Rain-soaked field heralds Michigan’s true worth in 2017

Michigan Wolverines quarterback John O'Korn

There’s no louder silence in the world than when a Hail Mary reaches its apex. The 112,432 at Michigan Stadium — or at least the surprisingly large number of them that stayed until the end — fell completely silent for the first time all night when John O’Korn’s final pass started flying toward the end zone.

When it hit the ground, they stayed silent.

If you attended this game, it was one of those nights that made you wonder why we bother to care. Why we root for laundry. Why we pay money to watch grown men — or, in this case, 18-22 year olds — run around on a field. Why we stay in the stands and cheer and sing like idiots when the skies open up and dump rain on us like God is going through a breakup.

At the beginning of the game, yellow towels were handed out to Michigan fans with “BEAT STATE,” written in big, dark blue lettering. By midway through the third quarter, blue ink was leaking out of them.

Yet, for 59 minutes and 59 seconds of play, totaling nearly four hours, the crowd was as lively as you could imagine. Not just in the first half, before the rain started to come down. In fact, it reached its climax when it started to pour — when shirts became merely decorative and sweatshirts became wet blankets. Before the fourth quarter, it belted out “Mr. Brightside.” Some time later, it gave a rousing rendition of “Livin’ on a Prayer.” In between, it yelled, cheered, and writhed in pain as Michigan failed again and again to move the ball, until it simply ran out of time.

It feels almost pointless to list off the reasons that Michigan was upset by its in-state rival on Saturday night. If you’ve watched a single snap of Michigan football this year, you know the problems. The only differences in this game was a better, more-motivated opponent, and weather that made it even harder to throw the football than it already is for the Wolverines.

The fact of the matter is that this team wasn’t going to compete for the national championship, or even the Big Ten. The ranking of the Wolverines always overstated how good they were — just look at how they struggled to put away Cincinnati and Air Force at home. This isn’t breaking news — Jim Harbaugh is playing the long game and if things go according to plan, they’ll be national title contenders next year. Until then, there’s nothing to do but wait and cheer along with everyone else.