It was an odd start last week in Dallas. Beginning a season away from home didn't feel the same. And neither did the temperature. Or that dome. It was all very "Bowl Game." Something wasn't right, and the result was even worse. But we're home now, picking up the pieces of whatever that was that occurred in Texas.
And it felt like fall on Saturday. The humidity subsided, cooler temperatures prevailed, and Michigan showed you that they are clearly getting back to being the Michigan of your youth...in that lackluster, barely-squeaking-by-an-inferior-team way you've come to love over the years. This was Michigan football kids. Don't mistake reality for the team you had mentally planned for RichRod to build 3 years ago. I mean, I can see how you might be confused. The "remnants-of-richrod" offense saved us on Saturday, and we needed it to, especially since we seem to be regressing back to the Greg Robinson defense. The game had that "we've got to score every time" feel to it, something you learned to enjoy during the 2009-10 seasons.
Since I am a Michigan fan and I live in the past, I can't help but be still pissed about the Alabama game, especially given the gameplan we ran against Air Force. Are you still trying to tell me that running Denard was the wrong thing to do in Dallas? I am aware that it would not have been as successful against the Alabama front as it was against the Falcons, but even if it was half as effective, the Cowboys Classic would've been just slightly less of an embarrassment. And that's all I wanted. Use your most exciting player on the off chance that he might surprise you. Oh well, what's done is done.
Against Air Force, Denard was back to being Denard. Slashing through inferior athletes with reckless abandon, and throwing up balls that were just inaccurate enough to have our receivers come back to make plays over the heads of DB's that have their back to the play. And as critical as I have been of Denard this season, the sad fact is that after Denard, there is nothing. Fitz was a non-factor. The O-line is an abomination. It's Denard, and then an early look at the future.
Freshman will have a huge impact on the success of the rest of the season, as it becomes painfully obvious that minus two or three guys on either side of the ball, the upperclassmen as a whole are not fit for the task. There's about to be a Freshmen vs. Y'all moment in Michigan Football...
"C'mon," Rose repeated, dribbling the ball for emphasis. "Whassup? Freshmen against y'all."
"All right," someone finally said. "Let's go."
And they drifted apart, crossing the invisible lines, those who had worn Michigan uniforms before, those who hadn't. Michael Talley, the junior guard, slapped a few of the older players on the butt, as if to say, no problem, we can handle these punks, let's do it. Seter blew a mouthful of aggravated air and dug in.
"Here we go," Rose whispered to Chris Webber (the McDonald's All-American).
"Let's run, baby," Juwan Howard said, flipping the ball to King, his roommate, who nodded over at his Texas partner, Ray Jackson.
Whoooooommmppph! A pilot light ignited. Four 18-year-olds and one 17-year-old were making like a doo-wop group dropping naturally into harmonies, creating basketball far richer than they could do apart. Howard, the big kid from Chicago, took a nice feed in low, turned and banked one in. Jackson and King, the Texas connection, came flying down on fast breaks, two blurs, seemingly out of control, collecting themselves at the last instant to jam it home and swing on the rim. Steals. Slams. They banged bodies on defense and grunted when they fought for rebounds. Sneakers squeaked up and down the hardwood floor, punctuated now and then by a "Whoooo!" holler from one of the freshmen.
The upperclassmen could not match their baskets. And they could not match their enjoyment. The freshmen were having a party out there. They nodded and pointed to each other, backpedaling after baskets as if their union were the most natural thing in the world.
They won easily.
They won again.
"Can't check me," they taunted.
Jesus, they do a lot of talking …
God I love that book. Anyway, your nose guard in the second half (Pipkins) was born in 1994. Frosh Joe Bolden had 10 tackles at middle linebacker, just one short of Oosterban-number-wearing Golden-locked Jake Ryan's team leading 11...who himself is only a sophomore (RS). And Funchness stole the show on offense. He's a presence. He's our Gronk. And he's 18.
So where do we stand? Well, we're not very good. If you're playing freshmen with the frequency we did on Saturday, you've got a lot of problems. There was some talk that certain guys were plugged in to certain positions because they had witnessed a lot of option football in high school, and that it was a one game thing. I don't think so. I think the incumbents are not up to par. Time will tell. Fortunately, we play in the worst football conference so we have a chance to win a few games. My confidence is waning with regards to Sparty, but that's just the type of situation that lends itself to Sparty going all Sparty on us, pooping their beds, organizing raids on frats, and slapping themselves in the face...so stay tuned. I'm increasingly less concerned with Notre Dame. Not sure why. Ohio State is going to be a handful in Columbus in what will be their bowl game. Nebraska, whose ability to lay down on the west coast makes them a perfect fit for our league, will still give us fits when we visit Lincoln. Also, Northwestern scares me. Anyway, I'd like to think we can take an 8-4 record into a bowl game. And I like to think we can squeak out one of the two out of MSU/OSU and one of the two out of ND/Nebraska. Mix in an unexpected yet expected loss to NW or Iowa, and there it is, 8-4. Am I missing something? Probably. Shit, we almost lost to UMASS last time, and that's when they were in the FCS. Fight on, you fighting Denards....fight on.
So, I've been working on a project. It's for the tailgate. It was a huge undertaking, and because of circumstances beyond my control, it has continued to be put off...and now there's a chance it won't appear at the first game, at least not in its finished state. But it is a work in progress, so I'm not too worried about it. Regardless, I'm going to give it my all for the next couple of days...and there you have it, an excuse for brevity.
History: Despite my historical recollection that Michigan had played Air Force like 50 times in the middle of the 20th century, they have not. They've played once. I must be confusing them with Navy or Army. In 1964, Michigan beat Air Force 24-7. 1964 was one of just a few bright spots in an otherwise shitty decade of Michigan Football, as Michigan went 9-1. They had won only 5 games in the previous two years combined. Suck on that RichRod haters.
System: Air Force runs a triple-option offense, which is super-effective when you are in high school. It's a sort of a gimmick, and yet it is also a throwback. So I'm not sure what to make of it, other than that it scares me...like when a baseball team has to face a knuckleballer. On paper, it can look like this mess...
Basically, you have four blockers in the backfield....that can also get the ball. Seems like a pain in the ass to cover.
Last Week: Air Force had 490 rushing yards, and 628 yards of total offense in a 49-21 rout of Idaho State. RB Cody Getz had 218 yards on 17 carries. That's YPC FTW.
Why You're Scared: 1) We knew very little about ourselves going into the season, and now we know we shouldn't play the SEC...and very little else. The unknown scares us. 2) This is going to be a season-maker for the Falcons, and probably the most money they'll get for a day's work all season. 3) Their weird offense could pose problems. 4) Denard is not a very good passer.
Why You're Already Celebrating: 1) Fitz is back 2) Alabama is the 33rd NFL team. 3) Michigan is undefeated against the Mountain West conference 4) Denard is a very good runner.
Tailgate Theme Alert: The All-American theme commences at 8am...I will be there to start setting up at 7:30 if you'd like to join me (please....someone?). It's going to be a long day so pace yourself! Don't forget some American flag garb, a dish to pass, and your own drinks. If you need to review the rules, they're right here.