Game 5: Homecoming
Saturday, 5 October @ Michigan Stadium
(№ 19) Michigan 10-3 Iowa (№ 14)
4-1, B1G 2-1
I both predicted & expected doom in the Homecoming game against the tenacious Hawkeyes of Iowa. I was wrong & I am perfectly willing to eat that crow, though not thrilled to do so as Michigan's victory was less than convincing. In this game, Team 140 descended into full-on Brady Hoke territory: The defense was suffocating, but the offense was likewise suffocated. In fairness, Iowa boasted the second-best defense Offensive Coordinator Josh Gattis's non-functional offense had faced, second only to the Wisconsin squad that eviscerated us, 35-14 (the game was lopsided that the score), but any progress the offense had made the week before against the alien Scarlet Knights proved to be illusory. But as said, Don Brown's Massage Machine was suffocating.
10-3 was a very old-school B1G score, which make sense because Kirk Ferentz runs a very old-school program @ Iowa. I enjoyed the game because I'm a fan of that brand of football & disdain the modern high-flying offenses that put up hundreds of yards & dozens of points per game. I like basketball, I just prefer to watch basketball on the hardwood, not on grass.
Saturday, 12 October @ Memorial Stadium
(№ 16) Michigan 42-25 Illinois
5-1, B1G 3-1
I opined before the game that Illinois is "a good team to get well against," meaning a thoroughly outmatched opponent, but the fighting Lovie Smiths proved to be far more stout that I'd thought. I was wrong & I apologize.
The valiant Wolverines' offense seemed to be back to Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey form, racking up points & yards against a lesser opponent, & Michigan built up a 28-0 lead, largely on the strength of the previously lackluster running game. But then, in a stunning & disheartening reversal, the feisty Fighting Illini reeled off twenty-five unanswered points, to pull with three early in the fourth quarter (28-25). Throughout the Illinois surge, our offense had reverted to hapless form, but suddenly it came to life again, scoring two more touchdowns to secure the road win. The bad news is that the valiant Wolverines had allowed a commanding lead to slip out of their fingers, but the good news is that after that they were able to collect themselves & finish strong.
Regarding Illinois, the very next week they demonstrated that the scare they had put into us was real, as they managed to defeat Wisconsin @ Memorial Stadium. Yes, the pesky Badgers almost certainly overlooked the feisty Fighting Illini, looking ahead to the next weekend's match-up against the hated Buckeyes of The, but give credit to Illinois that they took advantage of the opportunity when it presented itself. As of this writing, they've earned two consecutive victories to stand at a robust & (given Illinois's recent football history) very respectable 4-4. Credit to the valiant Wolverines for finishing the job against a better-than-advertised, ascending opponent.
Saturday, 12 October @ Beaver Stadium
(№ 7) Penn State 28-21 Michigan (№ 16)
5-2, B1G 3-2
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair."The valiant Wolverines were completely overwhelmed by the "Whiteout" environment of a nationally televised night game @ Beaver Stadium & quickly fell behind 21-0. The nadir came when quarterback Shea Patterson (senior) through a very panicked, extraordinarily ill-advised pass that was predictably intercepted, giving the ferocious Nittany Lions a short field that in short order led to their third touchdown. We had dug ourselves a very deep hole.
—Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
Yet that was the nadir, & after that the valiant Wolverines rose, like Bruce Wayne in The Dark Night Rises. The defense stiffened, stifling Penn State & staunching the bleeding. The offense suddenly worked, apparently functioning as it had been intended to from the beginning. Michigan scored, & then scored again, drawing to within a single score before a single big play gave up a touchdown to Penn State. Yet, even trailing 28-14, the Maize & Blue displayed none of the lack of poise that had marked the start of the game; all the momentum was still in Michigan's side. The valiant Wolverines scored, stopped Penn State, & then drove down the length of the field. An uncharacteristically well-thrown fourth-down pass hit a normally sure-handed receiver right in the hands, but he dropped it. Michigan turned the ball over on downs & Penn State was able to get the first down necessary to run out the clock.
As Dickens wrote, "the best of times… the worst of times." We lost the game. We lost on national T.V. We fell to 3-2 in conference. Yet in the Wolverine nation, almost all of us felt better about Team 140, about Harbaugh & the coaches. Yes, we had been overwhelmed by the hostile road environment & Penn State had a definite home field advantage, but even when down the valiant Wolverines were never out. They fought back, they didn't give up, they displayed a resilience that had been conspicuously lacking in the shellacking @ Camp Randall. Dare we hope? I've been a #FireHarbaugh stalwart, but dare we hope?
Saturday, 26 October @ Michigan Stadium
(№ 19) Michigan 45-14 Notre Dame (№ 8)
6-2, B1G 3-2
The valiant Wolverines picked up where they had left off in their missed-it-by-that-much comeback attempt the previous Saturday night & dominated the vile Fighting Irish every bit as thoroughly as we had been dominated by the pesky Badgers back in September. Amidst monsoon conditions, Michigan's offense moved the ball & scored while Michigan's defense looked murdery against N.D.'s highly-regarded offense; the Maize & Blue carried a 17-0 lead into halftime. In the third quarter, the zebras tied to give the game away & the vile Fighting Irish scored shortly after a phantom pass interference call both nullified an interception & gave N.D. excellent field position. The Michigan faithful would have none of it, booing & booing for the next dozen or so plays & pelting the field with souvenir towels. They just wouldn't stop, despite pleading from an incongruously magnanimous Coach Harbaugh. It was magnificent, & well past time given the dire state of college football officiating, which appears to share the same toxic combination of corruption & incompetence that permeates Washington, D.C.
The fans in the stands weren't the only ones infuriated by the piss-poor officiating, & shortly after the zebras gifted Notre Dame a touchdown, closing the gap to 17-7, Josh Gattis's suddenly potent offense scored a touchdown (24-7), then scored another touchdown (31-7), then scored another touchdown (38-7), & then scored another touchdown (45-7). The vile Fighting Irish scored again in the dying minutes (45-14), but they were never really in the game except for one brief moment during the zebra-engineered touchdown drive. Quarterback Ian Book (senior) was hit, hurried, & harassed, so that by the second quarter he was psyched out, hearing the hoof beats of approaching defenders & panicking accordingly. N.D. managed only forty-seven rushing yards, contrasted with Michigan's three hundred three. Both clubs fumbled the ball thrice (not bad, really, considering the aforementioned monsoon conditions), but the valiant Wolverines didn't lose any of those fumbles, but took two away from the vile Fighting Irish. That was a very welcome change of pace compared to the first half of the season, when we just couldn't get out of our own way.
All in all, a magnificent & most satisfying evening. God bless the "boo birds"!
Next: On the road @ Maryland (3-5, B1G 1-4), a potential trap game after two Saturday night prime time showcases. Also, the end of #FireHarbaugh? Dare we hope?
Bonus! Song o' the Day: Go Blue!
Dropkick Murphys, "(F)lannigan's Ball" from The Meanest of Times (Mike Papa Wolverine)