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Posted on Sat, Nov 14, 2009 : 6:19 p.m.

After lastest horror, Michigan football is down to one game to save its season

By Michael Rothstein

MADISON, Wis. - Rich Rodriguez headed to the Michigan bus, his head bouncing up and down, wearing the look of a man wounded, a man frustrated and a man, for the sixth straight time in the Big Ten, walking out of a stadium defeated.


University of Michigan line backer Jonas Mouton reaches for University of Wisconsin running back John Clay in the second quarter at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday, November 14, 2009. Michigan lost 45-24.

Melanie Maxwell |

A season that started with such promise in September is down to this.

One game. One rival. One season, and the hope of any progress whatsoever in the balance.

The way the Michigan football team played Saturday against Wisconsin proved that, again, the Wolverines have a long way to go after a 45-24 loss to the Badgers. It showed, again, that it can’t handle adversity and that Michigan defense’s most-known trademark is its tendency to fall apart in the second half.

But now, the Wolverines have no more gimmes, no more “next weeks.” Saturday against Ohio State is it. It’s the final chance to make that bowl game and show that they, in fact, can rise up from an abomination of a Big Ten season.

There’s no other word for it at this point.

The players aren’t improving, especially on defense. The same mistakes in coverage, especially defensively, remain. And the second halves are continuing in their abysmal nature for Michigan. Since the Delaware State game, Michigan has been outscored 99-19 in the second half. They’ve been outgained 1,122-598 - opponents almost doubling Michigan’s output.

Yet there’s this. Michigan, apparently, plans to try really, really hard this week to beat that rival, Ohio State.

“We’ve got one more week,” linebacker Obi Ezeh said. “This will be the most committed I think a lot of guys have been all season. It’s our last chance to get to a bowl and the last chance to send the seniors away with a better taste in their mouth.”

Thing is, to do that Michigan will have to beat a team that has owned the Wolverines since 2003, a team that has been considered the class of the Big Ten over the last decade.

They’ll have to beat Ohio State. They’ll need to have that sort of rivalry-shifting moment that seem to come about once every 10, 15 years. They’ll need to channel something within themselves.

Usually, you can see these kinds of things coming, these types of classic games or big upsets potentially shaping up. But do you really see anything close to that out of this Michigan team?

Right now, that’s tough to believe, although the players and coaches started talking about it less than a half-hour after their latest drop into the depths of the Big Ten basement ended.

It’s a place that seemed improbable when looking at Rodriguez’ history as a head coach and offensive coordinator. It seemed unlikely after Michigan’s play in September, which included a win over ranked Notre Dame and a cameo appearance in the Top 25.

Who knew the cameo would be a slasher, horror story?

“We would have never thought we’d have to fight to be able to go to a bowl game after winning four straight,” junior cornerback Troy Woolfolk said. “We thought we had a chance to win the Big Ten and now we’re sitting here fighting to go to a bowl game.

“It was unexpected, but you just have to roll with the punches and try to do your best to get into that bowl game.”

Is their best good enough? So far, tough to say. Besides playing a full game against incredibly tough Delaware State - which dropped to 3-6 on Saturday with a 21-16 loss to Norfolk State for those curious - Michigan has yet to play, as Rodriguez likes to say, consistent “championship football.”

Iowa? Nope, five turnovers took care of that. Notre Dame? The Irish see-sawed with Michigan. Indiana? Same thing.

Rodriguez is asking his team to be the most focused it’s been all year. It’s Ohio State, so one would think that’s a baseline for Michigan. There’s a reason this game is such a big rivalry - and it’s because of the distaste exhibited between the two programs.

“We got a lot at stake,” Rodriguez said. “… The focus this week should be great.
“I just hope the play next Saturday is.”

For the past two months, that’s been the problem. If it isn’t there, it’ll be Michigan’s last game in 2009. Period.

At Michigan, though, they get that.

“We’re not idiots,” Michigan quarterbacks coach Rod Smith said. “We understand exactly what’s at stake and who we’re playing. We understand it.”

Michael Rothstein covers University of Michigan sports for He can be reached at (734) 623-2558, by e-mail at or follow along on Twitter @mikerothstein.



Mon, Nov 16, 2009 : 10:13 a.m.

"Who knew the cameo would be a slasher, horror story?" I think the word "in" is missing from this sentence. Also, Rothstein, you should do a little more research about the UM/OSU rivalry before you try writing about it again. "Theres a reason this game is such a big rivalry - and its because of the distaste exhibited between the two programs." Don't cheapen it like that. I have a distaste for rattlesnakes and vice versa, but we are not rivals.


Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 1:46 p.m.

If you all want to send a strong msg to the admin. of U OF M then since they live and die by the dollar then this is what you do LEAVE THE BIG HOUSE EMPTY let them know you are disatisfied with how the program is going and that if they dont do something soon then they can expect financialy things will fall. As far as the defense goes i think since they are responsible for the majority of the losses they owe the team an appology for playing like scared little girls


Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 1:35 p.m.

NE_PA, Couldn't agree more.


Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 1:25 p.m.

no mr rod smith you are idiots all i have heard is we have to get better we have to improve, talk is cheap how about actually going out there and do what you have been preaching. right now all of the coaches should give back the money they have been paid because non of them have earned it. this whole team except BG is a complete pathetic joke at least Brian Kelly knows how to build a team with what players he inherited why? because hes a good coach unlike this group of losers at MICHIGAN you have NO CHANCE AGAINST THE SUCKEYES


Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 11:50 a.m.

jmcf1949, Sadly, it is the only solution (the don't go to the game suggestion) with the current Sue Coleman administration. The real heroes would be those fans who rip up the tickets for that final home game and those who are season ticket holders should call UM and cancel or decline their 2010 season ticket orders. The football program at UM is the cash cow so UM would do anything to protect it. This is beyond wins and losses and more about who RR is.


Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 11:48 a.m.

I'd like to say to those koolaid drinkers complaining about people not supporting the team, that I do suppport my team, but at the same time I see our coach as an abysmal failure. You folks seem to think that you must suppport this moron if you are "true" Michigan fan. That's pure and utter Bull Chit. This guy has destroyed the program. When he was hired, all the cheerleaders here and over at MGoBlob said he'd lead us to a National Title in his 3rd year. Now, you are the ones saying "well, he better win 8 games in his 4th year". Eight games??? WTF is that??? That's where we were when LC was here 2 years ago. Utterly pathetic. This jack@ss needs to go now. But we have a bigger jack@ss in the AD job right now and I don't think Mary Sue will step in. To me, it seems pretty simple, contact both Coach Miles and Coach Harbaugh and find out what it will take to get one of them to come home to Michigan. Give them whatever they want. A good coach will get this turned around in a year. There are plenty of examples of that occuring. Mary Sue, step in and bring this situation back under control, please.


Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 10:45 a.m.

tulsa, I'm with you. However, even a victory over OSU wouldn't change my perception of RR at this point. He has done far worse than underachieve; he's destroyed one of the truly great programs in all of sports. I can't stand seeing him wearing our block M.


Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 10:41 a.m.

I realize this is not a spelling bee, but the title should say 'Latest horror' instead of 'Lastest horror'. At this point, it's going to take a miracle to upset OSU. I've been hard on this team due to the tendency to give up in the second half, but I am hoping that they can reach down deep and play their hearts out next Saturday and pull the upset to become bowl eligible.


Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 9:03 a.m.

Just don't go. Wouldn't it be great if there was only seventy-five thousand in the Big House. And twenty thousand or so wearing scarlet and gray. Now that would be a statement. What a mess. All in for Michi..., give me a break! We won't be much better next year either. The Defense will take years to build. You have to have layers of players on the field to be successful.


Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 8:38 a.m.

LOWER TIER PROGRAMS? I'm sorry, but MICHIGAN is now a lower tier program! With the only Big 10 win being a controversial win against Indiana, they could easily be winless in the league. Beating OSU is not even a possibility. DOORMATS is what UM has become. And you can't get much lower tier than that. No doubt that position will be solidified as long as RR is coach. If you want to win, he's gotta go.


Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 2:17 a.m.

So goes a young team. Next year they will be marginally better and hopefully in 2011 we'll see a big improvement. Yeah, it's tough possibly having 3 straight losing season but not all of this is RR's fault. If he can turn this program around in 2011, and I mean at least 9-3 and a win over OSU then I think he will succeed. Otherwise, it will be time to show RR the door. But he should be given a fair shot IMO! We should support the team and coach...even if they were 0-11. I just hope they play hard the entire game next week. I don't think they have much of chance due to that horrible defense but you never know. IA almost knocked off OSU today, so anything is possible in the weak b10. I agree with a previous poster, the big 10 is going to get it's clock cleaned in the bigger bowls.


Sat, Nov 14, 2009 : 11:56 p.m.

Given Bill Martin's comments: It's almost like Michigan fans should hope for NCAA findings so that they can get rid of RR without the distaste of actually firing him for results. I don't personally think that Martin/Coleman should wait, but whatever it takes. RR and BM actually should be fired for that stupid "All In For Michigan" manufactured slogan, but again, results can help. It's not just the losses--somebody has to lose games, but rather it's how they are losing. No competitiveness, no improvement in play, no fundamentals, no creativity, no intensity, no victories. It's a shame that the leadership doesn't recognize this.


Sat, Nov 14, 2009 : 9:40 p.m.

Save its season? That ended a few weeks ago!


Sat, Nov 14, 2009 : 9:25 p.m.

The UM OSU game is no rivalry any more. OSU will have its way with UM Saturday. After that OSU will get primed for their annual right to be exposed as a fraud against real NCAA talent. It is sad that UM can't even contend with these pretenders but that is how far they have fallen.


Sat, Nov 14, 2009 : 7:54 p.m.

All the moaning and groaning about who is responsible for the train wreck named Michigan football will not help anything. Unless someone can convince RR that he will not win many (any) games in the Big Ten until he gets instilled in his cranium that defensive players are necessary to win. He can have all the moves and gimmick plays, but they will do nothing unless he recruits BIG, FAST defensive players. Unfortunately, his best defensive players will not be there next year.


Sat, Nov 14, 2009 : 7:53 p.m.

By comparison.... Stanford has massively improved over the course of this year and is now on top of the Pac Ten... they are a physically dominating team, despite using scholar athletes and lessor recruiting classes...

Man in the Mirror

Sat, Nov 14, 2009 : 7:34 p.m.

It's not over 'til the fat lady sings...Purdue beat Ohio State did'nt they? Rich Rod will get them coached up. IN ROD WE TRUST


Sat, Nov 14, 2009 : 7:26 p.m.

I never thought I would say this, but who cares about the OSU game. It is not a rivalry anymore and Michigan should consider it a win if they only lose by three touchdowns. I live in Ohio and the OSU fans think Penn State is their new rivalry game. What does a coach have to do to get fired at Michigan? Don't get me wrong those were big wins against WMU, EMU, ND, DSU, and Indiana. Maybe instead of looking for a 12th team the Big Ten should send Michigan to the MAC and they will be back to having an even number of teams in conference. With the progress that Michigan is making I am certain they could at least win two games in the MAC.


Sat, Nov 14, 2009 : 7:24 p.m.

Bozo1 gone in 2010 and Bozo2 gone in 2012. My apologies to the real Bozo (RIP) insult intended.


Sat, Nov 14, 2009 : 7:20 p.m.

and with osu wrapping up the big ten title today, there goes my hope for keeping them from winning the title. oh well, these coaches would be crazy if they think that osu isn't focused on keeping michigan from bowl eligibility. that will be their focus


Sat, Nov 14, 2009 : 7:08 p.m.

1-6 in the Big get a defense next year I can have a football game to look forward to on Saturdays...this is pathetic.


Sat, Nov 14, 2009 : 7:02 p.m.

I just can't believe how bad things have gotten under RR. The excitement usually ratchets up about ten notches for the OSU game on both sides. RR is singlehandedly ruining not only the greatest rivalry in all of sports, but the entire Michigan football program in the process. Unbelievable.


Sat, Nov 14, 2009 : 7 p.m.

I would have to question Rod Smith's statement, "we are not idiots". Love it, love it, love it.