Appalachian State 34, Michigan 32

Why does Lloyd Carr still have that job? Coach Carr is not entirely to blame. But I believe he may have blinked. In this game, you cannot blink. You have to be like Rachel Nichols. Even while Carr was mulling retirement with the mullahs, he surely notified his charges that their opponent was capable of tremendous things on offense. Michigan’s players (at least some of them) were well aware of the quality of their opponent. It didn’t matter.

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I can only thank my lucky stars that NONE of my best friends (or worst enemies) are alums of Notre Dame or Ohio State. I feel for the Blue alums who will have to sift through hundreds of e-mails and text messages expressing pure delight at this latest debacle. Michigan football has suffered three of the worst defeats in school history. The Wolverines could not get over the hump against Ohio State and were dismantled in the Rose Bowl by USC. Michigan entered that game ranked as the number 3 team in the nation and returned key offensive starters this season. Lamar Woodley, David Harris and Leon Hall all headed to the NFL, but the cupboard was not supposed to be bare on defense, either.

This season Michigan was ranked #5. I believe that means the team is supposed to be decent. I believe it means they are supposed to compete for a national championship. I believe that’s why Michael Hart is not a Green Bay Packer or Houston Texan or something. I believe it’s why Jake Long and Mario Manningham are still in school. I’ve never been involved in a similar flame out, but it must be overwhelming for the Michigan seniors who chose to forego the NFL to realize that this season is strictly about classes and old girlfriends. The season is over unless this team can do one thing: Destroy everything in its path.

It’s hard to play with sustained anger, but I don’t see how this team EVER escapes the gravity of this loss. One of my old roommates gave up the Hail Mary touchdown to Michael Westbrook thrown by Kordell Stewart. That was years ago, but I imagine he sees that play in his mind’s eye just about every day. I remember Michigan leading Colorado 26-14 and thinking, “This isn’t going to end well.” It didn’t end well. Stewart unleashed a bomb and his receiver managed to get behind the defense and walk into history.

I didn’t see the game today. Thankfully, I was in the park with my twins. Those babies are worth their weight in gold. The highlights, however, reveal that Appalachian State deserves a great deal of credit for being a winning team with confidence, talent and a game plan. Hats off to the team that deserved to win. On a certain level, I am happy for the players of this school. Underdogs deserve a little love. Armanti Edwards, QB, deserves some love. Division I-AA deserves some love – even it the division has been phased out.

Today’s defeat, however, has been so profound and shocking that I have been totally unable to enjoy Notre Dame’s worst-ever season opening loss at the hands of Georgia Tech. Last year, I predicted the Irish would have big, big trouble this season. I thought they’d lose anywhere from 7 to 8 games. I certainly had no such predictions for Michigan. While I don’t put much stock in preseason rankings, I thought Michigan would be able to defeat all but the best teams in the land. I don’t believe Michigan (even on their best days) can play with the USC’s and LSU’s because the lack the overall team speed. Still, I thought they would certainly have enough to beat Wisconsin and Ohio State. They still might have enough.

If those players are to ever get the taste of this loss out of their mouths (not likely), they cannot simply win the Big Ten and beat Wisconsin and Ohio State. They need to win those games by 50 or 60 points each. They need to dig deep and pull an old Oklahoma-Baylor (like 75-0). If Michigan is unable to do that (and they’ll probably lose to Oregon), this will have to be the worst season in team history.

Michigan won’t fire Lloyd Carr this week. He may not make it through the season. There has always been discomfort in Ann Arbor with Coach Carr. Surely the decibels will kick up a smidge this week. The administration, however, has tended not to care. Perhaps that is the best way to maintain calm. Perhaps that was a reflection of their desire to retain one of Coach Schembechler’s guys. But here’s the problem: Bo is walking down State Street right now and he’s looking for Lloyd.

Carr has lost 4 straight bowl games and 5 of the last 6 vs. Ohio State. That is the job – beat Ohio State, win the Big 10, play and win your bowl game, recruit – repeat. Every other facet of the Michigan football coaching job is secondary to these primary objectives. One can say that Coach Carr shows up for his job, but one cannot say that Coach Carr is actually doing his job. He has won a national championship with a team led by Charles Woodson and Brian Griese (both long-haired NFL veterans). He has placed players in the NFL on a consistent basis, though Ohio State has sent significantly more players over the past few years. The defense continues to be an area of concern. Last year Alan Branch was the first interior defensive lineman at Michigan to get any love from national sportswriters or the NFL in decades.

It seems to me that if you cannot win bowl games, cannot beat Ohio State and fall in the single greatest upset in the history of college football, it is now time to consider selling insurance. It’s time to consider spending more time with the grand children. It might even be time to work on your stamp collection. It is NOT the time to think about 2008 or loving the Big House or recruiting or walking the sidelines beyond this year. It’s time to move on.

On Friday, Lloyd Carr said:

“Always, from the time I was old enough to pick up a ball, sports was EVERYTHING to me,” Carr said. “The center of my life was sport, so long as I was involved in it, I loved what I was doing.

“The next thing you know, here I am, 62 years old.”

On Sunday, he may being saying something else. The writing may already be on the wall (from http://www.mlive.com):

“Every year is Lloyd’s last year, I guess,” Hart joked. “If it is, we want to send him out the right way. If I were a coach, I’d want one more great year. You don’t want to go out on a losing streak, losing to Ohio State and losing the bowl game. You want to go out on top.”

Neither Hart, Long nor Henne will say they believe for sure that Carr will be back next season.

“Whatever happens, happens,” Long said.

Carr – who has been asked about retirement repeatedly in August – won’t say either way, which is a rarity in a sport where coaches fret over the recruiting implications of any job-related uncertainty. The one piece of solid evidence he’s at least considering retirement is a change in his contract made last December.

A clause had previously said Carr would collect a $300,000 bonus if he were Michigan’s football coach on July 1, 2008. After the change, he can receive the money if he’s employed by Michigan in any capacity.

One comment

  1. I agree Carr isn’t entirely to blame, but this is a colossal upset. To lose at home when you are #5 in the country in a game where you shoud have crushed Appalachian State…props go out to App State. I’ve gotta blame the Michigan Players a good bit on this one, Carr can’t play the game for them- they got out hustled, too much oversight.

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