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3:03 am EDT 58°F (14°C) in Oxnard, CA
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After four long days, I have finally arrived here in California to deliver this load. Thankfully, I stayed well out of the way of Hurricane Rita, which made landfall early Saturday morning just south of Lake Charles, LA; as my Saturday update mentioned, I was already into western Colorado by that time.
I don’t know if anything will come of it, because athletic director Bill Martin lacks sufficient cojones to pull the trigger, but I am beating the fire-Lloyd Carr drums quite loudly now after Michigan’s meltdown in a 23-20 loss in Madison, WI, on Saturday night. Wisconsin overcame a 13-3 halftime deficit by out-scoring the Wolverines 20-7 in the second half, eventually scoring the winning touchdown with 24 seconds remaining in the game. Again, like in the Notre Dame game, the offensive execution was pretty horrible (largely in the second half), and that falls more on the players’ shoulders, but I can point to a few things that go right back to Carr.
With just under three minutes left in the first quarter, Michigan faced a fourth-and-goal at the Badgers’ 1-yard line, having failed to punch it in on third down. In the first quarter of a scoreless game on the road, the logical thing to do would be to put the (almost-)guaranteed three points on the scoreboard and worry about getting touchdowns later. After calling a time-out, Carr instead decided to try to score the touchdown, while I screamed at my Sirius™ Satellite Radio, “No, you idiot, kick the field goal!” So what happened? Wisconsin stuffed Michigan short of the goal line, and a drive that should have yielded three points ended up with a nice fat zero still on the board. As it would turn out, those three points that Carr more or less took right off the scoreboard turned out to be the difference in the ballgame. Why is it that a mere fan like me could make the right call while Carr screwed it up?
Near the end of the first half, Michigan was again threatening to score deep in Badger territory, and they came up to a third-and-goal at the Wisconsin 6-yard line with 0:09 left on the clock. Certainly, there was enough time left to take one shot at the end zone on third down, and while a touchdown was not guaranteed, one has to figure Michigan at least had a decent chance from the 6. The old bugaboo of the 2005 Wolverines, a lackadaisical mental focus on the game, struck at this point; Chad Henne failed to get the play off before the play clock ran out, costing Michigan five yards and most of the probability of a touchdown. Carr then opted to kick the field goal on third down from the 11, and that score put Michigan ahead 13-3. That kind of lack of focus on the game situation goes right back to Carr; ultimately, he’s got to be the one reminding the players to keep in mind the play clock, the game clock, the down-and-distance, and other fundamentals of the current situation on the field. Delay-of-game penalties are among the dumbest things an offensive unit can do, and really, they are an indication that somebody (or the whole unit) has their mind(s) off in la-la land.
Such dumb decisions and lack of mental focus are not acceptable in what is supposed to be the premier football program in the Big Ten, if not among the best in the nation. You may think that I’m going out of my way to be harsh on Carr, or ask, “What the hell do you know, Larry? He’s the coach and you’re not!”, but frankly, the fact that the Wolverines imploded speaks for itself. I can accept losing, as long as Michigan doesn’t make stupid mistakes and merely gets out-played, but I find it hard to stomach blowing games like the Wolverines did Saturday. I don’t want to sound like I’m belittling Wisconsin, either; the Badgers did what they had to do to win the football game, but honestly, without Michigan’s dumb mistakes, Wisconsin would have needed at least one more touchdown to win.
I honestly have to worry now about what the rest of the season will hold. There appears to be a very good chance that Moo U will beat us this upcoming Saturday (as much as it pains me to say that), and at that point Michigan will be in an 0-2 hole in the Big Ten — meaning, kiss even the Capital One Bowl goodbye. If things don’t improve, and quickly, we could be talking about no New Year’s Day bowl game at all — although I hear that the Alamo Bowl is just lovely. </sarcasm>
Well, it’s about time to upload this and get to sleep. I’m probably going to have another long trip to head back east in front of me later today.