Michigan running back Brandon Minor barely plays, hardly talks
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Brandon Minor wasn’t in a talkative mood as he walked to the bus after Michigan’s stunning 38-13 loss to Illinois Saturday.
Why was he used only in pass protection early?
“I don’t know,” Minor said.
Whose decision was it that you would play so little?
What happened on fourth-and-one? Did you talk your way into the game?
"We didn't make it," he said.Â
Minor, Michigan’s best running back, played just a handful of snaps Saturday, and at curious times.
He went through warm-ups despite a lingering high ankle sprain, but got on the field for just one snap - a third-and-eight play in which he served as a blocker - in the first half.
Minor’s next appearance came early in the third quarter, when he seemed to talk his way into the game on fourth-and-goal at the 1 after starter Carlos Brown was stopped three times for no gain. Minor took a handoff and spun across the goal line, but his touchdown was overturned on replay when officials ruled his elbow first hit the ground.
He didn’t see action again until the final two minutes, when he returned as a blocker with the game out of reach.
Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez indicated Minor was limited by injury, but didn’t fully explain why he used the senior in the way he did.
On fourth-and-one, Minor went in “just to give us a big physical guy,” Rodriguez said.
“When you get some of your key guys (injured), from (center David) Molk to (receiver Martavious) Odoms to Minor it doesn’t help,” Rodriguez said. “But we had our opportunities offensively and just didn’t finish it.”
Martavious Odoms out
Slot receiver Martavious Odoms was listed as probable on the Michigan injury report Thursday.
By Saturday, he wasn’t playing at all as effects of his knee sprain continued to linger.
“I’m OK,” Odoms said. “Still a little swollen, but that’s about it.”
Sophomore Roy Roundtree started in Odoms’ place and led Michigan with four catches for 92 yards, including a 76-yard catch-and-run.
Rodriguez said Odoms, who didn’t practice much this week, tried to play but couldn’t.
“Hopefully a couple more days,” Rodriguez said. “He’ll be OK.”
Smith sees improvement in Forcier
For the first time all season, freshman quarterback Tate Forcier played every meaningful snap for Michigan at quarterback.
And while he was unable to talk with the media following the game, quarterbacks coach Rod Smith said he felt the San Diego native is improved.
“I thought he did better for the most part,” Smith said. “But he has got to learn how to handle the ball, and I have to do a better job coaching him on how to handle the ball.”
Forcier completed 13 of 23 passes for 257 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions. He was also sacked three times and fumbled three times, losing two.Â Mentally, at least, Smith said he hasn’t seen Forcier falling apart.
“In terms of where his head is, it’s where any quarterback should be,” Smith said. “Studying, breaking down film of the opponent, working on the fundamentals and techniques. One game isn’t going to define a season. One win isn’t, either.
“So we are going to have to keep trudging. We obviously haven’t played our best football obviously, in the past couple of weeks. We’ve got to find a way to get back to the way we were playing football at the beginning of the season.”
Leach replaces Ezeh
Walk-on Kevin Leach made his second start of the season Saturday in place of Obi Ezeh.
Rodriguez said the change was made to get more speed on the field.
“We thought they were going to do more spread and they did,” Rodriguez said. “Kevin’s pretty athletic.”
Ezeh, who had started a team-best 29 straight games, played only a handful of snaps against the Illini. He declined to talk after the game.
“We obviously didn’t play well defensively,” Rodriguez said. “We missed tackles and that was upsetting, and then probably more upsetting to me is when the ball’s on the ground it seems like it’s laying there for an eternity and we aren’t able to get on it.
“We got to look at everything that we’re doing and try to fix it before this weekend.”
Out of time
Michigan appeared to catch a break late in the first half of Saturday’s 38-13 loss to Illinois when running back Mikel Leshoure was knocked out of bounds after a short second-and-nine gain.
But when the Wolverines sacked Juice Williams on the next play, Rodriguez waited more than 20 seconds to call timeout, eventually stopping the clock with 27 seconds to play.
Rodriguez said he didn’t call timeout immediately for two reasons: He wanted to set up a punt block and he didn’t trust his team on punt return.
“I was still a little nervous,” Rodriguez said. “They were kicking with the wind and fielding punts, so I figured we’d go after a punt maybe and if we don’t get the punt it’s still just a few seconds left on the clock.”
Michigan didn’t block the punt and took a knee to end the half.
Earlier in the game, Junior Hemingway fumbled a punt, a problem the Wolverines have dealt with for two years. Hemingway was playing in place of Odoms.
“If we wouldn’t have wanted to go after it I would have taken a timeout earlier,” Rodriguez said. “I wanted to at least make them punt and go after the punt and see if we could block it. We didn’t block it, but that was the reasoning behind that.
“If we had a mistake there, they wouldn’t have had much time to capitalize on it.”
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.
- Michael Rothstein contributed to this article