Monkey off Their Back

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Before I start talking details, let's get another look at that Jug:
(L to R) Pierre Woods, Calvin Bell, and Ernest Shazor show off the Little Brown Jug

Oh, yeah. Get the hell off our stage, Gophers, and take that stupid monkey with you.

And it wasn't an 0-6 monkey, like the media was talking about. It was actually a 1-7 monkey: Florida was #22 going into last year's Outback Bowl; Tennessee was was #8 going into the 2002 Citrus Bowl. Don't give me any crap about bowl games being at neutral sites - if you're a Big Ten team playing an SEC team in Florida, it's an away game! Of course, this is the first time Navarre has actually led them to a come-from-behind win late in the game, the Outback Bowl being more a case of 'grab a second-half lead and hang on'.

Interestingly, he's had more decent comeback chances than you might realize:

  • 2000 @ UCLA: Intercepted inside the UCLA 26 with a minute and a half to go.
  • 2002 @ ND: Intercepted at midfield with 30 seconds left.
  • 2002 @ aOSU: Intercepted at the goal line on the final play.
  • 2003 @ Oregon: Turned over on downs in Oregon territory with 30 seconds left.
  • 2003 @ Iowa: turned over on downs in Iowa territory with over a minute to go.
For completeness, recall that they never had a chance in the 2002 Citrus Bowl and they didn't get an onside kick back in 2001 @ Washington.

And that's where I think the frustration fans have with him is rooted. If he just didn't have the tools, it'd be one thing (and that one thing would be "Bring on Matt Gutierrez!"). He does have the tools - it's not coincidence that he put Michigan in a position to win four of those five games noted above (recall also that he led U-M on a 95-yard drive for a late TD to get it close against Washington). He just couldn't finish the job.

Until Friday night.

But I didn't buy that he could do it when he scored on a 38-yard Transcontinental to give Michigan their first points. I didn't buy it when he took the team 80 yards all through the air and hit Chris Perry for a 10-yard TD on a screen pass (memo to Glen Mason: If you continue to leave Chris Perry uncovered, Michigan will keep throwing to him. 11 catches for 122 yards? Those are Braylon Edwards numbers!). I still didn't buy it when he hit Braylon Edwards full in stride for a 52-yard TD pass. I still didn't buy it when he went 5-of-6 for 50 yards on the next drive, setting up Perry for the TD on a 10-yard draw to tie the game. He'd done all those things before. I still thought he'd find a way not to win the game, maybe by throwing one high and getting it picked off, maybe by three bad throws and a punt.

Now, to be sure, it was the defense that enabled him to keep moving them down the field - once they showed up, that is. Who impersonated their defense in the first three quarters and coughed up over 400 rushing yards? Michigan hasn't had to wear a number like that since Woody Hayes' '68 aOSU team pulverized them. Anyway, the defense finally showed up and did its job - mostly, since they traded a TD interception return for a 52-yard TD by Abdul-Aziz on a quarterback sneak - and Navarre did his.

Not that I wasn't sweating the fact they were going to try to win it on a field goal. Looks like they're finally getting the kinks worked out of that part of the game, too.

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This page contains a single entry by Chris published on October 13, 2003 4:40 PM.

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