The Blame Game
I've said it all in the last 24 hours. Every possible insult. I've maligned our line, our receivers, our corners, and most importantly, our coach. I questioned motivation of the players, the playcalling, and even the gameplan in general. But I, like you, am just a fan. I know about as much about the X's and O's in division 1 college football as I do about the X's and O's in college soccer. I know very little about Chad Henne, and even less about Matt Gutierrez. Referring back to the 2003 season, I cannot explain to you what the difference was between the 53 carry, 212 yard performance by Chris Perry against Michigan State, and his 9 carry 18 yard performance against Oregon. I cannot explain to you why John Navarre showed the ultimate poise and leadership leading Michigan to their greatest comeback of all time in a sold-out, raucous Metrodome, but folded like a tent against Iowa.
I can only tell you what I feel. And feeling is all a fan truly has. The feeling you get when you hear about a great recruit choosing Michigan. The feeling you get before a season starts. The feeling you get when you're in a college town on the road, or the site of a bowl game, and you share an anonymous hi-five with someone else donning maize and blue garb. It's that feeling that keeps you coming back. It's why you tailgate. It's why you would spend your last dollar to park your car, or fill your tank of gas to make it to Penn State. It's why you're superstitious, and you wear those ridiculous yellow socks. It's why you sit in the rain, the sleet, the cold, the sweltering heat, for hours on end, even though you would have remained indoors all-day if there was no game.
But there is a price to pay for that feeling. And no, it's not monetary. Your heart and soul is invested in gameday. Whether you're in the stands, at a bar, or just sitting home by yourself, your emotions are dictated by the young men wearing the maize and blue. When they are unsuccessful, you are in ruins. You want to point a finger. You want to lay blame. For several years, I've directed that finger (whether justified or not) at John Navarre. The main reason being that pointing your finger at what you saw last is the most simple. At the end of most Navarre led losses, I saw John toss up an interception, miss an open receiver, take an ill-advised sack, or bounce a ball off a lineman's helmet, all on a final drive. And let's be clear here, I am not backtracking on my disdain for John and his career. But following my line of reasoning, I guess I have to blame the kickoff team for not recovering that onside kick at the end. Ridiculous, but not any more ridiculous than blaming anyone else on the team.
Michigan lost their 5th consecutive road opener, 28-20 on Saturday, giving the all-time win percentage lead back to Notre Dame, and restoring prosperity to a program in shambles. It was a bad game for the Wolverines, often difficult to watch. A frustrating, mind-boggling defeat at the hands of an inferior team. Deja vu would be an understatement. So who's fault was it?
Do not blame Chad Henne. This guy has filled the role just fine, and played well in his first road game, throwing for 240 yards on 25 of 40 passing. Saying that Navarre would have won that game is just ignorant. How many games did John Navarre win when Michigan averaged less than 2 yards per carry? None. In fact, he lost many where the running game was potent. Do not blame Braylon Edwards. While the ball that he should have caught that was tipped up for an interception may have been the most blatant mistake you saw on Saturday, don't let it make you forget Avant's fumble after his catch, or Breaston's muffed punt. Do not blame Coach Carr. This is tough for me, because before I watched the replay of the game tonight, I laid it all on him. But he is dealing with a very difficult situation. A freshman is at quarterback, which by all indications is his best option, but no-doubt has resulted in a watered-down playbook. Carr wanted a day of defense and ball-control through the running game. You can't get that if you can't run, but you also can't get that throwing the ball 50 times. Cautious? Yes. Conservative? Maybe. But Michigan football nonetheless.
Don't let yourself fall into the pregame, poll-driven hype (in other words, don't be me). This was a rivalry game. This was a tough road game in a tough road stadium by a team that had been thinking about a 38-0 drubbing for 365 days. This was a TEAM loss. The inability to get touchdowns instead of field goals, followed by untimely turnovers that left our defense in horrible situations, kept Notre Dame in the game for too long. Eventually, they were going to capitalize, and they did.
As much as it feels like it, this is not judgment day for Michigan football. This is not the end of a great run. We will recover. We will fix the offense. We will win games, and some of them will be big. People may start to not believe in Michigan football, and it seems that is when we become the most comfortable. Disregard us and we become the most dangerous team in in the country. Believe me, I feel it.