Sunday, September 18, 2016

Tacking into the Wind

A little bit of everything.  (Rick Osentoski, USA TODAY Sports)
I'd love to be able to tell you that I saw this coming, but no, I did not.  I did not think today would be a romp; Colorado has some guys on scholarship, after all, but the quick strike touchdown, followed by the sack-fumble-touchdown, and the only comforting thought in the Big House was that it was still really early, and Michigan has not exactly struggled on offense this season.

In sailing, when the direction that one wants to sail in is into the wind, a sailor, with great effort, must tack, or turn its bow into the danger zone, to achieve the desired direction.  It requires discipline, recognition of the circumstances, and willingness to do what is needed to find a way forward.

So, after being stalled in the doldrums for much of the first quarter, Michigan's offense and defense both made adjustments that took them from 21-7 down to 45-28 as a final.  We have become so acclimated to Michigan failing to adjust to what the opponent is trying to do, Michigan being stubborn and refusing to break its tendencies. That it seemed like a minor miracle when midway through the second quarter,  (Truth be told, while the adjustments, which are just coaching, are better for my sanity, they make for worse columns.  I was clearly much better at this when there was some "died bravely" thread running through the piece.  It is a trade-off I can and happily will live with.)

So much of that "tacking" boils down to the efforts of Jabrill Peppers.  Peppers needed to be great and provided a spark on defense and special teams.  He was stopping the run; he executed a tremendous safety blitz that Colorado did not see until their backup quarterback was picking pieces of rubber out of his mouthguard 11 yards behind the line of scrimmage.  Then, of course, there was punt return.

Because of the importance of punt returns for touchdowns in previous Heisman-winning seasons for Michigan players, there has been, in my estimation, a collective will in the Big House to compel by some larger force, Peppers into getting a punt return TD.

So when that ball took a flat trajectory into Peppers' hands, just past the midfield stripe and burst forward, it was the hope that Peppers could score in that end zone that Howard and Woodson had made famous all those years ago.  It was not the prettiest run back, but Peppers is more about bursting through and fighting through than gliding fast and free.  The score and subsequent point after put Michigan up 17 and for the first time all day, Michigan fans felt as though they could breathe with some ease.

And so Michigan emerges from the non-conference portion of the calendar with a 3-0 record, not as easily as some had predicted, but 3-0 nevertheless.  This team is still a flawed team, but it has surpluses in critical areas that allow for those deficits to not necessarily be a huge concern...yet.

But, for now, as long as Michigan has a Peppers, it feels like it always has a chance.

1 comment:

Land lubber said...

One usually tries to tack into the wind. The alternative is to risk an uncontrolled jibe and breaking your crews head or your mast and/or boom. If you do not complete your tack into the wind, you end up in "irons", the doldrums being an area of no wind between the trade winds in the great big oceans.