One of the few real problems of going to a game at the Big House is that with so many people in one area cell coverage is close to non existent. So when word got out that Devin Gardner would be wearing Tom Harmon’s #98 I was unaware until I saw him run out of the tunnel with a new jersey on. Not having cell service actually worked in my favor here as I was genuinely surprised when he debuted the 98 jersey.
My buddies and I had been talking for a few weeks leading up to the Notre Dame game of who might get to wear the legendary 98 jersey. (For those unaware of Tom Harmon, here is his history.) I just figured it would be Nose Tackle Quinton Washington because he was both a senior and a defensive lineman who usually wear such large numbers. It was our friend Timmy of all people who predicted Gardner would get the nod. (If you know him then him getting football tidbits right is rare. He gives sound financial advice though.)
It was unusual to think of a QB wearing such a number but seeing as Harmon was a QB/RB himself it just makes all the more sense now after watching Gardner under the lights at the Big House. I normally don’t like number changes and I wish they would just have a “Legends Game” where they let seniors where it for one game as opposed to the rest of their careers but Gardner wearing 98 fit in perfectly for Saturday night. Lets look back at a lovely evening in Ann Arbor..
1. Gardner had a lot of preseason hype and lived up to all of it except for the one horrible play. (We will get there but you could say Gardner had a 98% great game. I hope you like that joke.) He ran the offense magnificently and allowed Michigan to run Borges’ prefered pro style offense but is also athletic enough to scramble for big first downs and use the pistol effectively as well. His rapport with Gallon is unreal and he was able to use Dileo and Funchess effectively as well. Michigan is absurdly efficient in the red zone with Gardner at QB. While there may be less explosive plays with no more Denard, the offense still gets the job done.
2. The Horrible Play- The Michigan Daily has a great recap of how Michigan bounced back but good lord was that a horrendous mistake. After Michigan stopped ND on 4th down I thought we might get a nice 6-7 min drive to put the game away but give ND some credit for using Devin’s improve skills against him. While he can make a play with it, his blind spin against the play clearly cost him here. Luckily Michigan plays only one or two more defenses with as an athletic front as ND.
3. Jeremy Gallon- The little engine that could. Gallon’s numbers jumped up when Devin took over late last year and a big year was expected of him but that performance on Saturday night ranks up there with any great Michigan receiver. ND helped by not tackling but it really didn’t matter because Gallon at their secondary alive on just about every different type of route. He and PSU’s Allen Robinson are in a contest to be the B1G’s leading receiver.
4. The O Line- While I will wait to see MGoBlog’s UFR but it looked like Michigan played ND’s talented front to a draw and in this case I would call it a win. While they still got pressure the Irish had to blitz in order to do so. This led to some big plays and Michigan was able to expose the ND secondary. Despite Tuitt’s big interception he was held to no tackles versus Lewan.
5. Fitz- He didn’t have a monster day and I don’t think anyone expected him to against ND I thought he had some timely runs and had a big catch on the final touchdown drive. Clearly they don’t feel comfortable with any of the other backs to put them out there on the big stage. (Green had 1 carry) He may not be an elite back but he is a necessary part to Michigan’s potential success.
6. Grading Borges- A. Outside of the OSU game in 2011 very rarely has Michigan won games under Hoke because of the offense but that was the case Saturday. Obviously he feels more comfortable in the “pro style” but Borges doesn’t mind tinkering with other philosophies using the Pistol and the jet sweep to Norfleet as well. Very encouraging moving forward that with a healthy 98 (I am all in with this now) Michigan will have an excellent offense.
1. Front four- Answer to our question of whether Michigan can get pressure with just four guys got answered and not in a good way. I will wait for the UFR before passing too much of a judgment but the defense started with 2 three and outs and then Kelly said screw it and let Tommy Rees chuck it. And chuck it he did without any real pressure on him. Give a lot of credit to ND’s O line who was fantastic but if Michigan wants to be an elite defense the front four has to get to the QB. (Mattison talked about it all offseason for a reason, still much work to be done.)
2. Linebackers- Hard to say sitting in the stands but clearly not a dominating performance from anyone. Beyer is clearly the best pass rusher of the group and Ross nearly had that pick. Lots of zone coverage for these guys all night.
3. Corners- Clearly the standout unit of the defense on Saturday. Countess had two picks but I thought Taylor had some nice stops and Hollowell is doing his best to be an actual contributing cornerback from Cass Tech.
4. Safeties- Sat back in coverage all night as part of the gameplan and did their jobs. ND’s longest gain through the air was 24 yards. So while no one really made a play they didn’t give up one either. Yay for draws!
5. Mattison Grade: C+. Once ND abandoned the run Mattison sat back and played it safe. While not always the sexiest game plan, given how many points Michigan was putting up it certainly wasn’t ill advised. They put the game on Rees and while he did play well he also had a costly turnover in the 2Q and missed some open guys late in the game as well. So Michigan doesn’t have the dominant front four to be an elite defense but still good enough to win as long as the offense is clicking. (Hopefully both Hand/McDowell saw that and will help with that moving forward.)
Michigan Special Teams
1. Brendan Gibbons hit two more field goals and now has the most consecutive made in Michigan history at 16. He has come a long way from being the guy with no confidence under Rich Rod.
2. Wile had one bad kickoff that led to a big return but other than that his kickoffs were legit. His punting was suspect and had a horrible shank as everything was starting to go ND’s way. Giving redshirt frosh Allen a chance may be in order.
3. The Norfleet was an experience but nothing overly dramatic. Looks like he is good for one drop and one almost return a game. He will return one to the house soon and the sun will shine and the birds will sing and all will be right with the world.
1. This win was big because it sets up 10 plus win season and gives Michigan some margin for error later in the year. 2 years ago a win over ND propelled Michigan to an 11 win season and they were able to overcome a rough outing at Iowa and still got to a BCS bowl. Michigan has one more tough game at PSU before a rough November slate.
2. On the flip side ND will have to be perfect from here to Stanford if they want to get back to double digit wins. Although with USC looking bad their toughest game left may be Arizona State. I wouldn’t have thought that.
3. The most underrated part about beating ND is that I get to ignore them for an entire year until we play them again next year. If we win next year I will get to ignore them for an entire decade.
4. The Chicken Dance– It took me about 20 seconds to realize what was happening but Michigan played the Chicken Dance after the game was over. It is a cheesy way to make fun of ND but Michigan might have inadvertently broken a world record for the amount of people doing the chicken dance so well done. #TheMichiganDifference
5. Eminem and Musburger– I just saw this yesterday and wow was it strange. I love the respect for Musburger though. (Also Beyonce introduced the Michigan Marching band. This was much better and something we can hold over our rivals as she says “Go Blue” so well.)
7. Brian Kelly can still get really mad– Always enjoy this one
Now the fun stuff. I drove up from Pittsburgh on Friday night with two buddies and we got in around 10pm. The first thing we did was go to Meijer and buy copious amounts of booze like we did in college. I started crying a little in the aisle and the college girls thought it was weird. (Some things don’t change)
We stayed at a buddies place South of campus and were able to catch a cab up to the Heidelberg on Main Street around 11pm. After a few drinks I started to get that dancing itch and knew it was only a matter of time before I ended up at Rick’s to get out all my wiggles. (For those of you unfamiliar with Ann Arbor, Rick’s is your crummy underage bar in a basement where everyone goes to dance and feel horrible about themselves in the morning. Its glorious.)
I got there with a buddy around 1230 and of course there was a line. We made friends with the girls in front of us who were coming from an electronic show so they were covered in paint. I guess this is a thing. I had no idea but they looked like were in the food fight in Hook so it was all good.
When we got inside of course we did some Jameo shots and I immediately headed for the dance floor. The majority of the dancing had already spiraled into drunken make out sessions and grinding so I tried my best to dance around the nonsense.
I found a group of girls dancing by themselves and thought this would be a good time to break out the bottle dance. They seemed pretty annoyed with not only me but also just being there in general, seeing sad people in Rick’s is no good for it is a place of pure drunken happiness. My dance moves entertained some but one girl did not like it at all. She took out her feelings by proceeding to kick the bottle like a field goal kicker. (If it was a football it would have been good from 40. This chick could kick.)
I have seen the bottle get knocked over many a time but I have never seen it booted with such disdain. She saw my move and took it to a whole other level. This was not the first time I have been shot down at Rick’s but apparently the college girls are getting more creative in their ways to say no. I am glad they are putting their Michigan education to use.
From there we made our way back to my buddies place which was crowded with people. The night ended as many college nights do with late night pizza and unnecessary shots of whisky.
I arose early the next morning to cook everyone breakfast and it is easy to get a group of humans moving when the smell of bacon is in the air. We all enjoyed Gameday before heading off to the golf course just South of the Stadium to tailgate.
I am always impressed by just how much time, effort and money people put into their tailgating. While it takes awhile to get situated once we did there was food, cold beverages and a flat screen to watch Miami/UF. Two people in our group who I didn’t know very well did their civic duty and raced to a high level of drunkenness. These people are important because they set the pace and you just have to make sure that you are under the bar they have set. For an 8pm kick off this is extremely important.
I was able to keep it contained all day and headed into the Stadium just across the street around 7:30 with my friend Dave. (He is Dangerous.) I have been going to Michigan Stadium for many years now but I am still really impressed with the new additions. The stadium can host a legit party now and it did not disappoint under the lights.
The game itself didn’t disappoint either as it was a typical back and forth chaotic Michigan-Notre Dame game. Thankfully that Devin turnover didn’t cost Michigan the game and we were able to celebrate with the Victors in the Stadium and a few more times after at the tailgate. Unfortunately with such a late start I was unable to make it back to Rick’s but don’t worry, I broke out a few victory dance moves on the golf course.
Next year will be the final Michigan-Notre Dame game for the foreseeable future. It really is too bad not just because of each program’s rich history but because the game usually is wild and unpredictable. (The underdog has won 20 of the last 25 meetings. This game actually broke the norm as Michigan was a 4 point favorite.)
Until next year I will forget about ND and as we move on to Akron. This should be a blowout but remember Terry Bowden is the head coach at Akron and that should be entertainment enough after all the fun we had this week.