News tonight that Scott Shafer has resigned as defensive coordinator. I’m a little surprised despite the heavy scuttlebutt that was abound in the last few weeks.

mgoblog put out a brain dump on potential candidates tonight including Notre Dame’s current defensive coordinator and Michigan man Corwin ‘Cornflakes’ Brown. I just don’t see what Cornflakes has done this season to earn the shot at this gig.

My two run-ins with Shafer this season. First, I interviewed him at the Spring Game while covering the event for a local paper. Seemed like a great guy and he was all business.

The next was after the Utah game. It wasn’t a run in as much as it was a drive by. I kind of felt bad after posting this as it made some rounds around the blogosphere but oh well. He was hunched over the railing at the bottom of the press box waiting to get down to the field. As I said at the time, it looked like someone shot his dog:

That probably wasn’t far off. Check out the quote from Angelique tonight:

“Bottom line is, I take full responsibility for the demise of the Michigan program,” Shafer, 41, said by phone Tuesday afternoon. “I accept all the responsibility.”

Wow. A little sarcasm on the way out? Not sure but let’s assume he’ serious for a moment. First off, I think demise is a strong word but let’s assume he’s saying that he takes responsibility for a tough season. I’d certainly put the defense high on the list but at the top is the reality at quarterback. While Threet and Sheridan had moments they weren’t close to being ready to lead Michigan with Carr’s offense let alone Rodriguez’s scheme.

I thought the defense was unfairly criticized at the beginning of the season but by the end of the season it was a mess. I don’t know if a change was needed but as silly as it sounds, the resignation itself confirms that he and Rodriguez weren’t aligned (if that wasn’t clear enough after the Purdue game).

Touchdown Pour Jesus, South Bend

While there’s still a shot a getting to six wins and preserving two great streaks, this season is turning into an exercise of focusing on themes and trends inside games rather than the end result. A loss a Notre Dame is always tough to take and we still don’t know how good the Irish are, but I saw some good things out there Saturday.

The comeback effort turned into a Sisyphean task, as a few times the Wolverines were on the brink of scoring a critical touch only to have a brutal fumble or pick wipe it all away. This game was obviously lost on the turnovers, the worst occurred before the rain came down, but that can be fixed. This offense isn’t quite ready to enough register points to overcome the kind of hole they put themselves in the first quarter, but certainly showed signs.

After last week I never thought I’d say this but Threet looked sharp, didn’t he? I don’t mean sharp as in ‘much improved for a guy who’d be a third stringer on most teams’, I mean sharp as you want your quarterback to be. I haven’t seen the replay on that early screen to Minor that was dropped and picked up by the Irish- I assume that shouldn’t have been thrown but otherwise, didn’t he look solid? Threet threaded it in there on a few outside slants and handled the ball as best that can be expected in the brutal conditions. I’m not saying this is the answer, you still need someone that can take off for 7 yards, but I’ve got confidence this guy can get it done this season.

On McGuffie, you’re seeing a guy that’s just going to be a fixture in this offense and goes out there and busts ass. The 80-yr-old Irish fan next to me said, “Boy, we’re going to have to watch that kid for the next three years.” Believe it . Sitting up top we could see the freshman missed a few holes, even when he hit the second level, but who’s complaining?

And the offensive line, the biggest question mark coming into this game – they protected well and create holes for McGuffie. There was the late drive where they took a few penalties and it was far from perfect, but overall pretty solid. Of course all this assumes that Notre Dame isn’t a complete trainwreck of a team, which they still might very well be. We’ll learn more next week when they travel to East Lansing.

Special teams? Major gaffs on the first two kick-off returns but what else? Warren dropped one punt (recovered) but otherwise handled things on a difficult day. Mesko was excellent on punts and ran the punt option to a T on three occasions, twice hitting nice punts on the run (a real run, actually considering hitting the hole), and once on his run to get that first down. One for one on field goals and a adequate kick-offs given the conditions. They also got a hand on a Notre Dame punt.

More takes:
* The offense still can’t execute a pass over the middle, I know RR doesn’t use a traditional tight end but can’t they drag the slot over the middle and make a play?
* The defense was put in some bad situations but as has been said all year, has to be the unit that wins games for this team. They didn’t do enough, and Trent was getting worked early which is painful to see. I’m sure Shafer relies on having Warren and Trent cover the outside receiver one-on-one and having issues with one or the other is a concern. That said, Trent made a great cover and turn on a ball later in the game (which he picked), so I’m not overly concerned. And Warren was called for a couple pass interference plays which looked ridiculous, certainly the second in the end-zone – it looked like he tapped the guy’s back before jumping to go for the ball. I saw some ND fans shaking their heads after that one.
* The linebackers didn’t seem to be a factor, I’m looking forward to mgoblog’s defense UFR.
* Notre Dame had trouble getting the right players on the field, at times with 12 or 10. Give credit to Rodriguez and company, this hasn’t been an issue all year. There were times last year (I’m serious) where Michigan had 10 guys on a punt or punt return teams on multiple occasions in games. And it happened on defense all the time. Also give credit to the discipline of this team. Have they jumped offsides on offense or defense more than a couple times all season? For a team playing many freshman and young guys, they aren’t taking a lot of penalties. Last week they were in the top 30 in the NCAA in penalties and penalty yardage. The personal fouls this week may throw that off, but give them credit.

From section 122:
* The ND fans are very proud of their renovation, which was completed over 10 years ago. It’s nice, but I’m wondering if they have any regrets about not putting in any boxes? I’m sure Irish fans would spout back, ‘We don’t want ’em in our stadium’, but really? Don’t tell me they’re not concerned about revenue and want to preserve the pure atmosphere- there’s a bar in the parking lot outside the stadium. And a big screen wouldn’t hurt either, I would have look to have seen a couple of those plays again. Finally, while the seats a spacious unlike somewhere else, the bench seats are made of wood! I know, Irish fans would say, ‘This is a righteous profession, JC was a carpenter’:

Wood bench seat, Notre Dame stadium

* On the pass play were Trent was torched, the 80 yr old Irish fan next to me said, “I could have caught that one.” The pain, it stings!
* Once again this year, Notre Dame dropped in Red Dawn paratroopers onto the field before the game. I captured a video, apologies for the Beavis/Butthead quality commentary throughout:

12. September 2008 · Comments Off on Blue Books: Holtz Courting Lloyd Carr · Categories: Archive 2008, Blue Books, Bo Schembechler, History, Lloyd Carr, Notre Dame

MVictors: Blue Books

This week we’ll go again to the absolute definitive tome on the Michigan-Notre Dame Rivarly, John Kryk’s Natural Enemies. There are several anecdotes of interest in the book, some I’ve mentioned on these pages before, and I’ll revisit some of these in the future. Today, a selection from Chapter 11 ‘Extra Points’.

Lou Holtz to be honored at Michigan game

Lou Holtz will be honored at Saturday’s game and they are unveiling a statue. I’m sure Jason Peter has some thoughts on how to decorate the Holtz likeness. I don’t know if Lloyd Carr will ever be honored with a monument at Michigan but I’m sure he’ll get his name on a facility or prominent street. An obscure street near Michigan stadium was the reward for Depression era coach Harry Kipke, who won national championships but was also fired at the end of the decade. But according to Natural Enemies, Lou Holtz wanted Carr to join him in South Bend on a couple occasions:

In an interview for this book in 2003, current Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr revealed that in the 1980s Lou Holtz twice tried to woo him to his staff at Notre Dame.

Carr said he believes that the first offer from Holtz came in 1986. “One night I was sitting at home and Lou called me. I was shocked, honestly,” Carr recalled. “He said, ‘I’ve got a secondary job here,’ and, you know, Lou has been instrumental in placing a lot of his assistants as head coaches.”

Then in his early 40s, Carr was getting itchy to become a head coach, and Holtz promised him that eventually he would become the next defensive coordinator at Notre Dame. And from there, Holtz said, “I promise you I’ll get you a head job. You should be a head coach and I’ll help you get a job.” Carr was intrigued, but turned him down.

A year later Schembechler promoted Carr to defensive coordinator.

Two years later Holtz came a-calling again. It occurred during an eventful few days in December 1989. Carr had just interviewed for the vacant head coach job at Wisconsin, as did Notre Dame defensive coordinator Barry Alaverz. Alavarez got the job. Then Schembechler dropped a bombshell on his Michigan coaching staff.

“[Carr speaking] Bo called me in to tell me, ‘I’m going to get out of coaching and I’m going to name Gary [Moeller] the head coach.’ And I’ll forget this because I was really flattered-he said, ‘If it wasn’t Mo, it would be you.’ I mean, I was flattered by that.

A couple days later the book goes on, Carr got a call from George Kelly, the Irish linebackers coach. He called on behalf of Holtz and offered Alavarez’s defensive coordinator job to Carr with a promise that he’d be strongly considered to replace Holtz once he hung them up. Carr didn’t buy it:

‘What a bunch of B.S.” I said to myself, “Notre Dame is never going to hire an assistant coach.” And yet that’s what they eventually did! They hired Bob Davie, who was the defensive coordinator. It was an amazing thing.

So I went in to see Bo and I said, “Bo, Lou Holtz has offered me the defensive coordinator’s job at Notre Dame.” And he said, “I’ll tell you right now, there’s no way in hell you’re taking that job. You’re going to stay here.”

Natural Enemies John Kryk

09. September 2008 · Comments Off on Carty WTKA, Angel WDFN (audio) · Categories: Archive 2008, Media, Notre Dame, WTKA 1050AM

Looking back at Miami, OH, looking ahead to the big one in South Bend this weekend. Here’s beat writer a rama…Jim Carty of the Ann Arbor News dialing into WTKA Monday, and Detroit News beat writer Angelique Chengelis:

08. September 2008 · Comments Off on Blue Books: The Yost-Rockne Feud · Categories: Archive 2008, Blue Books, History, Notre Dame, Yost

MVictors: Blue Books

A new feature on MVictors, periodically I’ll take a look at a passage from one of the great books written on Michigan athletics. This week we’ll go to the absolute definitive tome on the Michigan-Notre Dame Rivarly, John Kryk’s Natural Enemies. There are several anecdotes of interest in the book, some I’ve mentioned on these pages before, and I’ll revisit some of these in the future. But for today, here’s are a few selections from Chapter 4 ‘Yost vs. Rockne: 1918:31’.

[Note: These are selections from through the chapter, just trying to highlight the feud:]

In a nutshell, here’s what each came to think of each other from 1923 to 1931.

Rockne, then in his late 30s to early 40s, saw in Yost a “hill-billy” who was forever grinding the religious ax against Notre Dame, who was as crooked as a dog’s hind leg, who was selfish and vain beyond comprehension, who was blindly jealous of Rockne’s own success and ascension to national stardom, and who coached boring, neanderthal football.

Yost, then in his mid to late 50s, saw in Rockne a coach who feared the regulatory confinement of a conference, who ran a renegade football factory at Notre Dame, who sought unfair advantages over his opponents, and who continually and deliberately broke football rules with his controversial offense.

Yost and Rockne

Kryk found reams of letters from the two men which provided some insight to their true feelings. There are a few beauties reviewed in the book, but here’s a few excerpts from a back and forth between them.

First, from Rockne in a letter to Yost:

A half a dozen of my friends among the directors in the Conference came to me Saturday and told me that you had been haranging [sic] them all not to play Notre Dame in anything. I think this was very unfair of you. We live up to Conference eligibility rules as given in your code book, but not your special regulations, as we are not a member of the Western Conference…

…The Western Conference could put in a regulation that all coaches had to join the Ku-Klux-Klan, but that certainly will not apply to us any more than some of the other freak regulations they may have.

Now if you personally do not want to meet Notre Dame, that is your business, no holler from this end. If you do not feel that we are fair, we do not want to play either. But I do not think it is fair for you to carry a knocking campaign against us. I have always been a loyal booster and admirer of yours and I hope always to be. However, I am no quitter…I will not sit by quietly and have my school knocked.

Yost’s reply:

Your letter of June 14th received. This I have read carefully. In my opinion, if a university deems it advisable to play on Thanksgiving, has a 10- or 120game football schedule, and has freshman competition with other schools, it should seek its competition with universities that have the same standards and privileges.

Creed has nothing to do with it. Three of the last four football captains at Michigan have been Catholic and many of my best friends are….

I do not believe that the Universities of the Conference should handicap their teams and men and put them in competition with any university that has many advantages that go toward the development of an athletic team with much added experience in competition. Even under these circumstances, Michigan has competed with Notre Dame for years…

I have made you a frank statement of my position and my viewpoint and I want to assure you that nothing personal enters into this in any way…

As aside, Kryk also notes that Yost told Rockne he was going to send copies of their letters to all the other conference directors since Rockne didn’t reveal the names of the other directors with whom he discussed Yost’s “haranging”.

Natural Enemies John Kryk

Lou Holtz Jason Peter
Did anyone out there hear the segment with former Nebraska stand-out and recovering drug addict Jason Peter on Jim Rome today? I caught it in the car, I’m looking for the audio to post. If you’ve got it please send it along.

Even if you know the story you’ve got to hear him tell it. In a nutshell, his younger brother Damian was a highly rated Holtz commit to Notre Dame. The summer before he was to enroll he was injured in their swimming pool and was perhaps minutes from never walking again. He eventually recovered but it ended his career. According to Peter, Holtz never called his brother once when he was in the hospital. Nothing. When his brother eventually enrolled at Notre Dame, none of the coaching staff ever approached him about the injury or offered any assistance. Me writing this doesn’t do justice the passion of live interview, so I’m trying to get it for you.

I’ve heard a few things about Holtz and I’ve heard his motivational speech, I’ve seen some of the messes he’s created and I listen to him on ESPN. All this said, there’s two sides to stories like this and we really should hear what Holtz has to say.

19. July 2008 · Comments Off on Dave Brown 34th Wolverine Enshrined · Categories: Archive 2008, BCS, Bo Schembechler, History, Lloyd Carr, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Yost

Dave Brown, Michigan

Congratulations to the late Dave Brown who joined 19 other coaches and players into the College Football Hall of Fame today. The two time (’73-’74) All-American defensive back was inducted alongside JoPa and Doug Flutie.

But you wouldn’t know about it because there is minimal local coverage [Freep] including no mention on What’s the deal? It’s not like the athletic department isn’t on top of things: there’s a mention of Dan Deirdorf winning an award for broadcasting.

Brown is the 34th individual with Michigan ties to be inducted, here’s a list I compiled for you:

Dave Brown, Michigan

I don’t have any memories of Brown since I was a wee lad when he took the field, but it’s clear he had some skills in the defensive backfield (9 career interceptions) and was a fine punt returner (11.1 career average). He co-captained the great 1974 squad that finished 10-1 and 3rd in the final AP poll. The lone loss that season was the 12-10 defeat at the hand of the Buckeyes. Here’s his full bio on his new college football hall of fame page:

Dave Brown was the leader of one of the most successful and yet frustrating periods in Michigan football history. The Wolverines posted a 30-2-1 record, tied for three Big Ten conference titles and never went to a bowl game. The defensive units on which Brown played were consistent national leaders. He was twice on squads that gave up the fewest points-per-game in the country. The other team placed second. In 33 games played, his teams surrendered more than ten points in only five games and registered 11 shutouts. On the freshman team, Brown was used on both offense as a receiver and in the defensive secondary. When he joined the varsity, he was moved to the defensive secondary on a full-time basis. His offensive abilities were then used as a punt return specialist. As a sophomore, he averaged over 15 yards a return with one touchdown. Brown would have one score in each of this three seasons. He also added one TD on an interception return. He was recognized as an all-Big Ten player. In his junior year he became a consensus All-America choice. He improved his status to that of a unanimous choice as a senior. When he completed his career he held the school record for passes broken up. Dave was chosen in the first round of the NFL draft and went on to a 16-year pro career. He then embarked on a coaching career. While an assistant coach at Texas Tech he died at the age of 52.

Good info but was that written by an android? “Dave Brown was good. He returned punts. He had interceptions.” Sheesh. And speaking of the HOF site, it’s tired. And sadly, MVictors has courted finer advertisers. It’s front page includes this sharp add for its own grilling sauces:

Dave Brown, Michigan

Joining Brown, Paterno and Flutie is Notre Dame’s Chris Zorich. Here he is, like Brown, photographed in his varsity sweater but for some reason he’s wearing it underneath his uniform:

Zorich, Michigan

16. May 2008 · Comments Off on Carr Reacts to Charlie Weis comments · Categories: Archive 2008, Bo Schembechler, Lloyd Carr, Notre Dame

WJR’s Frank Beckmann asked Lloyd Carr to react to the “To Hell with Michigan” comments from Notre Dame Charlie Weis.

No surprise, Carr took the high road but suggested that Bo made his “To Hell with Notre Dame” comments “after he was out of coaching”.

You can hear the entire interview here. HT: Michigan Sports Center.

One of the things bloggers do when they’ve been away from the keyboard for a little while is check out site statistics. A quick scan of the incoming links revealed that my previous posts referencing my favorite Schembechler phrase are being peppered. It didn’t take long to find out why. As you may know by now you can thank Notre Dame head coach Chuck Weis for that:

“I think the first opportunity they’re going to have to really make a statement is that day [Sept. 6 against SDSU], and then we’ll listen to Michigan have all their excuses as they come runnin’ in and sayin’ how they have a new coaching staff and there’s changes. To hell with Michigan.”

** Translated by Brian at mgoblog, who is fluent in Hutt

Beautiful! I love this.

Rich Rod is getting from all sides this off-season and I say bring it on. Any shot at our new coach just unifies the fickle Michigan fan base and gives a reassuring boost to our rivalries. Now we need Tim Brewster to announce he’s cleared a space in his office to display the Little Brown Jug and we’ll be all set.

Referencing a Schembechler line is fine by me although I’m sure many would say that Weis would never dare say such a thing if Bo were alive. Again, I say bring it on.

Michigan Mets

Hilarious stuff is coming through on the Wolverine exhibition game with the New York Mets. You may know that the teams tied 4-4 after a late Mets rally. What you may not have seen is that someone forgot to tell our boys in Blue that this wasn’t a real game.

Apparently my main man Kevin Cislo tried to lay down a bunt to advance a runner in the 4th, and I guess that violates one of the countless unwritten rules of etiquette in baseball. Here’s the description from Newsday:

Forget the Phillies. Billy Wagner nearly started a beanball war with the University of Michigan after one overzealous Wolverine tried to bunt on him in the fourth inning. With a runner on second and one out, centerfielder Kevin Cislo pushed his bunt foul. Wagner, clearly annoyed, shook his head a number of times, and Cislo wisely swung away, grounding out. Wagner said he couldn’t believe that Cislo, a junior, bunted.

“If he got that bunt down, I would have drilled the next guy,” Wagner said. “Play to win against Villanova.”

Asked about Wagner’s reaction, manager Willie Randolph laughed. “He couldn’t bring himself to drill the kid,” Randolph said. ” Nolan Ryan might have. Nolan or Roger [Clemens] may have done it, kid or not.”

While the Mets viewed the game as their preseason tuneup, Michigan was fired up, and Randolph mentioned that all the Wolverines’ chatter “– me off a little bit.”

This is so beautiful. Putting down a bunt AND a bit of infield chatter? I love it.

This incident has caught some national coverage, obviously in the New York papers but the incident was also reset in the first hour of Jim Rome’s radio show today. I’m looking for audio from the Rome Show.

UPDATE 2/27: MLive picked this up as well.

UPDATE II 2/27: While I don’t have the audio yet from today’s Jim Rome Show, he did post his thoughts on the topic on his website. He sides with the Mets and Billy Wagner on this and feels that Cislo crossed the line. Here’s the full Rome take.

UPDATE III 2/28: From Lew: Here’s another good piece from the New York times (without any liberal bias!) about the collegiate atmosphere of the game. Apparently, Mets hitting coach (and former Tiger) Howard Johnson was doing the Gator Chomp in the dugout while The Victors was playing before the game started [full article]