Sunday, September 13, 2015

Breath of Life

Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends. (Photo from
(Editor's Note: Updated throughout 9/14 for clarity.  Apparently me fail English yesterday morning.)

If you asked a sports fan to be truly honest, they will admit that while they loathe it when their teams lose, the thing that worries them most deeply is chaos.  Fans of power programs want routine wins, just like the prophecies had foretold.  They want their teams' games that play out exactly as they had scripted in their head.  Let the chaos come to that Notre Dame/Virginia game that you watch at home after your team has packed up a nice win in the expected packaging and is thinking about next week.

Routine is about not about eliminating the unknown, but minimizing the impact chaos can have on one's life.  Oh, you build an extra 20 minutes into your commute so that if there's a chemical spill on US-23, you're not going to be late for work.  You have trouble remembering to get a card for your sister's birthday?  Write a Google Calendar task to remind you a week early so you're not scrambling on the actual day.  You buy yourself some cushion so when the chaos comes, because it will, because it must, because as an Austrian philosopher once said "All genius is a conquering of chaos and mystery."

I don't know if it is true genius to build your football program around the principles of a stout run game, taking care of the football, and getting off the field on third down on defense.  Maybe it was genius at one point in time that then became the conventional wisdom because obviousness of  the plan demonstrated itself often enough in programs that won that it seems so easy to replicate and earn similar results.  If the past seven years have taught Michigan fans anything (and believe me, they should have taught us a great deal) it's that saying the words, telling people that is what you want to do, does not automatically mean you will do it, let alone do it well well.  Heck, sometimes you won't even do it at all.  But when you can do it, it becomes apparent that your team will win a lot more football games than it loses.  It is removing as much chaos from the game as possible.  A stout run game means you're theoretically gaining yards and keeping on schedule.  Taking care of the football means you're limiting turnovers, and thus not only the opportunities that your opponent has to score, but also the associated sudden change situations that are chaotic in and of themselves.  Getting off the field on third down on defense means that your opponent is not extending drives, a subtle form of chaos.

The first 5% of Michigan's game with Oregon State was a form of chaos.  The Beavers, who had struggled with FCS Weber State last week at home, crossed three time zones for a noon kickoff, and came out ready to do the dam thing.   They marched down the field with seeming relative ease and all of the sudden, the 109,651 in the Big House were suddenly reaching for their collars.  This was further abetted by Jake Rudock's fumble on just the third offensive play of Michigan's day and all of the sudden, all of the bad memories of the last seven years came rushing to the fore.

So when Joe Bolden committed the perfect Bolden on Bolden crime and recovered an Oregon State fumble, it took a couple of series, but Michigan got the ship righted.  The 95 yard swing on the punt (which came in the series after Jeremy Clark was called for a terrible Roughing the Kicker penalty, for which Harbaugh was right to lose his mind, followed by a three down stand, and a Oregon State Delay of Game Penalty) allowed Michigan to score last in the first half, and then first in the second half, and the game was salted away.

So, 1-1, UNLV coming to town next week, and feeling a little better than we did last week.

* Thank you ABC/ESPN for including Wolverbear in the new CFB graphics package.

* The internal video board graphics at Michigan Stadium looked clean and crisp.
* Michigan's win was #916 of all time.  They remain behind Notre Dame in the winning percentage race, .7316 to .7291.  Michigan currently needs to win three four games on days with Notre Dame losses to reclaim the crown (and obviously, not lose when Notre Dame wins). (Editor's note: Updated, the numbers we had for both schools did not account for Week 1.  We have corrected the error.
* Bryan Cole looked really good on punt block duty.
* Watch the two point conversion play.  Really heady work by Rudock to wait until he had something and found Smith.

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