Sugar Bowl Thoughts

Dave Martin, AP
We made a ton of mistakes in this game. We played very undisciplined on both sides of the ball, but mainly on offense. We looked hesitant at times, graceful at times, downright terrible at times. But when the clock read all zeros, Michigan stormed the field like 3rd graders on the last day of school.

And it was sweet.

Why so sweet? Because bowl games are dessert. That's all they are.

I can spare Al Borges some of the blame for our offensive ineptitude. It wasn't his fault David Molk didn't play the first series. I really think the first three plays screwed with the timing of everything we tried to do for much of the game.

For reasons passing understanding, we looked like we had never run this type of offense before. Granted, Borges was throwing in some new looks, and failed to abandon them when they flat out just were not working, but still. Execution was just not there a lot of the times.

It might be safe to say that about over an hour into the game and well into the second quarter, we were probably still running scripted plays. At least I hope not.

I don't watch the offense like a hawk during each game, but I don't remember seeing a lot of double zone-read fake handoffs during the regular season. One fake zone-read to a slot WR, and then once again to Fitz. If you're going to fake a handoff on a zone-read, do it once and sell it...twice on the same play is too much, IMO.

Aaaaand. Bubble-screen, where are you? Thatta been nice.

Defense was stout when they needed to be, except on 3rd and long...which we won't get into for fear that this post could be much less of a wrap-up and much more of a first-person psychological experiment.

I'll just say that we held VT to field goals when last year those would have been touchdowns...which would have led to the game getting away from us fast (hello: 2011 Gator Bowl).

But, can I just say, Ryan Van Bergen played much of the entire game with a fractured leg? Because that's exactly what I think he did. Try to do anything with a fractured leg. Go ahead, just try.

They weren't kidding with that Rimington Award
Speaking of David Molk, the Molk-pacalypse that ensued at approx. 7:32 local time on Monday evening, and lasted about 10 minutes, greatly illustrates just how vital the Rimington Award-winning center is to this offense.

Quote via MVictors
“I was fine before we got here. As pregame went through, one thing led to another and something happened.”
“I was waiting for feeling. Once I got that…it’s humanly impossibly for me to sit and watch football when I’m dressed up. So I figured it out, taped it up…and went at it.”
And then my favorite, in response to Chris Balas's question, "Where you fighting for your life?".
“I don’t know if I was fighting for my life.  I still had one leg.  Come on, I squat a ton [laughs] so one leg’s good enough.”
Dude sat in the locker room on a folding chair after the game, refusing to take his jersey/pads off. This guy will be missed. Anyone who reads this site knows that Molk is one of my all-time favorites. Got to interview him back on media day in 2010. He'll be back on a Michigan sideline someday, I just know it.

I played center for a few seasons back in my playing days, and I can tell you that there is an art to a shotgun snap. Just getting the ball from the ground, through your legs with one hand to a guy 5 yards behind you without either rocketing it 10 yards over his head, or rolling it back to him, is not exactly the easiest thing to do....let alone putting it where the QB needs it to be – right about neck-level with the laces squarely in his throwing hand.

It's not something that feels natural. You have to practice it...a lot.

Time to get to work Rocko.

Just how good is this team?
I don't know yet where this team ranks in terms of best Michigan teams of all-time. At the moment, they'd probably not rank as high as they should. I guess it depends on how you measure it, and who you ask.

The first thing I would do to judge is to throw out this bowl game. Why? Because bowl games, essentially, are meaningless. Yes, even BCS games. This is the new reality the BCS has created, one bowl to rule them all. The rest simply exist in a vacuum of time and space. They do matter in terms of, its a game against a similarly ranked opponent, but little else.

Statistically, this team has put together a compelling argument: 11 wins, beat Ohio, won 8 home games, won a BCS bowl. I mean, the numbers are there. But do they stack up against such recent greats as 1997? 2003? 2006?

If you measure a team's greatness by how much they play for each other, and how much heart a team has, then this could very well be the greatest Michigan team since 1969. Never before have I felt that a group of seniors felt so much like a group of true leaders. They didn't lead because someone said they should, because somehow just by being a senior makes you a leader. They led because they had to.

From day 1 of the Brady Hoke regime, this group of seniors, at the time some juniors, took it upon themselves to make certain that what happened to the team in 2008, didn't happen in 2011. There would be no mass-exodus. These guys basically duct-tapped this team together before Hoke and his staff could apply the cement.

And what came out on the other side was a group of tougher and more resolute men, forged through years of enduring the lowest of the lows ever experienced by a single class to go through the Michigan program.

It's insane to think that David Molk was recruited by Lloyd Carr, signed on to play for the old coach, and then in year two, was introduced to Rich Rod, spent 3 season battling injuries and 22 losses only to be handed off to Brady Hoke for one year of glory that most other Michigan centers get to experience at least 3 or 4 times over.

To say that this Michigan team didn't deserve a season like this isn't just callus, it's sacrilegious. Call me a homer, I am, but when Brendan Gibbons turned and started running towards his teammates before the ball had even got to the uprights, 3 years of struggle and hardship evaporated into the Louisiana ether.

Junior Hemingway's comments to Chris Fowler on the celebration stage was the result of what happens when you take a young man, strip him of everything he expected coming into a powerhouse collegiate program, make him work harder than he ever thought he would have to just to be considered "average", and then give him a season of highs that can just barely scrape away the three season's of lows that came before it.

Junior started the season being forced into the #1 WR spot because of Darryl Stonum's season-long suspension. And before the second game of the year, Jon Falk sewed a patch onto his jersey with the name "Desmond Howard" on it.

Junior finished the season with 34 catches for 699 yards and 4 touchdowns. He only caught the ball twice in this game, but both of those grabs were touchdowns, which is why he got to spend the plane ride home with some extra hardware from the Sugar Bowl committee.

Whatever it takes, I suppose
Brendan Gibbons, not exactly the picture of kicking consistency coming into the season, completely resurrected his career with one swing of the leg on Monday. Much like Phil Brabbs against Washington in 2002, Gibbons will go down in Michigan lore as one of the few to drive home a clutch game-winning field goal.

And he'll also go down as one of the few to completely own a post-game presser. Was his comment inappropriate? Yes. Was it brutally honest? Yes. Should be have censored himself and given the vanilla answer? Hell no. This is football. And as Brady Hoke said the first day on the job, "Football is a tough man's game."

If a guy needs visions of brunette girls to settle down his emotions, so be it. I can think of a few worse mental images a football player might use to get psyched up. These guys aren't exactly saints.

What does this win mean for 2012?
We'll have plenty of time to discuss that. My first impression: It doesn't hurt.



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