Rich Rodriguez says 'worst is behind us' after Michigan football team loses to Ohio State, 37-7
Lon Horwedel | AnnArbor.com
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- In the face of his second straight lopsided defeat, an uncompetitive contest against his chief rival, Rich Rodriguez did his best to reassure Michigan football fans that his program is on the right track.
“The worst is behind us,” he said. “I know it is.”
Look on the bright side, Michigan fans. He might be right. It would be hard for the Wolverines to perform much worse than they did in a 37-7 loss to Ohio State on Saturday.
Offensively, the Wolverines played their worst game since their last trip to the ‘Shoe in 2008. Defensively, they allowed 478 yards and couldn’t get a stop when it mattered most.
On special teams, they allowed an 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that broke the game open in the second quarter and watched their backup punter shank punts of 18 and 23 yards.
It was Michigan’s seventh consecutive defeat in the once-storied rivalry with the Buckeyes.
With athletic director Dave Brandon listening to his message in the post-game press conference, Rodriguez rattled through a list of breaks that went against the Wolverines.
But ultimately, nothing could change the fact he’s fallen to 0-3 in his tenure against Ohio State and 6-18 in Big Ten games. He made no effort to conceal his feelings.
“I’m ticked,” he said. “What, do you want me to go jump out there and hold hands with all the Buckeye fans and sing Kumbaya? I wish we would have played better.” From the start, the Wolverines (7-5 overall, 3-5 Big Ten) came apart. Dropped passes and untimely penalties helped stall two early drivers deep into Ohio State territory that resulted in zero points.
Two first-half fumbles recovered by Ohio State hurt, as did Tate Forcier’s interception to start the second half.
The Wolverines defense looked sharp early, and forced three-and-outs on Ohio State’s first two possessions. But on 3rd and 5, Terrelle Pryor found Dane Sanzenbacher for a 39-yard gain late in the first quarter that loosened the defense.
Dan Herron carried 22 times for 175 yards for Ohio State. He appeared to have a 98-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter that would have been the longest play in school history.
But officials called Sanzenbacher for holding late on the run, and the official 89-yard run merely tied the all-time record of longest play from scrimmage set by Gene Fekete against Pittsburgh in 1942.
Despite the performance, Michigan defensive tackle Mike Martin felt like the defense is ultimately pointed in the right direction.
“There’s a lot of good things to come,” he said. “I feel Michigan has been resurrected. But a lot of things, a lot of it hasn’t shown yet. We have a lot of young guys coming back, the d-line will have all seniors next year, and we’ll be ready to go.”
In the meantime, the Wolverines have a bowl game to look forward to this year. Projections have them facing a Big 12 opponent in the Insight Bowl, although that could change based on Minnesota’s upset of Iowa on Saturday.
They could use the next month to not only practice 15 times for their bowl game, but to heal.
Quarterback Denard Robinson dislocated two fingers on his left hand Saturday, which sidelined him for almost all the second half. He still carried 18 times for 105 yards on the day.
Receiver Darryl Stonum caught seven passes for 81 yards Saturday despite an injured ankle, and fellow receivers Junior Hemingway and Jeremy Gallon did not play.
The Wolverines looked forward to the bowl game, but the loss to the Buckeyes still stung. For Rodriguez, the frustration was still evident.
“I’m not used to this either,” he said. “These coaches aren’t used to this. They’re used to playing in championships and bowls, and it’s as frustrating as heck.
“But I’m not deterred, because I know where we’re at,” he said. “I’ll evaluate everything again tonight, tomorrow and we’ll start getting better next week, next months and next year, and we will be better.”