Tuesday, January 01, 2013


There is no way I am featuring a picture of the gawdawful uniforms that adidas and Dave Brandon put Michigan in today.
(Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Endings are difficult.  Arthur Miller famously once said "If I see an ending, I can work backwards."  But now, on the day meant to signify new beginnings, Michigan has one, in part by ending one of the most fascinating, mercurial, and maddening chapters in Michigan football history, the Denard Robinson era.

The oddest thing about today is I'm not even that mad.  Like, not even close.  I figured with the suspensions that Michigan was going to get blown out of the water by the Gamecocks as if they have loaded up the cannons on the Raymond James Stadium pirate ship and fired a broadside.  Early on, it looked like that was going to be the script for the day, with the depleted secondary getting gashed for huge plays by South Carolina, and a punt return touchdown by Ace Sanders.  But, as they had done all year, somehow Michigan was only down 21-13 at the half and they had a chance.  A scoreless third quarter for the Michigan defense, coupled with a field goal and a touchdown (with a failed two point conversion) and Michigan had its first lead of the day.  Carolina jumped back into the lead, only to see Michigan stake themselves back to a slim one point lead on Jeremy Gallon's second TD catch of the day.  So you need a hold, you need a stop, not letting the Gamecocks get in to field goal position.  But missed tackles, missed opportunities, and the next thing you know, Spurrier digs deep into the Fun 'n' Gun archives, pulled up four verts, and as Mike Leach famously said, well, it gets the prom queen.  Touchdown Gamecocks, and Michigan's one last chance was a batted Devin Gardner pass from behind, a fitting cap to a somewhat frustrating season.

But you know, I've come to accept that this happens.  This is what happens when you have holes in your depth from a previous regime, when you face a difficult road schedule, when you have gaps on your lines.  You can outscheme, you can maximize your talent, and sometimes, you can pull off miracles.  But you cannot expect miracles, less they become less miraculous.  But what I love about college football is as much about the flaws as it is about perfection.  Denard Robinson was never the greatest pure passing quarterback, but when I think back about him, I'm not going to remember the shaky passes off the back foot, I'm going to remember the bursts, the cuts, the way he slaps the turf every time he gets tackled, as if he believed in his mind he was just one quick cut away from breaking it for another touchdown.  But yes, there were flaws, and we can spend time pondering whether the coaches should have reevaluated the talent situation back in the spring.  But that's hindsight and it gets you nowhere.  You can make every case every which way about what could have been, what might have been, but in the end, 8-5, losses to the two national title game participants, an undefeated Ohio State team, and very good Nebraska and South Carolina teams.

So I'm not sure when I look back on 2012 if I'm going to remember the losses, because the wins gave us a couple of amazing moments.  Brendan Gibbons making good on the Drew Dileo "the threat" catch to end the losing streak to Michigan State for Win 900.  The improbable Roy Roundtree catch to set up the tie that led to Michigan's eventual win over Northwestern.  The smile on Al Wistert's face when he got an ovation for the Legends jersey that will be the #11 of the Wistert brothers.  Denard making two Ohio State players hit him simultaneously from the left and right and keep on chugging for a touchdown.  It doesn't mean that I'm happy with this season.  It's more about choosing to see the positives while acknowledging, but not dwelling upon, the flaws.

So we see the Denard era begin to take on the sepia tones of the past, the Jordan Kovacs era become part of the larger tapestry of 132 other teams of Michigan football.  April will bring us spring practice, and more questions.  August will bring us fall camp and some answers.  And on August 31, Michigan will face Central Michigan at the Big House for the start of Team 134's time in the spotlight.  There will be great moments, there will be cringes, there will be highs and lows, and a lot of in between.  But thank you Team 133.  I don't think this year was what you wanted it to be, but it doesn't mean that it wasn't something we'll remember.

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