Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Above the Fold - Lloyd walks off into the sunset

The Michigan Wolverines I expected to see this season finally showed up in Orlando on New Years Day. For a multitude of reasons, be it injuries, 19th century game plans, it being Lloyd Carr's last season, we never got to see what the Wolverines could really do.

We saw what might have been in the Capital One Bowl, as Michigan beat a very good Florida Gators team, led by a Heisman Trophy winning Tim Tebow. They manhandled the Gators in the trenches, and showed that Michigan is just a fast as a vaunted SEC school. It was a season ending victory that was desperately needed for the school, the fanbase, and especially Lloyd and his players.

Now that we've seen that Michigan can still be MICHIGAN, you can only ask yourself, "What if?"

What if Henne and Hart remained healthy?

What if Carr and Mike Debord had removed the offensive shackles earlier in the season?

What if the defense had been that aggressive all season?

What if Captain Billy had never scheduled a game against Appalachian State, a game that had nothing but no-win scenarios for Michigan? (Beat them? Well, you were supposed to. Lose? It's a earth shattering, history making event)

But at this point, that's all moot, as Michigan football begins a new era. "What if" has become "What now?"

But that question can be answered another day. Let's look back at a day the Wolverines proved that their demise as a football power had been greatly exaggerated...

In the Freep, Michael Rosenberg says Michigan did everything they weren't supposed to be able to do...

The Wolverines beat a spread offense. They beat a running quarterback. They ran plenty of reverses and misdirection plays -- the kind that have been missing for much of this season.

They committed four turnovers and still won. They committed eight penalties, including a couple of remarkably dumb ones. Senior Mike Hart, who had not lost a fumble in more than 1,000 touches, lost two.

Rosenberg also plays the "What if" card.

Many fans will wonder what would have happened if Michigan had players like this all year. The Wolverines will look at it as proof that they are the team they always believed they could be.

Beating the defending national champions and Heisman-winning quarterback Tim Tebow, in what basically amounted to a road game, was the most rewarding victory of their lives. They sent their coach out with the knowledge that Michigan had not fallen nearly as far as people said.

That's a point worth repeating, the Capital One Bowl was, for all intents and purposes, a road game for Michigan. It tough as Hell to beat a SEC team on their home turf. If Hart had not fumbled twice, the Wolverines quite likely would have hung well over half a hundred on one of the SEC elite.

In what has become a meme, Mlive's Wolverine mouthpiece Jim Carty also plays the "What if" card.

It was impossible to watch and not wonder what might have been, had Henne and Hart never been injured, especially in this most crazy of college football seasons. Every year ends with a book of what-might-have-beens, though. That's sports.

What you can say without a doubt is this team and its coach left the field and this season having won a game no one expected them to win, many of them winning a bowl game for the first time, all of them leaving on their own terms, whooping and smiling, arms around each other, many with wet eyes.

If if's and but's were candy and nuts...You know the rest. Injuries are a fact of life in football. But injuries to your 2 best offensive skill players, both senior leaders, would have been tough for ANY team to overcome. I do admit that I was happy that a group of seniors that hadn't beat tOSU, or won a bowl game, could end their careers with a victory.

The News thankfully kept the functionally retarded one well away from Orlando, and sent their A-list columnist instead. Bob Wojnowski says the storybook ending for Carr is why college football is such a wonderful game...

This is how every good story should end. This is why college football endures. Michigan was a huge underdog to defending national champion Florida, and rightly so. The program had been under fire almost all year, from the historic opening loss to tiny Appalachian State to the season-ending stumbles against Wisconsin and Ohio State. Then came the balky search for Carr's replacement, Rich Rodriguez, who was at the stadium Tuesday.

The Wolverines always said, when they got healthy, they could be great. The words became actions on an amazing day, when Henne, recovered from a shoulder injury, had the game of his life, throwing for 373 yards and three touchdowns.

You couldn't help but smile when you saw Carr getting the Gatorade bath, then being carried off the field on the shoulders of his faithful team. It was something that was scripted right out of a Hollywood movie.

You know the cliche'... The cranky, crusty, tradition bound old school coach with a heart of gold, having been swept up in a new football world that has passed him by, gets one last moment in the spotlight. His somewhat splintered, embattled team pulls together for one last battle. The coach pulls out all the stops, and beats a much younger and obnoxious coach in a huge, nationally televised, upset. The now retired coach thanks his team, and walks off into the sunset a winner...

I'm penning the story today! That script has $100 million box office written all over it!

Gorilla Crouch was the first to note that there was something quite different about Michigan's offense. Did Rich Rodriguez help with the game plan? Dave's magic 8 ball says, "All signs point to yes."

But there were also lots of snaps from the shotgun formation that featured reads where Henne either handed the ball to Hart out of the shotgun or threw the football. He was also just as likely to hand the ball off to Manningham on an end around. There was one play where Michigan ran a reverse to a receiver who turned around and threw a screen pass to Henne, who chucked the ball downfield. Hell, Michigan threw a screen pass to Jake Long. This type of offense simply isn’t part of Lloyd Carr or Mike DeBord’s DNA.

My guess on what happened was Carr and offensive coordinator Mike DeBord sat down with Rich Rodriguez and worked with him to install a number of plays from the spread formation to completely throw the Florida defense for a loop.

The Michigan offense was explosive in a way that we haven't seen in....Well, never. If this is just a hint of what a Coach Rod spread will look like, the old school Blues in the Big House won't know what hit them. The excitement will be too much for the big money blue hairs used to off tackle left.

Ian steps away from his tireless baseball blogging, and brushes off the cobwebs at Sweaty Men Endeavors to comment on the game. Ian's an Ann Arbor-ite, and as you might imagine, he's damn happy.

I've never been more happy to be wrong about football. The offense was creative and the defense was aggressive, both of which Michigan football fans have been yearning for. It was obvious how much the team wanted to win for Coach Carr today. And I'm happy that a good man was able to go out on a high note.

I'm with Ian, I've been dying to see a Michigan team that is proactive, inventive, aggressive, and uses their elite athletes to their fullest extent.

Quo Vadimus looks back at what might have been, and what may be to come. Scott's a Michigan Man, and he sounds a bit melancholy...

In many ways, this was not just the end of Lloyd Carr's tenure at Michigan, but the end of Michigan as fans have known it over the past few decades. Rich Rodriguez' spread offense (whether run by a returning (or potentially not) Ryan Mallett, or by somebody within the program like current wide receiver Junior Hemmingway, or by potential freshman recruit and #1 ranked high school quarterback Terrell Pyror). And what a way to go out. Healthy, aggressive, and successful. A vision of what could have been this season had Michigan not lost to Appalachian State and Oregon, and if Chad Henne and Mike Hart not spent most of the season fighting various injuries.

It's a "Brave New World" for the Wolverines and their fans. That's why it was so nice to revel in the familiar one more time. If there is one thing is is both comforting, and distressing, to fans of the Wolverines, it's the status quo. That's now long gone. Michigan's safety net being removed is absolutely terrifying.

The class clowns of the Michigan blogosphere, the normally irreverent MZone, says the Michigan program "slayed a few dragons and shook a couple monkeys off its collective back" with their victory over Florida.

This was a U-M squad playing with an intensity and passion that was apparent even to this Wolverine fan watching from my living room. What the country witnessed was the team promoted as a top 5 title contender in all the pre-season publications last summer. The Michigan team Wolverine fans had all been hoping for but, with so many injuries throughout the season, one we hadn't seen. Now, finally, with everyone healthy, this was Michigan unleashed.

Most importantly, in winning its first bowl game after four consecutive post-season defeats, Michigan proved it's not as far from college football's elite than some of its detractors would have you believe. It still can play with anybody.

All that from one game?


I really like the term, "This was Michigan unleashed." Unfortunately, we rarely saw that version of Michigan. I hope that Rodriguez "Unleashes" the Wolverines every week, rather than one a millennium.

Shooting Blue points to one specific moment, late in the game, that typified Lloyd's balls to the wall attitude. Never thought I'd use Lloyd Carr, and "Balls to the wall," in the same sentence...

Late in the 4th quarter, with Michigan leading 38-35, Florida had one time out remaining with Michigan facing a 3rd and 8, everyone familiar with Michigan football knew there wasn't a chance in hell Michigan was passing the ball, going for the first down and ending the game. So when Chad Henne came to the line and then handed off the ball to Brandon Minor on a draw, most of us didn't blink....but not the normally curmudgeonly Carr. Apparently, Henne had an option to check to a pass, because as the cameras cut to Lloyd as ABC went to commercial, he most definitely said, "Why didn't he PASS??".

Things sure were different alright.

Different? Hell yes. Especially for Lloyd.

But...I expect to see that sort of attitude from Rodriguez every game. No more sitting on leads. No more letting off the throttle. No more allowing teams back into games. He'll have the athletes, I expect Rodriguez to actually USE them...

I can't finish without linking to THE Michigan blog, MGoBlog. Brian has a cornucopia of embed video highlights...

That's "Above the Fold" for Wednesday, 1-2-08!


  1. I Remember when Bo retired, and the Wolves went to play somebody- I believe the Irish. Moeller went for it on 4th and short, and threw a pass for a TD to Desmond Howard. Bo was up in the booth talking, and said "Whenever I ran that play, it went for an incompletion." The announcer said later, "who was he kidding? Bo would never have thrown that pass on 4th and short."

    That's what this game sounds like to me. It would be foolish for Lloyd to not let RichRod have some input. Not like he's been doing too much else around Ann Arbor.

    Too bad I was traveling and missed it.

  2. GTW, that was in the 4th quarter of the 1991 Wolverines - Irish game at the Big House. Elvis Grbac to Desmond Howard. I remember watching the game with buddies, and none of us saw that play coming. We exploded in absolute joy when Howard laid out, and made an amazing catch.

    It's on You Tube. God, I love You Tube...

    Sorry to hear you missed the game. If RichRod can utilize U of M's talent on a consistent basis, in the way it was used against the Gators, the Big 10 best look the Hell out!