10. November 2006 · Comments Off on Huskers Drop Michigan in Alamo Bowl 2005 · Categories: Archive 2005, Bowls, Lloyd Carr, Media, Refs & Rules

M Falls in Alamo, Focus turns to Carr, ’06 M Blows another lead,
ONEKAMA, MICHIGAN DECEMBER 29, 2005
Oh my nerves are shot. Michigan surrendered another double digit second half lead and and lost the Alamo Bowl to Nebraska 32-28 late last night. The game featured several twists, bad calls, and nearly one of the greatest plays in college football history. No matter how you look at it, this loss was reflective of a sad season that will sting throughout the winter, spring and summer up until the 2006 Wolverines take the field. If Lloyd Carr doesn’t do something to stop this trend, Pam Ward will be calling Michigan games for ESPN2 next season.

Here are the takes on this game:

– Final Play. Listening to the radio in the morning and reading both the Detroit Free Press and News in the morning, you’d think that the final play was not a big deal. ESPN fortunately thought otherwise, breaking it down several times after the game and today in between breaks. This really makes this one a bitter pill. After watching it several times on ESPN.com, it looks like Tyler Ecker thought he could turn the corner on the Nebraska defensive back and score. He was pushed out of bounds at about the 14. Stevie Breaston, who played a great game on special teams, was trailing Ecker the whole time begging for the ball. Had Breaston got the ball, M would have scored. Now….with both teams clearly on the field during the play (although clearly more red players), would the refs have huddled after the score and called off-setting penalties, negating the play? Don’t know, but after all the ridiculous plays that occurred to get them to that point, it hurts that Ecker couldn’t make 1 final pitch to Stevie Wonder to put it into the endzone. Several Michigan players stopped playing on the miracle play including Jake Long and Chad Henne. Here’s a diagram of the crazy play:

Final play Alamo Bowl 2005 Michigan

And here’s the Youtube:


– Delayed Start. one of the drawbacks of playing in this crappy bowl is the TV coverage. With one feed, ESPN couldn’t cut to the start of the game without concluding the Boise State Bowl. So, Lew, K’s, and I had to listen to the beginning of the game via WJR.

– Replays induced by Timeouts. That Coach Carr had to call timeouts to get two keys plays reviewed is ridiculous. Even more ridiculous: ESPN reported on Thursday that the reply booth did indeed try to buzz down to the field to call for a review of the Nebraska touchdown drop but the pager did not buzz, it displayed an error. If this is true, two questions:

1. Why did the buzzer suddenly work a minute later after Carr called the timeout? The play was then reviewed and reversed!
2. If the buzzer didn’t work, why didn’t the refs do the right thing and give Michigan their timeout back after they knew of this? There is no question why Carr called the timeout (no team calls timeouts after the other team scores in the 3rd quarter).

– Refs. The Sun Belt conference referees called the game. As Mike Tirico noted at the end of the game, it was one of the worst officiated games in the history of mankind.

– Michigan homers. Tirico and former Buckeye & pretty boy Kirk Herbstreit called the game for ESPN and demonstrated a major information bias towards Michigan. This is with good reason: Herby is a Big Ten guys, and of course has ties to Michigan via his Buckeye heritage, and Tirico lives in Ann Arbor.

– Pressure on Carr. The pressure has evolved from being on the assistant coaches (Malone, Hermann), and onto Lloyd Carr. What will the future bring? Most think that Coach Carr only has 2-3 years left, perhaps seeing out the Henne/Hart through their senior seasons.

10. November 2006 · Comments Off on Buckeyes Stifle Michigan Again in 2005 · Categories: Archive 2005, Ohio State

Dominant Ohio State D makes the difference; Troy Smith completes the comeback
ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN NOVEMBER 21, 2005
Oh the pain. Jim Tressel continued his mastery over Lloyd Carr’s Wolverines as the Buckeyes took down the Michigan Wolverines again, the second time in Ann Arbor. Since Tressel arrived, the only Michigan win was the classic 100th meeting between the two teams (thank goodness!).

Before the game, Carr said a loss would make this season a disappointment. It happened and it is. While clearly overrated as pre-season #4, there really is no acceptable terms whereby this team can lose four regular season games (three at home!) and consider it a good season. It is very disappointing for everyone.

Here are the takes on this game:– Buckeye Bamboozle Poor Schlimmy! Tailgate legend Scott Grow fell victim to the eBay Buckeye Ticket Bandit. Earlier this year Schlim locked into tickets to the big Michigan – Ohio State game on eBay to a seller with a high rating. The tickets were to be delivered 2 weeks before the game. Payment was rendered and nothing ever showed up. Turns out Scotty wasn’t the only one burned by this deadbeat: there have been over 70 complaints to the Ohio Attorney General. It turned into a big news story, here’s one update.

– White Whale. The sweater-vested one is now a major thorn in Lloyd’s keister. Cross comparisons to the vilified John Cooper are rampant in the media. Next season will be pivotal in this series, as Michigan returns a pretty strong team and Troy Smith will likely be back. Speaking of the sweater vest, I was expecting Buckeye Jim in a winter coat but no sir. Sweater vest. His closest must be riddled with those things, maybe Lloyd should try one on.

– White Wall. Michigan never got a run game going. When holes appeared to be there (this was the exception), Ohio State’s linebackers quickly turned the gap into a wall of white jerseys. It was painful to watch.

– Henne’s Play. Criticized much of the year, Chad Henne played a great game. He had a kick in his step from the beginning, and was firing consistently nice balls to the squad. He even ran in a the two point conversion and overall made sound decisions. With the complete absence of a running game, Henne nearly finessed Michigan to an undeserved win over a superior Buckeye team.

– January Bowl? Somewhat ironic, the Buckeye win actually didn’t really hurt Michigan’s bowl position. With Penn State beating Michigan State and taking the Big Ten BCS bid, Ohio State is a likely candidate for an at-large BCS bid along with Notre Dame. That will likely leave Wisconsin and Michigan in the other Big Ten January Bowls (Capitol One and Outback), extending Carr’s streak of 9 straight New Year’s Day+ bowl games despite the poor season. –

– Ear Muffs. One of the reasons I bring a radio into the game is to block out the ridiculous comments by my fellow Wolverine fans. I left it in the car this time, and regretted it big time. The guy in the row behind us was so brutal, spewing his comments to his “buddy” within ear shot of half of section 22. Look, this guy is not the first to say something or direct a comment toward the team and refs on the field. Everyone knows Chad Henne can’t hear throwing tips from fans in Row 65 of Michigan Stadium. I yell out things every game, and have been known to give advice to coaches on my television. And I’m not suggesting that we need to remain silent and pass notes to each other concerning our takes. Having opinions about the coaching and the play is part of the experience. My point is that there is a point where you are disrupting the experience of the people around you. When someone is constantly talking, you can’t help but a) hear it, and b) process it. I want to watch Michigan play, not conduct a point-counterpoint in my head with the jerk behind me. That’s a major reason I (usually) bring the radio.

10. November 2006 · Comments Off on Big Ten Conference Tie Break rules · Categories: Archive 2005, BCS, Big Ten, Refs & Rules

Here’s the rules for every Big Ten BCS tie scenario
SALINE, MICHIGAN OCTOBER 31, 2005 It’s another tight Big Ten football race for the championship and to determine the team that will receive the Big Ten’s automatic BCS bid. Here are the rules:

• If there is a two-way tie, the winner of the game between the two will represent the conference. If the teams did not play each other, it is then based on overall winning percentage.

• If there is still a tie, the most recent team to earn a BCS automatic selection is eliminated.

• If three teams are tied and if one team defeated both of the others, that team is the representative.

• If two of the three teams defeated the third team, that team is eliminated and the remaining two teams revert to the two-team tie procedure.

• If two of the three did not play each other, the BCS representative is determined by winning percentage in the overall schedule. If all three have the same winning percentage, the most recent representative is eliminated and the other two revert to the two-team tie procedure.

• If four or more are tied … if one team defeated each of the other three, then that team is the representative.

• If two of the four teams defeated each of the other two, those two are eliminated and the remaining two revert to the two-team tie procedure.

• If three of the four defeated the fourth, the fourth is eliminated, then it reverts to the three-team tie procedure.

• If two of the four did not play each other, the representative will be determined by overall winning percentage.

• If one of the four teams is eliminated through percentage, the remaining teams revert to three-team tie procedure.

• If all four have the same winning percentage, the most recently Big Ten representative is eliminated and the remaining three must go through the three-team tie procedure.

10. November 2006 · Comments Off on Second Half Shutdown of Wildcats · Categories: Archive 2005, Big Ten, Jokes, Road Trips

Trip to Chicago topped off with another Big win
EVANSTON, ILLINOIS OCTOBER 30, 2005
Despite being up 16 late in the fourth quarter, few of 10,000+ Michigan fans that attended the Northwestern game Saturday night could relax. Not after watching the fate of the previous five games being settled in the final seconds. Only when the Wildcats exhausted their timeouts and Michigan picked up a well earned first down did the maize and blue fans breathe easy.

In fact, the only group that really seemed relaxed the entire game was the Michigan sideline. Sitting three rows behind the bench for this crucial 33-17 victory, one of things I took away from this was how calm, poised, methodical and perhaps unemotional the Michigan machine really is. The only real excitement out of this team was after Grant Mason’s outstanding interception late in the second quarter, and of course when the game was over.

Overall, this was a much needed win and continues a stunning revival of a team that was left for dead four weeks ago.

Here are the takes on this game:– Depth. Lloyd Carr consistently gets criticism for not challenging for national titles despite having highly ranked recruiting classes year after year. This is certainly a valid discussion point, but I hardly ever hear Carr praised for delivering the depth and talent that Michigan possesses. There are several dimensions to this. You can read more on this topic here.

– No Kick? A lot of fans are still puzzled why Carr went for it on 4th and 6 inside the twenty five. A very makeable kick for Rivas, and run was not really any option. He kind of joked about it after the game with Jim Carty, but I still don’t have a good explanation.

– Rivas, Ryan Righteous. M’s special teams were certainly a high point here. Garrett Rivas was solid, hitting all 4 of his field goal tries. We actually sat right next to his parents. It was pretty funny, Mr. Rivas was taking pictures all game and Mrs. Rivas covered her eyes each time her son attempted a kick. Other than the first kick-off that drifted out of bounds, Ross Ryan was spectacular. Northwestern did not return any of Ryan’s punts or kicks all game. Here’s a question: Ann Arbor News columnist John Heuser gave the Special teams unit a B+. What do they have to do to get an A?

– Hanging Chad. Henne didn’t look very sharp at all, and the entire offense is fortunate that Northwestern’s offense was shut down in the second half. Something still seems to be wrong with his motion, and some balls are floating on him. While it won’t be a factor when Indiana comes to town in two weeks, it will be a concern for the Buckeyes. Michigan fans usually don’t miss much, I bet he’ll get beat up this week on the radio shows.

– Naughty, Naughty. The lasting impression from this roadtrip was the bad, bad girls we ran into. After the game we were delighted as a young lady stepped onto the L train and loudly declared her dissatisfaction for having to ride with so many “f*cking Michigan fans”. An hour or so later we had a drink in the Hyatt hotel during a raging Halloween party. Many of the fine ladies of Chicago wore costumes that would make Hugh Hefner blush. Some of the best outfits:

– Little Bo Peep. She lost her sheep but there plenty of guys trying to help her find them. I might have found two of them.
– Girl Scouts. Troop 69 left the place dirtier than they found it.
– Naughty Nurse. “Do you want your shot in the arm or in the tush?”
– Mary Ann from Gilligan’s Island. They would have never left that Island.

– Selling Their Souls. Northwestern will sell just about anything to boost revenue for their program. Granted, they don’t play Michigan every week and have trouble filling the tiny Ryan Field. Consider this: despite it being Homecoming, a huge game, and Michigan fans buying around 10,000 tickets, there were still tickets available last week. So, Northwestern has had to find other ways to generate revenue. A mini-UPS truck rolled out and delivered the ball for kick-off. Just check out the Ryan field scoreboard. They couldn’t find enough room on the scoreboard to spell out “Wildcats” digitally, but they found plenty of room for the following sponsors:

Lexus La Salle Bank
Federated Insurance Adidas
Nextel All State Insurance
American Airlines Pepsi

– What’s Next? A much needed bye week to rest up. You have to assume Mike Hart and LaMarr Woodley will be ready for Indiana and more importantly, the Buckeyes. Win out, and Michigan has a shot at a share of the Big Ten title and to continue Lloyd Carr’s steak of consecutive Jan 1 bowl games. Here’s where the experts have Michigan ending up as they will make their 31st consecutive bowl appearance.

10. November 2006 · Comments Off on Give Lloyd Carr Credit for the Depth · Categories: Archive 2005, College Coaches, Lloyd Carr

Another point of view on a common criticism of Carr
EVANSTON, ILLINOIS OCTOBER 30, 2005
Lloyd Carr consistently gets criticism for not challenging for national titles despite having highly ranked recruiting classes year after year. This is certainly a valid discussion point, but I hardly ever hear Carr praised for delivering the depth and talent that Michigan possesses. There are several dimensions to this.

First, this criticism kind of assumes that, by virtue of the winged helmets and “tradition”, Michigan simply opens the doors to Schembechler Hall and lets the top talent line up for scholarships. This implies that Carr has no hand in, a) actually recruiting the top prospects and, b) continuing to create a desirable program that kids want to be a part of (5 Big Ten titles, 9 straight New Year’s day bowls, let alone a place that parents are proud to send their children). These critics assume that anyone could come in and continue dragging in top talent year after year. I’m not so sure this is as easy as it seems to come to Carr and his staff.

Second, I don’t hear Carr praised when the value of these deep recruiting classes actually makes a difference. Look at this season. This team continues to lose its top players yet there’s always a Wolverine back-up ready on the bench that tosses his helmet on, trots on the field and delivers. In the Northwestern game, center Adam Kraus was helped off the field after his injury, you had to wonder how Michigan would deal with yet another loss at a key position. Chad Henne simply tapped Mark Bihl on the shoulder, took 3 practice snaps on the sideline and they were good to go. No one got by Bihl (or anyone else) all day: Henne was never touched.

The difference in depth can also be understood when looking across the field. Northwestern QB Brett Basanez is a fine quarterback and delivered the ball all day. The problem was with the guys trying to catch the ball. The Wildcats must have dropped six or more balls. Bad luck? Having a couple drops might be chalked up to bad luck, this many drops was due to poor talent. Northwestern had many drives in the second half killed by holding penalties. Holding was the only way to keep the quicker, bigger Michigan defenders off their quarterback. Give Carr credit for bringing in these players.

10. November 2006 · Comments Off on Should We Trust the BCS Computers? · Categories: Archive 2005, BCS, Jokes, Media

Sagarin featured in Wall Street Journal in October 19, 2005 piece
SALINE, MICHIGAN OCTOBER 26, 2005
The debate on the use of computers as in input to determining the teams that play in the college national championship has raged since the BCS was first introduced in 1998. One of the most prominent mathematical formulas that is used to rank college football teams is run by Hendricksville, Indiana resident and former Indiana MBA Jeff Sagarin.

Mr. Sagarin was recently featured in a Wall Street Journal piece due to his efforts to make Indiana move permanently to the Central time zone. The majority of the state for many years has remained on Eastern Standard time throughout the year, causing much confusion when the rest of us switch our clocks ahead in the summer for Daylight savings time. In April 2006, Indiana will move to use daylight saving time. The rub: each Indiana county needs to decide whether it is going to be on Central or Eastern time presenting some other dimensions of confusion, but that’s another issue.

Sagarin has lobbied hard that the position of the sun over Indiana at noon makes it senseless to be in the Eastern time zone. Here’s some of his data on the topic from his website if you are interested if you have a few weeks and can count things like Rainman. That’s fine, but that’s not what we should be concerned about.

The problem is that Sagarin takes it to another level: he thinks it makes sense to set his wrist watch “to the precise solar time for his longitude since April, even though that means he’s 46 minutes behind his neighbors.” He finds it perfectly logical. Sagarin says “When people try to defy physical reality and claim they’re right, that bothers me.” The Journal noted that he keeps time on his 2000 Sugar Bowl watch.

Do you trust with the fate of your beloved football teams with a man that finds logic in keeping his watch 46 minutes slow? Does anyone else have a problem with this? Take this to another level, one of the computers (not Sagarin’s) actually has USC currently rated as the 4th best team in the country.

10. November 2006 · Comments Off on Carr-diac Arrest, Michigan Takes Iowa in OT · Categories: Archive 2005, Big Ten, Fans, WTKA 1050AM

Michigan wins Fifth Straight Overtime
Michigan Takes Down Hawkeyes, Fifth Straight game decided in final seconds
SALINE, MICHIGAN OCTOBER 22, 2005
Once again it seems we are watching the same game over and over again this year. Michigan gets a lead, surrenders it, and then it’s a crap shoot up and to the final seconds. Michigan decided to give the ball to fourth string running back Jerome Jackson on third and goal from the Iowa 1 yard line, and he didn’t waste the opportunity. This will set up a classic Big Ten showdown in Chicago next weekend.

To this game, here are some notes:

– These Nailbiters. It is worth recapping these ridiculously tight battles that make up Michigan’s Big Ten schedule this year:

  • 9/24/2005 Wisconsin – Loss, Wisconsin TD with :24 left
  • 10/1/2005 MSU – Win, Field Goal on last play of game in OT
  • 10/8/2005 Minnesota – Loss, Field Goal with :01 left
  • 10/15/2005 –  Penn State – Win, TD on last play of game
  • 10/22/2005 –  Iowa Win, TD on last play of game in OT

Michigan surrendered leads in all of these games. This was a little different, in that Michigan was actually down most of the game until 8:51 in the fourth quarter when Chad Henne hit Steve Breaston on a screen. Breaston broke 1 tackle and took it 51 yards to the house.

– Streak Extended. Michigan is now 5-0 all time in overtime, with three of the wins coming within the past 2 seasons. Here are the teams they’ve taken down:

– Iowa today
– Michigan State three weeks ago
– The Spartans again in the triple-overtime classic in 2004
– Penn State in 2002
– Alabama in the 2000 Orange Bowl after the ‘Tide missed their extra point.

– Streaks Ended. Michigan had lost 2 straight in Iowa City as part of the Hawkeye’s 22 straight home game win streak. Michigan won consecutive games for the first time since defeating Northwestern in November 2004. More importantly, the webmaster’s unique distinction of being in attendance at each Michigan overtime games ended as I was seated on K’s basement couch. Lew and I actually discussed the chances of this streak staying alive for a while this week. Lew calculated a 95% probability that the streak would fall at some point in the next 3 years on the road in the Big Ten. Per Lew’s email this week, “… chances are high that we’ll have a Big-10 road OT within 3 years and this Saturday in Iowa City is a definite possibility.” Well done Lew.

– 100th Win. This was Lloyd Carr’s 100th win all time in 11 seasons (all with Michigan) and this brings his all-time record to 100-32. The players presented the game ball to him to commemorate the occasion. Carr promptly ran with the ball three times in a circle and then punted it into the pink Iowa locker room ceiling.

– The “Black-Out”. Memo to all the Iowa Hawkeye fans that wore black clothing to the game Saturday. If you are going to mix those shirts with other colors, make sure you set your washer to the cold cycle. The “[insert team color]-out”s are kind of tired, the weakest of which was definitely the Michigan attempt at a stadium-wide “Maize out” against Penn State. I’d bet more people ended up wearing Blue. Let the students do their thing, but don’t ask the rest of the stadium to join, because it just doesn’t work. Another weak attempt: someone told me Michigan State tried to have one side of the stadium wear White, another wear Green during a game (Michigan?) this year. Good luck with that.

– You Saw What? Someone needs to clarify the replay that reversed the call on the field and ruled that Antonio Bass fumbled. He appeared to clearly have the ball in his possession, he was up-ended by at least one Iowa defender, then his elbow, then arm, hit the ground before the ball popped out. I was stunned when they ruled that Iowa had the ball. On top of that, I swear I heard a bunch of whistles blowing the play dead. I really look forward to further explanation of this one. Mike Tirico, who was calling the game on ABC, was dumbfounded as well. During the next play that was replayed (an Iowa reception), Tirico refused to predict what the refs would come back with given the inexplicable ruling on the Bass play.

– Tough Season for Falk. Michigan’s longtime equipment manager, Jon Falk, was carted off the field after being hit by an Iowa player that was trying to tackle Carl Tabb. It’s been a tough year in general for Falk, who had to hand over the Little Brown Jug to the Minnesota team. He also got an earful from Coach Carr during the Penn State game after the Blue received a sideline warning for having players too close to the field: It’s Falk’s responsibility to keep the sideline clear!

– Stevie B. the MVP? Quietly again, WR Jason Avant is doing some great things. He made an acrobatic 18 yard reception in overtime to set up the winning run. He ended up with 7 catches for 105 yards, one being a great TD grab. ABC gave Steve Breaston the player of the game award, presumably because the big touchdown, but they missed the mark. While no one really stood out for Michigan, it should have gone to Avant who not only made these big plays, he called the crucial OT coin toss. Also, Chevrolet keeps giving $1000 to each school’s general scholarship fund in the name of the player of the game. That’s great, but isn’t it time to start moving that a bit higher? Can’t we tie that figure to a cost of living index or something?

– No Coin Toss Issues. There were no coin toss blunders this week, but some Michigan did do something interesting upon winning the opening toss: they took the ball. This allowed Michigan to take the wind in the fourth quarter, which they thankfully did. Iowa has had a lot of success this year on opening drives and Michigan wanted to set the tone. Michigan won another huge overtime coin toss, choosing “tails” again. Like in the Michigan State game, Michigan’s D really stepped up in the first series and set-up the offense to win the game.

– Key Injuries. The leader of the team is probably Mike Hart. The best player on defense is Lamarr Woodley. Michigan was basically without both players this game but the Wolverines recovered. Hearing Coach Carr after the game, it looks like Woodley’s injury was kind of a fluke ding he took in a practice drill, and Hart rolled his ankle. He was optimistic about both players returning for Northwestern. ** Update: It looks like Woodley might be ok, based on this photo of him after the Iowa game.

– Fool me twice. Just like in the Penn State game, Michigan had the ball late in the fourth quarter with a chance to salt away the game. Just like in that game, Michigan played conservative by running the ball, and failed to keep the ball moving down field. Just as Penn State did, Iowa marched easily down the field with a chance to win, fortunately they only managed a field goal. Coach Carr admitted this week he was wrong about the Penn State game: “If we’d have lost this game, I would have second-guessed myself on that possession. We were trying to make Penn State run the ball and use all of their timeouts, and we didn’t get a first down and we didn’t kick the ball very well so we left our defense out there to win the game.” Well, sure enough the same situation presented itself and Michigan played too conservative and ended up having to punt it away again. Come on Coach Carr, this is poor. Michigan should have attacked. Iowa didn’t even need to use all of its timeouts to get into field goal range. The other teams’ timeouts are just not a factor with 4 minutes to go.

– Turd in the Punch Bowl. Callers to 1050AM we’re considerably brutal after the game once again. The hosts of the show tried to keep the talk upbeat and praise Coach Carr on his big victory, but critics dumped on the play calling, the Coach, Chad Henne, and more.

– Chicago Bound. It should be a dandy in Evanston next weekend as long as Michigan can contain the Wildcat offense. Northwestern embarrassed the Spartans on homecoming, and looked pretty darn tough. A win next week with a win over Indiana will set-up another huge match-up against the hated Buckeyes. gregdooley.com will be there!

10. November 2006 · Comments Off on 1050 WTKA on Delay? · Categories: Archive 2005, Media, WTKA 1050AM

OCTOBER 2005 – You can hear the Michigan football broadcast on the mothership (WJR), or as syndicated on local station WTKA 1050 AM. I usually listen to WJR because it is a little cleaner, but I happened to turn on 1050 on Saturday during the 2005 Michigan vs. Penn State game and found it was on a delay of a few seconds.

Obviously for those nerds (me) that bring a radio to the game, this doesn’t work! And I’m sure a few folks like to watch the game on TV and listen to Brandstatter and Beckman – but unless the TV feed was on delay as well, this would negate this. I say, get it together WTKA.

10. November 2006 · Comments Off on Final Second heroics Sink Penn State 2005 · Categories: Archive 2005, College Coaches, Lloyd Carr, Penn State

Manningham sinks PSU

Michigan reverses fortune with final second win
SALINE, MICHIGAN OCTOBER 15, 2005
This team is getting pretty frustrating to watch. Nothing is coming easy for them, so it’s nice to take this one away as a win. The three loses clearly could have gone either way, and now Michigan’s two big wins are in the same category.

Chad Henne drilled a pass through the Penn State secondary on the final play of the game, right in the hands of Mario Manningham for another glorious Michigan come-from-behind 27-25 win.

This presents another chance for Michigan to redeem themselves and somehow the downtrodden Blue is still in the Big Ten race, at least for a share. A lot of this they control: Michigan needs to beat Iowa, Northwestern and Ohio State and hope for at least 1 more loss out of Wisconsin or Penn State. PSU hosts Wisconsin on November 5th. My take: Michigan will stumble again.

Here’s some takes and theories on this game:
– This Season. It seems every major game is coming down to the final few plays, and in most cases, seconds. It really shouldn’t be, Michigan should be putting these teams away. M is getting into a cycle of surrendering double digit leads and having to attempt a comeback. Twice they’ve pulled it out (MSU, Penn State), and twice they’ve failed (Minnesota, Wisconsin). I can’t take another game like this.

– Nittany Knuckleheads. Ok, Michigan won the coin toss and deferred to the second half. Opening the 2nd half, M of course took the ball, and Penn State had the choice of end zone to defend. The Lions chose to defend the North endzone, meaning in the fourth quarter they would have to head that direction which was a) into the wind, and, b) into the student section. And the wind was definitely a factor. In fact, this revealed itself and compounded another stupid decision: to kick to Steve Breaston with under a minute to go. The ball sailed against the wind and landed around the 7 yard line. Breaston, who was a huge factor in this game on special teams, took the ball just short of mid-field to set-up the winning drive.

– JoPa, the figurehead. It is pretty clear that Joe Paterno really isn’t at the helm of this team, as Lew says, he’s just a figurehead. His job is to yell at the refs (apparently on every play), and to cheer. Here’s some evidence: When asked after the game what was discussed in the final defensive huddle (with :01 on the clock), JoPa said that players were told to “suck it up”, but midway through the explanation offered, “I don’t know…right now all I am is PO’d.” Sounds like he’s also a bit confused. Does that sound like a guy who is running this team? The band director could have said the same thing about the final huddle. More evidence: the Penn State fans spelled out P-A-T-E-R-N-O on their chests. I know they love him, but he’s like a mascot. He doesn’t wear a headset, he seems to wander several yards away from the action during the game. Speaking of the PSU band, props for laying down some Usher and tunes by other contemporary artists.

– Final Play. Good route, perfect pass, in an instant this became one of the greatest games in Michigan history. Looking at the replay, Penn State blew the coverage. The guy on Manningham dropped but cut off his coverage about 4 yards into the endzone. The strong safety (or linebacker), probably should have dropped back to cut off that play but didn’t. The guy on Manningham who cut off his route looked at the safety and seemed to yell something just after the TD. Give M some credit, they ran two receivers into the middle and they occupied at least three Penn State defenders.

– O Line, Avant. They are depleted, beat up, and overall had an average game. But, in the last drive, they basically left Henne untouched and allowed him to direct the ball around the field. This was critical because a sack or two may have ended the game. Also some mention of WR Jason Avant is warranted. He made some great grabs, including the toe dance to get a first down the first play of the epic final drive.

– Conservative Henne. It is clear to me that Henne is programmed to not make mistakes, and he’s good at this. This is fine, but maybe he’s too good because his decision making in the final few plays was suspect. Michigan definitely should have thrown the ball toward the end zone instead of the little dumps he tried. It’s tough to be critical of the guy that through a bullet to win the game, but it is what it is. By the way, Ann Arbor News reporter John Heuser described the final play in his column and said the “Manningham leapt for Henne’s pass”. There was no leaping involved; the ball was in his chest, in stride. The real leaping occurred when Avant did a Lambeau Leap into the student section.

– 4-3 Party Time. Lew mentioned he was a little embarrassed about the intense celebration that went down after the final play, especially given our 4-3 record. It’s tough to argue, partying like it was 1999 isn’t very Michigan-like, but I’m glad these kids are having fun.

– Ross Ryan. In a weekend of some major special teams blunders (MSU vs. Ohio State), and the worst of all, the blown Minnesota punt against Wisconsin, give Michigan punter Ross Ryan some credit – he had a great game. Makes you wonder why they didn’t let him him punt it late in the fourth quarter, but that’s a different issue:

– Coaching. Everyone is gushing over Lloyd Carr now. Carr himself admitted to hearing all the critics and went off on people that have attacked defensive coordinator Jim Hermann (translation: he was defending himself). I’m sorry coach Carr, but eeking this win doesn’t suddenly make you a genius. Once again it shouldn’t have come down to this. With around 3 minutes to go, M had the ball and basically sat on it, forcing the horrible pooch punt by kicker Garrett Rivas. For the record, that ball went out around the 25 or 30 yard line, not the generous 19 yard line where the official marked up. I have two major issues with this: with over 3 minutes to go, it is not really the time to be strategizing on simply how to eat up Penn State’s timeouts. At a minimum, Michigan should have thrown on third down to put Penn State away. When the third down run failed, Michigan tried to “fool” Penn State by lining up for a long field goal. The snap went right to Rivas (risky), Rivas caught it (risky), took one step and lined it out of bounds (poorly executed). This was frustrating.

– Next Week. A tough one at Iowa. M has not won back-to-back games this year (it’s gone WLWLWLW), they’ll need to continue to win to preserve this season.

Hercules Renda signs my book

Little man with big heart dies at 88
SALINE, MICHIGAN OCTOBER 12, 2005 Sad news out of Michigan’s Schembechler Hall as 1930s Michigan football player Hercules Renda died yesterday while doing his daily walk at a Pontiac high school track. By all accounts a great guy, my wife had my copy of Jim Brandstatter’s “Tales from Michigan Stadium” signed by the man.

Check out the photo above, I like his style. First off, he signed on the page of the book with his photo, second, he simply signed it “Hercules”.