Saturday the Wolverines welcomed the University of Maryland’s Terrapin Football team to Michigan Stadium, as a Big Ten member for the first time ever, for another evening game. For Michigan’s 12 seniors this was their last game in Michigan Stadium, and it turned out to be a memorable disappointment.
It was also Fan Appreciation day, with access to the field after the game, granted to fans. There was also half price hot dogs availability for qualified season ticket holders.
Whether or not half price hotdog and such were truly appreciated by season ticket holders who paid what some consider a seat “tax” seems a little iffy, but the idea is right on target, even if the weather and the game wasn’t. Fans ought to be remembered.
They showed amazing loyalty showing up to the tune of over a reported 100,000 on a gray, cold, rainy, and ever so dreary day. Many have had a special loyalty to the Wolverines that spans generations, and that is a real part of why Michigan in general and M Football is still an obsession for so many.
Having been skewered by B1G newcomer Rutgers earlier this season, and being only a three point favorite at home for this game, beating Maryland was serious business for the Wolverines, for all the reasons you have heard repeated time and time again. But as it has too often been the case this season, the Wolverines found a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
The Wolverines dominated some statistics, but not the scoreboard. They outgained UMD 398-yards to 312-yards of net offense. M rushed for 292 net yards to 147 for UMD.
OPENING SERIES INNOVATIVE, AT LEAST FOR ONE PLAY:
On M’s opening series, Joe Kerridge carried a fake punt 52-yards to the Terp eight yard line. The offensive innovation stopped right there as the Wolverines faltered and settled for a 22-yard Wile FG. Then he hit from 33 and 26-yards. Again, the Wolverines could not score a TD for an entire half.
The great Terp FG kicker, Brad Craddock, matched all three and the score at the half was 9 to 9.
THE SECOND HALF ALSO OPENED GREAT, COURTESY OF DEVIN GARDNER: The wolverines produced a 10-play, 66-yard TD drive to open the second half, Gardner had a 22-yard run and then a 15-yard jaunt for pay dirt. This made it 16-9. On the other side of the ledger, he threw an interception, and fumbled once, recovering the ball. He threw one pass away, but he missed on some other passes. Devin Gardner was 13 of 24 for 106-yards passing, an interception and a rushing TD. As he departed M Stadium for the last time as a player, Devin Gardner had not attained a season to remember so far this year. It seems he will be a success in life with his master’s degree and he has grown as a great person, if not a great quarterback.
SPECIAL TEAMS AND COACHING ERRORS TURNED THE GAME AROUND:
Dennis Norfleet received a punt, looked trapped, broke out and sprinted to the end zone from 69-yards out. It looked like it was 22-9, but there was a bit of yellow on the field. A Wolverine was cited for a block in the back, so a fine run came back. It appeared that this was a very close call.
The Wolverines special team woes continued as a Michigan player ran into Maryland field goal kicker Brad Craddock, which substituted a first down at the Wolverine 8- yard line for the made field goal. Terp QB C.J. Brown ran it in for a TD. M 16, Terps 16.
Then Matt Wile missed a 39-yard field goal that would have given the Blue the lead.
This Michigan team could not play over its mistakes. Those mistakes included coaching mistakes such as poor usage of time outs, and a critical fourth and six gamble with the same old play that failed.
DEFENSE WAS GOOD, BUT COULDN’T PREVENT LATE TERP WINNING TD:
In what had been happening too often this year, at the end of a half or end of a game, the defense again succumbed to a hurry up offense as the Terps put it away 16 to 23.
Jake Ryan and Joe Bolden played good games as each had 14 tackles.
Not only were the Wolverines wanting to go to a bowl this season, they were wanting to salvage any semblance of a respectable season, and wanting to tone down the constant cacophony of derogatory publicity that has surrounded the team for weeks.
This game did none of that and likely sealed the Wolverines bowl fate, and that of the coaching staff. OSU will be a formidable challenge for this below average Big Ten team.
The big question near this turkey day remains …
WHEN WILL THE AXE FALL?
The resignation of the former athletic director stirred the speculation pot into a maelstrom regarding a possible Hoke dismissal. The uncertainly of his retention and the retention of the entire current coaching staff has been transferred to future recruiting classes. Prime running back recruit Webb decomitted during the game.
An effective interim Athletic director has been appointed, but his possible replacement stirs the pot of uncertainty too.
Now the extended hiring time which would have been afforded the interim AD Hackett, courtesy of a bowl invite, is gone with this loss.
Unless of course they can beat OSU, which doesn’t seem to be a possibility, or a probability, the die of coaching change seems cast, and a bowl game still waits for another season.
Meanwhile, Coach Hoke and his charges are still wanting for wins while wanting to win. The effort was there Saturday, but a win wasn’t.
A LITTLE ABOUT MARYLAND:
When both Maryland and Rutgers entered the B1G this year, I thought they were not a significant addition to Big Ten football. Rutgers beating the Wolverines earlier this season cured me of that misconception. And now Maryland has added to our malaise.
As with Northwestern in the last game, the two clubs Saturday had much in common. Both have had quirky OLs. Both had QBs more comfortable running than passing. Both were experienced, but prone to errors.
The Terp’s C.J. Brown is a sixth year GB. Saturday he hit 13 of 24, for 165-yards passing and 85-yards rushing.
Two significant differences were Maryland’s success in away games (now 7 wins in their last 8 games), and special teams effectiveness. The Terrapins Likely had returns over 50-yards prior to Saturday, and was effective again the Wolverines.
Their FG kicker was 14 of 14 this season prior to Saturday, and had nailed all his extra points. Their best playmaker, WR Stefon Diggs was a no show at game time because of an injured kidney. Likely made some nice returns.
UMD’s hurry up offense affected M’s defensive substitution patterns. The Wolverines managed 292-yards rushing. Drake Johnson carried 14 times for 94-yards.
Maryland football was among the reasons I became a Wolverine back in the dark ages of the 1950s. I grew up in Lansing, Michigan, amongst the Spartan horde. Though still in High School, in the early 1950s, I was a summer short order cook at the Spartan’s Student Union so I was then infused with Spartan enthusiasm. It is hard to admit, but true enough.
Football tickets to games at Macklin Field were relatively cheap. So when Maryland played there in 1950, I was there.
But I quietly metamorphosed from my Green and White cocoon to an appreciation of Maize and Blue helmets that afternoon. Having recently clubbed the Spartans 55-0, the Wolverines and their helmets had got my attention, and the debacle at Macklin Field sealed my deal with the Wolverines.
The Spartans were embarrassed by the Terrapins after I had plunked down my very scarce dollars to watch them lose in a game no fun to watch. Goodbye Spartans! Hello, Wolverines! The Terps embarrassed our team again Saturday, but now nothing can change my Wolverine fanaticism.
THE FRANK CLARK DISMISSAL AND LAKE EFFECT CHILLED M FAN’S BYE WEEK, WHILE LOSS TO MARYLAND FURTHER CHILLS COACH’S FUTURES.
Recently Michigan had been making more headlines again for all the wrong reasons. They have too often been beating themselves on and off the field.
The cold and chilly bye week hiatus was sliding along in relative silence, when Frank Clark jumped into the spotlight, causing an additional major splash that chilled the football program, not only causing icicles to hang on Frank Clark’s Wolverines football hopes, but on Coach Hoke’s, and Team 135’s hopes as well.
Hoke had no alternative but to dismiss Clark from the team because of a prior infraction. Clark was allegedly seen as the center of a nasty domestic dispute, involving his girlfriend. He was subsequently arrested in Ohio.
There is no question that Clark earned and deserved this dismissal, and that Hoke took appropriate action.
That is too bad for Frank, as it appeared that he was living up to his bargain with the Wolverines this season prior to this last, very serious, misstep. This season it appeared he had matured. He was articulate at many press conferences, had demonstrated a team first attitude, was a contributing team leader, and had played some great football.
Frank’s place on the field was ably taken against Maryland by Mario Ojemudia and Taco Charlton.
IT’S THE WIN AND LOSS RECORD:
If you and I are not happy with Coach Hoke’s coaching or his team’s performance this season, and who is, that is as it should be under the circumstances. Among other things, the good practices we heard about often did not translate to game time. Player development seemed stunted.
The continuing bad publicity, whether deserved or not, results from the lack of being competitive on the field in the game of football, and that lack of competitiveness has to come to an end. That will end the disrespect.
Uncomfortable publicity did not cause the problems, the win and loss record did. Respect has to be earned. Blood in the publicity waters naturally attracts publicity sharks. Saturday’s loss against a team M should have bested will tighten the noose on the Hoke era.
ONE LAST SHOT FOR TEAM 135 AND ITS COACHES:
With all the distractions Team 135 kept giving it the old college try. The team seemed focused Saturday in spite of all, but they did not maintain enough focus to win. The players have deserved better coaching leadership than they have received this season.
So it is on to future, and hopefully better football times for the Wolverines next season, but the sooner the better. If they can pin the tail on the OSU donkey next week, there will be an immediate improved outlook, but even then it is doubtful that Coach Hoke’s tenure will extend.
Rationally a competitive game against OSU does not seem probable or possible from here, but anything can happen.
In any event continue to stay tuned and more importantly ….