Michigan outlasts Ohio State, 40-34

… and does something neither of my sons have ever experienced: having to see their father (and grandfather) totally crushed after a Michigan loss. I hope, for their sake, they never have to see that again.

I guess you can’t win them all. As far as this blog is concerned, though, they almost did. They went toe-to-toe with a more experienced Michigan team, took every punch Michigan could muster and STILL had a chance at the end.

But as the season closes, we see there just wasn’t enough steam left. This team was battered by the media over and over before the season even lifted off. They had to see their coach resign admist a scandal that now sure looks a lot less severe than it did seven months ago. And they suffered through not playing with their best teammates. They fought when they could have folded.

In the end, it was just wasn’t enough.

Luke Fickell didn’t have enough time to become a head coach. It was clear that he was being groomed to be the heir apparent. Fickell is a Buckeye through-and-through and was being mentored by the best. But then he was thrust onto the throne, forced to take the keys of a kingdom he wasn’t ready for. It was clear he was not in total control of this team. From coaching gaffes (what happened on that third and six play when Miller killed the clock? Why did he save those time outs in Miami? Why didn’t he use them when Nebraska was running wild over his defense? Why did he wait so long to let Miller take over? Why wasn’t Ryan Shazier on the field until injury forced him out there?) that probably weren’t entirely his fault, it was evident he wasn’t pulling all the strings. His comments about his coaching staff proved as much. In the end, he wasn’t ready. His preparation wasn’t enough.

For a defense that had been so dominant at times, it wasn’t enough. Surely this defense, the same defense that shut down the mighty Wisconsin Badgers, would have little trouble shutting down the diminutive Denard Robinson. But they didn’t. Tackling fundamentals seemed to have been forgotten. Simon and Hankins had been neutralized. And for Ryan Shazier, a revelation on defense and certainly the x-factor in the “who can stop Robinson?” equation, didn’t have enough time on a healthy ankle.

The refs didn’t have enough yellow flags. They came out at a critical time at the end which sure made for an exciting game but there should have been more laundry on the ground in the first three quarters. This isn’t sour grapes. This is factual evidence I spied with my two little eyes.

And ultimately, Braxton Miller didn’t have enough reps. Didn’t have enough chances, in game situations, to figure out how to complete the long pass down the field. DeVier Posey didn’t have enough time to build that relationship with Miller. How quickly this game changes if those passes are completed. This loss is not Miller’s fault. His heroics will not be forgotten. He should have been afforded more chances during the season. The ones he had weren’t enough.

Many of these issues were season long, not limited to the fourth quarter against Michigan, down six points. But the culmination of this season peaked in those final minutes. And ended in the only way it could — a six win, six loss season. Five of those losses by less than a touchdown. With Tressel, those close ones go our way. With Fickell, they didn’t. The Buckeyes were never at “full strength” — starting with the loss of Nathan Williams and continuing through the suspensions of Herron, Adams and Posey. There simply wasn’t enough time.

And now we look to the future. SYR and I had a chat this morning about how we have never been so excited about anything after a crushing loss to Michigan. A new coach has been hired*. New recruits are flying in. There is a young, extremely promising quarterback. There are multiple young, promising defensive players. All have passed through a baptism by fire and will be primed for a strong run in the coming seasons.

And this time, there will be enough.

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