Tuesday, September 30, 2008

"Nobody's Doormat"

Rich Rodriguez and son lead the Victors Walk

The DirecTV blimp makes a stop in Ann Arbor

Badger badger badger badger badger badger badger

Block M and Block M

Michael Phelps and other Michigan Olympians are honored during pregame

A different stadium panorama

You don't often see MMB members facing different ways, but it's part of Wisconsin's old school marching style. Five plumes would be lost this halftime, but we don't have room to talk when our drum major loses his in pregame.

I feel like I've seen this already.



The Block M looks a little ragged in the celebration, but that seems appropriate.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Learning Photoshop

This image comes from yesterday's game and I was successfully able to merge four photos into one panoramic shot of Michigan Stadium before the game started.

Enjoy the original size here.

Don't Stop Believin'...

I was standing there in Section 15, Row 86 watching a debacle of a first half and trying to figure out what I was going to say about this week's game. Would I write about missed opportunities, or would it be about fumbles, or about how the defense was being let down by the offense and special teams? As I thought about this, Carl popped on over the PA and asked us to vote for which song the MMB would play in the third/fourth quarter break. I voted for the Zeppelin medley, because, well, it's Zep, but I knew that Journey would win out, it would be "Don't Stop Believin'"

At halftime, we were asked to "Save Cody" and while it was awesome, I was worried about who would Save Michigan.

Turns out, it would be Journey.

This column was going to be an open letter to the University of Wisconsin, calling out the representative sample of their fans who were seated near us as the most profane, belligerent, drunken, and overall negative fans I have ever had the displeasure to be associated with. With virtually two out of every three words coming out of their mouths either being an expletive or some dig on Michigan, it was hard to take. When they started mocking us with "It sucks...to be...a Michigan Wolverine", I just had to swallow my rage, because what else could I do? I sincerely hope that Michigan fans aren't like this on the road, and I don't believe they are, but I implore you, Michigan fans, when you go on the road, be respectful, polite, positive, and responsible. Don't be like the Badger fans we sat near. No one needs that. More on the opposing fans later.

When Michigan got a first down on the first offensive play of the second half, a huge sarcastic cheer went up for the maize and blue, but I noticed something, it was still a pretty solid crowd. Somehow being down 19-0 with just 20 yards on 20 plays (as Craig James later pointed out) in the first half had not dampened the spirits of Michigan fans. But no gain, +4, -5 and Michigan was forced to punt. (Side note: Lost in the heroes of yesterday must be Space Emperor Zoltan, who was fantastic on his directional punts, and averaged better than 41 yards per kick. Fielding Yost believed the game could be won on field position, and Zoltan's efforts yesterday should be acknowledged and celebrated.) It was progress, but only the smallest amount thereof. But Wisconsin's next drive, while lasting 11 plays and nearly six minutes, it only consumed 42 yards and Michigan had the ball back on the 20. It was time to go to work.

Threet's first pass fell incomplete, but then a 13 yarder to Greg Matthews for a first down and another sarcastic roar from the Big House crowd. A few plays later, and it's Kevin Grady following Mark Moundros through the hole to convert a fourth and one. It was big, but only because nothing else had been big to that point. Behind me, I heard the Wisconsin fans say something to the effect of "I don't know man, this is making me nervous, we should be up by more." I looked at it and I realized, it was possible. But you need to start with a touchdown. Eight plays later, Stephen Threet would find freshman tight end (wait, we still have those?) Kevin Koger for a 26 yard touchdown pass. I got up and cheered and commented, to no one in particular that "Hey, we're not dead yet." Badger fan just pointed at his watch and said "Not enough time." I thought to myself "Sure there is, if they can score 19 in the first half, we can score 20 in the second half."

My concern was now that the defense would just give it right back. The Big House was alive, loud when the Wolverines were on defense, and what everybody rooting Michigan on wanted was a three and out. Mission accomplished. There's plenty of time if you keep getting the ball back in just two minutes. But Michigan still needed scores, and they needed sevens, not threes. A Badger fan behind me yelled "This Stadium is SO BORING. PLAY MUSIC. Do SOMETHING." I was struck by the fact that there's something charmingly old school about Michigan football. We don't need gimmicks (though AT&T's partnership with the Athletic Department is foisting more than a few gimmicks on to us in the stadium. It's not really advertising if you're not actually advertising, right?)

As the Badger fans behind us did an a capella rendition of "Jump Around", at the other end of the field, Michigan's band was belting out "Don't Stop Believin'" and we were all in. We had full faith in the possibility that this comeback could happen, but I think many a Michigan fan was in the midst of a "doveryai, no proveryai" moment. A third and ten to start the fourth quarter was not exactly looking like it was going to work. Sure enough, two plays later, Zoltan was punting out of Michigan's end zone and the defense needed to save the day once again. They did it. A quick three and out and Michigan had the ball back on its own 15 and my belief that some form of specific, but unknown threat had been passed down by the Michigan coaches at half-time about the next player to turn the ball over seemed to be gathering evidence.

Greg Mathews made plays, with or without Stephen Threet's help, sometimes right on the numbers, other times leaping moving, and showing off his whole skill set. Michigan facing a 3rd and 15 and the drive looking dead was saved by a 15 yard roughing the passer call. Odoms for eight and then Threet's Semi-Fleet Feet scrambling for seven, and now it's Michigan 45 yards out and hitting Brandon Minor for 11 yards, and then Minor again, with a burst on a 34 yard rush. Now it was Wisconsin 19, Michigan 14 and momentum and the potential for something was afoot. For just the second time in twelve years of going to Michigan football games together, Dave turned to me and said "Uh oh, ______ hears footsteps." The first time was in 2004, when Sparty heard them. This time, it was Bucky's turn. The Badger fans behind us went from belligerent to angry, threatening to "kick the crap" out of the Michigan fan next to him. (Admittedly, I do think this was provoked, but I wasn't watching what happened behind me. The game was on the field. I did, however, use Michigan's new text message alerting system to let stadium personnel going on that we had a developing situation, but they did not arrive until the point was moot.)

So now you have ten minutes left and you are down five. You need something more. A three and out and a short field would be good, but a turnover would be better. John Thompson understands "better". He snagged a tipped pass out of the air, and started to rumble towards the end zone. But he needed help, and he got it, in the form of what Frank Beckmann called a "convoy" and what John Saunders called a "Spanish Armada". Touchdown, Michigan and the entire Big House is in pandemonium. As Section 15's upper reaches awaited a potential two point conversion, a cheer went up "It's great...to be...a Michigan Wolverine." It was, in my mind, premature, but I could hardly blame my fellow fans. They had heard it for three quarters from Badger fans, and now Wisconsin didn't even have "Scoreboard." They had heard the chants of "Notre Dame" and "Appalachian" and now Michigan had a lead, an improbable, unexpected, wholly confusing on some level lead, and though the two point conversion failed, Michigan was up one.

As an historian by trade, and a college football historian by passion, I knew too damn well than to start celebrating. A one point lead with 10:24 left to play is nothing. Everything could fall apart, and too often, the rally saps the team playing from behind of the emotion and the rally falls short in the end. But I had a theory, that this could hold. If Barwis was the relentless task master he was said to be, maybe superior conditioning could win the day. Michigan could still have something left in the tank. But they needed another quick stop to really make sure that this did not sour the exuberance that was filling the Big House at that moment.

4, -1, 6 left Wisconsin with 4th and 1 at their own 31, a punt put Michigan at its own 23, and there was 8:14 left to go. Michigan needed one more long drive, and a touchdown would be a dagger. It wouldn't seal the game, but it would make Wisconsin's job harder, because now they were the ones who didn't have enough time.

The first play, in my eyes, saw Brandon Minor get absolutely clocked by a Wisconsin defender and I thought "OK, maybe a loss of one...wait a second, why is Stephen Threet still....oh my God, he has the ball, Threet is running the ball!" Just like the comeback in the Metrodome in 2003, this was our Water Buffalo Stampede (actually, looking back, that would be the Thompson Interception, but I digress...) and Threet was covering the ball as if he had a diamond, first one hand, and then both arms. He was not losing the ball. No way, no how.

I've seen drives like this before, the one big play that gets you inside the red zone, only to falter when the defense stiffens. After the pass had been working, Michigan was now going to keep it on the ground. Grady for 4, McGuffie for 10, McGuffie for 2, Threet for nothing (bad snap, good recovery. It was a beige alert), Third and goal, and Boom, Sam slips it in. Lopata gets the Extra Point, and all of the sudden Michigan is up 8. It's real now, all too real, and it could slip away all too quickly.

If Wisconsin was going to rally, they now just had 5 minutes to move the ball 73 yards, because they needed the touchdown and a two point conversion. Surely somewhere, someone was cursing that missed field goal early in the first half, but nevertheless, this was the reality of now for the Badgers. Plus, the Brewers were losing, so it was not going well for them at all. I had shifted down a row into some empty seats in an attempt to build a DMZ between myself and the Badger fans, just in case.

Michigan's defense looked like it was bend, bend, bend, bend, allowing a large number of big plays, and all of the sudden, it was still loud, but now Michigan was the nervous fan base. Would everything that had happened be for naught? But no, Brandon Graham and Terrence Taylor ended a drive with a sack and fumble recovery. But now Michigan has the ball on its own eight and Wisconsin still has all three times out left. +3. Time out. +1. Time out. +3. Time out. 4th and three and Michigan punts, with Zoltan lofting one 49 yards out of bounds. Wisconsin will give it one last try from their own 36. A buck 19 left, and no times out, made tougher by a Brandon Graham sack for -7 on the first play.

I was not at Colorado in 1994, but I know that Colorado was going North to South. But every great Michigan comeback at the Big House had them going towards the North Endzone. Notre Dame in 1991, Virginia in 1995, Michigan State in 2004, all of the action was at that end. Now Wisconsin was heading that way and I began to wonder, as Wisconsin's hurry up looked really good, if the magic works both ways. When Everidge found Gilreath in the end zone from 22 yards out, it looked like perhaps it did (Note: Stevie Brown should get some credit here, as he laid a hit on Gilreath that SHOULD have knocked the ball loose, but alas, no dice.) Now it would all come down to a two point conversion, and if that worked, we were looking at overtime.

Michigan Stadium is a wonderful place to watch a game, but on occasion, when you're in one end zone, it is difficult to tell what is happening in the other. So I didn't realize that Travis Beckum has lined up in an illegal formation, I just saw he had caught the ball. Dave saw the flag, the hope, the chance. Sure enough, it was an ineligible man down field. Michigan had another chance, and this time, Everidge would sail the ball out of the back of the end zone (noted later on the highlights, it knocked the hat off an Ann Arbor police officer when the errant pass hit him in the head.)

The mood was jubilant, but I wasn't ready to celebrate yet. There were 13 seconds left on the clock and I knew an onside kick was coming. Colorado taught me many things and one is, only 0:00 assures a final result. But the onside kick went out of bounds safely, Threet returned, and victory formation was on.

Everything is better when your team wins, and it's magnified with a magnificent comeback. As I walked back to the Z's tailgate for some post game decompression, I got a text message from my fiancee that said everything I needed to know about her and about the game "This is why you watch football." And this is why you don't stop believin'. Because every so often, you see the impossible become the improbable, and the improbable become reality. A season may have been saved, a new program has a signature win, and we get to do to it all again next week.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Save Cody: 09/27/08

The Best Years

I have a premise I am pondering, but before I write up my research on it, allow me to pose the question to you, the reader.

Strictly from a football standpoint, and nothing else, if you could pick any four year period in Michigan history since 1968 to have been a Michigan student, what would it be and why?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

BTB Roundtable - Week 4

I have requested entry into the Big Ten Bloggers Roundtable, and while I wait for approval, I am going to answer this week's questions, provided by Lake the Posts

1). The national media is using the Big Ten Conference as a punching bag in 2008 ranking us somewhere between the Big East and the MAC. Based on Ohio State's no-show, Purdue's "APPLE!!!" and Michigan's debacle, it is redemption week in Big Ten Country. However, several teams have very respectable, yet no-name teams (ie. Troy, Central Michigan, Ball State). Tell us how the Big Ten will respond this week in the final week before conference play.

My handy helmet schedule matrix tells me that while the aforementioned games give the Big T1e1n a shot at redemption, a photo opportunity, only Michigan State's game against Notre Dame will stand out, and even then, we really don't know if Notre Dame is good or just able to convert on short fields and gift-wrapped fumbles and Michigan ended up a cartoon in a cartoon graveyard. Iowa's game at Pitt probably looked a lot better on paper when the season began and I will be interested to see how the Hawkeyes handle their first trip outside Kinnick. Overall, I think we'll see seven wins, with the loss likely coming in West Lafayette or at Heinz Field.

2) The conference standings look like someone took the 2007 results and flipped it upside down. Which of the undefeated teams are contenders and which are pretenders (another way of saying which teams have put lipstick on a pig)? Recalibrate your preseason rankings and tell us who the conference favorites are now.

I think it has to be Penn State, hurt only by the fact that they have Ohio State in Columbus the week after playing Michigan in Happy Valley, which, while it may not have the allure of previous meetings, does have Michigan's nine game winning streak to deal with psychologically and emotionally. Ohio State is still a leading contender, but I worry about the emotional letdown of a season that is, on some level, lost to all of those guys who came back. That said, pride is a powerful thing, as witnessed by the eight game winning streak rolled off by Michigan last year after The Horror and Fell on Black Days. Michigan State, though not undefeated, has a legitimate chance to go into October 18 with a 6-1 record. The problem for Sparty is that they then run into a four game stretch of home against OSU (who comes off their schedule next year), at Michigan (where they have not won since they invoked the Curse of Eddie Brown in 1990), and then hosting Wisconsin and Purdue. If Sparty can survive that, all of the sudden, their showdown with at Beaver Stadium on the last week of the season takes on a huge set of implications. I don't see it happening though.

3) Javon Ringer has emerged as the early season best-bet Heisman hopeful from the Big Ten. Real deal or non-conference smoke screen? Does anyone from the Big Ten have a prayer for the Heisman, or is it too late?

Ringer is a great runner and one of the few MSU players who legitimately scares me every time he touches the ball. I don't know that he can keep it up, and even if he does, I think the perceptions of the Big Ten's overall weakness this year will demand nearly superhuman numbers on his part to keep himself in the race. I don't know if anyone else can get themselves into the mix, but I also don't see that any player has really distinguished himself as the favorite, unless we count Tebow being the favorite as he is the defending champion?

4) After three weeks it is time to give your team a new slogan. What is it and why is it what it is?

"Disappointed but not discouraged". Coach Rod said this at his press conference after the Notre Dame game and I think it sums it up perfectly. If you've watched Michigan, the whole game, not just the highlights, you have seen things that make you scratch your head and you have likely been disappointed, particularly in the drives that died in the red zone due to slippery fingers. But I'm not discouraged, in part because I have seen growth. There are clearly still things to work on, but, by the same token, they are being worked on. Threet's passing is crisper and more accurate, McGuffie is slipping defenses, and the defense adjusts like no one's business in the second half. The question is whether they can come out with a better plan in the first half to minimize the damage done before the bands take the field.

5) By now, you've likely adopted a favorite non Big Ten team to watch. Flex your football worldliness by convincing your fellow Big Ten Kool-Aid drinkers to watch your "other" team.

I'm a buffet college football watcher, in that I'll always watch Michigan, then the other Big Ten teams, and then whatever is on. I've always been a faux alumnus of Northwestern, but that doesn't work here, so allow me to make a case for Jim Grobe's Wake Forest Demon Deacons, the Northwestern of the Atlantic Coast. Sure, they play in the ACC, the only other conference taking as big a beating as the Big Ten of late (I don't count the Pac-10, because, say what you will about the other nine, USC covers a lot of sins.) Wake is the third smallest school in Division I-A and has the smallest undergraduate enrollment of any BCS school. They run the spread capably with Riley Skinner at the helm, have a relatively favorable schedule (Clemson, Virginia, and BC all come to Winston-Salem, avoiding GT and VT in the Coastal crossovers) and they have Florida State this week (on ESPN2), a team that hasn't really gelled yet (to wit: Wake has downed two schools from BCS conferences, Florida State has beaten Western Carolina and Chattanooga by a combined score of 115-7, and Wake has won the last two meetings after losing 14 straight to the Seminoles.) The Deacs have had a thrilling non-conference win already by eeking out a victory over the Right Rev. Nutt's Rebels on a last second field goal two weeks ago, and their Atlantic Division showdown against Clemson will be an ESPN Thursday night game. Grobe is also another great story. A West Virginia born coach (like Rich Rod and Fielding Yost), Grobe played both middle guard and linebacker at Virginia, was an assistant coach under Fisher DeBerry at Air Force, has MAC experience with Ohio, and doesn't get recognized in the Winston-Salem Waffle House, even while wearing a Wake Forest football t-shirt. He also was my "the timing's wrong, but he'd be a great fit" choice for Coach Carr's replacement.

Hey, that was fun!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Take a Picture

So, Deadspin points out that Erin Andrews is the new spokesmodel for Replay Photos, wearing a series of interchangeable college t-shirts for whichever school you happen to be looking at.

The Deadspin link pointed to the Oklahoma store, but making a solid guess, I typed in Michigan, and sure enough, we have one. No Erin Andrews, but we have one.

As it is with these things, they cannot remember it for you wholesale. You're paying premium prices here, but two shots that may be of interest to MMB members 1 would include this one and this one.

There are also some nice shots of the interior of the stadium 2, but the general selection is quite limited.3

1--Clearly the photographer(s) made the call that Chad Henne was the most beloved member of the Michigan '07s, so if you heart Hart, you're a little out of luck.

2--Maddeningly, the long aerial photo of Michigan Stadium...HALO!


Monday, September 15, 2008

Book Review: Historic Photos of University of Michigan Football

(review by Craig Barker)

Michelle O'Brien's new book Historic Photos of University of Michigan Football is a thoroughly wonderful look back at the first century of football in Ann Arbor, from the cap clad gentlemen who became the first intercollegiate team formed west of Pennsylvania to Anthony Carter's Homecoming game catch against Indiana in 1979, the photos collect many of the iconic images of the winningest team in the history of Division I football.

Building on Turner Publishing's Historic Photos series, particularly the Historic Photos of the University of Michigan, published last year, Ms. O'Brien makes deft and quality use of the resources of the Bentley Historical Library to show the obvious (the first Rose Bowl team, center Gerald Ford from the 1934 team, the various National Championship teams, Bo, the aforementioned Carter grab), the iconic (including a personal favorite picture of mine, Fielding Yost walking in front of Yost Field House), and the surprisingly deep (Louis Elbel conducting the MMB in the Victors in 1952, 54 years after he write the song or Michigan's "legendary" Block M card section from Ferry Field as featured on the cover).

Enhancing the photos, lovingly rendered on glossy pages in vivid black and white are some wonderful captions which provide context, trivia, and detail. As you progress through the book, you feel the story of Michigan football being told to you, piece by piece. Also enjoyable is the number of photos of the Michigan Marching Band, from its humble origins to "The Chief" William Revelli.

There are a number of small things in the book which caught my attention, like the fact that Michigan's current "Go Blue" banner is much newer than I though, as the 1974 version clearly is in a different font, that in 1965, Michigan's road jersey had a block M on the sleeve, and the strangest one, to me at least, empty end zone seats in the 1950s. As you read through this book again and again, you will notice more and more details, making something great even better.

The only fault I can find with this book is that it stopped in 1979, which, while a logical look at the first century of Michigan football, it would have been nice, in my mind, to go through 1989 and round the Bo era out. Perhaps that can come in a sequel?

All in all a wonderful effort, Ms. O'Brien has done herself and Michigan football's heritage proud.

If you can believe your eyes

As trite as it might be, this past weekend clearly showed me that you cannot always trust what you see, and that belief, built upon seeing, is, on occasion, fatally flawed.

This weekend marked the third annual Hoover Street Rag road trip. It was posited that if we were ever going to "do" Notre Dame, this year might be the year to do it. Of course, this was when Coach Carr was still the head coach, Ryan Mallett was still the once and future Michigan quarterback, and Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington were still going to be here to catch those artillery shells that Mallett would toss. But, things change, people change, situations change.

So we headed out to South Bend through a pretty large system of rain. Rain the entire way there. On the Indiana Toll Road, the Escape we were riding in got a toll ticket that told us our toll would be $12 for our trip. That was wrong. We presumed that because of the rain we were driving through, we would be soaking wet by the time we got to the game, and yet, we arrived in South Bend to discover overcast skies, but little rain. We attended the UMAA tailgate, meeting up with Jeremy wholly by accident (but marking the first time where all three of us have been in two meter radius, at least of which we were aware.) We walked down through campus, taking in the sights, particularly the close, campus feel of Notre Dame, nearly being run down by the Irish guard (thankfully they provided a proper verbal warning to us), seeing the Golden Dome and the Grotto and the Hesburgh Library. I think the first thing that struck me was that, for years, I have hated Notre Dame, because Notre Dame ruined my year for many years when I was first truly becoming a Michigan fan. Reggie Ho or Rocket Ismail, or various other shamrock shenanigans, it didn't matter, I hated them. I hated their arrogance, their singular belief that they were God's ordained team, and the fact that they kind of owned Michigan. But, on campus, there was little if any smack talked. Every Notre Dame person in an official capacity welcomed me to Notre Dame, and I genuinely felt like they meant it. How can you hate a place where everyone is being really nice to you. (By the way, just to throw this out, the most smack talked to the group during the day came from...Michigan State fans. Seriously. They took time to lob some lame, out of place verbal smack across a street from their tailgate. It was strange to say the least.)

I walked in to Notre Dame Stadium and the first thing that struck me is that all of the times I had been told about how it was a near replica of Michigan Stadium were true. Wider row areas, not as tall, built up rather than down, but I felt like I was at home, except Michigan was in white and a mural of Christ the Teacher was looming over the North End. (personal note: I have promised not to refer to the mural of Jesus on the Hesburgh Library any longer as "Touchdown Jesus" in the presence of my fiancee. She feels it's a little sacrilegious, and I can do that for her.) The parallel began to develop in my mind.

In the Scrubs episode "My New God", Cheryl Hines plays Paige Cox, Dr. Perry Cox's very pious sister. They're exceptionally similar in personality, world view, and attitude, except Perry is not a fervent believer and Paige is. It's Michigan and Notre Dame. In the football realm, we're like the Cox siblings, not many people may like us, they may find us arrogant, off-putting, obnoxious, and we may drive the other crazy, but that could be, in part, because we're more alike that we want to admit.

Also, I need to express some admiration for the Notre Dame student section. They clearly have their act together. The arm motions and the chanting was quite impressive, particularly from across the stadium. And, as I admitted to Geoff, I now understand why the dark blue student shirt doesn't work. While impressive on one level, it also just doesn't "wow" like the maize does.

I don't want to recount too much of the game itself. I don't do it well, my memory fails me a little too often on sequencing, and there are plenty of other places to get it. But there were some things that stand out, aside from turnovers. The offense looked more than competent, except for the holding on to the ball part. Sam McGuffie seemed like a man bound and determined to live up to his own hype (bouncing off your own player to pinball your way to a touchdown can help that cause.) Steven Threet seemed like someone who found a way to realign the gun sights. But at the end of the day, you must possess the ball, and you must make the most of your opportunities.

It was 28-17 at the half as the MMB took the field to revisit their boy band show, and I had already thrown up the hood on my raincoat and zipped up tight. But I knew Michigan was done. 11 points can be made up, particularly since the defense looked like it was stiffening (and had played better in the second half of each of the previous games), but when you're playing in a deluge, it's going to be difficult to hold on to the ball. And that's what happened. Notre Dame won the game because they made the most of what was given to them. Good teams do that.

So where are we now? Michigan is 1-2 and heading in to the bye week. I know that, like Coach Rod, I am disappointed, but not discouraged. I know that Michigan must be better if it does not want 2008 to become a lost season. I know that Michigan has looked better than it did in the first two games, in both senses of the word. But this is what I am seeing.

And appearances can be deceiving.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

WTI: Ineligible Downfield Receiver Jesus

Craig:  Good evening ladies and gentlemen and welcome to Whatever This Is: I'm Craig, and I'm a Virgo...
Geoff:  And I'm Geoff, a Taurus. I enjoy long walks on the beach and watching Jimmah! Clausen bleed.
Jeremy:  I'm a Gemini with similar interests to Geoff. Especially the last one. But especially the beaches.
Craig:  We will get to the offense and Notre Dame in a few, but first, the band!
Geoff:  I think we started off with a couple of strong shows, even if one of those was a surprise.
Craig:  I had the interesting thing where I sat diametrically opposite to my previous seats, so I have been Northwest and Southeast corners during the last two weeks
Craig:  The first show was the Who, one I was pre-disposed to enjoy
Jeremy:  The Who show had identifiable sets, like a pinball path for a large silver ball to travel through and empty out of at the end of the song
Geoff:  Yeah. I enjoyed the GO BLUE set it ended with.
Craig:  I thought the set was solid...But I always think I am more critical of the band when the team is losing at half-time...
Geoff:  The crowd is more receptive when the team is winning, and that can affect perception.
Craig:  I also felt that it, ironically, lacked a little bit of volume (considering the band being covered), but I chalked that up to seat position
Geoff:  I thought the Who show was very good in practice, but a bit more subdued at halftime. I'd say it was decent volume, but by no means overpowering
Jeremy:  I think they've increased the volume from last year, but not quite to the point where it needs to be. (That point is peeling the faces off Row 90 during M Fanfare.)
Craig:  But I did think the arrangements were exceptionally sound and crisp. It did not sound like someone's artistic interpretation of the works of Pete Townshend, but rather a faithful rendition, lovingly performed, with appropriate flourishes along the way
Geoff:  Pregame volume seemed good, but tones and colors seemed to still prevail in halftime.
Geoff:  You can count on Boerma for good arrangements. I always trust that the music side of things will be taken care of.
Jeremy:  Yep, Boerma's made a career out of great arrangements.
Craig:  This week's show I thought proved to me an interesting notion...Stripped of their lyrics, boy band songs are exceptional pop music pieces. And I thought that a not insignificant portion of the student section was clearly in to it.
Jeremy:  I had seats in the student section. The vast majority of the girls LOVED it. The guys grumbled at first -- probably just as they did on family car trips when their sisters made them listen to these same songs -- but eventually embraced it.
Geoff:  Boy band songs are written by professionals who know how to structure a song and build it out of the right chords.
Craig:  Trained professionals Geoff?
Geoff:  A crack technical staff.
Craig:  As opposed to a technical staff on crack...zing!
Craig:  I will be interested to see how the show plays at Notre Dame Stadium
Geoff:  I think the show worked so well because of the commitment of the band, the quality of the arrangements, and the tongue-in-cheek acknowledgements of how cheesy the songs are.
Jeremy:  I think once people realize this is an over-the-top homage and not a sincere, heartfelt performance, they warm up to it.
Geoff:  See, that's always the question I've had since we saw the lineup. It sounds like a good one to do at home, because you can rely on the friendly audience and your target demographic in the student section to see it through. Obviously, this wouldn't play at all at Spartan Stadium or the 'Shoe, but I don't know what to expect from Notre Dame.
Craig:  I'm suspecting polite indifference.
Jeremy:  and ND fans are nothing if not polite.
Craig:  Then again, I will also be interested to see how the offense plays this weekend at Notre Dame Stadium...
Geoff:  We have an offense?
Craig:  Rumors on the internets say...yes!
Jeremy:  The forecast calls for a 90% chance of rain, which might help us, since it's not like we'd complete a forward pass anyway.
Geoff:  An important point. Tacopants had EPIC stats last Saturday.
Craig:  It's just sad that Tacopants is ineligible for the Heisman.
Geoff:  The rain might require something of a running game from us, and I'm not entirely comfortable with that either.
Craig:  You need Hosses on the offensive line, to quote Keith Jackson, and we have Little Joes.
Craig:  But the maddening thing was, the first series, the offense looked like an unstoppable juggernaut
Craig:  Starting with a 50 yard play by Odoms
Geoff:  If the line can even be passable, we have enough guys that someone will come through, I have to believe. And if Threet decides to keep his passes low enough that air traffic control doesn't get involved, I think he could be a Division I (FBS) quarterback.
Craig:  He needs less tangy zip is what you're saying.
Jeremy:  I wasn't terrified of the UFRs. Rodriguez is making good calls, we just have to MAKE PLAYS.
Jeremy:  And not ask Steven Threet to run the option in Hurricane Katrina.
Jeremy:  mgoblog probably made that joke already though.
Geoff:  It's one worth repeating
Geoff:  /choking sounds
Craig:  Maybe this is where we need a Grady?
Geoff:  This is where you'd expect him to be more effective, but I'm worried that he hasn't shown the vision you need with a suspect line.
Craig:  Yes, find the hole, hit the hole.
Craig:  I think, end of the day, I don't think any of us truly realized how spoiled we were in the Henne/Hart/Long era
Jeremy:  were we as spoiled in year 1 as we were in year 4 though?
Craig:  Year 1 had Braylon...
Geoff:  Not as spoiled. But we still made a Rose Bowl.
Jeremy:  right, thanks to Iowa.
Geoff:  Right now we're crashing back to the early Navarre Era
Craig:  As much as I was maddened by the inability to complete a ten yard pass, it really isn't fair to Threetidan that Mathews was out and Hemingway's appearances were as brief as his namesake's sentences. Period.
Geoff:  Losing your (arguably) top two receivers will punish any offense, let alone one as green as this one.
Jeremy:  And then your left tackle goes out with an elbow injury.
Geoff:  At this point, I'm hoping that the offense does enough not to beat itself and that the defense has a good day.
Craig:  I have read repeatedly that Michigan's defensive line will be the best unit on the field, and that will be enough to carry the day I agree on the former, and hope the latter is correct.

As an aside, I was finding myself maddened by the defense until I stepped back and said "Wait, they've allowed two field goals. That's pretty darn good." Sometimes you just need to take a breath
Jeremy:  the rain in the forecast could make mean Yackety Sax gets looped three or four times in this year's version.
Geoff:  Brian's made some good points about our defense: The line has been dominating, even if it hasn't been obvious at the time. Linebacker play has been spotty, corners have been good, and safety has been an adventure.
Craig:  That's very true.
Craig:  By the way, can either of you give me a worry/no worry on Lopata after last Saturday
Jeremy:  I feel like his UFRs assign points based on his seething rage at the time. Since we won, we saw -1s for Stevie Brown where we'd otherwise see -3s. What I'm saying is, he was worse than he looked on paper.
Geoff:  If the rain comes on, that could limit the vertical passing game from ND, which was a significant threat versus SDSU, receivers would have a tougher time making the cuts to get away from out defenders, and we should (SHOULD) have an easier job at containing.
Geoff:  I don't know what to make of Notre Dame's running game, since they didn't try to do anything with it.
Craig:  Notre Dame, confusing, or very confusing?
Geoff:  But Armando Allen got his bell rung pretty good on one carry, so you'd expect him to be slightly limited.
Craig:  I mean, it's already the weekend that the statue of Dr. Lou is being unveiled in South Bend...
Jeremy:  Forgot to bring this up during the band discussion period, but what of the "don't fear the reaper" interlude?
Geoff:  I miss "Respect" on the one hand, but it wasn't exactly a well-known tradition.
Craig:  I've already said my piece. Teach the band "Across 110th Street" and have that back the highlights between the third and fourth quarter
Jeremy:  That's... that's just beautiful. I would cry.
Geoff:  This is a fantastic idea. We can't do the organ part perfectly, but it would be magnificent.
Craig:  It's the essence of the thing.
Craig:  I know it seems like a ridiculous notion of a "Michigan Tradition", but when my phone rings with that song, people look at me and say "Michigan Replay?!?" and then say it's awesome.
Craig:  So I mean, I have to go with that. Plus, you cannot benefit from random appearances by Presidential Candidate Yaphet Kotto.
Jeremy:  it would certainly be better than pumping in the rawk music.
Geoff:  Broseph, ya gotta have the rawk!
Craig:  No, really, you don't.
Craig:  Actually, I think this week showed me the difficulty in putting Michigan traditions down on paper
Craig:  We want to help, and we like to think we are, but there's not always the consensus that we believe there to be.
Geoff:  I would just like to avoid jumping off the bridge that assumes we won't get a ten-point lead for the rest of the year.
Jeremy:  I can't complain about enthusiasm in the face of miserable circumstances, but let's not sell ourselves short either.
Craig:  It's still a lot of football left, things will get figured out.
Geoff:  Do we have any expectations for what we'll be seeing out of the Irish this weekend?
Craig:  You mean besides Clipping Jesus?
Geoff:  Illegal Participation Jesus
Craig:  Personal Foul: Leverage Jesus
Jeremy:  Holding Jesus
Craig:  Beyond that, I have no idea. It'll be wet. I know that much.
Geoff:  I figure we'll see a lot of blitzing, which could work in our favor if we manage not to soil ourselves.
Geoff:  On the other side of the ball, Clausen will air it out if we give him time. But with our line, we've got a shot.
Craig:  He can throw that fade, as you have mentioned
Jeremy:  SDSU's corners weren't exactly making plays either.
Geoff:  I guess we'll see on Saturday.
Craig:  On the third annual HSR Road Trip!
Geoff:  Go blue
Jeremy:  Go Blue!
Craig:  Go Blue!
Craig:  So with that, we bid you all good night!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Brady Inexperience Lie

There seems to be a running recurrent in the post-Brady injury apocalypse to call Tom Brady "inexperienced" when he came in to the NFL, which was why he was taken in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft.

While I would normally chalk this up to the MSM developing and holding to a story line, this one drives me mad, because I watched two seasons of Tom Brady as Michigan's starting quarterback. I have fond memories of Tom's years at Michigan and I need to define "inexperience", because the statistics back up the facts, which should hopefully put this argument to bed.

Tom Brady came to Michigan in 1995 and redshirted that season, allegedly landing at seventh on the depth chart at quarterback.

During the 1996 season, Lloyd Carr's second as Michigan's head coach, Tom Brady saw action two games, UCLA and at Minnesota where he attempted a grand total of five passes in mop up duty during a pair of blowout victories.

During the 1997 season (sighs longingly for a better time), Tom Brady was Brian Griese's backup. Brady saw action in four more blowouts and attempted 15 passes in three games (Brady's appearance in the Penn State game consisted of negative yardage runs, which would lead me to think victory formation kneel downs. I do not have the time to download the torrent to be sure.)

During the 1998 season, Brady, now a redshirt junior, was named the starting quarterback, but that was not without controversy, as wunderfrosh Drew Henson was also turning heads and leading many fans and in the media to see him quickly supplanting Brady in the starters role. Brady, however, started every game for Michigan in 1998. The only game in which Brady did not see a majority of the time was the Syracuse debacle (or the Donovan McNabb DAMN! show, however you want to look at it.) and Henson was largely ineffective as a passer (though with Anthony Thomas, you really don't need an exceptionally effective quarterback). Henson was 19 for 45 for the entire season in limited time.

This brings us to the 1999 season. Brady is a senior, and Henson is pushing him, leading to a platoon between the two. The stats (http://tinyurl.com/6atpcf) bear us out here. Brady started every game. The reason people tend to remember Henson as the "starter" is that Brady was concussed during the Syracuse game at the Carrier Dome, which had him knocked out after attempting just ten passes, and the Michigan State debacle, where Henson was leaned on for far too long in the game when he was ineffective and Brady rallied the team to a near miraculous comeback, but fell short. That game, as it sticks in the craw of many Michigan fans, leads to false memories. Henson was not the starter and did not start a game for Michigan until the 2000 season. Save the Northwestern blowout and one pass in the Orange Bowl, Henson did not see the field again during Brady's tenure at Michigan.

All in all, Tom Brady started for two full seasons at Michigan, a total of 25 games. He threw for over 5,000 yards in his career (then a Michigan record, believe it or not), and completed roughly five out of every eight of his pass attempts and threw a touchdown pass one in every 20 passes. All this for a team that had Anthony Thomas, who ran for 2,000 plus yards and 32 touchdowns during Brady's junior and senior years. I don't know what people want out of Brady in his college experience. He, admittedly, finished behind Joe Germaine and Drew Brees for all-Big Ten quarterback honors in 1998, and was all-Big Ten second team in 1999 (again behind Brees.) But Tom Brady was not an unknown when he was drafted with the #199 pick in the 2000 draft. He was experienced.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Michigan vs. Miami (NTM): Photos and Video

For those of you who couldn't attend the game last Saturday, here's a clip I took at practice on Saturday morning of the MMB performing "Backstreet's Back" and "I Want It That Way" and some of the better photos Craig and I took the rest of the day.

Photo Set

Step off of reserves

We now pause in our photostream for absolutely no reason

How To Do the Wave at Michigan Stadium

I used to have a personal blog which occasionally served as a dumping ground for my Michigan sports thoughts. Shortly before I started HSR, I posted this. It seems we may need a reminder.

So you've come to Michigan Stadium to watch a game and you want to do The Wave, do you? You've seen this craze hit other sporting venues and you want to be a part of it? Well, this guide will prepare you for how The Wave is performed by the largest crowd watching a football game anywhere in America.

Required Conditions
The Wave may only be initiated by licensed professionals from the student section using the following criteria:

  1. The game must be well into the third quarter.
  2. Michigan must have a two-score lead.
  3. Michigan should be on defense, although this might not be strictly adhered to in a blowout.

The total Wave sequence lasts six circuits around the Big House, as follows:

  1. The Original Wave (2 circuits)
  2. The Fast Wave (1 circuit)
  3. The Slow Wave (1 circuit)
  4. The Reflected Wave (1 circuit)
  5. The Split Wave (1 circuit)
  • The Original Wave is performed at a moderate pace and travels counter-clockwise around the stadium twice.
  • After this is completed, the student section forces the wave through at a much faster pace. The alumni in the adjoining seats usually slow the pace a bit, but it still moves at a faster clip around the stadium.
  • When it reaches the student section again, it immediately slows to maybe a third of its original pace and stays that way for another lap.
  • After reaching the student section again, it stops and is reflected back in a clockwise direction at the original pace.
  • When the clockwise wave returns to student section, they maintain it while simultaneously starting another wave in the counter-clockwise direction. When done correctly, the two waves meet and pass through each other in the opposite corner of the stadium.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Make It Work

One of the strangest things to me about having a fiancee are the things you learn you kind of like, not just tolerate, that you never would have considered doing before you were a part of a couple. In the time I have been with Jennifer, she has introduced me to a show on Bravo called Project Runway. I never imagined that I would like

a). a reality show
b). a show about fashion
c). something on Bravo

And yet, here I am. I like the show. I can't consider it a favorite, but I like the show, and I think I figured out why, and that reason relates to this season of Michigan football.

The premise is simple: bring in a group of talented and eager people in to a situation where they will get to show off their talent and their vision, even when faced with bizarre or wacky circumstances. They make the decisions, they do the work, and in the middle of it, a mentor comes in, talks them through the incomplete project, encourages them to "Make It Work" and leaves the end result to be judged by a group of experts, trying to survive every week in the hopes of being in the top three so they can showcase their work at the biggest event of the season. There's drama, backbiting, heroes and villains, questions as to a person's thought process, questions of judgment and taste, and frustrating results when you develop a rooting interesting.

Michigan's mantra this season should be Tim Gunn's "Make It Work" Tim isn't going to come in and tell you how to fix the problems with your vision, but he's going to ask you questions about your process and try to see it your way. He might ask you questions which force you to defend your vision, but it's not because he's assigning a value judgment to what he sees, he simply knows what it takes to succeed and wants you to find that in yourself to make this piece the best one possible for you to hopefully remain on the show.

I feel like Coach Rod, right now, is stuck in a strange challenge, where his preferred design aesthetic has no possible way of being showcased because we're using things bought at a grocery store, or recycled car parts of some such. So, instead of going on the confessional camera and complaining about how this isn't fair and how he's not getting a chance to showcase his impeccable taste, he's simply going out there and doing what he can.

The problem, right now, is that what Michigan is sending down the runway looks unfinished, just begging for a Michael Kors smackdown, but one that is truly deserved. We're not finishing our hems, our stitching looks sloppy, and no one would ever want to wear shoulders like that. Last week, we ended up in the Bottom Three, and we received a stern talking to from the judges, but only because they care about our work.

This week was better. The challenge was a little easier, we took the advice we got last week to heart, we saw progress and we were safe. This was not a win, we do not have immunity for next week, we simply were not bad enough to lose, but we didn't deserve to win.

So next week will be another challenge, a different set of circumstances, but as always, Tim's going to tell us to "Make It Work." The question is whether we can.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Know Your Honorary Captains: Miami (OH), 2008-09-06

Far be it for me to duplicate the dedicated efforts of our SIDs, so here's a link to this week's release on the honorary captains (PDF).  In short:

  • Pete Elliott, 1945-48 Bump Elliott's brother, a QB. Later head coach at Nebraska, Cal, and Illinois and a College Football Hall of Fame inductee in 1994.
  • Ron Simpkins, 1976-79 A 1979 consensus All-American linebacker, Simpkins posted 150+ tackles in three consecutive seasons, including a mind-boggling 174 in '78 and another 168 the year after.
  • Dick Caldarazzo, 1968-69 Caldarazzo only lettered two years, but he blocked for Ron Johnson (Original Recipe) as he broke most of Michigan's rushing records and helped Michigan to its first Big Ten title in five years.

It should be mentioned here that two of the first six honorary captains were members of the '48 national championship team and two (plus Dierdorf) were on the '69 team.  And all three of those are named by Rodriguez in a Detroit News article about learning from the 1969 players that Brian excerpts.  Dierdorf and Caldarazzo are also mentioned in this Antoine Pitts article citing their disappointment over the Les Miles fiasco.  As for the other two, Ron Simpkins was one of the prime movers behind the former players' rally to support Lloyd Carr at the tunnel prior to last year's Notre Dame game, and Ron Kramer has been deeply involved with the team for years.  I like this from Rodriguez, and his first sets of honorary captains have been very well-chosen from both historical and political perspectives.

The Vault: 1976 Orange Bowl

MVictors, in defiance of this week's Boy Bands show, has found a YouTube video of the 1976 MMB playing a Hollywood tribute show that includes a man being eaten by a shark.

This drill is incredible. Excellent form on the elementary backstroke as well (I assume it's backstroke because otherwise he'd see the shark five times his size swimming up to him).

(H/T: MVictors)

Thursday, September 04, 2008

WTI: Make Sure You're Connected...

For those of you looking for this week's WTI, we've been thwarted by the treacherous internet connection of Geoff. We'll be back next week, we hope, with a full review of the goings on and doings that have been transpiring. In the meantime, if you have not checked it out, the Michigan Football Vault is a lot of fun for a coffee table book and would make a really nice holiday gift for the Michigan fan in your life, particularly if they are enamored of the history of the program. Also, if you have a Costco membership, as I do, the price is exceptionally reasonable relative to list price. Anyway, we'll hope to see you next week for WTI and please stay tuned for further updates as we head in to the weekend.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Boy Band Show Songlist

  • New Kids on the Block - You Got It (The Right Stuff)
  • New Kids on the Block - Hangin' Tough
  • New Edition - Cool It Now
  • Backstreet Boys - Backstreet's Back
  • Backstreet Boys - I Want It That way
  • 98 Degrees - Give Me Just One Night (Una Noche)
  • N Sync - Bye Bye Bye
  • N Sync - Tearin' Up My Heart
  • N Sync - It's Gonna Be Me

Monday, September 01, 2008

MMB on youtube

Thanks to the magic of the intertubes, portions of the MMB's Saturday offerings are now online. Pregame: Note: The band began taking the field before Carl told them to. No big deal, but an odd occurrence nonetheless; this is usually timed perfectly. Halftime: Additional thoughts undoubtedly in WTI form later this week. (Anyone know how to embed the higher quality version of these videos?)


This past Sunday, I turned 30. My first Michigan football game of my twenties was a loss to Notre Dame at the start of the 1998 season. My first football game of my last year of my twenties was a loss of which I shall not speak. My point is, I am used to the idea that things bookend in a way that might not be what you script out, so Utah was not exactly the earth-shattering kaboom to me that it seems to be to some others.

Each of the two aforementioned losses taught me something about being a Michigan football fan. The latter was that anything can happen at any time. The former taught me that once a year is over, it's a part of history and has no immediate bearing on what is happening now. It doesn't mean I enjoyed the fact that Michigan lost yesterday, merely that instead of being angry about it well into the new week, I instead chose to look at the game in a more academic mean. Maybe I'm just getting older and the losses hurt a little less because you can see some of them coming.

So here we are. We know some things, but mostly, as last week, we know very little. We know that the offense needs some work, but it could get there. We learned that RichRod REALLY needs a quarterback to run his system at the highest level. We learned that somewhere, Mike Hart is probably thinking his Michigan career rushing record is safe for a while. We learned that Nick Sheridan made some poor decisions and Stephen Threet put a little too much mustard on the ball near the end of the game. We learned that the offensive line is still a work in progress, but they certainly possess discipline, as seen on the encroachment freezes.

We learned some things about the defense. We learned that they needed to come out more aggressively in the first half. We learned they need to contain the passing game better, especially against the spread. We learned that they will be the strength of this team for the foreseeable future. We learned that someone did not explain the new play clock to Zoltan. We learned that we have not just a competent kicker, but one whom can likely be relied on when it matters. We learned that we cannot rely on our opponent to take 15 penalties for 137 yards every week. We learned that we're severely lacking depth. We learned we're really going to need to hold on to the ball for more than 24 minutes if the game if we want the defense to have a chance to breathe. We learned that we need to covert on more than three of 14 third down opportunities.

But mostly what we learned is that this is not going to be as smooth a transition as we had perhaps dreamed or hoped. There are going to be some bumps, some bruises, and some major frustrations, but we will learn some things. But mostly I learned that some things never change, that those most likely to be calling for Coach Carr's resignation last season were the one's yelling down to him to put on the headset yesterday. Perhaps it was something else I learned, that you really don't appreciate something good until it is gone.