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Posted on Sat, Nov 7, 2009 : 6:40 p.m.

Rich Rodriguez's rivalry with Purdue intensifies as Michigan football hits low point

By Pete Bigelow


Running back Brandon Minor, who scored three touchdowns Saturday against Purdue, walks off the field after Michigan lost 38-36. It's the first time Purdue has won at Michigan Stadium since 1966. (Photo: Lon Horwedel |

If there ever is a day when Rich Rodriguez leads the Wolverines to the top of the college football world, he’ll remember Saturday as the day the rise began. Remember it as the day that nobody outside his close-knit group of coaches believed.

Remember it as the day outsiders lost faith, the day his team extinguished its bowl hopes for the second straight year, the day his team froze in fright and collapsed for the second straight week. Rodriguez will remember it as the day a piddly little pretend program like Purdue grabbed its first Big House win since 1966 - then rubbed Rodriguez’s nose in the outcome.

This is the low point, everyone. It’s not possible to fall any further. A third-quarter disintegration, a postseason for all intents and purposes kissed goodbye, bad play-calling and a confrontation between coaches during the post-game handshake. Saturday’s 38-36 loss had it all. How bad are things in Ann Arbor? Consider this: Michigan’s fiercest rivalry during the Rich Rodriguez era is not with the traditional stalwarts, Ohio State, Penn State and Notre Dame.

Purdue is Michigan’s chief rival right now. Barring the inconceivable over the final two games, this marks the second consecutive season the Boilermakers took pleasure in ending Michigan’s bowl hopes. Last year, Purdue sent then-coach Joe Tiller toward retirement with a 48-42 victory over Rodriguez in a back-and-forth game in West Lafayette, Ind. Tiller, you may remember, is the coach who went berserk when Rodriguez swooped in late and convinced a recruit to sign with the Wolverines instead of Purdue. “If we had an early signing date, you wouldn’t have another outfit with a guy in a wizard hat selling snake oil get a guy at the last minute, but that’s what happened,” Tiller said. The recruit in question, of course, was Roy Roundtree, a reserve sophomore receiver who curiously started Saturday in the second annual Snake Oil Bowl. No matter the motivation for his start, Roundtree delivered. He became just the second Michigan receiver with a 100-yard game this season, catching 10 passes for 126 yards and a touchdown. That was all the kindling needed to ignite first-year Purdue coach Danny Hope, who served on Tiller’s staff. After the game, when Hope met Rodriguez at midfield for the traditional post-game handshake, he instead disrespected Rodriguez on his own 50-yard line and intensified a recent spat between the schools. “He came over and shook my hand, and then introduced me to (Zach) Reckman, and said, ‘Thanks coach. Really appreciate what you did,’” Rodriguez said. “Whatever.” What did Rodriguez do? Earlier this season, Rodriguez refused to act when Michigan linebacker Jonas Mouton threw a punch against a Notre Dame player. Rodriguez’s inaction prompted the Big Ten to step in and suspend Mouton for a game, which, in turn, spurred an incredulous Rodriguez to demand that the conference treat every team with equal scrutiny. The next week, Rodriguez offered this analysis of Reckman throwing a forearm jab against Northern Illinois: “Now is that a non-football act? It probably is.” The Big Ten suspended Reckman for a game, and the Boilermakers didn’t forget. “I was a little disappointed that after the game their coach seemed to bring the lineman over like I was the reason his lineman got suspended for that one game,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t know where that came from. … But what are you going to do? I usually go over and shake hands and tell you good luck in the next game. To come over and say something about that? Whatever.” Of course, the hot-headed confrontation and the fact Rodriguez brought it up himself without anyone asking - or even knowing about it - only distracted from the real issue. Bad blood and close losses with bowls on the line may be fueling the Purdue-Michigan rivalry, but the real problem is that Michigan will likely spend its second consecutive season missing a bowl. There are reasons to believe Rodriguez will be successful at Michigan. But a second consecutive bowl-less season would be a low mark for this program, and understandably leave the Michigan faithful wondering if this second-year coach and his spread offense have something substantive to offer the school, or whether they’ve fallen victim to some snake-oil scheme.



Mon, Nov 9, 2009 : 7:24 a.m.

This cannot be the low point, because the Buckeyes are going to take us even lower, and we'll deserve every moment of it.


Sun, Nov 8, 2009 : 11:33 p.m.

I read all of the posts...did Michigan lose or something?


Sun, Nov 8, 2009 : 8:33 p.m.

Calling another Big Ten member a "pretend program" is a great example of the arrogance that defines being a UM football fan. You and many of the commenters don't understand the point of college athletics and college football. Thanks for pointing out that NimRod brought up the handshake without being asked. Ever since he came to Michigan I've considered him a lousy person. Just another example... I'm really enjoying watching the clash of the evil NimRod and the arrogant UM football fans.

an Arboran

Sun, Nov 8, 2009 : 7:15 p.m.

Yeah, so my earlier post calling out Pete Bigelow for writing a really poor piece here was deleted. Can't take the heat? I guess it's easier to be on the name calling end. I'll say again here, but try to be more P.C. Pete, you have disappointed me just like Rosenberg and Snyder. Telling us that Michigan fans have been sold on snake oil? That's embarrassing "journalism." But from reading the comments here by Michigan "fans" I guess you and they deserve each other.


Sun, Nov 8, 2009 : 5:23 p.m.

Some people have nothing better to do with their life... see above.


Sun, Nov 8, 2009 : 5:09 p.m.

Do you not think Urban Meyer has heard of Gardner? Tebow is a senior. If you were Gardner, which would you choose? The worst team in the B10 or a chance at a NC with Florida. RR is going to have to sell a lot of snake oil to sign that 2010 class, especially with the possibility of NCAA sanctions. So, you go right on with RR, the hole is only getting deeper.


Sun, Nov 8, 2009 : 5:01 p.m.

Peltist, You are worried about a coach wanting to come to UM? That should not be a problem. If you were Jim Kelly and the offer was Cinci or UM, which would you choose? Brian is lucky to make 1 mil a year at cinci. UM would have to pay him close to 3mil. Don't worry about finding a new coach. Recruits are what you need to worry about. Who wants to go to a crappy team and also the coaches is just another loss from losing his job? RR will have a tough time signing his 2010 class. Don't you think the top players are still being pursued by other programs. Its pretty easy to dump on UM right now with RR as the head coach. I am of the mindset to cut our losses and move on.


Sun, Nov 8, 2009 : 4:57 p.m.

rich rod has only had this group if kids for 1 year. he's been there 2 yrs. but last year he had nothing to work with.give him time. he will turn it around.


Sun, Nov 8, 2009 : 2:59 p.m.

azwolverine: Unfortunately, I doubt this team can dominate anyone. I don't see the muscle nor the talent to dominate teams. I would like to see that occur, but I don't expect it to happen. The primary concern I have is the obvious second half meltdown.


Sun, Nov 8, 2009 : 2:54 p.m.

I don't disagree with you that Michigan fans should be hot and want our team to win. I have watched, listened or attended every game except for a handful since I have been 7 years old (I am 39 now), so believe me this hurts and I am pissed. However, you still didn't answer my question. What good does it do the program to show such an ugly side? He is going to be here next year unless we get hit with major sanctions. Further, and perhaps more importantly, what elite coach would want to come to Michigan if they can RR after 2 years. Who would come here in the middle of a transition if they felt they had a 2 year window?


Sun, Nov 8, 2009 : 2:34 p.m.

Fan, I like what you say about the last two games being an opportunity. I've said that since the Illinois game that the last 3 games are an opportunity for RR to show us something. Okay, one of the three are gone, I'm ready (almost) to put this one behind and see what happens next week. Wisconsin and OSU give RR and the entire team to show they are unified and still have Michigan spirit and desire. I recall a few times over the years when Michigan was decided underdogs to OSU and we not only beat them, we dominated them. That's what got Bo started, and also what Lloyd did several times against Cooper early on. This is RR's opportunity to overcome extreme adversity and show what he's made of. One time USC was playing Cal and Cal had one last play from USC's one yard line with a chance to win the game. Carrol called a timeout. Rather than going over schematics, Carrol gathered his D around him and said excitedly, "Isn't this GREAT! We have one play, with everything on the line to prove what we are made of. This is what it's all about!" USC stopped Cal and won the game. This is that type of moment for RR. Relish it.


Sun, Nov 8, 2009 : 2:13 p.m.

anyone else notice in the first half the lbs were Brown, Roh, Fitzgerald, and Leach, but in the 2nd half there were alot of Ezeh and Mouton sightings on the field? I think Fitzgerald and Leach have earned the starting jobs.


Sun, Nov 8, 2009 : 1:51 p.m.

Coach RichRod, Tate is a fine player but does not provide the spark to the ENTIRE team that you desperately need. You must be under tremendous pressure from the alumni to play Tate; "there is more than one way to choke a hog." Play Denard against quarterback. IF he makes mistakes, coach him and facilitate the team's success...DO NOT yank him out because he was unable to work a miracle the first time. Let Denard and Tate advise you as to what will work; they will know quickly. Play Tate to complement Denard and YOU decide what is appropriate... keep the opposing defense(s) off balance. Let Denard run or throw when he sees the opportunity; play to the strength of Minor and Brown simultaneously. You have tried everything else; unless I am completely wrong, it is your only chance to beat Wisconsin and shock Ohio State. Bloggers will continue to jump on the band wagon of Tate and that's ok, but the truth of the matter is, you have not whupped a "Big Ten" team. Wisconsin nor Ohio Sate have seen the likes of Denard and will not know how to defend against Denard and Tate as a dual threat - just like you have seen in your practiced sessions. Let them fear Denard so you can kill them with Tate! Let them capture the world's attention. Give us a victory like Cincy's against Connecticut; defense notwithstanding. Give these kids and the coaches a grand finale and set a new page in Mich football history. Show us what you really bring to Mich football. This fan believes in you (this year is a whole new story for personal reasons). All we want with the two remaining impossible games are shocking Wolverine victories....... This is not a low point, it is an opportunity(s)!


Sun, Nov 8, 2009 : 1:12 p.m.

Peltist- I dont know what you have been watching these last three weeks but if you have been watching the games then you can understand the hostility. This is Michigan Football, we demand a good football team. This isnt your kids soccer team where you try and convice yourself wins and loses dont matter. RRs a liability to our program, I give him one more year and then he will be run out of Ann Arbor.


Sun, Nov 8, 2009 : 12:10 p.m.

Since there is no chance that Michigan will fire RR this year, what good does it do for everyone show their butts on this message boards and many others? Trust me, I hate it that Michigan stinks right now, but RR is our coach for at least 1-2 more years. So just man up and take it. While I am pessimistic, I am hoping for the best. He did go 32-5 his last 3 years at WVU. And don't even tell me that the B10 is some great conference. The B10 is mediocre at best. All of this shameless barking behind the keyboard shows what little character many of you people have. I doubt many of you people would have the guts to walk up to RR and say what you say. We all blurt out things in the heat of the game, but to sit down and write the sort of crap that is being written is unfortunate and reflects poorly on our fan base.


Sun, Nov 8, 2009 : 11:14 a.m.

Hopefully we can BEAT Wisc. and Suckeyes!HOPEFULLY!!!!GO BLUE!!!


Sun, Nov 8, 2009 : 11:11 a.m.

Everyone continues to blame RR for this carnage. I did question some of his coaching moves yesterday, and in previous games, but I also noticed that the defense did little to stop the pitch- and-catch by the Purdue QB and receivers. This team is not very good right now, and as a former coach, once the attitude develops where players start questioning the ability of thier peers, a chemistry problem exists. It is much easier to illuminate and blame RR than to blame the team collectively. RR must change his philosophy by assuming the offense can win by scoring more points than his opponent and concentrate on recruiting 4-5 star defensive players. He has refused or neglected to do this at present. Just blaming RR for this fiasco is not appropriate. I don't know whether RR is the future of Michigan football or not, but the question should be-who is? Searching for the 'Michigan Man' may prove futile and become more damaging to this team. i am willing to allow RR and crew one more year to reverse the trend. If there is continued regression, I will not support the current coaching staff.


Sun, Nov 8, 2009 : 10:31 a.m.

I just can't believe how far we've fallen in two years. It's taken this guy two years to completely dismantle Bo's 40 year fortress. I with Bo were still around...this would be over.


Sun, Nov 8, 2009 : 10:26 a.m.

RR couldn't win the big games at West Virginia, and now he can't even with the small ones at Michigan. Better prepare to be handed your butts again by Ohio St. RR is a no-class disaster and has no business being at Michigan. He was the wrong choice and Michigan should cut their losses and replace him after this season. Things will only get worse and become a bigger embarrassment. I say dump RR now!!!!


Sun, Nov 8, 2009 : 10:15 a.m.

I like that. UM should rename the stadium after Richrod. "The Snake Oil Bowl". I feel for these players. This is a nightmare for them. All of these guys were highly recruited. They chose Michigan over supposedly lower tier teams Like Illinois, Purdue, Indiana, Mac schools. Now look at the mess RR has put them in. The damage to the UM program will take many years to fix. I wish RR could play a couple series against Wisky and OSU so he could experience the beat down this team is going to take. I am sure that would stop the excuses. It does not matter what offense you run. The only teams that win B10 and NC's are teams with great defenses. Look at the AP and B10 standings. How often does Houston win their conferense? I am done. If the powers at UM cannot see this, then they to are just as responsible for the total dismantling of this once storied program.


Sun, Nov 8, 2009 : 10:01 a.m.

Canabian, you hit the nail on the head. But the new AD needs to have the guts to do that.


Sun, Nov 8, 2009 : 9:55 a.m.

RR is appropriate initials. He is a trainwreck!!

Sharon T

Sun, Nov 8, 2009 : 7:11 a.m.

R R needs a permanent R & R from U-M.


Sun, Nov 8, 2009 : 1:42 a.m.

Rick's going to get one more year, but then again Harbaugh gets another year coaching experience at Stanford. Next year our new AD (I can dream) better go back to a "Michigan Man".

Man in the Mirror

Sun, Nov 8, 2009 : 1:21 a.m.

Boss up RR and keep taking your L's like a manly man and not a sissy. To get respect you have to EARN it.

Man in the Mirror

Sun, Nov 8, 2009 : 1:19 a.m.

Rich Rod telling on the Purdue coach, yet mad at the kids who claim he did'nt follow NCAA practice rules.


Sat, Nov 7, 2009 : 11:50 p.m.

There are NO reasons to believe that Rodriguez will be successful at Michigan Dave. NONE. Dump your KoolAid OUT Now. This team and program is a disaster. The worst in 130+ years in Michigan football history. That is 100% on Rich Rodriguez. It is time to cut bait now and start over. Michigan football is officially an EMBARRASSMENT. NCAA violations may follow....


Sat, Nov 7, 2009 : 11:20 p.m.

Rodriguez has beat michigan 2 years in a row.


Sat, Nov 7, 2009 : 10:50 p.m.

Coach Hope only needed one year to beat Michigan. Meanwhile, Michigan's coach needs "more time" after losing two years in a row.


Sat, Nov 7, 2009 : 10:36 p.m.

RR future at MICH. may be determined if he beats ohio state the last game, and win a bowl, and be a contender the big 10 next year. Anything short does not matter. No moral victories. RR did not inherit a struggling program that needed help.: he inherited a program that already had a winning tradition with expectations of him contiuing the tradition. No more struggling with non productive outcomes and embarrassments (1 gimmie year) time to make it happen.


Sat, Nov 7, 2009 : 10:18 p.m.

The Buckeyes will issue a beat-down even worse than last year, which was the worst in many years. It's going to be ugly. It's no longer even a rivalry. It's a good team whipping a bad one. The new Big Ten rivalry is Penn St and Ohio State. If I'm new to college football, that's what I have observed over the past 2 seasons. That's all I know. If I'm a recruit, that's where I want to be, not in Ann Arbor. UM is not even discussed in national media any longer. They've even given up on talking about how far the program fallen. They're not wasting their time. They don't want to talk about losers.


Sat, Nov 7, 2009 : 10:09 p.m.

The offense will be fine but the defense needs more than snake oil. When you score 30+points a game you should be winning, but when the d is giving up 31 or more it is going to be hard for RR to be successful. You cannot expect true freshman QBs to have to score 35+points a game and be successful without some kind of a decent defense. Find a solution to the defensive debacle and 6o%of your problem will be solved.


Sat, Nov 7, 2009 : 10:06 p.m.

I thought Rodriguez doesnt talk about kids who dont play for him. Rodriguez is a Tattle tale! Snitches get stitches.


Sat, Nov 7, 2009 : 10:05 p.m.

The Buckeye will administer a stomping like we have never seen. Unfortunately our kids will just have to take it and get ready for next year.


Sat, Nov 7, 2009 : 10:04 p.m.

Purdue was the better team. They were much better in every phase. Michigan has become to the conference what Northwestern was in the 70s and 80s. Teams come into the Big House expecting a W. Indiana has to be very disappointed in handing the worst team in the Big Ten its only conference victory.


Sat, Nov 7, 2009 : 8:31 p.m.

It hurts to see a proud program sink to such depths... but here we are. Root for the helmet. What other choice do we have?

Blueman Rick

Sat, Nov 7, 2009 : 8:09 p.m.

Pete, Snake oil indeed. Please list the reasons to believe RR will be successful at UM. I really can't find any. What top recruit will sign? The home crowd is booing like I've never heard. It Every week brings a new low to our storied program. Shame...


Sat, Nov 7, 2009 : 8:05 p.m.

Now we have dishonor and a lack of respect to go along with all of the losses. Truly a low point.