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Monday, October 29, 2007

10/29/2007 - Michigan 34, Minnesota 10 - 7-2, 5-0 Big Ten

If you could create some sort of time vortex that inverted the order of the quarters in the Minnesota game Saturday, there would be no complaints from even the grumpiest Michigan fans out there. After an insane decision to rotate David Cone and Nick Sheridan at QB and two atom-sized white dudes at RB on the open series, Carlos Brown jets for an 85 yard touchdown, Ryan Mallett lays in a perfect strike to Mario Manningham, and the rout is on. It's 21-0 at halftime and eventually 34-0 before Mallett offers Minnesota a free touchdown and the Gophers get a late, meaningless field goal. Order is restored, Michigan squashes all comers and everyone goes home happy, even wizard's sleeve Tim Brewster, as Michigan's final drives would have been tepid three-and-outs.

This did not so much happen. I didn't actually read this week's game thread -- it's 926 comments long! -- but I did get this email about it from Matt K:

I wanted to drop you an apology for the flame war that took place in the game comment thread. I got pretty pissed off at something that was said and unleashed a barrage of f-bombs and inappropriate insults. I know you like to keep that stuff to a minimum. I know you'll end up deleting the posts, but please don't ban me. It won't happen again. I won't comment for a few days and will come back with a clean mouth and without the anger.

I would put the ETA on this little contretemps at two seconds after Mallett fumbled away the aforementioned free touchdown, staking Minnesota to a 10-0 lead. I can sympathize. In the stands at Michigan Stadium, I swore like a sailor and mentally prepared myself for The Horror II.

Michigan ran off 34 straight points and 500 yards from that point, Minnesota 0 and about 100. Michigan's last useless throw to Andre Criswell vaulted them to 561 yards, eight past Minnesota's season average. After the game, I accepted a chiding for my lack of faith. I'm betting that simultaneously frequent game thread commenter Magnus called various other frequent game thread commenters wizard's sleeves for various slurs, profanities, and gypsy curses uttered whenever anything went wrong during the game.

I was annoying; Matt was annoying; Magnus was annoying. We are all united in this. All of us reasonable people are really two completely insane people coming to a compromise. One of them, sports id, is Mike Valenti (MAKE PLAYS!). The other, sports hope, is that guy who predicts 12-0 before every season and then is totally unperturbed when things go wrong when they should be angrier than anyone. Unadulterated, both are irritating. So let's stop, maybe? Let's take immediate aftermath venting for what it is and let it go; I promise to not let gunmetal skies, Appalachian State, and the comical ineptness of an opponent or two ruin the last days of Hart and Henne and Long and (very probably) Manningham.

  • This game meant nothing given all the backups in and the hideous performance of the Minnesota quarterback. The only two takeaways, IMO: a reinforcement of our issues with the interior run and what should be a final dispelling of any Manningham-related discontent.
  • I swear to God I sat directly in front of Gloria from Miscellaneous T. Same irritating New Yawk accent, same complete inability to grasp simple concepts -- her husband explained that the teams switched endzones after the first quarter, then had to explain it again after the third -- and the same (projected) inability to stop talking. It was alternately amusing and awful. They were going to the Gandy Dancer after the game; I debated whether to tell them it was the most overrated restaurant in town and suggest the Earle, eventually deciding against it. The specter of a long conversation where she completely failed to understand me was too much.
  • At halftime, a various men set up something that looked like an oversized metallic dandelion, then exhorted the crowd to cheer the oversized metallic dandelion, then took the OMD to the sideline without offering either an explanation or compensatory pyrotechnics. We booed them as they left the field. Why? Because eff them, that's why.

    Does anyone have any idea what this was all about? The theory batted around was that they were measuring noise levels, but why and for what? And why at halftime when nothing in particular was going on?
  • Oh God, every dire and awful item about Ryan Mallett's preparation consisting of playing MarioKart and listening to Bob Marley seemed horribly true in the first half. The free touchdown, screens winged to Tacopants -- Tacopants has never done screens before -- and Mallett's now-standard running-around-and- maybe-doing-something- awesome-but-probably-just-getting-sacked act... all horrible. Even the long completions were overthrown balls upon which Manningham and Arrington made superb catches. (This is less of a criticism, since said balls were a bit long and outside -- the place to miss if you're going to miss -- and they were completed; any ball thrown that far downfield and completed is by definition a decent throw.) I pined for, in order: Tom Brady, Chad Henne, Steven Threet, David Cone, Nick Sheridan, myself, and Richard Nixon's corpse, almost reaching Jimmah Clausen before Mallett did something, anything right and definitively proved himself better than Jimmah. Then in the second half he bombed and bombed and bombed and hey, that's pretty good. The most deeply schizophrenic performance by a Michigan QB in a long time.
  • Greg Mathews looks like he's going to get his shin broken on every punt return.
  • Weekly complaints about special teams: Zoltan dropped three punts at the five. All of them made it to the endzone. Not once has a Michigan gunner flagged down one of the many opportunities Zoltan The Inconceivable has provided to pin opponents deep. More evidence of disjointed coaching on special teams, yes? ZTI ended up so disgusted that he booted a second-half punt into the endzone, saving the crowd the trouble of hoping.
  • At this point it looks like Michigan is going to have a bonafide tailback rotation in 2008 for the first time since Anthony Thomas took over for Clarence and Howard in 1998. (Unless you'd like to count the brief Askew-Perry here, but IIRC that was short-lived due to injury.) Grady, Minor, and Brown are all likely to receive carries, and probably for most of the year.
  • Another day, another disturbing inability to stop read option dives. At least with Mendenhall and Jonathan Stewart you could console yourself with the idea those guys would be playing in the NFL before long. This Bennett kid? Not so much. Fortunately, it looks like we're done with the damned spread option until the bowl game; unfortunately it's doubtful that Michigan's weakness against the interior rush is limited to just one particular play.
  • I don't know if the pass interference call on Warren was legit, but even if it was that sort of tough in-your-face defending bodes extremely well for his future. Draped on the receiver, he found the ball and made a play on it. The recruiting hype on him, at least, was 100% accurate.
  • Brandon Harrison has come into his own as a detonator of screen and option plays.