Friday, January 01, 2016
There is a certain joy in watching your team pull away with a lead during its bowl game. Like much of this season, it was a joy rediscovered during the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl this New Year's Day. When Michigan got called for some pre-snap penalties, including a drive-extending illegal substitution penalty which led to what would be Florida's only score (and on a trick play, no less), it was a bit nerve-racking. You don't want to see the season end and new year start on the wrong foot. But then, a touchdown, an end zone pick, and a field goal and Michigan never looked back. Win with character, win with cruelty. It wasn't a perfect game, but it did not need to be. It was simply a well-executed game plan with improvement shown from the several bowl practices. Hooray for bowl practices.
There will be arguments that Florida's heart was never really in this game and that may very well be true. But Michigan took one of the nation's best defenses for a ride on this day. Rudock made me regret that this was the only season we will have with him, but grateful for those thirteen games we as fans got with him. It was so much better to see this game as the farewell for these seniors than the chill of Ann Arbor during the Ohio State game. It's almost a perfect full circle, a cap to the eight-years-in-the-adidas desert era that after that wonderful New Year's Day 2008 in Orlando where Michigan sent Lloyd off into the sunset by beating Florida.
So this is where we stand. Harbaugh will tell you it wasn't a rebuild or a righting of the ship, or however you may see it, and that is fine, but as a fan, it feels like something more. We told ourselves this after 2011 and we ended up being wrong, but we can certainly hope, for any number of reasons, that this, this is different. For starters, there isn't a game with Bama in JerryWorld looming to open the season. It's not an optimal schedule, but Harbaugh will relish the challenge.
Mostly, I just want to savor this feeling. This moment of knowing it's not perfect, but it's better. It's no longer unfounded hope and belief, it's not "where we are going from here." Let's head off into the sunset of the 2015 season knowing that what lies over that next horizon is much better than what lies behind us. Fair winds and following seas friends. Hail.