Saturday, November 03, 2007

Chad Henne is the balls

It bears repeating, considering how Michigan fans piled on the Wolverine QB after the 0-2 start. Chad Henne is the balls...

Thanks to the gutty play of Michigan's QB, along with his 4 TD passes, Michigan once again beat Michigan State, 28-24. It was easily the best game between the teams since the 2004 OT thriller, otherwise known in this great state as "The Braylon Edwards game," and the last victory by Sparty, the 2001 "Clockgate" game.

This loss has to stick in the craw of Sparty fans, as they appeared to have the game totally under control, leading 24-14 with a little more than 7 minute left. But we all know how Sparty tends to play when they have a lead...Not very well, expecting the worst to happen. Which invariably does.

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's Braylon Edwards! No, it's Mario Manningham!

A Spartan collapse is comparable to a boulder rolling downhill. You can't stop it, you just get the Hell out of the way, and watch it happen. Once this collapse started, which in my mind began unfurling after the personal foul Sparty committed on Greg Matthews during the first TD drive, an utterly stupid and futile forearm shiver thrown after an innocuous 3 yard gain, there was no stopping it. When even the clueless Paul McGuire calls you out as "Dumb" on the ABC broadcast, that says it all.

It all imploded upon Sparty in the 4th quarter. Ultra conservative offensive play calling, somewhat necessary thanks to Brian Hoyer's inability to throw anywhere near a receiver (A sawed off shotgun has more accuracy that Hoyer's scatter gun arm), and defensive breakdowns all over the field, led to the game blowing up in Sparty's face. A marvelous MSU 3rd quarter was all but forgotten during their horrific 4th quarter.

I thought MSU still had a good chance to pull the game out, but shockingly Ron English had his Michigan defense on the attack during the final MSU drive, rather than in the soft prevent defense that has broken many a Wolverines fans heart in the past. Even on Sparty's final play, rather than play a prevent defense, and rush only 3 on 4th and 18, Michigan //GASP// blitzed! //GASP// Even though the 6 rushers they sent after Hoyer didn't quite get to him, he definitely felt the pressure, with his final pass going wild high left, well out of the reach of his receiver.

There were plenty of heroics to around, including a 100 yard games from an visibly hurt Mike Hart, and the great-when-he-wants-to-be Mario Manningham. But Michigan doesn't win without Henne, who is playing with a bad shoulder and knee. You'd swear he's barely being held together with tape, braces, and more than a quite a bit of hope.

The one snap Henne missed, midway through the 4th quarter after tweaking his ankle on the previous play, was a near fiasco. Ryan Mallet fumbled while being sacked, with a only a lucky break (The ball bouncing directly to Mike Hart) averting a game changing disaster, and preserving what turned out to be a TD drive. That one play shows just how important Henne was to Michigan today. Without question, you can put the game in the loss column without him under center.

Matthews to Henne: "You sir, are the balls!"

Henne's 2 4th quarter TD passes were perfectly placed, the first a 14 yard touch pass to Matthews that was beautifully laid in over the MSU defender. The score that gave the Wolverines the lead was a 31 yard pass on 3rd and 11. Yes, the Wolverines went for the end zone, going for the proverbial jugular, rather than play it uber-safe. It was a total go for broke call from Lloyd Carr and Mike Debord, perfectly executed by Henne. It drove a stake in MSU hearts everywhere, thanks to a Braylon Edwards-esque catch by Manningham in the corner of the end zone with 2:28 left in the game.

Amazingly, after the humiliating 0-2 start, Lloyd has Michigan on the verge of winning the Big 10, along with a Rose Bowl berth. Not that the game against Wisconsin is a gimme, and I'm not exactly confident that the Wolverines will be able to handle the bucknuts, but they do hold their own destiny. Still, I don't think anyone expected Lloyd and crew to have the cajones to roll off 8 consecutive wins. A stunning turnaround, to say the very least...

I feel for the Sparty fans out there, as I do root for the Spartans...Except when they play the Wolverines. I hope Mark Dantonio has the Spartans moving in the right direction...Except when they play the Wolverines.

That was one hellaciously entertaining ballgame in the EL today. A game Michigan needed, but Sparty wanted. Michigan needed it more...

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic game, though I expect Mark Dantonio to be questioned about a) going with a prevent defense with a 10-point lead, and b) not double-covering Mario Manningham.

    And I dare say that was the best game Chad Henne has ever played at the University of Michigan. For most of his sophomore and junior seasons (and the first two games of this season), his development seems to have plateaued.

    But now he makes the smart read, has proper touch on both the short and deep throws (though Manningham surely bails him out on several occasions), and really seems to have the whole "leader of men" thing we all look for down pat.

    That was a very satisfying win.