Sunday, September 24, 2017

In A Little While

Purdue quarterback David Blough (11) picks up his own fumble in front of Michigan linebacker Mike McCray (9) during the second half of an NCAA college football game in West Lafayette, Ind., Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017. Michigan defeated Purdue 28-10. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
I don't really know what to make of this game.  It feels like a slightly upgraded version of the last two weeks.  The offense struggles until it doesn't (thankfully not in the red zone today), the defense is fast, furious, and aggressive, making life difficult for everyone on the opponent's offensive side of the ball, and Michigan fans are nervous and angsty until they're not. 

We only fret about things we care about.  Even if those things are seemingly foolish or ultimately unimportant in the grand scheme of things, when we care, we worry.  We worry when things don't seem to be going the right way, we are uneasy when something feels "off".  So when Wilton Speight goes down (on an uncalled late hit) and is escorted out of Ross-Ade Stadium on a peripatetic search for an X-ray machine, we worry.  When there are turnovers, we fret.  When O'Korn looks OK, not great, we grouse.  But I have a new working thesis, in re Harbaugh.

I don't think Harbaugh intends for his teams to come out of the gate not necessarily firing on all cylinders, that would be foolhardy and potentially dangerous in the longer term of a game.  I do think Harbaugh is OK with taking the best punches from an opponent, letting them show their cards, and then adjusting at halftime.  I think this is the coach's son in him, or the Bo acolyte or some combination therein.  It's not enough to have a plan, it's summed up in von Moltke the Elder's statement from On Strategy (1871): "The tactical result of an engagement forms the base for new strategic decisions because victory or defeat in a battle changes the situation to such a degree that no human acumen is able to see beyond the first battle."  Every game has its own character.  Harbaugh could not have planned for Speight to go down.  He would have O'Korn ready to go in, but that is not the same as "OK, Speight's gonna get taken out on a sack."  He allowed the game to find its ebbs and flows and was likely displeased, but not dishearted to be down 10-7 at the half.

To everyone's relief, Michigan's defense flashed its claws.  It allowed Purdue a grand total of ten yards in the second half, having given up 179 in the first half.  But it was also the simple pitches and catches between O'Korn and the tight ends, coupled with some "find the hole, hit the hole" runs by the running back by committee and Michigan was cruising.  (A couple of timely, if wholly fair, targeting ejections on the Purdue defense may have also helped things along.)  People who didn't see the game, that will only see the final score, will see a Michigan team that went on the road against an upstart Purdue team and handled its business.  They won't see the hiccups, or if they do, they'll see 21-0 second half, probably keep them around #7-8 in the polls and let Michigan head into the bye week 4-0 with the Battle for Paul Bunyan looming.

Quick notes:
  • I don't know how I feel yet about CFB on Fox, but that bumper that showed a flip-through of Michigan legends that ended in the Block M was nicely done.
  • So, if Twitter is to be believed, Purdue's opposing locker room has no A/C and there's no X-ray machine at Ross-Ade.  I think when we focus on mocking Rutgers, we do a disservice to our rightful questioning of Purdue's continuing position in the Big Ten.
  • We keep calling Chris Evans "The Human Torch", because "Captain America" status must be earned, but man, we're getting close to handing him the shield.

1 comment:

Michael V Polsinelli said...

Most of what you described is understandable and probably spot on. The shocker, especially in this day and age, is your second bullet point. You can explain away pink a locker room but it’s hard to understand no a/c and proper medical facilities.