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November 24, 2014 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2014-11-24

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2B - November 24, 2014

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

SPORTSMONDAY COLUMN
The saddest part ofMichigan's season

Apologies for ruining
everyone's day, but the
Michigan football team is
playing this weekend at Ohio
State.
This week, you'll hear about
how the
rivalry is
still going to
be exciting
and that the
Wolverines
won't
quit. You
might read GREG
about how GARNO
Michigan,
after losing
on Saturday to fall to 5-6, can .
still pull off the upset.
And if you're reading
anything else about "The
Game" this weekend, you
should understand this is the
bigger point that matters:
This year's game doesn't mean
anything.
Isn't it sad this weekend
doesn't have the meaning it's
supposed to have?
The rivalry is entertaining,
long-standing and full of great
moments between traditionally
successful teams. It's about
Woody vs. Bo, David Boston vs.
Charles Woodson and No. 1 vs.
No. 2.
It's about both teams having
a chance to elevate their
seasons regardless of their
records.
But a win can't salvage the
Wolverines' season, one filled
with one embarrassment on
top of another. It can't salvage
Brady Hoke's job - even if the
current athletic director says
he'll evaluate the position at
the end of the season. It can't
even salvage the meaning in
the rivalry itself, which isn't
much of one given that the
Buckeyes have won 10 of the
last 12.
Just last year, down to the
very last second, Michigan
nearly pulled off the upset.

an Ohio State team loaded
with future NFL talent and
featuring a Heisman trophy
candidate, it only extends its
season for the Quicken Loans
Bowl.
Regardless of what happens,
this season will still be as
dreadful as it has been all 11
times Michigan has walked off
the field.
Ohio State has handled
much of its schedule with ease,
and it could win by the largest
margin all season against the
Wolverines. And isn't it sad
that wouldn't feel any worse
than any other blowout?
Many of you stayed out
in the rain, the cold and the
wind to watch Michigan fall
apart against Maryland. Do
you really want to spend your
weekend suffering through
the same experience? Do
you really want to spend
your holiday break suffering
through an unimportant bowl
game at the likelihood of
further embarrassment?
There's no doubt you'll still
watch and hope Michigan
wins, but losing Saturday
allows the Wolverines to
begin the rebuilding process.
Losing ends the season and
expedites the coaching search.
It saves recruits from leaving
and donors from closing
checkbooks.
Losing The Game would
allow Michigan, and you, to
move on.
And isn't that sad?
Garno can be reached
at ggarno@umich.edu and
on Twitter @GGarno.

4

FIL PHOTO/Daily
The Michigan football team has struggled so much this year that even a win over Ohio State wouldn't salvage the season. And even a close game is very unlikely.

There are plenty of insta
in this rivalry where the
underdog has played the
of spoiler. But
isn't it sad
that's what's
left to hope
for? "
The last JUS
time the oti
Wolverines
did win this
rivalry game,
it was against
a squad with
a freshman
quarterback and an inter
head coach. It was also t
years ago.
"It's a football game,a
it's played just like every
football game," said juni

inces linebacker Joe Bolden. "At the
end of the day, you're going to
role see who is better."
You already
know who the
better team
[t's played is, though.
You won't
t like every be further
~er oot all disappointed
her football when you'red
gam ." proven right.
game. That's
not even the
saddest part
of the state of
rim this rivalry.
hree The Game was built up
by referring to Ohio State as
and "Ohio," or omitting the M
'other in Michigan, but even that's
or wearing off. The Buckeyes'

biggest game this:
against Michigan:
weeks ago.
It's not much of
when it's skewed s
of one team. Ohio
20-point favorite t
and that
might be out
of generosity
for Michigan.
Both teams
are relevant,
but one more
for the wrong
reasons.
"They are
playing for a
lot, and we're
not - that's no sec
redshirt junior cen
Miller.

season came Even if they win, the
State three Wolverines will continue a
season with a head coach that
a rivalry needs to be fired, and it doesn't
o far in favor change the fact that they'll
State is a only prolong the coaching
his weekend, search that much longer.
Interim
Athletic
Director Jim
Hackett, out
playing for a copassion,
play~g IOTa wo't evaluate
lot, and the status of
Hoke until the
w e're not," season is over,
he said. And
isn't it sad
that's what
ret," said you're waiting for?
ater Jack If it does pull off the
improbable and does defeat

.
f k.
,.

GARDNER
From Page lB
passed the block 'M' at the
center of the field that he will
no longer play on, strolling
along in a group but seemingly
acknowledging nobody else.
It was a cold ending for
Gardner, one his teammates felt
none of the seniors deserved.
"You feel bad when guys can
stay four or five years at any
program of this caliber, but
Michigan in particular," Miller
said. "You're a tough guy, you
deserve alot.You feel bad when it
goes out that way."
Gardner's final play at

Michigan Stadium was on
Michigan's own 49-yard line.
It was fourth down with three
yards to go. The Wolverines
were down by seven points, and
Gardner had one final chance
to make his final moments the
stadium ones to remember.
But it was not to be. Gardner
dropped back to pass and threw
a ball that hit junior wide
receiver Devin Funchess in
the hands. Some fans wanted
a pass interference call. The
defender may have made contact
with Funchess, but that was
irrelevant. The ball dropped to
the ground; a yellow flag did not.
After the game, Michigan
coach Brady Hoke said it was the
first time his quarterback was

fully healthy in about five weeks.
Gardner scrambled for 82 yards
- his highest total of the season
- on 14 attempts. He completed
13 of his 24 pass attempts for 106
yards.
Gardner battled drops by
his wide receivers, inaccurate
throws and bad luck. Sometimes,
it was a combination of all three.
Gardner's 14th interception of the
season - his only one Saturday -
was thrown a bit wide of redshirt
sophomore wide receiver Bo
Dever. It bounced off his hands
and into those of Maryland
cornerback William Likely.
Then too, all Gardner could do
was watch.
In the locker room after
the game, Hoke expressed his

disappointment for his seniors
and how proud he was of his
team. Like Hoke says every
week, they've each dealt with
adversity.
Gardner's dealt with more
than most. He's been benched
and promoted again, been
injured and played through it,
heard criticism from fans and
faced it.
But when he walked through
the Michigan Stadium tunnel
one last time, it was all over.
And he still couldn't do
anything about it.

WOM EN'S CR OSS CO UN TRY
'M'fi~r*nishes 18th
at NAAChamp.
By CHRIS CROWDER Brook Handler was one of these
Daily Sports Writer runners, vying for a spot in the
top 40 but falling short, finishing
The Michigan women's cross 89th.
country team opened the season Last year, the Wolverines
ranked No. 1 and held that spot finished fourth at the National
until Oct. 18 at the NCAA Pre- Championship. Three months
Nationals. An 18th-place finish ago, the team saw themselves
in 'the NCAA Championship performing better than fourth.
wasn't expected after its But they could not, of course,
preseason and midseason foresee injuries.
projections. But championships This year's National
aren't won on day one. Championship teetered toward
What happened between disappointment.
then and now "We wanted
was out of the to send the
team's control. "I wish I had seniors off
Michigan on a higher
went into a couple more note, and I'm
the National disappointed
Championship healthy athletes." that we
without its weren't able
top-two to do that,"

ENOUGH
From Page 1B
for the Butkus Award. It has a
fearsome defensive line.
Yet that loaded offense
couldn't score more than one
touchdown against Maryland,
and the toughened defense
couldn't stop the Terrapins when
it mattered most.
Enough.
The Wolverines made most
of the right plays Saturday. In
the second half, they returned a
punt for a touchdown, and they
later stuffed Maryland in the red
zone. But both times, the success
was ruined by mistakes - a block
in the back and a roughing-the-

kicker penalty, respectively.
That resulted in Michigan,
down by seven with only one
timeout remaining, needing a
touchdown to force overtime.
Instead, Funchess failed to catch
a pair of would-be first downs,
and the Wolverines turned the
ball over. They never got it back.
Enough.
The Wolverines pay Brady
Hoke and Co. plenty to lead the
program. Hoke is earning $2.3
million this year. Offensive coor-
dinator Doug Nussmeier has a
three-year, $2.57 million deal.
Yet on first-and-goal in the
second quarter, with Funch-
ess one-on-one to the outside,
Michigan ran it up the gut twice
- once with Gardner, who was

swarmed by four defenders -
and then gave upa sack on third-
and-long.
And then the Wolverines
burned two timeouts in the third
quarter, limiting their chances
at a comeback as they fought for
one in the fourth.
Enough.
Saturday marked a third
defeat in five tries against Power
5 opponents at home. It marked
another example of rival pro-
grams headed in different direc-
tions: Ohio State 42, Indiana 27;
Michigan State 45, Rutgers 3;
Maryland 23, Michigan 16.
It marked Ezekiel Elliott, a
Buckeyes running back, saying
they're "about to grind really
hard this week so we can come

out and kick their ass," while
Drake Johnson, a Michigan run-
ning back, said, "I wouldn't say
it's the biggestgame of the year.
Maybe it is."
Enough.
Saturday marked the decom-
mitment of Mike Weber, once
a Michigan lock. It marked the
seventh top-150 prospect from
the 2015 class to rescind his ver-
bal to the Wolverines.
Enough is enough.
There's one game left, and
then, Mr. Hackett, it's your job
to evaluate the football program.
You know what to do.
Ztitiga can be reached
at azs@umich.edu and on
Twitter @ByAZuniga.
PETITION TO
HAVE CLASSES
CANCELED ON
WEDNESDAY.
AND TUESDAY.
AND TODAY.
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runners,
sophomore Erin Finn and junior
Shannon Osika, who were
instrumental in the Wolverines'
early-season success. Saturday's
race was another instance of the
Wolverines competing amidst
adversity.
"(Our season) is not what we
thought we were capable of at
the beginning of the season,"
said Michigan coach Mike
McGuire. "We had situations
with injuries and a couple of
other things that we didn't
foresee that put some challenges
into the equation."
Senior captain Megan
Weschler added that the injuries
and obstacles took away from
some of the team's fire.
"I think that the seven that
were out there showed a lot of
resiliency," McGuire said. "We
could've folded our cards and
finished 25th or 26th."
Without the whole team,
Michigan could only help
but feel indifferent about its
18th-place finish. Overall,
McGuire was proud of his team,
noting that some were a bit too
aggressive, but refusing to fault
their effort or finishes. Senior

McGuire said.
Weschler said that it was hard
to explain her feelings about her
last race as a Wolverine. But she
ends her career without any
regrets.
"Overcoming obstacles is
more important (than race
results), and that shows the
heart and strength on our team
as a whole," Weschler said.
McGuire's disappointment
was based upon the
circumstances under which his
team was competing. Without
the recent postseason obstacles,
the Wolverines could have
finished the season much better
than they did.
"I wish I had a couple more
healthy athletes," McGuire said
with a laugh.
While the Wolverines will
lose senior leadership and
talent, the top-two runners,
Osika and Finn, will be back
next year. And with McGuire
at the helm, it's tough to be
doubtful about the team's
future success.
But as Michigan learned
Saturday, a set of high
expectations won't get it, or
prepare it, for November.

I

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