Monday, December 05, 2022

Finest Worksong (reprise)

All good?  All good.  (JJ checks on DJ by Patrick Barron)
Take your instinct by the reins.
You're better best to rearrange
What we want and what we need
Has been confused, been confused

Your finest hour
(Oh) Your finest hour
--"Finest Worksong" by R.E.M. from their 1987 album Document

As college football fans, we do weird things when trying to understand a game's outcome before the game has been played.  The more modern version is to look at the "fancystats" and see if patterns can be discerned or unexpected weaknesses can be exploited.  We look at history and see the historical trends by one school or another, even though some of those trends go back generations and bear no meaning on the contest about to be played on this day.  We search for meaning in what has been in order to understand what will be.  So when USC looked as if it had no real sense of how tackling worked against Utah, and TCU's second-half comeback magic ended up stalling out for the first time all year, opening the back door to let Ohio State into the Playoff, the dread of whether an upstart, unraked Purdue could knock off, as the Fox introduction referred to Michigan, "the bluest of the blue bloods" in this contest in Indianapolis and take some of the shine off this remarkable season made sense.

For a while, it looked like Purdue had something cooking.  Aidan O'Connell's veteran savvy was picking apart Michigan's zone, and there was an epidemic of sloppy tackling on Michigan's end. Purdue held a tenuous three-point lead for much of the second quarter, while Michigan was still looking for some rhythm without Blake Corum on offense and Mike Morris on defense.

But Michigan would score 21 of the game's next 24 points over the next fifteen or so minutes of game clock largely on the back of two highly successful runs by Donovan Edwards, the first a sixty-yard jaunt that did not go further largely because Edwards couldn't use his right arm to stiff arm tacklers at present, and the second, a twenty-seven yard run that featured no fewer than five broken tackles.  Michigan was never in any real danger again, thanks in no small part to a pair of interceptions by Will Johnson and all that was left was to celebrate the program's first back-to-back outright Big Ten championships since 1991-1992.  

It is hard to capture the sense of joy and relief that Saturday's result encapsulated.  2021 no longer stands as a fluke; it was the start of something that is still going forward.  Michigan fans have emerged from a decade and a half of waiting for not just the other shoe to drop, but a veritable DSW to fall on their heads when it came to football.  Now, we're finding our classic "pardon our arrogance" footing, tempered by the experience of the harder times.  We've moved from "proved we can do this" to "there's no reason we can't do this" and I am so happy for all of those players who made it happen.