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Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Journey of the Armadillo to Ann Arbor

Our friend Michigan Sports Girl returns with a look at the new mindset on Michigan's defense.

The day that Coach Mattison returned to Ann Arbor, the first thing that came to mind was, "Man, Coach Rig from 'Necessary Roughness' is back in town? Nice. Time to get down to business on Main Street."

(For those of you unfamiliar with this fine cinematic masterpiece, "Necessary Roughness" is a film that features the storied Texas State Fighting Armadillos and the hilarity that ensues throughout their struggle to recover from some serious NCAA infractions that paralyzed their program. Ironically, a pretty timely story given the recent troubles in and around the NCAA as of late. It also features the comedic stylings of one Sinbad. You should check it out.)

If you have seen the movie, then you've gotta admit: the resemblance between these two coaches is uncanny.

So, when our defense began to improve and resemble a real "Meeechigan Defense" throughout the course of this season, I began to become even more convinced Coach Mattison and Coach Wally Riggendorf were one in the same. I mean, perhaps Mattison's coveted halftime 'adjustments' include things like this infamous halftime speech by his doppleganger Coach Rig to help light a fire under our defense:

Ok. So, maybe they're not the same person after all. Coach Mattison is much more subdued in his approach. But you know what? It's working. Mattison is working miracles with our defense. But, how?

Fast forward to this week's coordinator presser in Ann Arbor. When asked about what makes his approach different than previous coaches, Coach Mattison spoke about consistency with discipline, and the degree of toughness to which Team 132 is now held -- players, coaches, and everyone else working within the hallowed walls of Schembechler Hall.

He made one thing very clear: there will be no more baby rabbits in the Michigan locker room. Not on his watch.

To play Michigan Defense, to coach Michigan Defense, you've got to have skin a lot thicker and tougher than that.

And, that's when he introduced this:


Gotta love the irony.  Said Mattison:

"One thing that you appreciate about this defense, and they know this is how it’ll always be here -- you can’t have skin like a baby rabbit in our room now. If you do, you won’t make it. We even put up a picture of an armadillo early in the year because you better have that kind of skin."

Armadillo Pride.

He continued:

"It’s never personal, but I don’t care if you’re a four-year starter and an All-American, the bottom line is what you see on film, it is going to be corrected, and it is going to be addressed. That’s what you kind of appreciate about these guys is they’ve gone through the transition of not having their feelings hurt and going, ‘Coach, I got it.’ Okay, here you go, and you move on. That’s Michigan football. Brady does it with the coaches. You better not have skin like a baby rabbit around him. He’s going to tell you you didn’t do a good job on that. That’s all you ever want when you’re working is to be told what you can do better.”

Tough players. Tough coaches. I like that.

So, whether it came from the fictional home of Texas State or from somewhere else, since the coveted armadillo became representative of those in the trenches of the Michigan defense, the improvement has been dramatic, unlike the ridiculous stuffed beaver that Gerg ineffectively pushed in the face of our defenders in seasons past. But, we won't relive that memory right now. Why would we? We've now harnessed the toughness of the armadillo.  And it shows.

Hey, if the armadillo is helping to toughen up Team 132 - especially heading into these last two games - then I am in full support of a theoretical mascot for this program.

Especially one with a thick skin.

My, what a difference a year makes.


surrounded in columbus said...

we've played a relatively weak schedule. the big ten is down. we have had trouble at times stopping evenly modest offenses that other teams have shutdown.

all that said, accounting for all the variables (opponents, strength of schedules, etc.), the change from last season to this season, w/ virtually the exact same players, is epic, no matter how you try to adjust the grade curve.

before the season, i had predicted that if they could take the D from ranking somewhere in the "100's" to somewhere in 50 to 70 range? i thought we'd win 7 games. to improve these kids from the +100 range to somewhere below 30th in ALL metrics? unbelievable.

it really hones the point of how bad last year's D coaching was, and at this age (the players), what a difference good coaching makes.

Ramona said...

AWESOME writeup!!
And so indescribably GREAT to see the "D" return to Michigan.