Michigan Football Deserves Better From Fans12.11.10
Michigan fans at the moment generally consist of two separate camps: those who are skeptical of head coach Rich Rodriguez’s ability to win but are willing to give him another year to see; and those who have zero confidence in him producing a competitive team ever in Ann Arbor.
Both parties want the same thing: to win. It seems that the different lies mainly in patience.
Joe Okubo at Bleacher Report writes his piece as if he’s from the former group, but he really is a member of the latter. His main point is that RichRod has not had a single signature win nor has he fielded a team that competitive in big games once in his three seasons coaching the Maize and Blue:
How do you let a walk-on QB with a plethora of injuries to almost five starters still pass for 250 yards and look like a Heisman candidate? How do you let a team you know is going to run the ball torch your defense for six TD’s and almost 600 yards on the ground? These are just a few things that have been bothering me and we’re only talking about this year.
It’s extraordinarily frustrating how we managed to lose to both Penn State and Wisconsin this year, I agree. As a Michigan fan, it was difficult to watch and tougher to stomach afterward. The thing is, though, the issues that Joe brings up are both results of the same issue that affected the team all year: the ridiculously green defense. So when Joe says that these are just a few things that have been bothering him, he’s really saying this is the one thing that’s been bothering me all year long.
It’s one thing – admittedly, a big thing – but one, nonetheless. It wasn’t as if Michigan inability to stop Wisconsin once during their 30 straight running plays in the second half of that contest was due to Rodriguez not expecting Badgers coach Bret Bielema to run Clay/Ball/White up the gut; it was because the freshmen-led, smallish Michigan defense was no match for the bruising front line and bowling ball halfbacks from Madison.
You could argue that the 3-3-5 defensive scheme is deeply ineffective, and I would agree — though, would any formation have made our rag-tag group of barely-out-of-high-schoolers any better at stopping opposing offenses? I doubt it.
The fact of the matter is with Rich Rodriguez at the helm we are not competitive. It was never more apparent than in this year’s OSU game. A friend and I were talking about what adjustments he could make to have a fighting chance of winning this game. We had none. Sure there are injuries to some key players, I understand that.
The teams’ performances against OSU over the past three years have been abyssmal. We had a decent first half this year, but failed to capitalize on our rare defensive stops and couldn’t put it together on offense either. But, basing the team’s level of competitiveness based on one game isn’t fair. We can point to other games where we were clearly competitive, notably both games against Iowa this year and last.
Back in Iowa City in 2009, against a formidable Hawkeye squad ranked 14th in the nation, our true freshmen quarterbacks not only kept us in the game, but nearly marched down the field to a last-minute win if not for an ill-advised interception toss to seal the deal. It was an extremely entertaining game; and also one in which we had a shot at winning the entire time. Fast forward to this year against much of the same returning Hawkeyes who were now seniors and ranked 15th in the nation and, while the Maize and Blue started off rusty and got down early, they rallied back within striking distance until — again — interceptions sealed their fate. Wolverine mistakes kept them out of the “W” column, but not for lack of trying. Both games could’ve been won.
Same for the 2009 game against Michigan State — we lost in OT. The 2008 game against Wisconsin, where we managed to actually secure a win, which didn’t happen much that season. They’ve also beaten Notre Dame two of the past three years under RichRod (a team that ended up being quite competitive in their own right, finishing strong this season).
But for fans like Joe, none of this matters.
For those of you who think he’s winning 9 games next year, great, I appreciate your optimism. But unless he’s beating MSU, PSU, Iowa and of course OSU, I won’t be happy.
Nine wins and a solid bowl game victory with a bunch of sophomores and juniors should be something we all are happy about. It would mean national title aspirations for 2012, something every Michigan fan wants to get back to. Joe and I want the same thing; except he seems to want this current young squad to be there already, or, at the very least, no later than next year. And hey – anything is possible; our offense went from flashes of excitement to 5th in the nation from last year to this year — maybe our defense will make a big leap, as well.
Also, his wishlist for wins is admirable — we’re well overdue for wins over all of those opponents, especially MSU and OSU — but, it’s an extraordinarily tall order even from an experienced, 10-win squad like the 2003 Wolverines who beat OSU, MSU, and Notre Dame… but dropped one to Iowa. That team went to the Rose Bowl following at 10-win season, pretty much what Bo Schembechler dreamed for every single season.
That said – I’d love to see Michigan beat all of those teams he listed. It’s been 13 years since a Wolverines squad beat all of them in the same season, not coincidentally also the same year that they won the national title. I don’t imagine our team will be quite there next year, and if they don’t, I won’t consider it to be a total failure like others. Nor should they. If Joe had said that he wanted to see us competitive in all of those key games, I’d have stood behind his words wholeheartedly. But no good fan can rationally expect a national title every year, calling anything less to be a disappointment.