Last we saw Chase Winovich, he was parading off the field in East Lansing, calling Michigan State little brother after a win over the Spartans.
“On one hand, it’s like I’m moving on from it,” the fifth-year senior defensive end said on Monday.
But it’s Chase Winovich, so, naturally, there’s another hand.
“But on the other hand, it’s like — which, I still am moving on from it, distancing myself from it — but it’s like, in my eyes, I didn’t start the fight. … For them, they called us Little Sister in the summer. They came there and tried the antics with the helmet, you guys know how that went. From there, they wanted us to take the low road, maybe I took the bait. But like I said, I don’t mean any harm from it. I’m just having fun.”
Then a pause.
“I’m moving on. I’m focusing on Penn State now.”
The bye week has done little to quell Winovich’s self-proclaimed “revenge tour” or its gregarious torch-bearer. It’s a phrase Winovich coined in the offseason while reflecting on a disappointing 8-5 season a year ago, one in which he felt other teams, “were kind of bullying” Michigan.
It’s undoubtedly about avenging losses to Wisconsin, Michigan State, Penn State and Ohio State. But it’s also, more broadly, Winovich says, “an attitude.”
“They kind of took advantage of, we were kind of in an in-between year,” Winovich said. “Something about that gave a bad taste in my mouth. I knew, me personally, I wanted our lunch money back, and I wanted them to pay interest.”
Perhaps no one bullied the 2017 Wolverines team worse than Penn State did, marching its way to a 42-13 win at night in Happy Valley. Michigan allowed over 500 total yards in the rout.
That demolition started when running back Saquon Barkley galloped to a 69-yard touchdown less than a minute into the game and ended with Penn State snapping the ball near the goal line in an attempt to add yet another touchdown to extend the lead to 37 points with mere seconds remaining.
Players regarded the latter play as a slight. This week, Winovich and Michigan want that “interest.”
“(That game) lingers with us every day,” Winovich said. “It lingered with us in winter conditioning. Obviously, we don’t like what they tried to do at the end of the game; they tried to score that touchdown again.”
Defensive coordinator Don Brown echoed a similar senitment last Monday night on the Inside Michigan Football radio show.
“I wake up every morning and think about (that game),” Brown said. “Honest.”
Added Winovich: “I’d say (Brown) is definitely a little bit more amped up this week than he’s been, and that’s saying something.”
But just as this isn’t that Michigan team, this season’s Nittany Lions team is not the same.
The fifth-ranked Wolverines opened up in most sportsbooks as a double-digit favorite. They are riding a seven-game winning streak with legitimate College Football Playoff aspirations in sight. The 14th-ranked Nittany Lions have two last-minute losses to Ohio State and Michigan State and are all but eliminated from title talks.
Win Saturday and Michigan can start to peer ahead at a potential de facto playoff game in Columbus in three weeks. It would have three of four legs on the “revenge tour” checked off.
Lose Saturday and much of that flies out of the window.
“The wins are definitely more satisfying,” Winovich said. “Just seeing our transition from last year’s team to this year’s team, and how much growth we’ve had. It’s a really cool thing to see.”
And for Winovich, each passing Saturday carries more and more meaning. He came back to play his fifth season at Michigan to be in this very position. It’s all right there as he envisioned it.
“For me personally, it’s like I can look up and I’ve got eight quarters left in the Big House, and my time is coming to an end here,” he said. “And it’s very special to me to see Michigan in a position where, if I leave it, and we do big things here hopefully, it’s just leaving on a great note.”