Rich Rodriguez: No one 'played at a championship level' against Michigan State
ANN ARBOR - Every Sunday, Mark Ortmann watches tape of Michigan’s most recent football game. This week, he watched it three times.
“I just couldn’t figure out why we were so unsuccessful in running the ball,” Ortmann said. “Just trying to analyze it a little bit more.”
The left tackle wasn’t the only one still perplexed by Michigan’s performance two days after the Wolverines fell from the ranks of the unbeaten with an overtime loss to Michigan State.
Michigan (4-1, 1-1) ran for just 28 yards on 28 carries, couldn’t capitalize on three MSU turnovers, and struggled to stop the Spartans to the tune of 417 yards.
Wolverines coach Rich Rodriguez was so disappointed in his team's effort that he broke from tradition and didn’t name an offensive or defensive player of the week.
“We didn’t have anybody we felt played at a championship level,” Rodriguez said.
As far as what went wrong, Rodriguez identified several areas of concern.
On offense, Michigan never found a rhythm after MSU held the ball for two-thirds of the first half. The Wolverines ran just 20 offensive plays in the first 30 minutes, and 14 of those came on one drive.
“We just weren’t sharp, and when you play a pretty solid team and you’re not sharp on the road it’s going to cost you,” Rodriguez said.
Defensively, Michigan missed a slew of tackles - Larry Caper broke two on his game-winning touchdown run - and couldn’t get off the field on third down.
On MSU's tone-setting second offensive possession, the Spartans went 80 yards in 17 plays and converted two third-and-6s and a fourth down.
Rodriguez said his team's defensive issues are correctable - "I don't want us to panic and try to reinvent the wheel defensively scheme-wise or anything like that," he said - and he hopes to have them fixed in time for Saturday's showdown with undefeated Iowa (5-0, 1-0).
“The challenging part for us is that we got to go on the road again against, I think, a top-10 team in their environment that’s playing very good football," Rodriguez said. "We know we’ll have to crank it up and play a lot better or it could be a tough night."
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.