Last Sunday in the Michigan football full-team meeting room,
Lloyd Carr addressed his players, just six days away from the
biggest game of their lives.
Usually, at this particular weekly meeting, Carr asks his team,
“Men, are you in or are you out?”
But this week, with the Big Ten title and a grip on the
Michigan-Ohio State rivalry hanging in the balance, Carr thought
he’d mix it up a bit.
“Men, I know you’re in, but it won’t be enough
to be in. You have to be on,” he said to an eager bunch of
I’m in! I’m on! became Michigan’s team
motto going into its titanic clash with the Buckeyes. The
Wolverines wore rubber bands with their new mantra inscribed.
I’m in! I’m on! — it’s really not
that catchy, but boy did it work.
It makes sense, too.
The Wolverines are always in — they wouldn’t be
playing football at Michigan if they weren’t. This entire
season, even in losses at Oregon and Iowa, I never got the feeling
this team wasn’t giving its collective all.
But the Wolverines were clearly off, especially on special
teams. The offense and defense were on at times, off at times. On
means being disciplined and focused. At least that’s what my
I credit Carr for recognizing that it wasn’t enough for
his team to be in, no matter how talented the Wolverines are.
In their 35-21 win over the Buckeyes, the Wolverines were on.
They turned the ball over just once. Tailback Chris Perry
didn’t even hint at fumbling. The punt coverage was
spectacular, as punter Adam Finley pinned the Buckeyes inside their
20-yard line four times out of six punts. The Wolverines gave up
just one punt return for three yards and didn’t let Ohio
State’s kick returners get loose one time.
Some would say Carr made sure his team was on this week because
his job as Michigan’s head coach was in jeopardy.
Lloyd Carr’s job is safe. If you don’t think so,
your name definitely isn’t Bill Martin or Bo
I think it’s time we all get used to Carr (career record
of 86-25), at least until he decides to hang up the headset.
That goes for all the fans that have e-mailed me this year
ranting about how Carr should be fired. It goes for the fan that
sent me a letter about all the reasons Martin should fire Carr with
the message “please forward to athletic director”
attached to it.
Yeah, I’ll be sure and get that right to Martin’s
As much as the Michigan players, particularly the seniors,
deserve credit for turning their season around, Carr is the captain
of the ship. If he and his coaching staff did not have the
mentality of being on for the last six games (Michigan is 6-0 since
losing at Iowa), there’s no way the team could have done the
For the first time in four years, when Michigan players threw
out the cliché “we’re just taking it one game at
a time,” I actually believed them. As lame as it sounds, that
renewed focus each week is what it takes to win a major conference.
If you relax for one week of practice, you lose.
Motivating players is one of Carr’s main duties as head
coach. He has defensive coordinator Jim Herrmann and offensive
coordinator Terry Malone, as well as all the position coaches, to
help him with X’s and O’s. He’s been criticized
for not being a players’ coach.
“I definitely disagree,” fifth-year center Dave
Pearson said. “He’s a great players coach. He keeps us
motivated, and he’s a fun guy to be around. You want to play
well for him. Because of all he puts into it, you want to win for
Yeah, I know — no Michigan player in his right mind would
criticize Carr with a recorder in his face. But they also
wouldn’t sign away three to five years of their lives to him
if they didn’t believe in him.
“He’s just a special guy,” sophomore Tim
Massaquoi said. “I see him every day when I come to practice
and he looks at me, and I’m glad I came here.
“The first day I met him, I knew he was somebody I could
In two years covering this team, I’ve seen Michigan win 20
games. I’ve begun to trust, above all else, that Carr will
never let this program take a nosedive like other major programs
have taken the past decade. He’ll never allow his teams to be
off every other Saturday.
I’m in! I’m on! is the right mentality for
every game, not just big games like Saturday’s against the
Buckeyes. Is that an unreasonable thing to expect? It
shouldn’t be at Michigan.
Michigan junior linebacker Scott McClintock said I’m in!
I’m on! meant “everybody on the team is doing
everything they can to beat Ohio State — basically meaning
you’re on for the ride.”
As a graduating senior, I have no idea where I’m going
But when it comes to following Michigan football under Carr,
I’m on for the ride, too.
J. Brady McCollough can be reached at