Sad Pandas Comment Count

Brian October 12th, 2009 at 11:39 AM

10/10/2009 – Michigan 28, Iowa 30 – 4-2, 1-2 Big Ten

 tate-forcier-benched denard-robinson-is-a-sad-panda

screenshot via MVictors; Denard Robinson as sad panda from the News via Genuinely Sarcastic and Mike Desimone.

This is probably a time to dispense with the fooferah and get right to the heart of the matter. From our vantage point from the endzone of Kinnick Stadium our instant assumption when Denard Robinson came in was that Forcier had gotten hurt on one of two earlier plays. We couldn't see a whole lot, but we saw a lot of Michigan's third quarter—unfortunately because they spent it next to the wrong endzone. Forcier banged his hand on someone's helmet, then later took a wicked shot from some defensive lineman or another moments after launching another incompletion.

When Robinson came out with around six minutes left, we had a debate about the idea, coming down on the side of "not good." Though Robinson was surprisingly effective driving Michigan for a score-tightening touchdown, the run-based nature of the drive stripped more than three minutes off the clock and saw Michigan attempt an onside kick with about 3:20 left and one timeout. This, too, was seen as a sign that Forcier was hurt: surely if you're going to cast your lot with Denard Robinson on a drive to win you need the ability to run the ball quite a bit. Kicking deep with only Robinson available is tantamount to waving the white flag.

So all that fit together and when Robinson came out after Michigan's defense thwarted Iowa on their attempt to strangle the game, it made sense. Forcier was unavailable, and this was the best Michigan could do. And, hell, it was working all right until Robinson eschewed what looked like a wide open Martavious Odoms in favor of Michigan's third or fourth jump ball into safety coverage. This one did not clatter to the turf harmlessly. As we say in UFR, EOG.

So… yeah. The news that Forcier had to be bodily escorted off the field before Michigan's last drive was less than thrilling. I'm sure this will be breaking no new ground after a couple days of checking in on the blog to see just which items raging about the decision needed to be excised, but for the record:





There are a billion comments across the internet calling the decision "indefensible," many of them drawing direct parallels to the last time a Michigan team visited Iowa. John Beilein sat Manny Harris down for overtime, Michigan lost when Iowa hit an array of circus shots and Manny's replacement, David Merritt, continued being a walk-on instead of Manny Harris, and a very large number of people were peeved, livid, or somewhere in between. This space in the aftermath of that decision:

If he thought Michigan had a better chance to win with David Merritt on the floor, he's nuts. More likely he had about reached his limit and sat him in what appears to be a fit of pique. I get that: Harris at the moment is a basketball doppelganger of Braylon Edwards in his afro phase, when he was benched because he and Carr weren't "on the same page" despite his clear superiority to Michigan's other receiving options. Edwards wised up and blew up. Harris? We'll see.

I would have preferred the teachable moment had not come in overtime of a crucial road game, though. You know.

The two incidents are creepily similar, and my opinion about Saturday is about identical to my opinion about the Manny benching: there were a ton of good reasons to make the move that don't come close to outweighing the enormous one that argued against it. If Michigan had gotten that onside kick and Robinson had three minutes to work with, okay. With 1:40 on the clock, no timeouts, and sixty yards to go, no.


So where does that leave us? Michigan's just experienced a two point loss on the road against a top-15 team during which they were –4 in turnover margin. They got outgained again. Forcier was pretty terrible. Robinson displayed both his talent and his limitations. Rodriguez made a poor decision in the heat of the moment, bursting this site's obvious hope that he was Jesus Ferguson. They're 4-2 in the league with three games they should win left, which would leave them at 7-5 if they don't pick off one of Penn State, Wisconsin, or Ohio State. A walk-on has permanently ascended to the starting lineup.

Add that all together and you get… I don't know. A jumbled mess that's clearly not as soul-destroying as last year's merry band of incompetence but not in any respect good. Michigan has been significantly outgained in each of four games against teams outside of the MAC, and mitigating factors like special teams and turnovers can no longer patch those gaps up. After all that at the start of the season, Michigan's settled about where everyone expected they'd be: still digging out from nuclear winter, looking towards the future with hope and the present with tolerance, at best.

The emotions I had coming out of Kinnick were as much of a mess as the team is. Michigan shot itself in a thousand different ways, busting coverages on two tight end touchdowns and a third and twenty-five that was more damaging than any of the five (five!) turnovers they gacked up with little assistance from Iowa. It was really frustrating to walk away feeling that Michigan should have won but for their own errors—errors that at this point are obviously a fundamental part of what the team is—but the memory of last year hovered, suggesting that the mere idea that errors were only a part of the whole this time around represented progress. Clearly, there is a long way yet to go.


  • I know I make fun of people in the comments who believe I have some sort of crazy power over the fortunes of Michigan football that I only use for evil, but dammit Greg Mathews, not only did you drop a punt, give Iowa the ball at the Michigan 16, and eventually lead to that short-field Tony Moeaki touchdown, you did it mere hours after I suggested that I should stop typing HOLD ON TO THE DAMN BALL as the key matchup in the special teams section. It's hard not to feel personally responsible even though that's completely insane.
  • Have seen a number of complaints about the timeout with 27 seconds left before halftime. I wanted Rodriguez to call it at the time; after some consideration I think that was probably not a good idea either. Even if Michigan gets a stop on that third and ten they'd have the ball somewhere on their side of the field with 12 seconds on the clock or whatever. In general I like the bent of Rodriguez's decisions; that one was wrong.
  • Another TO complaint: Michigan shouldn't have taken one on third and ten from the one and a half. Just take the penalty there and Michigan's got another 40 seconds to work with on their final drive. I understand it's hard to break the natural inclination to take a timeout when the playclock gets way low, though. That's a corner case that doesn't come up much.
  • I don't know exactly whose fault the two busted coverages were but if, as rumored, it was Mike Williams I don't know what you do about it. Woolfolk was physically capable at cornerback and Michigan finally went with the press man they've been talking about since Greg Robinson got hired. Williams definitely let an Iowa receiver behind him on third and twenty-fing-five, and if Moeaki was his guy on either of his touchdowns he's directly responsible for all three Iowa touchdowns. Maybe Iowa would have done something with the last drive, but the first Moeaki TD was on third and twelve; a stop there is a FG attempt. A stop on the third and twenty-five is a punt.
  • Michigan did break out some new stuff, grinding Brandon Minor into the line from the I on a successful, Bo-pleasing late touchdown drive and debuting a quick pitch to the sideline that never looked like it was going anywhere but also never failed to gain four to six yards. The former is something Michigan could have tried against State; the latter was probably hampered by Forcier's shoulder issues.
  • It seemed like after the first interception from Forcier that he refused to throw to receivers who were open. On a couple third downs there were slants available (I think) that Forcier did not take, instead running around as is his wont. I was pretty frustrated by him, and imagine that Rodriguez was ready to strangle the kid.
  • Graham shouldn't be rushing the punter on a punt safe, not that it mattered.

Trip Report Section

City. I can tell you about a lovely Econolodge in Davenport, Iowa, but despite driving out Friday and spending about all of Saturday in Iowa City, I can't tell you much about the city itself. My momentary first impression was that this was a foofy college down as I strolled by some organic eatery down one of those cobbled pedestrian streets you see wherever people are trying to create an area for foot traffic. Then we went in a bar that had six things on the menu, asked if you wanted ranch with your waffle fries, and attempted to purvey something called a "walking taco," which the waitress explained was "um, it's like Doritos in a bag with some meat and cheese and onions and taco stuff thrown in." The stalls in the bathroom didn't have doors on them.

So I was a little confused. I was referring to this experience at the Black Heart Gold Pants tailgate, and I was talking about this place we were, and when asked where, exactly, we were I rakishly pulled out my zinger: "the place with no doors on the stalls." The response was "which one? There are lots of those." So… yeah. Iowa City leans towards the no doors on the stalls. I guess. I saw the inside of a bar, a parking lot, and Kinnick. I am not a one-man Yelp here.

Fans. Excellent. There was the usual dose of meathead yellin' at the guys in the wrong colors—sort of, anyway, the difference between maize and blue and black and gold is not drastic—that you get whenever you go anywhere other than South Bend. Other than that everyone was perfectly nice. At no point did I feel like someone was going to hit me, which is more than I can say for the last few trips to Columbus or East Lansing.

I will note that the male student body of Iowa appears to be 80% meathead.

Kinnick experience, in total. Very classy. All brick exterior, looks like I'd like to see Michigan Stadium end up looking like once they figure out what they're going to do in the endzones:


Anthony Ciatti

And the interior:


Anthony Ciatti

The stadium itself was a bit smaller than I'd expected. Our seats were strange: section "NB," which ended up standing for "North Bleachers" and was not listed on the map or at all familiar to the first two people we tried to talk to about just where the hell we were supposed to sit. An usher had clue, though, and directed us to five rows of makeshift metal bleachers that were literally on the field in the endzone. We stood the whole game, which was fine because from appearances so did the rest of the place.

Despite that, it didn't seem particularly noisy. It got loud on important third downs but I thought it was about on part with Michigan Stadium. FWIW. I am apparently terrible at discerning variable noise levels, given my reaction to this year's addition of luxury boxes.

There's a full gallery by Anthony here.

PIPE IT IN BABY. The Iowa marching band might as well not exist. I don't know if this was a homecoming thing, but they didn't even march pregame—the alumni band did—and had a seriously abbreviated halftime show so that a Hawkeye inductee to the CFHOF could get his due. During the game they hardly played, and when they did play they mostly played marching band versions of songs that had already been piped in over the PA.

Oh, also:

This disaster was played incessantly over the PA, and we, not being 14-year-old-girls, didn't know what it was. Friend of Blog joked that it was probably a Jonas Brothers song, and we laughed, and then we thought to ourselves IS that a Jonas Brothers song? It turns out no, but it's by the Black Eyed Peas, which is 95% as emasculating. Hell, this imeem playlist by one Shelby Veppert, who—no foolies—is a 19-year old from Columbus who lists Nickelback(!!!) as one of her favorite bands, has the song sandwiched between two Jonas Brothers songs. If Michigan Stadium ever has anything that can be considered a sort of theme song I'm going to buy out Ann Arbor Torch & Pitchfork, and if it's ever something as terrifyingly fey as that thing, I'll storm the castle myself.

Site note: Michigan's homecoming activities murder Iowa's, chop them up, and put them in a bag. Iowa basically has the alumni band play the fight song and march off the field, then has a tedious announcement of various alumni who helped out and the members of the homecoming court*. And that's it. Michigan has a goofy prohibition-era cheer, awesome flipping 80-year-old alumni cheerleaders, a terrific combined-band halftime show, and that one crazy old drum-major who rips it up every year. I love homecoming at Michigan Stadium, and was excited to get the Iowa version of it. I didn't get it.

*(The homecoming king was a bioengineering (or something along those lines) major named Rohit… Naha… Romin… fromblobololgbogl. The telltale pause from the very Iowan public address announcer after the poorly-pronounced "Rohit" promised three seconds of pure unadulterated awesome, and that promise was delivered upon.)


Sgt. Wolverine

October 12th, 2009 at 12:09 PM ^

They play that song on tv all the time for a wide variety of purposes (sports, network promos, etc). I'd never heard more than the same five or ten seconds that gets played for everything ("I got a feeling that tonight's gonna be a good night, that tonight's gonna be a good good night"), but after listening to more of it courtesy of Brian's link, it turns out that's really all there is to the song.


October 12th, 2009 at 11:51 AM ^

Tough game, but this is more negative than I expected. Seems to me that we are on pace to be where most preseason expectations pinned us. Although we are nowhere near where we want to be, there were a lot of positives from that game to make me think that we will at least be in position to win all of our remaining games. Compared to the MSU game, we actually looked quite competent and probably even better than Iowa. A loss is a loss, but at this point I'm not sure if winning a game against even a MAC team when you have a -4 turnover margin is likely.


October 12th, 2009 at 11:52 AM ^

I agree (the TV announcers did too) that it was not worth burning a time-out on 3rd & 10 from the 1.5 yard line, given that the delay of game penalty would cost you only about 2 feet. On TV, it appeared that Minor called it on his own, an understandable error in the heat of battle.

Scott Dreisbac…

October 12th, 2009 at 12:55 PM ^

According to someone who posted earlier, the TO from our own one by Minor may have been a result of Tate being out of it. The general idea (and I am not sure where this is coming from) was that RR signaled in a play change from the sideline, but that Tate either missed it or got it and failed to relay it to the rest of the team, prompting Minor to call the TO. Who knows if that is really what happened, but if Tate did miss the play, then it might help to explain/justify the TO.

Blue in Yarmouth

October 13th, 2009 at 8:17 AM ^

It wouldn't matter if Tate had a concussion and a broken jaw, it wouldn't justify calling a TO in that situation. It justifies the play clock running down, yes, but not calling a TO. The delay of game penalty changes the LOS from the 1 yard line to the 0.5 yard line. No reason to call it in this situation.

I agree that it was Minor calling it on his own and it was just a heat of the moment blunder that is easily forgiven in my epinion. That doesn't mean that there is any justification for doing it however.

October 12th, 2009 at 12:01 PM ^

After not prepping sufficiently for State as they did us, and making some rather poor coaching decisions against Iowa, do we still think RichRod is a lock to have this team competing yearly for NC's?

After all, last year was probably a 6-6 team if RR doesn't force a spread option on Threet. Note that this year, we are seeing a lot of I-form and very little zone option.

Neg away for dissenting opinion.

witless chum

October 12th, 2009 at 4:54 PM ^

...there isn't any evidence this happened.

It didn't look that way to me as MSU fan watching our pre-Michigan games, though I didn't see the Wisconsin game. MSU didn't look like it was playing any different schemes against M(t)SU, CMU, ND than we did against M. We just played it a lot better against M (and against Illinois).

October 12th, 2009 at 12:15 PM ^

bowl game, is what. maybe you're new to college football, but tradition is what makes college football and is what defines Michigan. One of those being our (former) consecutive bowl streak / winning season streak. Our tradition was our model of consistency. Going 3-9 or 6-6 last year really wouldn't have had any effect on this year's team or its rebuilding process, but hurt our tradition.


October 12th, 2009 at 12:31 PM ^

Last year is over, who cares now? Five years from now are you going to go back and think DAMN we should be at 45 years straight of bowls! Get real. All teams have tough years and to think that M is immune to the variability and swings of college football (that are much more powerful than 20 years ago) then you're wrong. Puck up and hope that we continue to improve, learn a lot of lessons and evolve into a champion. Coaches also need to grow and evolve based on their position, as you need to give our young players time to grow the same should be for the coaching staff. There are very few coaches(if any) that can make perfect decisions every single game.


October 12th, 2009 at 2:07 PM ^

"Five years from now are you going to go back and think DAMN we should be at 45 years straight of bowls!"

Yeah. Just like I think if the Big Ten didn't have stupid rules in the early 70's we'd ALREADY have gone to more straight bowls than anyone else. The fact that none of us are going to live long enough to see that streak matched is sad. Just like I think we should be headed to 43 years without MSU winning twice, still undefeated in overtime, and to a lesser extent, still having a streak against PSU (though that's a long shot) and maybe should not be headed to 0-3 start vs. OSU (because if we don't pull off a miracle vs. their D this year, we're not winning in the Shoe). And really, 6-6 wasn't all that impossible. Toledo, Purdue, Northwestern at home?

But it is what it is. Hopefully we can be really good again soon. It's just that if coaches need to learn and grow, and make mistakes, I don't see why Brian, the posters, or anyone can't call Rod out on it. He's not perfect, he makes mistakes (obviously). To defend him over anything makes it look like he can't take a little criticism and it's going to derail the program. Critics aren't - losing is.

He's a fine coach, but if Lloyd hadn't retired and we were doing the same stuff people would be going apeshit. So, Rich needs time, he's going to get it, and he'll get things together. It's just the timetable of respectable this year, contend next year, National Championship 2011 isn't realistically the path. This D is not 2 years from contending for #1 losing their two best players next year.

Doesn't make RichRod a bad coach. Just means, like every coach out there, whether he coach at USC (Washington?), OSU (internet storm), PSU for a hundred years, heck, even Florida hasn't gone undefeated, or yes Lloyd, you can be a really good coach, and not be perfect. And things aren't always going to go your way. And tradition sustains you when it doesn't.

matty blue

October 12th, 2009 at 1:45 PM ^

...any more than 6-6 under bo, or 45-17 to tennessee, or the lousy bump elliott seasons, any other rough spot we've experienced in the last century-plus.

and no more than our tradition is "helped" by going 6-6 and playing in the shreveport chamber of commerce bowl. we won four (or five, i forget) straight big ten titles in the mid-90s...when that streak (inevitably) ended, it didn't make us less of a program. and neither does missing a bowl game last season.

our "tradition" is more appropriately defined as decades-long relevance and excellence on and off the field. those things are still obviously intact - and will be if we finish this season 4-8. if we do that, and again for several more seasons, i will absolutely come over to your side. until then, no.

El Jeffe

October 12th, 2009 at 12:53 PM ^

I don't think you're being negged for dissenting opinion. First, you didn't express an opinion, which I always prefer to flabby John Stossel-esque rhetorical questions such as

do we still think RichRod is a lock to have this team competing yearly for NC's?

Second, the meme that won't die. Oh my God, the meme that won't die. RR coaches the offense he coaches. He doesn't coach that mysterious other offense that would have allowed Threet to put up huge numbers.

By the way, despite all that, I didn't neg you. You weren't being a douche, which is my #1 criterion.

Heisman Epstein

October 12th, 2009 at 1:37 PM ^

They also played "Paint It Black" just before an Iowa kickoff at least once. I think they took the blackout-songs with "black" in the name-thing a little too far. Wonder if that's why they played that damn Black Eyed Peas song so much...


October 12th, 2009 at 12:03 PM ^

Tate was clearly not himself in this one, he looked hurt and rattled; Rodriguez had seen enough (all the forced throws, near delay-of-games, forgetting to check the sideline) and he needed to sit. As of the presser, we know why (concussed); it's too bad that Rodriguez looked ready to murder the kid, but that's the way he is. Robinson looked about ready to puke after his first TD, but between a nervous Robinson and a rattled Forcier, I guess I choose Robinson too.

We played tough, with a ton of heart, and nearly beat the #12 team in the country in their house *despite* 4 outcome-changing turnovers. I'm disappointed in the offense's lack of focus and execution, but can't be that unhappy with the team overall.


October 12th, 2009 at 5:18 PM ^

The strong impression I got while watching the game is that Tate was fighting an internal battle between what he's been told to do by the coaches and what he's most apt to do on his own. I don't say that to fault either Tate or the coaches. He just looked to me like a guy who has been taking golf lessons, and during his swing, he's now suddenly conscious of his hips, his knees, his elbows, and his grip all at the same time.

And of course, playing QB in the Big 10, and especially in this offense, is a bit more complicated than a golf swing. I'm sure the coaches have told Tate a hundred times that they want him carrying the ball fewer times per game, dancing around less in the pocket, etc, etc, which is to say nothing of making the right reads, checking down to the right receiver, and everything else.

It's understandable that this could lead to a young man's "thinking too much." Midway through the season now, I would guess the coaches are taking a harder line with Tate, whereas in the first few games he was given more latitude to just be himself and follow instinct.

Brian talked about "the leap" having been made in offensive production, in an article a few weeks ago. I think this is the second leap that we can look for -- that Tate and also Denard develop the maturity and consistency that is needed at this level. Pure speed and escapability can make some plays and even win some games, but this second leap will be needed to compete for championships.


October 12th, 2009 at 12:03 PM ^

C'mon, Brian. Buck up sad panda.

I was actually happy after this game. Not because we lost but because there were many times during that game that I said, "We are that close (holding up a thumb and forefinger about a half inch apart)."

We are a couple of bad safety plays and a few measly turnovers away from winning this. True ninja football is on its way (might just be next year or the following).

You have to be impressed with the line play and the running game. The secondary was going to be scary. If we can get the safeties to play center field and Woolfolk works out at corner, there is much hope to be had.


October 12th, 2009 at 12:04 PM ^

Much has changed since I visited Kinnick for the Rivas rugby-punt disaster train in, what, '05?

I distinctly remember wood being a significant contributor to the construction of at least part of the bleachers. Am I all wet on this? Does anyone else remember the Kinnick of yesteryear?

Looks downright nice now. Well played, Cornmen.


October 12th, 2009 at 12:05 PM ^

That song is indescribably awful. The first time I heard it on the radio I thought it was a parody or radio-studio produced joke. I heard it pumping over the TV broadcast non-stop and it was driving me crazy. It is one of the worst songs out there. I had actually made fun of Ohio State for blasting it during their game earlier in the day. By the time I realized that Iowa was playing it a deep chill set in and I thought to myself: Oh god, this is going to happen to us. We're already playing the White Stripes bit that everybody plays. This is next and it will be the death of all that is holy in Michigan Stadium.


October 12th, 2009 at 12:56 PM ^

Much like Wisconsin did with Jump Around. I doubt they care that the White Stripes are from Michigan, just like they don't care that Vernon Gholston was.

Depending on your perspective on in which situations piped in music is acceptable, either a) shame on us for not being able to take that one before they did or b) it's lame so who cares.

matty blue

October 12th, 2009 at 12:13 PM ^

...i feel more heartened by the losses the last two weeks than i was after any of the nine last season. the team has obvious limitations, but they don't appear to be structural (not to me, anyway).

it appears that offense, defense, and special teams are soundly designed, but are still fighting mental and physical errors and talent deficiencies. that we played a top-15 team, on the road, to a 2-point loss despite five turnovers tells me a lot.

fewer errors > more wins.

Sgt. Wolverine

October 12th, 2009 at 12:15 PM ^

This post sounds like it was written before RR revealed Tate's concussion. I'm curious to see further analysis based on that important piece of information.

Also: yes, buck up. It seems like the fast start to the season and Forcier's impossibly good set of games erased last season and the youth of this year's team from many minds. This was a loss, and the turnovers were frustrating, but in my mind this season is still exceeding expectations.


October 12th, 2009 at 1:22 PM ^

Tate's physical condition had anything to do with the decision at the time, and indeed the opposite was true, he said he wanted a spark. And a concussion would not have been apparent in the flurry of decisions at that time, so I'm not sure how knowledge of that would change anything abut Brian's review, even assuming that this post was written prior.

Sgt. Wolverine

October 12th, 2009 at 1:36 PM ^

I'm not sure why you're so confident the concussion wouldn't have been apparent. The effects of a concussion are usually very apparent.

As far as changing Brian's post: he asserts that any good reasons for the decision didn't outweigh the enormous one against it. If RR knew there was something wrong with Forcier, then he had a very good reason to make that decision.


October 12th, 2009 at 1:43 PM ^

because he has had two press conferences now, and in neither one did he say that "Tate was hurt" was a or one of the reasons to put Denard in. Since there us no reason to doubt his word, and saying "Tate was hurt" has no negative light on Tate, my conclusion is that the injury had nothing to do with the decision, just as RR has said.