Sunday, September 6, 2009

Big House Revival

When I met my dad at the stadium yesterday, he commented that the walk to the stadium was one of the weirdest ones ever.
"How so?" I asked.
"It was very quiet. Usually I can hear the crowd, the PA announcers, or if I'm late enough, the band taking the field for their pregame performance. I thought maybe I had gotten the game time wrong. But now..."

He didn't need to finish the thought, we both knew what he meant, and I probably couldn't have heard him even if he did finish the thought. With the new additions to the stadium, the sound that once drifted off into the surrounding neighborhoods where we usually park now bounced back into the stadium. It was easily one of the loudest games I've ever been to. Even before the game, there was a buzz of sound that enveloped all of us. You couldn't hear the band across the way clearly, as their music bounced off the east suite structure and seem to reach us in rounds. it was a cacophony of excitement that washed over all of us.

The "controversy" of the last week seemed a long way off in the grand old stadium yesterday afternoon. It was clear from the start where the loyalties of just about everyone there lay. If there was anyone who had doubts about the coach and the program, they kept them hidden. All over were signs showing support for the team and the coach: "In Rod we Trust", "Done with the Free Press," "All in for Rodriguez", "Rosenberg Punches Dolphins" (not sure what that last one means). At several points during the game, the chant started from the student section, bounced off the eastern sideline and spread all around the bowl: "Rich Rod-ri-guez, clap clap clapclapclap"

The team did their part to lend to the exuberant atmosphere. A near perfect first half included:
A freshman starter who did his best Colt McCoy impersonation: strong and accurate arm, good pocket presence, and an impressive command of the offense. He showed just about anything you'd want from a QB. His first game line is eerily similar to McCoy's first game: Forcier: 13/20, 179 yds, 3 td/0 int, 37 yds rushing (0 td); McCoy: 12/19, 178 yds, 3 td/0 int, 38 yds rushing (1 td).
-A backup quarterback who showed everyone why people had been raving about his speed. I don't remember if anyone else has every scored in his first play as a Michigan Wolverine. The rest of the game, you could hear everyone murmur with excitement whenever he touched the ball. It's the same buzz Desmond got during his Heisman campaign, or went through the stadium anytime anyone was stupid enough to throw in Charles Woodson's general direction. I'm not saying that Robinson will be as good as those two, just that his first carry set the stage for a season's worth of anything can happen type plays.
-A top receiver, Junior Hemingway, who ran good routes, showed decent speed, and could be a legitimate deep threat all year. He missed all of last season with injuries.
-A TE, Kevin Koger, who caught one TD and made a fantastic one-handed grab.
-A defense that was quick to the ball, and featured few, if any, of the missed tackles that were all over the place last year. Especially surprising on that side of the ball was the play of Troy Woolfolk, and true freshman DE/LB/"Spinner" Craig Roh, who showed a variety of different moves in getting penetration.

It's hard to find too much to complain about in this game. The final score was not indicative of the closeness of the game. It easily could have been 50-0 if Michigan hadn't taken their foot off the gas. If last year was any indication, this was one of the top teams in the MAC that we demolished yesterday. They had the 11th ranked passing offense in the country, and they had 81 yards of total offense in the first half when the game was in doubt (if it ever was). The result doesn't mean that we are going to go 12-0, or even challenge for the Big Ten title, but it does make it clear that this team will not be 3-9 this year. Last year Western beat two teams that we lost to, and there are at least 4 teams left on our schedule that have less talent than Western (IU, Purdue, Delaware St, and EMU). Given Iowa and Illinois' struggles yesterday, a 7 or 8 win season does not seem unreasonable. Win next week, and the ceiling will get even higher.