Before Saturday, if I had been told that Michigan would only give up 14 points on defense to Ohio State and only be outgained by 9 yards on offense, I probably would have started planning the route from my seat to the field to celebrate the win. Naturally, the expectation by most was for Terrelle Pryor to go wild on the defense, but that did not happen on Saturday. Although OSU’s defense is stellar, most were not more concerned about Michigan’s offense for obvious reasons. As much as it has struggled at times this season, the feeling was that the defense wouldn’t even give Tate Forcier and company a chance to win the game.
In reality, the complete opposite happened on Saturday. Michigan’s defense played an exceptional game outside of two drives and only gave up 14 points. Tate Forcier scored half as many points for Ohio State by fumbling the ball in the end zone on Michigan’s first drive of the game. He proceeded to turn the ball over 4 more times, all of which were interceptions. It was a rough day for him, to say the least, and in the end that was the difference in this game. The defense put up a fight and put Michigan in position to pull off the upset despite all of the turnovers, but the offense just couldn’t get the job done. Ohio State ended up winning 21-10 and thwarted any hope of a Michigan comeback by intercepting Forcier on back-to-back drives in the fourth quarter. One of the picks was in the end zone, and had Michigan scored a touchdown instead of turning the ball over, who knows how this game would have turned out.
- Ohio State won the coin toss and decided to take the ball, and the defense set the tone for the rest of the game by forcing a stop after Terrelle Pryor completed a couple passes to move the chains.
- Michigan was backed up on its 7-yard line to start the next drive, and after Michael Shaw ran for a loss of 2 and then a gain of 4 yards, it was 3rd and 8 from the 9. (Carlos Brown barely played at all, so Shaw started and Vincent Smith got quite a bit of playing time as well.) Tate Forcier dropped back to pass to the end zone and was under pressure, and as he was trying to step up in the pocket, he left the ball hanging out with very little protection. I could see flashes of the Illinois game in my head, and just as he reached the goal line the ball was knocked loose. An Ohio State player eventually recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown, and one of my friends summed up my feelings best by saying, “Did that really just happen?” You would think Forcier would learn by now to take better care of the ball, but he obviously didn’t and gave OSU a gift of a touchdown as a result.
- Michigan’s next drive didn’t end with another turnover, but it was a three and out, putting a solid kick return by Darryl Stonum to waste.
- The defense did its job and Ohio State also went three and out when Mike Martin sacked Pryor on 3rd and 8 for a loss of 5. Michigan got good field position, starting on its 40 after the punt.
- After Forcier completed a 5-yard pass to Junior Hemingway, Denard Robinson came in the game and ran for 7, 5, and 0 yards. That set up 3rd and 5, and Forcier came back in and found his favorite target, Roy Roundtree, for a gain of 21. He picked up 10 more a couple plays later to move the chains again. Vincent Smith ran for 5 yards, and then a pass in his direction was incomplete, making it 3rd and 5. Michigan tried to run a screen to Greg Mathews, but he was tackled immediately for no gain, bringing up fourth down and a field goal attempt. Just like the Wisconsin game last week, Michigan left points on the field, because Jason Olesnavage kicked the 24-yard attempt wide right. A great drive was all for nothing, and Michigan still trailed 7-0.
- Ohio State again went three and out, and Michigan put together another promising drive as the first quarter came to an end. Forcier completed a 23-yard pass to Greg Mathews on 3rd and 4, and a few plays later he found Darryl Stonum for 10 yards on 3rd and 7. An incompletion and a loss of 2 on a pass to Roundtree made it 3rd and 12 at the start of the second quarter.
- Michigan could have had a shot at a field goal or a chance at going for it if they had picked up even 6 or so yards, but Tate Forcier’s pass was incomplete and Michigan had to punt. The punt was downed at the 6, but Ohio State quickly gave itself breathing room when Dan Herron ran for 19 yards and Terrelle Pryor found Devier Posey for gains of 13 and 6 yards. The defense got it together quickly, though, and Ohio State had to punt before reaching midfield.
- Forcier picked apart OSU’s defense in the beginning of Michigan’s next drive. He found Greg Mathews for 11 yards, Roy Roundtree for 12 and 22 yards, and then Mathews again for 12 more yards. Michigan quickly was all the way down to the OSU 26, which is where the drive stalled. Michigan had to take a timeout because Stephen Schilling lost his shoe and there was confusion over whether or not he was going to stay in the game. After that Michigan’s drive went nowhere and Jason Olesnavage had to kick a field goal after Carlos Brown lost 4 yards on 3rd and 8. Olesnavage’s attempt from 46 yards out was good, and Michigan now trailed 7-3.
- I was wondering how long it would take the Michigan defense to break, because it was bound to happen at some point, and I got my answer on the next Ohio State drive. The Buckeyes kept it on the ground and moved down the field in only a couple minutes for their first offensive TD of the game. Terrelle Pryor ran for gains of 9 and 25 yards on this drive, and Brandon Saine had rushes of 14, 0, 3, and 29 yards, with the last going for a touchdown.
- Denard Robinson came into the game as a receiver on the first play of the next drive, and Michigan’s plan was to have him run straight down the field and have Tate Forcier throw a bomb. This is something the Chicago Bears do quite a bit with their speedy receivers, and it could work for Michigan too if Robinson gets off the line cleanly and Forcier makes a good pass. Well, the latter was the problem on this play. Forcier’s pass was underthrown a bit, and the ball took a weird bounce off of an Ohio State defender and ended up in the hands of Kurt Coleman for an interception.
- The defense needed to make a stop, and it did just that thanks to 3 incompletions in a row by Pryor.
- Michigan picked up a first down when Vincent Smith ran for 10 yards on the opening play of the drive, but it had to punt shortly after when Tate Forcier ran for no gain on 3rd and 4.
- Ohio State had time to do something before halftime after Dan Herron ran for 11 yards and Pryor ran for 14, but Pryor quickly sent the offense into ultra-conservative mode after being called for intentional grounding, making it 2nd and 34. Ohio State just ran the ball a couple of times and punted, and Michigan got the ball back at its 46 with 1:14 to go.
- It would have been nice to get some points before halftime to cut into the 14-3 lead, but after a 2-yard pass to Kevin Grady, Forcier had a pass dropped by Martell Webb and then threw an incompletion on third down. Ohio State got the ball back with 29 seconds left and took a knee to run out the clock.
- Michigan opened the second half by going three and out, but the defense made a play to change the complexion of this game. Terrelle Pryor had his pass deflected and intercepted by Jonas Mouton on 3rd and 4, and Mouton took it back 6 yards to the OSU 49, giving the offense great field position.
- Tate Forcier ran for 11 yards on the second play of the drive, and then a few plays later it was 3rd and 7 and he connected with Greg Mathews for 12 yards to move the chains. After Roy Roundtree picked up 5 yards and an incompletion, Michigan faced 3rd and 5 at the 18. Forcier scrambled to the left and appeared to have a couple receivers open in the end zone, but he threw the ball to a wide open Vincent Smith on the right side of the field. Smith made the catch and ran into the end zone for a Michigan touchdown that made this a 4-point game.
- Similar to its other scoring drive, Ohio State kept the ball on the ground on its next possession and good things happened. The Buckeyes moved the ball in big chunks and didn’t even face a third down until it was 3rd and goal from the 12-yard line. Brandon Graham made a couple of big plays that resulted in losses of 2 and 8 yards, with the last one being a sack on Pryor. Ohio State had to pass the ball again, but this time it had the perfect play call. Michigan brought a heavy blitz, and Pryor had Dan Herron wide open on a screen pass. Herron made the catch and ran into the end zone with ease for a touchdown. It was the perfect call to combat Michigan’s blitz, and now the Wolverines were down by 11 yet again.
- Michigan was unable to answer Ohio State’s touchdown, going three and out on its next drive.
- Following an Ohio State punt, Michigan quickly went from being on its 17 to being in Ohio State territory when Tate Forcier found Roy Roundtree for a 43-yard gain. Roundtree ran down the sidelines and found a hole in the coverage, allowing him to make the catch and turn it into a big gain with a great run afterward. That was about it for the drive, though. Denard Robinson ran for 5 and 0 yards, and Tate Forcier threw a terrible pass downfield on third down. Originally it was ruled incomplete, but after a review it was determined that Kurt Coleman made his second interception of the game. OSU took over at its 6-yard line.
- Ohio State went three and out, and Michigan got the ball back at the 50-yard line. Forcier found Vincent Smith for a gain of 13, and then he found Greg Mathews for 9 yards after an incompletion. That made it 3rd and 1, and Denard Robinson came into the game at quarterback and ran for 17 yards. He fumbled at the end of the play but recovered the ball. Michael Shaw ran for 5 yards on the next play, moving Michigan down to the 6-yard line. Forcier dropped back to pass, didn’t see anybody open, but still decided to force a throw to Junior Hemingway. Devon Torrence made the rather easy interception instead and returned the ball back to the OSU 19, basically bringing Michigan’s hopes of a comeback to an end. There were still 8 minutes left, but Michigan had already wasted too many great chances to score.
- Ohio State moved the chains once and took 3 minutes off the clock before having to punt.
- Denard Robinson came in and promptly lost 5 yards. A false start backed Michigan up even more, though Robinson got 7 yards back to make it 3rd and 13. Forcier returned and threw interception #4. It looked like he had a receiver open, but he didn’t throw the ball over Thaddeus Gibson, who jumped and picked off the pass.
- The Buckeyes took another minute off the clock and Michigan got the ball back with 2:28 left in the game after Ohio State turned it over on downs.
- Denard Robinson came into the game at quarterback, and the drive went poorly, to say the least. A pass to Michael Shaw lost 6 yards, and after an incompletion, Robinson was sacked for a loss of 5. An incompletion on fourth down basically ended the game, because it allowed Ohio State to take a knee twice to run out the clock and extend its winning streak over Michigan to 6 games.
It’s almost a fitting ending to the season that the defense put together one of its best games in quite some time, but the offense couldn’t hold on to the ball and finish drives. Michigan left a field goal and a touchdown on the field, and that would have been the difference between winning and losing if Tate Forcier hadn’t basically scored the Buckeyes’ first touchdown for them. Even with the defensive touchdown Michigan had a chance to make a comeback, but again, Forcier turned the ball over too much for that to happen.
This season obviously didn’t go the way everybody wanted and became a complete disappointment after a surprising 4-0 start, but I want to thank the seniors whose careers are now done at Michigan. I especially want to thank Brandon Graham, who played every play like it was his last. It is going to be tough to replace someone with so much talent and such great leadership, which makes me even more fearful about the defense heading into next season. You would think the defense would improve just because of how bad it was at times this season, but losing Graham is a huge blow.
There is plenty of time to look ahead to next season and break it down, so I will wrap up the final recap of this season by simply saying here’s to bigger and better things in the future. It’s no secret that the pressure will be on Rich Rodriguez to win next year, because patience will only go so far when your team isn’t going to bowl games. Let’s just hope that most of 2010 is like September 2009, especially once Big Ten play starts. Both years of the Rich Rodriguez era have shown that this team has trouble sustaining efforts over the course of an entire game and over the course of an entire season, so it will be vital for the 2010 edition of the Wolverines to play every game for a full 60 minutes. If that doesn’t change in 2010, well, let’s not even think about that.
Again, here’s to bigger and better things in the future.
(The better late than never recap of the Wisconsin game.)
Just like the last couple of games, Michigan collapsed in the second half against Wisconsin on Saturday and went on to lose 45-24. Unlike the Illinois and Purdue games, Michigan was not ahead of Wisconsin at halftime, but a 4-point deficit was better than what I personally expected going into Saturday. In the first half, Michigan was playing well on offense and keeping the major mistakes to a minimum on defense initially. It wasn’t a perfect half by any means, but Michigan was playing well and was in the game.
In the second half, it was all Wisconsin. Michigan’s offense kept it close initially, but they couldn’t keep up and failed to do anything in the fourth quarter. Wisconsin, on the other hand, scored points each time it had the ball (3 touchdowns and 1 field goal). It was a dominate performance by the Badgers and another disappointing one by the Wolverines.
- Michigan got the ball first and we quickly found out that the rumors about Tate Forcier not starting were false. Denard Robinson technically started, but as a running back, not a quarterback. He gained no yards on the first play of the game, and following a short pass to Roy Roundtree, Forcier ran for a loss of 5 on third down.
- Wisconsin quickly lit up Michigan’s defense. Scott Tolzien found Isaac Anderson for a gain of 27 on the Badgers’ first offensive play of the game, and a roughing the passer penalty on Brandon Graham gave them 15 free yards. Tolzien ran for 12 yards on the next play, and then a pair of 2-yard runs by John Clay made it 3rd and 6. Tolzien found Garrett Graham for a 22-yard touchdown, putting the Badgers up 7-0.
- Michigan answered with a very impressive drive filled with third-down conversions. Facing 3rd and 4 early in the drive, Brandon Minor got the ball and ran for 14 yards. A few plays later it was 3rd and 8 and Greg Mathews made a catch for a gain of 17. After a loss of 4 on a run by Michael Shaw and a loss of 10 on a sack, it was 3rd and 24. Forcier extended the play by scrambling out of the pocket and found Roy Roundtree, who made an excellent catch for a gain of 26. A couple plays later Vincent Smith caught a pass out of the backfield and ran 21 yards for a touchdown to tie the game up at 7.
- Brandon Graham made up for his roughing the passer penalty on the last drive by roughing the passer again, except in legal fashion this time. The Badgers had 3rd and 13, and Graham put a hit on Scott Tolzien at the 3-yard line. Tolzien got rid of the ball, but he was flagged for intentional grounding, so Graham got credit for the sack, which set Michigan up for great field position at the Wisconsin 37. Junior Hemingway did his best to make the fair catch as tough as possible, but he thankfully held on to the ball.
- Vincent Smith kept on making plays by both catching and running the ball, and Michigan quickly moved down inside the 10-yard line. Tate Forcier moved the chains on 3rd and 1, giving Michigan 1st and goal at the 6. Brandon Minor ran the ball for 3 and 2 yards, making it 3rd and goal at the 1. The smart play would have been to give the ball to Minor a third time, but Forcier ran a draw to the right and was brought down for a loss of a yard. Michigan took a delay of game penalty to make the field goal attempt a bit easier, but Wisconsin declined it. (Why not just false start on purpose, which Wisconsin can’t decline?) Forcing Michigan to deal with the tough angle proved to be smart, because Jason Olesnavage’s field goal from 19 yards out was blocked. A combination of poor blocking and a low kick led to the block, which gave Wisconsin the ball on its 8-yard line.
- Jordan Kovacs bailed out the field goal unit by picking off an errant Scott Tolzien pass on 3rd and 8. Kovacs’ diving interception gave Michigan the ball back at the 25-yard line.
- Michigan went three and out after the interception, but Jason Olesnavage’s field goal from 37 yards out was good, putting the Wolverines on top 10-7.
- Wisconsin moved the ball into Michigan territory on its next drive, but the defense stood tough and came up with a stop. The Badgers faced 4th and 20 at the Michigan 45, and the punt return unit made yet another mistake. Brandon Smith and Jon Conover nearly blocked the punt, but the two of them couldn’t avoid the punter, leading to a personal foul and an automatic first down. The defense fell apart after the penalty, letting John Clay and Lance Kendricks move the ball on the ground. Eventually it was a Tolzien pass to Nick Toon in the end zone that gave the lead back to Wisconsin. Tolzien threw a beautiful pass right to the edge of the end zone and a wide open Toon made the catch for the touchdown.
- Michigan picked up a couple third-down conversions on its next drive before Tate Forcier was sacked on 3rd and 6, leading to the end of the drive. Zoltan Mesko’s punt went to the 25-yard line, which is where Wisconsin took over.
- Facing 3rd and 10 after a pair of incompletions, Scott Tolzien got annihilated by Brandon Graham. The ball came out because of the hit, and Ryan Van Bergen picked it up and ran 14 yards for a touchdown. Suddenly Michigan led 17-14 thanks to the defense, and momentum was on the Wolverines’ side.
- Unfortunately the defense reverted back to its usual ways on the next drive. Scott Tolzien completed a 36-yard pass to Nick Toon and then found Garrett Graham for a gain of 23. John Clay later ran down to the 1 on a gain of 2 yards, and he scored a touchdown on the next play. Clay jumped in hopes of extending the ball over the plane of the goal line, and a touchdown was signaled almost as soon as he got off the ground. It looked like Brandon Graham basically caught him and slammed him to the ground before the ball broke the plane of the goal line, but a review upheld the call and made the score 21-17 in favor of Wisconsin.
- Tate Forcier completed 4 straight passes and ran for 5 yards after the second one to move Michigan up to its 42-yard line. The last pass went for no gain and was followed up by an incompletion, and Vincent Smith only picked up 4 yards on a catch on third down. That made it 4th and 6, and Michigan called timeout with a few seconds left to attempt a Hail Mary. Denard Robinson actually came in for the Hail Mary, and the pass was incomplete, ending the half.
- Wisconsin opened the second half with a fumble forced by Jordan Kovacs, but Garrett Graham fell on it. After that, John Clay ran for 21 yards, and soon after, Scott Tolzien found Nick Toon for a gain of 21 more yards. A holding penalty backed the Badgers up 10 yards, but Tolzien completed passes for gains of 18 and 14 yards to quickly make the penalty irrelevant. Tolzien eventually found Toon in the end zone again, this time from 15 yards out, for a Wisconsin touchdown. Toon made a great catch even though he was interfered with, and Wisconsin now had an 11-point lead.
- A solid return by Darryl Stonum gave Michigan the ball at its 40-yard line. Tate Forcier found Greg Mathews for a gain of 25 on the first play of the drive, but it looked like the drive had stalled after Forcier’s pass to Roy Roundtree only went for a yard on 3rd and 10. Michigan was at Wisconsin’s 34-yard line and decided to go for it, though. I didn’t like the move at the time because a field goal would have made it a one-possession game, but going for it in this situation turned out to be a great call because Forcier completed a 14-yard pass to Junior Hemingway. Vincent Smith then ran for 4 and 6 yards, and Forcier connected with Roundtree for a 10-yard touchdown. Michigan was back in it, trailing only 28-24.
- It looked like this game was about to really become a shootout, but Michigan didn’t score another point after the Roundtree touchdown. The same couldn’t be said for Wisconsin, though. The Badgers went down the field in 8 plays, thanks in part to a 33-yard run by John Clay and a 15-yard pass to Isaac Anderson, and Lance Kendricks scored on an 8-yard reception.
- Michigan’s next drive looked promising after Tate Forcier ran for 15 yards on 3rd and 9, but Vincent Smith was flagged for a chop block. The penalty negated the play and made it 3rd and 17, and a heave downfield by Forcier was picked off at Wisconsin’s 40.
- Wisconsin took 10 plays to turn the interception into points of its own, this time sticking to the ground to move the ball. John Clay, Montee Ball, and Zach Brown were responsible for getting the ball down to the 1, and Scott Tolzien punched it into the end zone on a quarterback sneak. Wisconsin now led 42-24, and it was obvious that this game was over after Michigan went three and out on its next drive.
- The Badgers got the ball back with just under 10 minutes left in the game and took 8 minutes off the clock on a drive where every play was a run. Michigan finally made a stop when Wisconsin got down to the 9-yard line, so the good news was that Wisconsin only managed to add a field goal to its lead.
- Denard Robinson came in at quarterback for the final drive of the game and picked up gains of 23, 6, and 7 yards on the ground. He also found LaTerryal Savoy for a gain of 6, but eventually Michigan turned the ball over on downs as the clock expired. Wisconsin won 45-24, and it was another second-half meltdown for Michigan.
This game basically reinforced what we already know. Brandon Graham is good. The defense in general is not. The offense is great when everybody is clicking. When it’s not the drive usually only lasts a few plays.
Michigan managed to keep it close and trailed 28-24 in the third quarter, but the defense couldn’t get a stop and Wisconsin made adjustments to slow down’s Michigan’s offense. That chop block penalty on Vincent Smith was Michigan’s own doing and was the beginning of the end, but to Wisconsin’s credit, it played great defense simply by controlling the ball and not even letting Michigan’s offense onto the field for most of the fourth quarter.
Michigan’s season now comes down to one game. A loss would surprise nobody and would mean for another bowl-less season. It would be the end to a season that has provided two straight months of disappointment, and it would start what will be a very long offseason without a bowl. A win, on the other hand, would make the season. Not only would Michigan be headed to a bowl game, but the losing streak to Ohio State would also finally be over. Rich Rodriguez would eliminate quite a bit of criticism by simply beating Ohio State, and a win would certainly make for a much less volatile offseason.
Kickoff is set for noon on ABC.
Michigan’s bowl hopes are officially on life support after Purdue went into Michigan Stadium and was victorious in Ann Arbor for the first time since 1966. It looked like Michigan was on its way to winning by a couple touchdowns after taking a 24-10 lead into halftime, but Purdue fought its way back and took the lead by scoring two touchdowns in two plays in the third quarter thanks to a surprising onside kick in between. That gave Purdue a 31-30 lead (Michigan missed an extra point), and the Boilermakers extended it to 38-30 with a touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Michigan made a comeback attempt and had a chance to tie the game after a touchdown, but Tate Forcier was sacked on the 2-point conversion attempt. Purdue managed to hang on in the closing minutes to win 38-36, handing Michigan’s its fifth straight conference loss.
Although the team as a whole made quite a few mistakes, the unit most responsible for this loss was the defense. Once again the defense was very inconsistent, looking great on some drives and looking completely clueless on others. It gave up way too many big plays and melted down in the third quarter, giving up a pair of touchdowns on back-to-back plays. It could have stopped the momentum Purdue was building after the onside kick, but instead it gave up a 54-yard touchdown pass. No defensive backs were in position to make a play, which was the case on quite a few passes during this game.
Aside from the defense, the coaching was probably the other thing most responsible for this loss. Michigan was trailing 38-30 with about 4:50 left in the game and faced 4th and 10 at the Purdue 20. Given the situation, a field goal seemed appropriate. Assuming the field goal attempt was successful, Michigan would have trailed by 5 points with more than enough time left on the clock to get the ball back and score a touchdown. Rich Rodriguez decided to keep the offense back out on the field, though, and Michigan came up short of moving the chains, giving the ball back to Purdue.
The defense made a stop, and a good punt return set up a touchdown about a minute later. Had Michigan already kicked a field goal, the touchdown would have given the lead back to the Wolverines. Instead it was a 2-point game, and it stayed that way after a failed 2-point conversion try. Obviously everybody would have been happy if Michigan had converted that fourth down, but even before the play happened I thought it was a bad call. In that situation I felt like Michigan had to get the points and cut the lead down. If it was fourth and short I could understand going for it, but it was 4th and 10 at the 20-yard line. The decision to go for it was a bad one at the time it was made, and considering Michigan lost by 2 points, it was obviously a bad one in hindsight as well.
- Michigan’s defense came out and looked as bad as ever at the beginning of this game. It only took Purdue 4 plays to score a touchdown, and each play was good for a chunk of yards, starting with a 9-yard pass on the first play of the game. That was followed up by a 22-yard run and a 14-yard pass. Then, on only the fourth play of the game, Joey Elliott found a wide-open Ralph Bolden for a 35-yard touchdown. No Michigan players were even in sight on the play, and Purdue easily scored to take a 7-0 lead.
- Michigan answered with a solid drive of its own made possible by Roy Roundtree and Brandon Minor. On 3rd and 15 early in the drive, Tate Forcier threw a pass into coverage that looked like it was initially intercepted. Roundtree wrestled it back to make a tremendous 26-yard catch, moving the chains and keeping the drive alive. Roundtree then caught a couple more passes for gains of 10 and 11 yards, moving Michigan down to Purdue’s 29-yard line. Brandon Minor got the ball on the next play and turned what appeared to be only a decent gain into a touchdown. Minor broke tackle after tackle, switched field, and sprinted to the right pylon for a diving touchdown, tying the game back up.
- Purdue’s offense was again able to move the ball through the air, but this time Michigan managed to pull things together to make a stop. The Boilermakers still got a 41-yard field goal out of the drive, though, giving them a 10-7 lead.
- Darryl Stonum gave Michigan great field position by returning the proceeding kickoff 55 yards to the Purdue 40. A 5-yard run by Brandon Minor and a 6-yard pass to Roy Roundtree moved Michigan inside the 30, but a 5-yard loss and a pair of incompletions made it 4th down from the 34. I wasn’t too confident in Jason Olesnavage’s range, but he came in and nailed a 51-yard field goal to tie the game once again.
- Purdue was again moving the ball, but Michigan kept the Boilermakers from having another scoring drive because Kevin Leach caught a tipped pass for an interception.
- After Tate Forcier escaped pressure and ran for 11 yards to move the chains on third down at the end of the first quarter, Brandon Minor turned the Purdue turnover into points by running for a 55-yard touchdown. He simply went to the outside and sprinted down the left sideline for the touchdown, giving Michigan its first lead of the game.
- Purdue again appeared to have a decent drive going, but it fizzled out after only a single first down, leading to the Boilermakers’ first punt of the game.
- Michigan added to its lead by moving the ball through the air. Tate Forcier kept the drive going by squeezing a pass in to Kevin Koger for a gain of 9 on third down, and then he found LaTerryal Savoy for 21 more yards. Forcier did pick up 14 on the ground a couple plays later, but he went back to his favorite target in this game, Roy Roundtree, for what turned out to be a big play. Roundtree ran across the middle of the field by himself, and Forcier hit him for the easy catch. Roundtree turned it into a big play by breaking a tackle attempt from the only player separating him from the end zone. With the defender out of the way, Roundtree was able to run free into the end zone for the touchdown, giving Michigan a 24-10 lead.
- Purdue again picked up one first down before its drive fell apart. This time it was a Donovan Warren interception that ended the drive and gave Michigan the ball at midfield, setting up what seemed like a chance to put the game out of reach.
- Michigan’s drive quickly went by the wayside after Tate Forcier lost 8 yards and fumbled the ball, though. Stephen Schilling recovered the fumble, but it put Michigan in a third and long situation. An incompletion led to a Zoltan Mesko punt, and Michigan missed out on a great opportunity to increase its lead.
- Purdue again moved the ball initially before its drive stalled. The drive didn’t end on a punt, though, because the clock ran out after a failed third-down conversion attempt, ending the second quarter.
- The beginning of the end for Michigan was what happened on the first drive of the second half. Again with a chance to extend its lead beyond 14 points, Michigan squandered a golden opportunity by making a crucial mistake. Tate Forcier faked a handoff, ran out to the right side, and tried to pitch the ball to Brandon Minor. The ball never made it to Minor, though, because a Purdue player tipped it, leading to a fumble that was recovered by the Boilermakers at the 19-yard line.
- Purdue’s Ralph Bolden ran into the end zone for a touchdown on the very next play, and suddenly Purdue only trailed by 7 points.
- Darryl Stonum had another great kick return, this time taking it back 54 yards to the Purdue 46-yard line. That led to a 6-yard touchdown run by Tate Forcier after a big pass play to Greg Mathews and a couple medium gains by Roy Roundtree and Brandon Minor. Jason Olesnavage missed the extra point, which turned out to be an absolutely huge mistake by the time this game was over.
- Purdue answered the touchdown by putting together a great drive consisting mainly of passing plays. The Boilermakers pounded it into the end zone on the ground, though, with Ralph Bolden again scoring a touchdown. The TD cut the lead down to 6 points, but it didn’t stay that way for very long.
- Purdue’s kicker popped the ball up about 16 yards downfield to the right side on the ensuing kickoff, and no blue jerseys were in sight. A Purdue player easily caught the kick, giving the Boilermakers the ball at their 46-yard line. On the very next play, Joey Elliott found a wide-open Cortez Smith for a 54-yard touchdown. Just like the first passing touchdown of the game, no Michigan players were anywhere near the receiver, leading to an easy touchdown. In a matter of two offensive plays, Purdue went from trailing 30-17 to leading 31-30.
- Following a couple three and outs by both teams, Michigan finally started to get something going thanks initially to a 16-yard pass to Roy Roundtree, who ended up with 10 catches, 126 yards, and 1 touchdown on the day. It was fitting that Roundtree had a career day against Purdue, because that was the school he decommitted from on signing day a couple years ago. He was the reason Joe Tiller uttered the infamous “snake oil” comment, so it was nice to see Roundtree play so well against the team he was once committed to.
- Michigan continued to move the ball but had its drive stall when Darryl Stonum couldn’t catch the ball after taking a hit on 3rd and 5. Jason Olesnavage came in to attempt a 48-yard field goal, which seemed like it shouldn’t be too tough after seeing how well he kicked the 51-yarder earlier in the game. That was a bad way to think, though, because Olesnavage kicked the ball wide left, keeping the score at 31-30.
- Purdue attacked Michigan’s secondary with a deep pass on the third play of its next drive, which proved to be a smart move. Jeff Lindsay got behind the secondary and was all by himself to make an easy catch that turned into a gain of 56 yards. Joey Elliott ran into the end zone from 8 yards out on the very next play, and Purdue took a 38-30 lead with about 10 and a half minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
- Michigan went three and out, but the offense stayed out on the field to go for it initially since it was only 4th and 1. After some indecision, the punting unit went out onto the field, but not quickly enough to avoid a delay of game penalty. Zoltan Mesko made up for the penalty by booming the punt 63 yards, pinning Purdue back at its 11-yard line.
- Michigan came up with a stop to force a Purdue punt and caught a huge break on the return. Junior Hemingway ran up to catch what was a short punt, tripped, and had the ball bounce off of him. A Purdue player fell on it, but there was a flag for kick-catch interference. At first glance it looked like Hemingway tripped over a Purdue player, but this was a huge break for Michigan because Hemingway fell on his own. Not only did Michigan get the ball back as a result of the penalty, but it took over at the Purdue 31-yard line, needing a touchdown and a 2-point conversion to tie the game.
- Brandon Minor was running with an attitude and picked up 11 and 10 yards. Unfortunately a holding penalty negated the second run, backing Michigan up and making it 1st and 20. A sack backed Michigan up even more on the next play, but Tate Forcier ran for 11 yards to make it 3rd and 10. An incomplete pass made it 4th and 10 at the 20, and this goes back to what I said in the opening of this post. I wanted Michigan to kick a field goal to make it a 5-point game, but Rich Rodriguez decided to go for it.
Forcier scrambled out to the right side and had nobody open, so he pitched it back to Carlos Brown, who ran down the sideline. Brown was stopped a few yards short of the first down, but he lateraled the ball to Mark Huyge, who ran for enough yards to move the chains. The play was reviewed, though, and it was ruled that Brown did an illegal forward pass, negating the first down and giving Purdue the ball. While he probably did pitch the ball forward, based on the replays the officials had, it didn’t look like there was enough evidence to show that Brown did lateral the ball ahead to Huyge. Even so, after a lengthy review it was ruled that he did commit a penalty, and Purdue got the ball back with 4:38 remaining.
- Thanks to a couple Purdue penalties and a good stand by the defense, Michigan was going to get the ball back with decent field position. Junior Hemingway turned that into amazing field position by breaking a tackle and returning the punt 33 yards to the Purdue 11-yard line. With all of the issues Michigan has had on punt returns, I almost want the coaches to put nobody back there, but then Hemingway went and showed that he can be a threat to take one back to the house.
- It took Michigan 4 plays to get into the end zone, but Brandon Minor eventually did punch it in from a yard out to make this a 2-point game. Tate Forcier dropped back to pass and quickly ran out of time on the 2-point conversion attempt, and he was sacked. That meant that Michigan still trailed by 2 points, and with only 2 minutes or so left in the game, the only hope was to recover an onside kick.
- The onside kick was recovered by Purdue, but Michigan made a stop and got the ball back at its 10-yard line with 29 seconds left on the clock. After a pair of incompletions, Tate Forcier found LaTerryal Savoy for a gain of 17. Rather than just quickly go down, allowing Forcier to spike the ball, Savoy pitched it to Junior Hemingway, who went down with 1 second left on the clock. It seemed like quite a few players on both teams thought the game was over, but Forcier managed to get another snap off. Nobody was open downfield, though, so Forcier had to desperately pitch the ball back to David Moosman, who ran 5 yards before having the ball knocked out of his hands. That ended the game and sealed Purdue’s 38-36 victory.
At this point it is evident that this is not a very good football team. I think it would be accurate to say that the team has regressed, as has the coaching. Michigan has now lost 5 straight Big Ten games and hasn’t won a real game since September. It will now take a miracle for Michigan to make a bowl game, because I honestly don’t see how Michigan will win at Wisconsin or at home against Ohio State. The Purdue team that just beat Michigan lost 37-0 at Wisconsin last week, and Ohio State went on the road to beat Penn State this week. The Buckeyes can clinch a Big Ten title and a trip to the Rose Bowl with a win next week against Iowa, meaning they could be coming into Michigan Stadium as the best team in the conference. Not only is Michigan in danger of missing a bowl for the second year in a row, but it is in danger of finishing in last in the Big Ten for the first time in a very, very long time.
Michigan will get another chance to become bowl eligible next Saturday at Wisconsin. Call me a pessimist, but I would be absolutely shocked if Michigan even keeps the score respectable in this one. Kickoff is set for noon on the Big Ten Network.
(Note: Apologies for the lateness of this post, but I’ve been sick the last few days. I’m talking actually sick, by the way, not just sick over what transpired in Champaign on Saturday.)
Michigan got off to a slow start against Illinois this past Saturday and only led 13-7 at halftime. Right at the start of the third quarter, however, it appeared that Michigan was about to get the blowout started. Roy Roundtree got open in the middle of the field and caught a pass from Tate Forcier, and Roundtree had nothing but open field in front of him and looked like he was going to score a touchdown. Actually, he did score a touchdown, but a review of the play changed the call to him being down on the 1-yard line. An Illinois player caught him right before the goal line, and not that you need to be reminded considering how often the announcers mentioned it, but it was all downhill for Michigan from this point on.
Michigan failed to score a touchdown on four rushing attempts from literally feet away from the goal line. Brandon Minor initially appeared to score on fourth down, but another review resulted in another touchdown being taken off the board. Illinois quickly turned the goal line stand into a touchdown of their own, and Michigan failed to do anything except make stupid mistakes when it got the ball back. Repeat this process multiple times during the rest of the game and you have a final score of 38-13 in favor of Illinois. As if getting beat by an Illinois team that had zero FBS wins this season wasn’t bad enough, Michigan went out and got demolished by the Fighting Illini and just looked awful in all facets of the game. The offense stunk. The defense stunk. And to complete the triumvirate of crappy play, Michigan muffed another punt. This whole team appears to be getting worse each week (against real competition), and if they don’t turn it around immediately, a bowl streak of a different kind may start this year.
- From the very start Illinois gave Michigan a reason to be worried. Instead of the Illinois team that hadn’t won an FBS game all season, the team we saw in Michigan Stadium last year appeared to show up on Saturday. Juice Williams was making smart reads, shredding Michigan’s defense both on the ground and through the air. Yes, the same Juice Williams who was benched earlier this season in favor of Eddie McGee. Williams owned Michigan a year ago, and he played like it was 2008 all over again on the first drive of this game, leading Illinois down the field with ease. Arrelious Benn eventually capped the drive off with a leaping 3-yard touchdown run to put Illinois on top 7-0.
- Michigan answered with a great drive of its own; one that was very similar to the first drive of the Penn State game a week earlier. Tate Forcier was finding open receivers, and Carlos Brown was moving the ball by picking up a good chunk of yardage on every run. A 14-yard pass to Greg Mathews moved Michigan all the way down to the 2, and Carlos Brown punched it in on the very next play to tie the game back up.
- The defense needed to get it together, and from now until the third quarter, that’s exactly what they did. The ’09 version of Juice Williams showed up and the entire Illinois offense was rattled. It didn’t help Juice that Michigan was getting defenders in the backfield right after the snap and he didn’t have much time to do anything, but the defense definitely brought the ’09 version of Juice back to life and forced a quick three and out.
- Michigan had done an excellent job of not screwing up punt returns all season long until the Iowa game. That is when the ’08 version of Michigan’s punt return unit came back to life, and it made another appearance on Saturday when Junior Hemingway dropped a punt. An Illinois player promptly fell on it, giving the Illini the ball at Michigan’s 41-yard line.
- Juice Williams did manage to run for 14 yards on the first play after the muffed punt, but Michigan’s defense stepped it up and shut down Illinois’ offense to bring up a field goal try from 38 yards out. Hemingway was able to let out a big sigh of relief as soon as the ball was kicked, because it sailed wide left by a mile, keeping the score at 7-7.
- Michigan moved into Illinois territory and appeared to have a pretty good drive going, but it stalled on a bad play on third down, forcing a Zoltan Mesko punt.
- Mesko’s punt was fair caught at Illinois’ 10-yard line, giving Juice Williams little room to work with. Mikel Leshoure backed Illinois up even more with a 3-yard loss on first down, but Jason Ford created some breathing room by running for 8 yards on the next play. Illinois quickly was backed up again, though, as Williams was sacked for a loss of 9 on third down. Junior Hemingway managed to catch the punt this time, and he actually had a nice return of 12 yards to the Illinois 43.
- Michigan was moving the ball effectively on the ground, but the drive came to a stop when Tate Forcier tried to pass the ball. He was sacked on first down at the 32, and following a 4-yard pass to Roy Roundtree, he was sacked again, this time for a loss of 11 yards. Michigan caught a break, though, because the Illinois player who made the sack grabbed Forcier’s face mask, resulting in a 15-yard penalty and an automatic first down. The drive still went nowhere after the penalty, but Michigan was at least able to get a 29-yard field goal by Jason Olesnavage to take the lead.
- Michigan started its next drive with great field position again thanks to Illinois not being able to do anything offensively. Illinois’ drive consisted of a holding penalty, two short runs, and Juice Williams getting lit up by Brandon Graham for a loss of 9 yards.
- That field position quickly got even better when Tate Forcier found Junior Hemingway for a gain of 21 on the first play of the drive. It looked like the drive was about to stall after Carlos Brown lost 7 on the next play, but Forcier scrambled for a gain of 16 to make it 3rd and 1. Brown moved the chains and picked up 5 and 1 yards on the next two plays to make it 3rd and 4 at the Illinois 15. Forcier was sacked for a loss of 9, meaning Michigan had to settle for another Jason Olesnavage field goal, which gave the Wolverines a 13-7 lead.
- Illinois again went three and out, but Michigan didn’t take a timeout until the clock ran down to 27 seconds left in the half. After Illinois’ punt went 65 yards thanks to a big bounce, Michigan decided to just take a knee and go into halftime with a 6-point lead.
- As mentioned at the start of this post, Michigan came out at the start of the second half with a big play. On 3rd and 7, Tate Forcier found a wide open Roy Roundtree for what was originally a 77-yard touchdown. Replay overturned the call and spotted the ball at the 1, which turned out to be the turning point in this game. Carlos Brown was stuffed for no gain on three straight plays, so Brandon Minor came in on 4th and goal. Minor, like Roundtree, appeared to score a touchdown. Replay again overturned the call, though, as Minor’s elbow was down before the ball crossed the plane of the goal line.
- Illinois got the ball back after the goal line stand and had all of the momentum on its side. The team that had struggled to move the ball ever since the first drive of the game no longer could be stopped. After four running plays and a 17-yard pass by Juice Williams moved Illinois out to the 30, Mikel Leshoure officially got the ass kicking by the Illini started. Leshoure got the ball, burst through the first wave of defenders, and was gone. There was no second line of defenders, and Leshoure ran into the end zone for a 70-yard touchdown.
- Michigan went three and out on its next drive, and Illinois picked up right where it left off. Leshoure ran for 27 yards on the first play of the Illini’s next drive, and then Juice Williams found Jeff Cumberland for a gain of 34. A pass interference penalty on Stevie Brown in the end zone moved the ball down to the 2 a couple plays later, and Juice quickly turned that mistake into points by throwing a touchdown pass to put Illinois up by a score of 21-13.
- Michigan continued to unravel when it got the ball back, as Tate Forcier threw 3 incompletions, David Moosman got a personal foul penalty, and Zoltan Mesko punted the ball only 24 yards.
- It took Illinois only six plays to get into the end zone, which Juice Williams did on a 3-yard run. That came after a 37-yard pass to Chris James, which set up the touchdown.
- Michigan finally pulled its head out of you know where and remembered how to move the ball. Carlos Brown went for 17 yards on two different runs, and Tate Forcier found Kevin Koger for a gain of 22 in between. Brown followed up an illegal participation penalty on Illinois (finally Michigan got this call) by running for a gain of 9 down to the 10. He was dropped for a loss of 6 on the next play, though, which is how an awful third quarter came to an end.
- Following an incompletion, Michigan faced 3rd and goal from the 16. Tate Forcier dropped back to pass, tried to step up, and had the ball knocked loose by Clay Nurse. Corey Liuget fell on it, giving Illinois the ball and stopping Michigan’s comeback before it even got started.
- Illinois slowly moved the ball down the field this time around, and Michigan did manage to keep Juice Williams out of the end zone. Illinois made a 23-yard field goal, though, making the score 31-13.
- Michigan provided a glimmer of hope that a comeback was possible when Tate Forcier completed a 66-yard pass to Junior Hemingway on the second play of its next drive. Forcier then found Roy Roundtree for a gain of 4, making it 2nd and 6 from the 10-yard line. For a brief moment I thought to myself, “This is Illinois. 18 points isn’t that big of a deficit to overcome.” Forcier proceeded to throw a pair of incompletions, and much to my dismay, the offense stayed out on the field to go for it on fourth down. A field goal would have made this a 2-touchdown game, but Michigan attempted to go for it instead. Forcier threw another incompletion, and Michigan turned the ball over on downs.
- Illinois only moved the ball 30 yards but took about 4 and a half minutes off the clock. It looked like this was going to be a quiet finish, but Brandon Graham blocked a punt for the third week in a row. Like last week against Penn State, it took a bad bounce and wasn’t returned for a touchdown, but Michigan suddenly had the ball on the 15-yard line.
- Tate Forcier gave the ball back to Illinois just as quickly by fumbling for the second time in this game. A comeback was unlikely anyway, but this was the nail in the coffin for Michigan.
- Illinois appeared to be content with simply running the clock out, but Michigan used up its timeouts and Jason Ford eventually broke free for a 79-yard touchdown run. The second big run of the game put Illinois on top 38-13, which is what the final score ended up being. (Denard Robinson came in on Michigan’s final drive of the game, which also ended on a failed fourth-down conversion.)
So, where do we go from here? I’ll admit that I was ready to flat out jump off the Rich Rodriguez bandwagon after Saturday’s game, and although I’m still extremely pissed off over Michigan losing to Illinois and how it happened, I’m going to wait to see what happens the final three weeks of the regular season before I jump off any bandwagons. If Michigan continues to play horrible football and loses out, for example, then the bandwagon will be pretty empty and I will certainly will no longer be on it. On the other hand, if Michigan somehow gets things turned around and beats Purdue and upsets Ohio State, all will be well again in Ann Arbor. I know it’d be easy to make a rash decision after such a crappy game, but let’s wait a few weeks and see if Rich Rodriguez can pull a rabbit out of his hat.
Looking at the rest of the schedule on a realistic basis, Michigan is going to be playing for a bowl game on Saturday against Purdue. Michigan is simply not going to go on the road to Wisconsin and upset the Badgers, and the chances of beating Ohio State don’t look good at all if the offense can only muster 13 points against Illinois. The difference between another boring holiday season and a short drive to Ford Field for the Pizza Bowl really comes down to what happens on Saturday. If Michigan can’t beat Purdue, it is probably going to be another long, long offseason for the football program and its fans.
After losing its last two games against FBS teams in heart-breaking fashion, Michigan had a chance to make a statement against Penn State on Saturday to set the tone for the rest of the season. A win over the Nittany Lions would have given Michigan tons of momentum heading into the final four games of the regular season and made a New Year’s Day bowl a realistic possibility. Not to mention, Michigan fans everywhere would have been able to once again chant “We own Penn State.”
Unfortunately, the wait to use that chant again will last at least another year, because the Nittany Lions were victorious on Saturday, winning 35-10 in dominant fashion. It was the first win for Penn State at Michigan Stadium since 1996, and unlike some of the close games in the past that ended with the Nittany Lions losing in dramatic fashion, this game was over with quite a few minutes left on the clock.
Michigan started the game off with a tremendous touchdown drive that appeared to set the tone for how the game was going to go. Instead it turned out to be false hope more than anything, because Penn State answered with a quick score and never looked back. Michigan’s offense seemingly forgot how to play good football after that first drive, committing both forced and unforced errors throughout the rest of the game. It was very reminiscent of the struggles the offense had against Michigan State and Iowa where simply moving the ball was nearly impossible on all but a few drives. The same could not be said for Penn State in this game, because it lit up Michigan’s defense with big runs and big passes on its scoring drives. Michigan’s defense did make quite a few stops that kept the game within reach until around halfway through the third quarter, but just like against Iowa, there were too many big plays that led to points for the Nittany Lions.
- As mentioned, Michigan got the ball first and went right down the field for a touchdown. Michigan used a healthy combination of runs and short passes to keep the ball moving. Things were going so well that the offense only faced one third down on this drive, and even then it was only a 3rd and 1. Michigan converted it by giving the ball to Brandon Minor, who eventually scored a touchdown from 1 yard out. The touchdown was set up by a 20-yard pass to Martavious Odoms two plays earlier. Odoms limped off the field after going down at the 2-yard line, but the effort was certainly appreciated. By the way, he wasn’t the only player to get banged up on this drive. David Molk suffered a right knee injury only four plays into his return, forcing David Moosman to move back to center. As you will see later in this half, that turned out to be a big loss for Michigan.
- Despite the momentum being in Michigan’s favor, Penn State wasted little time in evening the score back up and taking some of that momentum back. A bad kickoff gave Penn State good field position, and a 14-yard pass and a 41-yard run quickly moved them down to Michigan’s 8-yard line. Evan Royster was stuffed for a loss of 2 on the next play, but Daryll Clark proceeded to find Graham Zug on 2nd and goal for a 10-yard touchdown, making this a tied game.
- Following Michigan going three and out, Penn State picked up right where it left off and quickly moved the ball into Michigan territory again on this drive. Clark found Zug again, this time for a gain of 18, and then PSU went to the ground. Royster ran for 8 yards, and then Clark followed that up with an 8-yard gain of his own. Joe Suhey picked up 7 on the next play, and Royster put Penn State on the 23-yard line with a gain of 4 more yards. Michigan’s defense finally put the clamps down at this point and came up with a stop, but Penn State took the lead on a 34-yard field goal.
- Michigan did manage to pick up a first down on its next drive, but that was the only time it moved the chains. Zoltan Mesko came out for a punt shortly after and only kicked it 36 yards.
- Penn State moved into Michigan territory at the end of the opening quarter on a couple of 8-yard passes, but Michigan’s defense made a stop after that and forced a punt.
- Just like Michigan’s last drive, it picked up one first down and nothing more. Zoltan Mesko got a much better punt off this time, and Penn State started the next drive at its 27-yard line.
- Michigan’s defense made another stop, giving Denard Robinson the ball at his 17-yard line when he led the offense onto the field after the punt. Forcier was again struggling and the offense wasn’t doing much, so Robinson came in to hopefully give the unit a spark. Initially, that is exactly what he did. Robinson ran for 7 and 6 yards with a 7-yard gain by Brandon Minor in between. A holding penalty on Penn State moved the chains again. After a 2-yard pickup by Robinson, he had Kevin Koger wide open for what would have been another first down. The throw wasn’t perfect, but Koger dropped it, making it 3rd and 8. Robinson scrambled to the right and tried to make a play, but he was picked off by Navorro Bowman, who returned the interception to Michigan’s 40-yard line. Robinson hurried the snap because Penn State was making a substitution and didn’t appear to get a 12th player off the field in time, but there was no flag and Penn State took over with great field position.
- The interception didn’t directly lead to points, because Penn State went three and out and punted the ball away from the 33-yard line, but it set up what I feel was the turning point in this game.
- The punt was fair caught by Donovan Warren at the 8-yard line, and Michigan made its field position even worse by Carlos Brown being tackled for a 3-yard loss, Mark Ortmann moving early for a false start, and Tate Forcier taking a delay of game penalty that backed the team up to the 2-yard line. That came after an incompletion, making it 3rd and 16 for Michigan. I was already thinking ahead to fourth down and was worried about the seemingly inevitable punt getting blocked or there being a problem with the snap, but David Moosman didn’t make me wait until then. He snapped the ball before Forcier was ready on third down, and it went right out of the end zone for a safety. I knew a bad snap was inevitable with Moosman, but it really couldn’t have happened at a worse place on the field.
- The safety was sort of like a soft punch in the arm, but Penn State kicked Michigan right between the legs on the first play after the free kick. Daryll Clark found Andrew Quarless in the middle of the field, and he outran Obi Ezeh and Jordan Kovacs for a 60-yard touchdown. Ezeh simply was slow off the blocks and let Quarless have enough of a cushion that he could make the catch and turn up field for the touchdown. The safety help never arrived, and Quarless ran into the end zone untouched. Just like that, Penn State went from being up by 3 points to leading 19-7.
- Michigan’s offensive struggles continued on the next drive and it went three and out again.
- Penn State did the same thing, and Junior Hemingway had a nice 19-yard return on the proceeding punt, giving Michigan the ball at PSU’s 39-yard line with 1:38 left in the half.
- Tate Forcier and Greg Mathews hooked up on a great pass and catch to move Michigan down to the 19-yard line, and Brandon Minor got the Wolverines all the way down to the 2 with runs of 6, 7, and 5 yards. This once promising drive came to a screeching halt after that last run, however. Forcier fumbled the snap on 2nd and goal, and with the clock running, he decided to spike it on third down. That stopped the clock with 13 seconds and made it fourth down, forcing Michigan to kick a field goal. Forcier should have snapped it and thrown the ball to the end zone considering there was plenty of time to do so, but Rich Rodriguez took the blame for the spike after the game, saying that he wanted to make sure the Wolverines got some points before halftime. They did, as Jason Olesnavage made a 23-yard field goal, but Michigan blew a chance at taking a shot to the end zone and possibly making this a one-possession game going into halftime.
- Despite how poorly Michigan played after the first drive of the game, Penn State only led 19-10 as the second half got underway. That wasn’t the case for long, though. Chaz Powell returned the opening kickoff of the second half for 54 yards, putting Penn State in position to quickly increase its lead. That is exactly what happened on only the fourth play of the drive. Daryll Clark found Andrew Quarless on the first play of the drive for a gain of 31, and then after two short runs, he found Graham Zug in the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown. Penn State attempted a 2-point conversion to make this a three-possession game, but Clark’s pass was incomplete. Still, Penn State now led 25-10, and Michigan was fading fast.
- Michigan needed to get going on offense, but things went extremely poorly on its first drive of the second half. After two incompletions and a sack, Zoltan Mesko boomed a punt 62 yards. Penn State took over at its 25-yard line after a 10-yard return by Zug.
- Penn State moved the ball near midfield on a couple big runs, but it had to punt after an incomplete pass, a 2-yard run, and a sack.
- Denard Robinson came back into the game and just like his first drive, his second one ended with a turnover. On only the second play out there, Robinson lost control of the ball right before he went down, and Penn State’s Nick Sukay recovered it at the 22-yard line.
- Only two plays later, Daryll Clark found Graham Zug yet again for their third touchdown hookup of the day, making the score 32-10 and making it feel like the game was over. There was plenty of time left, but Michigan’s offense wasn’t about to get things turned around.
- Michigan went three and out in ugly fashion yet again, with this drive including another dropped pass by Kevin Koger and a holding penalty on Steve Schilling that negated a 20-yard pass to Carlos Brown.
- Penn State also went three and out, and Brandon Graham blocked the ensuing punt to give Michigan a glimmer of hope. The ball took a bad bounce, and Graham was unable to pick it up for what likely would have been a 20-yard or so touchdown. Even so, Michigan still had the ball at the PSU 24-yard line.
- If Michigan was going to get back in the game, it had to score a touchdown on its next drive. That blocked punt could have been the spark that started a Michigan comeback, but instead it was just another little bit of false hope. I say that because Carlos Brown didn’t protect the ball and had it knocked out of his hands two plays after the blocked punt. Navorro Bowman fell on it, giving Penn State the ball and essentially killing any hope of a Michigan comeback.
- The two teams traded punts to end the third quarter, and Michigan didn’t get the ball again for quite some time. A roughing the punter penalty kept the drive alive for Penn State, and the 18-play, 10-minute long possession finally came to an end when Collin Wagner made a 29-yard field goal.
- Michigan finally put together a decent drive and drove deep into Penn State territory. Tate Forcier was intercepted on 4th and goal from the 19, however, allowing Penn State to simply take a knee on the next play to end the game and make the 35-10 victory official.
There isn’t anything else to say about this game, because Michigan simply looked awful. Let’s move on and take a look at the last part of Michigan’s season.
The Wolverines head to Champaign next week to play 1-7 Illinois. Before the season I certainly didn’t think this would be one of the most winnable games on the schedule, but that’s exactly what it is: a game Michigan should win. Illinois is downright awful, and not only is it 1-7, but its only win this season was against Illinois State, a 3-4 FCS team. Michigan can’t afford to lose a game like this, because a loss would probably send this entire team into a tailspin. Bowl eligibility is on the line next Saturday, and every win counts at this point.
Purdue comes to Ann Arbor on November 7, and unlike Michigan’s matchup with Illinois, this game looks a lot tougher than most thought it would be. After all, the Boilermakers already beat Ohio State, and Michigan’s only Big Ten win so far was surviving an upset scare at home against Indiana. Considering Purdue is above both Michigan and Indiana in the conference standings, I wouldn’t exactly count this as an automatic win or anything like that.
Barring something unusual happening, Michigan will be an underdog in its last two games of the regular season. The road trip to Wisconsin is going to be very tough, as Camp Randall is not an easy place to play. After that, Michigan returns home to play Ohio State in the regular season finale. As much as Terrelle Pryor has struggled at times, Michigan’s defense seems like it will be susceptible to giving up big plays against him. Pryor’s best throws are when his receivers are open, and chances are the secondary will have a breakdown at least once against OSU. Michigan also seems to have trouble containing opposing quarterbacks. I don’t mean that in the sense that running QBs give the defense problems; Michigan just doesn’t do a very good job of keeping contain. (See Kirk Cousins’ ability to run the ball against U-M earlier this month as an example of that.) Add Ohio State’s ferocious defense to the mix and count me as beyond nervous for that game as well.
When it boils down to it, the remaining schedule presents two games Michigan should be favored to win and two games Michigan should be favored to lose. I definitely could see an upset happening along the way, though, with either Illinois or Purdue knocking off Michigan or Michigan knocking off Wisconsin or Ohio State. To me a win over Ohio State is more likely than an upset at Wisconsin, which I see as a loss no matter what. Technically the best-case scenario is for Michigan to win out, which would make the Wolverines 9-3 and give them a great shot at playing in a New Year’s Day bowl. Two upsets is an awful lot to ask, though, so the realistic best-case scenario is a 3-1 finish. Worst-case scenario is an absolute meltdown where Michigan doesn’t win another game and misses a bowl for the second-straight year. I don’t even want to think about the chaos that would cause, so let’s just move on to the realistic worst-case scenario, which is a 1-3 finish. That would make Michigan 6-6 and potentially mean for a (short) trip to the Pizza Bowl. While that isn’t exactly ideal, it’s still a bowl game.
The happy medium between the best- and worst-case scenarios is a 2-2 finish, meaning Michigan likely wins the games it should win and loses the games it should lose. A 7-5 finish was expected coming into the season, but everyone got their hopes up after a perfect September. That was the natural thing to do, but things got a lot tougher (as we first saw against Indiana) once Big Ten play began. Even then Michigan could have won at Michigan State and at Iowa (the current #4 team in the BCS no less) despite relatively bad play, leaving expectations high for many. The loss to Penn State served as a reality check, basically showing that as much as this team has progressed, there is still a lot of room for improvement. Hopefully we see more progression in the final four weeks of the season, because it certainly looked like the team, especially the offense, regressed last week. Basically in all of Big Ten play Michigan has struggled, and in the process it has won one close game, lost two close games, and was beat handily by Penn State. I’m sure there will be more close games the next four weeks, and I just hope the end results are more like what happened in September than what has happened so far in October.
Despite all of this looking ahead, it is important to take the rest of the season one game at a time. It’s fun to speculate and guess what will happen the rest of the season, but nothing is more important than the next game. In Michigan’s case, nothing is more important than going to Champaign and beating Illinois. Kickoff for the Illinois game is set for 3:30 p.m. ET, and ABC/ESPN will be broadcasting it on a regional basis.
Games against FCS teams typically serve as a time for injured players to rest, younger players to gain experience, and fans to have a relaxing day at the stadium. Unlike Michigan’s first ever game against an FCS opponent, Saturday was a typical matchup with an FCS team.
Michigan pounded Delaware State for all four quarters on Saturday, winning 63-6. Michigan led 49-3 at halftime, which was the second-highest score after two quarters in U-M history. The Wolverines scored a touchdown on all but three drives, and even then all three of those ended in Delaware State territory. If Zoltan Mesko wasn’t a holder for extra points, he would have been pretty bored during yesterday’s game, because his punting services weren’t needed.
Tate Forcier’s services weren’t needed after the first drive of the game. Forcier led Michigan down the field for a touchdown, and four different quarterbacks got playing time after that. Denard Robinson was the most successful of the four, throwing for a pair of touchdowns and scoring another on the ground. To the delight of the student section, David Cone also played quite well when he came into the game in the fourth quarter and was out there for a couple scoring drives that included 2 Mike Cox touchdowns. Those touchdowns kept adding to Michigan’s enormous rushing total, which ended up being at 461 yards when all was said and done. Between that number and Michigan’s 266 passing yards, the Wolverines finished with a program record of 727 total yards.
- Things were bad for Delaware State from the game’s opening kickoff. Bryan Wright didn’t hit the ball all that well, but it somehow bounced by or off of a couple players and rolled to the goal line. It would have kept going to the end zone for a touchback, but a DSU player picked it up at the goal line and returned it to the 5-yard line. After the Hornets went three and out, Michigan had great field position, starting its first drive in DSU territory.
- Michael Shaw got the ball to start the game for Michigan, hinting that we wouldn’t see Brandon Minor or Carlos Brown at all during the game. Both were and still are recovering from injuries, so Rich Rodriguez decided to give them a week off to rest up for Penn State and to give some of the younger players a chance to play. Following a 14-yard completion to Greg Mathews, Shaw ran for 2 more. Tate Forcier then found Martavious Odoms, who ran down the field and out of bounds at the 2-yard line for a gain of 25. Shaw punched it in on the next play for a touchdown, putting Michigan on top 7-0.
- Delaware State again went three and out, and beginning now, I’m not going to even bother mentioning what it did unless something noteworthy happened on the drive. Most drives in the first half resulted in three and outs, so there’s no point in repeating it over and over.
- Denard Robinson came in on Michigan’s next drive, and the Wolverines moved the ball strictly on the ground, picking up big chunks of yardage on basically every play. Robinson got things started by running for 7 yards, and then Shaw got the ball and went for 8. Robinson took off to the left side for 20, and Shaw went for 16 more on the next play. Vincent Smith got his first carry of the game on the following play and picked up 11 yards. After a 4-yard run by Robinson, Smith scored on a 6-yard run to double Michigan’s lead to 14 points.
- Delaware State seemed to be having some problems snapping the ball on punts, and you could just sense that a block was going to happen at some point. Well, it happened after DSU again went three and out. Brandon Smith probably could have tackled the punter if he really wanted to, but he simply blocked the ball and then flung it forward after he was on the ground. The ball went right to Brandon Graham, who took control of it and ran 2 yards for a touchdown.
- Michigan started its next drive at the DSU 39, and it looked like they were on their way to scoring yet another touchdown. On the second play of the drive, however, Robinson ran the ball for 9 yards and fumbled, and a Delaware State player recovered it for his team’s first stop of the game.
- Michigan started on the DSU 38 the next time it got the ball, and Robinson quickly made up for his turnover by finding a wide open Kelvin Grady down the middle of the field for a touchdown. The pass was a little overthrown, but not enough to prevent Grady from making the catch and scoring another Michigan touchdown.
- Delaware State’s next drive technically wasn’t a three and out because of a face mask penalty on Donovan Warren, but that was the only time the chains were moved on this possession.
- Vincent Smith got things going at the end of the first quarter with runs of 13 and 11 yards, and that was only a sign of things to come.
- Smith got the ball again on the first two plays of the second quarter and ran for 9 and 37 yards. On the latter carry he made a move right after he got the ball and had a huge hole to run through. After Denard Robinson completed a 19-yard pass to Darryl Stonum, Smith was dropped for a loss of 1 and Robinson’s next pass was incomplete, making it 3rd and goal from the 4. Robinson took the snap and simply ran to the right side and into the end zone for the touchdown, putting Michigan ahead of DSU by a score of 35-0.
- Another face mask penalty, this time by Mike Williams, gave Delaware State a first down, but like the last drive, that was the only time the chains moved on this possession.
- Kevin Grady came in as Michigan’s running back and ran for 4, 9, and 9 yards again. Robinson ran for 10 yards after Grady’s first carry, and after his last carry Shoelace found a wide open Martell Webb for a 28-yard touchdown. It was similar to Robinson’s first touchdown pass because he had a wide open receiver in the middle of the field both times. This time he rolled out to the right, stopped and cut back a little, and got the ball off before any real pressure arrived. The pass was again underthrown, but not enough for it to matter.
- Kevin Grady stayed in the game as Michigan’s running back and started the Wolverines’ next drive with runs that went for 26, 7, and 4 yards. Nick Sheridan was now in at quarterback and found Je’Ron Stokes for 9 yards and Kelvin Grady for 10. Vincent Smith came back in and ran for a yard, and then Sheridan found LaTerryal Savoy for 19 more yards. Grady broke a tackle in the backfield on the next play and ran into the end zone on the left side for the second touchdown by a Grady in this game. Michigan now led 49-0.
- Michigan’s shutout came to an end at this point in the game thanks to terrible kickoff coverage. The kick itself wasn’t very good, and the coverage was even worse. Bryan Wright, the kicker, is the one who stopped the return at the 23-yard line, putting the Hornets in position to finally get on the board. A 19-yard pass on first down put them in position to score a touchdown, but the defense stepped it up and held DSU to a field goal.
- Michael Shaw ran the ball three times before halftime, going for 2, 19, and 11 yards.
- Michigan started the half with a healthy mix of Vincent Smith rushes and Nick Sheridan passes. After a pair of 6-yard runs by Smith, Sheridan found Terrence Robinson for 13 yards and Brandon Moore for 19 yards. Kevin Grady came in and ran for 7 yards, and then Smith ran for 5, 7, 7, and 1. An illegal participation penalty backed Michigan up 5 yards, and a loss on Smith’s next run backed U-M up 2 more yards. Sheridan found Je’Ron Stokes for 7 yards on third down, making it 4th and goal from the 5. Michigan decided to go for it, and Sheridan was stopped at the 2-yard line.
- Delaware State finally started to move the ball by attacking Michigan’s backup defensive backs, namely the third-string cornerbacks. J.T. Floyd was sick and missed the game, and Boubacar Cissoko was still suspended. As uncomfortable as I am anytime Floyd or Cissoko step onto the field, they are much better than the third-stringers who let DSU move into Michigan territory before the defense finally came up with a stop.
- Michigan again moved the ball down the field with Smith doing much of the work. He got the drive off to a great start by running for 14 and 35 yards, and after a pair of incompletions thrown in Terrence Robinson’s direction, a pass interference penalty kept the drive alive. Sheridan then ran for 4 yards, and Michael Cox came in and was stopped for a loss of 7. Cox got the loss back on the next play on an 11-yard pass from Sheridan, but he only was able to run for 1 yard on 4th and 2, giving the ball back to Delaware State.
- Delaware State again moved the ball effectively, but the drive stalled after the Hornets got inside the 10. They settled for a field goal to get to 6 points on the day.
- David Cone came in and received a big cheer from the student section the next time Michigan got the ball, and he completed a nice pass to LaTerryal Savoy for a gain of 21. On the next play Michael Cox broke to the outside and ran for a 57-yard touchdown, giving Michigan a 56-6 lead.
- Cox continued to run the ball well on the next drive, going for 6 and 10 yards after picking up nothing on first down. Cone then completed a 4-yard pass to Ricky Reyes, and Michigan faced 3rd and 6 after Cox was stopped for no gain. Cone found Reyes again, this time in the middle of the field for a gain of 29. That set Cox up for another touchdown three plays later, this time from 3 yards out. Michigan now led 63-6, which is what the final score would end up being.
- Michigan did get the ball back and had time to run one more play. Jack Kennedy came in at quarterback and ran a draw for a gain of 6, becoming Michigan’s fifth QB to get playing time.
You really can’t take too much away from a game against Delaware State. It was nice to get a look at so many inexperienced players, but other than that there wasn’t anything new that came out of the game. Probably the most notable thing is that Tate Forcier did play, though it was only for a series. That means that he was cleared by doctors and had Penn State been on the schedule this past Saturday, he probably would have been expected to play as much as he normally does. The other notable news on the injury front was the absence of Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown, who both sat out to rest up for Penn State. That was for the better not only because they need to heal, but also because it gave the other backs a chance to play. They certainly didn’t disappoint:
Vincent Smith – 18 carries, 166 yards, 1 TD
Michael Cox – 11 carries, 82 yards, 2 TDs
Michael Shaw – 9 carries, 73 yards, 1 TD
Kevin Grady – 8 carries, 73 yards, 1 TD
I’ve never been a fan of scheduling games against FCS teams, but if it for sure going to happen once a season, you might as well schedule a team like Delaware State, which will give you a chance to play as many as five quarterbacks and rest your two best running backs. It is not an exciting matchup by any means, but it’s nice to see people like David Cone and other inexperienced players get a chance to play. Plus, I don’t mind having this relaxing of a day at Michigan Stadium every once in a while.
Now, with that being said, it’s time to get back to business next week when Penn State comes to the Big House. The Nittany Lions are ranked 13th and 11th in the two major pools and have only lost once — to Iowa. They will provide a tough matchup but are certainly beatable. Hell, Michigan was up on them last year in Happy Valley until a collapse at the end of the first half and a blowout in the second happened. If Michigan can play like it did at the start of the game last year for four quarters, then we may be talking about the hopeful start of a new winning streak against Penn State at this time a week from now.
Kickoff for the Penn State game is at 3:30 and the game will broadcast on ABC and ESPN.
Last night’s game at Iowa will be forever remembered as the one that got away. It was a prototypical game where you look back and go “what if” or “they should’ve done this” and just facepalm in disgust over how winnable of a game it was. It’s not often that you can go on the road as an unranked team, playing the #12 team in the country at night no less, and be in position to win, but Michigan was and gave the game away with a total of 5 turnovers. What’s ironic is that Michigan took the lead less than a minute into the game by taking an interception back for a touchdown, but after that it was Iowa that capitalized on costly mistakes.
For the most part the defense did a great job of keeping Iowa out of the end zone after turnovers, playing more bend but don’t break football. That kept the score relatively close in the second half despite the offense’s struggles outside of one drive at the end of the third quarter. The offense didn’t start moving the ball again until Denard Robinson came in and led Michigan down the field for a touchdown in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter. Michigan didn’t recover an onside kick, but the defense made a stop and gave the offense a chance to win the game.
Michigan only needed a field goal, but time was limited, especially with Robinson staying in at quarterback. Although Robinson was coming off of a great drive and Tate Forcier had struggled mightily when he played, I would have rather seen Forcier take back the reins. He not only has thrived in situations like this, but he also has experience leading drives in the last minute and is a better passer than Robinson. Yes, he stunk for most of the game and Robinson deserved a shot, but Robinson played like he was under pressure and threw a bad pass downfield that was intercepted. That sealed the 30-28 win for Iowa, and just like I said before, all I could do was think about the “what ifs” that could have changed the game’s outcome.
- Reminiscent of the 2006 Notre Dame game, Michigan started off by returning an interception for a touchdown. Simply throwing in Donovan Warren’s direction usually isn’t a very good idea, and you definitely can’t make a bad throw when you decide to do that. Stanzi did both of those things, though, and Warren caught the ball and ran 40 yards for a touchdown. It was probably one of the easiest interceptions for a touchdown ever, as the pass went right to Warren, who ran it back untouched.
- Iowa needed to respond with a good drive, and getting good field position thanks to a 34-yard kick return helped get things back on track. Conversions on third down also helped get things on track, as that was really the only time Iowa could move the ball. Three times Michigan held Iowa to third down, but each time the Hawkeyes converted. The third time Iowa didn’t move the chains, but that was because Stanzi found Tony Moeaki wide open in the middle of the field for a 34-yard touchdown. Michigan sent the kitchen sink and more, and the tight end simply ran down the field by himself, as safety Jordan Kovacs picked up a different receiver. The touchdown tied the game up and gave momentum to Iowa.
- Michigan continued to unravel on the next drive, starting with a holding penalty on 2nd and 1. Tate Forcier ran for 9 yards on first down, sliding a bit short of the marker. He could have moved the chains but went down early to avoid a hit. Michigan promptly was called for holding on 2nd and 1, which is just a huge kick between the legs considering the situation. After Brandon Minor (no, Brent Musberger, his first name isn’t Travis) ran for a yard on the next play, Forcier made a terrible pass and was picked off by Jeremiha Hunter, who returned it to the 19-yard line.
- The defense, just as it did at times last week, bailed out the offense, making Iowa go three and out. The Hawkeyes did take the lead on a 28-yard field goal, but that was good enough in my book considering how much momentum Iowa had on its side following the turnover.
- Just as Iowa did earlier, Michigan responded with a big drive of its own. Minor got things started with back-to-back gains of 9 yards, and then Forcier found Kevin Koger and Martavious Odoms for 8 and 6 yards. Michael Shaw ran for 5 yards, and then Forcier went for 1, making it 3rd and 4. Forcier found Odoms for what would have been a first down, but the ball came out as Odoms hit the ground, making it 4th and 4. Michigan was on Iowa’s 35-yard line — too far for a field goal and too close for a punt. Given that, Michigan decided to go for it. That was a good decision, because Forcier ran for 9 yards to move the chains. Vincent Smith made an appearance on the previous play but actually ran the ball for 2 yards on the next, and then Forcier founds Odoms again with a great pass, this time for a gain of 21. Minor punched the ball in from 3 yards out for a TD on the next play, giving the lead back to Michigan.
- Riding a wave of momentum, the defense stepped it up again and Iowa went three and out. Brandon Graham provided the exclamation point for the drive, taking down Stanzi for a sack as the opening quarter came to an end.
- All the momentum was on Michigan’s side at this point, but another costly turnover changed that and the entire outlook of this game. Tate Forcier was going to throw a bubble screen, but the ball slipped out of his hand and eventually ended up being recovered by an Iowa player at the Michigan 46. Michigan was getting ready to drive down the field, but a ridiculously unlucky turnover ended up giving Iowa the ball in U-M territory. That play by itself pretty much sums up this game.
- Just like after the first turnover, Michigan’s defense stepped it up, though that only happened after a 22-yard pass to Marvin McNutt. The big pass play put Iowa in field goal range, which is what it came to after three straight incompletions, with the last one nearly being picked off by Donovan Warren.
- Michigan picked up one first down on its next drive but failed to move the chains after that. A 53-yard punt by Zoltan Mesko helped flip the field position, but that would only end up being an obstacle for Iowa.
- If the turnover that was turned into a field goal wasn’t the changing point in this game, then it was on 3rd and 24 on this drive. After an incompletion on first down, the snap bounced off of Ricky Stanzi’s hands and went backwards for a loss of 14 yards on second down, making it third and long. Michigan has struggled in these situations all season long, and last night was no different. Stanzi threw a bomb downfield, and it sailed just over Donovan Warren and Mike Williams. Waiting for it was a diving Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, who made the amazing grab for a gain of 47 yards. That play was so deflating, as Michigan not only had Iowa in an awful situation, but the play itself was one where everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Two plays later Brandon Wegher jumped into the end zone for a touchdown, putting Iowa on top 20-14.
- Michigan quickly went three and out, and Zoltan Mesko had another punt that went 53 yards. Iowa got a decent return, but that didn’t matter after the next play, because Brandon Graham sacked Stanzi for a loss of 11. This time when third and long came up Michigan made a stop, and the offense took over after a punt and a holding penalty at its own 19-yard line.
- Brandon Minor ran the ball a couple time for 12 and 2 yards, and then Forcier added 2 more on the ground. On the next play he found Martavious Odoms for a gain of 35, putting Michigan at Iowa’s 30-yard line. It looked like they were getting ready to take the lead back before halftime, but then another untimely turnover happened. Minor had the ball stripped and Adrian Clayborn recovered it with 1:19 to go in the half.
- Iowa was content with running the clock out and going to the locker rooms with a 6-point lead, but Michigan called a timeout after second down. There was still time to make something happen if Michigan got a stop on 3rd and 10, but that was a big if that didn’t come to fruition. Stanzi found Johnson-Koulianos for a gain of 11, moving the chains and changing Iowa’s strategy. The Hawkeyes now tried to get in field goal range, and they did get in position to attempt a kick with 3 seconds left. Somehow the play clock expired and Iowa got called for a delay of game, though, backing the kick up to 53 yards out. That proved to be important, because the kick sailed wide left, and it may have been good from only 48 yards out. Still, Iowa led at the half by a score of 20-14.
- Michigan opened the second half with a three and out; Iowa did not. The Hawkeyes came out and started running the ball effectively for the first time all game. Adam Robinson picked up 19 to get the ball rolling. After an 11-yard pass, Ricky Stanzi took off for 12, and Robinson followed that up with gains of 15 and 6 yards. Back-to-back incompletions led to another field goal, but I was glad to see that happen after how easy of a time Iowa was having running the ball. The Hawkeyes now led 23-14.
- Michigan was unable to get anything going after a 15-yard pass on the first play of the drive, but the defense forced Iowa to go three and out on three straight incomplete passes.
- Michigan finally decided to give the ball to Brandon Minor for the majority of a drive, which led to good things happening. Minor ran for 6, 5, and 9 yards, and after a 2-yard run and a 4-yard pass by Forcier, Minor broke off runs of 7, 4, and 12 yards. Michael Shaw came in and ran for 7, getting down to the 1-yard line. That is when Minor came back in and pounded the ball into the end zone, making this a 2-point game.
- Michigan’s defense came up with another stop, this time at midfield, but then it was an awful play all around on the ensuing punt. Not only did Michigan rough the punter, but Greg Mathews also dropped the kick. One of the many Iowa players around him recovered the ball, meaning the penalty didn’t even need to be accepted. Iowa took over at the 16-yard line and quickly completed a 10-yard pass to Tony Moeaki. After an incompletion, a pass to Brandon Wegher moved the Hawkeyes down to the 3, making it 3rd and goal at the end of the third quarter.
- Wegher got the ball and was stopped short of the goal line, making it 4th down. Iowa decided to go for it, not even hesitating on the decision. Stanzi faked a handoff and looked for an open receiver on the bootleg. He probably could have scored if he just ran the ball, but Stanzi thought he had a man open. That is when Stevie Brown appeared and knocked the ball down, nearly intercepting it.
- Although I was ecstatic that Michigan came up with a stop, looking back I really wish Brown didn’t drop the interception. I say that because Michigan looked lost down by its own goal line. Brandon Minor was stuffed for no gain on first down, and Tate Forcier just had to get rid of the ball and was nearly intercepted on second down. One of the biggest non-turnover mistakes of the game came before 3rd and 10 when Minor called timeout because the play clock was about to hit zero. He didn’t want Michigan to get a delay of game penalty, but all that would have done is back U-M up less than half a yard. Having the timeout later in the game would have been much nicer than avoiding a less-than-a-yard penalty. Either way, Forcier heaved the ball downfield on third down after not finding any options underneath, and the pass was incomplete. Zoltan Mesko boomed a punt out of the end zone for 61 yards, but Colin Sanderman took it back 20 yards for a good return.
- Unlike its last drive, Iowa was able to get the ball into the end zone this time. Actually, it only took one play. Stanzi found a wide open Tony Moeaki for the 42-yard touchdown, which put the Hawkeyes on top 29-21.
- Michigan’s next drive was over before it even started, as the play clock ran out before first down. That was like a drive-killer, and Michigan was unable to move the ball at all. Zoltan Mesko continued his great night with another punt of over 50 yards, and Michigan’s defense made a stop after giving up one first down. A personal foul on Iowa after the punt return gave Michigan the ball at the Hawkeyes’ 41.
- Like last week against Michigan State, Rich Rodriguez sent Denard Robinson into the game to give the offense a spark. Well, that and Rodriguez absolutely went off on Tate Forcier for his bad reads, his bad mistakes, and in general his bad play. Unlike last week, Robinson actually did give the offense new life. He rushed for 8, 2, and 5 yards, completed a 9-yard pass to Darryl Stonum, and then rushed for 3, 9, and 7 yards. Michael Shaw ran for 1 yard after a 7-yard pass to Junior Hemingway, and then Robinson took over. He ran for 5 and 3 yards, with the latter carry going into the end zone for a Michigan touchdown. The extra point made the score 30-28 in favor of Iowa with 3:16 left in the game.
- Since Michigan only had one timeout left, it decided to do an onside kick. I personally would have rather seen U-M kick it deep since there were over 3 minutes left, but then again there was only one timeout left thanks to earlier mistakes. The onside kick ended up being a mistake, too, as it went out-of-bounds, giving Iowa the ball on Michigan’s 45.
- The defense stepped it up and forced Iowa to punt, and Michigan got the ball back at its own 17 with 1:30 left on the clock.
- After receiving a few words of encouragement and/or advice from Nick Sheridan, Denard Robinson came out in what usually is Tate Forcier’s time to shine. Like I said earlier, I totally get why Robinson was the QB in this situation. Forcier had been awful for much of the game, and Robinson led the team to a touchdown on its last possession. Even so, Robinson is a run-first quarterback, and with only 1:30 left and no timeouts, you knew he was going to have to throw in this situation. What’s more, Forcier has faced this exact situation twice before, needing to drive down the field in the final minute. The difference this time was that Michigan only needed a field goal. Struggling or not, I believe Forcier was better prepared and better in general for this situation.Rich Rodriguez didn’t see it that way, and I honestly don’t blame him too much. Hindsight is 20/20, and although he obviously would never admit it, I’m sure part of him wishes he could go back and put Forcier into the game. I say that because after a 14-yard completion to Odoms and a 7-yard run, Robinson made the mistake we all knew was coming. He couldn’t find anyone open initially, seemed to panic, and then heaved the ball down the field. He actually had Odoms breaking open, but he went in Stonum’s direction and overthrew him. Iowa’s Brett Greenwood caught it, essentially ending the game.Robinson had to run a pass play since the clock was running, but in that situation he has to know better than to throw it up for grabs like that. He probably could have taken off, and as long as he got a first down or went out of bounds, it would have been fine. The problem is the pressure was on, and I’m sure he could hear the clock ticking in his head. Understandably, Robinson wanted to make a big play, even though Michigan did have time to work its way into field goal range. That’s what Forcier is so good at in this situation. He knows how to pick apart a defense in chunks and when to throw the ball away or simply run out of bounds. Robinson, lacking experience in a pressure-packed situation like this, wanted to make a big play instead. He ended up making a freshman mistake instead, and there was no last-drive magic for Michigan on this night.
It’s no mystery why Michigan lost this game: turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. Take back even one of those turnovers that led to a field goal and Michigan wins this game, probably by more than a single point. A couple of those turnovers came when Michigan was driving, one happening in Iowa territory. The others put the defense in a tough position, but like we saw last week, the entire unit responded and stepped its game up, keeping Iowa out of the end zone. Obviously it was in easier situations like when Iowa was faced with 3rd and long that the defense failed miserably, giving up explosion plays that led to or actually scored touchdowns. That was the defense’s downfall, as it played well in general except for a few specific plays. After all, it scored a touchdown to start the game, had a goal line stand, and gave the offense one last chance to win the game. Despite the big plays, you can’t ask for much more out of the defense (well, maybe you can ask for better play by the safeties).
The offense, on the other hand, just baffles me. Some drives it ran like a well-oiled machine, mainly when Michigan put the ball on the ground with a few passes in between carries. And then on other drives the offense looked lost and went three and out or turned the ball over. Zoltan Mesko did a sensational job (he averaged 53.8 yards a punt!) of keeping the field position relatively even save the punt that came from his own end zone, but that was on the coverage team, not him. In the end if Michigan could have eliminated just a couple turnovers, this probably would have been a win by more than a touchdown. Sure, you can go back and say stuff like that after every close game, but unlike last week when Michigan got completely dominated except for the last 5 minutes, this week the total yards stat was fairly even. The big difference was obviously in the turnovers column, where Michigan was -4. In a game where the Wolverines started with an interception return for a TD, turnovers ended up being the deciding factor, except it was the deciding factor for Iowa improving to 6-0.
The timing of next week’s Delaware State game couldn’t be better. After dropping back-to-back soul-crushing games on the road, Michigan will return home to play an FCS team. Obviously we have learned to never take an FCS team lightly, but Delaware State is no Appalachian State. This is a game where Michigan should win 60-0 and the backups should be playing by the fourth quarter. Anything less will be disappointing, though simply winning and making it through the game with no injuries is fine by me. Michigan would improve to 5-2 with the win, just as Penn State gets ready to come to Ann Arbor on October 24. I don’t want to look too far ahead, but Michigan should be playing to clinch bowl eligibility in two weeks. Not only that, but Penn State will be 6-1 and a top-15 team if they take care of business at home against Minnesota next Saturday. It will be Michigan’s chance to get a new winning streak started against the Nittany Lions, and more than anything it will be a chance to win in a big game against a team not named Notre Dame.
Discussion about Penn State will cease until next week, as Delaware State comes to the Big House next Saturday. The game will get started at noon and will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.
If you had told me that Michigan would hold Michigan State to 20 points through four quarters, win the turnover battle, and have 79 less penalty yards than the Spartans, I would have figured that the Wolverines won quite comfortably. At the same time, if you had told me that Michigan State would have nearly 400 yards compared to Michigan’s 66 (including negative rushing yards) with five minutes left in the fourth quarter, I would have assumed that the Spartans won in blowout fashion.
In reality, neither of those scenarios actually happened, as Michigan, despite being flat out dominated for the first 55 minutes of the game, scored a pair of touchdowns in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter to force overtime. The offense finally started to play well and Tate Forcier led Michigan down the field twice for 14 straight points to tie the game. The final touchdown was scored with only 2 seconds left on the clock, and as overtime was set to begin, it looked like a familiar story was playing out.
Michigan State, like we have seen a few times before in this rivalry, blew a lead at the end of a game, and Michigan had a chance to win in overtime. Unlike the past, though, the ending to this story was different. The “Same Ol’ Sparty” magic finally ran out in overtime. Tate Forcier was picked off to end Michigan’s possession, and even though MSU appeared to be simply setting up a field goal, Larry Caper broke a couple tackles and charged into the end zone to win the game. The 26-20 victory means that Michigan has now lost to Michigan State in back-to-back years for the first time since the 60s.
I don’t know what was more disappointing: The fact that Michigan came back only to lose in overtime, or the fact that despite how poorly they played for the first 55 minutes of the game, changing only one play could have resulted in Michigan winning in regulation. In that sense this was one of the weirdest games I’ve witnessed in a long time. Michigan State was beyond dominant for most of this game, yet somehow they let Michigan hang around and make a comeback to force overtime. In the end, though, U-M and MSU reversed their typical roles in this situation, as the Wolverines committed the costly mistake and the Spartans made a big play to win the game.
- Michigan’s first blown opportunity came at the very start of the game after Stevie Brown picked off Kirk Cousins’ first pass. Cousins was pressured on 3rd and 6, and Ryan Van Bergen hit his arm right as the ball was thrown. That caused it to come out short, allowing Brown to make the interception. He returned it to the MSU 14, but had he not cut back to the right, he may have been able to take it to the house.
- The reason this ended up being a blown opportunity for Michigan was because the offense quickly went three and out. Carlos Brown lost a yard on first down, and Tate Forcier was sacked for a loss of 4 more on second down. Forcier had Brown open out of the backfield on third down, but Brown didn’t turn around in time to make the catch. If the pass had been completed, Brown would have only had to make a couple defenders miss to reach the end zone. That was a big if since the pass wasn’t completed, meaning Michigan to settle for a 36-yard Jason Olesnavage field goal.
- Instead of Michigan setting the tone for this game with the interception, Michigan State had momentum from its defense and turned that into a statement drive. The Spartans slowly but surely moved their way down the field, not even facing a single third down until they were in Michigan territory. That’s not even the most surprising thing about this drive, though. Despite racking up 50 — yes, 50 — penalty yards on this drive, Michigan State had little trouble getting it all back. One big play would be taken away by a personal foul, and the Spartans would come right back with another big play. Michigan simply couldn’t stop MSU from moving the ball through the air, allowing the Spartans to control the clock and the game in general. Eventually Kirk Cousins scrambled for a gain of 7 yards to make it 4th and goal at the 1, and that is when Larry Caper pounded the ball into the end zone for a touchdown, capping off a 17-play drive that lasted for 10 minutes and 2 seconds.
- It seemed like it had been forever since Michigan’s offense saw the field, and they needed to put together a decent drive simply to give the defense time to rest. Unfortunately it was more of the same from them, as they went three and out and only had the ball for 59 seconds. Zoltan Mesko did have a 56-yard punt to pin the Spartans back at their own 11, but that was about the only positive thing that happened during Michigan’s possession.
- Michigan State converted a pair of third downs and moved into Michigan territory before the defense finally came up with a stop. Safety Jordan Kovacs put a huge hit on Larry Caper, forcing a fumble and a loss of 6 yards on the play. That helped Michigan force MSU to punt the ball away after moving it 42 yards. The drive still lasted for 11 plays and took 6:31 off the clock, though. As a result, the time of possession was beyond lopsided, and Michigan was in serious danger of barely having the ball in the entire first half if the offense didn’t wake up.
- After a pass break-up and a drop by Kelvin Grady, it looked like Michigan was headed for another three and out. That was especially true when Tate Forcier couldn’t find anyone open and scrambled on third down. He desperately heaved the ball downfield for Kevin Koger, who came back for it and made the catch despite having two Spartans around him. The pass went for a gain of 41 yards, moving the chains and getting the offense going. Forcier moved the chains again shortly after on 3rd and 9 by scrambling for a first down, and then he later found Martavious Odoms for a gain of 4 on 3rd and 2. Michigan continued to move the ball up until Forcier was sacked by Eric Gordon on 3rd and 3. He got rid of the ball but was called for intentional grounding, resulting in a loss of 14 on the play. Jason Olesnavage connected on a 42-yard field goal, making this a 1-point game.
- Glenn Winston returned the proceeding kickoff to MSU’s 45-yard line, putting the Spartans in position to add to their lead before halftime. Michigan State, like usual, slowly but surely moved down the field, and this time the defense came up with a stop when Stevie Brown took down Winston for a loss on 3rd and 1. Michigan State ran the clock down and kicked a 26-yard field goal as time expired to take a 10-6 lead at halftime.
- Michigan had a chance to open the second half with a big drive and even possibly take the lead, but they reverted back to how they played at the start of the game, going three and out. Tate Forcier was sacked, and Carlos Brown then lost a yard. After an incompletion on third down, Zoltan Mesko punted the ball away to the 50-yard line.
- Similar to what happened a couple plays earlier in the game, Michigan lost contain on Kirk Cousins. On 3rd and 8 they were unable to get much pressure on him, allowing him to take off and run for a first down. Keith Nichol then came into the game and hit Keshawn Martin for 9 yards, moving the Spartans down to Michigan’s 27-yard line. Glenn Winston moved the chains with a gain of 6, but that was followed up with an incompletion and no gain by Larry Caper. Kirk Cousins was under pressure on 3rd and 10, and Craig Roh nailed him just as he threw the ball. That led to it being way off target, allowing Donovan Warren to make the interception despite Troy Woolfolk running into him. Warren went down at the 7-yard line and prevented MSU from increasing its lead.
- Michigan finally was able to run the ball for a positive gain, as Carlos Brown picked up 7 and 2 yards, setting up 3rd and 1. Instead of going into the I-formation and/or simply handing the ball off to Brandon Minor, Tate Forcier ran a draw play and was stuffed for little to no gain. The spot wasn’t great, and a measurement revealed that Michigan was literally a few inches away from the first down. Some players seemed to want to go for it, but the punt team was sent in after a slight hesitation. Michigan came out in a slightly different punt formation, with three gunners to the right. Michigan State seemed to know something was up, as they came out in a safe look. That proved to be a smart move, as Zoltan Mesko took the snap and ran to the left. There he was tackled by multiple MSU defenders and dropped for a loss of 3 yards, giving the Spartans the ball at Michigan’s 13-yard line.
After the game Rich Rodriguez said that Zoltan Mesko made the decision to run the ball, but something is just fishy about this whole play. Like I said, Michigan lined up in a different formation than they usually do, as three gunners were on the right side. I’ve seen Michigan use this formation in previous games, but it is not their usual one. The second weird thing was that Michigan State came out in a safe return formation, almost knowing that something was up. I know Rodriguez said it was Mesko who made the read and the decision to run, but the three blockers in front of Mesko ran to the left, knowing that he was going to roll out that way. What’s odd about this is that Michigan hasn’t had Mesko roll out this season like he did last year due to a rules change that makes punters fair game in that situation. The blockers usually just wait to make a block, but this time they moved to the left.
Someone made the decision to run the rugby type of punt, which gives Mesko the option to run. Given the situation, Mesko should have been explicitly told to punt the ball and not even think about running. If Michigan wanted to go for it, a QB sneak probably would have moved the chains. Running a fake punt that deep in your own territory when you only need a few inches is just incredibly stupid, and it is probably one of the worst play calls/decisions I’ve ever seen.
- With its back against the wall, Michigan’s defense came up with a huge stop. Glenn Winston ran the ball for gains of 6 and 3 yards, making it 3rd and 1 at the 4. That is when Brandon Graham delivered a ferocious hit on Winston for a loss of a yard. Winston was slow to get up, which is understandable considering how big of a hit it was. Michigan State had to settle for a 24-yard field goal, putting them up 13-6.
- Michigan technically didn’t go three and out again on its next drive, but that’s exactly what happened after Tate Forcier moved the chains on a pass to Martavious Odoms. Brandon Minor ran for 3 yards, and then Tate Forcier was dropped for a loss of 5. He found Junior Hemingway for a gain of 11, making it 4th and 1, but Michigan punted the ball away this time.
- Keith Nichol came in at quarterback for Michigan State and moved the Spartans into Michigan territory as the third quarter came to a close.
- After an incompletion, Glenn Winston took the ball on a toss and ran down the right sideline 15 yards for a Michigan State touchdown. It was pretty obvious that Winston was going to get the ball on a toss, as Michigan State lined up with three receivers to the left side. That formation had been used before to run this play, as the quarterback would fake a bubble screen pass and pitch it to the other side. That is exactly what happened on this play, and Winston ran into the end zone to make this a 20-6 game.
- Hoping to give the offense a spark, Denard Robinson came into the game at quarterback. The first play he ran was a reverse to Martavious Odoms, who appeared to have a lane but made a bad read and ended up losing 4 yards. Robinson then ran for a loss of 2, and on third down he was sacked for a loss of 12.
- Michigan State took over with good field position, but Brandon Graham made a huge play on 3rd and 11. Kirk Cousins was scrambling to avoid pressure, and Graham caught him from behind and forced a fumble. The ball bounced around and Obi Ezeh eventually recovered it, giving Michigan the ball at MSU’s 46-yard line.
- Michigan immediately made a move after the turnover, as Tate Forcier found Junior Hemingway for a gain of 9 yards. Michigan State was penalized for a late hit on the play, even though Hemingway wasn’t completely down when he took the hit. Regardless, the penalty moved Michigan all the way down to the 22-yard line. On the very next play Forcier found Darryl Stonum for a gain of 10. Stonum tried to fight for extra yardage and had the ball knocked out of his hands by Eric Gordon. Greg Jones picked it up and returned it to the MSU 27.
- Michigan State went three and out after a couple short runs and an incompletion, but Michigan followed suit with three straight incomplete passes on its next drive.
- Michigan’s defense once again forgot to contain the quarterback two plays into the Spartans’ next drive. Kirk Cousins took off for a gain of 41 yards, putting MSU on Michigan’s 38-yard line. Glenn Winston then ran for 1 yard on back-to-back carries, and on third down Cousins found B.J. Cunningham for 5 yards, making it 4th and 3. Michigan caught a break here, as MSU decided to go for it on fourth down. A field goal would have made it a three-possession game, but MSU was going into the wind and it was raining on and off, making the field wet. Even so, during halftime Brett Swenson appeared to make one kick from around 50 yards at that end, and this attempt would have been from around 48. Regardless, MSU went for it and Kirk Cousins’ pass to Keshawn Martin sailed over his head and was incomplete.
- Michigan took over with 4:47 left in the game and had to start making something happen. Tate Forcier did just that on first down, scrambling away from pressure and somehow finding Junior Hemingway, who made an outstanding catch in heavy coverage, for a gain of 8 yards. Following an incompletion on second down, Forcier hit a wide open Darryl Stonum on the left sideline on 3rd and 2. Stonum had a big cushion between him and the MSU player defending him, and he switched field and started running to the right. His speed allowed him to outrun the defenders chasing after him, and he ran into the end zone for a 60-yard touchdown. Just like that Michigan cut the lead down to one touchdown.
- Keith Nichol found Mark Dell for a gain of 7, and Larry Caper ran for a yard on second down. That set up a critical 3rd and 2 that could have ended Michigan’s hopes of a comeback if MSU converted it. Thanks to Jordan Kovacs, that didn’t happen. Kovacs was in the backfield as soon as Caper got the ball and delivered a big hit, knocking him down for a loss of a yard. Greg Mathews caught Michigan State’s punt and went out of bounds at his own 8-yard line, meaning Michigan had 2:53 to go 92 yards to send this game to overtime.
- Tate Forcier showed how clutch he can be under pressure by methodically picking apart Michigan State’s defense on this drive both through the air and on the ground. A roughing the passer penalty also helped Michigan out early in this drive, moving the Wolverines closer to midfield. Forcier continued to pick apart the defense, finding Martavious Odoms for 9 yards and then running for 13 more. He hooked up with Stonum again for a gain of 12, moving the ball down to the MSU 24. Back-to-back incomplete passes thrown in Greg Mathews’ direction (including one that went over a wide open Mathews in the end zone) made it 3rd and 10, and Forcier escaped pressure and ran for 13 to move the chains.
The rain was already falling, but the intensity of it picked up, making for the worst weather we had seen all day at the worst possible time. To make matters even worse, Forcier was gassed, but he played through it and scrambled for a gain of 2 yards on the next play. He fumbled the ball out of bounds at the end of the run, stopping the clock. On the following play he dropped the snap and proceeded to throw a dangerous pass into coverage. It fell to the ground for an incompletion, making it 3rd and goal with 8 seconds left. On the most important play of the game, Forcier took the snap, rolled to the right, and found an open Roy Roundtree in the back of the end zone for a touchdown with only 2 seconds left on the clock. Jason Olesnavage made the extra point, tying the game up at 20. Michigan State took a knee to run the final couple of seconds off the clock to send the game to overtime.
- Tate Forcier got overtime started by running for a gain of 5 yards. He then found Martavious Odoms for a gain of 7 to move the chains. After rushing for 4 yards on first down, Brandon Minor got a carry and went for 1, making it 3rd and 5. Forcier rolled to the right and forced a pass into heavy coverage in the end zone, and the ball was deflected and eventually ended up in the hands of a diving Chris L. Rucker for an interception. You just can’t make throws like that in this situation, but Forcier was trying to make a play and paid for it.
- Just needing a field goal to win the game, Michigan State did its best to prevent that from happening when Glenn Winston fumbled a pitch, resulting in a loss of 9 yards. It was the same play he scored a touchdown on earlier in the game, but this time the pitch from Keith Nichol went through his hands. Nichol got that yardage back on the next play by hitting B.J. Cunningham for a gain of 9 yards, making it 3rd and 8. In this situation I expected MSU to just run the ball to set up a game-winning field goal attempt, and that is exactly what they did. There would be no field goal, though, as Larry Caper took the handoff, plowed over Troy Woolfolk, ran by Jonas Mouton, and found the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown run. Michigan State won 26-20, saved its season, and made sure that the Paul Bunyan Trophy won’t leave East Lansing for at least another year.
There’s not much else to say about this game that hasn’t already been discussed. All I will add is that this was a wake-up call for the entire team. Yes, Michigan could have won this game and played amazing in the final five minutes to send it to overtime, but there are visible problems on both sides of the ball.
Although the defense played much better in the second half, it has some huge issues. Outside of the defensive line, Donovan Warren, Stevie Brown, and Craig Roh, I don’t have much faith in the other defensive players. Some of the linebackers looked awful both in tackling and their pursuit angles, and don’t even get me started on the secondary. Part of it is a lack of talent and trying to compensate for that, but the coaches really need to get it together, because it is obvious after Saturday that Michigan is going to struggle to win shootouts against good defenses.
Michigan’s offense was basically completely ineffective until the final five minutes of the game when Michigan State sort of shifted to a prevent defense. The run game was useless, and Forcier was under pressure on almost every play. It is evident that losing David Molk was a bigger blow to the offensive line than most anticipated, as David Moosman is still having snapping issues and the position changes have made the right side of the line extremely sketchy.
Michigan will have a week to iron out these problems, as it will take a complete team effort to win at Iowa next Saturday, especially since it is a night game (8 p.m. start on ABC). Though the Hawkeyes have shown they are beatable by playing down to their opponents, they will be pumped up for a primetime game against Michigan.
What scares me the most about the Iowa game is that Michigan State really does not have a good defense. Iowa does, and when you consider how much Michigan struggled against MSU, what does that mean for next Saturday? Iowa’s offense isn’t explosive, but it gets the job done. To win this game, Michigan is going to have to play strong defensively, figure out how to run the ball again, and hope that Tate Forcier makes plays all game like he did on those final two drives of the fourth quarter this past Saturday. It won’t be easy, but Michigan needs to forget about the disappointing game in East Lansing and get ready to rebound and win at Iowa.
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