|"We didn't know it at the time, but this would be foreshadowing the rest of the evening." (David Guralnick/Detroit News)|
"I want to have a good time
Just like everybody
And I don't want to fall apart"
"Good Time", Counting Crows from the 2002 album Hard Candy
There exists a fine line between "making a point" and "trolling". Both were on display during the Michigan-Wisconsin game, Under the Lights VII at Michigan Stadium. "Making a Point" is when you have 25 or so Michigan offensive line alumni who were captains, all-Big Ten, or played five years in the NFL as your honorary captain, reminding Wisconsin, the conference's current farm-to-NFL table for offensive linemen that Michigan knew how to do that once upon a time and would like to do that again, preferably sooner rather than later. Trolling is when you play "Jump Around" late in the fourth quarter, leading some Wisconsin fans to laugh and shake their heads simultaneously. Either Special K has been summarily dismissed from the press box and replaced with someone who has a better understanding of what will get a Michigan Stadium crowd hyped, or he took some continuing education classes in that realm.
For a change, Michigan didn't get off to a slow start (though there are those who would grouse about the missed Nordin field goal and worry that it was going to come back to bite Michigan later. When it was 13-7 at halftime, it was entirely plausible to construct scenarios in one's head on how the destruction was going to come to the strains of the MMB version of the Turtles' "Happy Together". I reminded myself, aloud, to the approbation of the good people of the upper levels of Section 7 that we got to halftime with a lead and Don Brown makes adjustments at halftime like whoa.) The fear remained persistent. Jonathan Thomas was being contained, but still getting 3, 4, 5, 7 yards despite multiple large men in navy blue shirts attempting to tackle him. It was a tip your cap moment to both parties, Taylor's sheer power, and his shiftiness as a runner, the Michigan defense's assignment discipline (and overall discipline, just the one unsportsmanlike penalty after the game-sealing pick-six) that they were meeting Taylor where he was to prevent the chunk play.
But slowly, the fears began to dissipate, like a fog burning off in the morning sun. The 75-yard drive, kept alive by the first roughing the snapper call I've ever seen in person (the Wisconsin fans near us were incredulous, they didn't even know it was a penalty. The fan near him said "We did, it should have been called in the 2015 Michigan State game.") and capped off by Shea's bootleg right where he puts the ball down in the end zone like it's a rugby try and the two-point conversion where I did not see Nico Collins at all until he had the ball in his hands. It began to feel like Michigan, with a two-score lead, on a team that had only mustered 25 passing yards on the night, might be on the way to changing the narrative about Michigan in big games.
Then the Lavert Hill goes pick-six for a 21-yard ramble*, and a new narrative began to emerge from the ashes of the old one. It's not fully formed yet, it needs similar excellent performances in the next couple of games against Michigan State and Penn State to truly be a new argument, but this team is clicking. The offensive line, the source of much hand-wringing, has opened holes to allow Karan Higdon to run for 100 yards in five consecutive games. The much-maligned receiving corps has grown up, bracketed by tight ends who move the chains. This is not the Michigan team that looked like it would frustrate the hell out of the fans once more after the Notre Dame game. But this is college football, chaos can rear its head on any given weekend. Michigan avoided it with a statement win, but next weekend's chaos can loom as large if a team is not prepared for it.
So the new week arrives. Beat State.
(*Though Hill's touchdown was the dagger, it was McCaffery's touchdown that led me to say "Oh that's just egregious" like Puppet Michael Floyd from Stuffing the Passer. Gratuitous would have been the better word in this spot, but that's where my head was at in that moment.)