More on Tate Forcier, Denard Robinson and the decision
IOWA CITY, Iowa - Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez appeared unhappy with Tate Forcier’s decision-making on the drive before he lifted the freshman quarterback from Saturday’s 30-28 loss to Iowa.
But Rodriguez denied there was any rift between the two in his post-game press conference.
“Words? There was no words on the sideline,” an irritated Rodriguez said. “Are we already going to start off and try to create something that’s not there? We were coaching. Tate has been - our guys are very, very coachable. There haven’t been any players have any words. I don’t know where that comes from.”
ABC sideline reporter Lisa Salters said Rodriguez was “very displeased” after the three-and-out early in the fourth quarter that started with a delay-of-game penalty (after an Iowa touchdown) and ended with Forcier scrambling wildly from the pocket and overthrowing Junior Hemingway.
When a rattled Forcier came to the sideline, Salters said, “He kind of looked over at Coach saying, ‘I don’t know what you want me to do.’”
Michigan coaches barred Forcier and his replacement, Denard Robinson, from speaking with reporters after the game.
Robinson led Michigan on an 11-play, 59-yard touchdown drive in his first series midway through the fourth quarter, then was intercepted in his second with 46 seconds to play.
Forcier, who led Michigan on game-winning fourth-quarter drives against Notre Dame and Indiana, spent most of his first series on the bench huddled in a hooded coat. TV cameras showed him encouraging Robinson before Michigan's final possession.
“Tate was right behind us in the last drive, rooting on and trying to help out Denard and all that,” Rodriguez said. “Tate made some plays. He made a few plays that he’d probably like to have back, but we made a change to get a little spark and Denard gave us a little spark. At the end we just didn’t finish it off.”
On his interception, Robinson missed part of a play call coming from the bench.
“I think he missed a little individual tag route that we give him,” quarterbacks coach Rod Smith said. “So if he did, that’s probably why he threw the ball down the field like he did.”
Notes, quotes and leftovers
â€¢ Iowa converted 7-of-11 third downs in the first half, including five gains of 10 yards or longer. The killer was a 47-yard pass on third-and-24 when safety Mike Williams got run by in deep contain.
Ricky Stanzi made a nice throw on the play, as he did on several deep balls Saturday, and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos made a nice catch to set up Brandon Wegher’s 1-yard touchdown run.
“We got beat. A guy got beat,” defensive coordinator Greg Robinson said. “A guy in the middle should have been there. We had good coverage on that play other than where somebody should have been, so I have to look back at some of that stuff. And of course, any time they convert on third down I’m disappointed. We’re not there yet to where we’re going to be consistently shutting people down on third down yet. We’re just not there.”
And when will Michigan’s defense be there?
“I don’t know that,” Robinson said. “Time will tell. We’re making improvement though. I think that there’s little things every week that I see that I know that we’ve grown and improved, and we improved today. We were better today than we were last week.”
â€¢ Robinson wouldn’t say what areas he was pleased with, but several defensive plays, players and series stood out Saturday.
First, Donovan Warren had coverage on several big passes - the 47-yarder and a 33-yarder earlier in the same drive on a third-and-6 - but credit on those plays goes to Iowa’s receivers. Warren had his third pick in as many weeks against Iowa and is starting to become the playmaker many hoped.
Brandon Graham continues to live up to expectations as well. Graham had two sacks against the Hawkeyes, giving him three for the year, and continues to be a one-man wrecking crew. He had a foolish roughing the punter penalty (that was declined after Greg Mathews dropped a punt), but it’s hard to find many more flaws with his game.
Michigan’s goal-line stand, when it stopped Iowa on fourth down from the 1, shouldn’t be overlooked either. Iowa should have scored on fourth down, when Stanzi’s play-action left him with a clear path to the end zone. Regardless, the Wolverines deserve credit for getting off the field at a crucial point in the game.
â€¢ Michigan hits the halfway point of the season 4-2 overall and 1-2 in Big Ten play. No team has won or shared the conference title with that may defeats since 2000, but Graham said not to count out the Wolverines.
“Four-and-two, it’s still not bad,” Graham said. “We’re still not out of it. We can finish out, we can win out. We just showed that we’re going to fight, so you better keep coming.”
â€¢ Rodriguez on Brandon Minor, who ran for 95 yards and two touchdowns in his first start of the season: “I know he had the one fumble there. They did a nice job raking it out, but boy he ran hard and he’s a physical presence and we’re different. When Brandon Minor’s healthy, I think we’re a different offensive team.”
â€¢ Michigan ran the ball successfully and almost exclusively of the I-formation on its third-quarter touchdown drive. It's a package the Wolverines have used sparingly under Rodriguez, but one they set a physical tone with Saturday.
“At that time we thought we had them on their heels a little bit and we were able to go a little bit higher tempo, and so I think the tempo and the combination of tempo and coming downhill at them worked out OK,” Rodriguez said. “I wished we had more opportunities to do that, but we just didn’t.”
Dave Birkett covers University of Michigan football for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached by phone at 734-623-2552 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.