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Posted on Sat, Oct 3, 2009 : 5:41 p.m.

What's left after a tough overtime loss in East Lansing? Plenty of questions for the Michigan football team

By Michael Rothstein

EAST LANSING - This was bound to happen some time for Michigan, with the way the Wolverines continually forced themselves into last-second comebacks, flirting with the brink of losses only to pull out victories.

On the road, in a place filled with Michigan hate, another fourth-quarter fantastic finish, like the come-from-behind wins over Notre Dame and Indiana, showed up. Only this time, the comeback fell short.


Michigan linemen David Moosman and Mark Ortman comfort quarterback Tate Forcier as they walk off the field after his final pass of the game was intercepted in the end zone. (Photo: Melanie Maxwell |

Freshman quarterback Tate Forcier made a bad read, a costly mistake and in overtime it ended, a 26-20 loss to Michigan State.

Considering the way Michigan played Saturday, it should feel lucky to be in the game in the first place. The running game - a facet that entered the game as the Big Ten’s best and one of the tops in the country - stunk.

Michigan had minus-3 yards rushing in the first half and barely inched into positive yards for the game. The passing game looked inept.

The defense made Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins, not perceived as a dual-threat quarterback, into a pretty decent example of one.

Everywhere Michigan looked inside Spartan Stadium, it was outplayed. Offense. Defense. Special teams. Coaching.

And yet because Michigan State couldn’t completely capitalize, there was another chance for freshman quarterback Tate Forcier to carry Michigan to victory.

He led Michigan (4-1) to a game-tying touchdown with two seconds left, a pass to little-used receiver Roy Roundtree that tied the game at 20-20 and for a moment, silenced the rabid Michigan State fans.

But as Forcier scored, the rain - which magically showed up as Michigan started its final drive - disappeared.

And with it went the Michigan magic as an interception from Forcier on a route he said was a miscommunication with his receiver, Martavious Odoms. He sat on the field after, needing help up from his offensive linemen.

“That was something I told myself I wasn’t going to do, make a freshman mistake, and I did,” Forcier said.

He shouldn’t take all the blame as Michigan, at that point, had exhausted its chances.

Fittingly, it ended with missed tackles that allowed Michigan State running back Larry Caper to cross into the end zone and send Michigan State (2-3) into hysteria.

The players, coaches and anyone in green or white on the sideline stormed the field. The Spartans had beaten its in-state rival twice in a row for the first time in 42 years.

And it left Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez waiting. And waiting. And waiting around the hash mark at the 20-yard line for Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio and a short post-game handshake.

Rodriguez also is left waiting for answers to questions.

There’s the defense, where the game plan, again, looked the same as the previous two weeks. Cornerbacks, again, weren’t pressing receivers. The middle of the field, again, was susceptible to dink-and-dunk plays.

And while Michigan can survive that to beat Mid American Conference teams and scrape by against Indiana, the rest of the Big Ten is going to exploit it all year long. The run defense was better, but no one accounted for the quarterback on most plays and any misdirection sent Michigan into miscommunication.

Third downs killed the Michigan defense, where defensive coordinator Greg Robinson said “the scrambling hurt us.” Except Michigan never seemed to adjust to it as Cousins had a 41-yard scamper in the fourth quarter.

The offense didn’t help much, either. The 28 yards of rushing was the worst under Rodriguez at Michigan, besting the 36 yards Michigan gained during Rodriguez’ opener last year against Utah.

Rodriguez’ response?

"We couldn't get any spark going offensively - it was disappointing,” Rodriguez said. “As coaches, we have to figure out how we can jump start our guys when you get in a game like this when you're not on the field very much."

Special teams joined in the ineptness after a failed fake punt call on a fourth-and-one play led to a Michigan State field goal. And the kick return team, which had been pretty good so far this season, didn’t manage much.

And there's also the question as to why Michigan seems to wait until the fourth quarter to start looking like a winning football team. Is that conditioning? Is it urgency? Why isn't it there from the game's outset?

All in all, it added up to a loss and the biggest question of all - with a road game at undefeated Iowa in seven days, was this merely a blip in the season or a sign of things to come?

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, Oct 5, 2009 : 9:02 a.m.

We are young, but we are getting better. Michigan fans and players need to keep the chin up and move on. Go Blue!!!!!!!


Sun, Oct 4, 2009 : 8:36 p.m.

1. Weak, inexperienced secondary. These guys will improve over time, and more talent is coming. 2. Too many lateral runs, not enough down the middle. Give Brown and Minor some holes and let them pound it down. Lateral and wing stuff can be better done with Robinson at wingback. 3. MSU and ND have semi-decent defenses, and both were hard for UM. All three teams are about #25-#30 this year. 4. Much hope for the future: Robinson will learn the system and improve his passing, D will become more consistent. 6-7-8 wins this year, 9-10-11 in 2010, maybe undefeated in 2012.


Sun, Oct 4, 2009 : 5:23 p.m.

And unless people on this site can SEE into the future,I would refrain from commenting on wins or losses in our future games!!No one knows how those games are gonna play out!!You can hope and you can wish,but YOU DON'T KNOW!!!That's why they play the gm. my friends!Good luck next week BIG BLUE!!


Sun, Oct 4, 2009 : 4:47 p.m.

"Cornerbacks, again, werent pressing receivers. The middle of the field, again, was susceptible to dink-and-dunk plays." Mikey that is the point of the defense. It is not good enough to do anything else. If they pressed you would be complaining about 80 yard TD' passes flying over our walk-on safety's head. There is a reason for what is going on. It is obvious you have never created or even seen a game plan. I can promise, that you have never broken down a second of film with a real coach. Its fine to give an opinion on the overall team spirit, the game, etc. But you have no clue about x's and o's please don't pretend like you do. Thx


Sun, Oct 4, 2009 : 3:53 p.m.

Here we go, another Michael Rothstein expert analysis. Let's paraphrase his comments on the season -- Note: use a whiny little girl's voice for the full effect his articles have on me: "Coach Wodwiguez is a bad coach. That Mouton guy, he punched a Notre Dame playa in da face, and Coach said it was Okay. He should tell all the boys to play nice. He should let Denad Wobinson play more. Tate Foseeay was bad because he threw an interception. And the whole team is bad because of Coach Wodwiquez......." Hey Mikey, we all saw the MSU game, we all know Michigan came out flat with the running game and continues to have gaps in defense. But where is your highlight on the fourth quarter, how this team, led by a 19 year old with the heart of a warrior, came back to tie it up. Where is the mention of Brandon Graham absolutely trucking that big mouth criminal MSU tailback. And where is the balance in talking about the undisciplined Spartys who picked up one personal foul or stupid penalty after another. Yes, we know this is not a perfect team, not yet, but what about some credit to Coach Rod for the vast improvement in just one season.


Sun, Oct 4, 2009 : 9:51 a.m.

Your description of our passing game as being "inept" is inaccurate and way off the mark. We had more passing yards than MSU and would have even done better if not for some dropped balls or good breakups by MSU defenders. What WAS inept was our run blocking.


Sun, Oct 4, 2009 : 7:08 a.m.

tater, you need to get a life. 9-3 is a reach. possible, but.... 5-7 is the same. iowa, illinois and wisc. away. all difficult assignments. hope for 1-2, but expect 0-3. add osu and psu...i see 0-5 or 1-4. i wish for 9-3, but REALISTICALLY 6-6 or 7-5 at best. don't get me wrong, i also wish for 9-3. but...


Sun, Oct 4, 2009 : 4:59 a.m.

How hard is it to "find a spark" when you have Denard Robinson on your sideline? Give the guy a chance -- MORE THAN ONE PLAY AT A TIME. Nobody else was getting anything done. This game was disappointing. I'd like a better explanation for that fake punt. It shouldn't be Mesko's call to decide to run in a situation like that. That's just plain bad coaching. The STUPIDEST play I've ever seen. RR shouldn't try to pin that one on Mesko. The defense was porous, but made big plays when the had to. They deserve a lot of credit for keeping Michigan in the game. The offensive play calling seemed lackluster and unimaginative for much of the game. RR was out-coached this game. This first road game was a crash landing to reality for a young team who might have been flying a bit high about their 4-0 start and their explosive offense. Hopefully, this will serve as a wake-up call and get us ready for the battle with Iowa next week and the other big games to follow.


Sun, Oct 4, 2009 : 3:06 a.m.

This game was poorly played. MSU did not beat us, we beat ourselves. If MSU beat us, they should have more points than what they did. It was just an all around poorly planned and poorly played game. Michigan needs to get back to what was making them hungry. They also need to use some of the talented recruits they have on the sideline. You will never know how they will play in the game if you don't use them. You have to cause a matchup problem in order to create opportunities for your team to win. If the players you have on the field you keep sticking are not working, try another player. These guys are here to contribute and win games just has much as your starters. Put them IN! You don't want to lose the morale of good players who think they can help you win the game. They put Roy Roundtree in the game and he had the game tying catch. But they hardly use him. If Minor and Brown are running well try another back that is good. He might be more effective. You have to create opportunites to win, but you never know what you have until you use them. Practice situation doesn't always tell the best effort of a player. You have to put them in the game.


Sun, Oct 4, 2009 : 2:18 a.m.

I also think Forcier is just one of those guys who does best when everything is down to the wire--he thrives on it, like the commentators say, and that's the reason for all the 4th-quarter comebacks.


Sun, Oct 4, 2009 : 2:17 a.m.

In short, AZwolverine is exactly right--the only thing different this year, except for a better execution of some fundamentals on offense (in general), is Forcier. It's not just the defense--you could easily say had Mesko not done what he did or had Stonum not fumbled near the MSU 10, Michigan still would have won despite the D. My worry is that some of these guys are never going to make strides at their positions, just keeping Michigan from progressing.


Sat, Oct 3, 2009 : 11:16 p.m.

We still will win 6 or 7 this year. All that today's game means is that we need to win again Delaware State and Illinois. I have a feeling that we can upset one of the other teams but we'll see. So, we get to 6 wins and a bowl. Sparty played us square today and that's the bottom line. To all Sparty fans: enjoy today. The beatings will continue starting next year.


Sat, Oct 3, 2009 : 10:40 p.m.

Can our D-fense PLEASE learn how to TACKLE!!!Wrap up the legs!Can RR or Mr. Robinson teach them that much? That would really help us a lot!We can't cover in space,so BLITZ,BLITZ,and BLITZ should be all these LB's know until we get guys who can cover in space!!But we'll be alright.Look at some game film and STRESS the fundamentals(like TACKLING)and Iowa will feel our wrath(hopefully)All In For MICHIGAN!! GO BLUE!!

sam davis

Sat, Oct 3, 2009 : 9:22 p.m.

We have nothing to complain about Forcier, has played his heart -out, this Team is going no where but up, nothing to be shamed about, Go Blue...


Sat, Oct 3, 2009 : 8:39 p.m.

Les Miles time is near

Victors Valiant

Sat, Oct 3, 2009 : 6:51 p.m.

Michigan is young and inexperienced on both sides of the ball. Maybe this loss was good for them because they need to realize that consistent play must occur from the start of the game through the end. Think of how dangerous this team will be one and two years from now. The defense was awful but they did make huge stops in the second half when they needed to. I don't know if Robinson's scheme is too complex as many of the LBs were shifting all over the field all game long. They seem lost out there. Tate is the real deal and he is bound to make mistakes. He shouldn't have to win every game for us because it makes him force plays that aren't there. He could have easily ran for the first down in OT but he was looking for the TD. Freshman mistakes and he will learn from them. The offensive play calling was bad. These off wing runs are too simple and being stopped more and more. Michigan needs to run it up the gut more times than not.


Sat, Oct 3, 2009 : 6:51 p.m.

I saw the game. The article is correct. This game sure exposed Michigan's problems. Tate can do only so much. The defense was on the field way too long while the offense was very lame most of the game. Sadly a sloppy performance. MSU had their issues but they came to play and Michigan, at all levels, did not have enough answers. The quality of our team will be measured by how we correct the problems and handle adversity away from the Big House. There are still a lot of great games ahead that MIchigan can and should win.


Sat, Oct 3, 2009 : 6:51 p.m.

Basically, UM lost its first road game with a banged-up rookie QB to a team that gears their entire season around the UM game. It definitely arouses my ire, as I'm sure it does a lot of UM fans, but in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't really mean anything, other than the requisite year of Spartan bragging that all UM fans will now have to endure. Basically, UM is still the better program, and is probably going to a lot better bowl, if MSU even makes a bowl. I'm one who goes by the scoreboard, which means that MSU was the better team today, but their program is still nowhere near the stature or quality of UM's. If MSU wins the next thirty games to pull even with UM, then they can brag that they are the better program. Until then, their bragging is just that: bragging.


Sat, Oct 3, 2009 : 6:27 p.m.

Only three possessions in the first half set the tone. Though Michigan has a quick strike offense, they need to get in a rhythm to get things done. Spares possessions until late in the forth kept them out of sync. Like RR said, when this happens they have to find a way to kick-start the offense. Only one loss. Iowa looks very beatable at home. GO BLUE!


Sat, Oct 3, 2009 : 6:24 p.m.

I think we're getting a feel for this team already. Very inconsistent from play to play on both sides of the ball, weak along the offensive line, and a defense that simply does not seem to be much improved from last season. To me, the only major difference from this team to last year's team is Tate. The guy is awesome. He was running for his life all game and just willed Michigan back into the game. After today, it appears solid Big Ten teams (of which Indiana is NOT one) are going to key on our running game and stop us. I still think Michigan will win their share of games based on Tate being spectacular, but overall we still have a ways to go to be considered an elite Big Ten team.


Sat, Oct 3, 2009 : 5:40 p.m.

We had a nice start to the season - it gets harder every week. We're better than last year and we'll be better next year. Iowa will be tough and in spite of what people think, so will Delaware State (many people don't watch enough football to know better). This was a team loss and we'll have a better understanding of how good Michigan is after next week in Iowa City.