What the Deuce: September 2007

Monday, September 24, 2007


Leisa Thompson/Ann Arbor News

For the last four years, to signify the start of the new season, I bought a new football jersey. It began with 3 for Marlon Jackson. The following season, 8 for Jason Avant. Two years ago, I wore 15 and last year I decided on Mike Hart's 20. I wanted the jerseys of players that meant something to me. This year, I passed on buying a jersey. The reason is unimportant.

Before the Applachian State game, I decided to wear a Michigan t-shirt instead of a jersey. The following week, even though I had a jersey with me, I wore my Zingerman's t-shirt instead. I'm superstitious enough to believe my failure to buy a jersey was a contributing factor in those losses and I was damned sure that it wasn't going to happen again.

Two weeks in a row, I put on my Mike Hart road jersey and good things have happened. Talk has now shifted from Michigan being the answer to a trivia question to Michigan being a contender for the Big Ten title. After Saturday, I know why I didn't buy that blue 86 jersey. It's the same reason why I may not ever buy a Michigan football jersey again: Mike Hart.

Mike Hart is Michigan football. The phrase "Michigan Man" gets thrown around frequently. We want our next coach to be a Michigan Man. A recruit is a bad fit because he's not a Michigan Man. I think if you were to ask Bo what a Michigan Man is, he'd say Mike Hart. That's why, when the time comes to hire a new coach, Hart needs to be on the search committee. It may be a fanciful wish, but my ideal coach would be aggressive playcalling Mike Hart.

Before the season began, I had planned on going home for the Ohio State game. After the first two losses, I wasn't so sure. When number 20 stretched to put Michigan up 14-9, I knew I had to go. It doesn't matter what the team's record is. I need to show Mike Hart my appreciation for everything he has done for our program in the last 4 years.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Wake Me Up When September Ends

"I'm in a glass case of emotion!" - Ron Burgandy, on the verge of hitting rock bottom , due to an errant burrito.

"I thought we were not a well prepared football team. That is my job, and I take full responsibility for that." - Lloyd Carr

Luckily, for Burgandy, Ling Wong the Panda provided an opportunity for redemption. For Lloyd Carr, there is no opportunity and nor should there be. The game against Appalachian State was a microchosm of Michigan football under Carr's leadership: unprepared, outcoached, unimaginative, and most harrowing, underachieving.

Since Donovan McNabb shredded Michigan's defense in the 1998 season opener, the Wolverines have not stopped a scrambling quarterback. The closest they came was against Michigan State in 2004 when the defense knocked Drew Stanton out of the game. Until then Stanton had flummoxed the Michigan defenders, completing 10 of 13 passes for 95 yards and running for 80 yards and 1 touchdown.

Not coincidentally, since the Syracuse loss, Michigan has struggled against teams that ran the option, spread, or both. Texas in the Rose Bowl, Ohio State in last season's finale, Appalachian State in the 2007 opener. There are others, but the point is made. Under Carr, Michigan did not adjust to these offenses and ended up losing because of it.

Inexplicably, Michigan refused to incorporate the offense that it could not stop into its own playbook. Just look at the successful programs around the country and you will see a common element - the spread offense. Of course, the best teams do not solely rely on it, but they have at least a few packages that spread out the opposition's defense. Even Jim Tressel saw what he had in Troy Smith, and, although it went against his "safe offense, strong defense" philosophy, installed elements of the spread.

Instead, Carr and his staff opted to rest their fortunes on an anachoristic offense that relied on superior talent and execution. Somehow the coaches failed to realize that in an age of scholarship limitations and 119 D-1A schools, such an offense was a risky proposition at best. The reliance on this offense only magnified the problems on defense and the combination proved to be fatal - three straight losses to Ohio State and three straight losses in Bowl games. Oh yeah, let's not forget the countless losses to less talented opponents.

The loss to Appalachian State was a long time coming. An unwillingness to change has led Michigan down the path to mediocrity and Saturday was was the express train past mediocrity to national laughingstock. Yes, Michigan is the most successful D-1A team (wins and percentage) but it also is the first ranked D-1A team to lose to a 1-AA team. That is stain that will never be washed away.

As Jim Carty has pointed out, with all the changes, things have stayed the same. The only constant in the last 12 years is Lloyd Carr. The game has passed him by. Even comments by the opponent regarding Michigan's vanilla schemes and unwillingness to disguise them is more evidence that Carr just does not get it anymore. Ohio State knew what was coming and they stopped it. USC knew what was coming and they stopped it. Appalachian State knew what was coming and they stopped it too.

Saturday's loss not only brings into question whether Carr should be head coach past this season, it makes relevant whether Carr should have been around to see it in the first place. The last three games and entire 2005 season bring to question Carr's ability as a gameday coach.

Simply put, it's time Coach, it's time.