|It wasn't the moment that Michigan fans stopped worrying, but it was the moment Michigan fans at least allowed themselves to consider the possibility of stopping. (Patrick Barron)|
I'm in likeI'm infatuatedIt's all too much, the pressureShe's all that I can takeWhat position should I wear?Cop an attitude? (you fake her)How can I convince her? (fake her)That I'm invented too, yeahI am smittenI'm the real thing (I'm the real thing)We all invent ourselvesAnd, uh, you know me
--"Crush With Eyeliner" by R.E.M. from their 1994 album Monster
By coincidence, well, and the way the calendar lines up, today marked the third time that Michigan had faced off with Penn State on October 15. The first was in 1994, just a few weeks after the release of Monster, R.E.M.'s "back to basics" rock album, when #5 Michigan faced off against the #3 Nittany Lions in Ann Arbor just three weeks after "The Miracle at Michigan". Penn State was facing a lot of skepticism about their weak early schedule but came out and posted a 16-3 halftime lead, only to see Michigan race back to tie the game twice, only to pull it out in the end. I distinctly remember this was also the night of my junior year Homecoming Dance and I kept checking in on the game at the bar in the restaurant, which was fine because my date was also a fellow future Wolverine and wanted to know what was happening.
The second was 2005 when Michigan was 3-3, having alternated wins and losses to start the season took down a #8 Penn State squad at the Big House on "Touchdown Manningham" an improbable win during "The Season of Infinite Pain" that meant Michigan had won seven straight in the series, a run that began on Judgment Day in 1997.
History isn't instructive in college football, as much as we like to celebrate it. So none of these things that had happened before mattered as we came into today. A Maize Out to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the beloved 1997 National Championship team, a 6-0 Michigan team, said by some around the country to be untested, against a 5-0 Penn State team. Big Noon Saturday...again. All the making of a classic. Except, it really wasn't.
Michigan could clearly move the ball early on, eating up most of the first quarter on an 11-play, 64-yard field goal drive and a 13-play, 77-yard field goal drive sandwiched around a three and out for Penn State. It would have been great to finish those drives with touchdowns, which Michigan got after another three and out and a 13-play, 70 yard touchdown drive, it felt like Michigan had things well in hand, especially when it looked like Michigan's defense had stopped the Penn State rusher in the backfield, only for the entire stadium to discover that Sean Clifford still had the ball and ran for 62 yards to set up a Penn State score.
OK, no problem, just keep moving the ball, that was a fluke, the defense has this in hand...and then a double helmet bounce pick six and Penn State has the lead and nothing makes sense. Michigan did go down and get a field goal on another 11 play drive to go into halftime with the lead, but a game that could have easily been 28-0 was 16-14 and it just felt bad. Penn State had 14 points on 14 first half plays. Michigan fans aren't always great about being rational even with a lead.
Penn State went down and finally put a drive together, using a 48-yard pass to get into field goal range, but no more. Now Penn State has the lead and everything feels...oh wait, Donovan Edwards just exploded for a 67-yard touchdown run that included a spectacular freezing of the final defender to beat and with a two-point conversion by Ronnie Bell, Michigan was up 7. And while Penn State went for it on fourth and six (after the entire stadium sang "Mr. Brightside") only to give the ball back to Michigan, Blake Corum decided to make sure the Heisman talk was still coming this week with an explosive 61-yard TD run of his own to put Michigan up 14 and never looked back. Michigan scored 25 straight points after Penn State took the lead, never looked back, and moved to 7-0.
Bye weeks are always better when you're coming off a win. Michigan State in two weeks, on Halloween weekend. We can dare to start dreaming again, because we all invent ourselves and, uh, you know me.