Monday, November 28, 2016

Burial on the Presidio Banks

Ohio State 30, Michigan 27 (2 OT)

There's an old political adage that goes something along the lines of: In certain places, you not only have to win, you have to win outside the margin of fraud. Democrats applied this to the election in Florida in 2000. Republicans apply it pretty much everywhere there's a big city when all sorts of "funny business" comes into play - dead people voting, convicted felons voting, 110% turnout in certain precincts, etc. One particularly illuminating example that I always think of is the 2008 US Senate race in Minnesota. At the end of Election Night, incumbent Republican Senator Norm Coleman led comedian Al Franken by 726 votes. This margin would be reduced to 215 when the results were certified 13 days later (a natural occurrence that happens everywhere as results are reported to the secretary of state's office). The perilously close margin triggered an automatic recount, which, if you listen to Republicans, is when the machinations of fraud came into play. What ensued was a circus of missing ballots, challenged ballots, rejected ballots, and allegations of ballots being magically discovered in the trunk of somebody's car. At the end of the process, which dragged on until mid-2009 because of court battles, Coleman's 726-vote Election Night lead turned into a 312-vote victory for Franken in one of the closest elections in United States history.

I don't live in Minnesota, nor have I ever been. I am not intimately familiar with the process of vote-counting and election monitoring, in Minnesota or elsewhere. What I do know is that when it comes down to a coin flip, you always bet on the home team, and Democrats have been the home team in Minnesota for over four decades now.

So...that brings us to that thing that happened on Saturday, or: The Moment Where Michigan Fans Became Honorary Members of BWI™.

Let's begin with some assumptions. Let's assume that the identities of the following officials from Saturday's game are correct, and their pasts are accurate:

Daniel Capron (lead official): Fired by the Big Ten in 2002 for poor officiating.

Bobby Sagers, Jr. (side judge): A Cincinnati native who was inducted into the Ohio High School Athletic Association Officials Hall of Fame at a ceremony in Columbus earlier this year.

Kevin Schwarzel (the back judge pictured in the photo above): A businessman from southeast Ohio and self-professed Buckeye fan who was excluded from officiating the 2006 Michigan/Ohio State game in Columbus because of his Ohio roots.

It's entirely possible that allowing all three of these people to officiate this game is just run-of-the-mill Big Ten incompetence, brought to you by the same league that employed Bill Lemonnier, Dave Witvoet, and degenerate gambler and sex fiend Stephen Pamon for years. The same league that put the infamously stupid Jim Augustyne in charge of video review, producing such classics as Chad Henne's "fumble" in 2005 and Brandon Minor's "touchdown" in 2008, both against Michigan State. The same league that now gives the on-field officials a tiny TV on which to watch replays during review - cutting edge technology that might have been useful in 1990. 2016? Not so much.

This is the league, after all, whose officials deemed this targeting...

...and when presented with an opportunity to overturn via replay, chose to uphold it. It's reached a point where I dread having to watch a Michigan game officiated by certified dumbshit John O'Neill, the moron who called the targeting on Bolden against MSU last year - the lowlight in an officiating career full of them. I was relieved at the start of Saturday's game to see he would not disgrace us with his presence.

Four hours later, he had been one-upped as the Big Ten's top shithead - by someone the Big Ten fired 14 years previously. Naturally.

So, when presented with the possibility of a vast conspiracy designed to screw Michigan, I tend to err on the side that says this is a conference of utterly clueless fools who would have difficulty running a lemonade stand, let alone an elaborate cabal designed to horsefuck one of their prized members.

With that said, Saturday's game was despicably one-sided in favor of the team with the stadium of angry truck drivers behind them. I'm going to actually put aside the part where they likely decided the outcome of the game. It was clear to my biased eyes that JT Barrett did not reach the line to gain on 4th and 1. I can understand how to the biased eyes of an OSU fan, he did. The fact that there was no measurement and a first down was immediately given was an outrage that should result in every official from Saturday being permanently blacklisted by the Big Ten. I knew they would not overturn it on replay; not because of some inane "they would never decide the outcome of a game by overturning a call" nonsense, but because I knew they would never achieve the 100% beyond all doubt measure needed to reverse a call.

Here are a few things they did screw up:


A 3rd and 7 at midfield on Michigan's second drive of the game. OSU cornerback Marshon Lattimore latches onto Amara Darboh at the snap and rides him to the ground as Wilton Speight's pass flies by and lands incomplete. No penalty is called.


Delano Hill is called for pass interference on 3rd and 7 on a pass thrown a mile over Curtis Samuel's head. Curtis Samuel is 5'11. He would've needed to be closer to 6'11 to have a chance at catching that ball, it was thrown so badly. Instead of punting (or having to go for it on 4th and long from their own 21 yard line), Ohio State gets a fresh set of downs on a possession that ends with the game-tying field goal.


On 3rd and 4 in double overtime, Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley is draped all over Grant Perry, causing an incompletion and forcing Michigan to settle for a field goal. Despite Conley clearly making all sorts of contact with the receiver before the ball arrives, no penalty is called on this play.

And #4, in three frames:

On the 3rd and 9 play for Ohio State in double overtime, an OSU receiver grabs onto Jourdan Lewis's arm (just above the OSU logo on the ESPN on-field graphic in the first frame). As Curtis Samuel cuts upfield with the football, the hold turns into a block in the back as Lewis is driven out toward the sideline. Instead of either holding or a block in the back being called (both were committed on the play) and putting OSU back in 3rd and forever, Samuel benefits from the block and sets up the infamous 4th and 1 play.

This is of course not even taking into account the myriad of holds that Jamarco Jones and Isaiah Prince committed as Michigan's defensive ends dryhumped them all day all over the field. Jones and Prince did much of the same against Wisconsin and Penn State, with similar non-calls.

Now, here is a list of things the officials were not responsible for:

  • Senior captain Jake Butt dropping a pass that hit him in the hands on Michigan's first drive, forcing a punt.
  • Michigan wasting a redzone opportunity by using the lame "Pepcat" formation on 3rd and goal. They lost 5 yards and kicked a field goal.
  • Michigan blowing another protection call and turning Raekwon McMillan loose on Speight on a playaction call on U-M's own goalline, resulting in Speight's arm getting hit and the ball fluttering for a pick six.
  • Wilton Speight dropping the snap on the Ohio State 1-yard line.
  • Wilton Speight throwing the ball directly to Jerome Baker for another crippling interception that set Ohio State up in the redzone after accomplishing nothing to date on offense.
  • Amara Darboh dropping a pass that hits him on the hands on 3rd and 4 with under 6:00 to go in the 4th quarter and Michigan ahead 17-14.
  • Michigan accumulating five yards of offense in the fourth quarter.
Some of these were mitigated by spectacular mistakes made by the other side. OSU's kicker missed two field goals, both extremely makeable, one of them a literal chip shot. Speight's goalline fumble was sandwiched in between Barrett's interception and the fake punt fiasco. But the reality is Michigan utterly and thoroughly destroyed the Ohio State offense for three quarters, and all they had to show for it was a three point lead. For the third time in two years, Michigan lost on the final play in a game where they could not protect a 4th quarter lead because the offense could not get first downs when it mattered.

In the 4th quarter against Michigan State in 2015, Michigan ran 19 plays for 24 yards and one first down. 1-6 on 3rd down.

In the 4th quarter against Iowa in 2016, Michigan ran 22 plays for 62 yards and five first downs, none of which came on their final possession.

In the 4th quarter on Saturday, Michigan held the ball for under four minutes, completed zero passes, and ran five times for five yards.

More and more often now, I find myself thinking back to this:

In 2008, Arizona visited Stanford. One of the Wildcats' coaches had made a comment during the week that Stanford wasn't very physical. Few things will anger Harbaugh as much as questioning his toughness. So before kickoff, he told the team: "There's gonna come a time in this game where we're going to line up in the same formation and run the same power play and dictate." As former Cardinal assistant Brian Polian remembers: "He had so much resolve. You can say what you want about us, but you're going to question our toughness?"

In the fourth quarter, down 23-17, Stanford took over. On 10 of 11 plays, the Cardinal called inside runs. On the last one, Toby Gerhart scored the game-winning touchdown with less than a minute left. It was one of the gutsiest and coolest things the staff had ever seen.

"We bludgeoned them to death," Polian says.

Jim Harbaugh lusts for the day where this can be done at Michigan. There may well come a time where Michigan finds itself leading Michigan State or Ohio State in the 4th quarter, and they call run after run after run and suddenly seven minutes have bled off the clock and the game is over. But that moment has not arrived yet, because we are still saddled with the remnants of what Brady Hoke left behind on the offensive line. Here's a reminder of what became of Hoke's fabled 2012 and 2013 offensive line classes (AKA the guys who would be 4th and 5th year players - starters - on this team):

Kyle Kalis: A career of blown assignments and getting dominated. Managed to mask a lot of it in his 5th year; still got his shit pushed in in both losses in 2016.

Erik Magnuson: An entirely average player also prone to getting turnstiled. For a top 100 recruit from California who had offers from every Pac-12 school, that's close to a bust.

Ben Braden: A lead-footed "bulldozer" who rarely bulldozed. Forced to play out of position after Grant Newsome's leg was destroyed.

Blake Bars: A non-entity.

Patrick Kugler: A non-contributor who was derailed by injuries. Possible starter as a 5th year senior in 2017?

Kyle Bosch: Probably came closer to suicide off the field than success on the field here. He and his family needed one meeting with Harbaugh to realize it was over. He's been a starter for WVU this year; I'm just glad he seems to have straightened his life out. Another top 100 bust at Michigan.

David Dawson: Another complete non-contributor. Another possible candidate to finally see the field in 2017? I wouldn't count on it.

Chris Fox: Non-contributor due to injuries.

Logan Tuley-Tillman: A disgusting sex pervert who should've been processed from his recruiting class. He was garbage as a player by the time he signed with Michigan. Completely gave up after his junior year of HS.

Dan Samuelson: A non-contributor who left.

It's a testament to Tim Drevno's ability as an OL coach that he was able to cobble together a semi-competent offensive line considering what he had to work with. Ben Bredeson looked overwhelmed for most of his true freshman season this year; a redshirt would have been nice - if there had been anyone worth a shit able to play. But there wasn't. So this is what we had. It wasn't a "bad" offensive line, we've seen enough of those recently to recognize them (2008, 2009, 2013, 2014). But it was still a far cry from both the Michigan lines of lore and the dream that Harbaugh has in his head. Progress usually involves the anguish of close-but-no-cigar.

On the bright side, Don Brown is the guy. The same players who got freight-trained into a fine powder in their own building last year went into the Horseshoe and spent the huge majority of 60 minutes pistolwhipping the Buckeyes into a pulp. That the end result leaves the foul coppery taste of sucking on a mouthful of pennies should not prohibit us from acknowledging their progress, and feeling giddy for the future once more. It took one year for Harbaugh to erase the gains Dantonio and MSU made on Michigan - the jailsexings of 2013 and 2014 turned into the harrowing once-in-a-lifetime miracle of 2015, and the "Hello darkness my old friend" moment of 2016. It took an extra year for the gap to be closed against Ohio State, but closed it is, to the point where one year after giving up 42 points to OSU for the third straight time, this time around Michigan fans feel outrage and indignation, while OSU fans feel the relief of dodging a bullet and getting away with something that shouldn't have been theirs.

See you in 2017.

No comments: