Saturday, September 1, 2007

Michigan's season is over after Appalachian State loss

This is my seventh year at the University of Michigan. And I've seen some great games, and great seasons, and this was supposed to be the grand finale. A senior quarterback. A Heisman hopeful running back. The best offensive lineman in football. Great wide receivers. A work in progress defense, but nothing too atrocious. Right.

The University of Michigan made history Saturday, but not in a good way, becoming the first ranked division one team, ever to lose to a lower division team when the defending 1-AA champions Appalachian State stunned the Wolverines, defeating Michigan, at the Big House, 34-32. And it's not as if Michigan fans can say they lost on a fluke play or bad officiating or some other nonsense. Yes, Michigan had a potential game-winning field goal blocked as time expired, but the two point deficit is extraordinarily deceiving. Michigan was outplayed in every facet of the game on Saturday. Appalachian State's offense was better. Their defense was better. And their special teams were better. If not for a dropped touchdown pass and a few other mistakes, Michigan would have lost by double digits. It was embarrassing all the way around. But, as Mike Hart said after the game, to call the loss embarrassing takes away from the great game played by Appalachian State. Because, as bad as Michigan was, Appalachian State deserves credit. They played a great, great football game.

So what went wrong for Michigan? Everything. Their defense, which lost a ton of talent to the NFL, and was expected to struggle, was even more porous than anyone could have expected. Appalachian's spread offense had Michigan's defense totally confused, and they moved the ball at will most of the game, especially in the final two minutes when they drove almost seventy yards with no timeouts to win the game. Michigan's vaunted offense was anything but. Quarterback Chad Henne, except for one pass to Mario Manningham with six seconds to play (setting up the potential winning field goal) overthrew every long pass he attempted, and made a lot of other really poor decisions. One resulted in a critical interception, others ended drives. The offensive line was also poor, and Mike Hart missed almost a half of game-time with a bruised thigh. When he was in the game, he showed why he's so special (his 54-yard TD run in the 4th quarter to give Michigan the lead would have been a run of legendary proportions had Michigan won -- now it's just a sad footnote to a sad performance) but if he can't stay on the field, and he's proven over his career that he can't, that will hurt Michigan all season. And his replacement, Brandon Minor, shows flashes at times, but he also lost a fumble, and slipped and fell on a crucial two point conversion. Michigan's special teams were also anything but. Johnny Sears, returning kicks, is no Steve Breaston, and Michigan paid for it with poor field position. And the team had two blocked field goals in the fourth quarter, either one of which would have won the game for the Wolverines.

The only bright spot, and I only mention this because of the inordinate amount of pride I have in my high school, was starting fullback Mark Moundros. Moundros, an alumnus of North Farmington High School (where I, non-coincidentally, also graduated from), redshirted last season, won a scholarship this year (he walked on last year), and really impressed me as Mike Hart's blocking back. Moundros, who as a running back set all sorts of records at North Farmington, has bulked up, and was consistently opening holes and pushing back opposing defenders. But, that was it in terms of highlights.

So where does Michigan go from here? I'm not sure anywhere. Any hopes for a national title are over. And with how poorly Michigan played, I don't have a lot of confidence they can beat the likes of Oregon, Notre Dame, Penn State, Wisconsin, or Ohio State. What was supposed to be such a bright year has dimmed quickly.

At least there's the Lions. Right?

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Kurt Hunt said...

I've been eagerly awaiting your commentary on this all day. Were you at the game?

The game wasn't televised, but I saw a couple highlights (especially the two blocked field goals) and was just blown away. They really did a number on us. That said, however, Notre Dame seemed to be doing a pretty poor job today too, so I wouldn't start getting too pessimistic.

Anonymous said...

Wow... You lose to a DI-AA team and all you have to comment on is Notre Dame's loss to I-A Georgia Tech? You're right, a 33-3 loss to GT is poor. Losing to a I-AA team is being OWNED.

Scott Warheit said...

Yes, I was at the game, and I wouldn't exactaly call the clips "highlights." More like "lowlights." Just really sad.

The stadium was stunned for most of the game, and even though people got really excited when Mike Hart had that long TD run, you could just tell, it was one of those games because it just seemed, for most of the game, that Michigan was not the better team.


Kurt Hunt said...

Scott, there's a reason it seemed Michigan wasn't the better team. So how much of this is ASU having a freakishly great team, and how much is us choking?

Scott Warheit said...

It was both. In many ways it was a perfect storm against Michigan. You had a very inexperienced and weak Michigan defense, which traditionally struggles against spread offenses, and you had a talented, fast, spread offense, which knew what it was doing.

And in many ways, unlike say, Ball State, which almost upset Michigan late last season, because Appalachian State has won Division 1-AA championships, and has experience in "big" games, they believed they could win, and they played like it.

Is Michigan as bad as they looked yesterday? I think the defense very well may be. The offense should play better. Especially Chad Henne. But, that defense is going to be scary all season. And we knew that going into yesterday, I just don't think anyone knew *how* scary it was going to be.


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