Sunday, November 08, 2009 - Andy Andersen
Saturday everything was set for proof of the Rodriguez resurgence of Wolverine Football with bowl eligibility possible, and a step down in Big Ten Competition at hand with the Boilermakers being a team with a worse over all record and on deck. Even though Purdue had handed the Buckeyes a lesson this year, and owned a 2-3 record in the Big Ten, here at last was a team that certainly the Wolverines could score their way to victory against.
A hundred and eight thousand, five hundred and some were on hand during that rare Michigan occurrence, a temperate November day, with blue skies and nice breezes. Sadly the calculations above proved premature, unrealistic and unachievable, and those prognosticators (including me) did not credit the Wolverines defense for what it has become. Sadly, they are pretty bad, any way you want to evaluate them.
Even though they tried hard, and made a few nice stands, they could not subdue and contain the Boilermakers when they had to preserve a 23-10 halftime lead. They allowed 494-yards of offense, with 127-yards on the ground, and 367 in the air, many of them in the critical third quarter when the Michigan cause was lost.
Obviously the Wolverines cannot defend against the pass. Either Purdue’s passing offense is unbelievably good or our pass defense is unbelievably bad. You decide for yourself, but the results seem to prove the latter, not the former. This was Purdue’s first victory in Michigan Stadium since 1966.
It did not start out good for the defense as Purdue took the opening kick off and marched 80-yards in four plays. M 0, PU 7.
Seven plays and 81-yards later M scored on a 29-yard run by Brandon Minor. Jason Olesnavage hit the extra point. He did miss one on the day, which will be noted, but it was seven up then.
Minor ran hard and well all day with TD runs of 29, 55, and 1. It is too bad he has not been healthy much of the year, as he is clearly Michigan’s best running back. The Wolverines running game is the best in the Big Ten, even though it has been spotty at times. Thank you Delaware State for the statistical assistance, but its not all that.
Purdue immediately produced another drive, this time for 53-yards in 8 plays culminating in a 41-yard FG. M 7, PSU 10. Wow, we stopped them! What a relief. And Jason Olesnavage answered with one for the Wolverines, after Darryl Stonum returned the KO 55-yards to the PU 40 to start a 6-play, 6-yard drive. The drive ended in a 51-yard FG to make it ten up. Stonum is becoming a force. Unfortunately, the offense sputtered to waste good field position, and settle for a field goal.
Kevin Leach intercepted and M had possession as the quarter ended.
After the start of the second, Brandon Minor streaked 55-yards on a beautiful run from scrimmage to complete 6-play 73-yard drive. M 17, PU 10. This second quarter belonged to the Wolverines and it looked like the Boilers had sprung a leak, when the Wolverines scored again on the efforts of Roy Roundtree who had an outstanding day. This time he hauled in a 43-yard Forcier pass and was not caught from behind.
M 24, PU 10.
Roundtree also managed to wrestle away an apparent interception by a defender for a reception for the Wolverines. Review of the play let it stand to preserve a drive leading to a TD. Roundtree is growing into a real asset. He had 10 receptions for 126 yards and a TD on the day.
Spirits were high at the half, we had a little cushion and all was right with the football world of the Wolverines. A bowl was within reach.
That world came crashing down on the Wolverines in another half of inexplicably bad football that perhaps ruined all bowl hopes for this year. Tate Forcier helped to set up the Purdue turnaround with a poor pitch to Brandon Minor which was recovered at Michigan’s 19 and momentum escaped from Michigan as if someone had poked a pitch
fork into a blimp.
The Boilers scored with a 19-yard TD run and converted. M 24-PU 17.
Tate enlarged the M lead with a 6-yard TD run, from which he got up gimpy. It was a 6-play, 46-yard drive. Some momentum was restored, but Jason Olesnavage missed the extra point. M 30, PU 17.
The next Boiler drive covered 91-yards in 14-plays and exposed the inability of the Michigan defense to stop a possession passing game, and was completed by a ten-yard TD run. M 30, PU 24. We now know that we can’t stop them, and that they can catch us.
Then a disaster on the ensuing KO occurred. Purdue produced a perfect on-side kick recovering on their own 46. It was an easy opportunity for Purdue, as Michigan seemed clueless regarding the possibility. One has to fault coaching for that.
Then PU hit a 54-yard passing TD and they were ahead. It was just another in a seemingly endless string of hurtful big plays that happen consistently to the Blue. It doesn’t stop. The air seemed totally out of the Wolverine balloon after that. It seemed it was now the Boilers ball game and indeed it was. M 30, PU 31. That was the score to start the final quarter.
Things did not get better as very reliable Jason Olesnavage missed a 48-yard field goal after a 10-play drive to start the fourth.
Then PU put it away with a 4-play, 67-yard drive on an 8-yard TD run and the Purdue scoring was over, but not over soon enough. M 30, PU 38.
Michigan got six on a 1-yard Minor dash to end an 11-yard, 4-play drive after a nice Hemingway punt return. This ended Michigan’s scoring and hopes. An “illegal forward pass” call turned what had seemed a beneficial fumble recovery or lateral from a first down to a penalty. Final M 36, Purdue 38.
Tate Forcier did not have a particularly sterling performance in my opinion, but did manage to complete 12 of 24 for 212-yards. He had one TD by air and one by land. He made some mistakes, but was usually harassed, as the OL did not provide him with the best of protection. On a critical try for a two pointer, Tate seemed hesitant to put the ball in the air and was sacked. He should have thrown it up there, even for grabs.
The missed extra point hurt at this point.
On the pitch to Brandon Minor that went awry, the Purdue blitz was in the backfield, and a blitzer tipped it. This was on the right side of the line. Patrick Omameh was at guard (getting his first start), and Mark Huyge was the tackle. Tate had 18 carries for 32-yards, and seemed to recover from the gimpy leg.
Brandon Minor seemed to me to be the best Michigan player on the field, and Roy Roundtree was a close second. Brandon had 19 carries for 153-yards and a TD hat trick. Roy snagged 10 for 126-yards and a TD.
Darryl Stonum was magnificent in returning kicks. He had 5 for 158-yards with a long of 55-yards. Junior Hemingway had a 33-yard punt return to set up Michigan’s last TD, and Zoltan was Zoltan. Except for the onside kick and missed point and field goal, the special teams did well.
The Wolverines prospects for the season do not look bright anymore, but dismal. They may have exhausted their last chance for a sixth win to be eligible for post-season play. I am sure some fans will feel that a minor bowl game was beneath the Wolverines anyway, but the fact of the matter is that a bowl game is very significant to their future as it allows 15 extra practices. Obviously they need them, as they are so young.
I don’t enjoy writing negative things about my Wolverines. They have my support and allegiance win or lose. But I can’t honestly write a column such as this and laud them for failure.
In this case it would take an ocean of kool aid to keep afloat any heavy verbage which ignores the obvious facts seen on the field this season, and which indicates that the Wolverines can defeat one of their last two opponents to save their season.
I do not think that will happen, especially at Camp Randall, where I think they
will be physically overwhelmed.
That leaves the Buckeye horde at Michigan Stadium. When you slosh that
one around, think how well we have defended mobile QBs in the past.
We will see how hard Michigan plays in the next two. In the last portion of the Penn State game, they seemed to ease up some. That was not the case Saturday.
As for Coach Rodriguez, only Coach Rodriguez can take care of Coach Rodriguez’s problems. It doesn’t matter whether fans are all out, or all in. Only RR can take care of an 8 and 14 record. Only he can do something about that.
If he can’t, eventually he will be gone, and no fan appreciation or lack of it will matter. I think that he will get, and should get, a couple of years to do something about it if nothing comes of the NCAA investigation, but with a new AD pending
next year, who can say for sure what will happen. Lets hope that whatever happens in the future it will be good for Michigan Football.
Whatever is in the future, it is good to…