The Wolverines played hard, finally showed a tough and productive late running game, but stalled on their final drive. A possibly winning 56-yard field goal was blocked by the Scarlet Knights. Successful, this FG would have eked out a win by one. The Scarlet Knights lead the nation in blocks. Michigan’s porous pass defense allowed 404-yards. While M was competitive this game, this loss will do little to cool the coaching hot seat.
Devin Gardner was again rushed all evening as the OL leaked hurry-ups and sacks. Another punch in the face was a late catch deemed on the field to not be a catch as the ball bounced out on contact with the ground as the receiver stretched out of bounds. Both feet touched down in bounds with the ball in control. A Hoke called review upheld the call of no catch on the field.
Coach Hoke in his presser said they would inquire about it. I expect no change in results, but an explanation of reasoning would be nice.
The Wolverines, losers to Minnesota’s Gophers the Saturday before, traveled to Piscataway, New Jersey to confront their newly minted Big Ten competitors, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. In this prime time night game, they were seeking their first Big Ten victory of the season. The Scarlet Knights were seeking their first Big Ten victory ever, after losing to Penn State at home in High Points Solutions Stadium last Saturday in a close one. They made up for that by edging Michigan this Saturday night.
Named the Scarlet Knights in 1955, the derisive cat calls of its opposing fans caused them to abandon Chanticleer, the fighting rooster. The Rutgers archives quoted a old coach as declaring: “You can call it the Chanticleer, you can call it a fighting cock, you can call it any damned thing you want, but everyone knows it’s a chicken. Unfortunately, they didn’t play like chickens Saturday night, but more like Scarlet Knights.
Among Rutgers famous grads were the late James Gandolfini, Milton Friedman, the famed economist, along with Ozzie Nelson of early TV fame. Ozzie was Quarterback of the “Chanticleer” football from 1924 through 1926.
The Wolverine’s “daubers” had to be down as they had lost not only an important Big Ten game they were expected to win. They weren’t competitive. They lost going away. This Saturday they were competitive, and striving to win, but still ended up on the losing side of the ledger.
All week pregame, the program took about as severe a media threshing as even their worst enemies (laired in East Lansing and Columbus) could have hoped would be visited on them.
The Wolverines became the national poster boy for carelessly coaching players in a manner to invite injury, with condemnation for playing a “concussed” player, in a football world in which “concussion” has become a buzzword.
Trying to prevent enduring injuries, and not aggravate existing injuries is an extremely laudable enterprise at every level of football. As the players are helped, the game of football at all levels is enhanced. Up until this incident Michigan had been recognized as a leader in this area. Poof and the respect in this important area was flushed. Now Brandon has his publicity machine in full action finally, but it will be hard to recover, as a perceived loss of reputation always is.
Millions saw on TV replays of the cheap shot at M QB Shane Morris by a Gopher which was under punished by the refs.
Unfortunately, none of the M coaches saw the hit as they were all tracking the ball that Morris had thrown down field. None of the staff saw the hit. The refs did throw a flag on the play, but did not deem it flagrant, or throw the perpetrator out of the game. In my opinion he richly deserved to thrown out of the game for targeting.
In his post Minnesota presser, Hoke referred only to an earlier leg injury that Morris had sustained, an injury totally separate from Shane’s head injury.
It appears Hoke was not informed that on the Sunday following a slight concussion had been confirmed, so at his Monday presser, he continued to address only the high ankle sprain as he had immediately after the game on Saturday. Your guess is as good as mine why Brady Hoke was still ignorant of the findings of Sunday’s medical examination at Monday presser time.
This clumsy co-ordination helped fuel the media wildfire, which still smolders in spots, waiting to be reignited at any moment. The media is not to blame. Football concussions are rightly a genuine medical concern, and a buzzword which whets media interest. In and of itself this is not a bad thing, the media interest, but the nationwide condemnation of Michigan’s intentions and management of injuries is a disaster. Especially, as they have a history of being good stewards regarding players.
Answers need to be found so that players at all levels of the game, are able to maintain health over the years ensuing athletic endeavors. Publicity oils the process. Michigan has changed its rules regarding injury observations by staff according to Brandon.
The media was not the causative factor of the flap. The firestorm ignited because of the ineptitude of the University of Michigan in providing cogent and timely answers to legitimate questions. For whatever reasons, they were as unprepared in the pressers as for the game itself.
That falls on all the people responsible for managing this important area. AD David Brandon, Head Coach Brady Hoke, the training staff, the medical staff, and last but not least, the referees. I have yet to hear anybody pin the tail on the refereeing donkey. Eliminating that type of hit from the game seems to me to be Step Number One.
The Wolverines dragged all that baggage with them to Piscataway. Both Brandon and Brady are beleaguered, and many are calling for their immediate firing. Many more are sure that they both should be gone after the season.
This feeling is enhanced by Michigan’s stunningly poor performance on the field in three games this year. While the Rutgers game was certainly not in that category, the question for many going into the Rutgers game was: is two and four at this time acceptable in most fans book? Will they win another game this season? Be in a bowl? Unfortunately these questions still persist, and the pleasing answers are unlikely, considering the upcoming schedule and past results.
It seems to me that Brady is the more vulnerable of the two in the hot seat for a couple of reasons. He will take one for the Gipper. AD Brandon will not. He has already revved up the considerable publicity engines at his disposal. While he was quiet Saturday, personalities such as Men’s Basketball Coach Belein, mega donator Ross, and some recent players, among others are now stating their support of the current program. Now Brandon is all over the place. Where was Brandon earlier?
Wins are the most credible solution, and they still are evading Team 135.
The question prior to the game as to how Devin Gardner would react to his benching was answered positively, and team 135 faced the Knights energized. Gardner proved he could rebound from last week’s bench time, and threw only the one interception. He ran well at crucial times. Devin completed was 13 of 22 with one interception and gained 178 net yards passing. He ran 10 times for 40 net yards, and two TDs. He operated mostly out of the spread.
But he was outdone on the other side of the ball by Rutger’s QB Gary Nova. Nova hit 22 of 39 passes for 404-yards and 3 TDs. He hurt Michigan with his runs. He played a great game to Devin’s good game.
Of course, Michigan’s leaky pass defense helped Nova considerably. Wolverine’s third down pass defense was terrible as the Knights converted 8 of 16 third down attempts. Some of them were third and long. The defense does not seem to be improving much in any area, but held its own in rush defense. Actually in this game the offensive line looked better than the pass defense. But the offensive line still made drive killing holding penalties, Gardner was sacked three times and hurried all evening. In fact his only interception occurred because he was off balance from a hurry. But over-all the offensive line had their moments Saturday as they got physical and more consistent in the fourth quarter. They still need to be more dependable, but overall they earned a much higher grade than did the pass defense, even considering some devastating OL holding calls
The backs, Green, Smith, Norfleet and Hayes all did well. The featured backs, Green and Smith, were both punishing runners, and they fueled a late game comeback attempt. Green ran 12 times for 74-yards net with a long of 26 and a 6.2-yard average. D Smith toted 10 for 31 net, and a TD, with a long of 9-yards and 3.1-yard average per carry. M gained 158 yards on 35 carries and resulted in 3 TDs.
Funchess led the receivers, snagging 5 for 71-yards with a long of 23. Passes were distributed among six other receivers with Jake Butt dropping a gimmee and the next play snagging a twenty yarder with one hand. Thirteen passes were caught for 178-yards.
M received the KO and drove to a 39-yard FG on a 27-yard green run and a Funchess reception of 23-yards on a third and nine. M-3, R-0. Rutgers tied it up 3 on the following possession. Rutgers hit another with a little over a minute left in the half. It was 3-6 to start the second quarter.
Jake Butt made his spectacular one handed reception for 20-yards, which prepared a 4-yard Gardner run for a score after the 75-yard drive. M10-, R-6 at the top of the quarter.
Now came a game breaker by Rutgers’ Turzilli as he loped 80-yards with a Nova pass to score. M’s Maurice Hurst blocked the point after and it was 10-12.
Then Rutgers made attempted a fake kick that fooled no one, and was slow developing via a high looping pass. Not well executed it was stopped well short of a first down. Now M had the ball at the Rutgers 43 yard line with plenty of time, over 4 minutes. Rutgers gave up a 1-yard tough TD run by D. Smith. A 17-12 lead didn’t last long.
For the second week in a row, the Wolverines allowed a long scoring drive in the waning minutes of the first half. Nova’s pass found the end zone and a receiver, and M trailed 17-19 at the half.
In the third quarter, Nova struck again, and the lead was 17-26. Gardner ran for 19-yards to restore some hope and bring the Wolverines within two points in the fourth quarter. M-24, R-26. Final.
The hope of winning vanished when a 56- yard Wolverine field goal was blocked. Rutgers leads the country in these and this time the Knights rose to the occasion, and prevented a Wolverine victory.
Whether this was the right call for the Wolverines in light of the prowess of Rutgers in blocking FGs will be a subject of debate, as will the M’s usage of time outs. Both of these are in Coach Hoke’s corner.
This loss will do little to quell the downward spiral that appears to loom ahead and to restore excitement to Wolverines fans.
The team as a whole played better, and did not seem burdened by events after the Minnesota game, and they whacked it out in a very physical game.
But is still was a loss when they desperately needed a win. Bowl participation on New Year’s Day is gone. It seems likely there will be no bowl for them at all without a miracle. The remaining schedule is imposing, and it seems more and more likely the Wolverines may not win another game this season.
It also seems more and more likely that there will be a regime change, as the losses continue to pile up.
We will learn more next Saturday evening, as the Nittany Lions come to M stadium. We owe them, but they did beat Rutgers.