Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Monday, November 21, 2005

Closer than it should've been

Usually, I write about the Michigan game on the following Sunday, but I guess I needed more time to collect my thoughts this week. I was certainly shocked to see Michigan give up two straight touchdown drives to Ohio State, blowing a nine-point lead. I also felt like I'd watched it all before. Anthony Gonzalez's 26-yard catch at the end of the game that all but assured the outcome felt much like Gary Russell's 61-yard run in the Minnesota game. And Antonio Pittman's game-winning touchdown felt like John Stocco doing the same thing for Wisconsin.

To me, it was sort of like watching a pro wrestling match (yes, I used to be a huge fan). You know almost exactly what's going to happen, even if the opponents are different. You've seen the same moves, the same sequence of events before.

On Saturday, I said I thought Ohio State should win the game because they're the better team (though I still predicted a different outcome). Maybe that opinion led to the feeling of resignation I had once the game was over, because I wasn't that mad about it. The game was close only because of Ohio State's mistakes.

Should we have expected Michigan to win a game in which it was held to 32 yards rushing? 32 yards. That's only 32 more than I gained, and I spent most of the afternoon shoveling my mother's crab dip into my mouth. (By the way, that was really good $#!+, Mom!) If Chad Henne (or, as I like to call him now, "Smilin' Chad") hadn't played his best game of the season (25-of-36 passes for 223 yards and a touchdown), would Michigan have even stood a chance? (It would've been nice to see him take some shots downfield, too, but he either wouldn't or couldn't.)

The decision early in the fourth quarter to essentially settle for a field goal by running a quarterback sneak on third down bothered me. I didn't think a nine-point lead would be enough. As it turns out, a 13-point lead wouldn't have made a difference either. I was also bothered by the defense on the final drive, in which Michigan played like they didn't want to give up a touchdown, seemingly forgetting that Ohio State only needed a field goal to win. Up until that point, it seemed like the defense had figured out how to stop the Buckeyes offense. Of course, once they got aggressive again, Troy Smith got away from the pressure.

What the hell was Tyler Ecker thinking when he tried to fight for more yardage, rather than step out of bounds to stop the clock? Maybe he thought he had to make a play, knowing they were still so many yards away from a score.

And while we're talking about out-of-bounds plays, I'm sure many fans will point out that Gonzalez had stepped out before catching that final dagger. (Did the referee say he was pushed out?) Yet what was he doing behind the Michigan defensive backfield in the first place?

Despite all that, however, I'm still not that upset because it was so clear that the Buckeyes were better. That's not easy to accept, of course. And I imagine I'm in the minority with that opinion. In past years, Michigan won, even when they were the inferior team. A big difference, of course, is that there's now a coach in Columbus who knows what to do with that talent and knows how important it is to win this game.

Maybe I'll get more angry about this loss as the week wears on, and I hear more sports talk radio chatter calling for Lloyd Carr's head. (I won't join in that sentiment, however.) Maybe I'll console myself with the possibility that Michigan could still somehow, inexplicably play in a New Year's Day (Jan. 2) bowl game (Outback Bowl) if Ohio State is invited to a BCS game.

But I'll certainly look back at this season and ponder why this team was so disappointing. I'll wonder if they were overrated from the very start. I'll question whether or not a quarterback change would've made a difference. I'm sure I'll mull over whether or not this is the beginning of a downward trend or just one of those struggling seasons that Michigan has been fortunate enough not to experience in recent history. And I'll damn sure want to know what Michigan has to do to beat Ohio State. I'm getting sick of losing to those guys - better team or not.

(Photo by John Greilick / The Detroit News)

2 Comments:

  • At November 21, 2005 9:00 PM, Anonymous Evan said…

    You know, looking back, I just think the offense never really had an identity. They were a running team, then Hart went down. They were going to throw the ball deep, but Breaston couldn't handle it. Then Manningham came in and they could. Then Hart came back. Then he was out.

    Perhaps they were just out of it for most of the season. I dunno.

    They could -- and should -- be better next year. Manningham will be the feature reciever. Hart and Grady will be legitimately competing for the starting job with another year under their collective belts.

    Even still, keep in mind that Michigan took the #7 team in the country to the last 2 minutes of the game and beat the current #3 team in the country as well as staying with Notre Dame, another top ten team. And they showed a lot of poise for a young team, keeping their heads together and beating MSU at home during MSU's big early streak.

    So for their obvious failings against Minnesota and Wisconsin, they played a pretty strong schedule and handled it OK.

    And looking back, I was too hard on Henne. He threw some bad passes early on, but all in all, he played big when he had too -- at the end of the game against Notre Dame, against Penn State pretty much all game, against Ohio State all game, and so on.

    They'll play a decent bowl and should, if all goes well, win. And next year, hopefully they'll be better for their experiences this year. We're not losing anyone too huge on either side of the ball... Perhaps it's just typical UM fan optimism, but I really think it's looking good for next year.

     
  • At November 22, 2005 10:49 AM, Blogger the sports dude said…

    Evan and Ian both of you have really hit a lot of "nails on the head" as they say.

    Look, I have been saying this all along and I will echo Ian here - Lloyd is not going to leave the program anytime soon, get over it. Plus, trust me on this all you haters out there, you will miss him when he is gone, trust me!

    I think a key to this season was injuries, although you will never hear someone use them as an excuse can we at least call them a reason? The OSU game was the healthiest UM had been since its season opener according to Carr & it was true. That is until they all started dropping like flies again, but at least at the start they were good. It seemed like every week there was a new offensive line, a new secondary, a new running back, a new LB corps getting worked in. I mean that is a lot to overcome, especially with a young team.

    And they were young and with every injury they got a little younger and less experienced. I also think that Henne had a down year, but can you blame him? I think he missed Edwards more than he (and I!) thought he would, but couple that without his other comfort zone (Hart) and I think it was a struggle for him. Did it all come together for him against OSU? I hope because if that is the Henne that is at this years bowl and here next season then I am excited. Seriously, when he got in Carr's face to go for it on 4th and 1 (even Carr laughed!) that was a significant moment to me.

    Lastly maybe this is just one of those down years, which at 7-4 I will take! Think of Nebraska's down years here, or Oklahoma here, or Notre Dame when it went down! Do you want those type of down years? Hell no, I will take 7-4 anyday compared to that.

    Evan, I agree with you, and maybe I am being a little "slappy" too, but they really are not losing anything significant. Plus, with all the "younger" guys that got time this year they don't have to be broken in next year, they got the experience already. This year they were ranked #4 to open the season and I thought "HUH?", yeah it was too high. Hopefully next year they give us a #12 ranking, just outside the top ten so that we can sneak up on some people! How about that for slappy, Henne and Hart will win a National Championship together, just wait and see!

    Later - the "slappy" dude.

     

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