Friday, November 30, 2007

Live-Blog: Hockey vs. OSU, 11/30/07


So Fred from FSN was in some sort of car crash, and this is his first game back. Good luck to him and his wife.

Michigan hasn't lost at Yost since Jan. 14, vs. Northern. FSN spotlights Porter, who you may have heard is pretty good. OSU has a bunch of freshmen too, and will be playing 10 tonight. Tommy Goebel, like TBTYB says, was a Spartan for two years.

Space, bitches. Space.

Pictures of people doing the O-H-I-O YMCA thing. Fail.

The crowd wants you to know that Joseph Palmer is a sieve. Sergott, Likens, Molina are our officials. Paciorretty gets a rush going, but all he can get is a backhand with a guy in his face. Tim Miller absolutely levels Reed. FSN can't pronounce "Palushaj" yet. Palmer is learning "Ugly Goalie." Off a faceoff, Michigan has a good look in front on a rebound, but nobody's home. Shortly after, Kolarik hits a post (Porter?) has the rebound wide.

Naurato corrals a clear attempt and feeds Miller who is dragged down with a ridiculous no-call. Some more play, then Palushaj registers his displeasure by sending an OSU defender through the net after the whistle.

Goebel goes to the box after throwing an elbow into Turnbull's head. OSU seems to have one guy hanging out looking for any shorthanded opportunity. Not as aggressive as Minnesota, but still. Porter hits a post, the second after Kolarik's earlier one. Penalty over. We're better at hockey than they are, but we haven't found the back of the net.


Mitera hits a post. It's an epidemic. Ahhh! Kolarik finds Porter alone in the middle, but the puck hits a stick and he can't bat it out of the air. Hey, Hensick got called up by the Avs today. Good for him. OSU carries it in, but not for long, and I'm almost surprised that we have to play defense. We've been spending a lot of time in their zone.

Mitera's heading to the box. Holding penalty, as one of the Buckeyes goes to the ground. Oh, crap. Tim Miller takes a holding penalty too. This one's more legit. 1:34 left in the Mitera penalty. This is a real problem. Wait, this is stupid. Summers is in the box? The refs are morons. Anyway, Kolarik clears. 1:00 left. Sauer makes a semi-tough save, but we can't clear. Finally, we get it out after they can't take advantage of a Goebel pass to the slot. Sauer's giving up rebounds. First kill over. :21 left. They're buzzing, but Michigan kills the 5-3 AND 5-4 and a weak clear makes it past the blue line to draw an offsides call. Phew.

AHAHAHAHA! The crowd is chanting "WORST STATE EVER!" Sooner or later these Michigan passes across the goal mouth are going to find someone. 6:45 left in the first. Llewellyn fans on a clear, but we get it out. Palushaj can't get a puck settled and Pacioretty is offsides. Oops, OSU is heading back to the box. Reed is gone? Yeah, hockey band!

We start the PP with an OSU clear. A Palushaj/Kolarik failure to mind-read leads to another. Cripes, giveaway. Goebel gets a breakaway and it looks like Sauer has it saved, but it trickles through the five-hole. OSU 1, Michigan, 0

OSU is collapsed around the net. Can't we set up a rotation? Penalty over. OSU getting confidence. We need to step up here. 2:26 left in the first.

Scooter Vaughn gets a nice shot at the net, but the rebound doesn't land near anyone. There's a John Dingle on tOSU. First period over. Somma decides to hit Palushaj after the period ends, so we get that kind of fun.

Guys need to step up here. We look too pleased with ourselves following the Showcase.

I really hope these university spots aren't evidence that they're having trouble selling ad time.

We start with a Michigan powerplay resulting from the extracurriculars. Palushaj can't sneak a shot through. Langlais defends a Goebel shortie attempt well. Our dominance from the early going has disappeared, along with this powerplay, but no problem if they want to take another one immediately. An offside call on Hagelin negates the extra skater and John Albert takes a seat for interference.

Goebel is the only good player on this OSU team, but he's getting opportunities on the PK. They kill off another penalty, blocking a lot of shots. They seem to be hoping to sit on this 1-0 lead. 14:00 left in the second.

Commercials. We look out-of-sync, not playing that well as a team. Lots of passes to nobody. OSU's playing more aggressively now. Sauer actually isn't getting a lot of work, the defense is picking it up. Kevin Quick makes a big hit and picks up an interference call, as his man declined to play the puck. Hagelin and Turnbull take a tentative attack in shorthanded, but get the puck knocked away. 1:00 gone after a Michigan clear. OH! Off the post, Sauer didn't see it. It even knocks off his back, but it luckily doesn't fall in. After the faceoff, OSU, is buzzing and it's LAYING ON THE LINE AND IT DOESN'T GO IN OH MY GOD, MITERA MAKES THE SAVE. Mitera and his man start scrapping, and this is strangely not going to review.

Porter and Kolarik immediately jump on a shorthanded opportunity as the penalty expires, but Kolarik has it knocked off his stick. Ahh! 3-2 with the top line and Kolarik gets denied. He couldn't quite find the top shelf stick side.

8:13 left. Lots of hooking and contact as Langlais carries in. Finally a call gets made, after about four different guys try to take him. Kyle Reed (different Reed) goes to the box. OSU is solid on the kill. They're playing better than we are and none of the bounces (except for one big bounce) have gone our way. 6:12, 0:36 left in the period and powerplay. Kolarik gets a quasi-break and he's being hooked. He waits too long and has no angle once Palmer finally goes down, and no call gets made. Sirgott is a big change from McInchak last week.

We're getting mugged down low. Finally Sirgott has had enough of that. Shane Sims takes a seat for hooking. We don't look sharp at all. Strange number of bouncing pucks for Mitera tonight. What's going on now? Oh, Lebler goes too high on a hit and gets whistled for boarding??? He didn't touch the boards. Weird.

Porter gets a pass right to Pacioretty in the slot, but he doesn't get all of it and Palmer is over. OSU at full strength. Sauer is giving up every rebound in sight. 2:00 left in the 2nd. 1:34 and the Lebler penalty is over. Cripes, Sauer falls over behind the net, but luckily nothing comes of it. Icing on OSU, 0:53 left. And again with 0:40.4. I think we'll see a lot of that in the third. End of the period. We only have 15 shots through two. PICK IT UP, GUYS.

Red sounds exactly the same whether we've just beat Minnesota or if we're losing to freaking OSU.

They sent a camera up to Fairbanks. I think everyone in town is drunk except for the coach.

Comcast would like you to believe that the BTN wants to hold your eyes open, Clockwork Orange-style and force you to watch. They may also have sold poisoned malk to schoolchildren.

Oh, 2-1 and Palushaj sends it just high. Beautiful chance there. Tim Miller immediately takes a charging minor. OSu only dressed 5 defensemen tonight. Summers gets a long shot away shorthanded, but it's right into Palmer. Ahh! Turnbull had a golden chance out front in the slot and Palmer makes the save. He's having a great game. Damn it. Sauer goes behind his net and gets wrapped up with Mitera. He accidentally takes the puck with him and an alert Goebel stuffs it in the net. 2-0, OSU. Bad goal. OSU has really taken control of this game.

Our shots are going wide, we're just a hair off all night long. OSU has shut down their attack. Their shell looks effective. Shots are only 16-12 with 13:52 left in the game. Passes are still going to nobody. This game is just as exciting as Edmonton-Detroit a few years ago.

Damn it, Miller is out in front and can't find the handle on a rebound. He gets another chance, crashing the net and forcing a tripping penalty. 12:09 left. Immediate OSU clear. Porter gets a nice pass across to Langlais, but it's blocked. We're buzzing around the net, but OSU is blocking everything and the penalty is killed. Sims is going right back to the box.

No one can get a stick on a loose puck. Langlais and Palushaj both have trouble handling the puck. Porter's shot from far out is off. OSU is cheating heavily toward him. We now have 25 shots. Penalty killed. Turnbull gets knocked over deep in the OSU zone, but you don't get that call in the third. Llewellyn's heavy shot from the point misses. Palmer gets a piece of a *high* puck. OSU 3-2 and Sauer makes a nice stop on Fritsche. 6:11 left. Another 3-2. Wide shot. AHH. Long pass to a streaking Porter, but it's just too far ahead for a good chance and Palmer has a stop.

Holy crap, Elkins had a great chance and Sauer gets the stop. Bouncing puck, dug out by us. Naurato finds Llewellyn on a rush, but Palmer is zoning. FINALLY! YESSS!!! 2:41 left and Pacioretty to Kolarik. Palmer shoves a puck to the boards and Pacioretty just manages to find Kolarik out in front with two Buckeyes draped all over him, but he manages to bat it into the net.

Oh, COME ON. 2:09 left and Somma waits for Sauer to drop to his knees before sniping one perfectly over his shoulder. 3-1. OSU.

HOLY SHIT. 1:18 left and Kolarik streaks past 4 Buckeyes standing on their own blue line to bury a puck and make it a 3-2 game.

This is a ridiculous game. I have no idea what's going to happen next. We were down 2 and got 2 within 90 seconds, but managed to give one up in that span. Yost is ROCKING.

Empty net, :50 left. Two Buckeyes going for a loose puck are fricking leveled. :20 left. No one home for a pass across the goal mouth. Puck is trapped in the corner and it takes forever to get a freeze called. :06.1 left. Timeout Michigan.

OSU wins the draw and the game is over. They deserved it, but we came oh so close to getting it back. Lots of chances for us to win the game, but Palmer was zoning for so long and we had some bad giveaways and misses.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Best Seats in the House


I know I'm late on this one, but by the time I got home on Saturday night I didn't want to bury Jeremy's excellent band post, and then the Ferentz thing exploded, overshadowing everything else. But I was at both College Hockey Showcase games last weekend, playing in the Alumni Pep Band.

Game 1:  Michigan 3, Wisconsin 2 highlights

Michigan played 59 minutes of dominating hockey. They were far and away the better team when matching up against the Badgers, who were kept in the contest by their goalie, Connelly, and a few posts. Michigan got decent pressure from the start, but nothing was going in. Then Lebler took a weak but somewhat legitimate-looking 5:00 major and game misconduct for hitting from behind. This was a huge turning point in the game. Our penalty kill came out and denied the Badgers time and again. Then, with :07 left in the Lebler penalty, Kolarik took a great feed from Steve Kampfer, carried it in, and solved Connelly for our first goal of the night. On the powerplay in the second, Palushaj sent a puck back to Kolarik behind the net who fed Porter in the slot to push the lead to 2-0. Soon after, Kolarik was again sitting behind the net when he found Pacioretty out in front for another powerplay goal.

As time in the 3rd started winding down, I began to relax just in time for Wisconsin to finally dig in and get a powerplay goal of their own that I can't fault Sauer on. Then, just seconds later, our defense entirely abandoned the entire left side of the ice, hanging Sauer out to dry and giving Wisconsin an easy goal. In 0:18, we've gone from cruising to the finish to fighting for our lives. The second goal finally refocused everyone and they hung on for the win.

One other thing about the game was that McInchak called a ton of penalties; 17 in all for nearly 60:00 (40 without the misconducts). Everything felt broken and choppy. At least he called them consistently, but strict enforcement like that got old.

Game 2:  Michigan 5, Minnesota 1 highlights

OH, IT WAS GLORIOUS. After the first goal, I was thrilled. After the second, ecstatic. After the third, I thought we might be able to win this thing after all. Then I started screaming at the defense to clear the zone, but time and again they couldn't get it done, and Sauer had no chance on a fluke goal where the puck bounced off Kevin Quick's skate and into the net. I swear, they must have spent a full minute and a half set up like they were on the powerplay. But Michigan stepped up again and banged home a fourth goal. And then in the third period they added a fifth one to kill any hope Minnesota might have had.

We opened this game a lot slower than the one against Wisconsin. Two early powerplays went nowhere; in fact we spent a lot of time in our own zone fighting the Gophers off. Our best early chance came when Porter had a shorthanded breakaway. He couldn't get the goal, but he drew a slashing call. Near the end of the first, he had another breakaway opportunity, this time on the powerplay, but the Gopher defender wrested the puck away...only to have it land on Chad Kolarik's stick before being deposited in the back of the net.

In the second, the Wolverines pulled away. Porter found Kolarik wide open near the faceoff circle on the powerplay. Like The Blog That Yost Built says, he had to be perfect on his shot or we'd be wondering about that decision. Porter's goal just a few minutes later is one of those ones that make you want to kill your own goalie, because it really was all his fault. He whiffed on the clear and was dead from that moment.

Ben Gordon's flukey goal put the icy knot back into my stomach. Michigan couldn't find a way to clear the zone without taking an icing call, so they kept letting the play go and it finally bit them. As you can see, he just flung the puck vaguely in the direction of the net and it bounced off Quick's skate. A minute and a half later, the Gophers took another penalty and started killing it really well, denying the Wolverines the zone. I was complaining to the trumpet next to me that we weren't getting any pressure with our powerplay. He started to say that Minnesota's PK was really aggressive, but it left them vulnerable– And then Porter got loose and scored. Way to illustrate a point, Minnesota.

Five minutes into the third, Ben Winnett's goal basically ended the game by making it 5-1. This was amazing. Michigan beats Minnesota for the first time since I was a student and I get to play "The Victors" for them. Fantastic.

We have an Ohio State University for two at home this weekend and then a home-and-home with Bowling Green the next before the break preceding the GLI. We're perfectly capable of going into it 17-1-0, which is ridiculous, but possible. We're still better than a much-improved BGSU and OSU sucks on toast. OSU did beat Wisconsin early in the season, but since then they've been swept by the likes of Ferris and UNO, and they salvaged a tie with Robert Morris to avoid being swept by a CHA team (OSU fans have heard about it and they want this Robert Morris guy to know that he should watch his back. Who does he think he is?). 16-2-0 with a split against the Falcons is what I'm hoping for, because I desperately want to pound OSU in SOMETHING and you have to have a bad night somewhere in there.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Harry Kipke Has A Street Named After Him

The Ferentz rumors are making me ill. He's had 3 excellent seasons and 6 that are mediocre or worse. He went 6-6 in a year when Iowa missed Michigan and Ohio State. And the rest of the coaching search process isn't much better. My brother sent me a text message at 7:00 that read "@ Bust. English announced as new head coach," so I immediately commenced my freakout and wondered how best to break it to the free world ("It's stupid and it's myopic, but it's not Ferentz!").

I know things are getting bad when I find myself looking into our record books at Bump Elliott and Harry Kipke. Did you know that Kipke (who left after the 1937 season) is the last Michigan coach not to win a Rose Bowl*? And that's because Michigan wasn't invited at any time between the 1902 blowout and the 1948 blowout. Kipke had one of the weirdest tenures of any Michigan coach. His 1-7-0 1934 and 1936 teams have got to be near the bottom of the barrel of what we've ever produced, but he also coached the 1930-33 squads that went a combined 31-1-3. They allowed only 81 points (With 25 shutouts!) in four years. The 8-0-0 '32 team only allowed 13 points on the season; 6 to Northwestern and 7 to Princeton. Then somehow the bottom dropped out and the '34 squad scored only 21 points all season, including 5 shutout losses. I wonder what happened there. He started his tenure in the Depression, so that wasn't the change. College football isn't as volatile these days, but it's a reminder that you can go still go from the top of the game to the bottom really quickly.

*Bump Elliott beat Oregon State in the '65 Rose Bowl. You're welcome.

Road to Nowhere

So, um, yeah, through dumb luck and connections, I'll be a guest talking head on the debut episode of the Treehouse Fort, a new internet radio talk show. I'll be discussing the Michigan coaching situation from 8:45 until the end of the show. If you'd like to have a listen

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

More Damn Sound

Back in August, we created a list of suggestions to improve the gameday atmosphere based on an interblog conversation between HSR and Varsity Blue. Some of them happened; the band played more, and they incorporated a rotating Let's Go Blue. One stands out, though:

Suggestion: Get students involved in the drum cheers. An advantage to the new location of the band is the students can now hear the drumline cheers. Coming up with unified chants/motions to accompany these drum cheers, which many sections in the band already do, could easily spread throughout the student section.

(This didn't happen at all, but that's not the point of this post. It was nice to still have the drumline "featured" at the end of the first quarter, but it did nothing to unify the students. I had to listen to the drums to identify most of the songs; this means they should've been used more.)

This is indicative of a problem that emerged this year: The students can't hear the band. Some were quite turned off by this, as evidenced by these MGoBlog comments from Matt K:

Putting the band in the student section was a great big middle finger to the students. With the band opposite the students, the entire north end was loud and intimidating. I remember when the band pointed at the MSU huddle in OT in 04 and played the Victors continuously through a timeout. That was f-ing AWESOME. 2 other band related complaints: They're playing the Victors more slowly under the new director. And they're not nearly playing loud enough. I was sitting not that far behind the band on Saturday and I couldn't hear them even a little bit. OSU's band sounded like it was playing 4 inches from my face. It's not the band's fault as I understand it, but it's got to change. In terms of improving game-day atmosphere the band fell far short this year.
Not good: The students beyond row 50 can't hear the band. Unfortunately the decision to move the band was out of the band's control, and comes from the fact that the seats across the stadium sell for more than seats in the student section. Their PR answer was "student unity," and letting the southern half of the stadium hear the band better, but what good does that do? They didn't cheer any louder. The students need to hear the band as much as possible. His comments also suggest that the changes to the tempo and volume of the performances, Victors included, are drastic enough that "outsiders" are piping up about it.

On Tempo: I disagree that the Victors needs to change back to its Nix-inspired tempos. His unbridled enthusiasm affected the tempo at which the fight song was played, so not only was it very fast, but it fluctuated depending on the excitement of the play that inspired it. Some see this simply as his wielding of the Victors as a weapon to be used how he pleases. That's understandable. However, I think it should be rigorously maintained at the same tempo, and that tempo should be something close to the current one. The Victors should be above modifications to fit the needs of the crowd.

It's possible the students may just want a faster tempo because they can't hear the current one, which inevitably ends with them rushing three or four full beats ahead of the tune by its conclusion, and assuming they are correct. When they can hear it, they stay with it. This is why the band should be facing the student section in the stands, instead of facing away from them.

On Volume: Dynamic contrasts are important to the general effect of a show. A band that can perform a broad range of styles and intensities benefits from such versatility, which is essential for marching bands on the competitive circuit. Michigan football, however, is not the competitive circuit. It is 110,000 people who are probably not paying attention to the band. From what I've heard from shows this year, as well as comments left on this blog, is that the sound is being explicitly suppressed in the interest of such contrasts and "quiet sections." Again, this has its place; that place is not halftime in Michigan Stadium.

There is a simple fix for all of these problems: Play louder. We know it is possible; it's not like all the volume graduated last year. Playing louder would allow more of the students to hear the band, let them stay together on the Victors, and allow everyone to enjoy more of the halftime performances. The MMB did sound more balanced and rounder this year but it was at a significant and noticeable expense of volume. Row 80 does not care about legatos and mezzo pianos. Row 80 only cares about why their faces aren't being peeled off by the first note of M Fanfare.

George Cavender said it best: MORE DAMN SOUND.

WTI: Cirque and Destroy

Craig: Good evening and welcome back to another edition of WTI: Cirque du Solame
Geoff: Those who weren't numb by halftime may have noticed that Saturday's MMB show was rather different from what you usually see.
Craig: I was numb, frozen, and still noticed.
Geoff: The theme was, in fact, "Cirque du Soleil". Yes, that "Cirque du Soleil".
Craig: French Canadians without the involvement of Rocket Richard makes me sad.
Jeremy: Cirque music has exploded in popularity among high school marching bands, and it's not surprising Boerma wanted to bring it to the college level.
Geoff: No, it wasn't a big surprise, given his connection to the high school level.
Jeremy: We were promised "corps style marching and footwork, and I thought the marching and formations were actually a focus of the show instead of just ambient background to accompany the music.
Craig: Um, can I ask a question though? I wouldn't recognize the music of Cirque if you gave me three dozen chances. Was I not the target audience of this show?
Geoff: The target audience of the show was the OSUMB.
Jeremy: I wouldn't either, but the intent was to impress you with it, not get you to sing along.
Geoff: Yeah, but the music (at least from the brass and winds) was kind of the background for the marching and the drums.
Craig: I guess being in the end zone, and in the third row, it's hard to be impressed by footwork. Not a knock, that's just visuals.
Geoff: That's a valid point. It's tough when either you don't have either the larger view or the close-up one. The middle distance is rough.
Jeremy: I thought it was an interesting departure from the MMB's traditional style – less big swoopy forms, and far more drill 'activities' in small sections like follow-the-leaders, rotating boxes, ripple effects. And a drum break!
Geoff: For what it was, it was a well-designed, well-executed show, but one that left 98% of the stadium scratching their heads.
Jeremy: Agreed.
Craig: I think that's a very fair assessment Geoff, and the problem with that is, that's over 100,000 people scratching their heads.
Jeremy: It was certainly a dramatic contrast from OSU's Yay America show.
Craig: Hey, you can't boo freedom, right?
Jeremy: Exactly. And that's why they bring something sentimental and/or patriotic to Michigan Stadium each time. We get it, guys – Veterans Day is the Monday before the game. But it *always* is.
Geoff: They even used the same streamers from 2005, I think.
Craig: Well, they do have all those extra swallow-tail flags...
Jeremy: For those who missed it, OSU spelled out the names of the service academies while playing the official song of each (Anchors Aweigh, etc) and making some rotating lines that didn't set well.
Geoff: I think I'd like this show better if it wasn't the last one of the year. I'd rather see a show that engages the whole stadium to close out the year. If you want to get experimental, don't leave it for your last show. I know, I know we want to stun the OSUMB into dumbstruck awe, but I'd rather try to do that by getting the stadium fired up.
Craig: Exactly. The stadium was deader than dead at halftime due to the weather and perhaps the most boring half of football in recorded human history, we needed something that would get the crowd back into it. This show was not that...
Jeremy: I've been scratching my head since August on Cirque for this week's show. Maybe if they'd had the flags make a thirty-person pyramid, suspended from a cable, underwater...
Geoff: With Chinese acrobats on spinning ropes...
Craig: Or the magic of charging you $85 and convincing you that what you're seeing is amazing...
Jeremy: And they mean to tell us there's not one contortionist in the band willing to be set on fire inside a giant glass ball?
Geoff: Kids today just aren't as tough as they used to be. Back in the Cavendar era you woulda had 14 volunteers for that.
Craig: Including two dousing themselves with lighter fluid AS they volunteered just to show their commitment.
Geoff: Since the bowl game show will be a repeat of a previous halftime, this effectively marks the end of Boerma's first year at the helm of the MMB. For me, the highlight of the year was the Guitar Hero show. Excellent songs, great arrangements, obvious (and effective!) pandering to the students, but since it's classic rock, it engages the whole audience.
Craig: Agreed. I don't know that I have ever enjoyed a MMB halftime as much (admittedly, the stomping of Notre Dame made that easier to do) and I think it compares favorably with, say the Cal band's tribute to video games.
Jeremy: ...And the Cal band's tribute to video games compared favorably to the MMB's 2004 video game tribute.
Geoff: It was a great show, but it doesn't quite catch up to the magnificent Monty Python halftime, for me.
Craig: I will note, I missed the Python show live.
Jeremy: Guitar Hero was the most effective, since it engaged the audience most directly. I liked the music from the Modern Broadway show the best, but I'm a sucker for Springtime for Hitler.
Craig: Continuing the fine tradition of not saying aloud what the name of the song is if it might raise eyebrows.
Geoff: Oh, that was a good one too. And even though I'd never heard the music from Wicked before, I really liked how it all turned out.
Geoff: As important as the on-field results are, the off-field stuff is a big part of the director's job. I don't have any sort of line into the current MMB, but from what I've heard, relations with the Alumni Band have markedly improved this year.
Jeremy: I do, but wasn't aware there were problems. Does this mean more gigs?
Geoff: I don't know. Possibly more baseball or softball games, I'd imagine. Maybe an impact on donations, I'd say, if the alumni are kept happy. But mostly it gives me confidence that other off-field things are being taken care of and I won't show up to practice one day to hear that our trip to Penn State this week has been cancelled because we have no money [Note: This actually happened once when I was in the band].
Jeremy: It seems like there are halftime show sponsorships every week now. At $10,000 a pop, that's helpful. The Irwin family deserves a wing of Revelli Hall.
Geoff: Absolutely. And if we ever manage to build up the endowment enough, maybe we'll go back to two road trips every year. Anyway, we'll see how things carry into the next semester and the offseason.
Jeremy: Let's hope the functional extensions of the MMB – the athletic pep bands – get some quality media attention this year, as both programs are poised for headlines (right?).
Geoff: If we win the College Hockey Showcase, or just beat Minnesota (fingers crossed), let's hope the hockey team gets some pub. And, hey, basketball could go crazy and be competitive with UCLA.
Craig: The Michigan hockey team is doing right now what we have wanted them to do do for years, win the games they should win.
Geoff: Thanks to everyone who reads this.
Craig: Indeed. Again, happy Thanksgiving, and remember folks, just because football season is over doesn't mean we're going anywhere.
Jeremy: But if we DO go somewhere, let's hope it's Tampa Bay and not San Antonio or Orlando.
Jeremy: Goodnight!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

WTI: The End of an Era

This edition of WTI is solely about Lloyd Carr, his retirement, his legacy, and the future of the program. Tomorrow we'll look into the MMB's season with some more football content.

Geoff: Everyone's known for the last week, but Lloyd Carr made it official today. He's stepping down from his spot as our head coach.
Craig: It is the end of a 13 year era which, depending on whom you talk to, was a success, a failure, or a maddening enigma.
Geoff: By turns, I'd say it's been all three.
Geoff: This is a huge turning point in the program's history. Not since Bo signed on for the 1969 season has the program had to look for its next scion.
Craig: In many ways, it's the 2008 election of Michigan football, no clear successor, lots of speculation, and a very long run up to the actual decision
Geoff: Lloyd Carr has done tremendous things for this football team.
Craig: And for the University.
Geoff: I'll never, ever forget the magical run in 1997. I was still a junior in high school then, but I dragged my best friend and his flu-like symptoms to the Notre Dame game. I made it to a few more that year too, and I was there for the 1997 Michigan-Ohio State epic and the '98 Rose Bowl.
Craig: As I stated in my Coach Carr encomium, he is my coach, and I don't know that I have ever wavered from that. You just don't quit on someone because they aren't winning up to the exceptionally lofty standards one has set in their head. Yes, we were maddened at turns by some of the losses, but we overlook some of the comebacks.
Jeremy: I'd gone to a few games before Lloyd, but he was the face of the program for my formative years.
Geoff: The first game I remember attending was in '89, so I have some memories of Bo, and more of Moeller, but the Carr era is the one I belong to.
Craig: The Moeller era, for me, is a nebulous space where I have memories of it, but they are all specifically vague.
Jeremy: On a micro scale, sure you can pick apart his losses and maddening tendencies, but on a macro scale, by which he'll later be analyzed, he improved the program's winning percentage. By any standard Michigan uses, he deserves his own building on the Athletic Campus. It's as simple as that.
Geoff: You realize that 4 of the top 6 Big Ten coaches all-time were Michigan men? Schembechler, Yost, Crisler, and Carr?
Craig: And, we must always remember this...Lloyd Carr did this in the first generation of head coaches in the scholarship limited era, competing after so many of Bo's advantages had been whittled away – Deregulation of college football on television leading to so much more national exposure, the internet, recruiting services, and 24/7 talk radio have all served to level the playing field.
Craig: But let us please be clear that no one forced Lloyd Carr out. Coach Carr saw an opportunity to leave, at a time when it would likely be best for the school and the program, and he is taking it because, I suspect, he'd like to have a life that is more than just football. Can we begrudge a man for wanting to enjoy his retirement?
Jeremy: Those stories are just as ridiculous as all the previous years of him being "on the hot seat" after three losses.
Geoff: He's always said he's not taking the Paterno way out, or even the Bowden one.
Craig: And there's nothing wrong with the Paterno or Bowden way, but merely, it is a choice.
Craig: Can we also be clear that Michigan is not like a lot of other schools in that our hot seat is not the same as other places? Michigan is not an SEC or Big XII South school in that regard. Michigan's values are first and foremost a winning program with integrity. And the Fab Five era makes us exceptionally wary of anything that looks even a little sketchy.
Geoff: Lloyd's program has never had the faintest whiff of scandal about it. Players may have showed up on the police blotter (Perfect Offseason Forever), but the program has always stayed clean.
Jeremy: I've always trusted Lloyd to handle disciplinary situations properly, and IIRC, he's always done the right thing. Whether it be dismissing someone from the team or letting the system take its course
Craig: And, honestly, we've all read Crime Notes, is Michigan's football program, statistically, any worse in some of these regards than the university population at large?
Craig: And, by the way, the guys who have come back with the 60–60–6:00 program have been pretty much model citizens upon their return.
Geoff: Do enough steps, you learn your lesson.
Jeremy: They're probably better. I doubt anyone on the football team has triggered a smoke alarm with an overcooked pop tart, or assaulted a UHS employee with a picture frame.
Geoff: We've been talking about the kind of program Lloyd has built, but this new era is upon us. Right now, Michigan is a high-level program, on the outside of the elite. Over the last 13 years, we have a .750 winning percentage, and we know that will be the Mendoza line for anyone who comes in.
Craig: By the way, I need to put that in perspective. 8-4 is .667, 9-3 is .750 That ONE win is HUGE!
Geoff: You look around college football, and you see what can happen with a new hire for the better (Urban Meyer, Pete Carroll) or for the worse (Solich/Callahan, Weis).
Craig: Indeed. What every Michigan fan, whether they want to admit it, or can admit it, is they want to trade Cooper for Tressel. Now, I am not saying Lloyd Carr is our John Cooper. But John Cooper was not a bad coach. It's just that Jim Tressel has become the coach that Buckeye fans have wanted since Woody.
Craig: But do you know how rare, how truly rare, that kind of trading up is? Look at Florida, they had to take their Zookian lumps before landing Meyer.
Jeremy: We want that pendulum to swing back in our direction now.
Craig: USC hated Carroll when he was hired. There were torches and pitchforks in the Southlands.
Geoff: Cooper->Tressel is the gold standard for a program that wasn't in trouble going for the elite.
Craig: It's interesting. Everyone says "Don't go NFL if you want to avoid a Nebraska/Notre Dame issue", but what did USC do? At the same time, USC had fallen off; we forget that given what they have become once more.
Geoff: I have confidence we aren't going to hire a Charlie Weis. And, if we do, we won't hamstring ourselves with an onerous buyout like they did.
Craig: I agree. I have a lot of faith in Bill Martin's doing this and doing this right, because this is a business decision as much as anything. Bill Martin knows this is his legacy on the line. This and the renovation. He's going to do everything he can to get it just right.
Jeremy: He handled the Beilein hiring very well.
Geoff: I think we need to be prepared for an interesting ride that could last into the first week of January.
Craig: And he handled the Beilein hire in a way that gives me a lot of confidence in the idea of he's going to do it right. And he's going to start by saying as little as humanly possible to the media.
Geoff: Again, with the Beilein hiring, we waited until we had a clear shot at the guy we wanted.
Craig: Can we clarify something else? A Michigan Man does not necessitate someone who has ties to Michigan in the past. It is someone who embodies the values which Michigan Men (and Women) represent and holds the University and its interests dearest to his heart.
Geoff: It's a straightforward guy who's about the school, not himself. About the team, not just the guy with the headset. He has to see himself (or herself) as part of the tradition we have at Michigan and, like you said, goes about the task of winning with integrity.
Craig: So, just because we want a Michigan man does not mean that Michigan man has to be connected to Michigan. As I have been thinking about this, I want the best candidate for the job, not necessarily the popular one or the flashy one (particularly not the last one.) And that will be the hardest part. Callahan blew up every ounce of tradition at Nebraska and it became just another Big XII school. The new era will need to blend a reverence for tradition and heritage without being beholden to the old ways simply because it was what always done.
Geoff: Right. Abandoning the triple option was one thing, abandoning the idea of what the 'Huskers are is another.
Craig: Like destroying your massive walk-on program.
Jeremy: The title of Michigan Man is earned, not given exclusively.
Craig: So we can speculate all we want about whom, and toss names around, but in the end, it's like theorizing what you would do if you won the lottery, fun to speculate, but not likely going to matter much down the line.
Geoff: I think Michigan is going to look for long-term success. I think they're going to take a full, fair look at all the candidates out there. I think Lloyd will have input, but Bill Martin has reminded everyone that the buck stops with the AD. I think Ferentz is a ridiculous idea, but Brian Kelly will get a look. And I think Les Miles has a 2/3 chance of becoming our next head football coach.
Craig: Ron English gets an interview. I promise you this.
Geoff: Mike Debord gets a buyout.
Jeremy: I think we go through the motions and ultimately get Miles.
Geoff: The longer this drags on, the more likely it's Miles.
Craig: I think it's also important that we do not burn any bridges or make any enemies in this process.
Geoff: Martin will handle everything quietly.
Geoff: Let's get prepared for a flurry of media coverage without any real answers coming out.
Craig: So, final thoughts. Certainly thank you, Coach Carr, for everything. That's as simple as I can think to put it. And to the next guy, I hope you know what you're getting into. Because we don't mind if you don't mind, because we don't shine if you don't shine.
Geoff: Whatever happens, it's the end of an era. I'm worried about what could come next, but excited for the future. Thanks to our coach for 13 years of service and a national title.
Jeremy: 28 years of service.
Jeremy: I hope we miss Coach Carr, but not ever in a regretful way. May he continue to be an outstanding ambassador for the University and not keep too low of a profile.
Craig: And as Jam22 said, he needs to go out and spend some of that money. :)
Craig: Thank you, Happy Thanksgiving to all...and good night.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Game Day



When the Head and the Heart Part Company...

On Wednesday night, someone on Deadspin Up! All Night asked me this very simple question:

"So, I hate to ask, but what's your thoughts going into this weeks big game? Do they win one for Lloyd?"

I pondered it, and I pondered it further. After the jump, my reply.

I don't know. I just don't know.

My heart tells me yes, that somehow, playing exactly one year to the day of Bo's death, Hart/Henne/Long's last home game, the last game in Michigan Stadium in its current configuration, and potentially Coach Carr's last game, that everything is setting up for the boys to rally together and win one, putting a gleaming capstone on what is a too readily dismissed period in Michigan football history.

My brain says Wells...Wells....Wells....The Mad Genius in a Sweatervest....DeBord still calling plays....Hart hurt....Henne Hurt...Wells...Crable's propensity to do something stupid...Mallettosis...Can't be done.

But, and you'll forgive me referencing Scripture during Football Easter week:

"But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love."

If hope dies last...if faith did not leave me after The Unpleasantness and The Slaughter in September, when it would have been easiest to be tested, but instead I still chose to believe. If Michigan football is my one true unquestioned love of my entire adult life, I have to believe they will find a way, even if everything logical and rational tells me not to get my hopes up, I must believe. Because hope does die last.

Or as someone much better at this than I am said: Go. Fight. Win. Please.

But, as someone else said, sometimes you only have two words left, and they are the only two you need. Go Blue!

A Big Rosy Block M

This is an excellent compilation of Bob Ufer clips from past Ohio State games. It is 15 minutes long, and worth each one of them. (HT: PSuth)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Coach Carr: An Encomium

I can't believe I am using South Park to get here.

In the final part of the Imaginationland trilogy, Kyle argues that fictional characters are sometimes more important than real people because they can have a profound influence on our lives as well as the lives of countless other people, even if they aren't real.

I have never had the good fortune to meet Coach Carr, and yet I know that his (rumored) retirement will have a profound impact on my life, as profound as any person I actually know.

While you can debate the merits of my priorities all you like, the reality is that I am not alone in this feeling. Coach Carr has been the head coach of the University of Michigan football team since 1995. It was probably a job he never saw himself holding, with Gary Moeller being Bo's hand picked successor. But he took the reins, never campaigned to get the interim label removed, beat Ohio State and became the man at Michigan. Two years later, he took us to the Promised Land, my Michigan annus mirabilis as it were. And while you can argue that Michigan should have won more games in the last ten years, you'd be a fool. Michigan's winning percentage during that post MNC season is just a shade under .750. That's right; he won three out of every four games. Or pretty much exactly in line with Michigan's all-time winning percentage. Coach Carr has held the lamp high. The naysayers may point to games that Michigan lost that they should have won, that the coaching staff failed to adjust, that they didn't use their best players in the right way, that they played too conservatively and that those failures, in the end, cost them dearly. But what about the other side of that coin, when Michigan rallied to win games it had no business winning? Do those not count because we should never have been in a position that required it or do you not count them because, as always, winning forgives a lot of sins?

Coach Carr is my coach, in the literal sense that he was the coach at Michigan while I was a student, but he's also my coach in a figurative sense, in that I felt like my coming of age as a Michigan fan came under his stewardship. Do not doubt for a moment the love, reverence, or appreciation I have for Bo. He ignited my flame as a Michigan fan, he's the one who made me want to be a Michigan man when I was just eight years old (I'm a first generation Michigan alum, but a third generation Michigan football fanatic, so I am sure my mother and maternal grandparents helped a lot, but the story goes that when I was asked in third grade what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was that I wanted to go to Michigan and watch football. When asked by my teacher if I meant play for U of M, I said, no, I could never play for Michigan, but I think I'm smart enough to go there, so that's my plan. From that moment on, my childhood and the decisions I made were steadfastly focused on one thing and one thing only, getting into Michigan. Flash forward to October 15, 1995. Mission accomplished.) Gary Moeller serves as the bridge, the coach when I was beginning to understand that football was a lot more complicated than simply the guys in the winged helmets needed to score more than the other guys. But Coach Carr is my coach, the coach who guided my team through the truest years of my passion, when I first began to blend sheer emotional connection and fanaticism with an academic understanding of the game. I still don't know if I could tell you about hitting your A gap or running into the mesh, but I know why you run Zone Left when you have Jake Long on your line, and I know why you play for field position in real life when you'd go for it on fourth down against the computer. The heart and the head often feud when watching football, but that, in and of itself, makes it all the more special.

When one is the football coach of a major national college football program, only the greatest scrutiny exists, only the highest power microscope will serve the purpose of those fans who in their heads think they know better, because in their hearts, they just want what is best for their teams. It comes with the territory, and it can be argued that no other sport in American life places such value on each individual win and loss because one wrong turn can mean the end of a season. In really delving into the mindset of Michigan fans over the last couple of seasons, what I have realized is that perhaps, collectively, we're only happy when it rains; that without something to complain about, we don't know what to do. We live our football lives waiting for the shoe to drop and it ruins, on many occasions, our ability to appreciate what we have before us. Let us resolve to not to that here. Let us appreciate what we have seen on the field for the last thirteen seasons.

At many schools, Carr would be the greatest coach in their history, a man they would rush to name something for on their athletic campus. But Coach Carr was the steward of a program where anywhere you look on the athletic campus, you are reminded of those who have gone before. Yost Ice Arena, Crisler Arena, Oosterbaan Field House, speed Bumps, Schembechler Hall. How do you make your mark against such a legendary roster of coaches (to wit, Carr is just the 8th Michigan head coach since Michigan Stadium opened in 1927, and only the tenth since the beginning of the 20th Century. That's it, ten head coaches in 107 years.) Well, you do it, in this day and age by honoring your traditions, but running a clean program, and winning. When you think about it, no coach wins as much as their fan base would like them to, in part because fans, being fans, have unreasonable expectations. So, the question becomes, what is winning often enough? What is the price of winning? What is the ultimate goal of intercollegiate athletics? These are questions which have and will continue to plague sports fans. We do not have clear answers in this regard. However, if we are allowed to draw on our heritage for a moment, winning clean may be a Michigan football fans most revered value. We have seen the muck and the morass that our basketball program has fallen into after a gilded era of pyrite victory in the early 1990s, and we know that we never want to have our football program go through that same Hell. So we resolve that if we are winning and winning clean, this is what matters most. Michigan's football program is far from perfect, our football player police blotter is honestly a little shameful in the abstract, but it's also relatively mild compared to the rest of the college football world. So perhaps this is the best lesson going forward, and the way to best honor Coach Carr's legacy.

So, to whomever comes next, please understand that tradition is deeply revered here, and find a way to walk a middle path between honoring what has gone before and moving into the future. Find a way to win clean, to never bring shame to those who cherish the Maize and Blue. Know that you are not jumping into the most intense pressure cooker in American college football, but a different kind of pressure cooker.

In closing, Coach Carr, enjoy your (rumored) retirement. May you not be too far from Ann Arbor on game days, and not too far from our hearts.

How Michigan Influences OSU

As we prepare for the 104th edition of the greatest rivalry in all of sports, it's important to take a few jabs at each other along the way. Here are some aspects of college football where Michigan has influenced the Buckeyes.

Stadium Decoration

Because the athletic director loved the colors*, the rotunda at Ohio Stadium is decorated with maize and blue flowers. Michigan Stadium wasn't built for five years afterward, but it's probably not hard to guess what the color scheme was going to be.

Nostalgic Longing

The Ohio State song "I want to go back to Ohio State" straight-up stole its first lines and melody from Michigan's "I want to go back to Michigan."

Marching Band Formations

The first script Ohio was formed in 1932 by the Michigan Marching Band.

Yes, this is not THE [HYPERBOLE] SCRIPT OHIO as we know it today. It is still Ohio, in script. And OSU fans will be quick to point out that the MMB just marched straight there. Which is fine, because it gets it over with faster.

The OSU band also played music from Titanic at last year's game. While they played Celine Dion's famous song, they formed the ship, cracked it, and sunk it off the edge of the field, using fire extinguishers for steam. The crowd loved it.

Now, that's a clever idea, but I liked it better when the Michigan Marching Band did it in 1998.

"Michigan Daily: The Band Plays On - 10/1/1998: 'That whole thing with the band members grouping in the shape of that old sunken ship, complete with the fire extinguishers for steam, was quite creative and entertaining, and very cool.'

How to Behave

Actually, they came up with this one all on their own. I hope.

*No. It's because the winner of the 1922 dedication game got to paint the flowers in their colors. Michigan won 19-0.

Leaving Early

I read this New York Times article yesterday after spotting it on mgolicious. Hat tip to Mike B. for putting this in my head months ago, but one of the things I don't think the Times is mentioning is that Canadian players are a slightly bigger flight risk than their American counterparts. The majority of guys who've left Michigan early are Canadians: Tambellini, Cogliano, Comrie, etc. Chart? Chart:

Players Who Left Early
Brian DeasleyCanada19882N/A
Aaron WardCanada19931NHL
Cam StewartCanada19931N/A
Ryan SittlerCanada19942N/A
Robb GordonCanada19953N/A
Mike Van RynCanada19992NHL
Mike ComrieCanada20002NHL
Andy HilbertUSA20012NHL
Jeff JillsonUSA20011AHL
Mike CammalleriCanada20021NHL
Mike KomisarekUSA20022NHL
Danny RichmondUSA20033NHL
Dwight HelminenUSA20041JYP (Finland)
Jeff TambelliniCanada20051NHL/AHL
Mike BrownUSA20052AHL
Al MontoyaUSA20051AHL
Andrew CoglianoCanada20072NHL
Jack JohnsonUSA20072NHL

It's not a huge split at 10-8. And looking further at the past five years, it's 5-2 for the Americans, but I almost want to throw Al Montoya, Dwight Helminen, and Danny Richmond off this list: Montoya's listless junior year points to him just being generally unhappy at Michigan, while Helminen and Richmond were rumored to be headed for academic troubles if they hadn't bolted for the pros. So almost all of the Americans who've jumped early have had some other reason to leave than seeing a shot at the NHL.

At the same time, the two Canadians who left early played on a team with very few Canadians. 57 players have suited up for Michigan in the last 5 years. Eight of them were Canadian and 2 left early, for a .250 rate. The remaining 49 were American and 5 left early, a 0.102 rate. Given that everyone who left early was drafted, we'll examine that pool. According to the rosters, 20 Americans were draft picks during this period, while 4 Canadians were as well. Two of those Canadians left early, for a .500 rate, while 5 Americans did, a 0.250 rate. The small sample size is annoying, but the numbers match up with the anecdotal evidence (Note: Does anyone have better data here? I know I found at least one problem with these rosters. Danny Richmond was listed as undrafted, since he didn't leave until he was drafted over the summer following his freshman year).

Significant also are the Americans who could've left, but didn't: Nystrom stayed, Hensick stayed, JMFJ stayed until Red gave his blessing, Porter is still with us. It just seems like you can get an extra year out of the Americans, whereas the Canadians will go to the next level as soon as they see the opening.

I asked Mike to look over a draft of this for me, and he gave me back some great stuff. He's the source for all the data on guys who aren't in the NHL or AHL anymore. This is what he sent along:

  • Brian Deasley left in 1988. This would be Red's first big loss. The Toronto native left after two years to join the Canadian National Team after nearly winning the Cy Young his sophomore year (18-4). He never made it to the NHL.
  • Denny Felsner stayed all four years (1989-92). He was Red's best player during my era, including a 94 point senior year. American.
  • Cam Stewart stayed for three years (1990-93). Kitchener native. Played 184 games in the NHL.
  • Ryan Sittler stayed for two years (1992-94). He was the #7 overall pick in the 1992 draft, but had trouble moving past the third line at Michigan, going 18-33 in his two years. Went to the AHL, got injured, never recovered. Native of London, Ontario.
  • Mike Knuble nearly left before his senior season (1994-95). The NHL lockout probably kept him at Michigan. American.
  • Robb Gordon left after one year in 1995. He was 15-26 in his freshman year and was getting serious ice time and was on the #2 PP. He went to the WHL and had a 4 game NHL career. From B.C.
  • Dwight Helminen left after three years. Hancock, MI native. He was about to flunk out anyway. Now playing in Finland.
  • Jason Bacashihua signed a letter of intent in 2000 but never played for Michigan. Native of Garden City. Just got traded to the Avalanche, who sent him to Lake Erie. Has played 38 games in the NHL.
  • Trevor Lewis signed a letter of intent in 2006 but never played for Michigan. Native of Salt Lake City. Currently in the Kings farm system.

Eric Nystrom is the only first round pick in the Red era to stay all four years. So I would be worried about Max Pacioretty.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Vault: Michigan Stadium Dedication 1927

Michigan fans know that while Ohio Wesleyan was the first opponent in the Big House, the stadium was dedicated during a game against tOhio State with a 21-0 victory on October 27, 1927.

Noted YouTube poster WolverineHistorian posted this newsreel clip, enhanced by some classic work by what sounds like Michigan's men's glee club and old-timey piano, that really must be seen. So watch the clip, and then I will have some notes after the jump, and you are strongly encouraged to post your own notes.

* Like Simpsons writer John Schwartzwelder, I have an abiding affection for old-timey Americana. This clip has SO MUCH OF IT! The use of "Varsity", complete with what looks like a pep rally, is just icing on the cake.

* It's just amazing to see people filing into Michigan Stadium, a building that looks no bigger than 40 feet off the ground, from an empty field. No concrete to be seen anywhere. And yet, the stairways and the tunnel are pretty much the same today as they were 80 years ago.

* "Today's aerial footage was provided by a biplane!"

* Look at how close the field is to the first row. I know older Michigan fans always think that the lower rows are a nightmare because of the pre-1990 arrangement, but you can really see it there.

* Suits. Everywhere suits. I know that northern weather makes this an impossible, but I like the idea that you dress for a game, as some Southern schools do.

* No yard numbers on the field, narrow band sidelines, no end zone decorations.

* Lots of footage of the cheerleaders, but no footage of the MMB. Disappointing.

* Speaking of cheerleaders, I wonder if this is the game where the live Wolverine mauled the cheerleader, leading Michigan to permanently abandon the mascot concept.

* Hey, you can see people shredding their Michigan Football Guides and tossing them into the air after a score. Some things never change. I wonder what the 1927 version of Punt/Counterpunt was like...

* On the last play of the footage, you can see that even 80 years ago, Michigan had problems containing a mobile Buckeye quarterback and finishing their tackles.

* By the way, Michigan went unscored upon in its first three games in the Big House. Navy scored 12 in the fourth game at Michigan Stadium to become the first opposing team to find paydirt at Michigan Stadium.

The Vault: M at Notre Dame 1978

Check out the modified pregame entrance the MMB deployed at Notre Dame in 1978. No doubt this was an alternate routine developed for stadiums with tunnels in the end zone. It starts about a minute in.

This is a wise idea, as many stadiums, including our major rivals' (MSU, OSU, and ND) all had these entrances. Entry lines form in the tunnel and off the sideline, then march toward each other until they intersect. They branch off into their regular alignment with a quick 90-degree turn (which is painful to think about while doing entries).

The band coverage then stops mysteriously without resolution while they blather about some guys. But so many questions persist! Why is one rank of flags hauling ass twenty yards downfield past the band? Why is the M centered on the 10 yard line? What happens next? Where does the M go? I know some folks who read this were in the band then (Al McCord?), and perhaps they can provide insight.

Monday, November 12, 2007

"It's a Know-Nothing Party School"

We turn to Detroit morning rush hour DJ Dick Purtan and his classic circa-1977 parody for the appropriate sentiment on this week's game.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Beat the Buckeyes

Nothing has changed since we beat MSU. OSU for the Roses. Can't wait to see these folks all over again. Go Blue!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

MSU In Pictures

We left my parents' house for East Lansing at 12:30, after my brother got home from work. On 696, we got a call letting us know that we should avoid 96, that it was a parking lot starting at Howell. We headed up 75 and west on I-69. My dad dropped my brother and I off at Grand River and Abbott. I had a vague idea about how to get to the stadium from there, but it really helped when I stumbled upon the Spartan Marching Band, lined up to parade over.

SMB at parade rest

SMB color guard

Our seats at Spartan Stadium were right in the middle of the Michigan section, which was good for me. Now I could be that much louder without risk.

MMB starts entries

MMB continues entries

Victors sweep lines

Pre-game was good, even if it was the abbreviated version. The backbend was perfect. One change was that the band exited the field by taking the M off onto the sideline opposite the press box.

SMB enters the field

I didn't notice at the time, but someone in the comments pointed out that one of the SMB snares fell over while doing kick-step, and I actually have a photo of it.

Snare falling over on kick-step

SMB Block S

Michigan enters the field

The cheerleaders entered the field ahead of our team, and did that whole "run around waving your flag in the other guy's face" thing. I don't really like that when other teams do it in our stadium, but it made for a good picture once they came over to the actual Michigan fans. Then we had a flyover of four F-16s. Note the wire for the ESPN skycam.


Zone left

Our first play from scrimmage was obviously zone left. Long and Butler crushed their guys, Moundros had a good block on his man, and Mike Hart was into the second level. Arrington looks like he's solid on this too.

Crushing blocks

Butler TD

The only Michigan TD on our end of the field all day was the Butler reception. The sun made this a bit fuzzy, but you can see it.

MMB halftime

The MMB did the Modern Broadway show again from the Minnesota game. Sparty wants to join our flags.

Defying Gravity

The band performed "Springtime For Hitler" from The Producers, "Dancing Queen" from Mama Mia (without the dance this time), and "Defying Gravity" from Wicked. I have better pictures of this show from the Minnesota game, and I'll hopefully get around to posting them this week.

SMB halftime

The SMB performed a '90's rock show that was decent, if kind of bland.

Final kickoff

Nothing good happened on our end of the field in the second half, but I had to pull out the camera again after the Manningham TD.


GLORIOUS VICTORY ACHIEVED! Additional pictures can be found here.

WTI: Watch out, Elle Driver

Geoff:  Last weekend, two of us were lucky enough to attend the 2007 edition of Michigan-MSU.  And to be there was glorious.
Craig:  And I was nearly throwing up in a living room in South Lyon, but a giant wall of HD is also glorious.
Jeremy:  I had seats in the MSU alumni section, and it was amazing how quickly their fans abandoned ship at the first sign of struggle.
Geoff:  You get your heart broken enough times, maybe you just can't hold on as tight.
Jeremy:  A psychologist could have a field day with why they're conditioned to do that.
Geoff:  I was over in the Michigan section, and that was rocking.
Craig:  And I was remembering why I am not a fan of Paul Maguire.
Geoff:  I was fortunate to be over there.  Less chance of someone starting a fight with me for being too obnoxious.
Jeremy:  The team is on a ruthless revenge tour, and OSU stands in the way between us and the greatest redemption story ever.
Craig:  So would that make Michigan State O-Ren Ishii, or just the Crazy 88?
Geoff:  I don't know.  Who fails more consistently?
Craig:  Say what you will, but O-Ren did build up a pretty good Yakuza crime syndicate before getting the top of her head lopped off.
Geoff:  There is no telling what I would do to secure a win over Ohio State this year.  At this point, there is nothing that could be sweeter.
Jeremy:  would you...  rest Henne and Hart vs.  Wisconsin?
Craig:  No.  I will get my Hattori Hanzo out to prevent that.  It's their career, it's the last two game of their careers, they know they want to beat tOSU.  It should be the call of a combination of the players, coaches, and medical staff.
Geoff:  If it meant a win over OSU, absolutely.  But I don't know that resting Henne helps at all.  Getting him and his receivers working in rhythm is terribly important.  And like Craig says, you can't hold them out of one of their last games in a Michigan uniform.
Jeremy:  Priority #1 should be keeping them as healthy as possible for OSU.  It sounds like neither one will hear a damn word of this "resting" business, so it will be on the coaches.  If Carr plays them and we lose to OSU, they'll say the guys weren't rested properly.  if he doesn't play them and we lose, they'll say it was because Hart and Henne were out of sync for not playing the week before.  But is that worth it for the chance to play them both weeks and win both weeks in an absolute blaze of glory?
Craig:  I have a feeling that if there is a loss to tOSU, it will not be due to Henne and Hart.
Geoff:  Agreed.  Beanie Wells scares the bejesus out of me, especially after what Caulcrick and Ringer were able to do.  Michigan wins very few games in which it is outgained on the ground.
Craig:  Agreed.  You know, I wanted to raise a theory.  Michigan seems to have trouble right out of the gate, as we have seen in each of the last three games.  Is this possibly because teams now run those 15 play scripts and so they have so tightly executed them during the week that any defense we throw at them will not be sufficient?
Geoff:  I think they have trouble out of the gate in a macro sense.  Look at the start of the season for an example on a larger scale.  Then they settle into whatever they're supposed to be doing.
Craig:  If only we could believe that we need to start playing from the word go...sigh.
Geoff:  I wonder if we're as predictable defensively as we are on the other side of the ball.  Scripted sequences would have an advantage in that case.
Jeremy:  We were in the Herrmann days.
Craig:  You know, we could raise this question with the Lord High Poobah of game film...
Geoff:  Jeremy, did you spend a lot of time in East Lansing before the game? We didn't get in until about an hour before game time, so we went right to the stadium.  Even accounting for that, I was surprised by how little abuse I took.
Jeremy:  We tailgated for 3 hours in the Farm Lane lot, which is the commuter lot, and took a shuttle in.  Everyone was cordial.
Geoff:  Yeah.  All I had was one guy who questioned my commitment to heterosexuality, which 1.) Way to put your homophobia out there, and 2.) Your team is the Spartans.  Everyone else left me alone.
Jeremy:  The best shirt I saw all day said "hail to the victors," with the ASU A, Oregon O, and Spartan S.  If you're going to base your pride on your opponent's struggles, that's admittedly a clever way to do it.
Geoff:  There was a woman a few rows ahead of me with a Grand Valley State hoodie.  I don't know if that was an intentional taunt, but I enjoyed it.
Jeremy:  I got a picture of a man wearing one who swears it was because his son goes there.  He was clearly tired of being harassed all morning, but I was supportive.
Jeremy:  What did you think of the bands and their shows?
Geoff:  MSU's '90's show was pretty good, if a little bland.  They did [something I can't remember], RHCP's "Higher Ground" cover, Aerosmith's "Eat the Rich", and No Doubt's "Spiderwebs".
Jeremy:  I do appreciate their efforts to cater directly to the student section, but "Spiderwebs" isn't exactly a roaring, crowd-energizing song.
Craig:  Honestly, were it not for Sirius 24, I don't know I would have remembered "Spiderwebs"...It's the backup long-snapper of No Doubt singles.
Geoff:  And is "Eat the Rich" really the one you're going to choose from Aerosmith? For that matter, '90's Aerosmith, really?
Craig:  From that album, really?
Jeremy:  Also, an amplified bass? Really?
Craig:  Isn't that standard Sparty practice? I know it is at the JLA for hockey.
Jeremy:  I did like their drum rack.  While gimmicky, it adds an extra dimension to the sound, and keeps the drumline stationary so they can focus more on their music.  The drill focused more on isolated shapes at the beginning, and once the rack was brought out, large symmetrical forms on either side.
Geoff:  Yeah.  And they had the drum break in the middle of the show.
Craig:  Did they have a washboard break?
Geoff:  No, no Beck.
Jeremy:  Um, OSU basketball just lost to D-II Findlay.
Geoff:  There's some sort of epidemic.
Craig:  I blame the Big Ten Network.
Geoff:  Thank you, Coach Beilein, for not losing to Ferris.
Craig:  Speaking of M Basketball...I am deeply encouraged by...the new Lights at Crisler.  The morgue is dead, so to speak.  It really pops now on video footage.
Geoff:  The highlights looked a lot sharper.  I want to see what it looks like inside now.
Craig:  I have secured my tickets for UCLA to do just that.
Geoff:  I hope to get to a game or two this year, especially since there's no way Comcast will be picking up the BTN any time soon.
Geoff:  Hockey had a nice weekend in Omaha.  It sounds like they didn't play their best, but managed to sweep the Mavericks anyway.  That's the kind of a weekend that you need to have if you want to compete for the CCHA title.
Craig:  Agreed.  Taking care of business at home and with what looks to be the lower rungs of the conference, that will bode well.
Geoff:  Miami looks scary.
Craig:  Miami looks like a machine and, I think, with their new rink, will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.  Of course, we should note their AD is Brad Bates, one of Bo's boys from the late 1970s.
Jeremy:  Having only seen box scores and Blog Yost Built recaps, it looks like Sauer is stepping up.
Geoff:  Sauer had a nice pair of games against BU.  Maybe he can put together at least a solid season, because the offense seems to be clicking.
Geoff:  Anyway, let's hope football can put it together against Wisconsin for a win, and that we come out of Madison healthier than East Lansing.
Craig:  Agreed.  I was really hoping for a night game in Madtown, but it looks like the great philosopher Jagger was right once more.
Jeremy:  In eleven days we could easily see Lloyd Carr end his time in Michigan stadium by being carried off the densely packed field on Jake Long and Shawn Crable's shoulders.  They need to do what it takes this week to make that happen.
Geoff:  Absolutely.
Craig:  Affirmed.
Geoff:  It's a win we desperately want and need.  Go blue.
Jeremy:  Go blue!
Craig:  Go Blue!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Bearing A Grudge

Saturday's kickoff will be, down to the minute, exactly 6 years after the one that started the 2001 Michigan-Michigan State game, better known to me and my friends as The Clock Game. No single game rankles more than this this one; not the Notre Dame Phantom Touchdown, not the I Hate The Sun Belt Alamo Bowl fiasco. The only one that comes close is the 1990 Desmond In The Endzone No-Call, but that was 17 years ago and even that pain eventually dulls. This one was special, just a total mess at the end. Officials, players, nobody did anything right.

I woke up early that morning and got on the trumpet bus to East Lansing. It was my first away game with the band, and I didn't know what to expect. Mostly sleeping until we got to East Lansing, then a lot of waiting in traffic. We headed right for the stadium and got ready to disembark in full uniform. On the artificial turf, we did a full rehearsal of our show for the week (A classical show with music from Fantasia – Sorceror's Apprentice, Pines of Rome, Rhapsody In Blue, Berceuse – Finale) and pre-game, then sat around with a boxed lunch. The Jumbotron and PA system were already up and running, vamping through a few segments. One of them had Missy Elliott's "Get Ur Freak On" as its backing track, and it played so many times that I went from liking the song to tolerating it to wanting to murder Timbaland with my bare hands.

Finally it was time for pregame. We were probably booed loudly, but I didn't hear anything but the drums and the rest of the band until we were back on the sidelines watching the Spartan Marching Band do that weird hitch thing they have in their entrance. Some doofus with foam muscles came out, and this was somehow inspiring to the Spartan faithful.

On the opening drive, we finally had MSU stopped at 4th and 11 on our 32 and they sent out the punting unit for an Incredibly Surprising Fake Punt. On the ensuing play, Charles Rogers drew a flag for pass interference that we all agreed was complete and total crap (Note: I've never seen a tape of this game). Two plays later, obviously it's Rogers catching a TD.

Michigan moved the ball on its first drive, but stalled out in the zone where I thought we'd be seeing a pooch punt. Instead, Hayden Epstein came on to kick a monster 57-yard field goal.

Taking a break from the action on the field, there is something walking up and down the sidelines calling itself "Willie Wolverine". Nobody knows what's up with this thing. It's a full-body wolverine costume outfitted in pads and a football uniform that looks somewhat unlicensed. The head looks like it might be papier mache. Is this a try-out for a new official mascot? Did someone make it himself? Is it a Spartan plant? I heard later that it was just some guy in a homemade costume who talked his way onto the field (nice security, MSU), but I don't know whether that's true.

Meanwhile, MSU marched back up the field on us, but the defense managed to hold them to a 51-yard Dave Rayner field goal try, which missed. Navarre led off the drive back the other way with a 22-yard pass to Marquis Walker. BJ Askew carried most of the load the for another 31 yards on 6 carries until Navarre again found Walker, this time in the endzone on a 14-yard pass to give us a 10-7 lead.

The Spartans answered with a solid kick return and a 63-yard, 10-play drive. TJ Duckett and Dawan Moss carried the load, gaining 41 on the ground and Duckett scoring on a two-yard TD run. But the key play was a 3rd down on the Michigan 13 where Charles Rogers again drew a PI call on a Michigan defender. I remember this one as marginally less fraudulent, but it was another penalty giving Michigan State extra chances to score.

The Spartans pinned us deep in our own territory to start the next drive, kicking a touchback. But Walker and Navarre hit a big pass of 38 yards to move us across the 50 and connected again on a 32-yard TD pass. The half ended with Michigan staking a somewhat surprising 17-14 lead, given the way Duckett was running.

The halftime show was one of the best of my career in the MMB. I just remember being really nervous, but hitting my marks and knowing the music cold. "Rhapsody In Blue" featured a big, fast follow-the-leader section that we'd worked on a lot. "Berceuse & Finale" was majestic. We were met with mostly indifference, which is as good as you can expect up there.

We got the ball to open the second half, but didn't do anything with it. MSU came pounding down the field the other way. They made it all the way to the 9, and then it looked like TJ Duckett scored the go-ahead TD. Except for the flag on the field. Holding. On the repeated 3rd down, Shantee Orr came in and sacked Smoker for a 7-yard loss. Dave Rayner missed his second field goal of the day, a 44-yard attempt.

But Evil Navarre had come out of the locker room for the second half, and the rest of the offense wasn't making up for him. Near the end of the 3rd quarter, Navarre threw a pick near midfield that Duron Bryan returned to our 38. Duckett carried the ball on all six ensuing plays, but MSU had to settle for a 27-yard Rayner chip-shot FG to tie the game.

Evil Navarre wasn't yet finished with us. He threw another pick to Bryan, this time well inside our own territory. Bryan returned this one to the 29, and things were looking bad, but the defense rose up. I didn't realize how bad it was at the time, but Smoker was getting absolutely hammered all day by the pass rush. He was sacked for the tenth (10th!) time as the Spartan drive went backwards out of FG range.

The offense couldn't get any traction, and Michigan State kept moving the ball on a defense that must have been a little tired by now, and the pass rush couldn't crush everything. Smoker hooked up with Rogers for 29 yards, and Duckett had a 27-yard run on another Spartan drive that went deep into Michigan territory, but again they had to settle for a FG from Rayner, this time from 26 yards out.

But eventually that pass rush had to come up with something, and Smoker finally put the football on the ground. Grant Bowman picked it up at the MSU 38, giving Navarre and Co. a short field to work with. There were only two significant plays on the drive, but Calvin Bell took a reverse for 21 yards to move us a lot closer. Then, on 3rd and 13, we went 5-wide and Jermaine Gonzales hauled in a 20-yard touchdown pass from Navarre to put us up 24-20 with 4:44 left to play. It was completely insane, and it worked. Marquise Walker probably had about 7 guys on him, because nobody else was catching anything all day, but our backup QB was open for one huge reception.

We almost gave it all back immediately. Herb Haygood took the kickoff and ran it out to midfield. But the defense was good enough to force a punt, which Marquise Walker was dumb enough to field inside our own 5 instead of hoping for the touchback. He made it to the 7. We of course ran it into the line three times, if memory serves, and punted it away with 2:28 left. Epstein did his best, but MSU came up with it on our 44.

Immediately Smoker was sacked again by Shantee Orr. Another two incompletions, and it was 4th and 16. The pass fell incomplete. But Jeremy LeSueuer had committed an obvious and blindingly stupid illegal hands to the face penalty, giving MSU a fresh set of downs. MSU then converted another 3rd down pass to save their drive.

Michigan responded with another huge sack of Smoker with 0:36 left in the ballgame. But then a flag came in for illegal participation.

On the field, I assumed that we'd just been dumb enough to play with 12 men and I was furious about that. But look at the video. I only count 11 at first, just like Brandstatter. If you let it go a little bit, there's a guy way in the backfield that could either be a Michigan player or a ref, it's too grainy for me to tell. I'd like to rip them a new one, but it might be legit. At any rate, we had to play on. LeSueuer broke up a 3rd down pass in the endzone, but Duckett reeled in the 4th down try to give State a first down on our 3. Smoker successfully executed the spike and we called a timeout.

On the next play, Smoker rolled the pocket right, then pulled down the football and ran. I thought I felt the earth open up under me. I saw the hole and I saw the game end and...then Marlin Jackson and Jon Shaw tackled him. I didn't know if it was in time, I kept looking for the officials to signal a touchdown, but it never came. There were 7 seconds left on the clock and MSU was frantically trying to get lined up for the spike. 4...3...2...1...0. WE WIN! Wait. Where's zero? Where the hell is zero? That clock should've run out, there is no way that clock didn't run out. That ball did NOT hit the ground with any time left in the game. This is BULLSHIT. Oh, Jesus. They have one more play. Christ, we're going to lose. Smoker drops back, Duckett's waving his arms around, wide open, I can see an egregious uncalled hold on Larry Stevens from 90 YARDS AWAY and where is the damn flag this time? but there goes the football and Duckett has it. This is such bullshit. Robert Flagg, of Carol City, FL, recognizable by his gold-plated grill, comes over to spit at our band.

We're supposed to play a postgame concert with the SMB, but we're hustled out of there before there's a chance for an incident. Jeering awaits us on the other side of the tunnel, but we make it back to their band hall without any real trouble. Most of the SMB members adopt the attitude of "This was completely sketchy, but you will pry this win from our cold, dead fingers," which isn't too galling to take. We got back on our buses and headed back to Ann Arbor, filled with a hate that would linger.

In 2002 we won 49-3 and Bobby Williams was fired.


It's so delicious and moist

[Editor's note: This is a reference to Portal. Probably three people will get it.]