There can be no doubt now; Camp Randall is at its best when the Michigan Wolverines come to town. The south end zone was loud as it has ever been. Sideline conversations with the person next to you weren't possible at the loudest moments. There was also a strange subtext to the party at The Camp: by the fourth quarter Michigan was a bit of a play thing for the crowd. Not only had the Badgers taken complete control of the game, but the crowd was able to relax and enjoy a few sideshows. Very enjoyable.
The Victors?: A few more notes on the Michigan squad before we move to the Badger side of the ball.
Little Man Tate: Michigan QB Tate Forcier is listed on the roster as being 6-1. Had you told me 5-10, I would have called you a liar. 5-9 is about it. I mention this for two reasons: the laughable inflation of physical stats is something of a pet peeve of mine. More importantly, Tate represents a significant shift in the usual athlete Michigan has at QB. In the end I doubt Tate has the physical ability to play that position. He certainly isn't a drop passer and running will get him killed.
Presser: Both Forcier and Michigan coach Rich Rodriquez were all too eager to shift post-game discussion to the upcoming game with Ohio State. Looking ahead in a post-game press conference is rare in my experience. This is usually reserved for standard Monday morning press conference. Instead Forcier, Rodriquez and the media that follows the Wolverines devoted more than half of the time to the Ohio State game. I would have thought losing a game that could have made the team bowl eligible (and losing by three touchdowns) would have raised many questions for an embattled coach. Instead we learned that Rodriquez thinks he understands the rivalry. With OSU.
A Wrinkle or Two: Query: is there any type of misdirection that can be run out of an obvious bootleg? Another: when have you run too many end arounds? I ask because of a few strange calls the last few games. Twice there have been bootlegs called in unusual circumstances. And several end arounds were run without the usual passion. Is Paul Chryst building up false tendencies for Northwestern? We do know that Lance Kendricks would never throw the ball? Right?
Roses: It was interesting to watch the interaction of three Badger football teams; the 1960 Rose Bowl squad, the 2000 Rose Bowl squad and the current team. Members of the '60 team went up and down the Badger bench and thanked the players. After the 2000 team was introduced the current team led sustained applause for the two-time champs. What to make of it? Maybe not much, besides the coolness factor. It was still interesting to watch the defense salute the past team and then get right back to business kicking Michigan. One more aspect of the party.
Seniors: Elijah Theus took his playing time seriously at the end of Saturday's game. The senior flanker was tenacious with his blocks as the Badgers salted away the victory. Nate Emmanuel made the field on Special Teams and was looking to make a big hit but nothing suitable came his way. The all-in determination was also seen in William Hartmann. Will made a big tackle at the end of the game and came away with a broken arm. We'll need his replacement on Special Teams to be ready for Northwestern.
Freshmen: Perhaps we are expecting too much from Kraig Appleton. Kraig has two solid starters in front of him and it is rare for a freshman to crack any lineup. But know this: his talent is being developed. His routes are well run and he is a tenacious blocker.
Chris Borland is no longer taking teams by surprise. They are setting traps for him on Special Teams and trying to isolated him by throwing to running backs.
Safety School: The UW coaching staff seems not to know what to do with Aaron Henry. His physical make up is that of a natural corner back. I don't have high hopes for the move to safety for Henry.
Blocking Down: Senior Jeff Stehle played his best game as a Badger. He drew doubles, shed blocks and in general disrupted the Michigan game. Jeff never got much pressure up the middle, but as a run stopper he controlled his gap assignments all day.
Time to Go: Referee Bill Lemonnier thought it was time to go have a cold beer when Rodriquez called his third time out as the fourth quarter expired. At least that was what he preferred to talk about during the stoppage in play. When Lemonnier is at the game, you know you will get professional result. He is one of the better referees in the Big Ten Conference.
Even Rome Fell: One last thought on Michigan. The prospect of Michigan becoming an average Big Ten team must be an alluring one for Badger fans. A significant portion of its recruiting base has worn away as jobs and population have left Detroit and Michigan in general. Remember that Minnesota was once a national football power. But things change. How sweet for living Badger fans if they were now living at the end of the Michigan football empire.