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Michigan Loss: The Bruin Angle

Before I post my initial notes and thoughts on the BYU Cougars, I wanted to bring to your attention the dominant topic that has been exploding like fire crackers in every corner of the internets, talk radio, and television dealing with college football: Michigan's epic loss to Appalachian State. I believe there is a Bruin angle to this story.

Obviously, a lot of Michigan fans took the loss very hard and some of them are still trying to figure out how to deal with the embarrassment of losing to some non D-1 team.

One particular Michigan alum though - Joey at Straight Bangin' - whose writing I have highlighted here on BN in previous years, posted these thoughts, that I thought were very germane to what we often talk about wrt UCLA football program (and would have about our basketball program as well if we were around during the Lavin years). Here is Joey (emphasis mine throughout):

Supposedly, no one could have seen Saturday's loss to Appalachian State coming, but yet we all sort of did, some more readily than others. These sorts of things--the embarrassments, the mind-boggling stubbornness, the routine failure on the big stage, the inability to defend the spread, the suspect special teams, the bland and unimaginative offense, the recurring problems from year to year and class to class and coordinator to coordinator--are not new. They happen a lot. For instance, when Appalachian State players were quoted after the game as saying that they felt good about their chances because they'd studied film and knew Michigan's simple schemes, were there not flashbacks to so many losses previous? USC, alone, seems to know Michigan better than the Wolverines do, and they only study the film for bowl game. What do you think Jim Tressel says? Lloyd Carr has made these absurd realities as much a part of his legacy as he has that one miracle season which he will never duplicate. Ever. Lloyd Carr football has been timid, self-defeating, predictable, naive football, and Michigan fans need to demand more.

Yet for years, most Michigan fans have tried to shout down any polemicist who has tried to point out the cracks in the foundation. Mainstream writers like Jim Carty and Drew Sharp are ridiculed on message boards for their anti-Carr bias; bloggers are nattering nabobs of negativity who can be easily dismissed as fringe crackpots; and even casual fans who'd like more from a program than empty consolations are told to be realistic. What's unrealistic about job accountability? What's so wrong with wanting a football team that doesn't make you fear a collapse or gird for disappointment? Is there any powerhouse program that does less with more? That makes winning feel like losing so often? That is so vainglorious that it will happily adhere to its old-world tactics, training regiments, and public relations protocols while everything else changes around it? Lloyd Carr is the man who inherited this great institution of college football and has allowed for this steady decay. And he no longer even runs a clean program, so what is he doing all day aside from seeking out more sand in which he can bury his head?

The saddest part, though, and perhaps the most damning, is that this has all been countenanced by the fan base at large. No Michigan alumnus or fan--not me, not my friends, not other "haters" who speak out of frustration and not malice--wants to see the school compromise its values or elevate winning to a place that forces the University of Michigan to become Ohio State. But there is a long way in between that and the prevailing mindset now: led by Carr, a culture of inertia and acceptance of mediocrity has enveloped Michigan football. It's the reason that Carr can fail in predictable ways year after year without being held accountable or asked to make real changes. And it needs to end if Michigan is still serious about college football.

I certainly didn't envision Michigan losing to a team that isn't even eligible for the BCS, but Saturday's loss to Appalachian State was just a miserable capstone in the continued decline Lloyd Carr has presided over. Anyone who can't see that, or who wants to pretend that lost Rose Bowls mitigate these damages, needs to move to whatever alternate reality Lloyd Carr has found.
And I will pile this on from my SBN colleague Maize n Brew Dave:
Sadly, we've known for years this was coming. Michigan was the program destined to do something this stupid, this lamentable, this shocking. Whether in the Rose Bowl or playing in a game it should actually win, Michigan has always been the team on the edge of catastrophic failure. Lloyd, no matter how much I may respect and admire him as a person, really is as bad a coach as outsiders have mocked. What is worse, the men he has hired, specifically Ron English, have shown themselves to be just as recalcitrant and opposed to change as Carr himself.

The culture has gone from "Leaders and the Best" to "Cover Your Ass." It's not about being the Champions, it's about not losing the championship. Do just enough to win. Never more, often less. And it is Carr's players' penchant for mailing in efforts against teams it considers beneath them that has delivered Michigan its greatest humiliation.
I certainly hope 2-3 years from now we don't have to go back and look up those posts to formulate our thoughts on our football program if it craters like the Michigan team did on Saturday or Lavin's basketball team did four years ago.

The sad thing is given the incredible talent the Wolverines have on offense and given the mediocrity of the Big-10, I can still see this team rebounding from that horrific loss and end up having a 8-9 win season, which may just be enough to save Carr's job given what he has done at Ann Arbor.

Sounds familiar? It reminds me of having to suffer through Donahue football in his later years when he was being able to stick around despite being an all around horrific and uninspiring head coach because of the Rose Bowl victories he accumulated early in the season.

Anyways, that post reminded me of posts on UCLA message boards during the days after the UCLA basketball team lost to CSUN at Pauley.

I know we haven't reached our final verdict on Karl Dorrell. I know we have to wait for a while to get our answers on whether Dorrell can deliver a money season at UCLA, which he can use as a base to replicate successful seasons in the coming years.

What we do know is that many of us here may never have been coaches in our real lives, but at this point we are experienced enough after following and obsessing about our football and basketball programs on a day-to-day basis, to know whether they are well coached, well prepared to be successful on the short team and long term basis.

Currently, the data point doesn't favor Dorrell. And a blowout win over a pathetic Stanford team doesn't do much to change the big picture. Dorrell still has to put together a season in which his team plays like a well-coached and well-prepared team on a week-to-week basis, finally delivering at least a BCS bowl game in his fifth season. And, even if he does deliver a 10 win season, we will have to take very close look at how those 10 wins came, so that we don't allow it to be spun as a "successful" and "gratifying" season as the "10 win" season from 2 years ago in which desperate, come-from-behind wins against lesser teams, hid the deficiencies of a mediocre football team. And even if Dorrell delivers that "Show Me" Season, that doesn't mean he gets a pass for sliding back to mediocrity of his previous four seasons. He needs to bring it every year and if he doesn't he needs to hear from us.

In other words, we have to stay vigilant.

We can't get complacent after few cheap wins. It sounds like certain Michigan football fans are getting their due, despite seeing all the signs in years of timid, self-defeating, predictable, naive football. In that Michigan loss there are some prescient signs and valuable lessons for everyone who loves UCLA football. I wanted to make sure no one misses those signs when it comes to our football program in this particular Nation.