Why Michigan is Starting to Look a Lot Like the Miami Hurricanes of Old

Why Michigan is Starting to Look a Lot Like the Miami Hurricanes of Old

Football

Why Michigan is Starting to Look a Lot Like the Miami Hurricanes of Old

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — You know the team, with so much swag, so much passion, energy on the field, that whenever they make a big play, you see the celebration. It may be over the top, and it may get in the opponents head.

Once upon a time, you would see it from a green and orange-clad team down in the Orange Bowl, that Miami (FL) team of the 1980s, 90s and early 2000s. And while the turnover chain has excited the fans down in Coral Gables, there’s a team up in Ann Arbor that’s starting to embody that level of swagger.

Time will tell if the Wolverines of Michigan will get the same postseason result as the Miami Hurricanes of previous years — teams that have won five national championships spanning from 1983-2001 — but the maize and blue are starting to show a similar killer instinct.

“We didn’t want to just beat them, we wanted to get after them,” senior defensive end Chase Winovich said after beating Penn State, 42-7. “There’s been a lot of frustration built up after the last couple years, things not going the way we’ve wanted them.”

While Michigan just dispatched three straight ranked opponents with a level of cruelty not seen in the Big Ten since — well — Michigan last did the same back in 1997, the year the Wolverines last won the national championship. But these haven’t been wins simply eked out — it’s been sheer domination.

It’s the opposite of 2017’s results, where the Wolverines would play stellar defense, but find a way to lose with an offense that couldn’t sustain drives.

Now that the offense is clicking, players are out there having fun, and it shows. Just like those Miami teams did, there’s a level of trolling, taunting, and overall dismissal of what the opposition does that’s good coming into games like the three the Wolverines just played.

Thus, like in a game like Saturday’s destruction of Penn State, these Wolverines kept receipts from 2017’s drubbing in Happy Valley, and they returned them in-kind, throwing back Penn State’s celebrations back in their faces.

After the game on Saturday, Winovich said that his mimicry and trolling was just a moment of elation, enjoying the moment while reminding the other team about past instances when there was something of a role reversal.

With Penn State in particular, Michigan made many mentions in the lead up to Saturday’s game recalling how Penn State, already up 42-13, tried to run up the score, snapping the ball with just a second left.

That moment wasn’t lost on this team, and the payback wasn’t relegated simply to the scoreboard.

“I meant no disrespect, I’m just having fun,” Winovich said. “You get in that mood, you get in that game mode, in my mind, it’s almost like all bets are off.

“It’s fine if you want to laugh about running the score up and have a jolly old time because in my mind it’s fair game, it’s football. It is what it is. But at the same time, I’m not gonna get mad, and you can’t get mad when stuff like that happens back at you.

“I had some fun with it, the cameras happened to be right on me. I think I wasn’t the only one that was doing that.”

On Saturday, it wasn’t just Winovich who got in on the action.

Mocking PSU QB Trace McSorley’s “home run” celebration, Winovich, linebacker Devin Bush Jr. and QB Shea Patterson all took turns mocking the Nittany Lion’s popular post-play display.

But sophomore WR Donovan Peoples-Jones took it to another level, first imitating former PSU RB Saquon Barkley’s touchdown celebration before posting an image to Instagram of his own touchdown, and tagging the former Nittany Lion.

Unlike some Michigan teams of old, that would apologize for such instances after the fact, putting their proverbial tail between their legs, this one embraces the role of heel. Of a team that will make you feel them on the football field, and then rub it back in your face immediately after.

Just like the Hurricanes used to.

Team captain Devin Bush Jr. says that, while the in-play intent is to win each individual battle with malice, the post-play antics are all in good fun, and a product of a team that’s finding its groove as it goes along.

“Just the confidence and the swagger we got this year,” Bush said. “We’ve just got a bunch of guys that want to go out there and win and have fun doing it. I think those are just reputation, just having fun and enjoying the time we have together.”

So long, Wolverines of old. Given the ever-changing landscape in college football, and Michigan’s seeming reluctance to embrace its talents over the course of the past decade-plus, it’s a welcome change to see a team know its capability, and let other teams know that they can’t hang.

But this team’s ability didn’t develop overnight. That identity was forged through several years’ worth of heartbreak. From troubles with snaps, to quarterbacks being short, to watching a mediocre SEC team mount what seemed to be an insurmountable comeback on a chilly Florida day.

When Michigan went down to South Bend and came up short to begin the 2018 season, it seemed all but certain that the past would repeat itself. But this team knew it was better than that, and now that it’s proving as much, they’re letting it all hang out, for all the world to see.

Even the season’s 23.1 point differential doesn’t tell the whole story of this team’s domination. Michigan has taken what other teams do well and says, “Thanks, but not today.”

Nebraska came into its contest in Ann Arbor with a top-rated rush defense. Michigan ran the ball for 285 yards (second-most of the season). Maryland, the same, but with pass defense; Michigan got its season high passing in Week Six. Michigan State still has the nation’s best run defense, by a country mile, and the Wolverines put up 183 yards.

And then, just when you thought the bleeding was relegated to the play on the field, you find instances like Peoples-Jones in the end zone, posed as the Paul Bunyan Trophy.

It’s a product not just of exorcising the demons, but of players that are passionate about their abilities to make plays and proving to the world that Michigan is back where it should be — among college football’s elite.

“It just developed over time,” sophomore center Cesar Ruiz said. “We’re out having great games, playing really well offensively and defensively. We’re playing really good as a team. And you know, when that confidence builds up, everything’s clicking, you see that swagger come out of people. It’s just a natural thing.”

“I think that we’re really confident as a team,” VIPER Jordan Glasgow said. “We’re still a pretty young team – not necessarily young, but we’re really energetic and we’re very passionate. And that obviously shows in how we celebrate our plays and our wins and our triumphs as a defense, as an offense and as a team.”

Devin Bush Jr. was just three years old the last time that his hometown Miami Hurricanes (not that he was a fan, given that his dad played for rival Florida State) won a national championship. But, he sees a similar team between that one and this Michigan team.

They’re going to do what they want on the football field, and then they’re going to let you know about it.

The Miami connection notwithstanding, it’s a mentality change in Ann Arbor, and it starts with the leaders — captains like Bush and running back Karan Higdon — and elder statesmen, like Winovich and Josh Metellus, according to Jordan Glasgow.

“There are a lot of passionate players on our team,” Glasgow said. “Speaking of the defense: Devin Bush, Chase Winovich, Josh Metellus – the people that you see on the field showing that passion after every play. When they make a play, those are the people who are in practice or are in meetings that kind of push our team forward, our tremendous driving force.”

So does this team have that same kind of swagger as the Miami teams of old? Bush thinks so, and he’s not ashamed to let the world know.

“Most definitely,” Bush said. “When we’re winning, we’re having fun winning, we know we’re dominating our opponent. You’re gonna do whatever you want because we’re feeling ourselves. We wan’t y’all to know that.”

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