Sunday, November 07, 2021

Night Still Comes

I sometimes worry he's too good at his job, but the feeling passes.  (Patrick Barron)

My brain makes drugs to keep me slow
A hilarious joke for some dead pharaoh
But now, not even the masons know
What drug will keep night from coming

There are so many tools that are made for my hands
But the tide smashes all my best-laid plans to sand
And there's always someone to say it's easy for me
But I revenge myself all over myself
There's nothing you can say to me

You never held it at the right angle

 --"Night Still Comes" by Neko Case from her 2013 album The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You

It's fascinating to realize that the Big Ten schedule set up to have Michigan face Indiana 364 days after the previous meeting, allowing us a moment to take stock of what was, what is, and what can be through this lens.

Last year at this time, if we're even allowed to acknowledge it, Michigan had just dropped a game at home to Michigan State that it felt like it had no business losing and then was staring at an Indiana team that was feeling itself.  The years of almosts and #CHAOSTEAM had congealed into something dangerous.  Indiana made Michigan pay, a 38-21 victory for the Hoosiers that seemed to be some form of retribution for all of the other narrow escapes Michigan had pulled off over Indiana since the Crimson and Cream's most recent win in 1987.  Indiana looked like a team ascendant.  Michigan looked like a team lost and sinking fast.

The historically inclined among Michigan fans like to look for the throughlines, the things that remain true over the years, and the Indiana streak was one of the last great streaks that had survived everything, again, sometimes in "I cannot believe that happened" fashion, somewhat tattered and worn, but it survived.  Last night's game kept at least one piece of that line alive, that Indiana's last victory in Ann Arbor occurred before men set foot on the moon.  

Last night's Michigan performance was not stellar.  It was also not awful.  There were some high points: Hassan Haskins' 62-yard run that Indiana seemed to point to as the turning point in postgame quickly comes to mind, so does Cade's nice long bomb to Johnson late to really just put the finishing touches on things.  There were so low points: the time out on the 4th and 1 "fake" that actually would have worked for six yards had it been snapped a fraction of a second earlier, the delay of game penalty right after the long Haskins run, the surprise Indiana "injuries" that not only seemed to try to break Michigan's momentum but also lead to long Fox commercial breaks, the continued red zone woes, touchdown relative, that do not seem to be any closer to fixing.  

But this was a game that was in little doubt at any point according to math.  Math watches games and knows things.  We watch games and we feel things.
We see the conga line to the injury tent.  We see the small details that feel like a foreshadowing of some larger flaw in the narrative down the line.  The math is based on history, we see the game as a way to gaze into the future.  But the history was present in the Big House last night.  The return of the late 1990s staple, QB waggle, on the first touchdown to Schoonmaker, Michigan's first touchdown pass to a TE this year (they liked it so much they went back to the tight end for the final score as well).  The way that Michigan's injury luck seems to suddenly run out against Indiana...(though that might have more of a reason than just the universe deciding things).  All of it just seems wrong, and then to add night game, and well, maybe we've never held it at the right angle.

In the end, Indiana's in the books again for another year.  All of Michigan's goals are ahead of it.  Let's just hope there are enough healthy bodies left to finish the job.

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