Sunday, September 23, 2012

Ugly as it gets: The South ‘Bend over and take it’

Normally, within minutes of the completion of a Michigan football game, and literally moments after the microphones have been removed from the press interview rooms, those covering the games, and on pressing deadlines, are handed full transcripts of what the various head coaches said, as well as various players. At Cowboys Stadium, it helped most Michigan-based writers finish stories before midnight Ann Arbor time.
And then those quotes normally appeared on the Michigan athletic website… but not this weekend. The website is as silent as most Wolverines fans are (and need to be) following that fiasco in South Bend, broadcast in all its non-glory on N(D)BC.
It is difficult to overstate how poor of an offensive performance, how big of an egg was laid by the Michigan starting 11. The 13-6 loss was as putrid as what falls out of the south end of a northbound steer. No amount of Tylenol could erase the headache all Michigan fans felt merely viewing the proceedings – turnovers here, turnovers there. Hell, Pepperidge Farms doesn’t offer as many turnovers in its boxes as UM gave to Notre Dame.
The six turnovers were not close to being a Michigan (negative) record; not even the five interceptions (the mark sits at 7 against MSU in 1987). But that figure is so completely unacceptable, it cannot be emphasized enough. That dying quail tossed so lamely by halfback Vincent Smith would have been blown out of the sky (by someone with a .3006 gauge) if the game was played at Texas A&M; that call should be shredded from the playbook as if the North Koreans were coming for it.
The loss fell on the shoulders of senior quarterback Denard Robinson (the same as he seems to get so much credit when Michigan is victorious). His passes were often so poor, it was difficult to recognize the intended target and his reads of coverage were negligible.
But in his defense (somewhat), he often threw under pressure from Irish blitzes and pass rush. The only person who had a worse game than Robinson was Michael Schofield, the offensive right tackle. Schofield was burned, pancaked and torched all night long. I hope they had a good burn unit in South Bend to visit afterwards; that player needed it … badly.
The offense actually looked steady and effective in the second half, looking more like a West Coast affair, with a short passing game and some decent (but not spectacular) running by Fitzgerald Toussaint. Michigan controlled the ball and the clock, but ran into a wall once it reached the Irish 20.
Michigan went 0-for-5 in the “red zone” in terms of scoring touchdowns (again unacceptable) – going 2-of-3 on field goals and losing possession on the Smith interception and Robinson fumble. No one can win when faced with that kind of non-output.
I thought it had been decades since Michigan was held without a touchdown in a game, but, oops, not that long ago, actually. Under the Rich Rodriguez regime, Michigan only scored 21 points in three encounters (losses) with Ohio State. But it was in Lloyd Carr’s last regular season game as head coach when Ohio State won in Ann Arbor, 14-3, in 2007, as the lowest offensive point production until last Saturday night.
By the way, anyone see the butt-whipping handed RichRod and Arizona?? And, yes, the Wildcats fell out of the Top 25, along with Big Blue.
As I was tweeting during the night, I was actually astonished at the vitriol directed by so-called Michigan “fans” toward Robinson. To which I respond, “shame on y’all.” I can guarantee this: there are scores of college football teams, if not all but a selected few, which would gladly have Robinson as their quarterback. Granted, he will not be an NFL quarterback, but that is a stupid yardstick which needs to be tossed away. The version of football seen in the NFL is not the same as employed in the collegiate ranks. The NFL game is boring as hell while the difference in offensive styles keeps college football fresher, and Robinson is an example of how instantly exciting it can be.
True, he stunk up the join last Saturday, but that’s football and that’s life. Trust me, we’ll ALL miss him when he’s gone next season.
Sadly, this was the best defensive outing of the season for the Wolverines, which held Notre Dame to 239 yards in total offense (299 for UM), 14 first downs (19 for Michigan) and 3-of-9 on third-down efficiency (8-of-15 for UM). Led by Jake Ryan, for the most part, the defense rose and made key stops when asked … it couldn’t be asked to do it every single moment of the contest.
You will find this statement difficult to believe, or swallow, but Notre Dame is NOT a better team than Michigan; the Irish are ranked in the 10th this week and really do NOT deserve it. The offense is not explosive, there now exists a quarterback controversy (because, as John Madden says, when you have two starters you have none) and that secondary can be torched by a quality quarterback and some decent blocking.
Except Michigan couldn’t prove that hypothesis on Saturday (Oklahoma should do so in Norman, as well as USC).
I’d like to take a paragraph of two to voice my displeasure with what N(D)BC tires to pass as a professional broadcast. In truth, it is so overtly biased toward Notre Dame as to be nauseating … in all aspects, including the promotions for the respective universities.
The announcers (Tom Hammond, Mike Maycock) might as well dress up in leprechaun uniforms and wear gold and green jackets with the initials “ND” on their backs. I understand how much NBC pays the school for the rights to broadcast Irish football (although it’s NOT exclusive on the road, only for home games), and that payday is the reason Notre Dame will NEVER join any conference in football (the ACC deal is for all sports BUT football).
I know nothing about Maycock, whoever in the hell he is/was/thinks he should be; his background, his expertise, his previous broadcast experience. But it is COMPLETELY unprofessional to refer to ND players by their first names (as if they were best buddies or Brazilian soccer stars).
On Manti Te’o’s second interception, Maycock was yelping, “It’s Manti! It’s Manti!” You could hear the man crush oozing in his voice and the puppy love he felt for the Irish linebacker. It’s just wrong, my friends, and not the way to conduct a broadcast!
While I was tweeting for Mgotalk during the game, I read more than one tweet from the press box that ND supporters were cheering their heads off, which (if true) is also a violation of journalistic ethics. The press box is reserved for working personnel, not cheerleaders and before EACH NCAA game, an announcement to that effect is made over the public address within the working area.
But when it’s being done on national television, why should the fifth estate be any different? Shameful!
Now, for all its ugliness, there is also a full Big 10 Conference schedule ahead and Michigan receives a (needed) bye week this Saturday to prepare for the Oct. 6 road opener at Purdue (not anyone’s idea of a powerhouse). The Wolverines STILL has a decent path to the Big 10 championship game with only Michigan State and Nebraska as the truest obstacles.
Sparty has proven to be very one-dimensional and the strongest part of the Irish offensive attack, the ground game, was held to 94 yards and a 3.0 per carry average. In fact, Michigan, whose rushing game only made inroads in the second half, outrushed ND 161-94. A one-back offensive attack CAN be properly schemed.
The Michigan State game is at home but Nebraska is the scary road trip (and UM is 0-2 in road encounters thus far). Home games in Lincoln are events onto themselves and the ‘Huskers will be ready to some payback after being embarrassed in Ann Arbor.
But there is no Wisconsin, no Penn State, on the Michigan schedule. Iowa, who beat UM in Iowa City last week, is as weak as day-old dishwater, and Ohio State now sits as the most overrated 4-0 ranked team in the nation; just ahead of the Irish, now ranked 10th, and still NOT as good as its fan base thinks.
However, to capture the team’s goal – to win the Big 10 title – the offense must improve in EVERY area (blocking, catching the ball, running the ball, throwing the ball and turnovers). It’s actually a good thing that Michigan fell out of the Top 25 rankings and all the talk about Robinson capturing the Heisman has ceased; the pressure and the spotlight will be turned off and this off-week can be used to do the work required to be … champions!
There is plenty of time for redemption by Robinson and his offense, as well as the rest of the team. The noxious feeling they taste in their stomachs needs to be turned into anger and action.
It’s time to forget Alabama and Notre Dame and get back to what made all the people take notice – playing Michigan football!
Then all the post-game quotes will want to be heard.

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