Sunday, September 01, 2019

How's It Going to Be

Like many of us, Coach Harbaugh is wondering why there is no sound coming from the South End Zone scoreboard (Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press)
Harbingers don't actually exist, except in retrospect.  But the longtail of history also gives the canny observer patterns of things to look for when things are turning sideways or worse.  So you can forgive the 110,000+ fans in Michigan Stadium got a sense of dread when the first play from scrimmage of a new season with a new offense ended with a Shea Patterson fumble and a Middle Tennessee State recovery.  That the Blue Raiders then went 42 yards in four quick plays and Michigan was down 7-0 just a shade under 130 seconds into the game. 

The new Michigan offense answered with scores on three of its next four possessions and looked to have created a semblance of order, if sloppy, first week, needs improvement order.  But the mood was locked in, the tone had been set.  The night game magic of Under the Lights I was a distant memory, even if the Michigan Stadium DJ attempted to rouse the old feeling by playing Taio Cruz's "Dynamite."  (This led to an exchange between myself and my college roommate and longtime seatmate in which I said "It would appear were trying to do whatever the opposite of 'exorcise the demons' is?  Like 'inorcize'?  To which he gently pointed out the word I was looking for was "possession."  Really we were just invoking the spirits, but I digress.)

 Things looked to have been a righted ship until Lavert Hill got a case of the muffs on a fair catch punt with five minutes to go, leading to another MTSU touchdown and an eventual 27-14 halftime score that made the MMB's terrific show seem not so great because this was not going as planned.  So many B1G teams had rolled to relatively sweat-free victories in Week 1, what the hell was wrong.  All the hope that everything had been fixed, all of the hand-waving that the defense was going to be just fine despite some significant personnel losses felt like wishful thinking at best, and willful self-deceit at worst.  And yet, both scores came off short fields due to turnovers, the defense did look like it could still flash bits and pieces of its old self, but it still felt off.

The hardest part about this game is that it never could be examined on its own merits.  It was always about what it tells us going forward, what does it mean for Wisconsin.  College football only lives in the future and in the past, never the present.  It was always going to be about a status check, a temperature taking, and the joy of those first few minutes before kickoff when everything is still possible, no dream is too bold, too outlandish. That the joy you hear when Carl Grapentine's deep baritone welcomes you warmly to Michigan Stadium, like an old friend, reminding you of what you missed and trying to make you believe.  The game itself is the harsh reminder that this game is, at its core, a foolish thing to love, which somehow only makes you like it more, even when it hurts you, even when it doesn't quite go the way you wanted it to at the moment.

So I have seen the full spectrum of takes and opinions about what to take away from this game.  I don't know who is correct in any of this, but no one else does either because no one can see the future.  The harbingers are here, we just don't know which ones they are yet.

1 comment:

SF said...

I see little reason to worry about the overall direction of the program from this game. First game flubs happen, and Michigan still won pretty handily. The offense really is revamped significantly. We had some new(-ish) players stand up strong, which is great! I'm a lot less worried about running back and cornerback than I was going into the game yesterday.

I am worried about the injuries, though! One of the big strengths of this team was supposed to be having six good offensive lineman. If two of them are out injured before the first snap, that's clearly worrisome. And while I'm quite fond of Ben Mason, having him start at DT was downright scary.