Sunday, September 11, 2011

“The BEST ‘worst’ game Michigan has ever played!”

To paraphrase a often-repeated quote, you can take the sportswriter out of the press box, but you can never take the press box experience out of the retired scribe.
For more than 30 years, the press box was my second home (often my first since I probably ate more meals there than I did in my own house, apartment or trailer). I knew the whereabouts of any Texas high school stadium (mostly by looking for those proverbial Friday night lights) and I always judged collegiate press boxes by sight lines (Texas A&M is the worst; Texas is excellent), food (the old U-M press facility when I covered game only served bad, BAD hot dogs and lousy tasteless burgers and was almost as bad as the Tex-Mex fare Rice University used to dish out) and chair comfort (A&M DID offer soft, padded chairs on wheels).
But that life is long behind me; I do my football observations from my easy chair in front of my trusty non-HD, non-widescreen television. And at my side, as I had back in the day, is a legal pad and pen. I take continuous notes from start to finish – to remind myself of salient points I wish to make later and to gain a sense of the game’s tone.
So what will follow is (I swear) what I put to paper Saturday night … but not necessarily word-for-word (that would put y’all to sleep faster than the new NBC fall schedule).  
“Irish uniforms don’t look THAT bad … and Michigan helmets DID sport that small numeral in the late 1950s and early 60s.”
“Must control Manti Te’o to win … but didn’t do it on second play from scrimmage.” (For the most part, he wasn’t a major factor).
“Michael Floyd (Irish receiver) is the best damn receiver in the country; he’s ALWAYS kills us … make sure he’s a senior already!”
“ND is killing our defense; making everything look too easy. No pressure, no coverage … just like last week, but this ISN’T Western Michigan. Their quarterback is entirely too comfortable in the pocket.”
“Vincent Smith just looks too small to play against these behemoths – the entire defensive line averages more than 300 pounds. Smith looks like a JV runner in size.”
“Notre Dame scores again, 14-0 …walked into EZ (end zone) too EZ (easy). The Irish are looking like the team Charlie Weis wanted all along. Poor Charlie!”
“Where is Fitzgerald Toussaint?” (a question repeated throughout the game notes I made; no answer came).
“Poor field position hurting Michigan all during this half; combined with ineffective offense is not good prescription.”
“BIG interception by Jordan Kovacs! Seems as if the turnover problem that plagued Notre Dame last week wasn’t corrected by its staff…more red face reactions from Brian Kelly to come!”
“What a great individual effort by Junior Hemingway … no relation of Ernest … or Tom … for TD! But why are we only going long on every throw? Denard is overshooting most of his receivers.” (DR only completed 11 of 24 passes for 338 yards and I can hardly remember one short completion).
“If this is a throwback game, why aren’t the coaches wearing coats and ties? And does on official has a striped ball cap instead of the funky white hats one only sees in open classic touring cars? And the retro “M” logo doesn’t work – too skinny. It’s the BLOCK ‘M’ not the Jenny Craig ‘M’.”
“We cannot cover Michael Floyd one-on-one; our defensive backs are just too small and too short. He’s open anytime he wants to be.”
“JT Floyd with a huge interception on a poorly-throw pass. You got lucky, babe, as Tom Petty sings.”

“Mike Tirico lives in Ann Arbor??? Bet he wanted the world to know that.”
“Sorry, but Kirk Herbstreit makes me want to hurl. Does his being a Buckeye have ANYTHING to do with it?”
“Field goal gives ND 17-7 halftime lead. We’re lucky to be THAT close!”
 “The key about Bo-coached teams were the great second-half adjustments he and the staff made at halftime. His teams always got better in the third and fourth quarters; sadly, under Rich Rodriguez, it was the reverse. We wilted often in fourth quarters.”
“Why do I think we can still win this game???? What are they putting in Pepsi Max?”
“Nice defensive stand to open third quarter, but still losing field position battle.”
“Has anyone told Delta Faucets the REAL meaning of the music they choose for its commercial??? – ‘Willie and the Hand Jive’ If they used Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Relax,” it would mean the same thing…” (Think about it).
“We still lack a running game not named Denard … and the play calling isn’t asking him to run.”
“Well, well, a third Notre Dame turnover; it’s the best defense UM has … because defense isn’t doing enough.”
“Damn, an immediate interception; why are we only going deep on every pass play?”
“Announced attendance is 114,804; can’t you just smell the money!”
“Second holding penalty on a kickoff return …too many mistakes there.”
“HUGE play to Hemingway for 77 yards …I don’t understand why we aren’t lined up and ready to run the third-down play instead of wasting final 17 seconds in third quarter?”
“I need my nitroglycerine pills … Denard recovers fumble and scores from 1. Be still my all-too-fast beating heart!”
“Our D-line is being beaten up by ND; big stop by M-7; how is Brandin Hawthorne?? Where did he come from on the depth chart.” (Third string to be exact).
“Shanked punt; now Irish collar tightening…nice touch pass to Gallon for TD … but our kickoffs are still WAY TOO SHORT!”
“Still an eternity to play (10:00) …Notre Dame QB burning time outs way too fast … that could cost them.”
“Poor Woolfolk; walking MASH unit.”
“Come on…phantom pass interference flag in end zone …wasn’t going to be caught …oops FUMBLE! Turnover number 4!”
“Bad holding penalty wipes out first down … another great play by Hemingway …star of game for UM so far … and roughing call, great opp for U-M …bad choice for target; Gallon too small to play jump ball and intercepted. Damn!”
“Nice punt return by Gallon, but miss Stonum back there…still overthrowing everyone. Big reception to Kelvin Grady; only 1:34 to play and we can win this thing!”
“Screen…Smith…ND missed him … TOUCHDOWN! WOW! Don’t believe what I just saw (sorry Jack Buck).”
“Need defense … oy, pass interference covering Michael Floyd … oy, another completed pass …Irish will get his with red zone syndrome again … dammit oy, (Theo) Riddick scores and was wide open. Only 30 seconds left. To let this happen after coming from so far back … damn!”
“Not even an Al Michaels miracle can help us now.”
“0:23 … what? Gallon slips past two ND tacklers … DOWN TO THE ND 16!!!!! Eight seconds to play!”
“Denard to … ROUNDTREE. OMG! TOUCHDOWN!!!! :02 to play!!!!!! What just happened?!?!?”
“When Irish eyes are crying … We’re 2-0; they are 0-2 and play Michigan State next week. Oh, my!”
“This is by far the BEST ‘worst’ game Michigan has ever played! It’ll go down in history!”
These old bones are too tired to continue. Time for rel competition next week – the 2-0 Eastern Michigan Hurons (sorry, you’ll NEVER EVER NEVER get me to call them Eagles; I am old school and in Ypsilanti, it was, and always shall be, THE HURONS!).

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