Niyo: Michigan's 'revenge tour' isn't just one-man band

John Niyo
The Detroit News
Chase Winovich

Ann Arbor – Chase Winovich might’ve coined the phrase, but he’s not making any money off it.

Those “Revenge Tour” T-shirts for sale online — like the one Michigan linebacker Devin Bush was wearing defiantly at Spartan Stadium a couple weeks ago – aren’t part of Winovich’s personal inventory. And the other T-shirt design, the one he made with his own likeness dressed like the Grim Reaper, well, that was a limited edition.

“It was cool,” Michigan’s senior defensive end said Monday. “But I don’t think compliance would let me sell that.”

No, instead he’ll just stick with the “cheesy slogan” he first made public on the field after Michigan’s 38-13 demolition of then-No. 15 Wisconsin a few weeks ago, telling a national TV audience, “The revenge tour has officially commenced.”

And when it comes to recouping his losses – particularly the debts owed by four Big Ten rivals –  well, he figures that’ll be a team effort.

More: Rashan Gary ‘attacking rehab,’ wants to play for Michigan

More: Harbaugh confirms Chris Webber will be honorary captain

“It wasn’t something I was vocal about, but we knew we had revenge to give out to the people that were kind of bullying us, I’d say, and just beatin’ up on us last year,” Winovich explained Monday. “Me personally, I wanted our lunch money back and I wanted them to pay interest.”

And as the fifth-ranked Wolverines got back to work preparing for the third official tour stop Saturday against Penn State – fresh off a bye week and sitting atop the Big Ten East division standings – that notion certainly seemed noteworthy.

It was Penn State, after all, that delivered the most humbling loss among the handful Michigan endured in 2017, a 42-13 rout in Happy Valley that left the Wolverines in stunned silence.

“That’s just a feeling that you don’t ever want to feel again,” junior defensive tackle Carlo Kemp said. “You go into the locker room after the game and you just wonder, ‘How does this happen?’ That’s something we took with us.”

Lingering feelings

That’s not all they took, though. There was also the fact that Penn State coach James Franklin had his team trying to tack on a touchdown in the closing seconds rather than taking a knee. A decision that was partly a response to the Wolverines’ runaway win a year earlier in Ann Arbor, one that Penn State’s offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead referenced on the sideline, reportedly telling his players late in the game, “You guys remember 49-10? Now the shoe is on the other foot.”

Back and forth it goes, from one foot to the other: That’s part of the silly dance that stirs up so much passion in college football.

Yet it’s also a part of what’s driving the Wolverines this year, from offseason workouts through spring practice and now into the national playoff picture.

“It lingers with us every day, it lingered with us in winter conditioning,” said Winovich, who was quick to admit he didn’t play well himself in the Penn State loss. “Obviously, we didn’t like what they tried to do at the end of the game. But they gotta do what they gotta do. It’s football. So we’re not gonna whine about it.”

Instead, they’ll let their play do the talking. Or at least that’s the plan. When I asked Winovich how exactly one calculates interest owed when it comes to stolen lunch money, he laughed.

“Just play hard and just win the game, is all I’m gonna say,” he replied. “I feel like that’s a baited question, so I can’t give that (answer) to Penn State. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Still, you could hear it in defensive coordinator Don Brown’s voice last week as he explained just how much that Penn State loss – and all those big plays among the 506 yards Michigan allowed Trace McSorley, Saquon Barkley and friends – has haunted him.

“I wake up every morning and think about that – honest,” Brown said.

And don’t think his players have noticed, especially with an extra week to prepare for the Nittany Lions, who won't have Barkley – or Moorhead, now the head coach at Mississippi State – this time around.

“I’d say that the guy is definitely a little more amped up this year than he has been,” Winovich laughed, “and that’s saying something."

'That's just Chase'

Winovich is rarely at a loss for words himself, of course. Which is why no one was surprised to hear him give this 2018 campaign an official rallying cry after the win over Wisconsin.

“He probably had it written down in a notebook somewhere and finally saw his time to use it,” smiled Kemp, who considers Winovich one his closest friends on the team. “That’s just Chase. We let him do what he does.”

And if that means talking a little trash after a win over Michigan State, as Winovich did last week, dredging up the “little brother” taunt, so be it.

“In my eyes, I didn’t start the fight,” Winovich said, when asked about all that Monday. “I’m not out here trying to call teams out. I don’t like a lot of teams, but I’m not gonna just go pick a fight.

"But they called us little sister in the summer, they came there and tried their antics (during pregame warmups) and obviously you saw how that went. They wanted us to take the low road, and maybe I took the bait. But I don’t mean any harm from it. I’m just having fun. I think (their fans) took it a lot more serious than probably I did.”

Probably so.

But make no mistake, this revenge tour is far from a one-man show. While Winovich is happy to play the role of carnival barker, he’s got plenty of company.

As Kemp said Monday, all those losses last season, all the beatings Michigan took, physically or otherwise, “It’s not like we just forget about it.”