Friday, October 27, 2006

Hawkeyes' Wings Clipped

To my brother: Yes, that was a ridiculously early hour to arrive at the game. My bad. When the entire Champions Lot is empty, it doesn't mean much, but when there's only one other car in our Blue Lot row, you might be a bit ahead of schedule.

From the stands, the Iowa game looked like a mirror image of Penn State. Instead of a dominant performance that didn't show up on the scoreboard, we had a tight game that we put away late. The secondary still appears to be the weak point in our defense, especially our linebackers in pass coverage against tight ends. Iowa burned us several times when the TE would get open in the middle of the field. Still, even with Iowa's receiving corps playing out of their shoes (only one real dropped pass all day, which is apparently a rarity for the Hawkeyes), Iowa never managed to get into the endzone and Drew Tate called Michigan the best defense he's seen all year. Morgan Trent's playing better as his hand heals up and he's been playing the deep ball very well. You still see him tackling a lot more receivers than Leon Hall, but that's because people are throwing away from Hall.

Our defensive line is unreal. Unreal.

I really disliked the run plays we called on the first few series. We kept running wide on the short side of the field, where Hart would run out of room before he could get the corner. Iowa knew we'd come out running (As long as zebras roam the Earth, Michigan will try to establish the run...), and probably to the left side of our line, so it was no surprise to them when we did just that on our first two plays from scrimmage. For that matter, if you want to run the stretch play, why not use Carlos Brown? He's just that much faster. We opened it up and made good adjustments at halftime, which is a nice enough change from last year. Henne looked decent, but not like a world-beater. He took sacks and made scrambles earlier than I'd like to see, but he also found Arrington and Breaston and Butler over and over. On the pass to Butler that took us down to the 12 (I think that was the play), I saw Hart make an excellent, excellent pickup on a rusher who was charging at Henne. Just another reason why Mike Hart is awesome. Also? Mike. Hart. Does. Not. Fumble. Remember that, Mr. Referee. As soon as it was ruled Iowa ball, I said, "Oh, this is going to review." Why? Because Mike Hart does not fumble. The six-game gauntlet that loomed at the start of this season has been run. I was sure we'd come out of it with a loss somewhere on the way, but we're 8-0 with what should be clear sailing until The Game on 11/18. The team might not be able to look past Northwestern, Ball State, and Indiana, but I sure can. 11-0 vs 11-0 in the biggest, most celebrated rivalry in all of college sports? A game like this only comes along maybe (maybe!) once every 30 years.

The Band

Iowa didn't bring their band this week, which sort of surprised me. Maybe they suck. I don't think I've ever seen them play. In pregame, our band did The Cake, which was particularly awesome. Starting in concentric circles, they collapse inward while playing the tune from The Blues Brothers, "I Can't Turn You Loose". There's a script to this song.

For at least the past 14 years, part of the script has been for Carl Grapentine to claim, "By the year 2006, the music now known as the blues will exist only in the classical record department of your local public library." So among the preseason question this year was, given that it's now 2006, how will they change the script? It's not up there with "Will Chad Henne regress again? Will we keep Mike Hart healthy? Will we stop playing a pillowy soft zone at the end of every close game?", but it was a question nonetheless. Answer: We've pushed the demise of the blues back to 2010. Not really a lot of faith out there in the staying power of the art form, I suppose.

A couple of weeks ago, I supposed that the jazz show would be the last time the band played a show of non-popular music. I was wrong, as they went even further away from pandering to the audience by playing a show of marches no one in the stadium had ever cared about, and the songs weren't exactly hummable. The marching itself was very different for the MMB. Not everyone was facing the same sideline, people switched which sideline they were playing to in the middle of songs, etc. More of an old-school show, to go with the antique-sounding music.

Next week is homecoming, which is always a grab bag. I would expect that this is the show where John Stout does the arrangements, everyone marches --> everything's pretty simple. The regular MMB might end up playing a bunch of short songs before the alumni join them on the field for some of the classics (Temptation, War Chant, St. Louis Blues?, etc.). I will put money on it that it can't be any worse than our homecoming salute to the med school in 2001, which was one bad musical pun after another (For Your Eyes Only, Mack the Knife, etc., etc.).

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