2008 Michigan Football- The Undiscovered Country


Every offseason I spend time watching and re-watching games from the past Michigan football season.


While preparing for the Capital One Bowl, the realization hit me that none of what I was watching has any bearing on the future of Michigan football.


Every coach except for one is gone next season.


On offense, it should come as no surprise that receivers Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington have departed for the NFL.  QB Chad Henne, RB Mike Hart, and OL Jake Long have exhausted their eligibility.  QB heir apparent Ryan Mallett, who filled in this season when Henne was injured, has decided to transfer rather than try and fit his skills into the spread offense.


It is completely possible that along with a new offensive philosophy we may see different starters at every position the next time a Wolverine QB snaps the ball.


And while I’m excited about the potential of the spread offense,  Michigan fans are facing the great unknown.


Even Michigan Stadium will be vastly different as the largest renovation in its history has begun.


Ground has been broken on the new indoor practice facility and football weight room has been cleared out in preparation for new equipment.


Forget everything you’ve come to know about Michigan football.


Between the coaching change and facility upgrades we are oberving on the greatest periods of change in the history of Michigan football.


Are you ready?

2007 Michigan Football- Henne and Hart- Invincible?


Recently I watched the movie Invicible, which tells the true story of a Vince Papale, a 30 year old bartender who becomes an NFL player after being discovered at an open tryout.  In the movie, Papale freezes and blows a play during his first NFL game against the Dallas Cowboys.  As he leaves the field the head coach screams at him, “I stuck my neck out for you!”


The message was clear- it didn’t matter that Papale was a folk hero to the team’s fans, or that the coach personally liked him- if he couldn’t do his job and help the team win he wouldn’t play.


I thought about this scene in the movie as I watched QB Chad Henne and RB Mike Hart struggle against Ohio State Saturday.



It would have been a great story to have them return from injury and lead the Wolverines to victory over the Buckeyes.  It would have awesome to have Lloyd’s loyalty to his seniors validated with a victory in his final game at Michigan Stadium.



But it didn’t turn out that way.


The Michigan mantra is supposed to be “The Team, The Team, The Team” but on Saturday I’m not sure if the best interests of the team were served.

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.

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!

M Football- Dating Disaster

The University of Michigan?s Football Wolverines invited Brady Hoke’s Ball State Cardinals to the Big House Saturday in a game designed to fill a late and vacant schedule date caused by the extension of the number of allowable NCAA football games to twelve per season. As you know the Wolverines dream season continues to survive, thirty-four to twenty-six, but it wasn?t the expected walk in the park, and it was a near disaster, being too close for comfort. Pre-game, a fly-by by a couple of F-18A Hornets provided some thunder, and I thought the Wolverines would continue to shake the stadium.

This game was expected by most to only be a warm up for the remaining Wolverine games in their pursuit of a Big Ten Title, the MNC, an unbeaten season and the showdown of unbeatens in Columbus on November 18th. Pundits predicted Michigan would provide a over a thirty-point victory margin, and the game would provide the opportunity for the Blue to hone its array of reserves. The point spread for the day was the largest for any game in the nation on Saturday.

Some reserves did play early and late, with Jerome Jackson, and Brandon Minor, adding to the significant yardage gained on the ground by Mike Hart. Some backup DBs were burned with big plays late in the game. The anticipated appearance of QB Jason Forcier did not occur, probably due to the close nature of the game. But the expected point totals did not happen even though the Cardinals dwell near the lower echelons of MAC existence, the Wolverines had already dispatched Central Michigan?s MAC leading Chippewas in impressive fashion, and Michigan produced over five hundred yards of offense.

The Wolverines own errors and the determination of the Cardinals led to early and late Cardinal leads. The Wolverines almost enabled their date with disaster. Ultra reliable Mike Hart fumbled deep in Michigan territory, which resulted in a safety and two Ball State points. Chad Henne threw into double coverage in Michigan?s end and was penalized by an interception return for six. This was all in the first quarter, and accounted for the early Ball State lead.

Suddenly, late in the game the defense did not hold on in two Cardinal scoring drives, and Michigan?s pass defense became a problem. It was not easy not to flashback to 2005 and late defensive failures. And the offense wasn?t doing its part by moving the ball with the game on the line. Again flashbacks caused by a Cardinal lead.

The late Cardinal lead was the result of a pair of nice Cardinal scoring drives. A foolish Michigan facemask penalty played a part. The first drive was against the Wolverines defensive reserves. More of the starters were back for the second drive, which put the upstart Cardinals within eight points of the Wolverines late in the forth quarter. Again a reserve DB was burned.

While Michigan?s defense was throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the Cardinals, it was impressive. Woodley, Crable, Branch, Taylor and especially Harris, were making tackles all over the field. But then they changed personnel and the defense melted, but the Wolverines were finally up to the task of preserving the victory.

The date with disaster was turned into a victory celebration finally as the clock and Brady Hoke?s hopes expired on a Ryan Mundy end zone interception.

The game went like this. Michigan drew first blood in the first quarter, even though the Cardinal?s owned the quarter on the scoreboard as it ended, while totaling only twenty-eight yards.

Michigan formulated a seventy-six yard first quarter drive that ended with Jerome Jackson falling in for a one yard TD. He had been in the endzone on the previous play, called a TD on the field but overruled by review. M 7, BSU 0.

The defense held and a nice Cardinal punt was downed deep in Michigan territory. Mike Hart coughed it up for a safety, and the Cards retained possession of the ball on a free kick by Zoltan Mesko. M 7, BSU 2.

Then Chad Henne threw into coverage and it was intercepted and returned for six. M 7, BSU 9. Oh, OH!

In the second quarter, the legs of Mike Hart produced an eight play, seventy-four yard drive, with Carson Butler snagging a seven yard TD pass. M 14, BSU 9.

Michigan?s offense diddled to a stop, so Mike Rivas was called upon to hit a twenty-two yard field goal ending a three-play forty-nine yard drive. M 17, BSU 9. A TD here would have helped relieve the tension later, but they stalled and got only the three.

Then Brandon Minor made a major run for a forty-yard TD. This guy is going to star at Michigan. He can turn the corner better than any other back they have. M 24, BSU 9.

The Cardinals answered with a three pointer on a nice 52 yarder. M 24, BSU 12. So ended the first half.

The band put on its nicest performance of the season so far, featuring TV musical themes and producing the outline of an automobile, boat and other items appropriate to the music. The outlines the band formed were recognizable from my near end zone seats, as they showed up perfectly on the scoreboard screens. A Star Trek actor conducted music from Star Track, and got the ovation of the day when he ended the performance by shouting Beat the Bucks.

Mike Hart bulled in from the run, after an impressive twelve play, eighty-yard drive to make it M 31, BSU 12. Everyone relaxed as did the defense as starters were replaced.

Surprisingly, Michigan gave up a fifty-four yard pass play and all of a sudden its M 31, BSU 19.

The Blue could only answer with another Garrett Rivas field goal. M 34, BSU 19.

The Cardinals then damaged the defensive pride of some of the starters, but again a back up DB was the main victim, with another big play and a score after, this time coming on a three-yard run culminating a three play-drive. M 34, BSU 26.

What are the lessons to be learned? Pass defense appears to be a real problem. Michigan?s pass defense gave up two hundred fifty yards and some damaging big plays. Credit some of that to BSU?s Stan Parrish, our old QB coach, who now handles OC duties for BSU. The Wolverine?s time of possession and a ton of offensive yardage were more than adequate, but where were the points? Michigan settled for two late field goals instead of TDs that would have put the game away.

Again the run defense was outstanding, but penalties and allowing long plays is anything but outstanding. Injuries are still a plaque. Was Prescott Burgess hurt for the second half, and where was Kevin Grady? Is he out for the season or will he be back? Jake Long appeared to shake off an injury.

While Mike Hart had twenty-five carries for one hundred fifty-five yards; Brandon Minor had one hundred and eight yards; and Jerome Jackson had lugged six for sixty-eight yards, and all had a TD, the offense did not move the ball at crunch time, failed in the red zone twice, dropped passes, and made costly mistakes. They have to do better and should be very coach able this week.

Chad was seventeen of twenty-five for one hundred fifty-five yards, one TD and one interception, and showed some mobility on occasion. Again Michigan ran on most first downs, with varying results. The offense did log good time of possession again. Before the game Michigan was the best in the nation in offensive turnovers.

Steve Breaston was a Henne target for seven completions for fifty-yards, Carson Butler had four for forty-nine and a TD. While he had a drop he is maturing. Mario Manningham played but was not Henne?s target, but seemed to run well.

Rondell Biggs, Mark Bihl, Steve Breaston, Tyler Ecker, David Harris, Obi Oluigbo, Willis Barringer, Ross Ryan, Carl Tabb, Brian Thompson, Jeremy Van Alstyne, Darnell Hood, Turner Booth, Alijah Bradley, Jeff Kastl, B.J. Opong-Owusu. Prescott Burgess, Leon Hall, Jerome Jackson, Garrett Rivas and LaMarr Woodley, have played their last football game in Michigan Stadium. They will be missed next year. What a group!

While this game wasn?t a blow out, and was hard hitting on both sides, the Blue did ultimately prevail. No MAC team has ever beaten the Wolverines, but Brady Hoke and his charges definitely won a moral victory Saturday and gave their best, but that won?t satisfy Brady. And Saturday?s performance won?t satisfy Coach Carr, and shouldn?t. Post game radio interviews mentioned a serious locker room. It should be.

Ten in a row isn?t bad in any body?s book. Now it needs to be eleven. The Hoosiers were embarrassed by Minnesota, and will want to defang the Wolverines to make their season, etc., etc. At least it will be on TV other than ESPNU, so most can see it.

Having been taught a lesson by Ball State, no doubt the Wolverines will be loaded for Hoosiers. The Bucks struggled with Illinois, winning by seventeen to ten, if that makes you feel any better.

Saturday?s game is not just a warm up before the Buckeyes, it is an obstacle that must be scaled for a successful season. It is as important as any game this year. I believe these Wolverines have the ladder to success, even if they do slip or slide, one way or another, once in a while.

Thank you for reading this far, come back next week, and Go Blue!

Andy Andersen