Michigan Football: The Soul of the Minnesota Game

(Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images) /

Did Michigan football just dominate another opponent? Better late than never, and now the Wolverines are catching stride down the stretch.

Things are beginning to crystallize. Michigan is beginning to form and we can see an identity here. In the immortal words of Johnny Nash, “I can see clearly now, the rain is gone, I can see all obstacles in my way.”

Related Story: Three takeaways from the Minnesota game

Yes, there are obstacles in the way and we will get to some of those shortly, but first, let’s count our blessings and enjoy what we do have.

Karan Higdon and Chris Evans are becoming running backs that can really be counted on. The offensive line, even when missing a key member, continues to improve and dominate, at least in the run game.

As for Brandon Peters, this appears to be a thing. It’s not a fully formed “star is born” moment, but things are progressing. I’m sure that is the path and it will continue to solidify there.

Occasionally the defensive ends get a little too excited about getting around the corner and getting to the quarterback quickly. When this happens quarterbacks will often make them pay with their feet. Sometimes the safeties and other assorted linebacker/safety types will get burned by slot receivers in the pass game. Other than that, this defense is developing into a stellar unit with an extremely bright future.

The Wolverines had Khaleke Hudson step up and out-do what many of us Hudson fans hoped he would do last night: 13 tackles, 6 1/2 for loss, two sacks and a forced fumble.

Cesar Ruiz started at right guard with Michael Onwenu unable to perform. I really liked what the true freshman accomplished. He was mostly solid and occasionally spectacular. He made quite the smash unit with Juwann Bushell-Beatty on occasion. Stints like this will get him further down that road as the potential starting center for the 2018 squad.

The thing I really noticed about Cesar was that he was almost always there to lend a helping hand to the ball carrier, getting up after the play. He is a big, physical presence, and being there for the small guys who tote the rock will pay dividends in keeping big uglies from trying to intimidate those guys.

Now, he did blow the pass protection on the play that led to Peters getting hurt. Ruiz went inside and his man went right around him to the outside. Then he leveled Peters. It was a scary moment. But who was there to help him up? Yep, Ruiz was. Peters needed a minute before he was ready to get up, and Harbaugh solved the problem by putting Runyan in at right guard for the rest of the game, though Ruiz did come back in garbage time.

There will be some big uglies in the future, make no mistake about that. And, like last night, there will be referees, game announcers, possibly even Big Ten/NCAA officials who will try to submarine the Wolverines’ success. I’d like to take a minute to address a couple of these threats that surfaced last night and sent a couple torpedoes Michigan’s way.

The Refs

Suspending Josh Metellus for fighting because the Minnesota left tackle suddenly went berserk—isn’t this odd sort of evening-up by the refs something they do to appease an angry home crowd I’d love to see the Wolverines go independent with their officiating. Just tell Delany and the Big Ten to take a flying flip at the moon. Notre Dame can do it, you think Michigan doesn’t have the juice?

The announcers

I liked Tim Brando. He is a professional and he dealt with Michigan’s history with aplomb. He also told a very cute story about being told that the depth chart was in the Little Brown Jug, which segued into an apology he gave Harbaugh over the depth chart matter. The guy is class. I like Spencer Tillman too—or I did—as an OU back.

Tillman brings some enthusiasm to his role. I like that. He knocked that Big House item off his bucket list and jumped into this breakout performance from Khaleke Hudson with enthusiasm not usually seen from broadcast kind. But where did he get this odd notion that the Viper has no responsibilities and gets to roam around causing havoc while the other ten guys have gap responsibilities? Possibly misunderstanding and hyping something Don Brown said to him? I may not totally understand Brown’s defense, but the Viper has responsibilities.

He is usually a prime suspect to cover a slot receiver in a spread type setup. And sometimes (take note, Spencer) he is on a blitz or positioned to just freelance and wreak havoc. But that does not mean that this is his life 24/7/365.

And really, just because you were too timid to get in the face of a big guy does not mean that Tyree Kinnell should have been suspended for teasing the Minnesota left tackle with his facemask.

Brando is a class guy and I saw several instances of him making up for Tillman’s ignorance and rash mouthiness last night. As long-time partners Brando has perfected this act over the years, I am quite certain.

Going Forward

I’ve seen what referees, in concert with announcers and league officials, can do when not opposed. I was a huge fan of Isiah’s Pistons. I saw the way Red Auerbach was not content with controlling everything inside of his world but later in life branched out with influence over the refs, getting his boys in the broadcast booth. I saw the collusion between the NBA and their meal ticket—His Airness—when they moved Rod Thorn from the Bulls’ front office to the NBA front office where his main job was to keep the “Bad Boys” in check with fines and suspensions.

Next: Top 10 running backs in Michigan history

When you threaten the way the good ol’ boys do things, they find ways to make life difficult for you. We need to find ways to shine light upon these subjects. The future of Michigan may depend on it. Trust your eyes. If you see something, say something. Please, don’t let the refs, the broadcasters, the executives get away with burying the enemy they see in Jim Harbaugh. Go Blue!