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Posted on Sat, Nov 20, 2010 : 6:23 p.m.

Loss to Wisconsin shows Michigan football team not ready to compete against physical Big Ten teams

By Pete Bigelow


After breaking one tackle, Wisconsin running back Montee Ball runs untouched into the end zone for a second quarter touchdown. Ball and freshman James White rushed for 354 yards and six touchdowns in a 48-28 win at Michigan Stadium Saturday.

Lon Horwedel |

The stinging indictment didn’t come from a rowdy fan or someone looking to create the drama despised by those in the Michigan football program.

It came from Rich Rodriguez himself.

With athletic director Dave Brandon listening to his every word during the post-game press conference following Michigan’s 48-28 loss to No. 5 Wisconsin, Rodriguez rattled off a list of shortcomings.

“We certainly didn’t play well, we didn’t tackle well, didn’t catch the ball well,” he said. “We didn’t execute on either side of the ball at times.”

Yep, that about summed it up.

Wisconsin overpowered the Wolverines. It was that simple. Michigan knew the Badgers would run the football often. Focused their game plan on stopping the run, as a matter of fact.

Badgers offensive coordinator Paul Chryst didn’t disappoint, rushing 28 times in a row at one point.

“Paul makes those decisions, and I got on and said, ‘Hey, they can’t stop your run game,’” Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said. “Point blank. There wasn’t anything they could do to slow that down.”

The Wolverines knew what was coming, yet Wisconsin rushed for 357 yards Saturday in front of 112,276 watching the Wolverines at home for the final time of the 2010 season.

James White carried 23 times for 181 yards and two touchdowns, while Montee Ball had 29 carries for 173 yards and four touchdowns.

“It’s real frustrating,” linebacker Kenny Demens said. “Kind of pre-snap, okay, I have to do this, but then they go for 10 yards, and you’re like ‘How did that happen?’ It’s frustrating, it really is.”

The Badgers combined for 558 total offensive yards - in addition to their rushing at will, they passed the ball pretty well too. Scott Tolzien completed 14 of 15 passes for 201 yards.

It was the fifth time this season the Michigan defense had allowed more than 500 yards in a game, a performance that clinched two dubious spots in the record books.

On the season, the Wolverines (7-4 overall, 3-4 Big Ten) have allowed 4,897 yards, beating the previous all-time mark set last year of 4,720. On the season, they have allowed 369 points, the most in program history, topping the previous mark of 347 set in 2008.

The marks overshadowed another important milestone achieved Saturday - Denard Robinson set the NCAA’s all-time record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a single season.

Robinson carried 22 times for 121 yards and two touchdowns, and finished the day with 1,538 rushing yards on the season. He broke Air Force quarterback Beau Morgan’s previous record of 1,494 set in 1996.

Rodriguez was as frustrated by the defense as anyone afterward.

“I know everyone says, ‘Ah, he’s making excuses.’ It’s not. It’s reality,” he said. “I’ve never coached and had five true freshmen playing at one time in Division I. Are you kidding me? Think about that. …

“You guys are pretty smart. Go find another Division I school that has five or six true freshmen playing significant time on defense. It’s a perfect storm.”

Indeed, the rash of injuries, defections and academics casualties that started last spring has been a well-documented talking point, and the losses continued Saturday.

Defensive tackle Mike Martin and defensive end Craig Roh, two of Michigan’s premium defenders, missed most of the second half. Their status is unknown for next week’s regular-season finale against Ohio State in Columbus.

But the Wolverines, who had won two consecutive Big Ten games entering Saturday’s game, don’t need another marquee conference opponent to figure out the obvious.

They’ve improved from one win to three in conference play, but they’re still not ready to compete against the upper echelon of the Big Ten. Even at home. Perhaps especially at home.

Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa and Michigan State have punished the Wolverines defense in the Big House this season. Combined, those four opponents have averaged 264 rushing yards per game and 509.5 total offensive yards per game.

Playing at Michigan Stadium used to be a distinct advantage for the Wolverines. That aura is gone, something not lost on Wisconsin, which had not won in Ann Arbor since 1994.

“This is one of the most storied places in college football,” Bielema said. “But none of those teams in the past were going to play today.”

Stinging indictments all around.

Pete Bigelow covers the Michigan football team for He can be reached at (734) 623-2551, via email at and followed on Twitter @PeterCBigelow.



Sun, Nov 21, 2010 : 7:48 p.m.

The defense isn't just bad. It's historically bad. That's quite a feat. Does this conditioning philosophy mean they'll continue to get shoved around by the likes of MSU, Iowa, and Wisconsin?


Sun, Nov 21, 2010 : 5:06 p.m.

UM got a huge break when Clay sat out. If he played< UM wouldn't have enough defensive players left to field a team against OSU.


Sun, Nov 21, 2010 : 4:56 p.m.

UM got a huge break when Clay sat out. If he played< UM wouldn't have enough defensive players left to field a team against OSU.


Sun, Nov 21, 2010 : 4:52 p.m.

If we don't get a "new start" we'll loose many more games and opposrtunity to recruit and bring the right coach to Ann Arbor. WHY is RR pointing to how many freshmen he's running on defense? What has he done to recruit the right guys? Just like him, most players want to be at Michigan. He's failing us accross the board. No more donations from me while he's still there!

Macabre Sunset

Sun, Nov 21, 2010 : 2:07 p.m.

He's 10-1, and on the verge of bringing his team to a BCS bowl. He can be as arrogant as he likes. His team just walked into our house and beat the snot out of our team. That's 11 home losses for our fraud of a coach.

Sandra Samons

Sun, Nov 21, 2010 : 1:42 p.m.

You could almost feel sorry for RR. He's the one who is in over his head. No wonder he's frustrated all the time, but he should not be blaming the team. The buck stops with him!


Sun, Nov 21, 2010 : 12:30 p.m.

You know "81", I am not sure why the offensive coaches are getting off the hook. Game after game, the offense trails big time before mounting a comeback. It has happened in all our losses this year, and a truly good offense does what Wisconsin did yesterday.


Sun, Nov 21, 2010 : 12:19 p.m.

Michigan was COMPLETELY steamrolled in the first half by a physically superior Wisconsin team Saturday. Our offense didn't wake up until halftime, and by that time, the game was over. Trying to be objective, I just don't see that this team was prepared well by the coaches. Reality is, our defense is not going to be solid until probably 2012 no matter who the coach is. There's too many inexperienced, undersized players right now. This must be fixed by our recruiting. And I believe the 3-3-5 defense may be the wrong one to try and stop the big, physical running teams like Wisconsin. The only way it MIGHT work is if all 6 up front guys are all "beasts". But, that's certainly not the case now. I think David Brandon has a very, very difficult decision to make after this season. But, I trust him to do the best thing for Michigan. Whatever is done, I think the defensive coaching staff needs to be shaken up. The defense is not making any progress.


Sun, Nov 21, 2010 : 11:18 a.m.

I've followed Michigan football very closely since the earliest days of Bo Schembechler. Never EVER have I witnessed Michigan football that was even remotely close to the terrible football Rich Rod is giving us today. There is no logical reason in the universe to continue supporting him as head coach. Five freshmen on the defense? You've been there three years and you continue to break your own records of futility. Good bye Rich. You may be a good person, but you don't have the skills to build a winning football program at Michigan.


Sun, Nov 21, 2010 : 11:11 a.m.

TruBlu Did you actually write that we "didn't get wiped out" Saturday by Wiscy??? LMAO!!! What game were you watching? Wiscy completely dominated Michigan. It was 24-0 at the half. Was almost 31-0 at the half, but for a play by a Lloyd Carr recruit. It's laughable to what extent the apologists will go to excuse this Hack. What Brandon doesn't understand is that it's HIS job that will be on the line next. He's a smart guy, though, he's a Michgan alum (unlike the majority of the RichRod fans). He'll figure it out real soon.


Sun, Nov 21, 2010 : 8:37 a.m.

I have three questions, will Martin and Roh slow their recovery pace so they won't have to go to Columbus; what will our fan turnout be in Columbus and lastely; will Brandon fire RR after the Ohio State loss or wait until after the Bowl Game?


Sun, Nov 21, 2010 : 7:06 a.m.

It's not just what's happening on the field. How many scholarships will we lose because of academics? RR will blame that on players too. Then he'll use the lack of acholarships as an excuse in futrure seasons. The program is in a nose dive, time to change pilots. Jim Harbaugh, please come home.


Sun, Nov 21, 2010 : 3:14 a.m.

Wisconsin, Iowa, MSU, and Penn State ALL pushed Michigan around. So much for the wizardry of Brawis. The Big Ten is a power league....even Joe Tiller figured that out after awhile. M needs a coach who understands power football and that man is Michigan Man Jim Harbuagh.


Sun, Nov 21, 2010 : 1:22 a.m.

Michigan is on Probation and Michigan is soft...boy RR has made his mark and by the way....bad young player most often become bad older players...if you can't block and tackle or a young player well....all these coaches who lose and use the young player excuse...lose later on when they are bad older players...The players may have the talent but they are poorly coached and the program is they play soft...In the old days if you could beat at least paid a phyical price

Macabre Sunset

Sun, Nov 21, 2010 : 12:37 a.m.

Or maybe Brandon's just a scared kid and doesn't want to make any mark on the program by spending the millions required to clean out this abysmal coaching system. Rodriguez has ignored the defense for three years now. The result has been by far the three worst defenses in Michigan history. That's half his job. He failed. He has gone 6-17 in the Big Ten. Time to find a coach who can handle life in major college football.


Sat, Nov 20, 2010 : 10:51 p.m.

By this point of the year, these players are not frosh anymore. They are experienced. You hear no other coach make excuses like that. Over and over again, RR seems to point to the players and takes no blame himself. Mr. Brandon, get a plan to rid our fine school of this problem at the top. Look no further than Palo Alto, where Stanford whupped on a bitter rival by at least 5 TDs today, and has beaten the top team in the Pac 10 over the last 3 years pretty consistently. Then look at RR's record and see that his vaunted offense in the third year of running it has led to a 24-0 halftime deficit, 31-10 against Iowa, 31-10 against MSU, 28-7 against PSU. Those are not good offensive performances. Time to see him go.


Sat, Nov 20, 2010 : 9:46 p.m.

Regarding the heading, Didn't we know this already? I could say more but want to be kind to A2 folks! Go Green Go White

obama from kenya

Sat, Nov 20, 2010 : 8:29 p.m.

Tear down the Big House and build a Wal-Mart there. People need a place to shop more than a place to watch games.


Sat, Nov 20, 2010 : 8:03 p.m.

The former MSU basketball coach once joked about the prospects of his team. "The good news is that all five starters are back. The bad news is that all five starters are back." Rich Rod has dropped the ball when it comes to recruitment of Big 10 caliber defensive players. It's painfully obvious watching them miss tackles, assignments and get run over. After three years, there should be more second and third year players on the team, plus a few of Carr's seniors. I support Rich Rod but he has to pay more attention to the defensive side of the ball and special teams. The offense cannot produce miracles every game, especially against top tier teams.


Sat, Nov 20, 2010 : 8:01 p.m.

A lot of people that have some pretty strong feelings have no idea what its like to play with a bunch of freshmen as an upperclassman. Unless you do, you really should keep quiet about things you know little about.


Sat, Nov 20, 2010 : 8 p.m.

How poor is that when the opposing coach decides to run 20 something times cause they cant stop us and even worse say the bighouse is nothing. Time to restore the domainance starting with a top level non gimmick coach. We have hired John L. Smith the second and MSU loves it.

3 And Out

Sat, Nov 20, 2010 : 7:54 p.m.

PS: 6 Big Ten wins in 3 seasons is pathetic. That is Indiana and Minnesota-bad. Enough with the excuses please.

3 And Out

Sat, Nov 20, 2010 : 7:53 p.m.

actually lots of schools play a lot of freshman... and who's fault is it that they are playing freshmen and walk ons in his 3rd year at Michigan? it is RR's all the way...has not recruited on defense....


Sat, Nov 20, 2010 : 7:38 p.m.

OMG. I don't see how an experienced, successful ex-CEO like Dave Brandon can sit there and listen to one of his current "department heads" clearly and publicly admit to totally incompetent performance by his unit and NOT fire said department head soon. RR has got to go, preferably immediately after our impending loss at tOSU next weekend.


Sat, Nov 20, 2010 : 7:36 p.m.

RR got a good taste of what Big Ten football is all about today, as he also did against Iowa and MSU. The defensive side of the ball for U-M reminds me of the 2003 Detroit Tigers, who set an American League record for futility. Most of the players on that team, like the U-M defense, talent or experience-wise had no business starting but were pressed into service before they were ready or because they were the only ones available. Some of this year's freshmen starters on defense will turn into good players down the road while others next year will return to the bench as reserves where they belong, assuming U-M can get better players to replace them. Defenses like Michigan's in 2010 may be serviceable in the Big East, but not in the Big Ten.


Sat, Nov 20, 2010 : 7:33 p.m.

He missed the most obvious one: the team isn't coached well...