Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Blue is back

First off, an apology feels in order. I know this isn't MGoBlog, The M Zone, Michigan Sports Center, or another of the ever-growing number of sites largely centered on U-M sports. But several blogs out there link to me as a place to find commentary and the like on Michigan football, so if anyone clicked over here, looking for stuff on the Wolverines, I'm sorry for not holding up my end.

My excuses are lame, but I'll note them anyway. For the Vanderbilt game, I had a prior commitment and set my VCR to the wrong channel. (Yes, I still use a VCR. No TiVo or DVR in Casa de Casselberry yet.) So I saw nothing. And for the Central Michigan game, well, I fell asleep during that one-hour rain delay - some time after the third or fourth Bo Schembechler interview I heard. But really, was there much to say about those games?

Of course, that all changed this weekend.

Okay, seriously - who was expecting that? Even if you were optimistic enough to think Michigan could pull out a win at South Bend, you couldn't have been predicting a 26-point victory.

(Photo by Julian H. Gonzalez/
Detroit Free Press)

And really, does the point spread truly indicate just how thoroughly the Wolverines dominated the Irish? The only thing that ever kept this game close was a Chad Henne interception early in the game that tied the game at 7-7. From there, this was truly one of the most unexpectedly enjoyable victories I can remember. I don't think I put my fingernails in my mouth once the entire afternoon. What a pleasant surprise.

This was such a deep, powerful cleanse for the Michigan football program. You couldn't have found something this good at GNC, man. How light and unencumbered did you feel on Sunday morning? Everything that you wanted or could've hoped for was given to you on Saturday. Lloyd Carr's new offense and defense addressed plenty of questions and concerns - and emphatically so.

▪▪ Winless at Notre Dame Stadium since 1994? Forget that.

▪▪ A six-game losing streak in road openers? No longer relevant.

▪▪ What's wrong with Henne? He was rather inconsistent and inaccurate in his first two games, looking much like a quarterback who - despite Lloyd Carr's protestations to the contrary - appeared to be regressing in his progression.

One game can change a lot. He was on against the Irish, making good decisions, handling himself with cool poise, throwing with accuracy and touch, and perhaps most importantly, connecting on the deep patterns which were entirely missing from the Michigan game plan in the first two games. Was he really only 13-of-22 for 220 yards? It seemed like he threw for 400 yards. Of course, three touchdowns can do that to your perception. Speaking of those three touchdowns...

▪▪ Will anyone ever replace Braylon Edwards? Mario Manningham made quite a case for being Ann Arbor's Next Top Receiver, with those three scores. Terrail Lambert surely reduced to curling around the cool solace toilet in the Notre Dame locker room after being frequently victimized by Manningham. (Sorry, I just can't join Frank Beckmann in calling him "Super Mario." Even if the nickname fits, it's just too dorky for my liking.) In Lambert's defense, however, he didn't get juked out of his jockstrap like Ambrose Wooden did on that first 69-yard touchdown.

The only thing that came close to stopping Manningham was the Michigan marching band. He appeared to have suffered a wrist injury after that third touchdown catch just before halftime. But not even that would hold Manningham back. Get this stinkin' cast off my wrist! Unwrap this bandage with authority, my good teammate! That may have been as dominating a four-catch (only four?) performance as you'll ever see.

Any concerns about the defense were likely answered in the first two games, with Ron English molding his squad into the fast, aggressive, attacking unit Michigan fans wanted from Jim Herrmann for years. Even though the competition was Vanderbilt and CMU, it would've been hard to imagine Notre Dame scoring too many points on those guys. So at the very least, the defense would keep Michigan in the game, right?

That expectation changed almost right away, once Prescott Burgess took an interception 31 yards for a score. But would you have guessed that was only a precursor to the rest of the day? Michigan treated Brady Quinn like a kid with taped-up glasses on the first day of school. He was pushed, shoved, and hit constantly throughout the game. A clean dropback-and-throw was a rarity. The defense ripped the Heisman Trophy out of his hands and beat him over the head with it.

Is it an exaggeration to say Michigan hasn't abused a quarterback like that in a big game since Colorado's John Hessler was chewed up and spit out in 1997? (And c'mon, how many times did you mutter "1997" to yourself while watching that performance?) By the time Quinn had the ball slip out of his hand - a fumble which was returned for another touchdown - you almost had to feel sorry for the guy. Almost.

I'll admit it - I was greedy. I wanted fitty points on the board. I smelled blood and wanted to pour a whole fresh pack of O-Neg down my gullet. I was dreading the offense going into a shell to protect their lead in the second half. Fortunately, the running game was churning out so many yards that it never seemed like Michigan was easing off.

So for the rest of the week, at least, it's Gatorade showers and caviar dreams for Michigan football and its fans. Saturday's game was the beginning of a brutal stretch, however. If the Wolverines can get through the next four weeks unscathed, then they likely are as good as they looked against Notre Dame, which was like one of the best teams in the entire country. Suddenly, this football season looks like it could be a hell of a lot of fun.

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