Sunday, October 09, 2016

Operation: Annihilate!

Hello, Mr. Laviano, it's Taco Time.  (AP / Mel Evans)
When preparing to write these posts, I like to look back at the play-by-play to find patterns that I may not remember from watching the game live.  This week showed me that I was correct in thinking that Michigan would not throw another pass after the near interception off the deflection that was taken to the house by Rutgers, only to be called back (unfire the cannon!).  Only three things can happen when you pass, and two of them are bad, and when you are up 57-0, you don't need that hassle in your life.  In the fourth quarter, not counting the two end of game kneel downs, Michigan averaged, averaged 10.64 yards per carry from that point, and scored three touchdowns, all from backups.  Michigan did not so much call off the dogs as told the dogs to go out and have fun and don't get hurt and still put up 21 points.  There can be one conclusion from this: Rutgers 2016 is not a good football team.  I suspect one day in the near future they may be; especially if (and this is a big if) they can keep some of that local talent at home, but for now, Michigan honored the 100th anniversary the infamous Georgia Tech 222, Cumberland 0 shutout, by burning down a divisional foe.

It's worth remembering though that this game was ugly to start.  The rain falling on northern New Jersey was threatening to make this game an equalized slog where it would come down to fumbles and traction.  It was punt, punt, fumble on Michigan's first three series and the room was becoming visibly and audibly nervous.  But then Jabrill Peppers decided to frolick down the sideline on a wildcat keeper, stopped at the Rutgers four and Michigan was in business and never looked back.  Michigan kept piling on, keeping up with a tradition of going for two while up four scores and looks forward to an open date next week.

For all of the offensive fireworks and gaudy stats, the defense was the real MVP.  Michigan had 13 total TFL from 13 different players, limiting Rutgers to an average of two feet per play.  Not two yards, two feet. There were several moments when Michigan was on defense and successfully got pressure, only to see the Rutgers quarterback escape danger, only to have a Michigan player fly in from off screen to lay the wood where I yelped "Oh dear God."  It was savage, it was unkind, and it was ferocious.  It is Michigan's mentality now.  It is no longer her to make friends; it is no longer concerned with being liked by any other school, team, or fan base.  Considering how far Michigan has come since its last trip to Piscataway, that bleary October evening two years ago, this is a whole other world.  It is a world that would have only been permissible in one's wildest dreams or deepest rooted fantasies.  No longer are Michigan fans left to look for silver linings or pushed to gallows' humor.  We enjoy the moment and the seemingly limitless horizon that lays out before us, because this team and this coaching staff have, thus far, made it possible.

But now here Michigan is, 6-0, running like a finely tuned machine, and yet one that still has room for improvement.  That said, the expectations are such that this is where most Michigan fans thought this team would be at this point in the season.  Even if the entirety of Michigan's non-conference slate is proving itself to be better than predicted before the season started, even if Michigan's toughest opponent turned out to be a Wisconsin team that did give the Wolverines fits last week, the six wins in six tries was the widely expected notion.  In looking at the second half od the schedule, the next six games are fascinating if nothing else. Road trips to three of the most hostile to Michigan venues possible, Indiana and Maryland teams that are showing to be a tough out, if Michigan makes it to Thanksgiving with all of its goals in front of it, it will have shown it through the mantra: "Win with character. Win with cruelty."

Enjoy the open date and the new world.

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