Michigan quarterbacks Tate Forcier, Denard Robinson deal with turnover woes
In three Big Ten games, Michigan has gone from having one of the most potent offenses in the country to one of the most unfortunate.
The Wolverines lead the Big Ten with 13 turnovers in four conference games and have committed nine miscues in their last two losses to Iowa and Penn State.
Compounding matters, Michigan (5-3, 1-3) is on pace to force fewer turnovers than it did last year. The Wolverines have just 11 takeaways this year - they had 20 a season ago - and rank last in the league with a minus-7 turnover margin.
“If you want to win a game, particularly against a very good football team, you’ve got to be on the plus side,” Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said. Against Penn State, “we were way on the minus side.”
Rodriguez said there’s no simple explanation for his team’s turnover problems.
Against Penn State, Denard Robinson lost a fumble on a good strip by a defender, but also threw an interception on a poor read. Tate Forcier threw an insignificant pick with the game out of reach in the fourth quarter, and Carlos Brown fumbled when he carried the ball too loose on a run.
It didn’t count as a turnover, but Michigan also took a safety on a bad snap out of the back of the end zone.
"Some of it’s inexperience, but some of it really is just trusting your reads and not panicking and letting it play out, and if it’s not there not force the thing," Rodriguez said. "Sometimes you can get by with forcing some things. Younger quarterbacks feel they can do it. In high school you can force it in there. In college it’s a little different."
True freshmen Robinson and Forcier have been Michigan’s biggest turnover culprits, combining for nine interceptions in 191 pass attempts and four fumbles on 126 rushes. Last year, quarterbacks Nick Sheridan and Steven Threet had 16 total turnovers (12 interceptions, four fumbles).
Robinson has been especially turnover-prone, throwing four interceptions in just 21 pass attempts. Still, Rodriguez said he hasn’t lost any confidence in Robinson as a quarterback.
“We’re not going to drop him in the grease, so to speak,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve got to coach him up. They’ve got a long way to go. I’ve said that all year, let’s not put too much on them and say they’re arrived because there’s a process at every position, but particularly at quarterback that you have to go through to truly have arrived.”
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 email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.