I spent the better part of Saturday's game mocking what we were watching. It's not easy to watch this team, or this league...or pretty much anything from the angle I was forced to watch from in Ryan Field. Even the rain was weak and lazy, dissipating in the whipping Chicago wind. It was just enough to make you damp, but a mid-November temperature reprieve kept it just shy of miserable. The football, or lack thereof, was miserable. For four quarters we saw a multitude of stalled half-drives, a shit-ton of dropped interceptions, and no more than a handful of decent plays from either team. And off-topic...Northwestern's uniforms were creepy, stupid, and borderline inappropriate.
The first buzzer-beater snap and field goal I've ever seen and a slightly more entertaining overtime nearly made me forget how inept the two teams were, while the latter inflated the score for history's sake. No one will remember that we were a bad brunette girl image away from not only losing, but participating in the first Big Ten game without a touchdown for the better part of 10 years.
But none of that happened. We converted all the improbable 4th downs. Northwestern dropped all of the interceptions. Funchess found a way to steal back that fumble. The field goal team was ready. Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith ensured you seen the last of Fitz.
And Michigan won. Which is something that they have been unable to do 3 out of the last 4 games.
Just like losing makes you feel worse than it should and makes you hate more than you ought to...winning makes mistakes and inadequacies disappear, if only for a few moments.
Either way, reality checks are in order. Most of the problems are still there.
They say now that the goal in the locker room is 10 wins. And while I find that to be nearly as improbable as getting to 11 wins, I'm hoping to see something more this week that gives me hope for November 30th. More from Green and Smith. More confidence from Devin. A less vanilla game plan. Pressure on the quarterback. Maybe then I can start evoking tails of November 22nds throughout history.
See you in Iowa City. Go Blue!
I met Brady Hoke once, soon after his hiring. He was a football coach in every sense of the word. Though I had dismissed Dave Brandon's choice and the process by which he made it, it was difficult to argue that this was the man for the job. I guess when they tell you that the last guy wasn't a Michigan Man, that he didn't appreciate the traditions, that he didn't understand the rivalries...and then the results are 3-9, 5-7, and 7-6, which are more losses than you've ever seen before...then the logical conclusion is that we need someone that does appreciate those things, someone that does understand. Coach Hoke preached toughness. He talked about how this was his dream job. He talked about Team 132, 42 Big Ten Championships, and Beat Ohio. But as we enter the final quarter of his 3rd season, nothing he has preached has been practiced. Sure, we narrowly beat Luke Fickell's version of Ohio, but we're no closer to Big Ten titles, and we are visibly weaker than we have ever been, mentally and physically. I find myself in the exact same place I was late in Rich Rod's second season. From November 9th, 2009...
I used to think it was difficult to be a Michigan fan. I envied those who followed lesser institutions, lesser football programs. No expectations. Every win is big. Every loss is forgotten before you get home. At the tail end of a second consecutive season that no one seems to know how to deal with, I must admit, I am getting almost comfortably numb. The part of me that used to proclaim dominance no matter what the situation, the part that would be talking about how we were going to Madison to kick some badger ass and would be preaching about 1995 and 1996 to put Ohio State on notice...I don't know where that part of me is anymore. 1995 and 1996 is a long long time ago. 1997 too. The chances of winning another game are seemingly slim and none, and slim just got shoved out of the way by Bill Martin. Since the turn of the century, since the inception of UMTailgate.com, Michigan has rarely failed to disappoint me.
And that tradition continues. We're all talk. Inside Michigan Football featured about 10 players last week, each with the same message, likely written on similar index cards that were handed to them by Bruce Madej..."we can't let Michigan State beat us twice." And yet, that's exactly what happened...and it happened on every level. I'm tired of all the talk. "This is Michigan." "This is our expectation at Michigan." "Our goal is to win Big Ten Championships." It becomes very difficult to believe any of that shit when after the Nebraska game Coach says "I like the play calling. I think we thought we could do some things and we didn’t." It's tough for me to handle him repeating so much that he needs to be a better coach when I'm not sure exactly what it is he does other than "mold men," moonlight as a motivational speaker, and coach the D-Line. And when asked about the regression of the o-line blocking on a week to week basis, he says "I’ve got to do a better job of coaching, it looks like. We’ve got to do a better job of what we’re doing and look at what we’re doing.” What? You're not looking at what you're doing. The day to do that has long passed. You are determined to shoehorn this bullshit plan and force it on to a group of guys that are not good, and in the process you are making them worse. We run about 5 different offensive plays total...10 if you count left and right, though we rarely go right. Everybody knows what we're going to do. Everybody.
Whew. Is this over? I mean, I am clinging to the hope that we can win one more game...that we can somehow split the next two before I sit in disgust as O-H-I-O echoes throughout my home stadium. So, like 7-5? Heading to a shitty December bowl, wondering what is going to happen with our recruiting classes, and thinking about how next year might be Brady Hoke's last year? Ya I know, I know...it's not his fault. It's still Rich Rod's fault, right? I got news for you all, Coach Hoke has as yet only shown the ability to win with Rich Rod's players....like Charlie Weiss in his first year at Notre Dame. With each passing year, the team has regressed...it's inadequacies masked by Denard Robinson are now in full view. Rehashing what I said last week...I guess we just have to wait and see what happens. Nobody is going anywhere. Hell, we still have a chance at the Michigan standard of 8 wins...Lloyd Carr's perennial Mendoza line of mediocrity. Maybe a bad loss like this will spark something, some kind of wake up call. Maybe Hoke has a way of getting more from these guys. Maybe this class coming in will make a difference. I don't know.
Maybe we'll lose out and Jerry Jones Brandon will fire the whole damn lot of them.
The thing is...I thought...I'm sure we all thought...that we were done with the really bad years. We made it though the Rich Rod debacle and we will be rewarded!! And after year one it seemed that we were going in the right direction. I'm surprised and disappointed in the way things have gone. And now it would be an even bigger surprise to me if this staff was able to turn it around. I hope they do.
Anyway, let's cut all the bullshit. Stop counting the teams. I never knew what team # the 1997 national champions were, or the 2003 big ten champions. I could care less that this is team 134. And I am aware that we have 42 Big Ten Championships. I am also aware that the last one was 10 years ago, so let's stop talking about it until we get to 43. And finally, it's difficult to rally behind "Beat Ohio" when you narrowly escape an Akron, Ohio game. Let's stop talking about the past. Let's stop having all of these goals. Let's dial down the coach-speak. Let's stop trying to play Michigan Football and instead get creative with what we have.
One singular goal...FIND A WAY TO WIN THE NEXT GAME.
Sad today, proud forever. Go Blue!