While the false prophets of college football (AKA recruitng analysts) expound on the performance of the latest batch of recruits in attendance at Michigan football camp, many people miss the true importance of what’s happening this week.
In the most remarkable comeback in its football history, Michigan’s Wolverines stared down defeat and clawed back to victory, barely escaping from the Metrodome with a 38-35 victory over the undefeated Minnesota Golden Gophers. The Gophers were under estimated because of their soft schedule, but Michigan was the underdog in the game. Michigan trailed 28 to 7 at the start of the fourth quarter, scoring 31 points to win on a Garrett Rivas field goal with less than a minute left. Unbelievable!
In so doing the Wolverines maintained their self respect, the Little Brown Jug, and perhaps more importantly, they preserved a chance to compete for the Big Ten title for at least one more game, as a happy Lloyd Carr indicated in a post game interview.
Outplayed by a good Minnesota offense for most of three quarters, Michigan’s offense roared back to win. Late in the game the defense got a couple of critical stops.
This was a tale of two halves. Michigan was lousy offensively and defensively in the first half. They were flat. They were scoreless, and it looked as if they were clueless. The enigma that is John Navarre did not pass accurately sometimes, mainly in the first half, which helped stall drives, and all that observed probably thought that here we go again to another “away game” defeat. Michigan was down 14 at the half and things could not have looked worse for the Blue. The Gopher ground game looked unstoppable only because it was.
In the third quarter, Michigan finally scored a TD on a John Navarre pass to Steve Breaston, who in turn tossed it back to John Navarre. Navarre then galloped into the end zone to break the ice. He was accompanied downfield by at least four 300 pounders who cleared a path all the way to the end zone. John didn’t outrun the big fellows, and scored from 36 yards out.
John Navarre was the Michigan player of the game. Granted that he made some errant tosses when it counted, one resulting in an interception, and threw into coverage. He played over these mistakes by making some athletic plays, and he engineered some long fourth quarter drives that were simply outstanding. He ran for an occasional first down, and sneaked for more, and caught a pass for a touch down. He finally won one in a hostile environment against a ranked team, having failed six prior times. He was 33 of 47 for 353 yards, one TD and one interception.
Chris Perry also played with heart, and ran well. His single miscue on the day on Michigan’s last drive came as the result of an outstanding hit. That error was a potential drive killer, and game loser, but an alert Tim Massaquoi recovered to save the drive, and the day. Michigan’s winning field goal was kicked after the recovery. Chris Perry was Michigan’s leading receiver, gathering in 11 for 122 yards and a TD. Additionally, he rushed for 85 yards and scored another TD on the ground.
Braylon Edwards caught a critical 52-yard scoring pass in the fourth, Jason Avant made receptions and fought for yardage, and Steve Breaston contributed by making some receptions and some good punt returns.
The defense gave up lots of yardage. The Gophers had a hefty 495 net yards on the ground and an additional 71 harmful yards in the air. The defense let a very quick and experienced Minnesota QB, Asad Abdul-Kalig, loose on the ground on occasion, but when it was crunch time they stepped up and stopped the Gophers. Jacob Stewart intercepted an A-K pass and returned it 34 yards for a TD, in that critical fourth quarter.
Minnesota scored the only points of the first half with Marion Barber III and Laurence Maroney of the Gophers running in from 20 and 8 yards respectively for TDs. Michigan started the third quarter down 14. Then Michigan got on the board with the Navarre to Breaston to Navarre TD. Now Michigan trailed only 14-7 even though Minnesota is clearly playing better than the Wolverines. Laurence Maroney extended the Minnesota lead to 21-7 on a 38-yard run, and I have to reach for the Maalox. Thomas Tapeh then raised the deficit to 28-7 and I am considering turning the game off, and I am definitely bad mouthing the Wolverines. A 28-7 lead to begin the fourth quarter has to be insurmountable. Always before, in all the history of Michigan football, it has been enough to ensure a loss.
Surprisingly, the Wolverines didn’t fold, fought back, and closed the gap. Chris Perry caught a 10 yard-TD pass adjusting the score to 28-14. Then Jacob Stewart ran in his interception to bring it closer at 28-21. Minnesota did not surrender and answered with a nifty 52 yard run up the middle for six to put the Wolverines behind 35-21. A 52-yard John Navarre pass to Braylon Edwards made it 35-28 and a Chris Perry 10 yard run tied it at 35-35. The defense held the Gophers, and a Garrett Rivas field goal made it Michigan 38, Minnesota 35 in the last minute of play.
Spectacular! An awesome finish!
To say that a Michigan victory was unexpected when the fourth quarter began is to dramatically understate the case. Minnesota proved on the field that they are a quality football team, especially offensively. Marion Barber is a great running back this year, and their other backs are good. Asad Abdul-Kelig is quick and played a good game with the qualifier that he sometimes tries to make nothing into something. Fortunately for the Blue, Jacob Stewart returned that kind of mistake for a TD at critical point in the game. A-K made up for this with a with a 52 yard sprint from scrimmage, but he seemed more careful after the interception. The interception was a turning point. While Minnesota’s defense played well for much of the game, they were not up to stuffing the Wolverines for four quarters. Michigan’s special teams did not attract special attention this time. The coverage was adequate and the kicking was good.
This will not stem all the criticism of John Navarre and the coaches, and the quality of their season, but absolute disaster has been averted and expectations preserved.
This victory will go a long way toward providing a base of confidence the team can build on for the rest of the season, and will provide the hope that Michigan can win away from home, in a loud environment. Remember we have those ugly green helmets coming up in East Lansing yet this year.
Next week we will be back in the friendly confines of Michigan Stadium and we will be able to resume the normality of a Saturday afternoon game.
Hopefully, we will be able to enjoy most of next Saturday’s game against the Fighting Illini. Friday night only the fourth quarter was enjoyable.
Of course, the Illini will do their best to see that we don’t enjoy it.
Apparently, beating the Wolverines in overtime last season wasn’t enough for some Michigan State Spartan fans. This week at the Big Ten meetings in Chicago much was made of the fact the Lloyd Carr didn’t give MSU Head Coach Bobby Williams a handshake after the game.
There’s only one problem. Lloyd did shake his hand. See the picture. Watch the video.
Now I’ll be the first to admit that it wasn’t exactly a ‘warm’ handshake. But it wasn’t a snub either. A snub would have been to ignore Bobby Williams completely. But no matter what video shows the media seems intent to re-write history.
…They’re still pouting in East Lansing because Carr didn’t shake hands with Williams…(7/27/02)…
Who wrote this you ask? None other than the illustrious Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press. I vowed to stop reading Sharp (oxymoron?) long ago but happened to run across this article while researching the upcoming Big Ten season. You have to wonder if he even watched the game. The Ann Arbor News also repeated the fallacy in its Friday print edition.
The ‘handshake controversy’ is just another symptom of Spartan inferiority. Of course, some Spartan backers will deny that any such complex exists. But the reality is that some MSU fans have a chip on their shoulder regarding the Wolverines. They don’t feel that they get the respect that they deserve. Wolverine fans find this humorous. The truth is Wolverines fans don’trespect the Spartans. Why should we? Our all-time record versus Michigan State is 61-28-5. Since 1970 Michigan is 24-8 versus the mighty Spartans. Two of their latest ‘victories’ (1990, 2001) were dubious at best. This Spartan inferiority complex even seeps into the media. Respect is earned not given freely.
Why Do They Care?
Michigan fans couldn’t care less what other fans think about the Wolverines. We care what we think and that’s about it. That’s the difference between being number one and being an also ran. That’s the difference between being a Wolverine and a Spartan.
Last week the results of the Hall of Fame (HOF) voting were released. No Detroit Tigers got the requisite amount of votes for election to the Hall of Fame. In fact three Tigers (Kirk Gibson, Lance Parrish, Lou Whitaker) received so few votes that they will be dropped form future consideration. Among these players, the fact that Lou Whitaker received so few votes is a crime.
During his career, Whitaker did not have the best relationship with sports writers. He wasn’t an easy interview and didn’t enjoy dealing with reporters. Apparently this lack of media accessibility has cost Whitaker any chance of entering the Hall of Fame. He received so few votes from sportswriters that he can’t even be considered by the veteran’s committee, which has the power to elect players overlooked by the media.
Many will say that Whitaker didn’t have the stats to enter the hall. Well consider these statistics:
These are the average season statistics for four second baseman. Three are in the Hall of Fame and one isn’t. Can you pick the loser? The loser had the highest fielding percentage, the highest batting average, and averaged more home runs and RBI’s per season.
Among these players, Morgan had the good fortune of playing for the Cincinnati Reds, one of the premier teams of the 1970’s. But the hall of the fame is for individual statistics not for team achievements. Morgan did win two MVP awards but if you look at his statistics for those season they are good years but not great. More importantly Morgan is considered a great guy and went into broadcasting after his career. It must has been easy for the baseball media to elect one of the their own.
Evers had the good fortune to be elected for his defensive fame. He was part of the famous double play combination Tinkers-Evers to Chance immortalized in the early 1900’s.
Schoendienst had the best batting average among the four and was elected to the hall by the veteran’s committee.
Which leaves Whitaker, who played great defensive baseball and swung a potent bat, out of Cooperstown.
Baseball is a game of numbers and statistics. There’s no doubt some players have entered the Hall with less than stellar credentials, but when standards of admission are influenced by the personality of the player that’s just wrong. With similar statistics Morgan was elected with 81% of the vote while Whitaker only received 5% of the vote.
What were the sports writers thinking?
The biggest disgrace is how Detroit Sportswriters are failing to support Whitaker. It’s clear that they are punishing him for being a tough interview.
Here are the final career statistics Evers, Morgan, Whitaker, and Schoendienst. If you ever visit Cooperstown think of Lou Whitaker…
MESSAGE TITLE: Go Blue! Flush Tide!
As the year the 2000 dawns, I have made a remarkable discovery. For years I have labored under the illusion that Alabama was the one true college football program.
But I know now that I was mistaken.
The Crimson Tide was crushed, spanked, destroyed, whipped, crunched, walloped, beaten, embarrassed, abolished in such a way on January 1st that there can be no doubt that the University of Michigan Wolverines rule the college football world. In fact, if I had a vote in the final polls for the season, Michigan would be my number one team.
Such a fine program with outstanding fans and alumni. And what a fight song! It literally brought tears to my eyes when heard it played after the game. What more can I say? I have seen the light and it is maize!
Thanks to all my Michigan Friends who have helped me find the truth!
Hail To the Victors Valiant!
Hail To Michigan!
Hail to all Wolverines Everywhere!
New Wolverine, Reformed Tider
Don’t worry guys- it’s not too late to become Wolverine Fans!!