The Last Time I Saw Bo…

 

It’s taken me a long to write this article.

Last year I led a group on a private tour of Michigan Stadium on the Thursday before the Michigan/Ohio State game.

This tour took us all through the press box, on the field, through the tunnel and into the Michigan locker room.  But the highlight of the tour was running into Bo Schembechler in the press box  Bo was on his way to film an interview segment for HBO about the Michigan/Ohio State rivalry.

He didn’t look well.  But when he was introduced to our group he smiled and shook hands and seemed to light up.  His health may have been in decline but he still had boundless charm.  It was the highlight of the tour to say the least.

The next day Bo died.

I feel incredibly blessed that I got to see him one last time before he passed because Bo Schembechler and Michigan football changed my life.

Several years ago Bo and Jim Brandstatter did a book tour for “Tales from Michigan Stadium”.  One night when Bo and Jim and were signing copies at the local Ann Arbor M-Den I hung around until the lines dissipated and took the opportunity to speak with Bo.

I wanted him to know what an impact he had on my life.  I told him how I decided at young age to attend the University of Michigan.  That a lot of people told me that it would never happen- that kids from my high school didn’t go to Big Ten Universities.  That in my heart I knew what the mind can conceive and believe the mind can achieve and I was going the University of Michigan.  I told him how I saw Anthony Carter score a touchdown at my first Michigan game but the Wolverines lost 9-7.  I told him how although my high school football uniform was practically identical to Ohio State I wore a blue shirt underneath my pads for Michigan.  Of how I disappointed I was to get waitlisted when I first applied to Michigan, of how I wouldn’t give up until I was admitted.  I told how I drove cross country to see him coach his last game in the Rose Bowl only to see the referees call a bogus holding penalty to negate a 4th down conversion to end Michigan’s chances late in the game.  I told him how after UM commencement in the stadium I walked out the tunnel of Michigan Stadium for the first time.

Bo looked at me for second and then said, “You done good!”

I’m sure he heard these kind of stories all the time.

bophil

After this I thanked him and got his autograph on a photo of us taken during a recruiting visit to Michigan football practice.  The photo is proudly displayed on my wall.

The word hero gets thrown around a lot and some question whether a football  coach is worthy of such praise.

But what is a hero?  I believe a hero is someone who inspires us to greatness.

Bo Schembechler is one of my heroes.  And I make no apologies to anyone for that.

Lloyd Carr- Michigan Man

I remember how unenthused I was when Lloyd Carr was named interim head coach of the Michigan Wolverines.

 

It had been a tough week.  Bo’s handpicked successor, Gary Moeller, had been involved in an embarrassing off-the-field incident.  Mo had gotten drunk, got into a verbal altercation with the police (which was taped and played on the local TV news) and resigned in shame.

 

Barring the complete meltdown of Gary Moeller, being Michigan’s Head Football Coach probably would not have been in Lloyd’s future.  I had met Lloyd Carr a few times and my impression was that he was the nice guy on the staff compared to Bo and Mo’s tough guy personas.  I didn’t have high hopes for Michigan football under his leadership.

 

During Lloyd’s first game as head coach the Wolverines were getting embarrassed by Virginia at the Big House.  With 13 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter, the Wolverines were losing 17-0.  Hardly a great start for the interim head coach.

 

 

But then something amazing happened.  The Wolverines got off that mat, fought back and won on the last play of the game when QB Scott Dreisbach found WR Mercury Hayes in the corner of the end zone.  The Wolverines ended up 9-4 and Lloyd was named permanent head coach.

 

I still didn’t have a lot of faith in Lloyd.

 

And yet, two seasons later in was at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena watching the Wolverines clinch their first National Championship in 50 years.  He did something that Bo never was able to do.  He won it all.

 

And still there were critics.  Going undefeated wasn’t good enough.  And Lloyd didn’t care.

 

Over the years I have to come to have great respect for Coach Carr.

 

Gary Moeller had been destroyed by the pressure of succeeding Bo Schembechler while Lloyd embraced the pressure and eventually thrived.

 

All Lloyd needed his team, a field and an opponent.  Everything else was superfluous.

 

 

There’s no doubt that Lloyd had little interest in pandering to the press.  Lloyd treated them all same- taking a page from Bo’s playbook- like dogs.  He understood that they really didn’t matter.  Michigan didn’t need people in the press to drum up interest for the Wolverines.

 

It has been amazing to see the transformation of Lloyd Carr from the all around nice guy to someone who outsiders consider to be grouchy and mean.  To anyone who has had a chance to observe Lloyd interacting with his players or recruits this misperception is hilarious.  Whenever I saw Lloyd being gruff with a reporter I always imagined he was doing his best Bo imitation.  But it wasn’t him.

 

 

Lloyd was coach who honestly cared about his football players as people.  Someone who considered himself foremost a teacher.  He was fiercely loyal to his players and coaches no matter what the public thought.  He could also be brutally tough on players who he believed didn’t have the team’s best interests in mind.

 

The following is one of Lloyd’s favorite quotes:

 

I am wounded but not slain
I will lay me down and bleed a while
And then rise up to fight again.

 

I think of this quote whenever the Wolverines would rally back from a deficit.

 

Lloyd Carr coached teams were never defeated.

 

They simply ran out of time before being able to mount a comeback.

2007 Michigan Football- UM 34 Minnesota 10 Game Grades

 

Game 9 Scoreboard

 

 

 

 

 “Obviously, Mario Manningham is one of the better receivers in the nation. We got tested, and he won.”

 

Dominique Barber, Minnesota Strong Safety

 

“Our defense was outstanding today. The good news is that we got going offensively in the second quarter. I think our offensive line has been good all season long.

 

Lloyd Carr, Michigan Head Coach 
 

 

Phil’s Game Grades

 

Offense   A-
Defense A
Special Teams   A-
Coaching A
Overall    A   

 


The Wolverines beat the Gophers with QB Chad Henne and RB Mike Hart on the sidelines.

 

Offense-  The offense didn’t get rolling until the second half but had enough firepower to handle the hapless Gophers.  Backup RBs Carlos Brown and Brandon Minor both rush for over a hundred yards and WR Mario Manningham had a career day. 

 

Defense-  The defense looked great stuffing the spread offense of the Gophers.

 

Special Teams-  Nothing bad report- a nice change.

 

Coaching-   Lloyd rolled the dice that the Wolverines could beat the Gophers with QB Chad Henne and RB Mike Hart resting for next week.  He was right and their backups got valuable meaningful game experience.

 

Comments-   The only question about the upcoming game versus MSU is how long it will take Chad Henne and Mike Hart to shake off the rust.  If they can get rolling early the Wolverines will put a beating on the Spartans…

M Football 2007- The Bad, the Good and the Jug

Michigan’s Football Wolverines suffered the humiliation of falling behind to the University of Minnesota?s lowly Gophers 3 to zip in the first quarter, of trailing 10 to zip in the second quarter, of barely scraping out a 13-10 lead at the half, of starting with less than glacial speed and almost putting the announced crowd of about 109,000 to sleep with first down runs to the left, only to later stun the crowd with a series of sparkling plays in the second half for a 34 to 10 victory.

Those pesky Minnesota rodents battled in earnest in their desperate attempt to right a wronged season.  They did not quit even if they were finally out manned and overwhelmed, but their many freshmen played tough at least for a while.

Any win is a win and is good, especially in conference, even though in this one, in the first half, it was simply a stinker on the part of the Wolverine offense and, to a lesser degree,  the Wolverine defense.  Thirteen points in a half against statistically the worst defense in BCS (formerly D-1) ball is not particularly laudable.  In fairness to Michigan’s defense it should be noted that the Gophers have demonstrated a proven ability to move the football this year.

Minnesota has fallen on exceptionally hard football times and the Wolverines should be able to demolish a team owning their statistics at the bottom of BCS play, even without the services of Chad Henne and Mike Hart.  While eventually the Wolverines prevailed in somewhat expected style, they were not able to put the game away early, and again seemed to somewhat play down to the level of their competition.

In the absence of Chad Henne, Ryan Mallett drew the start at QB. And like the rest of the Wolverines he saved his best for last, after bobbled snaps, a fumble that led to Gopher points, after passes were batted down, after some poor throws were made and offensive false starts happened.

Ryan seems to be in the midst of some growing pains, but fortunately the situation is perfect for him to learn and put mistakes behind him with the least damage to his team.  His arm appears to be as good as advertised, perhaps better.   His 40-yard, late in the game, TD pass to Mario Manningham in the south endzone was perfect, allowing Mario to catch it in stride.  That,  and others like his strikes to Adrain Arrington, are all proof that the talent and a better than average football future is his to reap.

Just like premium cheese, he needs to be aged, but the level he attains will not just be dependent on his abundant physical skills but on maturation and the growth of football wisdom.  I wonder if the cooler temperatures Saturday bothered him.  In Texas, this kind of temperature would be a ?Blue Norther?.

Ryan was 11/20 for 233 yards. He got better as the game went on, and he will get better as his career goes on.   Next year is sure to be both challenging and interest for him and us.

In the absence of Mike Hart, Carlos Brown started but soon fumbled an opportunity away. Brandon Minor replaced him at TB after the fumble.  Minor had 21 carries for 157 yards and a TD.  Fortunately, Carlos got another chance and redeemed his day with an 85-yard TD sprint from scrimmage into the south endzone, and finished with a solid 132 yards for a total of two TDs ont he day. 

That long TD run was a masterpiece, a spectacular run that showcased Brown?s outstanding speed, and it was his second of the day.  He ran away from everyone.   He had done the same thing in a spring practice, so in that sense it was not surprise.

Mario Manningham has to be considered the player of the game.  He snared 5 passes for a career high 162 yards, and had key catches in scoring drives, and a spectacular TD catch.

How It Unfolded:

The Wolverines all but ceded the first quarter to the Gophers.  Carlos Brown fumbled and they got a 29-yard FG.  M looked flatter than yesterday?s beer on a platter.  This yawner of a quarter ended W-0, G-3.

Things picked up some in the second as Ryan Mallett donated the football to the Gophers and they decided to carry it across M?s goal line.  W-0, G-10.  Unthinkable.  Unbelievable. Actual.  More Appalachian State?

The Wolerines ran left on many first downs, but threw Junior Hemmingway into the fray as a running back, taking a direct snap, with Mallett spread far left, for a harmless trick play that netted three yards.  Finally they shook off some lethargy, and moved for a 42-yard Lopata FG after a 10-play, 54-yard drive. W-3, G-10.

Then they did it again, this time on a 26-yard Lopata FG enabled by a Mario Manningham reception for 39 yards in a 7 play, 53-yard drive.  W-6, G-10.

Mario struck again with a neat 24-yard TD catch, and with a Gopher pass interference call, Brandon Minor ended the drive by scoring on a two-yard run.  It was W-13, G-10, and a poor half of Michigan football was complete.  Offensively, it was a performance as grey and misty as the day.  Henne and Hart missing should not be the crutch used to support that first half.  The defense, while not perfect, played better than the offense.

Fortunately, Zoltan Mesko continued his great punting.  Unfortunately, we could never collar the ball before it bounced into the endzone.  What happened to the punting team trying to catch it near the goal line?  It appeared we had the opportunity with people down there a couple of times, but they could not locate the ball.

Carlos Brown had a nice 27-yard return to start the second half, but they stalled and punted.

Well into the third quarter the Mallett to Manningham connection struck again on a 48-yarder to set up a Carlos Brown TD run of 5-yards.  Great throw and catch.  M-20, G-10 after a 5-play 75-yard drive.

The Blue struck again early in the fourth, on a picture perfect pass and catch resulting in a 6 play, 68-yard drive, which ended with Mario?s remarkable 40-yard TD reception.  Perfect throw, perfect catch, and Mario grabbed it on a dead run.  W-27, G-10.

Carlos Brown than made as good a long TD run as I have ever seen, hauling it 85-yards to pay dirt.  Final W-34, G-10.

For a long time this game was not as lop sided as the final score and statistics indicated.  Michigan? own lack of contain, fumbles and missed tackles, and some mind numbing play calling, helped the Gophers hang around far too long.

Michigan ended up with 307-yards rushing on 40 carries and 254-yard passing on 21 attempts, so eventually they dominated statistically and on the scoreboard.  Ryan Mallett made some mistakes, but engineered some nice drive too.

The Gophers did manage to run the ball for 132-yards on the Wolverines.  Next week the Spartans will want to triple that.  In view of the Gopher?s past performances this year that is a lot, but overall this was a great win, and the Jug gets to remain with its rightful owners for another year.

Now the Wolverines have to slice into the toughest meat of their Big Ten season.  Each of the three remaining games means everything to their hopes, and each will be difficult.  Michigan State lost to Iowa Saturday, but don?t let that settle you into a comfort zone.  The Michigan game is always their season and a win would help D?Antonio to settle into a comfort zone never enjoyed by Williams and Smith.  Spartan Stadium will be wild with excitement.  They have been focused on the Wolverines for a long time.

With Henne and Hart back the Wolverines have the talent to win.  The question will simply be how much do the Wolverines want it?  It will likely be a brawl, a physical battle. 

It will be televised on the inconvenience that is known as the Big Ten Network so my greedy cable company will not carry it.  Should I go to a bar here in the Lansing area and put up with all that crap they spew?  Better to get a tape from a friend and watch right after, so hopefully I can get something posted.

Correction:  Late word is that ABC has exercised its option and picked up UM/MSU so the game WILL be available for those of us with non-participating cable providers.

Enjoy the game, thanks for reading this far and ?

Go Blue!

2007 Michigan Football- UM 27 Illinois 17 Game Grades

 

Game 8 Scoreboard

 

 

 

 “The only word to describe Chad Henne is courageous.”

 

Lloyd Carr, Michigan Head Coach

 

“We’re rolling…The Big Ten Championship is out there, and we’re going for it.

 

Adrian Arrington, Michigan WR 
 

 

Phil’s Game Grades

 

Offense   A-
Defense A
Special Teams   A-
Coaching A
Overall    A   

 


The stage was set in Champaign for an Illini victory but the Wolverines spoiled the party.

 

Offense-  The offense took a little while to find itself without RB Mike Hart.  Chad Henne was injured but showed grit in returning (twice!) to lead the Wolverine to victory.  Nice to see Mike Debard crack open the stone tablets- err I mean playbook and run a little razzle dazzle.  Ryan Mallett is getting a baptism of fire during road games this season.  Great job by RB Carlos Brown filling in for injured Mike Hart.

 

Defense-  The defense got the job done against both Illini QBs.  This is unit has quietly began to gel.  Their next true test will be against MSU.

 

Special Teams-  The kick receive gave another long return which got the Illini crowd fired up to start the game.  The two field goals and recovered punt to set the game clinching TD bail out the grades for this unit.

 

Coaching-   A great job by the coaching staff to prepare the team for this one.  The Wolverine had many excuses (No Mike Hart, on the road, injuries to Chad Henne) to lose this game but showed great toughness in pulling out the victory.

 

Comments-   No amount of tacky video clips played on the scoreboard could prevent the Illini from giving the game away with stupid penalties.  The Illini are an undisciplined team.