[Editor’s Note: From now until Big Ten Media Days, we’ll be reaching into The-Ozone’s 23 years worth of archives and each day we will be posting a story from yesteryear. Big moments, small moments, big games, bigger games, and the random recruiting updates about guys you haven’t thought about in a decade or two.]
September 3, 2007 | My generation’s most memorable “Where were you?” Michigan loss was Colorado’s Hail Mary win in Ann Arbor in 1994. Thirteen years later, the college football gods gave another generation their own memorable Wolverine loss, but this one happened to be an all-timer. Michigan was ranked No. 5 in the nation to begin the season and their opening game was against FCS opponent Appalachian State. Appalachian State pulled off the 34-32 upset, becoming the first FCS team to ever beat a ranked FBS opponent. This also happened to be the first-ever game broadcast on the Big Ten Network. It instantly became one of those games where everybody remembers where they were when they watched it, and this was the Michigan Monday from Tony Gerdeman that followed. — TG
You remember that scene in Star Wars where Obi-Wan is on the Millennium Falcon when Alderaan is blown up and he kind of stumbles back and has to sit down and says, “I feel a great disturbance in the Force. As if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced. I feel something terrible has happened.”
If I wasn’t watching the end of the Appalachian State game live, and had no knowledge of what was going on, I wonder if I would have felt something similar.
I tend to think so.
Now how could so many people take joy in something like that?
While looking at the various definitions for “schadenfreude” in the dictionary, the one that probably best describes what’s going on around the country right now would be from the Online Etymology Dictionary, which defines the word as “Malicious joy in the misfortunes of others.”
I think that about says it all.
Sure, there’s joy abounding for the great story that is Appalachian State. But people don’t revel in good news, they revel in bad news. And people are reveling in this like Augustus Gloop rafting down a lazy river in a Holiday Inn made of chocolate.
This is essentially a sixteen-seed beating a one-seed. Actually, this is like the play-in winner beating the one-seed. And Christian Laettner is the captain of the losing team.
The fact that it happened is amazing in itself. Michigan, ranked 5th in the nation, became the first team ever ranked by the AP to lose to an FCS (Division I-AA) team. But the scary thing is that Appalachian State could have played better. They had several unforced errors.
But so did Michigan.
Lloyd Carr said his team made too many mistakes and he didn’t have his team prepared. Were they not prepared physically? Mentally? Strategically? All three?
I think they were fine physically, as they didn’t really rotate too many players. But that may be a systemic problem in that they don’t have very many players that they’re confident enough to rotate.
Mentally, it was basically a joke. False starts, a procedure penalty, delay of game, a timeout by Chad Henne on first down. They also had to call another timeout when they only had ten men in a field goal unit. Michigan also had two personal fouls on defense and special teams, both of which put Appalachian State drives into Michigan territory and eventually ended in touchdowns.
And it was all capped off by senior captain Shawn Crable missing a blocking assignment on the final field goal attempt. It was an embarrassment in preparedness.
What about strategically? It’s the same strategy it’s always been. Nothing has changed.
And maybe that’s the problem.
When Michigan Had The Ball
Michigan’s offense was good enough to win, even with the mistakes. Michael Hart essentially missed the second and third quarters with a reported thigh injury, though he told the sideline reporter that he was fine. In those 2+ quarters, Hart carried the ball 23 times for 188 yards and three touchdowns. If he plays all game, there is no way the Wolverines lose. Appalachian State had no answer for Hart–nor should they.
Hart looked as fast and decisive as ever. There were numerous occasions when he should have been stopped in the backfield for a loss but got away and got positive yards. The fact that Appalachian State was in the backfield, however, should raise some concerns.
When he was out, Brandon Minor was in. In fact, Minor was the only other Michigan back to carry the ball. He finished with 13 rushes for 50 yards, but he also lost a fumble–something that everybody knows Mike Hart doesn’t do.
The offensive line opened plenty of holes for the backs. The right side of the line was the big concern this season with new starters in guard Jeremy Ciulla and tackle Stephen Schilling, but they held up well and look like solid contributors this season–if you choose to take much stock in judging play based on a game against an FCS team.
Along with opening holes, the line did a decent job of protecting Chad Henne. He was only sacked once, and that was on a blitz that nobody picked up. There were other blitzes throughout the game that did get picked up, so the sack was obviously just a momentary breakdown. Henne was hurried a couple of times and had to leave the pocket, but that happens in every game.
Henne wasn’t exactly accurate on Saturday. He finished 19-37 for 233 yards, throwing an interception and a touchdown.
Last year, I was critical of Henne and this offense for their steadfast refusal to go downfield or use the middle of the field. Those criticisms will have to wait a week. Henne still primarily stayed outside, but there were some posts and drags that utilized the middle of the field, and he went deep several times.
Perhaps it’s this more wide open range of passing that explains Henne’s poor completion percentage.
Henne also had a terrible interception deep in Appalachian State territory in the fourth quarter. He rolled out and threw back across his body and a safety made a play on the ball and picked it off. It was an inexcusable throw by a four-year starter.
The Michigan receiving corps didn’t show much playmaking ability, but we all know what they have there.
Mario Manningham was held to two catches for twenty yards before he inexplicably got behind the defense with twenty seconds to play, hauling in a 46-yard jump ball.
Greg Mathews led the team in receiving with seven catches for 68 yards, with a long of 24 yards. He did score a touchdown on a drag route, catching the ball over the middle of the field and racing in from 10 yards out. However, without the 24-yard reception mentioned earlier, Mathews’ other catches only went for an average of seven yards per play. That’s not exactly threatening.
Adrian Arrington added four receptions for 52 yards and continues to be a viable threat over the middle of the field.
Only four receivers played in the game according to U of M’s website, with freshman Junior Hemingway being the fourth. He had no receptions.
Mike Massey finished with three catches for 36 yards as Michigan continued to employ the bane of all existence–their tight ends.
All in all, without the mistakes, Michigan does have an offense very capable of moving the ball. The most surprising thing to me, however, was how many players actually played. Only 16 players saw time on offense. Compare that to Ohio State who probably had 23 players play by the middle of the second quarter. It makes me wonder if the quantity is even there. Yes, this was a close game and you don’t expect to play too many bench players in close games, but Ohio State was able to employ a second offensive line unit last year in Texas–and drive down the field for a touchdown with that unit–and they can do it again this season. Can Michigan? This is not meant to be a slam, it’s just an aside on the state of the two schools right now.
One other thing while I’m at it, if Michael Hart wasn’t injured–as he said–why is he not in the game? If he’s able to play, he can’t sit out for nearly two quarters. When he did finally come back, he didn’t really look a step slower. I don’t recall a limp. The whole situation was puzzling to me. And even if he was injured, obviously he wasn’t too injured to come back and bust off a 54-yard touchdown. This might be a little harsh, but I’d expect a captain to be a little more adamant about getting on the field.
Everything about this game made me feel like Michigan believed that Appalachian State was never a concern, and perhaps that’s why there was no urgency in getting Hart back on the field. Obviously, that’s nothing but wild speculation on my part, but if this was the Ohio State game, do you think Hart would have spent two quarters riding a stationary bike?
When Michigan Was On Defense
It’s official. Call in FEMA. The secondary is a disaster area.
I was critical of the secondary all year last year, and it doesn’t look like things are going to be any rosier this year.
There are no playmakers back there, with the lone hope being freshman Donovan Warren, and that’s simply because he hasn’t been deemed to be terrible yet. Michigan started Morgan Trent and Johnny Sears at cornerback and Jamar Adams and Stevie Brown at safety. Brandon Harrison also started at nickel back, as Michigan went with five defensive backs to counter Appalachian State’s spread. In fact, they were in a nickel for pretty much the entire game.
Jamar Adams wasn’t terrible, but he wasn’t very good. He finished with seven tackles, but was out of position or missed tackles throughout the game.
Stevie Brown started at free safety and he had to give Michigan fans flashbacks of Ryan Mundy. He missed tackles and took angles that Tom Zbikowski would scoff at. He was benched at halftime in favor of senior Brandent Englemon, who responded with an interception late in the game on a poor throw.
Morgan Trent also had an interception on a poor throw, as Appalachian State quarterback Armanti Edwards threw a pass about four yards behind his receiver (which is the perfect spot for a Morgan Trent interception.)
Johnny Sears started at the other corner and was abused on slants and in-routes and was eventually benched in favor of Donovan Warren. Once Warren and Englemon came in, the secondary wasn’t quite as gaping.
Brandon Harrison is exactly what he has always been–a body. Michigan has nobody better to play it seems.
Armanti Edwards finished the game 17-23 for 227 yards and three touchdowns. He threw two picks in the second half due to a little pressure and some flat-footed throws. In the first half, however, he was 7-7 for 129 yards and three touchdowns. He also carried the ball eight times for 41 yards and another touchdown. They had no answer for him early on.
In the second half, they attempted to put more pressure on him, and it worked, evidenced by his two interceptions. He was also sacked three times in the second half, compared to only once in the first half.
Shawn Crable had two of those sacks, finishing with ten total tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss. He probably should have had twice that many tackles for loss, but he missed a couple spinning ball carriers. He started the game at left defensive end and was very active all game long.
Tim Jamison started at the other end, and he finished with six tackles and a sack.
Crable may not start every game at end, but if Michigan ever gets to play against a drop back passer, there are definitely some pass rushers on the roster.
The defensive tackles were erratic. There were times when Terrance Taylor and Will Johnson were absolutely shoved around, creating holes in the middle of the defense that were three yards wide. Armanti Edwards would then take off running up the middle, and since the linebackers were spread out, there was nobody in the middle of the field to tackle Edwards.
Terrance Taylor is a very good player however. He did finish with two tackles for loss and a sack, but it will be interesting to see how he plays without Alan Branch right next to him. Will Johnson also had a sack, and he was active as well. However, these two need to get much more consistent, and quickly. Oregon comes into Ann Arbor next week with a bigger and faster team than Appalachian State, and they run a similar spread offense. Things won’t get any easier for the Wolverines until Notre Dame comes to town.
Since the Wolverines were in nickel for most of the game, you can’t really pass too much judgment on the linebackers. The two starters at linebacker were Chris Graham and Obi Ezeh, and everybody who watched the Michigan-Ohio State game last season knows that Graham is susceptible to the pass.
Graham finished with nine tackles. Ezeh had two. John Thompson came in for Ezeh throughout and finished with six tackles.
Nothing special. Better linebackers have looked worse against offenses like this.
Overall, obviously not an impressive performance. Appalachian State finished with 387 yards of total offense, although 244 of those came in the first half. The Mountaineers went a little conservative in the second half, which may make the secondary substitutions look more effective than they actually were.
Again, I am taken aback by how few players Michigan actually had in on defense. If the U of M website is to be believed, only six defensive linemen got in the game for Michigan–including Shawn Crable, who is listed as a linebacker. If that’s all of the bodies you have for a rotation, you are in trouble. It lends itself to poor fourth quarters, and I think we may have seen evidence of that on Saturday.
The Special Teams
Everybody has seen the blocked kick. There was also one earlier in the game. Obviously something needs done. The special teams as a whole were disgraceful. There were timeouts, a personal foul penalty, missed assignments, fumbles, etc. The special team coaches are in for a long week.
Michigan kicker Jason Gingell finished the day 2-4 in field goals. It may be a while before he gets Appalachian State out of his head.
Johnny Sears handled all of the returns, save for a couple, and did okay when he actually got started. He did have a couple of muffs, so it is definitely something to keep an eye on.
Punter Zoltan Mesko was fine. He has a huge leg and everybody knows it. Bryan Wright handled the kickoffs and was fine as well.
What does it all mean?
My initial thoughts regarding this game–after I was able to finally process what actually happened–was that Michigan is now guaranteed to beat Ohio State this year.
Buckeye fans are taking too much joy in this loss to not have a bout of comeuppance in November.
And now that the National Championship is completely out of the picture for the Wolverines, the only way this season can have any positive resolution is to beat Ohio State. This will become their new focus. Their new drive.
However, these seniors have already been focused and driven on three other occasions, to no avail. A thing like that can definitely drive you–it can also be too much pressure to bear.
This is all assuming, of course, that Michigan isn’t actually this terrible.
The Road To The Big One
Sept. 1 Appalachian State 34 – Michigan 32
Sept. 8 Oregon at Michigan
Sept. 15 Notre Dame at Michigan
Sept. 22 Penn State at Michigan
Sept. 29 Michigan at Northwestern
Oct. 6 Eastern Michigan at Michigan
Oct. 13 Purdue at Michigan
Oct. 20 Michigan at Illinois
Oct. 27 Minnesota at Michigan
Nov. 3 Michigan at Michigan State
Nov. 10 Michigan at Wisconsin
Nov. 17 Ohio State at Michigan