Well, now we know the answer. Since the end of September, after losing to Wisconsin
, Michigan fans have wondered whether this year's team could lose five games. And many dreaded being confronted with the awful truth.
So here we are. Five losses
. The kind of season
Michigan hasn't had in 20 years.
I don't know about you, but I'm more annoyed than angry. And I think that's because this Alamo Bowl game had the stink of the familiar to it. Michigan had difficulty establishing its running game. By the time the offensive coaches figured out Mike Hart
could get yards running off-tackle instead of between them, it was too late. And the defense got pushed around - especially in the second half - making yet another quarterback look like a Heisman Trophy candidate and high NFL draft pick.(Image via AP)
Wasn't an 11-point lead a comfortable one in past years? Shouldn't 28 points have been enough to beat that Nebraska team?
Every one of my fingers is ready to make excuses, to point at someone or something to blame for losing the game. My middle finger, in particular, is looking at that idiotic officiating crew, the one that really could've
been the worst we've ever seen. It's like those guys were making $#!+ up as they went along. ("Well, we think he hit him before the ball got there. Okay, now we think he didn't. What's the rule on that, anyway?"
) The ESPN announcers, Mike Tirico and Kirk Herbstreit, were reduced to laughter on a clear pass-interference penalty committed on Mario Manningham
in the end zone.
At least it was equal opportunity incompetence. Both Lloyd Carr and Bill Callahan looked similarly perplexed when the referees attempted to explain their decisions. But Callahan didn't have to use two time-outs to stop the game and make sure replay officials could look at a play. Gee, you think Michigan could've used those at the end of the game?
And while we're talking about the end of the game, Nebraska didn't have 10 precious seconds taken away on their last drive before the referees whistled for play to begin. (Here's more on the officiating from The M Zone
I'd also like to point another finger at Tyler Ecker
. Did Michigan lose that game because of him? Of course not. But in two straight games, this guy has made tremendously bone-headed decisions that cost his team a chance - just a chance, mind you
- to win. At the end of the Ohio State game
, Ecker stayed in bounds, futilely trying to fight for yardage instead of getting out of bounds to stop the clock. Last night, during Michigan's desperate, rugby-esque attempt to keep the play alive
to score a miraculous last-second touchdown, Ecker broke free from the scrum and ran down the sideline. But who was next to him, with no defenders near him and a clear path to the end zone? The very much faster Steve Breaston
. Tyler. Dude. Pitch the #@$%ing ball. (Again, I refer to you The M Zone
for their take on the play.)
Look, I've never been in those situations. I don't know what's going through a guy's mind when all hell's broken loose, the game is on the line, and a near-inexplicable miracle play is possible. So I have no idea if I'd react any differently than Ecker or just curl up into a ball and cry for my mommy. And I know these guys are just kids. But the blood flow to his brain does seem to get cut off in late-game situations. That's all I'm saying. Maybe the coaching staff should send Ecker out to Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital and get Dr. House
and his crew to look at the man's head. Just a thought.
But Michigan ultimately gave this game away itself, turning the ball over on two consecutive possessions after establishing that 11-point lead. And Nebraska, to its credit, capitalized on those crucial mistakes.
Is there anything good to point at from the game? Well, Chad Henne
played quite well. His completion percentage wasn't great, but Michigan didn't lose because of his poor decision-making or overthrowing and underthrowing his receivers. He managed the game well (which often seems like a backhanded compliment for a quarterback, but in this case, I mean it well) and made the plays that were available to him. But when your best third-down play is Chad Henne running for a first down, the offense might not be working quite so well.
Other than that? Um... Erin Andrews looked nice. She shore is purdy
. But when I mentioned the comely sideline reporter to my sister, who called from South Carolina to complain that ESPN hadn't cut away from the Blue Field Bowl (brief excerpt: "#$@%ing mother#$@%ing stupid-@$$ bull$#!+!"
), she pointed out Andrews's hideous ensemble. An orange sweater and a pink jacket, with a belt tied around her waist? I had to agree with Lil' Sis - and this is from a guy who went to the coffee shop this morning with a green fleece, black sweatpants and brown shoes. But hey, if someone has to tell me that Steve Breaston was going to be named Stephanie, I want that person to be Erin Andrews.
Okay, back to more serious matters. Five losses. Definitely worse than four, for those of you who thought this game didn't really matter. And if not for Ron Zook
, Michigan would be looking at five straight bowl losses.
Where is Michigan football going from here? Was this "that
" season, the one which signifies a slippery slide into mediocrity that other programs such as Penn State, USC, Nebraska, and Oklahoma have endured over the past decade? Or was this an aberration? A hiccup? It has to be, right? Michigan has too many good players, and continues to bring in more of them.
Changes definitely seem necessary, however. I'm not getting on any "Fire Lloyd Carr" bandwagon. But I hope he spends this offseason taking a hard look at the schemes and philosophies employed by his coaching staff. Is the talent on the roster being utilized to the best of its abilities? Are the offensive and defensive game plans really as creative as they need to be? Are the proper in-game adjustments being made?
I don't know if firing Jim Herrmann or Terry Malone is the answer. (Although you don't have to twist my arm very hard when it comes to Herrmann.) But last night's game looked like the other 11 Michigan played this season. The same plays, the same results. Other than the loss, that might be the most disappointing aspect of last night's game - especially considering the preparation time that was available.
So what's happening here? Do we Michigan fans have something to look forward to? Or do we have something to dread?