Ode to Super Mario
The Free Mario Manningham Campaign (FMMC)
"Super" Mario "the Man" Manningham
[a star so nice we had to name him twice]
Penn State is up 25-21 @ The Big House with 28 seconds to go. What's that, Lloyd? You called the timeout earlier? Okay, here's two seconds.
What happened? On the final play of the game, with a snap taken with one second on the clock - one second that wouldn't have been there if not for Lloyd's insistence - Mario Manningham does what he's been doing all year, running past cornerbacks and catching touchdowns. This touchdown becomes the only blemish on Penn State's record as Michigan pulls out the W, 27-25 (luckily we didn't need to count on a Garrett Rivas kick.)
Mario Manningham is carried off the Big House field into the Ann Arbor night, a saint among players, never to be heard from again.
Apparently in his infinite wisdom, Lloyd decided to cut Super Mario a break and give him the Iowa game off after making a 15 yard first down completion on their first offensive play from scrimmage. Super Mario saw limited playing time the remainder of the overtime game that was won in overtime by our third-string RB.
Now, I don't claim to be a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon, but it doesn't take anyone with that intellectual capacity to notice that all "Super" Mario Manningham has done this year is run past cover-men and catch touchdowns. I can't recall one game this year where I didn't see him beating the corner like a drum and flying past him - heck, it doesn't take 20/20 to see this, but then again this is the guy who thought Markus Curry could cover people.
Did anyone watch the Ohio State game? Sorry, rhetorical question. All "Super" Mario did was constantly run past that Youbouty character, a player who most pro scouts rank in the top ten DBs that have a chance to be drafted this year, and Mario's only a freshman. Now, I know Adrian Arrington was supposed to be our #3 this year, but his injury only freed up that spotlight for "Super" Mario. The Man only took 1 out of every 5 completions to the house if he wasn't already standing there to begin with, with the DB eating his wake. Even Avant didn't score with that regularity, he only took 1 out of every 10 of his catches for 6. Heck, let's take this one step further, Mario's average yards per catch was 16.9, Jason Avant had only 12.6 yards per catch. Hurm, surely Breaston's average is higher; nope, our Poet Laureate only averaged 11.3 yards per catch.
Now, how is it The Man who runs past every cornerback he ever saw hardly make the playing field? How is it Super Mario, who marks the only blemish on the JoePa retirement tour, makes only one catch the week after against Iowa; no catches the following week against Northwestern; only 3 catches against Indiana when even the third string got in; and finally 4 catches against Ohio State in the game Lloyd needed him the most. Some would say I'm not passing blame to Henne, but I simply counter that with tell me how many times Manningham was on the field? Every time he was out there I saw him behind the defense, the only problem is he was scarcely out there at all, what gives?
The Lloyd Carr logic is strikingly similar to that of the Detroit Lions, and we all know how that is working out this year fellow Michiganders. Mario Manningham only scored a touchdown on one out of every five completions he had this season and caught the game-winning touchdown at home against Penn State to vindicate Lloyd Carr fighting for an extra two seconds on the clock. So, how does Lloyd repay the man for saving his bacon, the next week Lloyd calls him for the opening play - a 15 yard first down no less - and never calls his number again.
So, I ask of Lloyd and the powers that be to give Manningham more action. During no point in the season was it indicated to me or any of the other fans that he was injured or in Lloyd's doghouse for trying to impersonate Braylon Edwards. If Lloyd won't do it, the administration must find someone who will get him on the field because all he did for us was make plays this year and put points on the board; and after Henne and Hart leave he will be our next legitimate Heisman candidate; I would say sooner, but then again Lloyd's still calling the shots and therein lies the problem.
[Picture of Lloyd courtesy of U-M Athletic Department.]
[Picture of "Super" Mario's catch courtesy of the Michigan Daily.]
[Picture of The Man carried off into the sunset courtesy of the Ann Arbor News.]
Moving forward with the FMMC!
On my Saturday off this past weekend, in between showings of my guilty pleasures Cheap Seats and Tyson-Douglass, ESPN Classic blessed me with its 2005 Big Ten Football Instant Classic marathon. Of course, it also cursed me with it because it wasn't exactly a fruitful season for us Wolverines.
The first game I caught some glimpses of was our improbable victory against Penn State and AP Coach of the Year Joe Paterno. For most of this game Lloyd was employing the grind-it-out-and-beat-'em-by-a-field-goal technique - one, as many of you already know, that I'm not too fond of since it relies on Garrett Rivas so heavily.
So, it didn't surprise me much to see us squander our lead early in the fourth quarter and let Penn State apparently seal our fate with a 35-yard fumble recovery and run for a touchdown. However, the surprises did not stop there.
Just as surprising, if not more so was Lloyd's change of heart as he decided we should air out the ball if we were going to have a chance. This was not to be outdone by who he decided to have Henne throw it to - your favorite and mine: Super Mario Manningham!
Less than two minutes after that fumble Henne launches a beauty to Manningham down the left sideline who somehow was wide open and behind two PSU defenders. Of course Super Mario caught the ball and practically waltzed into the end zone and I was in half-shock, half-awe we weren't doing this earlier. Replays only confirmed my thoughts as Super Mario proceeded to fly by double-coverage like it wasn't even there - suddenly we were in the game.
The rest of the story is well known by now as Super Mario caught the game-winner on the final snap of the game that only vindicated Lloyd Carr from blowing a lead and then blowing the comeback chance by proceeding to dink-and-dunk like the Detroit Lions of the Marty Mohrinweg era (sorry, after watching the Mooch/Jauron pains, Marty looked like a genius who couldn't gameplan).
Now, this game was sadly followed by the Ohio State game, and I couldn't change the channel quick enough. However, to at least rectify the situation for Wolverines fans ESPN decided to return the deed and show OSU's loss to Texas, so I could finish my Christmas shopping without feeling so glum.
A couple games later after I returned from my trip, U-M graced the screen again in their thrilling victory over the then undefeated MSU Spartans, which apparently were so broken by this game that they forgot they still had 6 games left to play. Now, it didn't take long to see how Super Mario played in this game as he scored on another beautiful pass from Henne, again burning double-coverage like a blind man making toast, and putting the Wolves up 14-0. However, the struggles (can we call it that, doesn't that imply a proven record of success) of Rivas were simply too much for my eyes to handle.
This brings me to my final point and the title of this article: Super Mario and the Wright Stuff. This is what we should look forward to: Henne bombs to Super Mario and stalled drives resulting in a field goal attempt by our incoming stud kicker Bryan Wright out of Salem, OH. If there's one thing Lloyd can do, that's land top notch recruits, and let me tell you, this guy looks like a stud! Rivals.com finally got some clips of this phenom and boy does he put Rivas to shame.
This kid, I'm sorry, man of a kicker, was stolen out of OSU's backyard and has the second-longest kick in Ohio HS history with a 57-yarder! His senior campaign won't look like much since he was only 7 of 11, but 3 of those misses were from 62, 55 and 49 yards - no, those aren't typos. 62 yards?? This guy attempted a 62 yard field goal?? There aren't many professional kickers who get that chance. Furthermore, he apparently started two games for his team by kicking a field goal of over 50 yards on their opening drive; I don't think Rivas could figure out where to kick from to get his to go 50. Translate these kicks into his stats and this shows you he can be no worse than Rivas next year - even if you add in the pressure-cooker situations one can think he'd do no better than a psuedo-blocked Rivas attempt.
This is my first plea to Lloyd, if he happens to still be here next year: please let Wright take his "knocks" as a kicker next year. The chances are no worse with a true-freshman stud than the bumbling Rivas. I can understand your loyalty to upper-classmen who have earned their shot, but if Super Mario hasn't instilled some trust in you and Rivas never seemed to have yours to begin with (wasn't he always the evil of two lessers?), just air out the ball and let the Man go to work, and if by some wierd chance we can't punch it in, let Wright show you the right way to kick a field goal, no matter what the distance may be.