Appalachian State 34 - Michigan 32 revisited

Used under Creative Commons from Derrick S.

Still the best live anything the Big Ten Network's ever aired.

43 years ago a team of researchers at the University of Florida created a rehydration beverage that would ultimately become known as Gatorade and change competitive athletics forever. A little over three decades later they'd bend the very limits of science and morality in an effort to create more effervescent college football creative geniuses in the mold of Every Day Should Be Saturday's Spencer Hall. They failed. But the results weren't without merit as 'Celebrity Hot Tub', aka 'Run Home Jack', was unleashed on the Internet going world.

When he's not busy bringing the funnies at EDSBS, he co-hosts a "Voyage of the Mimi" podcast. He also occasionally does quasi-serious college football writerings, as is the case today. We're thrilled to welcome Mr. Hot Tub to our humble stomping grounds today to wax poetic on a shared passion: Michigan failure.

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Chances are, unless you're a Michigan or Appalachian State fan, you didn't watch this game in its entirety when it took place for two reasons. First, there were 54 other games played that day, and, although most of them weren't very good on paper, you were likely watching your team play its first action in months. Second, this was the first day of live broadcasting on the Big Ten Network, which didn't have a distribution agreement with Comcast, Time Warner, or Cablevision yet.

But before we dive into what ultimately came to fruition, let's first reset the expectations going into that game. Chances are, as any rational, warm blooded college football fan would do, any pregame pre-conceptions you had likely fell squarely into this camp:

Even if you did watch this game, the first drive wouldn't suggest to you that anything odd was looming. Michigan took the opening kickoff and went Mike Hart run, Chad Henne pass, Mike Hart run, Chad Henne pass, Mike Hart run, Mike Hart run, extra point. App State took their turn on offense and, almost immediately, was facing an important third and four inside their own 40.

Then the First Bad Thing happened. Armanti Edwards completed a short pass to Dexter Jackson, just past the first down marker. That short pass turned into a broken tackle. That broken tackle turned into a footrace down the middle of the field. That footrace turned into a touchdown:

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Things got a little choppier for the Michigan offense. Hart, who'd run for 46 yards on his first three carries, only tallied 7 yards on his next five. Henne held things together all the same, putting Michigan back up 14-7 late in the first quarter. And, once again, the Mountaineers got the ball and promptly wound up facing third down. This time, Michigan held. They'd clearly survived the temporary scare. Right?

Until the Second Bad Thing happened - Appalachian State converted on fourth and one. That helped keep the drive going long enough for Dexter Jackson to do more fast things, taking a reverse just barely short of the goal line. Two plays later, the game was tied again.

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This is where things really start to go downhill.

The Wolverines go three and out. Dexter Jackson (yup) returns the punt for 16 yards. Michigan's Austin Panter makes that return even better by getting flagged for a personal foul, giving the Mountaineers the ball 37 yards from a touchdown. That touchdown happens on the fifth play, when Edwards throughs a quick slant that Jackson (still yup) catches three yards past the line of scrimmage. He runs the other 17 untouched. This is the Third Bad Thing:

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And I mean REALLY untouched. To this point in the game, Jackson has two receptions and a run for 107 offensive yards and two touchdowns - and not a single Michigan defender has even gotten to second base with him. A crime scene team wouldn't find enough forensic evidence to make a case against any Wolverine player if Jackson had mysteriously dropped dead right there.

But seriously, this was MICHIGAN. Not the bumbling Rich Rod incarnation. The number five preseason team, returning experienced starters at quarterback, halfback, and wide receiver. The same team that was three points away from playing for a national championship nine months earlier.

This was also a Lloyd Carr team. And Lloyd Carr teams had a troubling habit of dropping games to unranked opponents – of Carr's twelve seasons in Ann Arbor to that point, only five had avoided such a loss. Lloyd Carr had lost to unranked Illinois. Lloyd Carr had lost to unranked Minnesota. Lloyd Carr had lost to unranked Purdue. Twice.

So when the Wolverines moved the ball from their own 20 to the Appalachian State 35 in five plays, you thought MICHIGAN was back. On second and five, they ran for no gain. On third and five, they threw for no completion. On fourth and five, the pass protection broke down and Henne was forced to heave the ball to the sideline. Bad Thing Four.

Skip ahead to 4:30 left in the first half. The Mountaineers, up a touchdown, have a third and five at the Michigan 29. This is where the storied FBS team, at home, tired of being kicked around, is supposed to make a stop. Instead, we get Bad Thing Five, a twenty yard run by Armanti Edwards that sets up another App State touchdown.

A reasonably competent two minute drill makes it 28-17 at halftime. Five Bad Things have happened to Michigan, but thirty minutes is more than enough to make up for it. It's Week One, and you're allowed to be sloppy for a half. Just avoid making more mistakes going forward and you'll be fine.

And that's how it looks likely to unfold in the second half. On his second play from scrimmage, Edwards shows some miserable footwork and throws an ugly interception that gives Michigan the ball inside the Mountaineer 40. The Wolverines only turn that into a field goal, but it's progress all the same.

That field goal gets answered on the next drive to put Appalachian State back up by eleven, but Michigan's defense looks a little more up to the task of preventing big plays. If the offense can put up a touchdown, the floodgates may open and snuff this upset bid out.

Naturally, Brandon Minor promptly fumbles the ball away at Michigan's 28 yard line. This should have been Bad Thing Six, but Appalachian State gains no yards and misses the field goal attempt. Frustrated with his running game's ineffectiveness, Mike DeBord overcorrects and calls three straight pass plays. Henne misses on all three.

Appalachian State, however, is too busy tripping over its own girth to take advantage, losing a fumble at the Mountaineer 31 yard line. Two minutes later, Mike Hart shrugs off contact and jumps into the endzone. Michigan is rolling, the visiting FCS upstart finally seems overmatched, and...

Bad. Thing. Six. Michigan goes for two. Down five. With a whole quarter to play. Technically, a pass play was called here, but the snap gets bungled and Chad Henne is forced to run, which is like entering a Furby into a dog show.

The Mountaineers go three and out. Michigan returns the punt for thirteen yards and gets another fifteen after Appalachian State is flagged for a face mask. It's an odd parallel of the sequence right before Dexter Jackson's second touchdown in the first half, right down to Henne throwing a perfahahahahahahahahahaha NOPE. Flushed out of the pocket on first and 15, Henne could a) try to take off for the sideline and risk taking a sack b) throw the ball out of bounds or c) throw a pass across his body into triple coverage for an interception.

That's the Seventh Bad Thing. The bleeding is stopped again by the defense, which holds the Mountaineers to another quick punt. The Wolverine offense seems to have found its footing again, but a formation penalty followed by an incomplete pass have them stuck at 3rd and 14 at the App State 42. Henne rushes for nine, and Michigan decides to go for the conversion with seven minutes to go.

The defense only sends four after Henne, who steps up into the pocket largely unpressured. It's possible he can run for the first down. He's also got Mike Hart as an easy dump pass in the middle of the field by the first down, entirely uncovered. Instead, Henne tries (and fails) to fit a pass to a double-covered Mike Massey, possibly because a Michigan Man does not take the easy way out. Bad Thing Eight = Mountaineer ball.

As has been the pattern most of the second half, Appalachian State can do not one damn thing with a gift from the Wolverines, again failing to stay on the field for more than three plays. The same offense that racked up 244 yards in the first half has been held to 74 in the second. Then the dam breaks when Mike Hart weaves and pushes through seven of the eleven Mountaineer defenders on a 54 yard touchdown run to put Michigan up by one.

Going for two isn't really the WRONG thing here, but it's not exactly confidence inspiring when Brandon Minor gets tackled by the six yard line. It's almost as if this Michigan team wasn't used to attempting two point conversions. Weird, right?

Armanti Edwards has been terrible all half for Appalachian State, but he's getting the ball back with 4:30 and only needs to drive for field goal. It's a difficult task, but not an impossible one. By the time you finish reading this sentence, Armanti Edwards will have killed this drive, again betrayed by sloppy footwork as he throws a gag of an interception. Michigan now has the following things: 1. the lead 2. field position 3. momentum.

4. Lloyd Carr. The Wolverines get about as predictable as possible here, running the ball four straight times. After throwing in a head-scratching short pass on 3rd and 10, the field goal unit takes the field with the ball on the right hash. Kicker Jason Gingell has never attempted a field goal in college before this game, but he's made his first two attempts easily.

Attempt three? Not so good. It's a blocked kick, but not the sort where the defender bull rushes up the middle or speeds around the edge. No, this is the Jarvis Moss Syncopation Varietal, where angle and timing match up in just the right and wrong way.

It's Bad Thing Nine, but it doesn't change the fundamentals of the situation: Michigan is leading, and Appalachian State's offense is the home you're getting ready to burn down because you didn't read the fine print in that adjustable rate mortgage.

This is Armanti Edwards, Second Half Quarterback, at this point in the game:

6/12 passing for 43 yards
5 rushing attempts for 13 yards
Sacked three times
One fumble lost
2 interceptions thrown

It is, therefore, somewhat shocking when Edwards does the following: run for 18 yards, pass for 20, pass for 6, pass for 5, pass for 24. With thirty seconds left and the clock stopped, the Mountaineers have a first and goal from the 5. They're out of timeouts, though, so centering the ball and letting the clock run down isn't an option. A short field goal later, Michigan is down by 2.

We've already covered the Several Unfortunate Decisions of Chad Henne earlier in this game. With 15 seconds left, however, it's the Appalachian State secondary that brainfarts, somehow allowing Mario Manningham to run deep downfield in loose single coverage, where he hauls in a bomb at the 20 yard line. The last Wolverine timeout is called, and Gingell strides back onto the field. He's on the right hash again, but six yards closer than his last attempt. Snap good. Hold good.

A rejuvenated second half defense, a monstrous run by Mike Hart, and a miracle throw from Henne to Manningham kept Michigan from succumbing to Nine Bad Things. Nine instances where the college football caste system, or home field advantage, or the Michigan Difference seemed totally inverted. Nine Bad Things were not enough to beat Michigan that day.

That final blocked kick? That was the Tenth:

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