Saturday’s edition of TWIMFbH jets back to the conference opener of 1998 – a battle against Nick Saban and the Spartans. Tom Brady took all the snaps for the Wolverines in this gem, played on September 26, 1998:
You can listen to all 6 years of This Week In Michigan Football History here. And don’t forget to catch the whole KeyBank Countdown to Kickoff on WTKA 1050AM starting 4 hours before each game, and of course live in the Bud Light Victors Lounge when they lace them up in Ann Arbor. See you out there.
It’s hard to defend any title, especially a national title, but that’s what Michigan and Lloyd Carr set out to do in 1998. Gone was Heisman winner Charles Woodson, but the team returned enough talent to earn a top 5 preseason ranking.
But things didn’t go as planned, and the year started 0-2 with losses at Notre Dame and at home against Syracuse. The Wolverines took the first step toward righting the ship by crushing our friends from Ypsilanti 59-20 to conclude the preseason.
On September 26 1998 the Wolverines opened the big ten slate with a huge one against rival Michigan State and head coach Nick Saban.
One of the big questions of the year was at quarterback, where junior Tom Brady was fighting for playing time in practice with freshman phenom Drew Henson. The jury was still out in the media and with the fans on who should lead the team. Henson had the hype and remarkable raw athleticism. Brady seemed to be a safe but the positively unexciting choice. That season one journalist described #10 this way: QUOTE “Brady still gets rattled, throws into coverage when he shouldn’t and is turtle slow, but seems to be maturing nicely as a leader.
Coach Carr decided to give the properly inflated ball to Brady and he never left the game.
Early on it looked like it could be the Spartan’s day – as a Plaxico Burress TD catch put the Green up 10-3, but that was nullified when Anthony Thomas dashed 69 yards to the hous to even things at 10.
Midway through the second Brady found Tai Streets for a 5 yard strike but our pesky friends from East Lansing wouldn’t go lightly, and they tallied a Bill Burke touchdown late in the second to make it Michigan 20, Spartans 17 at half.
Fans didn’t know at the time but that’s all Carr and Brady needed. The defense, led by Sam Sword’s 11 solo tackles and 4 assists, sacked the Spartans 6 times and pitched a shutout in the second half. The A Train pounded away on the ground, and Brady short touchdown run capped off the scoring in the 29-17 victory.
For more, check out WTKA.com and MVictors.com. For the Keybank Countdown to Kickoff, this is Greg Dooley.
State deserved to win last year; Michigan deserved to win this time. Bite sized game takes:
* Dileo is getting a lot of praise but give the line and Denard mucho props on that play that set up the winning kick, and of course for the stretch (above).
* I give the State defense a lot of credit. Gallon had an uncharacteristic drop (sure, the ball was behind him but you hardly ever seem him drop the pigskin), but MSU’s defenders made 3 or 4 solo tackles that prevented touchdowns.
* I join many others in giving Dantonio props for the showing some piedras on the fake punt. I don’t blame him so much for trying the play action on the last drive. He took a calculated risk to win the game and I think it was worth a shot. Notre Dame won the game on a pass late in the game a few weeks back. The only thing I would have told Maxwell – if the receiver was absolutely not there, make like Denard and tuck and run.
* On rivals. Still lots of talk out there about where Michigan State ranks amongst Michigan’s most important opponents. While rivals can change over the decades (ask Chicago and Minnesota if you can find someone old enough—or me, Kryk or Bacs), to me it’s really a personal question not an established program-wide truth. I see the difference between MSU and Ohio State this way—relative to each other, it hurts more to lose to MSU but it feels better when you beat the Buckeyes. That won’t be the case this year. I’ll say it: I would trade this win for a victory over Ohio State in 2012. But rivalries aren’t established over a handful of games.
* As J. Lehman was interviewing Hoke during pregame (above), I heard a woman on the sideline (with a sideline pass mind you) gesture over to Hoke and ask, “Is that the coach?”. I gave the Jim Halpert stare to anyone who wanted it. And a lot of guys wanted it.
* Gibby’s kick was good by about two feet. So if you are wondering what the difference is between Wolverine jubilation and a fanbase meltdown, this week it’s about two feet. Speaking of that kick, I was right under the post next to Everitt (we collectively weigh about 550) so I had a great view of the ball. But normally I do what Hoke does so this cracked me up:
Dileo said on the radio that he thought the kick was going wide right. What was your view?
Hoke: “I watch the people sitting behind the goal post. Because they’ll tell you. I’ll be honest with you. You can’t see it from [the sideline].”
* The Willis Ward presentation was fine, but I would have preferred some actual footage of Ward and perhaps more importantly, it would have a been special and symbolic if they had some family members on the field and at the game. If you don’t have it, get Black and Blue – the latest cut includes actual game footage of Ward and Ford and the ‘34 team.
* Spartan helmets. They looked silly in person (light green?) but to me they looked ok on TV.
* All trophies. I get why they didn’t, but I was genuinely pissed after the game that the players didn’t break out the Paul Bunyan trophy and trot it around the field. That’s probably because I’ve had to endure the State players doing the same the past several years and I wanted mine. This is the first time in over 1450 days that Jon Falk has held each of our rivalry trophies– the Jug and the Big Paul.
Heading into 1949 season, Michigan was the two-time defending national champion and was riding a Yost-like 23-game winning streak. First in their way in the quest for the third championship in a row was Michigan State College who were still a few years away from admission to the conference.
This won’t shock anyone in Ann Arbor, but before that game played 62 years ago this Saturday, a group of MSC fans came to town ready to stir things up.
They had mixed results.
One group succeeded in sneaking into Michigan Stadium and used white paint to insert the initials ‘MSC’ in six-foot block letters at midfield. They took the rest of the paint to deface the press box windows and give other parts of the stadium a white wash.
Another group, apparently a crew of sixteen future leaders of men, set out to deliver a more complex prank.
They actually carefully designed and built a structure that would seal off the iconic Engineering Arch on campus (left). They constructed a wooden frame and created 60 cement blocks that when pieced together, would shut down the Arch.
They actually rehearsed the prank and, according to reports, apparently could complete the stunt within seven minutes. But shockingly, they clearly underestimated one key aspect of the plan—the idea that a group of cars containing piles of inebriated, out-of-town students, alongside giant pieces of a wooden frame and 60 cement blocks just might set off a bit of suspicion from the local authorities.
Sure enough, the 16 Spartans were foiled before anything even started. According to the AP, “Blocks, frames and boys were packed off home.”
What a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon, don’t you think? Bullets:
It has been amazing to witness the young guys, especially Morgan, Hardaway & Morris, maturing and improving since the start of the season. It’s tangible progress before our eyes so hats off to the entire coaching staff and of course the team.
I actually give some credit to the M fans for the Maize out. As I like to say, Wolverine fans are really good at “Wear Whatever You Want-Outs” but horrible at Maize-outs. I thought the place was about 75-ish percent maize which is about as good as you are going to get. I was a student during the Fab Five era when we used to wait out hours to pile into Crisler and pack the place It had that feel yesterday.
Speaking of the Maize-out: the always sharp-dressed M assistant Bacari Alexander looked sharp in his brown suit, but what do we need to do to get Coach Tweet outfitted in an all-Maize ensemble?? Sharp!
Those on Twitter might have seen a barrage of “HALOL!”. I’ve been asked by a few folks what it refers to. It’s a common tag on Coach Alexander’s tweets which I presumed to simply be an emphatic version of “LOL!”. Sunday morning Bacari confirmed this:
I expected the students to rush the court after the game—kind of glad they didn’t. Act like you’ve been there before.
I guess Kalin Lucas (who is amazing to watch) got a little pissed at D Morris’s trash talk and the lay-up at the end of the game. Izzo commented on it:
“I’ll straighten that (Lucas throwing the ball at Morris) out but at the same time, (Morris) going for a layup with 2 seconds left and talking a lot stuff all game, including at our place, maybe he (Morris) deserved it.”
That’s fine. Both players downplayed it after the game. From my view, I didn’t have any problem with Morris going coast-to-coast. Given some of the tension in the final couple minutes I guess I didn’t think the game was absolutely over, and they tried to get the ball from Morris (who beautifully weaved around a few Spartan players). Maybe he should have pulled to the wing instead of taking it to the rack but dude—we’ve struggled so much at the end of game (IU, Wisconsin, etc.) that I was relieved when he scored.
If you don’t know what this means, you don’t know @bacari34 – HALOL!
Blanket coverage of the game with sound, video and analysis by Dylan and Joe (damn, Joe’s voice kinda of sounds like mine) over at UMHoops where Beilein talks about moving the fence. Check out AnnArbor.com as well.
So what were you doing/saying/feeling as this shot went up?
Me: I let out a “COME. ON.” But it wasn’t a jubilant “Come On!” and it certainly wasn’t a “Come On” that you give when the punt returner fumbles or someone takes a bad shot. It was more like “COME…ON.” like you are trying to lift a heavy weight (like a gorilla off your back) or open a brutally tight lid on a jar. Or open a heavy jar with a tight lid. Whatever.
P.S. Lucas was unbelievable. I was in Breslin back in the day when Steve Smith absolutely KILLED Michigan and Kalin’s second half run reminded me of that performance.
Dang this win is sweet and Disco Stu’s shot was absolutely perfect. Props to Novak, Stu and the whole crew for a unexpected great night.
A quick edition of eBay Watch featuring this excellent postgame photo taken by the Freep in the moments after Michigan’s 17-3 win over Michigan State. The photog captured a great shot the aftermath of the game within the game, the battle between Spartan behemoth Tony Mandarich and Wolverine All-American Mark Messner.
From my August 2009 interview, this game was perhaps the favorite of Messner’s and he talked about their battle:
Is there a particular game that you look back on with great memories?
Messner: The Michigan State game my senior year is one that sticks out, because there was so much hype about Mandarich. There was talk about ‘the game within the game’, with Lombardi and Outland trophy candidates going at it and all that. He was such a physical specimen and I vowed that I would not let myself get embarrassed by someone who could overwhelm me physically. I could not let that person get me because if I did, the media coverage would be all over it.
He did get me once and that’s when I realized that there was something strange going on with this man, because no man should ever do that. It was my junior year. We were watching film getting ready for Michigan State and I was like, “Look at this thing! He’s destroying people.” In that game I got out of position and he got underneath me. He picked me up off my feet and ran with me for fifteen yards with my feet just dangling. He threw me like a rag doll into the Michigan State bench.
No matter what, there was no way I was going to let that happen again. And I never did. In my senior year I would not let that guy catch me. Bo used to say he’d never seen somebody out-run, out-think, out-maneuver someone when they shouldn’t have. It was purely motivated out of not getting embarrassed [laughs].
I was up in East Lansing for the Wisconsin game but tuned into the radio broadcast and this morning I watched the replay. (I broke down and ordered the expanded sports package on Comcast to get ESPNU). It’s remarkable stuff to watch to be sure and like you, I’m still very worried about what’s going to happen in the next few weeks with this defense.
* I expected it to be close, definitely closer than the spread, but not quite like that. I read this Saturday morning and remember thinking it was silly for Sharp to be so specific in his prediction, but, pretty much:
MICHIGAN 41, INDIANA 38
This is a game that goes down to the last possession. The Hoosiers score a touchdown with less than a minute remaining, but that gives Denard Robinson enough time for another miraculous drive.
* After the final pass of the game was broken up, cameras panned over to their obligatory shot of the winning coach. Greg Robinson grabbed Rich Rod to tell him something and it was kind of weird:
* The other interesting sideline moment came just minutes earlier, after Taylor Lewan was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after Denard scored the game winner. While ESPNU provided some good footage of the refs getting into it with Lewan (and Rodriguez blowing his stack), they really didn’t show what happened on the play. Did anyone see what happened?
* Speaking of Lewan’s penalty, props to Seth Broekhuizen for killing that final kick-off and thanks to the coaching staff for not try a squib from that position. And it looks like we finally got to see a little taste of the Will Hagerup some of us have seen in warm-ups and practice. He did a good job today, bouncing back from the UMass UMess.
* Thanks to all the Spartan fans who informed me throughout the day that a) Denard’s going to get hurt, b) our defense sucks. One guy who decided to wear shorts in the freezing weather tried to explain to me how we can’t win when 90% of the offense goes through one guy. Good take, but maybe focus some of that keen analysis on your wardrobe selection. Like this guy:
This week I sat down with Pete Tiernan, founder of bracketscience.com, a website with a comprehensive database that allows subscribers to slice and dice historical NCAA tournament data. Tiernan also provides statistical trends, charts, tips and strategies for busting up your pools. Over the past several years he’s contributed a column to ESPN.com insider$ and in 2009 will be featured at CBSSports.com.
Tiernan holds two degrees from Michigan and taught for a while within the English department. His ties to the M basketball program run deep as his dad, ‘Boom Boom’ Tom Tiernan, laced them up for the Maize & Blue back when they played at Yost Field House in the early 1950s.
We met in downtown Saline at the excellent Brecon Grille and over a few pints, he was kind enough to answer questions about Beilein, Michigan, tourney trends, the selection committee and more. We close with a cool story about his son who played for the Grand Valley State team that shocked Michigan State at Breslin last year. Enjoy:
MVictors: Michigan basketball is becoming relevant again thanks to John Beilein. Let’s cut right to it, how does Beilein’s tournament coaching record stack up? Tiernan: Michigan made a very good choice. John Beilein is the top overperforming active coach of the modern tournament era. There’s a statistic that I have called PASE (Performance Against Seed Expectation) which compares what a coach or team or conference should win based on their seed, versus how many games that actually do win.
For coaches with at least four tournament appearances, John Beilein’s expected number of wins was just 2 ½ and he achieved 6. And he’s exceeded seed expectation in three of his four tournaments. He’s consistently overachieved.
MVictors: Are there any regular season characteristics that indicate a team will excel/overachieve in the tournament? Tiernan: I did an analysis last year looking at the attributes [of teams coming into the tournament] that lead to overperformance in the tournament. By far the biggest one was scoring margin. If you had a team that beats its opponents by an average of 15 points a game, their PASE is +.5, meaning that they on average, overachieve by half a game in the tournament.
MVictors: Once in the tournament, are there statistical tendencies of teams that overachieve in tournament play? Tiernan: Last year I looked at a bunch of different numbers, from rebounding margin, to turnovers, shooting percentage, free throw percentage and more. The stat led to the most overachievement was not three point shooting percentage, but the amount of three point shots you take compared to overall field goals. Of course Beilein is huge on that. It didn’t matter what their shooting percentage was. What mattered was that they took the shots.
MVictors: Speaking of Beilein’s style, you’ve watched a lot of Michigan this season, what are your impressions?
Tiernan: When you think about the Beilein style, it’s very unorthodox. His teams always get out-rebounded. Always. You watch Michigan play and it just drives me crazy. They give up so many offensive rebounds. You’d think intuitively, ‘This can’t work! Why is this working?’.
I think it has a lot to do the fact that he’s going for offense, he’s going for turnovers. They are not going to get beat on fast breaks and they’re going to try to generate as many fast breaks as they can. His whole thing defensively is ‘We’re not going to give you an easy basket.’ And the offense. I’ve never seen a Michigan team get up the court as fast as these guys. Maybe with Ricky Green or Phil Hubbard. This team is pretty fast.
MVictors: As of January 12, Joe Lunardi of ESPN currently projects Michigan as a #9 seed playing in the South. Is getting an 8 or 9 seed a bad break because of the inevitable game against a top seed in the next round? Tiernan: It’s actually better to be a 10 seed than an eight or a nine. I’ve studied every seed match-up and the nine’s hold a 52-44 edge over eight seeds since 1985, when the tournament expanded to 64 teams. In round two, 9 seeds are 3-49 (against #1 seeds). Seven seeds beat 10’s by a 60-36 margin, but in the second round, they are just 18-42 against 2 seeds. But look at 10 seeds: they are 18-18 in the second round. If I were Michigan I’d rather fall to a 10 or even an 11.
MVictors: Is Michigan historically/statistically at a disadvantage for completely lacking recent tournament experience? Tiernan: There’s only one team that won without being in the previous years’ tournament—that was Syracuse in 2003. There are actually six characteristics of 17 of the last 19 winners:
* They score 77+ points/game
* Their scoring margin is +10
* They’re from the big 6 conferences
* They went to the previous year’s tournament
* Their coach has at least five years of tournament experience
* They’re seeded 1-4
There’s only one coach who won the championship in his first year, and that was Steve Fisher of course. If you take those six statistics you can see who’s most likely to be in the championship. I did the analysis last night, and there’s seven teams that have those characteristics. I don’t have the seeds, of course, so I looked at the current top 20:
* Pitt (barely, based on scoring margin)
* Michigan State (also barely based on scoring margin)
* North Carolina
* Notre Dame
MVictors: If Michigan or more likely Michigan State find themselves in the Final Four in Detroit, is there notable advantage for teams playing at or near their campus? Tiernan: I’ve looked at proximity to home, within 100 miles. Overall, there is a slight advantage, about an eighth of a game advantage or about 12 percent.
MVictors: Talking about seedings, if you had an audience with the selection committee what would you tell them, what do they consistently miss? Tiernan: When you ask yourself, ‘What does the selection committee want?’ I guess they’d want that they seeded so correctly that the high seed always won, and that we’d end up with four #1 seeds in the Final Four.
I actually think they are getting more statistically savvy. I bet you they are looking at things like Ken Pomeroy’s possession-based statistics. Otherwise it’s very hard to take a Memphis for instance, look at their performance in their conference which is a soft conference and compare it to playing in the Big East.
I never really have a lot of problems [with the seedings]. Every year there are teams that seem to be criminally omitted, and other teams that get in that probably shouldn’t. I would say that certain coaches get overseeded, which I think usually to those coaches detriment than anything else. Bobby Knight for years used to get overseeded. If you look at the statistics for his team, you’d say they should have been a 7 or 8 seed, and damned if they didn’t get a 5 or a 6 seed. You almost wish you could take names off of the teams, look at the numbers, look at who they beat. If there was some way of doing that I think you’d see a lot more surprises in the seedings.
MVictors: You’ve written for ESPN.com on the insider site in the past couple years, I understand you are moving to CBS sports this spring. When will we see your first columns? Tiernan: They’ll start running three weeks from selection Sunday, then they double up the week of Selection Sunday, and the week after. I was behind the “Insiders” [pay] site at ESPN. I look at ESPN vs. CBS and I’m sure that ESPN dwarfs CBS in traffic, but CBS seems to handle things like commenting much better. On top of that, my columns will be available to anyone not just subscribers.
MVictors: Ultimately pools are a form of gambling, and you’re not promoting that aspect at all. But are a large number of your subscribers looking for a gambling edge? Tiernan: As much as I try to downplay it, I do get subscribers for that reason. I don’t bet. I do enter pools and I run a pool on my site. For me it’s a friendly way to get involved in the tournament. I’ve won my share of pools but it’s not like I’m going to win the ESPN tournament challenge. [laughter]
I’d say about half of the subscribers are just passionate about it like I am. Then, there are the guys cramming for the test on Selection Sunday night or Monday, all they want is the answer. They say, ‘Pete, what are your models?’ I put up eight statistical models. And they want them because they want to bet them. I try to caveat the hell out of the models. I say, ‘Use the statistics for guidance but don’t use it as gospel’.
The tournament is maddeningly unpredictable. Even when it’s predictable it’s unpredictable. Two years ago who’d of thought we’d only have three upsets? I put together a thing I call the Madometer, which is a measure of tournament madness:
MVictors: Your son plays hoops at Grand Valley State, and was part of the team that upset Michigan State in East Lansing in an exhibition last season, correct? That must have been a proud moment for your family. Tiernan: [big smile]. That was… [pauses]. I’ll never forget it. I mean, I’ll get emotional talking about it.
Bobby was 5’ 9” as a freshman [at Saline] and as a senior he was 6’ 5”. In his sophomore season he was the starting point guard in the beginning of the year, at the end, he was the center. That’s how much he grew.
He went up to Grand Valley on a football scholarship. Like any other kid, he’s up there and he thinks his shit doesn’t stink. He goes to football practice and realizes, ‘holy cow. There’s a lot of good football players here.’ So he quits and we were disappointed. Then he decides that he’s going to walk on the Grand Valley basketball team and he makes team.
Going into the year t hey thought they could beat Michigan State. They were so sure. So we go to Breslin and it was unbelievable. If you’ve ever been to Breslin you know it’s a lot different from Crisler. Half of the court is surrounded by rabid students and fans. And they went in there and they beat ‘em. And it wasn’t a bullshit game. It went into [double] overtime. We had a guard who was the best defensive guard I’ve ever seen, and he could hound Neitzel. All the guys on the frontline basically negated Suton, Gray, Morgan and Naymick. And they beat ‘em.
My dad was there and he hates Michigan State. Just hates them, like any good Michigan man. Just can’t stand them. It was just the proudest moment for him. He was beaming after the game.
That night they were on the top 10 on ESPN. Bobby did a chest bump with the guy that hit the winning shot. I think they really knew they could beat them. And for Bobby, he’ll always have that. It’s one of those things I try to tell my son, ‘You’ll always have that’. Yes, life is more than sports and it’s more than what you did in high school or college, but damned if it isn’t satisfying. He’ll always have that.
[A little taste:]
[Ed: Definitely look out for Pete Tiernan in a couple months on the radio, on CBS Sports and anytime on bracketscience.com. I may try to get with him a little closer to the tournament if Michigan looks like they are going to sneak in.]