Michigan Beats Notre Dame 38-34 in Thriller at the Big House

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan football is back.

After the worst season in school history in 2008, the Wolverines are 3-0. For an alum like myself, it feels good.

The blowout victory over Western Michigan in the season opener was great — regardless of the quality of the opponent, it showed that the offense was at least competent this year. It showed that the defensive players seemed more aware of their assignments, even if they were sloppy at times. And most importantly, and this can’t be stressed enough after last season, it showed that Michigan has dangerous and effective quarterbacks.

That’s right, it took all of one week for true freshman quarterback Tate Forcier to win over the Maize and Blue faithful. He dazzled in his debut, throwing three touchdown passes and no interceptions.

One week later, he’d announce himself to the rest of the country.

Playing at home against then-No. 18 Notre Dame, Forcier led Michigan to a thrilling 38-34 win, taking the team down the field and throwing a touchdown pass with just 11 seconds left.

The win was Michigan’s biggest since Lloyd Carr’s final game, when the Wolverines sent out the longtime coach with an improbable bowl win over Florida. (Yes, there was the wild, come-from-behind win against Wisconsin last season, when Michigan erased a 19-point halftime deficit to win 27-25. But remember, Michigan went 3-9 last year. In the end, none of the games were “big.”)

Against the Irish, the Big House was rockin’ when Darryl Stonum took a kickoff 94 yards for a score to give the Maize and Blue a 14-3 first quarter lead; it was shaking when Forcier broke an Irish defender’s ankles en route to a 31-yard rushing TD in the fourth; and the stadium, new luxury boxes and all, almost crumbled when the freshman phenom found Greg Mathews in the endzone in the game’s final moments.

Michigan fans hope for a safety as Notre Dame prepares for a snap in the third quarter. Note the luxury suites that are still under construction.

Remember earlier I said that Michigan now has dangerous and effective quarterbacks. Forcier’s great play may have overshadowed the Wolverines’ other true freshman signal-caller, speedster Denard Robinson.

In the opener, Robinson was electric. He ran 11 times for 74 yards, including a jaw-dropping 43-yard touchdown run. He didn’t see the field much against Notre Dame, but rushed for two more TDs against Eastern Michigan in a 45-17 win last week. He hasn’t gotten a chance to throw the ball too much yet, but it’s clear he has all the tools to be a star.

Is Michigan primed for a BCS bowl? Certainly not. Penn State and Ohio State are still a cut above the Wolverines, though Michigan does draw both those schools at home this season, so stealing a victory isn’t out of the question.

There’s no sense in looking even that far ahead though. A less-than-stellar Indiana team comes to the Big House this Saturday before Michigan and its many freshmen make their first road trip of the season, travelling to East Lansing to take on Michigan State on October 3.

Given the way it has begun, as long as expectations don’t get unreasonably high midway through the season, 2009 will likely be viewed as a success, a step in the right direction in Rich Rodriguez’s second season in Ann Arbor.

In the meantime, as the crowd chanted following the victory over Notre Dame: It’s great to be a Michigan Wolverine.

Michigan fans go wild as the players meet in the middle of the field to celebrate the win over Notre Dame.

Virginia Techs Amazing 16-15 Comeback Win Over Nebraska and How I Missed It

The following post was written by Robert Miller.

BLACKSBURG, Va. — A stunning turn of events at the end of the game…and I missed it!

My two and half year old daughter and I attended our first Virginia Tech home game today. What’s more, it was her first college football game so I wanted to make sure it was a positive experience. We took a shuttle bus from our apartment to the game. I had predetermined that we would leave the game once it was uncompetitive so that we would not be stuck in a long line to get on the returning shuttle bus. This line of thinking was based on numerous experiences at Notre Dame where the post-game shuttle bus lines are so long that walking two miles back is faster than waiting for the shuttle.

Prior to today, my college football experience consisted of 20+ Notre Dame games in South Bend including a Nebraska overtime loss, two ND games at the Big House in Michigan, one ND game at Giants Stadium, and a Navy game at Boston College.

Without question, Lane Stadium today was the most energized stadium I had ever experienced at the opening of a game. The following video was taken prior to the teams taking the field and includes Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” blaring on the loud speakers. Needless to say, Hokie fans were jacked up.

Virginia Tech started with a bang by taking the kickoff deep into Nebraska territory and then quickly scoring a TD to make it 7-0. Virginia Tech’s subsequent field goal in the second quarter came on a drive anchored by a 46 yard run by Ryan Williams. However, discount that big run by Williams and the Hokie offense was ineffective the entire game; that is until the end when it mattered most.

Despite the game-winning drive, the real story of the game was Virginia Tech’s defense. The Hokies held Nebraska to five field goals, keeping the Cornhuskers out of the endzone despite their two trips inside the ten yard line. The following picture was taken in the second quarter and shows how close Nebraska came to scoring before eventually settling for a field goal.
Virginia Tech’s defense was looking tired by the end of the third quarter. They let up some big plays but never let Nebraska into the end zone. Roy Helu Jr.’s 169 yards rushing were impressive but the Cornhuskers did not have a passing game to complement him. Quarterback Zac Lee’s inconsistent play — including numerous errant passes to wide open receivers — cost his team the game. Lee’s best pass was a TD toss that was called back on a holding penalty. The following picture was taken on that key drive in the third quarter where Tech’s defense held Nebraska to yet another field goal.
Fast forward to the end of the fourth quarter — with about two minutes to go Virginia Tech fails to convert on a fourth and nine. Despite Tech’s three remaining timeouts, I heavily weighted Tech’s stagnant offense and let visions of long shuttle bus lines cloud my judgment.

My daughter and I left the game with two minutes to go.

Subsequently, we spent thirty minutes looking for our shuttle bus only to discover that it was not going to leave until 15 minutes after the game. Meanwhile, I could hear the excitement in the stadium, including two thunderous explosions from the crowd — one after an 81-yard Tyrod Taylor pass to the Nebraska three yard line and another after an 11-yard TD pass to Dyrell Roberts — both of which took place directly in front our end zone seats!

My excitement for Tech quickly turned to frustration because instead of wandering aimlessly around the stadium, we could have been experiencing one of the greatest finishes ever!

Needless to say, I will not make the same mistake next week when Tech plays the U at home. My biggest disappointment is not capturing pictures and videos of the final moments to share with you on this blog.

Virginia Tech’s victory over a Nebraska team with a stout defense and a strong running game should boost the ACC’s standing amongst BCS conferences. In addition, Tech will be on the fast track to the ACC title game if it can beat Miami next weekend. Nebraska, on the other hand, is likely to regret all of the missed opportunities it had in the red zone but should experience success in the Big 12 North.

–Robert Miller

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College Football – Virginia Tech defeats Marshall 52-10

The following post was written by Robert Miller.

Looking to rebound after a tough loss against Alabama last week, the Virginia Tech Hokies were expected to dominate against the Marshall Thundering Herd. In particular, red shirt freshman Ryan Williams was expected to perform well after gaining 71 yards and scoring two touchdowns against Alabama’s stout defense.

Marshall was forced to punt on six of its seven first half drives and struggled to put together a long, multi-play drive. Marshall finally broke through Tech’s defense on its sixth drive when Darius Marshall ran 61 yards for a touchdown. Throughout the first half, Tech’s defense maintained pressure on Marshall’s QB Anderson and locked up the Thundering Herd running backs.

Virginia Tech punted on its first drive that included Tyrod Taylor missing on two deep passes. However, Taylor got the offense going with a 46 yard run on their second drive. Unfortunately for Tech, Taylor’s accurate but soft pass into the end zone was intercepted by a diving DeQuan Bembry of Marshall.

Virginia Tech broke the scoreless tie on its third drive when it scored on the first play from scrimmage with an electric 57 yard TD run from Ryan Williams. Virgina Tech scored again on its fourth drive that was anchored by Tyrod Taylor throwing accurate passes, running the option, and handing the ball off to Josh Oglesby and Williams. Williams finished the drive with a four yard TD run.
Tech broke the game wide open when Jayron Hosley ran a punt back 64 yards untouched for a touchdown; to make it 21-0. After being forced to punt, Taylor completed a 43 yard pass to Danny Coale and Williams subsequently punched it in with a 28 yard TD run. Tech finished the half up 35-7 after a final drive that included a successful fourth down attempt and a 21 yard TD pass to Dyrell Roberts. With the game in hand, I turned my eye to the Notre Dame vs. Michigan game.

In sum, Virginia Tech’s passing game started slowly but established a rhythm by the end of the first half. Tech’s option and running games consistently found holes in Marshall’s defense. Specifically, Ryan Williams tore up Marshall’s defense with 164 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Tech needs to continue improving its passing game so that other teams are unable to apply extra attention to its running game. Nebraska is sure to key in on Williams and force Taylor to throw it more than he had to against Marshall. Finally, Tech’s defense and special teams look ready to go against the Cornhuskers.

–Robert Miller

Brett Favre Signs with Minnesota Vikings

I’ve had a lot of coaches in my life, as I played a variety of sports through high school. Some were good, and some were really bad. The Minnesota Vikings coach, Brad Childress, is probably a lot like those really bad ones.

I’ve had a lot of teammates in my life, too, and just like the coaches, some were good and some were bad. Brett Favre is probably a lot like those really bad ones who got away with anything.

Childress couldn’t be a bad coach if Favre wasn’t a bad teammate. And Favre couldn’t be a bad teammate — at least not in the particular way he is a bad teammate — if he wasn’t viewed as a great player.

You follow?

Throughout my organized sports days, the worst coaches, in my opinion, were the ones who held different standards for the star players. And I don’t mean that they demanded more of them in practice or in games. I mean that if the star didn’t show up for practice he’d still start in the next game.

The best coaches, on the other hand, didn’t care if you were the star or the last guy on the bench — if you missed practice, or broke a team rule, or whatever, you were punished accordingly.

This obviously is not the type of coach Childress is. Or the type of organization the Vikings are. And Brett Favre is definitely the star player who can get away with murder.

Because by sitting out all of training camp and signing with the Vikings just today, he is setting a horrible example for young athletes. Regardless of what he might tell the media, Favre’s behavior speaks for itself. He didn’t want to do the hard part of the NFL (training camp); just the fun part (games). I guess Favre doesn’t even care for preseason games either, since he waited until Minnesota had played one of those, too.

The strange thing is, Favre is no longer an elite player. From everything I’ve heard and read, Tavaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels are pretty awful, but as a Jets fan, I can tell you Favre has little to offer to an NFL team at this point in his career. And at $12 million, it’s not like you’re getting him at a good price.

But I’m not looking at the Vikings decision as a bad business one, even though it was. I don’t care that Favre isn’t a top-tier quarterback anymore. And it doesn’t concern me that the legacy Favre started to ruin last year is now completely destroyed.

What bothers me is that for the second straight season, the rules don’t apply to Favre. Are there worse guys in the NFL? Of course. Look at the Eagles, Browns, or most any other team if you want to find them. But few are as treacherous, selfish, or arrogant.

So shame on you, Brett.

But even more shame on you, Vikings, for making exceptions for a perceived star.

David Wright Suffers Concussion

Well, that’s the last of ’em.

With David Wright suffering a concussion after being hit in the helmet by a fastball in this afternoon’s game against the San Francisco Giants, it became official: Every one of the New York Mets’ star hitters have gone down with an injury.

Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran, and Jose Reyes have already missed most of the season (in addition to pitchers such as JJ Putz, John Maine, and Billy Wagner). Wright, the face of the franchise, was the sole survivor.

But earlier today at Citi Field, Wright took an 0-2 pitch off the left side of his head, sending his helmet flying and his body to the ground. He was clearly dazed as the Mets trainers helped him to his feet and into the clubhouse.

It has since been reported that Wright suffered a concussion, the severity of which is not yet fully known. But it doesn’t matter if it’s mild, serious, or somewhere in between.

Wright needs to be shut down for the remainder of the season.

It might be a hard pill for Mets executives to swallow. After all, if ace Johan Santana wasn’t pitching, Wright was the only reason to show up at Citi Field this season. Unless, of course, you love overpriced pulled pork sandwiches.

Despite the strange season Wright is having–105 strikeouts and only eight home runs–he was unquestionably the top player on the team, leading the healthy players with a .324 average, 55 RBI, 74 runs, and 24 stolen bases.

Wright has carried the offense for nearly the entire season, and his numbers must be analyzed knowing that he’s had little protection in the lineup.

The Met offense has been lackluster with Wright; one can only imagine how bad it will be without him. But a glance at the standings will tell you that sitting Wright for the rest of the season is inconsequential. The Mets sit in fourth place in the division, 12 back of the leader. There are seven teams and 10 games between them and the top spot in the Wild Card.

In other words, the Mets won’t have to worry about the last regular season game ending in heartbreak for the third straight season. They are all but mathematically eliminated from the postseason.

Therefore, what are the pros to Wright returning in 2009? Other than ticket sales, there are none. Ryan Church, now with the Atlanta Braves, had a concussion last season, and the Mets badly mishandled the situation, allowing Church to fly cross-country and do some light running way too soon after the injury.

The Mets medical staff is already viewed as a joke, as seemingly minor injuries have turned into months and months of missed time. One minute a guy is coming out of a game with leg cramps. Four days later he’s on the DL.

The team and the training staff has a chance to make the correct decision this time, though, by keeping Wright out of action for the rest of the season. After all, there are only seven weeks left.

Mets fans can only hope nobody else goes down in that time.

Release the Entire List of 104 MLB Players Who Took Steroids

The 2003 list of 104 MLB players who took performance-enhancing drugs is starting to resemble the Brett Favre saga of the past two offseasons.

It’s in the news every week and people are starting to lose interest.

Unfortunately, much like with Favre’s retirement decisions, the media refuses to ignore the story. Seriously, were you surprised yesterday when you heard David Ortiz was on the list? There are really only a handful of players—such Derek Jeter or Ken Griffey, Jr.—who would actually shock me at this point. The steroids era has instilled a guilty until proven innocent mindset amongst fans, plain and simple.

But there is a way baseball can (sort of) finally move on: release the entire list of 104 players. Enough of this “one big star a month” deal. I want to see all of the names and I want to see them now.

Sure, the list was supposed to be confidential (though I have to question why then it wasn’t destroyed), but names are leaking left and right. Do two wrongs make a right? Do 104? No, but at this point it is the only way for MLB to get past the issue.

If the names are not released, then what has happened already this season will continue to happen for at least another full season or two—the names will be released, one at a time, from most to least prominent player. You see my point? Either way the names are most likely going to get out. MLB might as well expedite the process.

On a side note, although on the surface there’s really no difference between Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Andy Pettitte, and anyone else who took performance-enhancing drugs, you’ve really got to despise guys like Ortiz. He sat on his high horse and criticized those players who did use PEDs.

“Test everybody, in season and out of season. And if you still use and you get caught, then you should be suspended for the whole year,” Ortiz said, according to reports.

Howard Bryant of ESPN recently wrote that Ortiz told him earlier this season this elaborate story about how he would never take steroids because his son would be ridiculed in school for having a dirty, cheating dad. It’s almost disturbing, in light of these reports, to read the lies these players would create.

What’s also disturbing is that no players have admitted anything prior to their name coming out in a report. But not everyone preached about how steroids were ruining the game and how they’d never even considered taking them, like Ortiz and Rafael Palmeiro did.

It doesn’t make the other players any less guilty, but it certainly makes guys like Ortiz look like complete shams.

Open Letter to the New York Mets


Dear New York Mets,

As you probably know, you have a game tonight, a nationally-televised game no less. (I say “probably” because at times this season it seems you are unaware that you’re competing in an actual game.) I write to you because so far this season you’ve done nothing but embarrass yourselves and, in turn, your fan base, while playing on the national stage. Perhaps tonight will be different.

First, let’s recap what you’ve done so far in 2009.

May 2, at Philadelphia Phillies, FOX: Oliver Perez walks six in 2.1 innings and Sean Green walks in the winning run in the tenth. Mets lose, 6-5.

May 17, at San Francisco Giants, ESPN: Mike Pelfrey balked not once, not twice, but THREE times. Two of them led directly to San Fran runs, as the Mets lose 2-0.

June 28, vs New York Yankees, ESPN: More Sunday Night Baseball embarrassment, as Francisco Rodriguez walks Yankees closer Mariano Rivera with the bases loaded in the ninth, giving the Yanks an insurance run they wouldn’t even need as Rivera locked down his 500th career save. Mets lose, 4-2.

There are other bad, nationally-televised losses, but not bad enough to say they were embarrassing. But I think these three should suffice.

In all fairness to you, the New York Mets, you’ve played pretty terribly on regular, locally-televised games too. I mean, that time you dropped the pop-up to lose the game and the time you missed third base to lose the game—neither of those were on national TV. So maybe this is just how you play.

But make no mistake about it: It’s a lot worse when it happens on FOX or ESPN. We Mets fans get enough crap from Yankees fans—we don’t need to hear it via e-mail and text message from Tigers, Red Sox, and Dodgers fans, too.

So maybe tonight you could not embarrass yourselves. Don’t get me wrong, you don’t even have to win. You can lose; that’s fine. Just don’t lose in an absurdly laughable way.

Please.

Sincerely,

New York Mets Fans

P.S. You know what, do whatever you want. I don’t think I’m going to watch.

One man's writing in one place.