0 again, and a new season will await. But until then, we're sitting here, cold, wet, and angry, but here.

    Friday, October 24, 2008

    Posts Full of Links Are Easy

    Last chance to enjoy this as the reigning image in the rivalry:

    Former Wolverine Mike Van Ryn felt the need to tear down some of the barriers between fans and players last night in Boston.

    That's gotta smart. (HT: Awful Announcing)

    Michael Rosenberg talks more about Dantonio and in-state recruiting. A reminder from Craig (who took it from an MGoDiary by chitownblue): Of Michigan's 10 career leaders in rushing yards and receiving yards, respectively, only one of each has come from the in-state ranks (Tyrone Wheatley and Braylon).

    Yost Built on Niagara and the upcoming tilt at BU, including ways to actually watch the game.

    Finally, WHY CAN'T I STOP CLICKING HERE? (HT: EDSBS)

    WTI: Sparty Time

    Craig: Good evening and welcome once again to Whatever This Is (Lite Edition). I'm Craig Barker, and I'm not even feeling this week like I should.
    Geoff: It's that feeling that we're the entire Big Ten's punching bag, and that Little Brother will take out eight seasons of frustration on us.
    Craig: Don't you mean six? Oh, right, never mind.
    Craig: I just, it's maddening, we see flashes, glimmers of hope, and they are taken away by the harbinger of doom
    Geoff: Things started out so well for us against Penn State, but the inevitable was always staring us in the face.
    Craig: I steeled myself to not get too excited. And yet, that little bit of hope, it is a dangerous thing. I mean, I had pretty much decided Michigan was going to be destroyed. And then we weren't. So then I wondered how badly it was going to end
    Geoff: When Threet came out, that was it. And even before then, giving up that late score in the first half made life a lot more difficult.
    Craig: Now, I find myself more interested in the Penn State/Ohio State matchup this weekend than the Michigan State/Michigan tilt. I'm still looking forward to going and whatnot, but it just feels like Little Brother will pull it together and get the job done. And that makes me sad.
    Geoff: We could have another moment of "Sparty, no!", but you can't count on that to bail you out forever.
    Geoff: I have to say, Brandon Graham probably should have kept his mouth shut on the upcoming festivities.
    Craig: You know what, though (and I mean this): I didn't mind what Brandon Graham said. It shows me that the team still believes. I took it as being more about Michigan and less about State. Dantonio said himself that it was kind of weak for BB material and I must agree.
    Craig: I don't know, I guess I just like that there still seems to be some fight in this team. Brandon Minor looked good on Saturday. I hope he can keep that up, mix in some McGuffie, see what happens
    Geoff: Dantonio seems a lot more circumspect this year. We don't hear about any countdown clocks or moments of silence. There was that whole thing about having the reporter repeat the names of the crappy teams we've lost to at home since 1990, but that's pretty weak too.
    Geoff: Me too. Minor was running hard and holding onto the football. It was an impressive performance from him. Before, it feels like his big performances usually included a long run distorting his YPC, but this seemed a more consistent one.
    Craig: Agree. The 4th and 1 conversion sold me. That was a literal hard yard.
    Craig: I'm trying too hard not to read the tea leaves, but at some point after Toledo did Rich Rod say "Everyone is benched, you win back your starting jobs starting today!" and that's where we ended up with the line up we did?
    Geoff: I wouldn't be opposed to that strategy. It goes along with the quote in the weight room about reverting to the level of your preparation. You play well in practice, you get time on the field.
    Craig: So, how can we be nice to Nick Sheridan? His safety was not "as bad" as Dan Orlovsky's that week, no?
    Geoff: No, it wasn't. He was actually tackled.
    Craig: And he did nearly get the pass off. To an o-lineman, but still, good situational awareness.
    Geoff: What do you think the offensive and defensive keys will be this weekend?
    Craig: I think on offense, it will be good, time-consuming drives where Michigan can adapt to the game-planning of MSU's defense and change things up. Also, it almost goes without saying, a healthy Stephen Threet.
    Geoff: I'm picking pass protection on offense. Like you said, healthy Threet is necessary, and he has to be able to make it through a full game.
    Craig: On defense, it's building up what worked against Wisconsin, getting good contain on Ringer and making Brian Hoyer beat us, which, admittedly, with our safety play lately, is not exactly a challenge I am thrilled to be offering.
    Geoff: It gives us a better chance to win than if Ringer piles up the yards. And Hoyer being irresponsible with the football could work to our advantage, if our DBs can manage to catch an interception right on the numbers, Charles Stewart.
    Craig: I also think field position will be critical. And remember, we're looking at a rainy Saturday, so you know, even on the field turf, strange things can happen.
    Geoff: I'm curious what this "Trains" show from the MMB will be about. And there's going to be some sort of combined performance with the SMB.
    Craig: I am curious as well. I hope a little "Chattanooga Choo-Choo", a little "City of New Orleans" and ending with some "Meet Virginia"
    Geoff: A little bit of "Oh Streetcar"?
    Craig: Long before the Superdome, where the Saints of Football play...lived a city that the damned called home....hear their hellish rondolette!
    Craig: Why can I remember this and not understand basic microeconomics remains a mystery to me to this day.
    Craig: Well, that's all for this lite edition of WTI. Enjoy the game this weekend, be nice to the Sparties, because...see, I don't even have the joke this week. It's just very sad. Go Blue.
    Geoff: Let's hope we can keep one streak alive this year, and I'm not talking about the OSU one. Go Blue.

    Thursday, October 23, 2008

    Liveblog: Hockey vs. Niagara

    It's a Purps-centric "NSN" crew tonight. Apparently there's a revenge factor. Michigan stole their dream? Really? And would winning a non-conference regular season game really be an equalizer?

    Ouch, Ted Cook is out with a broken hand. That's rough for the Purple Eagles.

    The new uniforms look sharp and the regular hockey band is in for this Thursday night game.

    Apparently Niagara isn't intimidated by this kind of atmosphere. Good to know, Walrus In a Suit. Hogan gets the start tonight, as Yost Built anticipated.

    Rust wins the faceoff, but the puck is quickly tipped out of play. Michigan wins the next one and moves it quickly into the Purps' zone. Palushaj tries to find someone in front of hte net, but fails. Back and fort play again. Finally, Turnbull gts a near-breakaway and a shot on net, but Niagara's Anderson got a weak-ish hook on him, so the anemic powerplay gets a shot. Michigan gains the zone. Pateryn has a sharp-angle shot that nearly goes in, and then Turnbull thinks he has one, but Pagliero kept it in front of him. They clear the zone, but Palushaj comes back in and nearly snipes one.

    Michigan's been dominating on the draw. Oooh. Pass to Hagelin from behind the net went to the wrong side or else that was a sure goal. Clear. The power play expires. A little pressure, but Michigan is flying. Wohlberg tries a centering pass from the slot on the rush, but his intended target is covered.

    After a clear, Michigan tries to take it out of their zone, but a turnover at the blue line stops that. It comes to nothing, but on the other end Summers has his shot blocked and it turns into a rush beautifully broken up by a sprawling Pateryn.

    14:00 left. Oooh. A Purple Eagle goes down and it's a turnover in their own zone. Palushaj has been very active and again Pagliero has to step up to stop him.

    Moran on Niagara goes down on a knee-to-knee hit that isn' called. It looks bad as he crawls to the bench.

    Elmblad's playing tonight, as we should expect. He's paired with Llewellyn Pateryn, it looks like.

    Pateryn gave it away on the blue line, but managed to poke it away again.

    Sergott and Hall are the refs tonight.

    Niagara player has lost a stick and Michigan has a great triangle set up behind the net. Rust has the puck slip on him as he tries to jam it home, which quickly dissolves into a race between Vaughan and an Eagle for the puck in the Michigan zone. The Eagle wins it, but Vaughan is on him before he can do anything.

    10:13 left. After Pagliero freezes a puck, Niagara manages to get a clear and come to the other end of the ice. Hogan makes his first real stop of the night, hugging the post on a shot from near the left circle. And we reach our first break.

    Breaks are quick tonight, almost as if there weren't any TV coverage. Elmblad takes down a Niagara player on what should've been a clear tripping penalty and gets away with it. Seriously? Nobody noticed that? Instead, Niagara is called for a hand pass.

    Hogan makes the save on a shot that keeps rising on him, as play just kind of dissolves for a while after that. Eventually, Rust dekes a guy and gets a shot on net, but Pagliero handles it with relative ease.

    Vaughan still needs work on his shot.

    Niagara gets a 4-on-2 working against Michigan, but the (first) trailer apparently didn't expect the puck. Michigan gets a clear, but Niagara comes back. Caporusso goes down in a mass of bodies in front of the net, and Hogan makes the first stop, but the puck pops clear to a wide open man to the left of the net who gets about as easy a goal as you can score. Seriously, Caporusso was basically setting a pick on Turnbull, who absolutely should've gone to the other side of the net when there were already 3 white jerseys on the right. He left #11 and Baco wide open and completely unmarked.

    Faceoff to Hogan's right won by Michigan, but Niagara's clearing pass finds Baco again alone on the blue line. Hogan makes two stops on him before Elmblad gets over. Vaughan was still way up on the rush, hustling back. Niagara's buzzing around the net and Hogan has to be sharp to avoid a 2-0 deficit. Icing on Michigan when it's finally cleared.

    Turnbull takes a 1-2 but manages to get a decent shot off. There's some fuss around the net, but Hagelin's stick is tied up.

    Michigan's top line comes in three-abreast, but the shot is directed up over the net. Less than a minute to go. Icing on Michigan waved off. Ciraulo playing tonight, Niagara having trouble clearing. Hogan has trouble on a shot that goes wide anyway. He freezes the puck with :08 left and hangs onto a sharp shot from the point with :04 left. And so the period ends. 1-0, Niagara. Michigan started well, taking the play to Niagara and flying down the ice, but that dissolved by the midpoint of the period. NSN gets it right that Palushaj has been outplaying everyone else, but our defense has looked scatterbrained at times and it feels like we're pressing.

    The intermission report is focused on defenseman Armando Scarlato who apparently is a musician specializing in Euro-sounding acoustic guitar/keyboards-based rock. Niagara then runs a chemistry commercial that could've been straight out of my junior year of high school. A balloon full of hydrogen! Let's put a marker in liquid nitrogen!

    Meanwhile, in 2004 it's tied 7-7 in the Michigan-MSU game. Stanton's still in the game and State is on the march. The Big Ten Network so often has audio that sounds like it was recorded inside an oil drum.

    Second period. Summers gets the first shot of the period, from the blue line, but Pagliero handles it easily. The Wolverines are owning on faceoffs, but Niagara's been solid on defense and Michigan hasn't been able to dictate play. After a change, Czarnik tries the wraparound, but can't put it in.

    Niagara knocks down a pass in their own zone, but can't clear. The shot is weak. Ciraulo tries a pass to Glendening in the slot, but he can't get a good shot on it with a man on him. A shot from the point is redirected by Elmblad, but there isn't a lot of velocity on it and it skips along the ice into Pagliero's pads.

    Michigan gives up a stupid 2-on-1, but doesn't get burned on it. The shooter skates into the corner and gets uselessly hit from behind by Glendening, who picks up a 5:00 major and gets tossed from the game.

    Quick clear by Llewellyn. Michigan's keeping the diamond with a lot of discipline, and gets a rush out of it that ends with Miller getting dumped into the net. Could've gotten a tripping call to even it up for a while, but Sergott and Hall aren't calling much tonight. After another Llewellyn clear, Hagelin steals it in the Niagara zone and wastes some more time. Niagara's getting nothing, and then Michigan gets a 2-on-1! Wohlberg slips it across to Winnett, but it's to Winnett's backhand and he can only muster a weak shot on Pagliero. Wohlberg breaks up another pass at the Niagara blue line and gets hauled down. On the delayed penalty, Caporusso to Llewellyn, but he can't get a shot off and Niagara stops play. Michigan has looked so much more focused and in control on this PK than any time since the opening whistle.

    Michigan keeps attacking during the 4-on-4. Maddeningly, Turnbull can't bang home a rebound that goes across the slot. The Niagara penalty expires and Michigan kills off the penalty, but Niagara gets a dangerous opportunity with a loose puck on the blue line. A rebound goes right off Hogan and onto a Niagara stick, but he nearly whiffs the shot and the net is knocked off. Yikes.

    Michigan looked so dominant with that PK. Winnett is absolutely hauled down in front of the Niagara net. Annesley fell down after knocking a puck down with his hand and Winnett was almost alone. Pass deflected and Hagelin has to chase. He flies in down the left wing. Palushaj dekes a man and Palushaj takes a useless hooking penalty as Rocco takes a wildly obvious dive. Gah.

    Caporrusso comes up with the puck. Turnbull gets dumped in a corner and Niagara comes up. Hogan makes a couple of sharp saves. Niagara looks like they have heavier shots than Michigan tonight. Hogan sees another one and hangs on. Niagara's getting traffic in front as Hogan freezes another one from the point. After an icing, Niagara wins the faceoff and gets off a quick shot and then they're on the powerplay, peppering Hogan. Hagelin 1-on-1 vs. Annesley, but he can't get a good look.

    Penalty expired. Michigan gets a 3-2 and once again Niagara dumps a Wolverine to the ice rather than give up the shot. This time it's Caporusso.

    BOOM! Langlais to Hagelin, back to Langlais, over to Palushaj and he snipes it home. NSN walrus didn't like the call; argues that Sullivan barely touched him and it should've been goalie interference. No matter, it's a 1-1 game now.

    Wohlberg takes the short side on his shot from the left circle, but Pagliero has it blanketed.

    Ciraulo's weak pass to Naurato just sits on the blue line and Niagara picks it off. Hate that.

    Niagara's picking it up, but Turnbull dumps it down into the Niagara zone for a change. They've been doing a much better job the last couple minutes of keeping the puck in the Michigan zone, but Vaughan slide the puck from the corner to Winnett near the half-boards who gives it right off to a streaking Caporusso and it's suddenly a 3-on-2! Caporusso gives it to Vaughan who of course gives it right back. Pagliero makes the first save, but the puck flutters to the right side of the net and Caporusso just has to skate around and stuff it in to give Michigan the 2-1 lead.

    Michigan's been working a lot harder this period and finally the pucks are going in. 3:10 left and a Niagara shot is deflected into the netting.

    The Sabres owner donated $10M for a new science building and got a new Niagara sweatshirt. You'd think they'd at least give him a hoodie.

    Czarnik, that was idiotic. 2:33 left in the period, he takes a swing at the head of a man he just dumped on the ground. Roughing, contact to the head. ROBBERY! Vaughan was on the ground between the corner and the net and Llewellyn wasn't in position for the man comin into the slot. Hogan flat out robs him with a quick glove save. Niagara wins the faceoff...and what?!!! From behind the redline, some prayer of a shot goes off Hogan's back and into the net. Such a frustrating goal to give up with 1:29 left in the period. Walrus calls it a "thinking man's goal". No. Praying man's goal.

    The goal's given Niagara a spring to theri step. Michigan gets caught on a change and Langlais hacks at someone's stick. His breaks and he gets called for the slash. Michigan clears. :15 left. Hogan freezes a shot from the point with :03 left. Play expires without a shot. Gah, what a down ending to a period of quality hockey from Michigan.

    Niagara's AD is interviewed outside of Yost and then they go inside, talking about growing the program

    Niagara starts the 3rd on the power play. PK looks a little more disciplined than things got at the end of the 2nd. Michigan kills it easily. Wohlberg steals the puck deep in the Niagara zone but can't get it past Pagliero. Caporusso knocks a pass down jsut outside the Niagara blue line, but Niagara manages a clear. Their pass to a guy down the ice is wide. Hagelin dekes around a man but Pagliero is hugging the post on the shot from the boards.

    The faceoff in the Niagara zone shoots straight back to Hogan. As Michigan starts bringing it out, Niagara recovers, but is immediately whistled for a high stick to the head. 2:00. Palushaj behind the net to Hagelin in the slot, but he wasn't expecting it and Pagliero makes the save. 1:15 left after a Niagara clear. Turnbull gets a nice shot, but it's blocked. Clear. :50 left. Caporusso's pass to Turnbull hops over his stick and out of the zone. Michigan has dominated possession. Caporusso at the top of the left circle sends a weak pass into the right slot to Naurato. The puck kicks out directly in front of the net, where Caporusso has walked right in and he sends it home for goal #2 W00t! Michigan leads, 3-2.

    Vaughan unleashes his best shot of the night, but Pagliero handles it and the puck kicks back out past the blue line. Ciraulo takes a shot that Pagliero handles. 13:37 left, commercial sign.

    Caporusso gets a great pass on his stick in the left slot, but there's a man draped all over him. The band gets some love, as does the Yost crowd, as Bullwinkle is played.

    Czarnik lowers the boom on his man and breaks up a Niagara possession in the MIchigan zone. Palushaj snakes a pass from the corner across the Niagara zone to Llewellyn, but his shot doesn't get through. Rust tries to find Palushaj coming down to the net, but can't. Palushaj dances around two men out at the point, but his off-balance shot is wide.

    The Turnbull line almost has a sure goal, but Niagara falls on the pass from the red line next to the net across the crease. Rust blocks a shot and then, from his seat, sends it out of the zone.

    Michigan gets away with one as two defenders collide in front of the net. Suddenly, Wohlberg's in alone on Pagliero with a defender chasing. Pags goes down, Wohlberg lifts the puck, and hits the outside of the post. So close. We need an insurance marker.

    Pateryn gives up a bad turnover in the Michigan zone, but it's recovered withouty incident after Hogan makes a solid save. Finally a clear and both teams change. Hagelin gets the puck stolen after skating in. Hogan goes down, the puck is loose, but the defense covers for him. Whistle. Summers catches Consorti up around the jaw with his stick flailing after a puck, but Consorti's going to the box for the unnecessary sell on the call. Definitely "embellishment." Even the Walrus agrees.

    6:00 left, :55 in the penalties. Rust takes a shot, the rebound sits there, but Niagara knocks it away. They have some trouble getting out of the zone, but finally do. Michigan's only sending a pair on the attack. They get a change. Niagara ices the puck as they try to get a change. Oops.

    4:39 remaining. Wait, what? The faceoff is in the Michigan zone. I don't know what that whistle was for, then. Langlais rifles one across from the point and Dowd gets called for a crosscheck. He thinks Winnett helped a little on that one as he goes to the box. Michigan collects a clear and Rust heads up. He goes cross-ice to Czarnik, who feeds him right back and Pagliero is razor-sharp on the save.

    Langlais bombs another one from the point. Hagelin adjusts, tries to snipe one, but Pagliero has a good line of sight on the puck and makes the save. NSN is incredulous that Palushaj can get away with some extracurriculars. Michigan keeps control of the puck in the Niagara ends as the penalty ticks down. Niagara clears and the penalty expires. Michigan brings it in offsides with 2:03 left in the game.

    Niagara ices the puck at 1:50 on a missed breakout. They collect behind their net and try to come up at 1:30. Winnett gets it back and takes a shot form the point. Once Niagara clears the zone, Pagliero heads for the bench. Michigan gets a clear, but can't follow it up. Llewellyn clears, Hagelin streaks down to recover it, but can't get it out to Palushaj. However, Niagara can't clear, Palushaj tracks it down, settles it and buries the empty-netter. That should be the game, folks. 4-2, Wolverines!

    Nothing much of note happens in the remaining few seconds, and Michigan finishes off the victory.