Thousands of hopefuls infiltrated the sacred stands of the Big House this past weekend—some in maize, some in white.
The traditional Michigan tailgate was back in action after a month-long hiatus of on-the-road contests and a “blow over” matchup that left the usually chaotic State & Hoover intersection virtually vacant.
Penn State students and fans are renowned for their group-oriented, massive tailgate scene, but it is safe to say the Michigan fanbase gave the Nittany allegiant a run for their money. There was incredible hype for this game, and a chance that the Wolverines could very well upset a powerful Penn State team.
Such pre-game sentiments were sorely overestimated within minutes of the first quarter. After a solid opening drive, the Wolverines succumbed to a merciless Penn State defense, and a team that made the young, inexperienced Michigan players appear just that. For once, the Wolverines acted their age.
Not to say that mistakes and misjudged plays have been made in the past—that much is certain. But Penn State virtually shut down the passing game. Michigan quarterback Tate Forcier completed only 13 of 30 passes, and was sacked numerous times.
Forcier was not the only player to make mistakes. After all, this is a team effort. The team committed several dropped passes, fumbles, misreads, and freshman-like errors. Execution was subpar, the defensive secondary was worse than usual, and the running game was virtually nonexistent.
From a student standpoint, the Big House was undoubtedly much quieter after a promising opening drive by Brandon Minor. The Wolverines accumulated only three more points the rest of the game. As difficult as it seemed for the Wolverines to gain yards, it was equally as challenging to maintain high spirits and galvanize an outplayed Wolverine squad from the stands. Not surprisingly, many students began to trickle out of the stadium early in the fourth quarter.
Later that evening, a large fire erupted on the primary undergraduate restaurant, shopping, and bar locale of South University. Although an unfortunate occurrence, it seemed to emulate low spirits after the game.
The blaze completely gutted the old Pinball Pete’s, a well-known Ann Arbor landmark that has not been occupied since 2001, but Ann Arbor fire officials suspect arson. The fire also forced nearby evacuations, most conspicuously the high-rise University Towers, which are home to hundreds of University of Michigan students.
Hundreds of student spectators witnessed the numerous fire vehicles, personnel, and police squads fight the blaze, escort students from the adjoining U-Towers, and block off the main strip. No one was injured, and the only damage was to the old Pinball Pete’s building, as well as some water and smoke damage to a few neighboring apartments.
Students were concerned, but once everything appeared under control, tension eased, and the crowds began to disperse. After a disheartening afternoon in the Big House, the fire was a welcomed change of topic, and a chance for students to forget the Penn State game for the evening.
But once the week began, the 5-3 record and anticipations for the upcoming weekend were again the hot topic of discussion (no pun intended). Problem areas and changes that would yield results (i.e. wins) for the Wolverines were frequently brought up. The team must move the ball. Many students claim that the Wolverines should rely upon the running game in order to utilize the go-to senior running backs—namely Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown.
Every matchup is a must-win this season for the Maize and Blue—but after a difficult Penn State blow-out, both players and fans are especially cognizant of this sentiment. The next two games will determine whether a 7-5 season is possible; tomorrow in Champaign, Illinois, and the next in the Big House against the Boilermakers.
It was a blessing that no one was injured in the suspicious blaze on South University. With any luck, the Wolverines will achieve a 7-3 record after the next two matchups. I am confident that this team will bounce back. The flame may have dwindled, but it’s not out yet.