The storybook ending was not in favor of the Dawgs, who instead left the Big House trying to cope with a heartbreaking loss in one of the most memorable games in recent history. Here are some observations from the sidelines and the press box.
Game Day Sucks: The ESPN Game Day crew began their show from an erected stage in the corner of the endzone about seven feet from the stands. When they were trying to tape their first segment, apparently the group of about 150 Michigan faithful was a bit too rambunctious. The crew asked the game officials to remove them from the area and escort them back to their seats. The fans decked out maize and blue gathered in the opposite endzone and chanted "Game Day sucks!" throughout the rest of the broadcast. Other fans gathered close by to make sure that Lee Corso knew exactly how they felt about him as well. The well-behaved Husky fans who sat on the opposite side of the stage in the endzone seats were fortunate enough to witness Corso donning the furry Husky head, predicting a win for the Dawgs. One down side was the lack of sideline room on the Husky sidelines. There wasn't even enough room for the kickers and the snappers to practice during the game, which they have plenty of room for at Husky stadium. Do you think that would have made a difference?
Husky Warmups: Before the game, WR Reggie Williams was getting pumped up by doing a "shake" dance that I have now termed the "Lakewood Lido." Williams took his dance in the direction of Running Backs Coach Chuck Heater but, in true Wolverine fashion (Heater is a Michigan alum), he passed on the Lakewood Lido and chose to give Reggie a "high ten" with the hands instead. Injured players Braxton Cleman and Elliott Zajac, both dressed in street clothes, tried to help pump up their teammates during the pre-game Husky Jacks. Even though both seniors were not able to play, their leadership was evident on the sidelines both before and during the game. Maybe next time one of them could tackle the 12th man before he runs onto the field?
Welcome Fast Eddie: Newcomer WR Eddie Jackson received a long talk from Coach Neuheisel while he was stretching just before Husky Jacks. Also, during a pregame receiving drill, Jackson let a ball drop right through his hands and Reggie Williams gave him encouragement when he returned to the drill. Some Husky fans, drooling over the thought of two 6'4 book-end receivers, were chanting "Post-Corner Eddie!" He made his first catch for 9 yards on second and long in traffic. His second catch of 19 yards down to the Michigan six-yard line set up a Washington touchdown on the very next play. He finished the game with three receptions for 36 yards, and no drops! He had some special hometown fans in the stands that went absolutely nuts whenever Eddie touched the ball.
Who Cares?? While the stadium announcer was going through the starting line-ups for each team just before the game, a group of Wolverine fans would yell "Who Cares?" after each Husky player was announced. Well, somebody had better care. After the game, Michigan Head Coach Lloyd Carr found his way into the Husky locker room. He shared with the Husky team that he had never seen another team play as tough or with as much heart at the Dawgs played with, and that this game was one of the best games he had ever been a part. It was great to experience the classy hospitality here in Ann Arbor.
Throat Lozenges anyone? Earlier this week, Coach Neuheisel predicted that Michigan would try to "cram the ball down our throats." Well, not exactly. The Wolverines finished the game with only 150 yards rushing, and 57 of those yards came on their second play from scrimmage. Kudos to the Washington defense for shutting down a powerful Big-10 rushing attack. It was great to have REB Kai Ellis back. He loves to defend against Michigan (as we witnessed last year as well). He had an interception and two of his tackles cost Michigan 10 yards to the negative. WIL Marquise Cooper, who didn't even start the game, was a monster on the field and led the team with 11 tackles.
Calming the storm: The Huskies did well in thwarting the emotion of the game. They were pretty adept at quieting the huge crowd after the momentum would swing in Michigan's favor. The one thing they weren't able to do once taking the lead in the second half, was hold it. After the Huskies went up 20-14 just after halftime, Michigan drove 74 yards down the field to answer. When the Huskies again went up 23-21, Michigan's next drive went 80 yards to vault them back into the lead at 28-23. Overall, the largest crowd to ever attend a Washington game was not really a factor, until after the last kick split the uprights. Then you could hear every single one of them, singing, "Hail To The Victors" in unison. Their loudest boo of the game came after several thousand Husky fans did a Husky spell-out after going up 20-14. It was a nice comeback for the "Let's Go Blue."
ET ‘Ware-ing' the place out? Making his sophomore debut, WR Charles Frederick had all his nifty skills on display. He fielded all of the punts and all of the kick-offs. He made tough grabs and was very elusive in the open field after the catch. His 51-yard touchdown reception somehow made it through the hands of two Michigan defenders. Do you think true freshman Nate Robinson feels like he has any real game experience now? He was back for every kick off, but Michigan must have felt more comfortable kicking off to the more experienced Frederick. And tight end Kevin Ware had some clutch grabs to help keep some drives alive. Pickett went to nine different receivers in the game and boy did they take some hits. A great job by the offensive line for holding the vaunted Michigan line to only two sacks, and for not "holding" – they were called only once for that infraction.
Dangerous grounds: While standing on the sidelines during the last few minutes of the game, we narrowly escaped getting hit by lethal weapon: a marshmallow. In other danger nearby, one Michigan crazy dove out of the stands, only to immediately get thrown down by a cop and handcuffed with his face buried into the Big House turf. We can only assume that he was about to be escorted to another Big House somewhere, this one where he dare not drop the soap. The high point for the felonious fan was that he did get escorted across the field through all the celebrating Michigan players and out through the famed tunnel, although the cuffs made it a bit sticky to give high-fives to his heroes. It must have been worth it, right?
Dawgman a psychic? Well, yes and no. During warm-ups, Michigan place kicker Philip Brabbs kept hooking all of his kicks to the left and even sent the ball clanging off of the left upright TWICE. On Brabbs' first field goal attempt during the first quarter, Dawgman looked at me and said, "He is going to miss this to the left." Yep, he did. Just before halftime, Brabbs lined up to attempt a 42 yarder and Dawgman looked at me and said, "He is going to miss this kick again to the left." Yep, he did. On Michigan's third field goal attempt, they brought in the back-up kicker, Troy Nienberg. Dawgman looked at me while we stood on the Michigan sidelines, took one look at him and said, "This kid looks nervous. No way he makes it." Nope, he didn't, but it was wide right this time. On Michigan's final drive, Dawgman had the confidence of Tiger Woods standing over a four-foot putt. He looked at me and said, "There is no way we are losing this game. The game is over. Washington is going to win this game. They don't have anyone that can make a field goal."
Sometimes a woman's intuition is much more powerful than a Dawgman's crystal ball, as it shattered into a million pieces as Brabb's third kick went right through the pipes. I just had that feeling that it was going to be a storybook ending for the hometown fans as I looked around at the 111,491 in attendance. What a heartbreaker!
Notes from the Press Box
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