September 16, 2013

Borton's Blog: Hot finishes

Taylor Lewan obviously didn't set out to make any top-five list with his scorching post-game comments regarding Michigan's preparation and execution in the Zips-line to near disaster on Saturday. Nevertheless, the fifth-year senior made his mark.

Michigan's burly blocker with the strategically surly disposition didn't have to fake anything in the post-game palaver regarding Akron. He was hotter than a Death Valley marathoner in a fur coat, and let everybody within earshot know it.

If he still owned his now-resettled pig, it might be bacon. At the very least, he'd have let the little oinker know he was embarrassed by it and everything else on Saturday night. Anyway, Lewan's post-game rant could help drive the Wolverines on to better preparation in the days ahead.

At the very least, it makes the Top-Five list of most memorable frustrated meltdowns in a Michigan post-game session since the start of the 1991 season. And here, in descending order, are the best outbursts (and one silent treatment) in the past two decades-plus.

5. 2003, Iowa 30, Michigan 27 - The Wolverines lost a mistake-filled contest in which there were special teams collapses, defensive letdowns and just enough missed opportunities to torpedo an eventual Big Ten championship team in Iowa City.

This one actually featured a two-pronged locker room barrage. The normally soft-spoke Jason Avant, who enjoyed a huge offensive game, repeatedly offered the assessment that: "We sucked." Any question, phrased in any fashion, encountered a clipped answer that started (and mostly ended) with that concise observation.

On the other side of the locker room, veteran running back Chris Perry dismissively waved off the notion that head coach Lloyd Carr lost this one for the Wolverines.

"He doesn't play the game," Perry spat. "He doesn't play. He doesn't step on the field at all. So for him to blame himself for the loss … no. We lost the game. No. He doesn't play a snap. I haven't seen him out there in pads yet."

4. 1998, Syracuse 38, Michigan 28 - The game wasn't nearly that close, Syracuse's Donovan McNabb running away from the Michigan defense whether in both shoes or just one. A program just months removed from a national championship had begun the year 0-2, and its head coach wasn't smiling.

Carr used to make players look up a word in his dictionary before entering his office. Whether or not they were forced to decipher the meaning of "abhorrent" the following week is not known, but Carr pointed directly at himself in pointed post-game remarks.

"We're a poorly coached football team, which is a reflection on me," Carr grumbled. "I don't know how good we can be."

His mentor tossed another log on the fire, Bo Schembechler noting: "I don't know where we are defensively. I didn't see anything that gives much hope for the future."

Well, the hope lay in hitting the Big Ten season, and holding six straight opponents to 10 points or fewer on the way to a shared Big Ten championship. Regardless, Carr probably still flinches a bit upon seeing McNabb clips.

3. 2013, Michigan 28, Akron 24 - This one broke the mold by coming after a victory, but Lewan made it more than memorable with his sizzling assessment.

"This is embarrassing for the University of Michigan football team," Lewan fumed. "I've said it three times. Yeah, we won the game. We're 3-0. That's great. It was embarrassing. It was embarrassing."

He said it more times before he was finished.

"We didn't prepare as a team," he raged. "That's truly embarrassing for Michigan that we came out like that. It's not fair to the fans. It's not fair to the people that are associated with this program. It's not fair to the freshmen on this team that aren't playing. This is the seniors' fault. This is the captains' fault. We will not come out like this again."

2. 1992, Michigan 13, Ohio State 13 - Gary Moeller was flat-out seething. He wore ties when he had to, but he wasn't crazy about them. And he'd just seen the third of the season knotted around his neck in Columbus.

Arguably, his best team, an undefeated one, had tied Notre Dame, 17-17, a phantom pass interference call on Ty Law paving the way. It had self-destructed with a double-digit fumbles game a week earlier in a 22-22 tie at home with Illinois.

And now this. The Wolverines were fit to be tied again, with starting quarterback Elvis Grbac knocked from the game after only two throws, and running back Tyrone Wheatley's speed negated by mysteriously ankle-length, sodden grass in The Snakepit.

And yes … Moeller noticed.

"You can't stand up on that field," he barked. "That's the biggest joke in the world. I mean, it's a joke. It's like playing on an ice rink - for both sides."

What he refrained from adding was the fact that only one side possessed a Wheatley. But he knew.

1. 1996, Northwestern 17, Michigan 16 - Carr wasn't in any mood for conversation anyway. The Wildcats had slipped by the Wolverines for a second straight season, delivering the first loss to a talent-laden crew.

He made his way to a makeshift press conference under the girders in Evanston, sized up the infuriating phalanx of potential questioners, and uttered with extra emphasis his typical post-game invitation to inquiry.

QUESTIONS?!

A pause intervened, a mere beat, as the pen and pad crowd didn't instantly pounce. With an okay, then look, Carr made his way back to the locker room, and reporters made what they could of an ugly afternoon without his input.

The good news? In three of the four non-Lewan post-game meltdowns, the Wolverines were on their way to at least a share of the Big Ten title. Only the next two months will reveal if that pattern holds.


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