Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Bye-bye, Brown Jug

Did that really happen? The end of Michigan's game vs. Minnesota had a surreal quality to it, with the official game clock malfunctioning and the referees keeping time on the field. It looked like the game was going to overtime, tied at 20, two-and-a-half minutes remaining, and Minnesota on its own 15-yard line, 85 yards away from a touchdown. Or 60 yards away from a field goal.

(Image by Steve Perez/ The Detroit News)

Even Minnesota's coach, Glen Mason, had essentially conceded that the game would go to overtime.

Then, with a minute-and-a-half left, the Michigan defense suffered a terrible lapse and allowed Minnesota running back Gary Russell to gain 61 yards on one play. (If not for Michigan's Brandon Harrison finally catching him, Russell probably would've scored a touchdown. That's how out-of-place Michigan's defense was on the play.)

Kicking a game-winning field goal was merely a formality after that. It didn't matter if you couldn't tell how much time was left in the game. You knew it was over. Seconds later, the Minnesota team swarmed to the Michigan sideline and retrieved the trophy it hadn't seen in 19 years.

19 years. What were you doing in 1986? Some of the players on that field hadn't even been born the last time Minnesota won The Little Brown Jug from Michigan.

Three losses, one week into October? A 1-2 record in the Big Ten? A .500 record after six games? When's the last time that happened? (The answer is 1990, actually - just read that in today's Detroit News.) How much worse can this season get for Michigan, with games remaining against Penn State, Iowa, and Ohio State? (And hey, Northwestern and Indiana aren't looking so bad either.)

♦ Minnesota was probably due to win one of these games. They had each of the previous two games in hand, only to collapse at the end and let Michigan escape with a victory. Losing those games ended up ruining Minnesota's last two seasons. This year, it was the Gophers' turn to ruin something for Michigan. As a Wolverines fan, I'm upset about the loss, but I have to acknowledge the law of averages, cosmic order, and all that other stuff.

♦ Can we just throw away that "Michigan would have been 5-0 if Mike Hart had been healthy" theory? Wasn't that Mike Hart I saw at running back for Michigan yesterday? Didn't he gain 109 yards? How'd that work for Michigan?

♦ After the game, there were rumblings that Minnesota players had planted a flag in the middle of the Michigan Stadium field. I wasn't at the game, and TV and radio made no mention of this. But today's papers confirm the story. Maybe it's poor sportsmanship, and rubbing it in. But I can't get too mad about it when Michigan lost the game. What does bug me is what Mike Hart pointed out: it's a copycat move. MSU did the same thing when it beat Notre Dame two weeks ago. But at least the Spartans had won five straight games on the Fighting Irish's turf.

♦ Two points to repeat from previous posts (because they need to be repeated):

1) During his post-game press conference, coach Lloyd Carr mentioned a failure to protect the quarterback as one of the reasons Michigan lost. By saying that, he's trying to do what his offensive line couldn't: Protect his quarterback.

Replace that number "7" on Chad Henne's jersey with a question mark. He completed 14 of 29 passes for 155 yards against Minnesota. The only way you win with those numbers is if Hart has another 200-yard rushing performance. "Wild Thing" Henne was all over the place yesterday, overthrowing receivers down the field on deep passes, and badly missing on fade patterns in the corners of the end zone. (It's called "throwing with touch," Chad. We'd like to see you learn that in your remaining two-and-a-half years at Michigan.) Maybe the Michigan coaches need to give Henne a pair of glasses like Lou Brown did to Ricky Vaughn in Major League.

Or how about just benching him for a game or two? Don't the coaches owe it to the rest of the team to see if the offense could run better with Matt Gutierrez at quarterback?

2) Garrett Rivas has made 38-of-50 field goal attempts in his Michigan career. That's a 76 percent conversion rate. Pretty good, right? Yes, but I'll argue with you until the bar closes that Rivas is not a good kicker. Bill Simmons recently criticized the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez for only hitting home runs when the game's already been decided. It's the same thing with Rivas. When an important field goal is needed, Rivas can't make the kick. He can make anything when Michigan already has the game in hand, and he'll rack up a handful of field goals when the offense can't score touchdowns. But when the game is on the line (and not tied), Rivas will miss - as he did at the end of regulation vs. MSU last week. (Don't tell me about the one he made in overtime. Was that really a pressure kick?)

And he missed two field goals against Minnesota, each of which Michigan really needed to win the game. And that brings me to my central, entirely irrational point: Rivas sucks. He sucks worse than Ashlee Simpson singing live. He stinks worse than your bathroom after you ate a black bean burrito, with a side of asparagus, while you had stomach flu. He's terrible. He's worse than the "Bewitched" movie. He's awful. He took another five years off my life yesterday.

This piece by the Ann Arbor News' Jim Carty might explain everything. As Carr tried to pump up his defense before they went back on the field (and subsequently allowed Russell's long run), the players just sat there and listened. Where's the leadership from the players?

(Images by John T. Greilick/ The Detroit News)

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6 Comments:

  • At October 09, 2005 3:35 PM, Blogger Flapjack said…

    You would think that we could have recruited a better place kicker than Rivas.......

     
  • At October 09, 2005 5:59 PM, Blogger jjk said…

    Well done on your commentary. It's refreshing to find this after having found entry after entry on other blogs taking a line or two out of an AP article and the linking to it.

    Good read.

     
  • At October 10, 2005 1:48 PM, Anonymous Evan said…

    You know, Ian, you bring up a good question about Gutierrez.

    However, he's gone at the end of this year, and Henne is the de facto QB unless someone pulls a neat trick out of his ass to take the job. Given that we've already got 3 losses and that Henne played well last year, does one shatter his confidence to still have only a poor shot at winning out and playing in the Weedeater Bowl? Or does one stick with Henne, let him go through his bumps, show confidence in him, and let him learn from his mistakes for next year when all our best players will be returning anyhow?

    I don't know. It's a hard question to answer.

     
  • At October 11, 2005 12:49 AM, Blogger firemycoach said…

    Hate Lloyd? Have 8 Bucks?

    Then lets fire Lloyd together

    http://firelloyd.spreadshirt.com/

    It worked for Ellerbe and it will work again.

     
  • At October 11, 2005 8:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Didn't Rivas kick the game winner against Minnesota two years ago as a true freshman? How soon they forget.

     
  • At October 11, 2005 10:39 AM, Blogger Ian C. said…

    Anonymous - yes, he did. Which is why I included "(and not tied)" in that first paragraph about Rivas.

    It's only three words (and a parenthetical comment), but I wanted to acknowledge that Rivas has made game-winning - "BIG" - kicks.

    But the game was tied. Yes, it was late in the game, but was it a "miss-and-you-lose" situation? The game would've gone to overtime. Has Rivas ever made a kick when Michigan absolutely had to have it? Maybe I'm wrong with that question, but that was the point I tried to make.

     

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