Monday, September 30, 2013

Living the Dream

Thing crossed off the Michigan bucket list, check.

My thanks to Matt Slovin and the entire Daily staff for having me! Oh and yes, I am absolutely dreadful at picking football games.

Bye Week Follies: The Magical Jake Butt

By this point in the season, we're all aware that Michigan has a tight end with the last name of Butt and that this fact can be used to make many easy jokes and will most assuredly lead to many amusing "unintentional" double entendres from the broadcast booth over the next four season. But this post is about the added level of merriment brought about by the fact that he's Jake Butt.

Fans of the late lamented Bender Bending Rodriguez should be pleased that John DiMaggio continues to do voice work on a show set 1000 years in the future in The Cartoon Network's Adventure Time. As Jake the Dog, he voices a character with magical shape-shifting properties. This of course means that his butt also his magical shape-shifting properties and is capable of amazing things. Behind the jump, the mystical powers of Jake Butt.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

If you build it...

So this Wall Street Journal article has been making the rounds about the worries about declining student attendance and there are some valid points (bad cell reception, uninteresting scheduling, lack of availability of alcohol relative to HD TV options.)

There was also a blog post earlier this week about this issue, but from a more Michigan-centric angle.  While I have had my own issues with the recent Michigan Athletic Department decision making process and John U. Bacon has noted his concerns about the Michigan Athletic Department leaving the students behind and the Michigan Daily gave their own take in a Dave Brandon profile from earlier this week (as was noted on Twitter, a profile of a person often considered not responsive to student concerns which then turned down repeated requests for an interview/access.)  The "We Out" post made the case that noon starts, plus a lackluster opponent (on paper), plus Yom Kippur was a reasonable explanation for the empty seats.  Two years ago, I went all cranky old man about students showing up on time.  But I forgot what it was like to be a student.  So consider this an adjustment of my view, based on new information.

Things that Schools Can Do to Improve "Student" Attendance
(all numbers related to Michigan pricing this season for the sake of reference.)

1). Sell partial/big game packages in addition to season tickets.

Let's say this year, you sell a package of Notre Dame and Ohio State at say $150, as opposed to the $280 for the whole seven game package.  You link those tickets to a student's MCard (like they do at hockey), move them to Section 33 and 34 and call it a day.  If they do not use those tickets, they lose the right to buy tickets at the student rate for the next year.  The students who want season tickets have two options, they can, at at slightly lower rate (say $260 for this season), get their ticket put on their MCard and go through the GA process, or the can for $280, get physical tickets* that can be transferred to others, with a section/row/number, closer to the top of the bowl than the bottom.  The MCard people would need to attend six out of the seven games to get the discount the next year.

(*-You could also go full on and let students buy regularly priced tickets that do not need to be validated, which would allow them easier access to the resale market if they can't make it.)

2). Young Alumni Pricing
As a side benefit of this plan, the five games not sold as a part of the big game package to students could then be offered to young alumni (say four years from your most recent Michigan degree, under the age of 28) at a rate between the Student price and the Regular Season Ticket Holder price with Alumni Association Members getting first dibs. (By the way, if you split the difference, you come up with a season ticket price this year of $262.50, or the same price it would be for the MCard ticket kids if you knocked $2.50 off the face value.)  They would also earn priority points, which would not be activated until they made their first Victors Club donation.  There would be a market for these tickets, even the "lesser" games at the discounted rate.  If the Alumni Association can offer a membership rate at 40% of normal, the Athletic Department can likely see similar benefits of latching on to people when they still remember what it's like to be in the Big House and miss it.

3). Don't Be Passive-Aggressive With Your Students
Engage with your students.  If they are truly a valuable part of the game day experience, don't keep changing the rules on them simply because you came up with a "better" idea.  You do game day experience surveys all the time for the season ticket holders, I hope you do the same for the students.  Remind them that they are the future of the alumni base, and try to find ways not to coddle them, but to address legitimate concerns they might have.

(By the way, the wi-fi issue is a big deal.  I realized last week how much more information I had from my Twitter feed during the Connecticut game than I did during the Akron game. Oh sure, there was hand-wringing, but there was also injury updates, notes, observations, etc.  I'm old and I want that.  Imagine how digital natives feel about that.)

4). "Season" Tickets/Family Day
Acknowledge that scheduling twelve Division I FBS football games is expensive.  Allow season ticket holders to build a package that is cheapest per ticket if you buy every game, but that allows them to opt out of that dreaded "third game in three weeks in September scenario".

Take the Miami (Not that Miami) game next season.  It is coming off the last Notre Dame game, but the week before Utah, which is at least an FBS AQ team.  Let people opt out of that game for a slight discount (say $50 off) with no harm to your status year to year.

Then designate that Miami game "Michigan Family Day" (maybe even get a corporate sponsor on board).  Allow people to buy four packs at a reasonably discounted rate.  Reach out to people who have not ever been to a Michigan game but might like to go to one.  Give people a chance to experience the Big House who might not be able to do so otherwise.  Sell it as the Yost ideal that Michigan Stadium was the house of every Michigander, not just the alumni, not just the wealthy and connected.

I am sure there are plenty of other good ideas.  I'm not saying these answers are foolproof.  But I do genuinely believe that treating your ticket buyers/current students with respect and making them want to come to your stadium rather than treating it as an obligation where you are criticized if you decide you want to do something else that day, well, that might be a good place to start.

Monday, September 23, 2013

All His Fingers Look Like Thumbs

The most butthurt defense of a mediocre performance I've ever heard comes not from sports talk, shockingly enough, but from Ken Keeler on the DVD commentary of the notorious Simpsons episode "The Principal and the Pauper." Keeler tried to shut up know-it-alls who thought the episode was a sucky parody of the Martin Guerre story by claiming that the story of Armin Tamzarian was actually based on the Tichborne Claimant case. For those unfamiliar with the story, Martin Guerre was a peasant who disappeared when he was off to war. While he was gone, an impostor from a nearby town showed up in his village and claimed to be him. Eventually Martin Guerre appeared and extreme awkwardness and executions ensued. You may remember this as the basic plot of "The Principal and the Pauper." Or of Sommersby.

The Tichborne case is somehow both sadder and funnier. To set it in modern times, imagine if Jeremy Gallon had gone missing in Connecticut, and Al Borges, distraught with grief, advertised all throughout New England that a huge reward was in store for anyone who could safely bring Gallon back to Michigan. Now suppose that Ondre Pipkins squished himself into the #21 jersey, walked into Schembechler Hall, then said "Hey, it's me, Jeremy!" And that Al Borges believed him and started him at WR against Minnesota. If that unlikely sequence of events transpired, you'd imagine that Joe Reynolds in particular would be pretty upset.

The real story took place around 1860, well before the days of DNA testing. Roger Tichborne, the scrawny heir to a baronetcy, went missing off the coast of South America and his mother sent notices all over the South Pacific trying to find him. In Wagga Wagga, Australia, a really fat dude going by Tom Castro starting claiming he was Tichborne and, for some reason still unclear to history, people actually believed him. The resulting court cases were the most expensive in British history up to that time. Mark Twain thought the whole thing was hilarious and he was a man who knew his funny.

The tale was also well-known in Argentina, where one Jorge Luis Borges included his version, "The Improbable Impostor Tom Castro," in his 1935 collection A Universal History of Iniquity. Watching Saturday's game, I saw that the Michigan offense was not one-dimensional as horrific interior line play and careless ball-handling are at least two distinct dimensions of play. However, I couldn't justify knocking the Borges-O-Meter all the way down to Level 1 when they actually won the game. So I changed Level 2 from "The Disk" (one-dimensional) to "Tom Castro" (clown fraud).

Now let us follow the orders of Judge Snyder at the end of "The Principal and the Pauper," and never mention the last two games again...under penalty of torture. Wow - that wasn't funny in 1997 and it's even less funny now. That was a terrible episode.

(YouTube didn't have the song with the post title in the lyrics, so this one will have to do.)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Turn the Page

Desmond Morgan on his horse (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

It's only fitting that when discussing Michigan's struggles with life on the road, we'd turn to Ann Arbor's own Bob Seger.

Here I am / On the road again 
Let's be very honest, Michigan never expected to find itself in East Hartford, but they were booked into this gig by their old manager and well, as much as the new boss tried to get them out of it, Connecticut politics, being what they are, put Michigan at the smallest venue it had played at since Cornell in the 1950s.  But hey, you play the gig, you wow the crowd, you collect your paycheck, you come home for the Open Date, and you reset.  Oh, sure, the struggles of the Akron game last week were disconcerting, but the sound coming out of Michigan this week was good, the right things were being said, it was a scare, you learn from it, move on, and make sure you get out of Connecticut with everyone healthy.

There I am / Up on the stage 
So some how, Michigan at Connecticut ended up going to 60% of the country on ABC (much to Kirk Herbstreit's dismay) so a chance, in prime time, for the rest of the nation to see Devin Gardner play like he did Under the Lights, to see if Michigan had fixed its issues on the lines, and whether the Wolverines could establish a running game.  Business trip, write up the expense report, come home.

Here I go / Playin' star again 
I think the consensus reached among Michigan fans were that we'd be happier with Devin Gardner's play if he could solve the turnover issues.  This starts with tucking the ball when he decides to run (and the thing is, he can run.  He just leaves the ball way out there, begging to be stripped.)  Chris Spielman's working thesis last night seemed to be that Gardner was playing too tight and it was causing the turnovers, which, sure, that seems reasonable in that way that color commentary seems reasonable in explaining things that you're seeing without actually knowing.  My thesis is this: Devin Gardner spent the last three years of his football life watching Denard Robinson become one of the single most dynamic football players in modern college football history, one who was always willing and perhaps too often asked to put a team on his back and will it to victory.  Gardner's stats at Inkster High School remind us that he was a one-man show too many times for the now defunct Vikings.  So yes, sure, while he trusts Jeremy Gallon, and yes, he knows that Fitz Toussaint can run, but when push comes to shove, default mode is heroball.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, and all too often this season, it's been an abject disaster.

There I go / Turn the page
Here's what I choose to see out of last night.  At a juncture when things could have completely gone Achebe for Michigan, especially after the three and out in the immediate wake of the fumble return for a touchdown, Michigan dug down deep, recentered itself, and moved 75 yards down the field to bring it within a touchdown with still over 20 minutes remaining in the game.  Michigan then got a series of fortunate breaks, tipping the scales of the breaks that had gone against Michigan (self-inflicted or otherwise), and kept Blue in the game.  A Connecticut missed field goal from 46 yards out.  the Desmond Morgan one handed interception just three plays after Devin's attempt to convert fourth down ended on a fumble and a bad spot, Desmond Morgan running with the ball for 29 yards, Fitz Toussiant looking like 2011 Fitz and going for a quick 12 yards and score to tie the game.  And all of the sudden, with 9:49 left in the game, Michigan had erased all of the bad things that had happened to that point, was back to even, and just needed to be one point better than Connecticut the rest of the way. A UConn three and out, a Dileo return (which, yes, was wiped out by a STUPID penalty, but still, nice to see Dileo break one a little bit.), a nice time draining drive to get a field goal (no matter how much one would have liked to have seen six at that point).  And sure, Connecticut was moving down the field with a chance to win, or at least tie, when Frank Clark gets the 12 yard sack to give Connecticut a seemingly impossible 4th and 29.  And while Michigan's defense gave back 26 of those yards, the down mattered more than the distance and everyone could collectively exhale.

You can choose to see a game where Michigan struggled with a team that lost to I-AA Towson and scrapped out a victory is disheartening fashion.  That's fair, the narrative pieces are there.  I choose to see a young team that fought back to score 17 unanswered points to win a game, on the road, in what was considered to be the biggest game in the stadium's history.  Michigan is ALWAYS going to get an opponent's best shot, because if you beat Michigan, your name gets etched in history, next to the Appalachian States, next to the Toledos.  It's the burden of being Goliath, and it's the unspoken flip side of what This is Michigan entails.

So sure, it's 4-0 that doesn't feel well deserved, but did 2-2 after four games last year feel like what Michigan's team really was either?  You have two weeks to correct the mistakes, to work on the fundamentals, to get back to what made people think you were worthy of the preseason praise.  It's much easier to "forgive" a bad win than a frustrating loss.  The math says you may run out of rabbits to pull out of your hat, but if you start to play better, you can move on to other illusions.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Ask The Question

"For over a thousand years, Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of a triumph - a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeters and musicians and strange animals from the conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conqueror rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children, robed in white, stood with him in the chariot, or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror, holding a golden crown, and whispering in his ear a warning: 'that all glory is fleeting.'"
Those are the last lines from Patton and they remind me of something.  When you have powerful men who trust each other in positions of power to make stupid decisions, there needs to be person in the room empowered to say "No, wait, stop, are you sure this is a good idea?"
Lisa: "What's so special about this game anyway? It's just another chapter in the pointless rivalry between Springfield and Shelbyville. They built a mini-mall, so we built a bigger mini-mall. They made the world's largest pizza, so we burnt down their city hall."
Homer: "Heh, heh, heh. Yeah, they swore they'd get us back by spiking our water supply. But they didn't have the guts."
Marge: (drinks the tap water) "Ooooh. The walls are melting again."

"Homer Loves Flanders" Season 5, Episode 16

I don't have a degree or background in marketing, so someone is going to need to explain to me how skywriting over a rival school's stadium, during a home game for that school, is positive marketing for your program?  Are you going to convince anyone in attendance "Wait, I'm here when I could be a Michigan game?  What the hell am I thinking?  Thank you skywriting.  Thank you!"   You've now made the airspace over Michigan Stadium fair game, no?  Didn't the FAA and Homeland Security say that was a no no?  Are you relying on that to prevent retaliation? All you've done is give your rivals the high ground on this one (especially when they very cleverly turned it into a cancer fundraiser) and pissed off a lot of people in your own fan base wondering why you're spending that kind of money, whatever it is that you spent.  This is where someone needs to be able to ask the question: "What's the goal here?  Is it worth it?  Are we okay with the potential blowback here?"

(Oh, and really, GOBLUE?  That was your plan?  Seriously, not Δ258?  That would have been a mystery and would have at least qualified as clever.  But no.)
"Uh, hi, Mr. Meyers. I've been doing some thinking, and I've got some ideas to improve the show. I got it right here.  One, Poochie needs to be louder, angrier, and have access to a time machine. Two, whenever Poochie's not onscreen, all the other characters should be asking 'Where's Poochie'?"
"The Itchy and Scratchy and Poochie Show", Season Eight, Episode 14.

Why, exactly, does Michigan need to market itself?  I suppose the fact that Akron was the first non-sell out crowd in over a decade answers my question, but for all of the good things that the Athletic Department's marketing arm does (and let's be clear, they do a lot of things very well, starting with their social media presence), it also does stuff where you just scratch your head and yell at people about it.  Stick to what has worked for Michigan, try not to piss off your loyal customers while searching for new ones, and for goodness sakes, do not buy the old line that any publicity is good publicity.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Let Us Never Speak of the Shortcut Again

(AP Photo/Tony Ding)
From Episode [2F01] "Itchy and Scratchy Land"
It's a win.  Let us not lose sight of that.  It may have been ugly, it may have been undeserved, it may have been, in the words of AP reporter Larry Lage "The worst win in Michigan's history", but it still counts as one, still leaves Michigan in the ranks of the undefeated, and still puts Michigan halfway to bowl eligibility.

But as I was typing this, Brady Hoke's postgame speech from the locker room was released on (as posted by MGoVideo for embedding purposes, with our thanks!)

He wrote the column for me.  Yes, you won. Wow, there's a lot of things to work on.  Man does frustrated Brady Hoke sound like Matt Foley: Motivational Speaker.

That said, in 2010, after the scare from UMass, I wrote this:
It was a win.  The gap between "survives upset bid" or "gets a scare from an FCS school" and losing is a chasm visible from space.  We've been on the other side of that chasm, or perhaps more accurately at the bottom of it.  Michigan won on a day when they didn't play well. 
Yes, it was more tense than it should have been.  Yes, it's annoying, especially after the Notre Dame game had us, as fans, dreaming of Pasadena or more.  But it's an early season hiccup, one hopefully that will provide lessons which will be learned.  No one promises 55-7 routs, no one promises easy victories.  That doesn't mean you shouldn't want those things, it just means you need to recalibrate your expectations and understand that sometimes things like this happen.  You work to get better for next week, and the next week, and the next week, because it means something to you.  You have a right to be unhappy, but only if you do something about it.  This is more difficult for fans, because they can only cheer and hope and root.  They can't practice harder this week, clean up the fundamentals, work on the decision making.  But the players can, the coaches can, and that's what you're left to hope for in this case.  That they do learn the lesson here and take it to heart.

On the road to East Hartford, where we hope for better days.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

More Legends Jersey Proposals

We read with great interest yesterday MGoBlog's post "This Week's Obsession: Leaders Numbers" and particularly Seth's concept below:
I'd start them young and make the whole thing goal-oriented: freshmen or sophomores can apply to the coaches for a Legend's number, and there's a set of things you must do in spring or fall practice to earn the right to wear it that exemplify the guy who set that number. For each I would also set list of accomplishments comparable to those of the Legend which if you achieve them in your career you earn the right to have your name added to that patch, for example Devin can get his name added to the 98 patch if he wins the Heisman and leads the nation in scoring, and Ryan would need to be a three-time All-American and two-time captain to have his name added to 47. Have a wall at the stadium somewhere that honors all of them and lists the accomplishments, and open it up a bit so there are easier numbers to attain (#7 for a QB who beats OSU three times as the starter, #46 for a QB who leads his team to an undefeated season and national championship, #77 for an OT who's a 4-year starter and two-time All-American, 60 for a DL who does the same, 76 for a guard).
Never one to let a good idea rest, we would like to humbly offer our Top 8 Legends Jerseys that should happen with the criteria needed to earn it.  (This will not be a slideshow, only because we have no idea how slideshows work.  We're like Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer when it comes to that part of the internet.)

"Coach, if you need one yard, I'll get you three yards. If you need five yards, I'll get you three yards."
From a September 1989 game by Stephen Dunn | Getty Images

8). Leroy Hoard | #33 | Michigan RB 1986-1989
A running back must average EXACTLY three yards a carry for his first two seasons.  No more, no less.  EXACTLY three yards a carry.

The Space Emperor...from Space.
From a 2008 Michigan Daily photo by Clif Reeder
7). Zoltan Mesko | #41| Michigan P 2006-2009
A punter must achieve any two of the following three items:
a). Average 42.5 yards per punt.
b). Succeed in your attempt to high kick the M Club banner.
c). Prove that you hold domain over an extraterrestrial empire.

Getty Images
6). Marcus Ray | #29 | Michigan S 1995-1998
A safety must achieve all of the following in one season:
a). Intercept at least five passes.
b). Make cover of Sports Illustrated destroying an Ohio State wide receiver.
c). Captain a team of Michigan football players that defeats a team from Michigan's quiz bowl program in an intramural game.

You are still missed Vada.
5). Vada Murray | #27 | Michigan DB 1986-1989
Successfully block a field goal or extra point attempt while a minimum of 18 inches off the playing surface.

4). Jareth Glanda | #54 | Michigan LS 2010-2013
Move anonymously through two whole seasons of football without having your name mentioned, then catch a pass for a first down on a broken play during a bowl game.

3). Mercury Hayes/Martavious Odoms | #9 | Michigan WR 1992-1995/2008-2011
Catch a game-winning touchdown in either the opening game of the season in 98 degree weather or warmer or to beat Ohio State to end a losing streak.

One shining moment.

2). Nick Sheridan |#8 | Michigan QB 2006-2009
As a walk-on quarterback, successfully prevent Minnesota from taking three-year ownership of the Little Brown Jug by playing out of your mind.

Mike DeSimone
1). Ernest Shazor | #25 | Michigan S 2001-2004
Hit a a Purdue ball carrier so hard as to make him regret ever being born.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Calibrating the Borges-O-Meter

So a certain somewhat popular Michigan sports blog took a break from its usual obsessing over teenage boys to criticize the settings of our illustrious Borges-O-Meter  (on the sidebar over there --> ). Its chief proprietor asks:
What does Al Borges have to do to get Tlon, Uqbar, Orbus Tertius, Hoover Street Rag? Is 41 points and nearly 500 yards without an effective basic running game against a defense that returned seven starters from the #2 scoring D in the country insufficient? WHAT MORE CAN HE DO, HOOVER STREET RAG?
Imagine how upset Brian Cook would have been if we'd forgotten to update it after the game, like we almost did.

To avoid any further confusion, there are at least three feats of co-ordinating derring-do that will permit Al Borges to reach the pinnacle that is Tlön. Those three feats are:

  • Repeat what just happened against Notre Dame on November 30. 
  • Lead the offense to 41 points and almost 500 yards, with or without an effective basic running game, in Pasadena this January.
  • Recognize that the primary goal of the Michigan State defense will not be to win the game, but rather to injure his players, and then devise a dominant offensive game plan that never exposes a player to a dangerous Tom Gholston-style cheap shot.
Against regional rivals and other schools of lesser renown, we have no choice but to place higher standards on Al Borges before he can ascend to Orbus Tertius. The minimum standards for each game are:

Akron: Randomly select the offensive players from the student section 20 minutes before game time and lead them to a double-digit victory.
@Connecticut: Nothing. This team lost by 15 points to Towson.
Minnesota: Win the game while fielding an actual brown jug at guard.
@Penn State: Get half of the team's yardage from walk-ons.
Indiana: Indiana scored 73 points against Indiana State. It only seems fair to demand that a Michigan offense be twice as good as Indiana's and put up 146.
Nebraska: What will impress us against a defense that gave up over 600 yards to Wyoming? Wyoming was a little unbalanced; we'll need both 300 yards passing and 300 yards rushing.
@Northwestern: Before putting up 35 points, ratchet up the difficulty level by packing Kyle Field full of Northwestern fans.
@Iowa: Beat the Hawkeyes so badly that they buy out Ferentz's contract the next day. Make Adam Jacobi seem happy about the state of Iowa football for once.

There you have it! Easy peasy Uqbar squeezy!

Monday, September 09, 2013

The Mysterious Case of the Not-Shutout Streak

(Author's note: Like our friends at MVictors, we love a good Michigan mystery, or Mich-stery, as it were.  This is not so much a mystery but trying to account for an extra 12 games.)

October 20, 1984.  Michigan loses to Iowa at Kinnick 26-0.  This is the last known date that a Michigan football team failed to score in a Division I-A or I-FBS football contest.  Since that date and including this season's two games, Michigan has played 352 games and scored points in all of them.  This puts them within striking distance of BYU's record of 361 consecutive games with points.

There's just one problem.  The NCAA record book already thinks Michigan has the record, except where it doesn't.

This is a link to the NCAA FBS record book for 2013.  Buried deep within the book, on Page 117, you will see a header that says "Longest Streak of Games Without Being Shut Out" and you will see it says 362-Michigan.  This is 12 more games than the Bentley archive credits Michigan with during the streak.  Oddly, it makes no sense, as Michigan's streak before the 1984 Iowa game extends back to 1977 and the "We're #1, no wait" Minnesota debacle.

But wait, go back to page 18 of the record book.
361—BYU, Oct. 3, 1975, through Nov. 15, 2003 (ended with 3-0 loss to Utah, Nov. 22, 2003)

So, the records conflict, but the front of the book is accurate.

Trust me, I want Michigan to get this record, it's one of the few things that ties every era of Michigan football in my lifetime together.  But I want it to be legitimate and the fact that game 361 to tie it would be Iowa and 362 to beat it would be Ohio State would make it all the better.  But the current number is actually, really 352.

Light in the Dark

(Author's note: Apologies for a lack of game column last week.  I was on a special assignment which I hope I can talk about soon, oh and I am trying to sell my condo.
But UTL requires a column.)

New 98
Devin Gardner: New 98. (Photo by Eric Upchurch from the MGoBlog photo stream.)

In the end, the lights were on, and someone was home.  For a sixteenth straight occasion, Michigan's football players walked off their home field in triumph, having first made their way to the student section to share the moment with their peers.  There were gimmicks to be sure, Michigan Stadium's first thank you tifo, lasers, flyovers, celebrity cameos, the most underutilized giant disco ball in the history of mankind, but they were ephemeral to what was a Michigan football experience at its core, dread, hope, more dread, still more dread, and finally relief.

Zach Helfand wrote a tremendous game column on how Gardner's teammates rallied Gardner and the team back after the darkest moment of the night, the moment where things could have gone all Achebe* and would earn Michigan a place in the pantheon of NBC Sports Network replays of Notre Dame classics and would have strangled the hopes of the nascent 2013 season in the crib.  Recent history, which is to say those days under the leadership of Brady Hoke, would tell us that we need not worry about the disasters of the past, that a steady hand at the tiller on the Michigan sidelines will find a way to guide the result into a soft landing and a Michigan win in the Big House.  But the past lives in a Michigan fan's heart, that dread encoded into our DNA both as birthright and as mutation wrought by the losses of the past where fourth quarter leads set like the early autumn sun over the press box, leaving just blood-stained skies and deeply held anguish.

*-To go Achebe-When things fall apart.  From the 1958 novel of the same name by the recently passed Nigerian author Chinua Achebe.

But while the past is instructive, it is not destiny.  Just as they had done in 2007 in destructive fashion, 2009 in comeback fashion, 2011 in destructive comeback fashion, Michigan once again found a way to remind Notre Dame that while they may be parting ways for a while after next season, you can't ignore the history built up between the two teams.  No one has won a greater percentage of their games than these two teams.  (Notre Dame has fallen to third in FBS all-time wins behind Texas, but with the Irish playing Purdue this week and the Longhorns hiring Greg Robinson to fix their defense, I suspect the Irish may be back at #2 sooner rather than later.)  They have played a lot throughout my lifetime, with the renewal of the rivalry coming just a month after I was born.  But it is not to be.  There will be other big games, there will be other big moments, but it won't be Michigan/Notre Dame, which is a shame, because it should be.  Even if it was four years off, two years on in a rotation with Michigan State and Purdue, it would be something, it might even be more of something.  But pride, money, and hurt feelings are in the way for now, so we will wait.

In the meantime, Michigan takes the New 98 and Snoop show out for a couple of more games against competition not to be overlooked, but that should be handled if Michigan plays to its potential.  The chances for more great moments, for more highlights, for more legacies will be there.  The lights are on, we're definitely home.

Photo by Geoff Zmyslowski and a pretty accurate assessment of where we were sitting Saturday night.