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Posted on Sun, Oct 11, 2009 : 1:25 a.m.

With the game on the line, Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez did what?

By Michael Rothstein


Michigan quarterback Tate Forcier watches the final seconds tick off the clock in Kinnick Stadium. (Photo: Lon Horwedel |

IOWA CITY, Iowa - Here was Michigan again with a last-minute drive to tie or win the game, a situation the Wolverines had been in time and time again this season with consistent success.

The reason, without any doubt, has been Michigan freshman quarterback Tate Forcier. So, then, with Michigan in another situation on the road at Iowa, trailing 30-28 to an undefeated team with the ball and a chance to win despite an ugly all-around offensive day, where was Forcier?

Oh, he was on the bench.

Huh? What you say?

Yeah, with two possessions left in the game, Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez pulled Forcier in favor of his other freshman quarterback, Denard Robinson, the same Robinson who has yet to lead a game-winning drive and the same Robinson who has shown to so far be a one-dimensional runner with an inaccurate passing arm.

But Rodriguez saw him as “a spark.”

OK, fine. It made sense, to an extent, on the second-to-last drive. There was more time on the clock. Michigan hadn’t been successful passing the ball throughout much of the game.

And Robinson led Michigan on a touchdown drive to bring the game to 30-28.

But the final drive is where the question lies.

“At the end we thought, geez, we had pretty good field position, put Denard in there, had a little plan with him, and he gave us a spark. End of story. Let’s not create something that’s not there guys. I’ve got two outstanding quarterbacks, three quarterbacks, and we did it. OK?

“That’s not the story of the game. OK? All right? Next.”

I'm not really sure about that. That last drive, essentially, was the game. And as far as field position, Michigan had good field position on the second-to-last drive. But the last one, when Michigan received the ball with 1:30 left on the game clock, the Wolverines were on their own 17-yard line, an obvious passing situation to put your team in field goal position to win.

Forcier wasn’t injured, although Rodriguez said he wasn’t “100 percent” Saturday. He was playing poorly Saturday, for sure, and looked every bit the freshman he is, but with Robinson in, the end result almost screamed in its obviousness.

His last drive, his chance to etch himself next to Forcier in freshman-game-winning-lore, lasted three plays.

Pass. Run. Interception.

Robinson sailed a ball way high - right to Iowa safety Brett Greenwood, who had perhaps the easiest interception of his life. So as Michigan’s comeback bid ended the questions began.

“That spark was still lit,” Rodriguez said. “And we made a couple plays and we moved the ball, got a first down or so and just threw a pick at the end. That’s - the head coach, I can do that. We can decide what we want to do.”

Yes, Rodriguez can. It’s why he is the head coach making millions of dollars. And it is also why he can be criticized for the decision, for putting the guy in with no experience in that scenario instead of the guy who has done it three times in five games.

Why do it? Besides his “spark” comment and his insistence that Robinson would play, no one can really know. Neither quarterback could answer. They were under a gag order from Michigan - it is unknown whether Rodriguez or the sports information staff issued it - so those answers remain murky. That begs another question, but not for this day or this particular column.

Even more baffling was that it’s not like Forcier has only made these comebacks when he has been playing well the entire game. Last week, Forcier was making mistakes and the Michigan offense was stagnant before the last two drives of regulation.

And Forcier was shaky against Indiana until the game-winning drive in the fourth quarter.

That apparently wasn’t enough evidence for Rodriguez on this night despite the fact that Forcier has done it at home and on the road.

Michael Rothstein covers University of Michigan football for He can be reached at (734) 623-2558, by e-mail at or follow along on Twitter @mikerothstein.


Bleed Maize n' Blue

Mon, Oct 12, 2009 : 4:38 p.m.

We have no idea what has gone on behind closed doors or even the conversations that go on along the sidelines. RR obviously looked pissed numerous times with the decisions Tate was making. In fact, that is the most upset I have seen the guy. As a leader of the team, he had a responsibility to let the guys know that this type of play is not acceptable and he won't tolerate it. Tate has a little bit of immaturity about him. He is giddy and a tad overconfident. i love the kid and the passion he has but he had to settle down. He never settled down saturday night. He was a loose cannon on every play. My gut was uneasy on every snap he took. It was inevitable that his past week's performances were going to lead to a performance like this. It's just the way it goes when you get that prideful. RR is a great coach and made a decision that was not easy. It's unfortunate they had to lose after seeing how the defense had given it all they had. Forcier will grow from this experience, as will the whole team. GO RR and GO BLUE!


Mon, Oct 12, 2009 : 11:23 a.m.

RR's temper is starting to wear me thin. I don't know what happened behind the scenes, but it is a no brainer that Forcier should have been put back in the game for that last dive. With 1:30 left, and the ball on our 17, that is just not enough time to get down there with DRob's game. I like DRob, and if we had 3 minutes, then I would not be questioning the call. Maybe TF was hurt...then tell us that...I think RR was all over Tate, and Tate finally chopped back and it got him benched. RR seems to be a yeller and a screamer and thats fine with me, whatever, it's football, but you can't let your ego get in the way of good decision making...and that's what RR did. He was PO'ed at Tate, so he sat him to prove a point. A decision that probably cost us the game considering Tate's track record this year.


Mon, Oct 12, 2009 : 9:11 a.m.

it was really tough to see the qb's struggle under the lights like that, especially after watching Ryan Mallet light up the auburn defense for 44 points. there's still too much indiscipline on this michigan team on all sides of the ball, and that comes down to coaching first and foremost. the team needs 2 more wins after Del. St. to hit the magic # for wins, and there are no gimmes in that schedule, not even Purdue...

Macabre Sunset

Sun, Oct 11, 2009 : 11:23 p.m.

Was out of town, watched on television. Thought for certain Forcier was out with a hand injury. Makes absolutely no sense Robinson would have played the last drive otherwise. He throws as badly as last year's tandem. As I said during the Indiana near-debacle. This team will be lucky to become bowl-eligible. Poor defense and a freshman quarterback hitting a wall.


Sun, Oct 11, 2009 : 9:42 p.m.

Good article Michael. I agree about the "spark" response. It does not add up. The drive before the 3 & out with Tate, he went right down the field with Minor and they scored. Also, outside the pick and the fumble I did not see that Tate was playing all that horrible as people make it sound. In fact, I venture to say if he had led the team in the final drive for a touchdown or FG to win it, his "poor play" would have never been mentioned. And it is right here where RR's big mistake took place. The kid has demonstrated a remarkable resiliency in his play. He can have one bad drive and turn right around and look absolutely brilliant. How can that be dismissed with the game on the line?? And how do you put the ball in the hands of a guy who has never been in that situation ON THE ROAD, PRIME TIME, against #12 team in the nation? I know all you good hearted Michigan brothers feel compelled to defend RR - I do too, and have...but not this time. To me, that move was simply inexplicable! Not to mention, the drive D-Rob did score on - the clock management was piss-poor at best.


Sun, Oct 11, 2009 : 7:27 p.m.

Tate should have been in there. Denard has thrown an INT on 20% of his passes. There's no way he's going to lead them into FG range. Forcier was the man. RR lost the game with that call.


Sun, Oct 11, 2009 : 4:22 p.m.

i agree with azwolverine...this is an OPINION boring it would be if nobody questioned or challenged a play or a decision! There will always be judgement calls that are debatable. This is what makes sports interesting!!! So, go for it Rothstein!


Sun, Oct 11, 2009 : 2:50 p.m.

tuff.ynx, Get a life. Not all articles are objective, fact based. This is an opinion article. Do you ever listen to sports radio or read other papers? There are objective, fact based articles, and then there are also opinion based articles. This is clearly the latter. So should he be fired for expressing an opinion you don't share? I sure hope not, because articles would get really boring and 1st Amendment rights would be meaningless. If you don't like Rothstein's opinions in regards to RR, move on and read someone who shares your opinion or only read objective, fact based articles (such as the stat sheet). I can actually see this argument from both sides. Robinson led Michigan to a TD on the second to last drive, so he had provided some "spark." RR wanted to see if he could do it again. I also see it from the point of view that Forcier has the far better arm, has done this in three previous games (despite playing poorly against MSU until then), and Michigan had 1:30 to get into field goal range starting at their own 17. I personally would have gone to Forcier given the circumstances, but I can kind of see it both ways. Either way, writing an opinion that is incredulous at RR's decision should NEVER get a writer fired or in fear of his job. NEVER. If that's the way you think, then the United States of America may not be the right country for you to live in.


Sun, Oct 11, 2009 : 1:30 p.m.

I think its laughable that some who claim to be Michigan fans can complain about where this team is headed. I am 100 percent behind everything this program does despite the complaints of these loser, so called fans, who come off as sounding like whining babies who dont even understand the game. I dont think it is possible to be that stupid, so I think we should maybe think that these so called michigan fans are nothing but savators from with-in. TROJAN HORSES. They are people who aren't Michigan fans at all, but who purposely attempt to create disention in an attempt to destroy thier foe. It was a great move to put in Denard. We are so fortunate to have the luxury of such a change-up. He drove them down field on the previous possesstion for a td and would have done so again if not for a mistake. Monday morning qbs are fools if they think they know better. Its not RR fault that the team turned the ball over 5 times.


Sun, Oct 11, 2009 : 12:31 p.m.

One of the things like like about a team is that much of the internal politics are usually kept within the organization. It was obvious by matching the game that Tater was struggling and may have been hurt to the point where he could not rally the team and that he and RR might have had a conflict somewhere along the way. Also, we have to take into consideration that M was playing a much better opponent and the hitting as I predicted earlier in the season was going to eventually wear on Tater. We are now beginning to see this happening. I hope that RR will start Shoelace against Delaware for a good portion of the game and let him get some real time experience running the team. Give Tater a rest and let his body heal a little bit. They are going to need Shoelace legs and arm as the team approach Wisconsin, Penn and OSU.. OSU's defense is better than Iowa And Penn is no slouch Tater will not be able to just improvise and run and continue to take shots like he has up to this point.


Sun, Oct 11, 2009 : 11:53 a.m.

I re-watched the game this morning and back-up RR's decision. If Denard chose to throw to Odoms on that last play, we would have been one step away from winning. There is also likely much more going on under the surface in regards to RR's overall decision-making than us fans are privy to. This offense is based largely on reads and Tate was not making good decisions all night. Whether ego has anything to do with it, only Tate knows. It was also obvious by body-language and reactions that the players were rallying behind DR after the last defensive stop. Tate stood by himself on the sidelines at the end of the game. Looked like Minor and company were NOT happy with Tate's decisions overall (EGO???). Maybe a little dissention on the team?? I think if you talked to individuals on the team, they would back RR's decision whole-heartedly. Also think texting ABC reporters prior to the game was not a good idea. He was already in the doghouse before the game started. Bo, Mo, or Lloyd would not have approved either-- no one person is bigger than the team. Remember that Iowa has one of the best pass-defenses in the country and that their rush-D is only 6th in the Big Ten. Much more went into RR's decision than what Rothstein is implying. Overall, I think that last night's happenings will not only help in the maturation process of a young QB, but also the long-term growth of this team.


Sun, Oct 11, 2009 : 11:27 a.m.

Rothstein is a typical predator hack journalist! He predicts a Michigan loss and then when it happens he has to find someone to attack. Anyone who has an inkling about football knows why he benched Forcier.


Sun, Oct 11, 2009 : 10:48 a.m.

Unless Forcier was hurt or he mouthed off to the coach he should have been in the game, period. D Rob may be the better athlete but TF is the better QB.


Sun, Oct 11, 2009 : 10:24 a.m.

It seems to me that RR was perfectly justified in benching Forcier for the last 2 series. Contributors here seem to forget that Forcier's failure to take control when we got the ball on our own 5 yard line first resulted in a delay of game penalty. Then, when he should have been picking a receiver for first down yardage, he launched a hail mary. It was like he forgot everything he's been good at. The only problem with benching him even to drive a lesson home is that DR is a disaster as a QB. The guy is a great runner, period. He does not now, and never will, have the savvy or the skills to be even a minimally acceptable passer. I have yet to seem him complete 2 passes in a row instead of the 2nd one being an interception. Chad Henne was just interviewed this last week and said he recalled feeling fully comfortable as QB by his 5th game. I watched every game Henne played in and I can vouch for his recollection. Forcier has not met this (admittedly high) standard, and my hopes for him are diminished. From what he's shown me over the last 2 or 3 weeks, he may very well end up playing 2nd string to some future prospect. Having said all that, I think RR has done a GREAT job with what he has had to work with.


Sun, Oct 11, 2009 : 10:19 a.m.

I think the fast start got the Michigan fans thinking perhaps more than they should this year. Make no mistake, this is a rebuilding year. Given that the UM will end up with probably 4 losses, nowhere near sniffing distance to Big Ten championship, and a mid-level bowl means that this one loss means less than what it was to Forcier, a painful lesson about discipline and game management. Last time Forcier was on the field, he made a series of bad mistakes that were similar in nature, including two really inadvisable throws 30-40 yards down field when he only needed 10-20. Forcier needs to learn to win with what surrounds him by leading them and not turn into this one-man show the media so gleefully made him. So as a UM fan, I will gladly take this loss if it makes Forcier a better quarterback for the rest of this season and for remainder of his career.


Sun, Oct 11, 2009 : 10:05 a.m.

Normally I don't agree with Rothstein, but I think he's right on this one. We had 1:30 left in the game, you can't move the ball down the field in that short a time w/DR's current game. He was trying to run the hurry up on the series before and it still took him 4 minutes for that drive and they had better field position. You had to play your passing QB in that situation. To say Tate played poorly would be an understatement, but he also had really poor field position in that 2nd half. He didn't have much of a chance. My problem with this decision is that it's too much like some of the poor decisions RR made last year. IMO, he outsmarts himself. He did it last year forcing the square peg he had from a personnel standpoint into the round hole of his game plan. He did that last night too, forcing DR to play a game that does not fit his style, at least not yet. That game was winnable, despite the turnovers and penalties. Unlike some, I think we'll look back on this game and regret not stealing it.


Sun, Oct 11, 2009 : 8:13 a.m.

wow, tater. it's funny no one has a right to question any decision RR makes, yet you have time to post on spartans articles, questioning everything done by dantonio. typical troll... rothstein has every right to question RR. why? because it was a questionable move. no one's saying it's a fact he should have played forcier. but it's CLEARLY debatable. i can understand wanting to keep the momentum with DR, but forcier has brought michigan back several times this year. the point is this EXACTLY why you're playing with fire when you start messing with two QBs. same thing at msu. i think that cousins and nichol are both solid QBs, and they have honest respect for each other. but it behooves the team to know that, barring injury, they have one leader at the QB position.


Sun, Oct 11, 2009 : 8:12 a.m.

I think MR as a reporter and us as passionate followers of UM we are allowed to wonder what happened. However let us think of the opposite situation, let us say Tate had not succeeded either, then what would everyone have said? Why didn't RR continue with DR? There is no good answer and obviously these are all growing pains. Someone calls him a Media Pimp someone else calls him "Prince Tate", come on guys you have to realize that these are 18-19 year olds and they will make mistakes as will the coach. They have expectation of fan base larger than a Fortune 25 corporation! I think you still have to say this is more enjoyable than Lloyd Carr's last season when i did not even feel like watching Michigan - Ohio State Game. To me bigger point, is as a team we need to get out of Cardiac situations, 1 to 2 minutes remaining in the game going for a win. I think that will boil down to execution, not making mistakes, and better clock management strategy. Glad to have a great team of fans. We will have a great season!


Sun, Oct 11, 2009 : 7:43 a.m.

I think all the evidence point to having Tate in the game on the last drive. Robinson did a good job moving the ball. But we should've won this game in the last drive. I think this was a misguided decision that cost us the game. No different then Illinois not starting Juice. It cost them the game as well. Foolish, I dont thin our freshman quarter backs are the only people learning in ann arbor.


Sun, Oct 11, 2009 : 2:22 a.m.

All I can say is thank God Michael Rothstein is ridiculously low on the totem pole of the media. Internet blog/forums/etc... this guy wishes he was Mike Valenti, unfortunately for Rothstein he doesn't even reach 1% of the audience real sports writers/media members reach. Instead he puts up "blogs" for internet trolls.. keep up the witch hunt Mikey! Go Irish, lmao


Sun, Oct 11, 2009 : 2:13 a.m.

Listen Rothstein, how about you lay off Rodriguez. You have been head hunting the guy for too long now. OK, we get that you don't like him. But your obsession with trying to make him look bad is past old and gone into the realm of being sick and unprofessional. Rodriquez DID NOT lose this game on the final drive. In truth, Michigan had no business even being able to win the game on that final drive. They gave the ball away too many times and THAT is what cost them the game. How many points did Iowa score on turnovers? How many drives that looked promising were ended by an interception or fumble? THAT is the story of the game and trying to spin it into anything different is just not worthy of any claim to your being a legitimate sportswriter. If Michigan takes care of the ball in this game, they would have won it handily. You could have taken enough Iowa points off the board and added enough back into the Michigan column to make this a game that the Wolverines win handily. Tate Forcier was directly responsible for the early struggles of the Wolverines and did not really get any better in passing the ball as the game progressed. Robinson sparked the team to a touchdown and put Michigan back into the game. So what are you saying here? Are you actually trying to spin the coaching into a negative? Forcier NEEDED to be benched whether it led to a loss or not. Rodriguez needed to send a message to his team that this type of play is inexcusable. It was the type of message that any good coach sends to a player in order to make them get better. It is OBVIOUS that you have no clue about coaching. Sorry, but you are WAY WAY WAY off base on this one Rothstein. Stop trying to manufacture grief for Rodriguez because it is garbage. If you cannot cover the team objectively then it is YOU who should lose their job, not RichRod.


Sun, Oct 11, 2009 : 1:56 a.m.

Michael. I agree to disagree with you on this point... Tate Forcier's head was not in the game. He played badly and made many mental errors. It was even reported that he was texting the ABC sideline reporter before the game. What the heck is he doing texting national reporters with updates before the game. Look...I like Forcier...but he needs to grow up, stop being a media-pimp and focus on the game. Clearly his head was not in this game, and I dont blame Rich Rodriguez for going to Denard when he provided a spark late in the game. Tate was not getting it done, for whatever reason. He needs to get by this hype and get down to playing and not being a media pimp.


Sun, Oct 11, 2009 : 1:51 a.m.

If Fourcier was playing well, we would have won this game! There's a chance that Fourcier may have gotten the team down the field but then again he may have thrown an interception as well! The OL played well and Fourcier had plenty of time to throw the ball on most plays. But noticed he was hesitant to throw out of the pocket. He threaded a few needles but was off on his passing game. May be his shoulder or hand was bothering him. He kept grabbing his throwing hand through the game and the one fumble fell out of his hand as he was going to throw (you don't see a healthy QB do that). I wonder if he injured his hand in the first QTR or last week at MSU? This was a game UM could have won without all the turnovers. Fourcier could use a rest. I would play Robinson next, he needs more practice passing the ball, especially if he is needed again later in the season.