October 6, 2001: I was assaulted by Nittany Lion Bloody Mary after running my mouth all morning, but The Wolverines would back up my talk, blanking Penn State 20-0. The home crowd around the tailgate seemed awfully concerned about me and my megaphone, but given at that moment in history, perhaps they would have been best served to look inward, Pictures from the tailgate, game, and what was perhaps the first Airbnb in history, are all here on the game page.
Michigan defeated Illinois on Saturday 42-25 in front of a small and unenthused crowd in Champaign. No doubt you have already read countless tales of the 3 stages of this game: 1) domination 2) diarrhea 3) recovery. I will touch briefly on each of these stages.
Stage 1, Domination: Michigan ran the ball extremely well, even by Illinois-run-defense-sucks standards. Holes. Big ones. Running backs breaking tackles. MICHIGAN ESTABLISHED THE RUN for perhaps the 20th time in the post-Schembechler era. Considering that’s all Michigan has been trying to do in every game in that era, that’s kind of rarified air. Once that run was established, some play action was opened up, and Shea had all day to hit his receivers, and he did so most of the time. This was not a new offense. This had no speed or space. It looked like last year. It looked like 2000-something. It looked like 1990-something. Regardless, it was quickly 28-0, and the only complaint is that self-inflicted wounds kept it from being 42-0.
So we reached that warm fuzzy point we sometimes do as fans watching games. That “we got this and no one can take it away from us” point. Comfortable. We all just want to be comfortable. And outside of MTSU, Rutgers, and in the opposite way, Wisconsin, comfort has been missing. Army was a series of upset in the making moments, and I’m not sure how Michigan escaped it. Iowa was a day of basically waiting for them to tie the game, and I’m dumbfounded the they in fact did not. And that’s why we bitch about things. More than wins, we expect this team to get us to comfortable as soon as possible. The game already starts even, which is uncomfortable, so hurry up and get me a lead and never let me see the other team driving with a chance to tie or take the lead, ever. So ya, 28-0. Nice.
Stage 2, Diarrhea: With 2 minutes to go before the half, Illinois sped up, and proceeded to march down the field for a touchdown in 6 plays, getting themselves on the board before the half. Meh, still comfortable. Michigan got the ball back with 55 seconds to go and sat on it. Which, whatever. It’s borderline. I’m not ready to fight strongly for either position. But after halftime Michigan goes punt-punt-fumble in the 3rd, while Illinois goes field goal-touchdown, with the touchdown drive being 15 plays and over 7 minutes long. Then Tru Wilson fumbles to open the 4th quarter, and Illinois promptly scores to cut it to 28-25. AND NOW WE’RE REALLY UNCOMFORTABLE, AND SOMEONE HAS TO ANSWER FOR MY UNCOMFORTABLE-NESS HARBAUGH SHEA FUMBLE GODS.
Stage 3, Recovery: Michigan desperately needed a score and it took converting a 4th and 2 to get there, but they got there nonetheless. 35-25 and breathing. Illinois promptly fumbled, Michigan gave us a rare 10-point lead based 4-and-out, then Illinois fumbled again, quick score, game over. Back to comfortable.
Michigan wins, but. Just but. Tough to excuse the 25 unanswered. Tough to deal with the missed opportunities. And the next two weeks, well, ya. No time for love.
Ever since we learned that Paterno was serial-rape adjacent, Penn State seems to really want to make a big deal about the Michigan game, and they also really like to win it. White out every time man. It must be punishment for back when WE OWNed them and sent them into a spiral where they won just 26 games in 5 years. And they likely will win it. Tough to make a case for Michigan given their road track record under Harbaugh and their erratic play this season.
We have shifted quickly from “so many things have to happen for Michigan to lose” to “so many things have to happen for Michigan to win.” Michigan needs to play a mistake free, opportunity grabbing game of football in front of the most hostile crowd it will see this season, and against possibly the best raw talent it has faced all year. I just don’t know how they can do it. But I will be watching, blissfully void of any and all expectations, just trying to get comfortable, one way or another.
GET BETTER BLUE.
Michigan knocked off the undefeated and #14 ranked Iowa Hawkeyes on Saturday 10-3, and in many ways that was an important thing. The first win that resides in the positive column of 2019’s resume. Something to hang your hat on, as long as you don’t share the box score. A festive homecoming crowd watched their team persevere with their backs against the wall, with the alternative to victory being worse than just defeat, perhaps a downward spiral that would have had the Michigan faithful using their fingers to see if there’s enough winnable games left to make the Wolverines bowl eligible.
The road ahead is tough, and despair is still very much in play. Because in both victory and defeat, Michigan does not pass the eye test. Cheers to the defense for returning to that 2018 mid-season form minus a seemingly endless number of converted 3rd and longs, but the offense wishes it was only as bad as it was last year. The biggest win of the year, and I’m sitting here telling you Michigan is in deep shit.
Don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining. Shea is a mental mess, Jim is either completely delusional or press-conference-pathological. Shea surrenders the pocket collapse long before it actually does. Reads are rushed, passes are bad. He’s got no confidence in the OL, which I get because it’s not that good, but there are some opportunities in there. They hold the pocket long enough, some of the time. And it’s those times where it’s just absolutely criminal that the ball doesn’t end up in the air in the area of one of the many elite receivers just running around back there ready to out maneuver, out jump, out body any member of the defensive backfield. The consensus best QB in the B1G going into the season is floating around the bottom. He is the #11 rated passer in the conference. And only 3 QBs have fewer touchdowns. I don’t know how you fix this.
But of course, I don’t mind winning while we wait to see if things can turn around. Pretty nice to have an opponent come to town and NOT have their best game or some miracle play that ends up punishing Michigan for not putting them away when they should have. And Michigan certainly DID NOT PUT THEM AWAY WHEN THEY SHOULD HAVE, LIKE 100 TIMES. And they almost paid for it, when on the last play, Stanley, falling backwards switched the ball to his left hand and completed a pass that had middle finger to Michigan written all over it. Didn’t happen this time though. Survive and advance?
Trap game in Illinois on the horizon. The Illini are serviceable and need a season maker. Michigan is everyone’s favorite season maker.
Don’t even want to think about what’s going to happen in Happy Valley. And I accidentally caught the 2nd quarter of MSU - OSU, where I pondered what the record is for all-purpose yards by a quarterback in a game, and by how many yards Fields is going to surpass that record Thanksgiving weekend.
Get Better Blue. Surprise me.