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Gabe Edelson: Uniforms to blame for Varsity's woes

BY GABE EDELSON: HONEST GABE

Published December 13, 2005

Lloyd Carr has repeatedly called this year's squad the most "unlucky" team he's ever coached, largely because of the rash of injuries. Carr fought for extra time to be put on the clock against Penn State, allowing Henne to toss the game-winning touchdown pass to Mario Manningham with one second left. Moreover, the Wolverines' coach motivated his players every week and made sure his team never took opponents lightly. Offensive coordinator Terry Malone gave his unit a lift by moving down to the field from his customary position in the press box for the Michigan State game. Malone incorporated more successful trick plays into the offensive attack and wasn't afraid to call the deep pass. Defensive coordinator Jim Herrmann adapted to the spread offenses that torched his group a year ago by frequently using formations with five defensive backs. Herrmann's unit even shut out offensive powerhouse Northwestern for an entire half. Michigan State was the only team to score 30 points against the Wolverines, and Michigan won that game. That should exempt the coaches from criticism. They get bonus points because they didn't actually have to wear those cursed new uniforms.

6. You can't blame the defense.

The play on the defensive line was solid for most of the year, and the secondary was surprisingly good, despite concerns heading into the season. Even when Michigan's projected fourth- and fifth-string safeties started against Penn State, the Wolverines held the Nittany Lions without a passing touchdown for the entire game. Quite a nice recovery after losing All-Americans Marlin Jackson and Ernest Shazor after last season. Plus, LaMarr Woodley was dominant when healthy. And is it really the defense's responsibility for allowing those late scores? Shouldn't the offense also be faulted for putting the defense in that position? Maybe the Wolverines should have scored more touchdowns. The defenders shouldn't bear the brunt of the critics' enmity.

All this leaves us with one possible explanation: the team's new uniforms. Did removing the block 'M's from the shoulders of the road jerseys rip out the heart of each and every Michigan player? Could the new light-weight, stretchy material - which replaced the heavier traditional mesh - have minimized the legacy of the Wolverines' storied history in the eyes of their opponents? Is it possible that the hideous yellow piping drew the ire - and laughter - of foes? And what about the stitched-on names and numbers? Did they add a hint of authenticity in place of the older silk-screened characters, or did they make the players feel like a patchwork collection of athletes?

We'll never know all the answers, but new duds can certainly affect on-field performance. Consider the Denver Broncos: After they lost their first four Super Bowls while wearing their famed bright orange jerseys, the team unveiled a sleek, new look to kick off the 1997 campaign. The result? The Broncos dethroned the Green Bay Packers to win their first-ever Super Bowl that same year.

Coincidence?

I think not.

 

Gabe Edelson can be reached at gedelson@umich.edu.