Over the next 6 days, there will probably be a mixed bag of emotions here at Genuinely Sarcastic. I'm usually the eternal cynic, and Matt tries to balance it out by logically looking on the bright side. I can't speak for Matt's state of mind, but I know what mine is: Focused, angry, frustrated, and determined.
I'm sick to death of Chad Henne, Jake Long, and especially Mike Hart ending seasons with their heads hanging in defeat. I'm tired of it. I've had to watch them get foiled by Vince Young as freshmen. I've had to watch them go through the eternal hell that was 2005, where seemingly every week brought another fresh dagger, another knife in another wound that just got perpetually worse - Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio State, Nebraska. All followed the same script, all had the same result, and all fueled the rage. I had to watch Chad, Mike and Jake rise from those ashes for 11 games in 2006, anchored by the defense that destroyed the wills of all who opposed them. And then the entire Michigan football program was turned upside down on November 17th when the patron saint fell at the worst possible time. I've offered my thoughts on that fateful day, and how it affected me. After November 17th, 2006, there was nothing but heartache. I watched as the team I've grown up with for 19 years now left every ounce of blood, sweat and tears that they had on that damn field in Columbus only to come up three points short. I watched as they were jumped in the polls without playing. I watched as their chance to prove the nation wrong disappeared in 30 minutes in Pasadena, that mirage of a paradise that is in reality, a hell. I watched and listened as Mike, Chad and Jake all vowed to return, to return for one final revenge. And I watched as those best laid plans went awry before the new season was a fortnight old. I watched as everything they had returned for was reduced to a national laughingstock. And as Mike and Chad missed significant time with injury, and as Jake did his best to hold up an offensive line riddled with problems, I went through hell. As they suffered, and tried to claw their way back to some kind of respectability, I tried to love them. The betrayal and pain I felt in early September tried to give way to grizzled determination - the omnipresent urge to never give up, no matter what.
They won the war against Penn State on the shoulders of Mike. The spreads of Northwestern and Eastern - the bane of the program - were withstood. They won a lot of hearts back with the evisceration of Purdue, and paid a supreme price for it. When Mike hobbled off, part of me died. When they fell behind 14-3 at Illinois, Chad had his moment. With Mike on the sidelines in street clothes, Chad led them back as his shoulder clicked and creaked. Against MSU, with Mike again hobbled and Chad under fire, they persevered. When Chad's pass descended from the heavens and Mario stabbed it out of the sky with his hands, vindication was a heartbeat away.
The loss to Wisconsin looks bad. It has left a bitter, unpleasant taste in my mouth. The effort on both sides of the ball was despicable. Mike dressed but didn't play, Chad tried but didn't stay. Mallett shouldn't have been expected to win the game - and Lloyd Carr knows that. You can criticize him for dozens of things, and I certainly do, but he's not a stupid man. He's stubborn, but not stupid. He knew there was no realistic chance to win this game with Mallett in there. There's a reason LC went to Henne against the Spartans, but not the Badgers. The MSU game had meaning. Dantonio and MSU had been counting down the months, weeks, days, minutes and seconds until that game, and after the comments Dantonio made after the AppSt fiasco, Lloyd wasn't going to let the Spartans get away. As much as Michigan likes to downplay the MSU game, it matters. Nobody in maize and blue wants to lose to Michigan State, and Carr knows that. So he let Henne stay in there in the hornets' nest, and he delivered. But Wisconsin...there is no bad blood there. And there was nothing to gain from a victory. It looks ugly, losing 37-21. But rationally...benching Henne and Hart was the smart thing to do. Why? Because ever since the App. State fiasco and the Oregon disaster, only one thing mattered; only one thing could bring some level of vindication to this season.
That vindication is achievable. One year to the day of Bo's death, the vindication that is four years in the making is there for the taking.
NOW TAKE IT!