Monday, October 12, 2009

Deja vu

I intended to write something insightful here about Michigan's loss to Iowa, but at some point I came to the realization that I'd just be repeating myself -- Saturday's game was almost identical to last week's loss, with the ending leaving me incredibly disappointed yet not that upset.

Once again, UM had absolutely no business being in the game. The running game was far better than against Michigan State and the defense played reasonably well, but you can't commit FIVE game-changing, momentum-shifting turnovers and have any realistic hope of beating anyone, let alone a top-15 team on the road.

Yet there they were with 1:30 left in the game, taking over at their own 17 and needing only a field goal to win. I felt good -- which seemed reasonable since Tate Forcier had four career go-ahead drives in the fourth quarter coming in -- but when the offense went out and Forcier wasn't on the field, I knew in my heart that it was over. The last-minute interception was the single most predictable thing all night.

I suppose that the difference between this game and the loss to Michigan State was a feeling of frustration. As painful as the turnovers were, I'm willing to accept those when guys are fighting for extra yardage or whatever. Forcier's absence on the final drive, though, really left a bad taste in my mouth.

Denard Robinson is a fantastic athlete, but when you need 50-plus yards in a minute (in other words, when you need to throw the ball), he's not the guy you want on the field. He just doesn't have a consistently accurate arm or a solid grasp of reading defenses, which are pretty important when you're putting the ball in the air.

Rich Rodriguez said this after the game:
"Tate made some plays that he'd probably like to have back, but we made a change to get a little spark," Rodriguez said. "Denard gave us a little spark at the end, we just didn't finish it off."
"A spark" is great, but that's not what you need with a minute left when you're down by two. You need the guy on the field who gives you the best chance to win, and in this case, Tate Forcier was that guy.

One unmentioned factor here is Forcier's shoulder, which has been banged up for the past three weeks and was clearly bothering him Saturday night (he was shown shaking his right arm on multiple occasions late in the game). If Rodriguez considered this a significant hindrance, I can sort of understand pulling him there ... but I still wouldn't have done it. The kid has led three fourth-quarter TD drives in the last two weeks alone -- all after suffering the aforementioned shoulder injury -- so it's not like that's had a significant effect on his late-game performance.

What I'm trying to say is that Forcier has established himself as the starter and, more importantly, the finisher. I don't care if he was hurt or if he didn't play that well for the first three quarters; he should have been in the game.

Other than that, there's not a whole lot I can be upset about. Change any one of a dozen plays -- the muffed punt by Greg Mathews that gave Iowa the ball at the UM 16-yard line late in the third quarter, the fumble by Brandon Minor at the Iowa 39, the early interception that gifted Iowa seven points, the Robinson interception at the end -- and Michigan is 5-1. I could extend that even further and look at how painfully close this team is to 6-0, but I won't bother. The fact is that Michigan is a far, far better team than I ever expected them to be at this point, and knowing that they can beat anyone (and yes, I do mean anyone) on the rest of the schedule gives me a lot of hope.

The hard part will be maintaining that hope when Michigan loses another game in devastating fashion, which is almost guaranteed -- a mistake-prone team with a mediocre defense isn't likely to win a lot of games in comfortable fashion. I guess all I can do is see about getting some blood pressure medication and hope UM comes out on the winning end more often than not.

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