The fifth and final installment of the look back at the Michigan-Michigan State series urges sobriety. Let’s be honest, after three consecutive shutouts, who isn’t congratulating themselves over the success of the current Michigan team? You can admit it, after three shutouts in a row, you think you’re doing better at your own job, your own life is better, the future looks brighter, and the team is doing so well that it’s tempting to think it’s all your doing.
Well, now back to reality. When Mark Dantonio first took the reigns of the Michigan State program, most of us realized that Michigan suddenly had a rivalry on its hands again. We expected the first MSU win in 2008, after Mike Hart had made the ill-advised “Little Brother” remark the year before. In 2009, we weren’t all that surprised, because the game was played in East Lansing. Surely, 2010 would be the season when Michigan would restore order.
Except it didn’t happen. Both teams came into the game undefeated, but when it was over, only one team was celebrating, and they weren’t wearing Maize and Blue. Oh, Michigan had its chances. The Wolverines took the lead twice, the second time on a 12-yard scoring pass from Denard Robinson to Martell Webb, and it was easy to think that the Wolverines were about to set everything right with the world.
Unfortunately, the Spartans came back every time. Following Webb’s touchdown, Michigan State marched 78 yards in seven plays, capped by a 41-yard Le’Veon Bell touchdown run. After that, Michigan State gradually built its lead, ending the game with a 34-17 victory. A victory marked by Michigan State’s defense. Defense, something that had once been the very hallmark of Michigan football! Now, it was obvious that Michigan had some trouble with the guys in green, and the trouble wasn’t going anyway any time soon.
Michigan changed coaches. Brady Hoke tried, but over four years, Mark Dantonio’s Spartans thoroughly dominated our guys. Suddenly, we got a fiery coach, Jim Harbaugh, and everything seems to be pointing in the right direction again.
But still, I’m inclined to urge caution. Yes, Michigan should win this game, and under Harbaugh, the Wolverines have rediscovered many old Michigan traditions, from old school black shoes, to helmet stickers, a darker blue, to a true maize (not highlighter yellow) to the mid-1970s white pants, and most of all, to stout defense and a competitive fire. It’s tempting to puff out our chests, but again I urge caution.
Why so cautious? Well, somewhere, the owner of this website has a video he took from the minutes following that 2010 game. It’s about three or four minutes long, and during that time, you see what seems like an endless stream of players in white jerseys with green numerals, running up the tunnel at Michigan Stadium, high-fiving well wishers while chants of “Go Green, Go White” fill the air. Sure, it’s tempting to think those days are behind us, just as it’s tempting during a bull run on Wall Street to think that America will never have to endure another depression. But the fact is that Michigan State takes the rivalry seriously, too, and their players are also very hungry for victory.
Bottom line, I think Michigan will win this year, but I’d urge people not to take anything for granted. Humility, loyalty and hard work go a long way. Some day, maybe they’ll take our guys all the way again.
No video? This time, I won’t post the usual video thing from Youtube. Phil has the video I referred to earlier, and if he’s daring enough, he can post it with this blog. It’s painful enough that it’s sure to fire up anyone with a cotton pickin’ maize and blue heart!