Friday, August 24, 2007

Big House of Cards

It wasn't supposed to start like this for the #2 ranked Michigan Wolverines. Certainly not at home. And certainly not against Ball State.

But the Wolverines learned a valuable lesson: never underestimate an opponent with a Manning and a Jordan on his side.

The #20 Ball State Cardinals soared high in the Big House, leaving a Maize and Blue trail of blood from endzone to endzone and sideline to sideline in the Wolverines' home domain. And, as mentioned, it was a Manning and a Jordan doing most of the damage in the 49-7 thrashing.

Heisman hopeful John Manning, the unknown and unheralded fourth brother from the storied Manning family (he was an accident), cut up Michigan with an arsenal of offensive weapons, including his favorite target, Matt Matthews. The jazzed up junior reeled in 5 catches for 114 yards.

But Matthews had better watch out. Manning, who audibles and gesticulates in the MAC as his brother Peyton does in the NFL, apparently has a new favorite: a guy named Jordan.

Joe Jordan (pictured crossing the endzone for his first collegiate TD) made like Mike in his NCAA debut, finding the endzone three times and lighting up the stat sheet with ten catches for 207 yards. Michigan had no answer for the athletic 6'5" freshman tight end. The effort included TD catches of 52 and 64 yards.

Jordan's got speed. Just ask Michigan linebacker Ashley "the Doc" Frasier, who spent his afternoon chasing fruitlessly after the freshman.

"I've never seen someone so large run so quickly. He had a rocket up his ass," Frasier said in bewilderment while toweling himself down after the game. "Dude's got game. Dude's got game."

Manning's sole miscue came in the second quarter, when he underthrew Matthews on a flag route. Michigan corner Roy Campbell picked it off. It was part of a shaky 5-12 start for Manning. His final numbers, however, were astonishing: 19-26, 355 yards, and four touchdowns. Three of those went to the freshman Jordan.

Michigan looked like it had everything under control to start. After the opening kickoff, the Wolverines marched 75 yards downfield in little more than a minute, torching the Cardinals for two long receptions of 53 yards and 20 yards to junior Edward White.

Then, the game turned on a dime.

On the ensuing kickoff, Ball State freshman Bryce Petty fumbled. Junior Anthony Huggins recovered. He fumbled as well, falling awkwardly on his right arm.

Petty made lemonade.

He scooped up the ball, and raced 63 yards to paydirt.

Just like that, the game was tied at seven.

The Cardinals never looked back in the dominating win. Unfortunately, on the very same play that catalyzed their win, Ball State also lost an All-American. Huggins, last year's #2 receiver, broke his arm in three places. He's out for the year.

But Ball State Coach Matt Adams says not to worry.

"Losing Huggins sucks, man. But we recruited three All-Americans in the offseason. We're deep at that position. Dude, did you see Jordan? That Antonio Gates. 6'5", jumps like a little girl watching Jurassic Park. Man, I'm glad I saved him from a basketball career at Duke," Adams said.

"Coach K will never forgive me for that."

The key to the game?

"Getting John Manning's head out of his ass. He should've never thrown that interception. And what was with all those pump fakes? If he'd throw the ball when I wanted him to throw the ball, he wouldn't have gotten sacked three times. You know Archie's going to be all over my ass for that. But if his golden 'accidency' would just throw the ball, he'd be fine."

The Cardinals host Ohio State next.

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