Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Sunday, October 02, 2005

A game with some kick

Right. Like I said - Michigan State 34, Michigan State 24 31.

I tried to give myself an out by saying I thought Michigan would somehow win the game, yet I picked MSU to win the game. I know - Mr. Decisive over here. But c'mon, it really was a tough call. Was MSU really as good as it looked in its first four games? Was U-M that bad? Was the balance of power in the state going to shift so drastically, so quickly, as many had predicted all week?

For the second year in a row, we got a classic game. All the ingredients that go into a recipe for an exciting contest were here. Heroes (Mike Hart) and scapegoats (John Goss). Suspense (MSU coming back to tie the game at 31-31, after falling behind 21-7). And perhaps most importantly, memorable plays (Chad Henne's was-it-or-wasn't-it-a-fumble, followed by a did-that-really-happen 74-yard fumble return by 325-lb. Domata Peko).

(Photo by Chris Holmes/Lansing State Journal)

I'm looking at this through Michigan-colored glasses, but is there another college football rivalry that has recently had two better games than these last couple of meetings between U-M and MSU? ESPN Classic might eventually have to devote a whole week of programming to these games.

Michigan looks like it's righted itself and jumped back into the Big 10 race. Yet to me, it still feels like there are more questions than answers surrounding this team. And the biggest curiosity is Henne. Replace that number "7" on his jersey with a question mark. In the first half, he was hitting throws all over the field and looked like he'd easily have his best game of the season. But by the fourth quarter, the Michigan coaches - terrified Henne would make a costly mistake - practically put him in a strait-jacket and reduced him to a hand-off machine. ("Okay, next play... what are we calling? Oh, what a surprise - another running play for Hart.")

And we still don't know how good Michigan State is. They beat a Notre Dame team which now appears virtually unstoppable, and were maybe a missed field goal away from defeating Michigan. In past seasons, MSU would carry this loss for weeks and psychologically tumble. They have to chew on this one for two weeks (next week is a bye) until they play Ohio State - at Columbus. If they lose that one, do two straight losses knock them out of the Big 10 race? Probably, though I'd argue they could win their next five games. I think we'll find out just how good John L. Smith is as a coach during that stretch.

Other points and thoughts:

♦ I don't care if he made the game-winning field goal for Michigan. Garrett Rivas has taken years from my life with his misses. I will surely die in my sixties (if not my fifties) because of that kid. You will never convince me he's a good kicker. If the game was on the line, and my choices to kick a field goal were between Rivas and my mother, I'd probably go with Mama Cass - and not just because she's family. If I convinced her the football was the head of one of her in-laws, she might kick an 80-yard field goal.

♦ Mike Hart should get a cape sewn onto his jersey. Dude was Superman yesterday, with 36 carries and 218 yards. No way Michigan wins that game without him. I predicted he'd be important, but I had no idea how important. Most surprising (to me, anyway) were Hart's two long runs against the MSU defense. As good as Hart's been, he's never been flashy. Big plays haven't been part of his resume. Not yesterday, though. It was too early in the game to decide the outcome, but Hart's 45-yard run on Michigan's third offensive play was shocking and set a tone for the rest of the day.

(Photo by Todd McInturf / The Detroit News)

♦ I've thought John L. Smith was a clown since the moment MSU hired him in 2002. It seems like he'd rather boast about his mountain climbing and safari excursions than talk football. (On the other hand, it's sort of refreshing to see a football coach with a life.) Based on how MSU has played this season, I was ready to eat that opinion and admit I was wrong. However, Smith was seriously outcoached by Lloyd Carr yesterday. His clock management at the end of the game (before overtime) was awful, costing his offense at least 30 seconds that could've allowed MSU to get in position for a game-winning field goal. And what the hell was that hook-and-lateral play on their last drive? MSU just needed to get down the field, not waste time waiting for a trick play to develop.

♦ To quote Tommy Lee Jones from The Fugitive, "Don't let 'em give you any shit about your ponytail!" I'll never make fun of Domata Peko's hair again. I'm still shaking my head in amazement at his 74-yard fumble return. Have you ever seen a big, fat guy run that fast? He was mo-tor-in'! And then he hurdled over Mike Hart to score the touchdown! Are you kidding me? 325 lbs! He looked like Edwin Moses! Hell, he runs better than Chad Henne! I'm convinced the referees didn't change the call on Henne's "fumble" (which should've been ruled an incomplete pass - Henne's arm was moving forward) because they were so awed by Peko's athleticism. How could you take a touchdown away from him after he did that?

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