Sunday, September 04, 2005
You think you remember what it's like, every year, but you never really do.
I've been to what you can really call 'a few years' of Michigan football now. I've been on hand for the glorious Ohio State smackdown of 2003, and I was in the stands for the 5 and a half hour marathon that was the Michigan State triple OT game in 2004. I've sat with various different people; friends from science classes, friends from my hall, people I didn't know but met because they were sitting in my section, and this year, an art student. I always walk the long route down, the leisurely 45-minute-to-an-hour stroll through the Diag (squirrels), down State St. (frats, volleyball), around Hoover (house parties), over the train tracks (train tracks) and up to the Stadium (big). It should all be old hat by now.
Of course that's an utter load of wank. You know that the frats are going to be in the finest of forms, but you're still amused to see the giant inflatable slip'n'slide outside of Beta, to see all the Pike guys wearing royal blue Pike tshirts. You know that Bongo Man is going to be sitting outside of the IM building, bongoing away, but you're still surprised by the sheer number of people who catch sight of him from down the road and scream, "BONGO MAN IS BACK!!" and run down to stand around him, clapping and smiling.
You know that it's the first game of the season, but you're still a little confused to see a guy in a hot dog suit jog up and get on his friend's shoulders, then get carried off with a group of guys who immediately break into a, "J! E! T! S! Jets Jets Jets!" chant, which had to be the single most surreal and inexplicable event of the day. But it's the first Michigan home game of the season, why not dress like a hot dog, ride your friend's shoulders, and shout your apparent love of the New York Jets?
You always forget how big the Big House really is, how hot it gets with the sun beating on the bleachers, how much of a physical ordeal it is to stand on said metal bleachers for 4 quarters without sitting down or passing out (you don't sit in the student section unless it's a time out). You always forget how truly awesome the wave looks when it's done in slow motion by 110,000 people, the pretty tinkling sound of several thousand keys jangling on third downs for the opposing team, how cool and professional the band looks even though you really just know they have got to be dying from heat in those uniforms.
How good an entire stadium filled with maize and blue looks, and how nasty the red patches of NIU fans look.
So, right, well, anyways, the game.
--OUR DEFENSE SUCKS. Woe! Massive, immense, tragic woe. No, seriously. After the first, oh, I dunno, 5 minutes of the game, we knew that they were giving the ball to Garrett Wolfe as often as was humanly (or football-ly) possible. We knew that he was going to be getting the ball. And we still couldn't stop him! At all! The dude ran rough-shod over us and left our defense all with wibbly little flattened bits from where he'd run them over.
It got so frustrating that by the third quarter, whenever the announcer fellow would say, "Ball carried by. Number One. Garrett Wolfe," I would shake my fists at the skies and howl, "WOW, GARRETT WOLFE IS TOUCHING THE BALL, WHAT A SHOCKER." Seatmate Rachel was amused and, I do believe, kept trying to remind me that it was just a game. I know that. I just get, y'know. Worked up about it.
Plus, our defense sucked so hard, they deserved it.
--Chad Henne is a god in yellow spandex pants. That about sums it up, but really, every time someone says his name now, I feel like I should cross myself. I'm not Christian, though. There ought to be some kind of alternative gesture I could use in a similar fashion. Perhaps I should work out a way to sign a giant M. Left hip, left shoulder, sternum, right shoulder, right hip? Let's get that going.
--Even when he wasn't getting a ton of yards on the play, Mike Hart was just breaking the hell out of tackles. It seemed like on every run he had one or two guys hanging off of him, and he was shaking them off to plunge forward for another yard or two. Nothing too spectacular, but a ton of scrapping, and cumulatively that added up to a pretty darn good game. Plus he had two touchdowns (one running, one receiving), that didn't exactly hurt.
--I know Garrett Wolfe was supposed to be very, very good, but did we have to make him look that good? Did we really? Because we made him look like the next coming of Barry Sanders out there. I realize that this is just harping on how bad our defense was some more, but I can't help it. They just barely, barely started containing him at the end of the game, somewhere near the end of the 3rd quarter. Of course then NIU just started going to some other receivers, assuming (quite rightly) that we were finally concentrating on Wolfe, so they could move the ball pretty well with some other guys. Just terrible.
--Dudes, did you see Ross Ryan? Our punter is good now! He, like, had some really good kicks and, like, actually put the ball in the endzone or managed to hang it up and get it downed within the 5 yard line and, like, he's good! Progress!
--I honestly did not remember there ever being that many media timeouts. The game wasn't even being nationally televised, what the hell was going on? There were hardly any in the first quarter, but for the rest of the game it was media timeout after media timeout. They called them so often that by the 4th quarter the student section was booing loudly when another one was announced, and when the game finally ended many students started yelling, "Media timeout! Media timeout!"
--I was kind of expecting Steve Breaston to step in and become the new Braylon Edwards (although, to be honest, I don't think we can really have another Braylon, he was kind of in a class all his own; he was at the game on the sidelines, by the by. My family [who were sitting on the other side of the stadium] saw him coming into the stadium in his Bentley), but it was Jason Avant who showed up big. Henne was on the mark, of course, but it looked like Avant had some really good hands out there, and while he didn't have any insane breaks after the catch like Braylon used to, he didn't look like someone who was going to catch the ball and fall down on his ass every time either.
--We got to see the Gut! Matt Gutierrez, that is. Lloyd Carr pulled Henne after a bit, even though the game wasn't terribly blown open (he's very good friends with the NIU head coach, Lloyd is; not wanting to embarass his buddy might have had something to do with that decision). He was supposed to be the starting quarterback last year, but was injured. That's why we had True Freshman Chad Henne starting. And thank god we did, because Henne turned out to be the next coming of... hell, I don't know, the next coming of some previous really good Michigan quarterback. Take your pick, there've been tons of them.
--Garrett Rivas still pisses me off. Placekickers are one area where I absolutely hate college football compared to pro football. Maybe it's because the Lions have Jason Hanson, who is great; the Pats have Adam Vinatieri, who is, um, the God of Clutch; and the Dolphins have Olindo Mare, who is sometimes the number one source of scoring on the entire team (number two being the defense, number three being the kick returner, number four being the actual offense). Michigan? Has Garrett Rivas, who gets the occasional extra point blocked (as he did here) and who can't kick anything particularly far (he missed a long one here), and who annoys the hell out of me (for those reasons, and just in general).
--The halftime show was allegedly karaoke. The band played songs that they thought people would know the words to, and invited the crowd to sing along. It didn't really work, though, because they didn't put the lyrics up on the scoreboard, and how can you have karaoke without the lyrics up anywhere? A few people scattered here and there were singing along, but overall it was a failure.
--I took a lot of photos. We don't have amazing seats... we're literally right in the corner of the stadium, which isn't the best view ever for seeing how many yards downfield a guy gets or anything like that, and we're in row 47, which is about halfway down and isn't bad but isn't great. The New BCRS Camera of Awesomeity works just as well from there as it does at Fenway, though, so I got some relatively nice shots. You can see them all right here.
Highlight of the day: A run broke through the Husky defense, and the Michigan announcers said that the guy responsible was Kevin Grady, our super-young rookie. The crowd cheered wildly, since it was his first career carry as a Wolverine and all that. It quieted down immediately after, and a girl a few rows up from us screamed at her friend across the section.
"Oh my GAWD! Kevin Grady!!! AND YOU MADE OUT WITH HIM!"
The entire section dissolved.
I like to think that that is a very good reason why college football is sometimes better than the NFL.