U-M and Eastern Michigan renew their heated rivalry Saturday with the Wolverines hopeful to extend their winning streak over the Eagles (formerly Normalites, formerly Hurons) to eight games. But truth be told, the streak nearly ended at seven two years ago when the Wolverines were alleged to have used an ineligible player.
Kicker James Bloomsburgh's right toenail was determined to be 1/16th of an inch too long when he kicked the field goal that made it 41-0 early in the third quarter of Michigan's 55-0 blowout win. Head coach Lloyd Carr was stunned when he learned of the error … even more so when he learned he'd have to go before TV's Judge Greg Mathis, an Eastern Michigan grad, to plead his case in front of dozens of viewers locally.
Here's a partial transcript:
Carr: "Your honor, as I've said … you're not antagonizing me, but I have no comment on this issue.
Mathis: "Coach Carr, might I remind you – this is a court of law, not a press conference.
Carr: "Oh … right." (sighs … "just tremendous")
"In that case your honor, I'll say this. Was James' toenail too long? I really won't know until tomorrow, when I check with [trainer] Paul Schmidt. But honestly, [sports information director] Jim Schneider is the one responsible for reporting toenail lengths from week to week. The truth is, this is not a game of perfect. We all make mistakes … even our SIDs. We hope … hope … that you'll see this was an honest error and do the right thing.
"Hope springs eternal."
All's well that ends well, and after weighing the evidence – most provided, ironically, by testimony from members of the Penn State coaching staff, which had secretly been keeping toenail records on U-M's walk-on kickers for years – Mathis determined that nothing but an inspired Michigan performance against a team with such a lousy offense that it couldn't score a measly touchdown if it started 10 drives in the red zone was responsible for the victory.
And somewhere outside of Happy Valley in Marsh Creek, Pa., a wail … NOOOOOOOOOOOOO! … pierces the evening sky as the clock chimes for midnight …
Congratulations to last week's winner(s) – this week's receives an autographed copy of Judge Mathis' book and a pair of Eagles Eyes Sunglasses (formerly known as "Normalites", as seen on TV – developed by NASA scientists!).
This week's picks:
Chris Balas: Trying to figure out this Michigan team is like attempting to guess how many tackles Mike Hart will have to break to get his 3.5 yards behind left tackle (four? Five? Six?). On paper, this one should be a blowout … but we're talking about a spread offense against a team that's struggled to get up for lesser opponents in the last few years … and one with an offensive line being held together by scotch tape and a paper clip.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me six or seven times …
Michigan 35, Eastern Michigan 18
John Borton: This time around, the kick is good.
Michigan 35, Eastern Michigan 34
Michael Spath: Eastern Michigan runs a spread similar to Northwestern after coach Jeff Genyk migrated from Evanston to Ypsilanti four years ago. The Eagles have an athletic quarterback. So why am I not sweating this one? Two words – Eastern Michigan. Fans should finally get to kick back, relax in the fourth quarter and dream about the future as a number of young players receive their first extended minutes of the season in the second half. But then again, that was the plan for Appalachian State too … yikes.
Michigan 42, Eastern Michigan 10
Josh Helmholdt: It's the once-every-few-years-to-earn-some-money-for-the-EMU-Athletic-Department "Border Battle" and the anticipation could not be any less palpable. Ypsilantians and Ann Arborites are not glaring at each other in the grocery aisles at Kroger. In fact, they're unusually cordial this week. Holding this game every few years is just the neighborly thing to do.
Michigan 38, Eastern Michigan 20
Matt Pargoff: The funny thing is, if Michigan wins this game 35-0, there won't be much complaining. But if Michigan wins it 35-28, fans everywhere will unite in their hatred of offensive coordinator Mike DeBord, questioning why he didn't score more points.
These are crazy times we live in, aren't they?
I expect to see an ugly game with the Wolverines pulling away in the second half. I'm not sure who will be to blame though. Maybe John Navarre..
Michigan 42, Eastern Michigan 21