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