Playing Michigan's (Fictional) Season: Week Two

Leon Halip

NCAA Football '14 released on July 9th, and I've decided to test my fortunes with playing through the 2013 season with our beloved Wolverines. Now, it has been a few years since I played an NCAA game, and I got the urge to take a pretty good Michigan team, combine it with my above-average video game skills and see what happens. Game-by-game diaries with highlights and hilarity commence.

Week two puts Michigan up against an astronomically-highly-rated Notre Dame team (by EA's ratings anyway). I immediately encountered a problem: Everett Gholson is still Notre Dame's starting quarterback in this game, and there isn't a way to swap him out for Tommy Reese.

Uh oh.

Within the first two minutes of the game, it became apparent that this would be difficult. Notre Dame scored by slicing through the Michigan secondary. and it only got worse from there.

I still haven't mastered the kicking controls, because on two consecutive drives I missed mid-range field goals, and gave the Irish a shorter field. I also fumbled the next possession I got. Thus far, it seemed as though I'm watching the horror of last year's game in South Bend, and it's all my fault.

Notre Dame leads 21-0 after a quarter. And that's after I channeled my inner Aggressive Brady Hoke and converted a fourth and seven from my side of the field.

And then the tide turned, because NCAA '14 seems to have noticeable improvements in carrying out offensive and defensive adjustments for schemes. I made a couple choices: let Gholson scramble around in the backfield if it meant keeping a strong zone in the middle of the field to close down the receivers, and second, played tighter zones to make sure no receivers got away from the secondary. Immediately after, I grabbed an interception on the eight yard line, but still couldn't get a touchdown.

After finally getting into the end zone in the 2nd quarter, Notre Dame began to crumble, and I imagined Fake Brian Kelly doing this:

Brian-kelly-insane_thumb_medium

via mgoblog.com

Fake Brian Kelly also displayed his genius coaching skills by attempting two fake punts on a short field, but they still held a multiple-score lead. However, after the second failed fake punt, I struck back with a flea flicker play that got Michigan inside the ten yard line. I completely botched my goal line offense both of those trips, but with 15 seconds left in the half, I found some magic from a hurry-up offense and cut the lead to 10 points.

Notre Dame leads, 24-14.

Amazingly, Devin Gardner has such a great arm in this game that he got a Michigan record for single-game passing yards partway through the third quarter. Yet I'm still losing. I figured out the dang kick controls for a 45-yard bomb with 6 minutes to go in the third, but Notre Dame got their stuff together to put two field goal drives together to make it 30-24. My adjustments continued to work while I piled up passing yards, throwing into the gaps in the secondary. At last, I got the lead with 25 seconds remaining in the third, courtesy of another interception, and went straight down to the end zone. And yet the crowd seemed no more enthused than usual...

31-30.

I then made an extremely useful adjustment, electing to chew clock with play-calling, doing Lloyd Carr proud. Before long there was under five minutes left in the game, and I drove the knife in with another touchdown to put Michigan's lead at eight. I attempted a two-point conversion to put the game out of total reach, but messed up the controls and got sacked.

Notre Dame had a chance to force overtime, but couldn't get a first down. On fourth, they elected to punt with 2:24 left and all of their timeouts (what?). I needed just one first down to kill the rest of the clock, but in true Carr-esque fashion, I had to kick it back to them with a minute left in the game.

Video game prevent defense is the best example of why video game college football is tough business. The AI seems to go into overdrive in an effort to destroy everything its opponent has managed to accumulate against it in the last two hours. I was determined to not give up the big play, and Notre Dame got dangerously close to scoring territory, but was relegated to hail marys their final two plays because I had stopped their passing game entirely.

The final heave fell into the arms of a Michigan defender in the end zone, and the game was over. Exhausted, I decided to simulate the games against Akron and Connecticut. Next up, the threat of a full Big Ten schedule for my thumbs to outsmart.

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