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Moving On To The Game

Brutus doing pest control.

Normally I like to spend most of my mid week blog going over the previous game and discussing the good and bad of what went down the past Saturday and doing my best low budget analysis.  But this week there is no time for that.  Mostly because this is Michigan week and looking back at last week instead of focusing on the upcoming grudge match against a hated nemesis would be an ineffective strategy for bringing the hatred into a boiling frenzy by Saturday.

The second reason not to dwell on the Iowa game is that other than being an angina inducing slugfest between two good teams that ended up going our way thanks to a stifling Silver Bullet unit that turned up the heat shutting down Iowa in the second half, and an out of this world 4th and 10 conversion to save the game winning drive from Pryor.   There were other good things done but they were far overshadowed by the glaring turnovers, penalties (some undeserved), and missed opportunities by the Buckeyes.

Granted the Iowa team that played their asses off and nothing should be taken away from their effort.  Clayborn is an absolute monster, Stanzi made some plays, McNutt/ DJK victimized our secondary at times and Kinnick was loud.  And at the end of the day it was a win and I was very impressed with how our team stuck with it and survived a tough road test against a senior laden team on Senior Day.   Even great teams have an off night where they have to overcome themselves as well as the opponent.  But Pryor definitely threw a terrible pass on the first pick, Sanzenbacher had an uncharacteristic drop (albeit erased it with a clutch catch on the last drive), and Posey let a beautifully thrown sure fire TD slip right between his arms.  For an offensive game plan that was supposed to be Pryor’s favorite since the Rose Bowl – the offense looked very rusty most of the game.  Boom found it tough sledding against a stout run defense, even though the line played well (outside of Shugarts false starts).    Defensively outside of a couple blown coverages it was a lights out type game.  Rolle was seemingly everywhere and took home the Big Ten defensive player of the week, Simon and Heyward made Stanzi’s life miserable in the second half, and Hines was out for blood with a couple vicious hits – one of which was clearly an early arrival on a screen pass, and one which he probably could have pulled up on.  The latter drew a helmet to helmet penalty and the former left me some anxiety that the league might do him like Coleman last year when the suspended him for two games (which would have been horrible).

So that is it for Iowa.  It was circled as a key game and we made it through.  Now this week is more than just a key game….it is THE GAME.  TSUN comes to the Shoe and they are far from the helpless puppy that we have smacked around the past couple years.  Nard Rob is a for real talent, albeit undersized but that doesn’t change the fact that the dude put up some serious numbers this year.  Granted this is on a team with a horrendous defensive unit that struggled to stop anyone so outscoring was the only option,  I mean  Michigan’s defense ranks 112th in major college football in total defense — out of 120 teams — allowing 445 yards a game;  against the pass, giving up 263 yards a game; against the run, giving up 181 yards a game.   So with that type of sieve on defense no wonder he puts up numbers because he is on the field all the time.  Nonetheless throwing for 1500 yards and running for 1500 yards is amazing.  Not even Tebow of Nazareth did that.   And Nard Rob has done it against good defenses as well as bad – so even the idea of TSUN not scoring any points is somewhat unrealistic.

The good news is that with a defense that terrible we should be able to score points ourselves.  The better news is that we are going into the game with a coach who truly understands and embraces this rivalry and therefore knows how to prepare his team.  A couple of the excerpts from Tressel’s press conference this week give me chills every time I read them –

Well, don’t have to tell you what week this is. It’s exciting and there’s nothing like it. You can feel the energy in our building and amongst our kids and coaches and fans and all the rest and on the campus, and we’re looking forward to it.

This guy gets it. Always has – no wonder he is an unbelievable 7-1 against our biggest rival.  But the one that really gets me is below when he is asked about his recollections of THE GAME.

Never was at an Ohio State /Michigan game until I coached here. Tickets are hard. And they didn’t have ebay back then, I don’t think, but we always watched it. I mean, it was “The Game.” You felt like you were part of it, just like everyone does now. I don’t know at what age I first remember that, but I guess the era that I remember the most is the Rex Kern era and then beyond. Just one of those special weekends as I’ve mentioned many times, my dad was pretty busy. We didn’t see him much from August until the Ohio State /Michigan game and we got to sit and have a couple hours with him, which is when you don’t get much and you get a little bit, it’s special.

This is the essence if Ohio State / Michigan that is hard to explain to those are not a part of it.  Sure there is the emotion of hate towards a respected opponent.  But the emotion of THE GAME goes so much deeper.  You are part of a history that has gone on for over a century and will be going on for after you are gone.  You can remember being with friends and family to experience it together and your culture is as intertwined with it as the gray Midwestern fall.  It is special and Tressel understands that because he lived it.

This week just plain kicks ass.