Youth Wins Out Over Experience
Two weeks ago, TheWolverine.com released their quarterback scouting report. They discussed Matt Gutierrez, the national media's consensus heir apparent to John Navarre. They discussed Clayton Richard, two-sport star and southpaw, who looked like the number one backup. They also discussed Chad Henne. Expecting to read the phrase "will be red-shrited" I was surprised to instead read that he was leaps and bounds ahead of his development schedule, and was competing not only to back-up Matt Gutierrez, but also to replace him. The quote on the page read "don't be surprised if Chad Henne starts the season opener". A flabergasting if not unbelievable turn of events...that a 19 year old freshman that arrived on campus in August, and had participated in just 27 practices, was primed to challenge two guys that had participated in almost 4 years of reps combined.
Then Monday came, and the announcement was made. Matt Gutierrez will be the quarterback. But as if hiding behind a veil of secrecy, Coach Carr would not discuss the backup quarterback, nor would he discuss how he told the quarterbacks who would start. Is that a secret? The method with which you tell your quarterbacks their order on the depth chart? Michigan conspiracy theorists unite, because I submit that the job was still up for grabs. Camp arm? Camp arm doesn't keep you out of your first ever start as a Wolverine QB. Either you've got a serious injury that we aren't privied to hear about, or your ego is more sore than your shoulder...or as discussed today at the press conference, your elbow. The wall was high around Fort Schembechler for the remainder of the week leading up to Saturday's kick off. The Free Press plastered a full-face page of Gutierrez on the Friday sports section. Nobody knew. In fact, nobody knew until an hour before kickoff, when word began to trickle in. Gutierrez injured. Henne's got the start.
Believe it. A true freshman is quarterbacking your team. Yes, he was a bit shaky at first. And yes, it wasn't the offense you expected. However, there is no reason to think that things would have been better if #12 had lined up under center. We hide our offense. We hide sets, we hide plays. We hide them from three teams: Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State. So if you truly believed that Matt Gutierrez was the quarterback that was going to lead the Michigan Wolverines to the promised land, then believe this... Chad Henne is better than Matt Gutierrez, and is better equipped to lead you to the land you so desire.
On Saturday however, we didn't need a quarterback, we didn't need a running back. In fact, the offense didn't even need to take the field. A smothering Wolverine defense dismantled the vaunted attack of Miami of Ohio, forcing seven turnovers and putting the Wolverine offense in position to score on almost every possession...if they didn't put it in the end zone themselves. Michigan routed Miami of Ohio 43-10, a rout that looks great on paper, to the rest of the country, and to the poll voters. But a closer look shows that the Wolverines sustained only one drive of more than 50 yards, and that the anemic offense had trouble running the ball, averaging only 2.9 yards per carry against a MAC school. Last year the Wolverines averaged under three yards per carry only four times... three of those were losses. So let's hope that the plays we were hiding on Saturday were from our ground game.
And We Tailgate...Hawaiian Style
Luau music filled the air, pineapple rum filled our glasses, and leis adorned our chests. After over eight months of being apart, we reunited with old friends. Between hugs and toasts, we reminisced about previous seasons, talked of our summer exploits, and debated the 125th edition of Michigan football. We didn't miss a beat: food, fun, friends, football...and yellow socks. It's what we live by from September through November, and what we pine for from January through August.