Hallelujah!!!! Holy S@#%

(There probably won't be much analysis here, you've been forewarned)

I'm not ashamed to admit that I was at a loss for words for a good period of time yesterday, it may have even gotten a little bit dusty around the house when the single most maligned portion of a constantly maligned team tore into the Illinois backfield and with one much hoped and prayed for blitz brought an end to three years of agony.  Finally, finally a win.  You saw in the stadium what this one meant, you saw it on the coaches' and players' faces.

When Tate released that pass in the second OT and the camera panned over to reveal a situation that by all appearances spelled infinite doom (again), my breath instantly caught in my throat and the following thoughts crystalized in my mind:

  1. @#%!@
  2. Surely not again, we have literally thrown away enough games along this three year lesson in football humility and done so in ways previously not thought possible, the football gods can't do it to us again.
  3. We're owed a win, goddammit, I don't care how it looks or how we arrive there, this team is owed a win.
  4. Holy @#%@
  5. !!!!!!!

This team was owed a win.  They were owed the type of ludicrously stupid break that our opponents have received countless times over the past three seasons.  You know the kind I'm talking about, the type of mistake that makes your stomach turn inside out and suck all the blood from your brain so that you can't even curse, and instead you are left mouth agape to wonder what cruel things you must have done in some heretofore previously unknown existence that deserved this kind of sadistic torturing of your soul.  Essentially the type of break that Iowa benefits from every week... I mean seriously, AGAIN against Indiana yesterday?  Again?  Anyways... when that certain pick bounced up into the air and into Junior Hemingway's waiting hands and Michigan kept its season and quite possibly its coaching regime alive, I'd like to think it was the football gods finally intervening.  Perhaps the ghosts of football held a meeting and said "you know what, this has gone on long enough".  We were owed that, and I don't give a toss how arrogant that sounds.  This team, Rich Rodriguez, and the Michigan fanbase were owed a break and for the first time since John Thompson followed a convoy of Michigan defenders into the endzone against Wisconsin two years ago, they got one.  

A standing ovation to this team, to the players who didn't give up at any point yesterday, to the coaches who have had to endure an onslaught of criticism at every turn, and especially to Rich Rodriguez who has to feel 15 years younger and about 800 lbs lighter this morning.  Finally.  No seriously, finally, some vindication.  The team finally won a game despite making a bevy of mistakes, they never let it slip away despite innumerable opportunities to do so.  Despite the nearly weekly text from Beauford informing me of the exact point where this contest, like so many others before, had been lost (the missed FG attempt in the fourth with a chance to go up two scores) they kept fighting.  Five turnovers and an additional one on downs and they still pressed on.  Not nearly enough has been made out of the fact that when Denard Robinson went out late in the game, Tate Forcier stepped in and the offense continued to do what they had done all day: slash through another Top 20 defense.   They did this despite another crushing turnover on Tate's first snap.  They did this despite having a 1st and goal from the two yardline called back for the single worst, and I do mean WORST, holding call in the annals of football history on Taylor Lewan.  A defense that has... well let's be frank its done nothing against anyone, finally came through in the biggest of moments with the season in the balance.   

In any other setting I would have to be delirious to say that the defense quite possibly played it's best game of the season yesterday, but honestly, 65 points aside, I think they did.  Why?  Well if you take a look at this stat in particular, you might start to get an idea:

  • Illinois average scoring drive (not including OT): 42.2 yards
  • Michigan average scoring drive (again, no OT): 67.4 yards
The defense forced six punts yesterday, including four three-and-outs, and also forced four field goal attempts.  They also happened to come up with their first turnover in 72 years and had the offense come out and promptly send them back out on the field one snap later.  It doesn't sound like much, but when you're playing nine freshmen, and you're a team that simply hasn't gotten off the field at any critical juncture all year, this was a step in the right direction.  It doesn't mean the defense is fixed, it doesn't mean they've turned the corner, but it does mean that when the opportunity for this season to continue a downward slide into the abyss was a very real possibility, they made plays.  Think of Ray Vinopal making the tackle of the season on a critical 3rd and one, think of Kenny Demens reading and diving to break-up a certain first down pass.  Those are just individual plays, but they also happen to represent two plays that we had yet to see out of this defense this season.  Yeah 65 points, but it was enough to get a win, and right now that's good enough.

The offense turned the ball over 5* times (* one was on the kickoff, but there was also a turnover on downs so let's call it five), but managed to put up 33 first downs, 676 yards, and 67 points on an Illinois defense that... well here:

  1. Total D: pregame 15th, post-game 43rd
  2. Rushing D: pregame 26th, post-game 36th
  3. Scoring D: pregame 12th, post-game 47th
  4. Pass D: pregame 19th, postgame 52nd
Denard left the game with 31 points on the scoreboard, Tate Forcier stepped in and we ended up with 67.  What stronger indicator of this system do you need?  The offense was't perfect, it sputtered, turned the ball over, and didn't put the game away when the defense gave it the ball up one score multiple times in the second half.  And it did the above to a defense that was ranked in the top 20 in nearly every important defensive category.  The QBs will continue to grow, they'll learn that at times it's ok to take the check down guy and the first down, but good heavens with two sophomore QBs and a platoon at RB, this offensive unit is doing things never previously seen from a Michigan offense.  Seriously, this is the best offense Michigan has ever had.   Yep, ever.  And it will get better.

So hats off to this Michigan football team, hats off to you guys for not giving up when many around you had, three cheers to you for fighting through all of the adversity and nonsense and doubters.  You've gotten that crucial win out of the way and cleared the hurdle many doubted you would.  Enjoy it, you deserve it.  

Go Blue!
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