|Pictures really are worth a thousand words, sometimes. (Patrick Barron)|
Oh my sparrow it's too late
Moonlight glanced off metal wings
La di da di da di da
--"Maybe Sparrow" by Neko Case from her 2006 album Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
|Pictures really are worth a thousand words, sometimes. (Patrick Barron)|
|Amazingly, all that was needed. (Jacob Hamilton | The Ann Arbor News)|
|To quote Santana Moss: "Big time players make big time plays in big time games." (Junfu Han/Detroit Free Press)|
|A day after his birthday, H2 had his cake and ate it too. (Junfu Han/Detroit Free Press)|
All three phases (Tommy Gilligan, USA Today Sports)
Carved your name across three countiesGround it in with bloody hidesTheir broken necks will line the ditch'Til you stop it, stop itStop this madnessI want youI have waited with a glacier's patienceSmashed every transformer with every trailer'Til nothing was standing65 miles wideStill you are nowhereStill you are nowhereNowhere in sight
Come out to meet meRun out to meet meCome into the light
--"This Tornado Loves You" by Neko Case from her 2009 album Middle Cyclone
To be fair, the game before The Game has, during the Harbaugh era, has a tendency to get stupid. Let us consider:
2015-at Penn State (Happy Valley is never easy)
2016-Indiana (the Snow Game)
2017-at Wisconsin (Peters injured, no flag)
2018-Indiana (Winovich and Gary injured, six field goals)
2019-at Indiana (early struggle with Indiana before pouring it on...)
2021-at Maryland (well...)
So, in the third quarter, when Maryland put together a four minute-ish, 79-yard drive to bring it back to 31-10, it was something where that sliver of doubt could creep back into one's mind. Then this happened.
4:38, 3Q: @AJHenning3 81-yard kick return TD— Michigan On BTN (@MichiganOnBTN) November 21, 2021
1:23, 3Q: @DEdwards__ 77-yard receiving TD
:34, 3Q: @djturner_5 42-yard Pick-6
Relive @UMichFootball's prolific every-phase scoring spree to close out the 3Q ⤵️. pic.twitter.com/XZvBb2qBVd
Yes, Maryland had a lightning drive and two-point conversion to bring it back to within 20, but Donovan Edwards reminded all of us that wheel routes remain undefeated. Edwards had a huge day playing the Blake Corum role, catching virtually everything out of the backfield and making hay with it. It was delightful. A DJ Turner pick-six that Maryland gave up on because they thought he stepped out of bounds was essentially all there needed to be. Backups got in, JJ got a rushing touchdown, and Michigan rolled to a 59-18 win. It was the least stressful game before The Game of the Harbaugh era by a wide margin.
|All's well that ends well. (Patrick Barron)|
A series of unfair thoughts as this play developed:
1). Hmm, trips right, I wonder if they are going to try something in a levels concept?
2). Wait, is All coming the opposite way on a crossing route? OK.
3). OK, he's got the first down, this is good.
4). Wait, he's still going? Is there someone off-camera?
6). All right, one man to beat.
7). Oh, he's in! He's in! Damn!
Erick All finally got his first career touchdown in a way that you likely could not have called before the drive started. The replay review went Michigan's way, which was confusing in its own right, Moody was money on the extra point attempt and Michigan was up four with 3:29 to go. An eternity, it would seem.
Sean Clifford was battered and bruised all game. His offensive line left him out there to be feasted upon by Hutchinson and Ojabo like he was Anthony Morelli in 2006. But he stood in and he battled and threw a reasonable sideline shot to Cam Sullivan-Brown that was just a tad too long but was reasonably well defended. A small exhale. No reason they cannot go back to that. Clifford found Meiga for 8 to set up 3rd and 2 and keep the sticks moving. Then, the playcalling went sideways for Penn State. A pair of incompletions on third and fourth down that left the experienced observers scratching their heads and Michigan took over on downs on the Penn State 33.
If you, the Michigan fan, kept looking skyward for the other shoe, waiting for it to drop, Hassan Haskins plowed ahead for 4 and 5 yards respectively, followed by a Cade McNamara sneak that finally felt like the right call in the short-yardage situation, and Michigan had the first down they needed. Haskins ran for three more yards, Penn State called their last time out, and then Haskins decided to get one more first down for good measure by running for 12 more up to the Penn State seven. Three kneeldowns in succession and Michigan finally had its first win in 17 tries in the Harbaugh era after trailing in the fourth quarter to an AP ranked team.
On a day where Brad Robbins averaged more than 50 yards per punt on five beautiful kicks. On a day where Michigan didn't need Moody to kick a field goal because they got enough in the end zone. On a day where the defense made enough big, on point, correct plays, Michigan won. Michigan won its ninth game in a season when seven wins felt like a better case scenario. Michigan won three tough road games against Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Penn State. There is a distinct possibility this team has more to say and more to do. But for now, at least for one week, a specific narrative is dead. All the goals remain possible. We see what happens next.
|I sometimes worry he's too good at his job, but the feeling passes. (Patrick Barron)|
My brain makes drugs to keep me slowA hilarious joke for some dead pharaohBut now, not even the masons knowWhat drug will keep night from comingThere are so many tools that are made for my handsBut the tide smashes all my best-laid plans to sandAnd there's always someone to say it's easy for meBut I revenge myself all over myselfThere's nothing you can say to me
You never held it at the right angle
--"Night Still Comes" by Neko Case from her 2013 album The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You
It's fascinating to realize that the Big Ten schedule set up to have Michigan face Indiana 364 days after the previous meeting, allowing us a moment to take stock of what was, what is, and what can be through this lens.
Last year at this time, if we're even allowed to acknowledge it, Michigan had just dropped a game at home to Michigan State that it felt like it had no business losing and then was staring at an Indiana team that was feeling itself. The years of almosts and #CHAOSTEAM had congealed into something dangerous. Indiana made Michigan pay, a 38-21 victory for the Hoosiers that seemed to be some form of retribution for all of the other narrow escapes Michigan had pulled off over Indiana since the Crimson and Cream's most recent win in 1987. Indiana looked like a team ascendant. Michigan looked like a team lost and sinking fast.
The historically inclined among Michigan fans like to look for the throughlines, the things that remain true over the years, and the Indiana streak was one of the last great streaks that had survived everything, again, sometimes in "I cannot believe that happened" fashion, somewhat tattered and worn, but it survived. Last night's game kept at least one piece of that line alive, that Indiana's last victory in Ann Arbor occurred before men set foot on the moon.
Last night's Michigan performance was not stellar. It was also not awful. There were some high points: Hassan Haskins' 62-yard run that Indiana seemed to point to as the turning point in postgame quickly comes to mind, so does Cade's nice long bomb to Johnson late to really just put the finishing touches on things. There were so low points: the time out on the 4th and 1 "fake" that actually would have worked for six yards had it been snapped a fraction of a second earlier, the delay of game penalty right after the long Haskins run, the surprise Indiana "injuries" that not only seemed to try to break Michigan's momentum but also lead to long Fox commercial breaks, the continued red zone woes, touchdown relative, that do not seem to be any closer to fixing.
|To be clear, several players had excellent days. It just wasn't enough. (Patrick Barron)|
Everything's so easy for PaulineEverything's so easy for PaulineAncient strings set feet alightTo speed to her such mild graceNo monument of tacky goldThey smoothed her hair with cinnamon wavesAnd they placed an ingot in her breastTo burn cool and collectedFate holds her firm in its cradleAnd then rolls her for a tender pause to savorEverything's so easy for Pauline
--"Margaret vs. Pauline" by Neko Case from her 2008 album Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
When I committed to the bit of naming every column about for a Neko Case song this year, friend of the blog HockeyBear called the shot on Michigan/Michigan State. Inspired by the 1968 post-apocalyptic novel In Watermelon Sugar, Case builds a story of two women, one of who looks upon the other with great envy because of the ease and advantages that life has handed to Pauline while Margaret has had to scrap and claw for everything and she's still not any better off. From a broad reading, one could see this as a metaphor for the entire Michigan/Michigan State rivalry.
Then again, Margaret had all seven replays reviews go her way today, so maybe there's more to this.
OK, let's be clear. Michigan made a lot of mistakes. A tremendous number of them. Poor substitution patterns even after it became clear that Michigan State wanted to tempo. If they get you on a couple of those, tip your cap. When it keeps happening in the fourth quarter, that's on the coaches. The safeties were not in a position to provide support on run plays, leading to massive runs for Kenneth Walker III. There were three occasions where Michigan settled for red zone field goals when touchdowns would have put the game out of reach. There were plenty of mistakes to point to as to what brought about this result.
There were excellent performances by individual players. Andrel Anthony had a huge breakout game in his hometown, Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo both overcame significant holding, by and large uncalled, to get into the Michigan State backfield. Cade McNamara had the game of his career and looked mostly on point and mostly made the right read and good throws after a week of discussion about whether playing JJ instead was the right call.
Like 1999 Michigan State where the five-star had a critical turnover late to give Michigan State the winning score, JJ was sent in because McNamara was in the injury tent. This was after a near disaster in the red zone that only gets overlooked because a Spartan defender kicked the ball out of bounds.
You can overcome mistakes with reasonable officiating on the argument that both sides will make their share of mistakes in a game. You can overcome...interpretive...officiating if you play relatively clean, mistake-free football. Rare is the day when you can win a game overcoming both. Especially against a top ten team on the road.
That's what I needed to keep reminding myself of in this. Michigan State was undefeated coming in. Michigan State had legitimate weapons and had made good use of them. There was a great deal of doubt to the outcome coming into today. But when Michigan raced out to a 10-0 lead and later a 23-14 halftime lead, hope crept in and all of those rational notions disappeared until it was too late.
Walker's first touchdown might have been a fumble out of the back of the end zone. Reviewed, no change. Peyton Thorne was strip-sacked and Aidan Hutchinson recovered the ball in the end zone. Reviewed, no, somehow Thorne's shin was down, a delta 4 loss of points on that possession. Michigan State keeps a drive alive with two reviews that go their way and then scores. Every small thing that could go Michigan State's way today seemed to do so. JJ fumbles on an exchange because Cade is in the tent and Michigan State recovers deep in Michigan territory.
It turns out that, sometimes, everything's so easy for Margaret. It just depends on who's singing.
Post-Script: This is still an exceedingly fun and engaging team. This is still a team that does a lot of things really well and has a lot of players who are playing hard and playing well. I don't want to lose sight of that in the disappointment that comes from today's result. It doesn't make it better, but it's not fair to presume that this team is only fun because they kept winning. As several of the players themselves said they know it's about how they come back from this. I believe in them because I think they have earned the right to be believed.
|Cornelius Johnson made the most of his turn on punt block duty today. (David Guralnick/Detroit News)|
You kept me wanting wanting wantingLike the wanting in the movies and the hymnsI want the pharaohs, but there's only menI want the pharaohs, but there's only men
You said I was your blue, blue babyAnd you were rightYou said I was your blue, blue babyAnd you were right
--"The Pharaohs" by Neko Case from her 2009 album Middle Cyclone
One of the fun things I learned when I was still assigned to teach World History is that the word pharaoh translates into something roughly meaning either "great house" or "big house". I have always favored the latter interpretation for obvious Michigan reasons. I also remembered that, thematically, Neko Case loves the word pharaoh, as it appears in several of her songs.
The lyrics today are a solid representation of the two pieces of this game, the first half and the second half. Games against Northwestern are never fun or easy. Even as Michigan has won the last seven meetings, the chaos and closeness of those meetings have made each installment more teeth grinding than just a crossover game on the schedules. Even with the welcome addition of the George Jewett Trophy to this series legacy, it was still always going to be an annoying state of affairs. First half rust off the bye week. Trap game. Looming 7-0 Michigan State on the horizon.
Five punts were exchanged before a Blake Corum touchdown to allow the Big House crowd a moderate sense of relief that maybe this would not be one of those games. And sure, it wasn't ideal that Michigan had to kick a 20-yard field goal because the offense stalled once again inside the five-yard line, but Northwestern had not really shown any signs of offense life and....Evan Hull just ran for 75 yards, essentially untouched to make the game 10-7 late in the second quarter. But Michigan was moving the ball well in the two-minute drill and was inside the five when there was a decision made to be too cute by half, Mike Sainristil fumbled, Northwestern recovered, and the teams went into the locker room at 10-7 and Michigan social media went into a full meltdown.
Let's acknowledge an unpleasant reality about a wide segment of Michigan fans: We live in perpetual waiting for the other shoe to drop, followed by a question of how many shoes remain up there. It isn't just Twitter, I was surrounded by various generations of Michigan fans who spent halftime grousing on a number of issues and faults with the first half game plan. Every fanbase has this, if not in this particular idiom. The weight of expectations grows with each victory, but so does the height from which one would fall when that moment comes when it all goes awry. The high wire act of a college football season when a team is winning and winning and winning becomes a dizzying exercise. Simultaneously, there is this desire for the fanbase to want players, who are very very excellent, to be even better, and that can be dangerous.
So when Michigan, aided by a holding call and a DPI call, went on a 7 play, 74-yard drive on the opening possession of the second half, followed by a ball don't lie missed field goal for Northwestern, followed by another touchdown about three minutes of game time later (after the Cornelius Johnson punt block seen above) to put Michigan up 24-7, the game took on a different dimension to the point where a 17 point third quarter had the same people who had been grousing at halftime were now aggressively yelling for Harbaugh to pull the starters with a lot of time left in the fourth quarter. Well, except for the one guy behind me to my right who desperately needed Michigan to hold on to the 26 point lead because he had some money on Michigan covering.
In the end, every Michigan draw play that turned into positive yardage for Blake Corum, every coverage bust that still saw Michigan get off the field before Northwestern crossed midfield, there is this realization that this is team is the team we love and in being so, we just want them to win because they want to win. It's a form of emotional whiplash, but this is our team, and I am glad we have chosen to embrace them, imperfect as they might be, as they seek a form of perfection.
|Triple H - Hassan Haskins Hurdles (photo by the incomparable and trustworthy Patrick Barron)|
(Photos selected today by HSR editorial assistant Franklin Barker, who emailed me his choices this morning.)
"Fluorescent lights engageBlackbirds frying on a wireSame birds that followed me to school when I was youngWere they trying to tell me something?Were they telling me to run?...
Claim your soul's not for saleI'm a dying breed who still believesHaunted by American dreamsHaunted by American dreams"
--"Things That Scare Me" by Neko Case from her 2002 album Blacklisted
|Brad Hawkins says no. (AP Photo/Rebecca S. Gratz)|
|The Brad Hawkins bookend. (Patrick Barron)|
|Money. (AP Photo/Rebecca S. Gratz)|
|Cornelius Johnson made a lot of people look good today.|
“That was going to be our juice. We were going to steal their juice” — Dax Hill on the players enjoying “Jump Around”— angelique (@chengelis) October 2, 2021
Dax Hill stated that he remembered what it was like to see Camp Randall do "Jump Around" in 2019 when Michigan was down 35-8, and he determined that Michigan wanted to be in the lead to "Jump Around" without issue. That this was in the middle of 25 straight points from Michigan after the half, in a half where Dax Hill set about atoning for being beat on the TD throw late in the first with a sack that knocked Graham Mertz out of the game, a couple of excellent coverages on third down, and then two plays into the fourth, Michigan's own Thane of Fife, David Ojabo, caused a Chase Wolf fumble and Christopher Hinton recovered in Wisconsin territory. This drive stalled, leading to a Jake Moody field goal that looked as nice of a golf draw as you will see, and Wisconsin got back to work.
We are haunted by Michigan's football past because we know the rhythms all too well. This was the game that was supposed to screw Michigan's season up if it got past Washington. Last week's second-half inspired little in the way of confidence. Only getting three points out of the Wisconsin muffed punt inside their five in the first half felt like the harbingers of a past come round again. You cannot blame Michigan fans for this. You can also credit the Michigan players for not playing scared. You can credit the Michigan coaches for coming into this game and playing aggressively, playing to win. Not every every decision worked, but enough of them did. Michigan gets their first win at Camp Randall since 2001, ruining Barry Alvarez Day (which, admittedly, they did a lot during Alvarez's Wisconsin tenure, as they were 7-3 against the Badgers between 1990-2005. Yes, we have weird gaps in the historical record against Wisconsin.)
We are haunted by Michigan's football past in a way that many of us spent the entire week expecting this game to go sideways. I already had picked the Neko Case song that was likely going to represent the mood of the fanbase when this turned out to be a loss. We expected horror because horror is so much of what we have known. This was Jim Harbaugh's first win at Michigan as an underdog, but as was argued, Michigan was only an underdog because it keeps losing games like this under Harbaugh. Not today. The offense looked more whole, if imperfect, but also understood it was up against an outstanding Wisconsin run defense. Cade made some mistakes, but he also kept escaping sacks in a way that made up for them. Michigan didn't look amazing for every stretch of the game, and it still won by 21 points.
We are haunted by Michigan's football past, but we do not have to be. Oh sure, Michigan has never won in Lincoln, ever, but it's also a grand total of two games, one of which was the Denard night of the soul in 2012. This team believes in itself. This team trusts itself. Let them lead us the way. Spooky season may have started yesterday, but it does not mean we need to be spectrally enthralled for an entire month.
|You know, if Sainristil makes this catch, I really feel the second half feels very different. |
(Junfu Han/Detroit Free Press)
Compared to some, I've been aroundBut I really tried so hard
That echo chorus lied to me with itsHold on, hold on, hold on, hold on
--"Hold On, Hold On" by Neko Case from her 2008 album Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
There is something to be said for the idea that winning a game where you look terrible for an entire half. Michigan fans certainly have a number of these wins during the Harbaugh era that we can point to [gestures wildly towards 2019 Army], but it doesn't mean we have to like them.
Four home games in a row is a lot to ask of fans, especially after a year off. First one, WOO, we're back. Second one, WOO, night game. Third one, OK, um, well, we're scoring a lot. Four one, Homecoming, and...Rutgers. So there's something to be said for looking really good in the first half. A 17 play drive that takes up a full 1/8th of the game, and ending in a Haskins touchdown. And sure, Rutgers went on their own six-minute, but that ended in a field goal, so we're good. Then a fast 4 play, 72-yard drive thanks to two big passing plays, a personal foul for a horse collar, and another Haskins touchdown. So a stop on downs, an exchange of punts, and a field goal after the throw pictured above just missed, and then Michigan taking advantage of some...interesting Rutgers decision making, only to make some interesting decisions of their own in the last fifteen seconds, including a near miss to Schoonmaker, lands another Moody field goal and Michigan up 20-3. Sure, Rutgers got the ball first to start the second half and Josh Ross had gone off with a stinger, but, Michigan was up 17.
3 plays for 0 yards.
3 plays for -1 yards.
3 plays for 7 yards (which came on a third down QB scramble).
3 plays for 5 yards.
While this was happening, Rutgers scored 10 points and missed a field goal. Also, Michigan Stadium was doing the wave, because we have had a complete breakdown in Wave Discipline due to the pandemic. Look to your elders, people.
Rutgers gets the ball after a punt on their own 34 with 7:57 left in the second half. After six yards from Isaih Pacheco and 13 on the ground from Noah Vedral (side note: I love that players can wear #0, but man it looks wrong on a quarterback), Rutgers is first and ten on the Michigan 47. Michigan's defense is gassed because the offense can't seem to stay on the field for more than 90 seconds at a time. Now it's third and one, and Michigan's defense finally shows up and gets a stop for a loss. Now fourth and a long two, the defense comes up big again and gets the ball back on downs, again.
So when Blake Corum went outside for nine yards, it felt like Michigan finally remembered there were multiple ways to move the ball, then followed by six up the gut, and another two. Then a gift of a face mask penalty and Michigan is first and ten on the Rutgers 30 with 3:14 left. At this point, you could be forgiven for thinking "OK, a few more yards, center it for Moody, and we'll get out of this damn thing alive." Well, you could be forgiven that unless you were the Michigan offensive staff, because that's what they apparently did, only to see Moody miss a 47 yarder. 104 seconds left, can Rutgers do it?
No, they could not. The Thane of Fife himself, David Ojabo, forced the fumble, Junior Colson scooped it up, and Michigan survived.
"Hang on tight and survive. Everybody does."
|This might have been the most challenging touchdown Michigan scored all game. |
(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Last lion of AlbionThey'll use you for centuries to comeYour wound is the main road into LondonYou'll feel extinctionWhen you see your face on their money
|I mean, 173 yards on 21 carries and three TDs is a pretty great day at the office.|
(Kirthmon Dozier-Detroit Free Press)
And if I knew heartbreak was comingI would've set out running'Cause I just can't shake this feelingThat I'm nothing in your eyes
--"Set Out Running", Neko Case, Furnace Room Lullaby (2000)
I sat there on that bright, crisp day in late November 2010 watching Montee Ball and James White combine for 354 yards rushing and six touchdowns as Bret Bielema decided that he would run the ball down the throat of the Michigan defense until it showed it could stop it. It could not. It had no answer, and Michigan lost by 20. I remember the lament of the Michigan fans that it was so maddening that the Greg Robinson coordinated defense could not do one of the fundamental tasks of defense, but also, with the gallows humor of that era, respecting Bielema's basic decision that "this plan is working, why mess with it?"
Last night, Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum ran for 326 yards, and four touchdowns as Michigan handled its business against Washington before an eager and enthusiastic maize crowd and a national television audience in prime time. Even taking away Corum's one massive 67 yard TD run, both backs averaged over 5 yards per carry. I am not an advanced stats expert, but that feels like it's pretty good.
There is a segment of fans who are deeply, garment rendingly concerned that Michigan did not show much of anything in the passing game. Against what might be the best secondary they face all season. While trying to figure out the new wide receiver depth chart after losing Ronnie Bell for the season last week. While averaging 5 yards per carry on the ground. I can understand the gnashing of teeth that "they won't be able to get away with this in the Big Ten." OK, maybe? But also, maybe? I understand the feelings of hurt and concern that there's been too much in the way of false hope and glimmering early promises that fade as reality sets in as September becomes October. But, my goodness, this worked. You're allowed to enjoy this! There are no fandom bonus points for being worried about things the coaching staff is doing.
But, to stay focused on the positives, a win where both sides of the ball looked good, but with some clear room for improvement in practice, a Michigan Stadium atmosphere where it finally looked like The Big House was a challenging environment to play in for an opposing team, an MMB show that was fascinating to watch, and the rare feeling that while traditional blue bloods around the country lost (Ohio State, USC, Florida State, Tennessee) while Michigan did not. Michigan may not be where the exceedingly lofty expectations would like us to be, but we're also not as far off the cliff as some other late 90s powers have fallen. So there's that.
There was one thing during last night's game that made me very happy. After the Corum touchdown, which seemed to be the football gods rewarding Harbaugh for being willing to go for it with a "fake punt" in Michigan territory, the entire team was feeling it deeply on the Michigan sideline. There was a level of Dani Rojas-style "football is life!!!" joy being expressed, the jumping, the dancing, the hyping of the crowd. There have been many grumblings about the team's bad chemistry in the past, and winning does cure a lot of ills, but that moment, among a tapestry of other positive moments last night, felt like a that was enjoying being a football team. If this football team enjoys football and enjoys their teammates, that's a victory in and of itself.
One set of Huskies in the books, a new one comes to Ann Arbor next week.
And nothing comforts me the sameAs my brave friend who says,"I don't care if forever never comes'Cause I'm holding out for that teenage feelingI'm holding out for that teenage feeling"
I think it's the small moments that get you, the ones you thought you saw coming but they hit you in an unexpected way. This week, plus four days, marks the 25th anniversary of my first Michigan game as a student, a weird, but fun 20-8 Michigan scorigami (still) win over Illinois in the dying August heat of Michigan Stadium. Though I had been to the Big House before, there was a sense of culmination, that everything I had wanted up to that point in my life had been validated. Not by getting into Michigan, not by moving into my dorm room in Bursley, but sitting in the student section for an actual game on my 18th birthday. Those feelings seem perhaps naïve and misguided in retrospect and with the benefit of lived experience, but they were genuine then. I chose to wear my recently acquired from eBay Jarrett Irons #37 home jersey to the game today, because it felt right, honoring a true Michigan great who just happened to graduate right before being able to be part of a team that went down in history.
There was a whole long section here, written in the vein of other very good recent season openers, that dealt with what we have lost, what we're missing, the challenges therein. I felt that deeply and I hope that perhaps in getting my thoughts down on paper, I would be able to sort them all out. While what I said was good and somewhat cathartic to me, it also doesn't need to be shared, because it doesn't really solve anything for me. But I appreciate and respect the friends and writers who have been putting those feelings out there and the folks who have been reading and seeing themselves in those pieces. But that is a piece that should have rolled out when 2021 was still an unknown. We have limited data now; we can't stare into the shapeless abyss any longer.
This game, this opener, doesn't really solve anything. And you know what, that's OK. Because it doesn't need to solve anything. It is preferable when Michigan looks like it knows what it's doing against a G5 school, the hand-wringing can wait for another week, that's nice. There were big plays on offense by players that the collective us were hoping would be there. There was Ronnie Bell with a big score followed by a visit with the men's basketball team in the end zone, a play that came after a ridiculous catch that was wiped out by an OPI call so questionable Bell should be allowed to file a defamation lawsuit against it. (Our best to Ronnie Bell and hoping for good injury news, but not expecting it.) There was Blake Corum, on a swing pass, on a kickoff return, on yard after yard after initial contact, being the muscleball we knew he could be. There was Hassan Haskins just running in that punishing style of his. There was AJ Henning, getting one touch but making the most of it. There was Cade McNamara, playing within himself, but 9/11 for 136 and 2 TDs when they didn't really need him to do more. There was JJ McCarthy, 4/6 but making absolutely absurd throw across the hypotenuse of the field to find Daylen Baldwin for a very nice touchdown to put Michigan up by 40. These things felt good for players who labored in an uncertain silence last season, to hear the roar of approval from the Big House crowd.
We know all too well the dangers of reading too much into one game of a season, but let's not worry about what this portends, good or ill. Let's not worry about where this will fit in the historical context of Michigan history, as the 1,349th game of Michigan football. Let's not fret about next week, that's for the coaches and the players to handle, and they will. For this moment, for this one moment, let's savor being back in the Big House, watching a team of players who love Michigan as much as we do, play with the vigor and enthusiasm that one hopes for. The story of the season will be written in time. It will unfold, page by page, and it will be inked indelibly in the record by January at the latest. College football lives too often in the past and in the future to truly enjoy the present. Let's resolve to do that, if just for this one week. We can go back to being who we are next week, heck, probably by Monday, maybe Tuesday because of the holiday. But for now, enjoy it, relish it, it's the kind of feeling we long for during the long months of the off-season.
"The secrets were stuffed in large envelopes, tied with string, and sealed with wax. There were around two thousand of these envelopes, all neatly filed away in cupboards in the Kremlin apartment once occupied by Stalin, down the corridor from the general secretary's office. This was the celebrated osobaya papka (special file), containing documents so secret that they were circulated and preserved in one copy only. Anybody who checked the documents out was obliged to sign for them. Many of the envelopes in the osobaya papka could be opened only by the general secretary himself or with his personal authorization."