The Penitent Man

Submitted by Brian on November 23rd, 2009 at 11:55 AM

11/21/2009 – Michigan 10, Ohio State 21 – 5-7, 1-7 Big Ten

 tate-forcier-ohio-state-scramble tate-forcier-ohio-state-interception

Well… that could have gone worse.

Unlike last year, it is possible to construct an alternate universe in which Michigan wins the game. This universe contains 80% fewer crippling Forcier errors; not much else is different. Like last week's admission of crippling ennui after game 11, this is progress of a sort. The sort is still "not very fun progress at all," but it's progress.

Better than the slight competitiveness: now it's over and we don't have to watch the team/roadkill grind its jaw away any more. The focus turns to getting some cornerbacks and other assorted defenders, reviewing what happened, and waiting for what will be a telling 2010.

There should be no more stupid rumors that Rodriguez is getting fired. Bill Martin immediately announced that Rodriguez would be the coach in 2010, which like duh. CRACK REPORTERS then attempted to detect weaselly out words in the Martin statement and got a flat denial. There will be no more stomach-churning on-field events or stupid rumors that Forcier and Robinson are transferring. Maybe that latter is optimistic given the flimsy justifications for transfer rumors to date, but since Forcier and, oddly, Vincent Smith, have clearly denied any transfer intentions recently there's little that could convince them to leave other than Devin Gardner showing up in fall—not even spring—and proving himself God. Which isn't likely to happen.

There will be some sort of NCAA announcement that has a 1% chance of crushing Rodriguez, a 10% chance of actually increasing the heat he is under with the people who decide his fate, and an 89% chance of being either nothing or minor enough that it won't make a difference in a year or two when the wins and losses are likely to make the decision.

And then this two-year period of misery and flailing about will be over. Even if you are a tinfoil hat who wants Rodriguez fired yesterday and thinks the team will be just as bad next year, at least that won't be as bad, because the last half of the season will be talking about the next coach. More likely than that is that a non-freshman, non-walk-on quarterback and 16-19 returning starters and some consistency at defensive coordinator and progress everywhere and roster not operating 14 scholarships short see Michigan get off the mat.

The long dark of the offseason is merciful now and steadily builds to a yes or no answer in 2010. Or, more likely, a "maybe" answer leading to a surely definitive 2011. Either way, this unpleasant limbo existence has ended. Patience is a virtue because it is incredibly frustrating and painful, and we don't have to be patient any more.


  • Big post-game news is that Donovan Warren has tentatively announced his return. There is some wiggle in as long as Warren is going to put his name in for an evaluation, but unless that evaluation comes back more positive than he's been told it will he should return for his senior year. That's obviously huge, and may allow Woolfolk or Justin Turner to slide to safety next year.
  • In other corner news, Adrian Witty is qualified($) and will be on campus in January. Nice to see Michigan stick with the kid, and hopefully he can contribute. He was just a two-star but Michigan liked him a lot.
  • You will not believe this but I will say it anyway: Michigan's corner depth chart might be a little crowded next year. Young, but crowded. Both starters return, Justin Turner will get in on the action, and then you have Witty, Avery, and Talbott coming in with potential/probable commits from Cullen Christian and Tony Grimes coming up. That's suddenly five-deep in scholarship players (Floyd and Teric Jones also exist). Some of those guys will get bumped to safety, surely.
  • Many people are talking about the Ohio State fans who showed up en masse. I didn't think it was much worse than 2007, especially not in my immediate proximity. Two years ago there was this pack of Git-r-dones a few rows behind me that would literally say "ain't nothing wrong with that" after every four yard Wells run; this year there were scattered OSU fans but nothing as concentrated and annoying.

    But it was worse, and this has caused a lot of muttering about season ticket holders who gave up their seats. I don't think that's the case thanks to an excellent diary on the situation:

    …the Athletic Department has been "banking" all of the non-renewed season tickets. With those "banked" seats, the Athletic Department plans to be able to do the aforementioned aisleway widening, handrail additions and (hooray) widened seat-numbering, with a minimum of inconvenience and movement to existing season ticket seat holders.  … In the meantime, it means that the Athletic Department has larger numbers of individual and/or package tickets to sell.

    If you had wanted to conduct an experiment at the time of the OSU game, all you had to do was ask to see the tickets of any of those OSU fans; I have every presumption that in most cases, the tickets held by Buckeye fans would surely have been small and white, not the larger color photo-background tickets that go to season ticket holders.

    This problem will be less and less of an issue in the future, as season-ticket assignments within the bowl get settled after renovations are completed.

    … And, for people in Columbus, the Michigan game is the biggest day of the year.  They smelled blood in the water this year, and many of them made the effort, got the tickets, and came north.  Do not for a moment think that ticket brokers missed an opportunity to purchase a package of tickets that included Eastern and Delaware State, simply to get ahold of OSU tickets, and sell them in Columbus.  Those tickets, the package tickets, are quite likely part of the "bank" of tickets that the Athletic Department is holding only until 2010 or 2011, for the completion of the stadium renovations.

    This is definitely what happened: brokers snapped up the publicly available tickets and when game time rolled around the double-digit favorites are naturally more inclined to pay the premium to get into the stadium. There were some traitorous bastards who need to be hung by their figgins, but most of it was just Michigan fans not buying available tickets. Which means everyone complaining about how the stadium looked on TV has scarlet and gray on their hands.

  • Vincent Smith is your tentative 2010 starter after averaging 4 YPC on eight carries to Michael Shaw's 1 on 7. Smith also had three catches and Michigan's only touchdown on a sweet juke after Forcier scrambled himself into and out of trouble and threw back across his body…

  • …which was awesome but it's pretty easy to draw a straight line from that to Forcier's endzone interception, which was a slow-motion "nooooooooooooooo" moment if I've ever experienced one. The instant Forcier looked to the left side of the field I felt a disturbance in the force, and my main concern was that the guy not score a defensive touchdown.

  • Forcier in toto: is it crazy for me to suggest that I thought that was sort of an encouraging game? Five turnovers are horrendous and he made some terrible throws into coverage but he also made a number of outstanding plays; if he has the usual leap from freshman to sophomore and cuts down on the errors there's so much playmaking potential there that he could be crazy outstanding. There is also the possibility that he never calms down and he just makes killer mistakes, but most guys get a lot better as they age, especially folks who played crappy high school ball, as Forcier did.

  • Why the hell doesn't Michigan have That God Damned Counter Draw in its arsenal? Michigan is now a shotgun team that uses a metric ton of rolling pockets and in my experience TGDCD is 80% touchdown, 20% fail. Ohio State didn't even mean to call it and they scored on it.

  • Anyone talking about "class" re: Mike Shaw's pre-game run-in with some Ohio State player should probably look on his own rhetoric about how hating Michigan because some crazy dead bastard hated Michigan is part of his soul, man, and consider the logical twists and turns taken to arrive at the conclusion that bumping into mortal enemy and then woofing represents a character flaw.

  • Every time Terrelle Pryor morphed from arm-punter into terrifying tank on the edge, I thought to myself "Jim Tressel is an idiot." He isn't. He is self-evidently a fantastic football coach. He has gotten six straight wins over Michigan—though it's not like Michigan's made it hard the last three tries. But virtually every criticism leveled at Tressel about his neolithic Pryor offense is true. OSU's scoring offense is the zone read, and Tressel didn't even bother hauling it out except on like two drives, one of which was the quick first-half touchdown. The risky scoring offense is running your tank of a QB on the edge, and instead Tressel spent large chunks of the game in the I neutralizing Pryor's legs. What a waste.


MVictors was on the field and got some shots, including one of Brandon Graham walking for senior day. Senior day side note: much better logistically this year than before, with the seniors walking under the banner. Previously they had them along one endzone, which was weird.

Mike DeSimone has pictures from the day. Maize n Blue Nation has flyover video.


matty blue

November 23rd, 2009 at 12:20 PM ^

...was rodriguez pulling forcier after the third pick. we were down 11, but we still certainly had a chance. i would have liked to see him go back out there to start the drive to see if he could moxie us a touchdown to get within a field goal. i love denard robinson, but he was significantly less likely to do so.

other than that - totally agree with brian...osu is a better team at this moment, and deserved the win, but it's easy to imagine a way we could have won this game with only a 60% reduction in turnovers.

liked forcier's comments after the game, too - totally took it on his own shoulders. he's a good kid, he'll get better.

Section 1

November 23rd, 2009 at 1:43 PM ^

I think it might have had to do with the fact that Tate came off the field, and threw his helmet down. Within about ten feet of Rich Rodriguez. Did tv show that? In fact, at first I thought Tate had broken the helmet, as something flew sideways when the helmet hit the ground; it was just his mouth guard flying out of the place where Tate sticks it into in the face mask. Tate lost compusure, albeit when he had just walked off the field, and only for a moment.

But I said to myself as I saw that, "Tate has to sit down, now. Maybe for the rest of the game, or maybe not, but he will sit, and watch, while he regains his composure."

willis j

November 23rd, 2009 at 12:21 PM ^

He made a couple bad reads and wtf how did you not see that defender there moments. Shit happens. He will learn from it and mature and be better next year. This season was a lot for a freshman to bear on his shoulders, esp with a young supporting cast.

I look forward to watching these kids grow up on the field together. This offense should be fun to watch.

Also I still do not think he was 100% comming into this game. Personal opinion.


November 23rd, 2009 at 12:25 PM ^

So it's strange, i didn't feel like i got kicked in the balls like other games - Even with the loss, felt good progress. Can't expect to win with 5 turnovers - one of which in the end-zone. Could have been worse - and should have been worse if the team of previous weeks showed up. Hats off to the kids for pulling this one out. I saw mooseman walking down Packard street with either his grandfather or dad after the game -- felt good to say good job and thank you for everything you've done for michigan the last four year.

My biggest surprises for the day came sitting in the Student section. one: some buckstache fans sitting behind me were trying to convince each other that you'd never have such classless chants as "f$%k the buckeyes" and felt that OSU is a much classier school. um, ok douche. two: It is not okay to come to the Michigan game and have a 4-way gay makeout session and not cheer. i'm not homophobic or anything - but seriously - there are probably better places to go make out rather than SITTING in the student section with your hands down your lovers pants making out... at least cheer between kisses :) Three: I'm very glad buckeye's have learned how to spell such a challenging word... i never want to hear that stupid "oh" - "io" chant again.


November 23rd, 2009 at 12:27 PM ^

Brian, do you have video of Tate's fumble? On one of the TV replays it looked like he wasn't even touched by anyone. He just flat out dropped the ball (which wouldn't be the first time). Maybe you can confirm contact.
Regardless, he needs big improvement for next year. He needs to get bigger/stronger, better decision making, and secure the damn ball (especially when between the tackles in the red zone).
As for next year, I don't see a big leap forward for this team unless a lot of guys make big strides. They will still be young. Let's hope for the best, but not get our expectations too high. And Rich Rod is here for at least 2 more years, so let's just put an end to all of that firing nonsense.


November 23rd, 2009 at 12:25 PM ^

Re: the banking of tickets

The is semi-OT but to widen all of the isles and make more width in each seat, will they not have to replace all of the bleaches, which nearly all in concrete section of the bowl have been replaced over the past 5 years?

If they are talking them out it seems like a tremendous wasted, but at least we will not have so many opposing fans in the stadium in the future.

Section 1

November 23rd, 2009 at 1:35 PM ^

First, I do not speak for the Ticket Office or the Athletic Department in any way, shape or form.

Bruce Madej, Marty Bodnar, Joe Parker; those guys know more than I ever will about the details of their plans. They all do a great job.

With regard to removing and replacing the bleacher seats, I can tell you this (which you probably already know); they actually do it all the time in Michigan stadium, more than any casual observer would ever guess. With all of the recent construction, there have been frequente removals and replacements of the benches. They do it all the time; I think you already alluded to that fact, at least in terms of recent replacements.

Re-positioning and re-numbering seats will indeed necessitate new, aluminum benches (or covers for them as the case may be). As for it being a "waste," I don't presume any waste and I don't think that anyone should be concerned with "waste" in our Athletic Department. I understand your concern, but the Ticket Office is, in my view doing this the right way, by establishing their internal bank of tickets, so that there is room to adjust seat assignments in the future that won't downgrade any present season ticket holders.

By the way, I never intended my original Diary entry to serve as any sort of criticism of the Athletic Department. I don't intend anything of the sort. It is just fact, as to what has been happening with ticket assignments, and was meant in some smaller measure as a response to people who presupposed that Michigan season ticket holders just gave up on the Wolverines and sold their OSU tickets for filthy lucre. There are some such cases, no doubt. But there is a larger, more objective story out there and that is what I intended to convey.

And yes, Bryan, I do think that there WON'T be so many occasions in the future for visitors to make the kind of presence that the OSU fans did in 2009.


November 23rd, 2009 at 12:26 PM ^

I don't want this to come across as whiny Michigan fan, but man, from my perspective in Sec. 33, it seemed like OSU's right tackle and guard were holding like mad. Am I alone in my belief?


November 23rd, 2009 at 12:41 PM ^

On that TD run by B. Saine in the 2nd quarter, I saw one blatant hold during the game, and then watching the replay later in the evening thought that maybe TWO holds could have been called on that play. Really surprising that it wasn't called, but I'd say that the refs were pretty consistent in NOT calling much of anything.


November 23rd, 2009 at 12:27 PM ^

Warren's obviously going to test his draft stock and jump if he's in the first few-ish rounds. IF he comes back, that would be mammoth. He had a relatively quiet year I think for a reason. No one really threw at him that much, which is huge considering one gaping hole is a lot better than two. That's what she said. Just getting it out of the way.

Blue in Yarmouth

November 23rd, 2009 at 12:51 PM ^

In Canada a few means three.....You said the first fewish rounds (which I think implies maybe even more than a few....maybe).

There is a significant difference between being drafted in the first round and being drafted in the third. I think if he gets the impression he is going in the third he would stay.

Also, I don't even think third is a given for him considering the are a lot of underclassmen that will be making the jump this year, that would/could further decrease his stock IME.

I too, think he looked good at times this year but was a non-factor for much of it as well. I don't think that is his fault, but the way he was being utilized by the coaches certainly wasn't showcasing his talents (I know they did what they had to do to make the D better, it just didn't do Warren any favors).


November 23rd, 2009 at 5:11 PM ^

The NFL collective bargaining agrement will most likely include a rookie wage scale much like the one now used in the NBA. This will not effect the 2010 draft, but every future class (especially in the first round) will make millions less. Smart players will flock to the NFL this year to take advantage of the last year that rookies make silly money. That being said, I hope he comes back to help out our D next year.


November 23rd, 2009 at 12:30 PM ^

I agree with you in saying that besides the abundance of turnovers (which is a pretty big besides) Tate did play a very good game. His passes were very accurate and he seemed to be on his game in terms of finding his way out of sticky situations when the line breaks down. The interception on the long pass to Denard (?) was kind of unlucky in that the ball was tipped and it was kind of a "hey, look what just fell into my hands" INT. The play in the red zone that you referenced was an obvious case of a freshman freaking out and trying to get rid of the ball instead of seeing that nothing was there and throwing it away. I think that we will see a dramatic decrease in these kinds of decisions by Tate by next season. Another pick resulted from Tate finding the open guy but not getting the ball lofted high enough over the defender. In the end, it didnt seem like there was much trouble moving the ball down the field with the passing game. Had the running game done better it could have helped but that wasnt the case. Take away a few of Tates interceptions and the outcome could have been much different. I was mostly encouraged by what i saw from Tate besides a bunch of plays that I think we can chalk up to being freshman mistakes.


November 23rd, 2009 at 12:30 PM ^

i too was pleasantly surprised by how competitive our team looked and the fact we actually had a chance if not for the turnovers. however, let's not look over the one important fact that brian pointed out. if tressel wasn't so damn persistent about keeping his promise to pryor and letting him run a pro style offense i just get the feeling they could have juice williams'd our ass to death all game. they went heavy run/spread-option a couple drives and gashed us for yards. pryor throws a pretty good deep ball but has the ability of a high school jv quarterback when it comes to short to intermediate throws. it'll be interesting over the next couple years to see if pryor takes that vince young leap and improves his throwing or tressel scraps his promise of running pro style/ I-formations and goes full spread. i still fear the latter of these situations bc the guy is an athletic force that could absolutely dominate the college game. this situation has been blatantly obvious to everyone, including buckeye fans.


November 23rd, 2009 at 12:38 PM ^

I thought Pryor did a very good job with the fakes on their read-option plays. Maybe not quite to Juice's standards, but live I thought it was very difficult to tell who had the ball - something that I can't say about our zone-read plays right now.


November 23rd, 2009 at 12:31 PM ^

Tate Forcier is going to be a fine quarterback.

He was asked to grow up more quickly than normal and be the instant saviour of the nation's winningest football program, and in doing so, deflect criticism and controversy away from RichRod by winning games. This was all a bit much for an 18-year-old to handle.

Tate can throw. Tate can run. But you can't force him to mature until he actually does, and that's when solid decision-making comes. I can't wait to see him next year!


November 23rd, 2009 at 12:32 PM ^

As Brian notes, the endzone pick was built off the V. Smith TD pass. Same idea, different side. Just winging it under pressure, out into the flat, late, to a guy standing still--essentially. Since I did not have the benefit of seeing the game live, every molecule of my body cringed when Tate unleashed that pass to V. Smith. When you watch replay, you can see that there was another Michigan reciever going to the corner and both DBs took him leaving Smith alone. If the more shallow DB stays with Smith (something Tate couldn't have known when he threw) he has a pick 6 shot.

The INT was also very reminiscent of the play just before the Matthews TD against ND. The one that Savoy dropped--possibly because it had extra zing on it that Tate's bum wing was unable to muster on Saturday.


November 23rd, 2009 at 12:35 PM ^

What it seemed to me was that Forcier got it in his head that he needed to be a hero, as soon as he fumbled, he took it into his heart and soul that he was going to need to atone, to make it happen, make anything happen. Everything bad that happened as a result of Forcier's actions felt like a man committed to making it better, and in doing so, making things worse.

Look at his post-game quote to the AP (and by the way, does it bother anyone else that Tate is texting with reporters? He's 18, either he's had an extensive social media briefing by the athletic department, or Coach Rod needs to consider policy revisions on this. I could also be horribly retro about this and will shoo the texting children off my lawn now.)

"I lost that game," Forcier wrote in a text message to The Associated Press about an hour after the game. "This offseason, I'm gonna make sure myself and every single person on this team works the hardest we have ever worked.

"We're gonna come back a a new team. I'm not going to let this happen again."

He has has the feel of a compulsive fixer in the mold of Josh Lyman. This isn't a bad thing, he just needs to own that feeling and make it work for him. That will come with time, and maturity. At least, I hope.


November 23rd, 2009 at 12:50 PM ^

I would feel a little bit better about this quote from Tate if I did not remember this quote from Brandon Minor last year after the Ohio State game (also in the AP game story.)

"You can't really blame Rich Rod because everybody on the team did not buy in like they're supposed to. We have a couple of guys not going hard," he said. "We'll correct that most definitely. That ain't going to happen on my watch as a senior."

Now, that quote is left a little more open, did everyone go hard this year, was that something that the senior leadership was able to correct? I can make a case that yes, probably, but it translated into, at best, if you credit this attitude for everything, two more wins. Is Tate's sentiment also worth two more wins? I certainly hope so, it's certainly the attitude I want to see in my team and its leaders, but what it means will not be known for another year.


November 23rd, 2009 at 1:18 PM ^

a meme that perpetuates in RR's down seasons. He emphasizes "holding the rope" and it sounds like the gravest stigma in the program is not working the hardest you know how. If things go badly, it leaves room for leaders to make those kind of reminders. It's only reinforced with the media attention that the program has received so far in his term.


November 23rd, 2009 at 1:21 PM ^

Had Minor not been hurt the entire year, I think he could have done for the offense what Brandon Graham does for the D. It's a lot tougher to "lead" from the sidelines, at least in the manner that he's speaking here.

Look at Stafford yesterday - do a couple of insanely tough things on the field, and you've suddenly got your teammates wanting to work harder for you than ever. Minor didn't really get a chance to do that this year.


November 23rd, 2009 at 1:53 PM ^

As someone who loved the toughness with which Brandon Minor played and was so dismayed that the guy could not stay healthy for what seemed to be more than five minutes, I am certainly willing to buy in to the idea that it may not be so easy to lead from the sideline. But your teammates, by the same token, want to see guys playing through pain until its just not possible.

(The fact that I believed until the moment that I saw Minor come out of the tunnel in the sling that it was all a ruse is a testament to the toughness I associate with Minor.)


November 23rd, 2009 at 2:44 PM ^

My view on Tressel's game planning. I believe he didn't run TP on the edge more because he didn't have to. He played conservative ball control, just like Lloyd would have if the situation was reversed (and thus left the window open).

We just didn't execute our side of the upset bid, and quickly close on them at the end (like Navy did).

Ah well -- 2009 root canal finished -- we can move on now ...


November 23rd, 2009 at 12:53 PM ^

"The penitent man...kneels before God...KNEEL!"

If 2010 ends with a few more KNEELS, I'll be ready to make the leap from the Lion's Head. We'll just have to remember that in the Latin alphabet, "Jehovah" begins with an "I".


November 23rd, 2009 at 12:42 PM ^

seems weird to me that a lot of people are saying: "He played great but..." the part following "but" is he had 5 turnovers. That's a pretty big deal, and must be accounted for when measuring his performance. That being said, I think he did a lot of good things, and I think it is safe to say his strengths are his weaknesses. Big Ben keeps a lot of plays alive and also takes a lot of bad sacks trying to keep them alive. Forcier is hopefully in the same boat. Note that Texas had very similar issues with Colt McCoy as a young QB as well.

As far as the team, if you take away Del State, we were basically the same as last year (better offensively, and worse defensively). We actually won more Big Ten games last year. Nothing you don't already know, but it is discouraging none the less.

I like the outlook of our offense for next year. Can anyone tell me why Roundtree did not play until Illinois? Odoms being injured is not the reason. K Grady was seeing a lot more time early in the year despite Roundtree having a great spring. Seemed like all we heard about coming into the fall was how well he was playing. No Koger on Saturday either, was he injured?

Lastly, I have been going to games at the Big House for over 20 years, and rarely miss The Game. OSU had more people at the game than any year I remember and that includes 2007. There were way more than normal and I am sure it was for all the reasons mentioned. That was nauseating to say the least.


November 23rd, 2009 at 1:28 PM ^

My guess, is that he is slower than Grady in a sprint. Roundtree is a very good receiver but does not have top end speed and remembering bball, Grady could explode. I bet Grady was catching everything thrown his way in practice and was faster than Roundtree. But in games Grady dropped balls and missed blocks and they gave Roundtree a shot and he performed better.


November 23rd, 2009 at 12:45 PM ^

"You will not believe this but I will say it anyway: Michigan's corner depth chart might be a little crowded next year."

Makes sense to me. The fewer established players you have, the more candidates you need to have decent odds on 2-3 guys establishing themselves. It would have been nice if RR had recruited DBs harder earlier in the year, but at least we've brought in a few now and hopefully we'll get those guys we're still chasing.


November 23rd, 2009 at 1:31 PM ^

we are in on now are the same ones that have been listing us at or near the lead for a year. Christian, Knight and Grimes have been Michigan leans since last spring. It would have been nice if Rodriguez had locked them up months ago, but as long as two of the three end up here, I will consider his cornerback recruiting this year a success.

Wolverine In Exile

November 23rd, 2009 at 12:50 PM ^

will be Brandon Graham almost singlehandedly winning this game on defense. He was inches away from stuffing OSU's last TD drive all by himself on three consecutive plays. Remember folks, our defense gave up 14 points! 14! Damn! BG came to play and should be honored. If he is not the first DE picked in the draft, tweener talk be damned, some GM better have his head examined.

Overall this game was a microcosm of the season-- some flashes of brilliance, Brandon Graham is a beast-man, but too much freshman-i-ness out of our freshman prevented us from taking the BIG step.


November 23rd, 2009 at 8:40 PM ^

When we got witihn 4, Tressel opened it up, rolled right down the field, got back to 11, then went back to sleep.

You always had the feeling that he would just do it again if we scored.

Like LLoyd, Tressel's style makes it look like a lesser team is in the game when it really isn't.