The TSX Files: Michigan post-Wisconsin

Rodriguez knows the Wolverines will be underdogs in Columbus, and if they start slowly again, they could get overwhelmed in a hurry.

INSIDE SLANT

It might not have been a unanimous vote, but it certainly sounded as if a there were plenty of folks taking the position that Michigan's first-half performance against Wisconsin was deserving of criticism of the vocal variety.

After stumbling and floundering their way through the first half against what is arguably the Big Ten's best team, the Wolverines were on the short end of a 24-0 score, and plenty of the more than 112,000 on hand let their displeasure be known. Michigan got booed at home, and deserved it.

Some called it a "slow start," but that falls well short of describing what took place in Michigan Stadium with far more than a quorum to witness the first-half affair. Wisconsin pushed Michigan around, and in the process the Wolverines dug themselves an impossible hole.

The mystery of the sluggish first-half blues is haunting coach Rich Rodriguez and the Wolverines. In their four losses in 2010, the Wolverines have scored just 27 total points in the first half. A hole of that dimension leaves Michigan with just too much second-half work to do.

Against Wisconsin, Michigan won the second half by a 28-24 count, but lost the war 48-28. So the Wolverines pack up and head south for their annual face-off with powerful rival Ohio State. This season, Michigan has won five straight, lost three in a row, won two more, and now faces the prospect of possibly closing with two straight losses.

Rodriguez is in a precarious position as he seeks to hang onto his job after three seasons that have seen him fall far short of expectations. He knows the Wolverines will be underdogs in Columbus, and if they start slowly again, they could get overwhelmed in a hurry.

NOTES, QUOTES

--WR Roy Roundtree had more than 100 receiving yards for the fourth time in 2010 with his seven catches for 114 yards with a touchdown in the loss to Wisconsin.

--KR/WR Darryl Stonum racked up 202 all-purpose yards in Michigan's loss to Wisconsin, with 99 yards on his four receptions, and another 103 yards in kick returns. Stonum also scored a touchdown on a pass reception.

--Senior LB Jonas Mouton, who missed a recent game with a chest injury, had 13 tackles and a fumble recovery in the loss to Wisconsin.

GAME BALL GOES TO: QB Denard Robinson -- Despite Michigan's overall struggles, the dynamic sophomore from Florida continues to excel. Robinson had 360 yards of total offense in the loss to Wisconsin and became the first NCAA quarterback to rush for 1,500 yards and pass for 2,000 yards in the same season.

KEEP AN EYE ON: LB Kenny Demens -- A sophomore who won a starting job midway through the season, Demens had a career-high 13 tackles in the loss to Wisconsin. Before this can be a good team, it will need more outstanding individual performances to lift its overall profile. Demens can be counted on to take part in that.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We just need to make more stops. The guys played hard, but we're running out of bodies on certain spots. We can't afford to make those mistakes: missed tackles and dropped passes. You do those things against a good team and you're always fighting uphill." -- Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez, on his team's sloppy showing against Wisconsin.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

LOOKING GOOD: Despite the Wolverines' struggles in nearly three full seasons under coach Rich Rodriguez, and despite falling well below expectations overall during that tenure, the support of Michigan fans has not waned. In the 2010 home finale against Wisconsin, the Wolverines greeted 112,276 fans -- the 230th straight game at Michigan Stadium with more than 100,000 in attendance.

STILL NEEDS WORK: So many of this team's problems have been defense-related, and Michigan fans have been desperately searching for signs things are improving. When Wisconsin came out and used four drives of more than 70 yards to score 24 straight points in the first half against Michigan, the concerns of the Michigan following were anything but mitigated.

ROSTER REPORT:

--DT Mike Martin, who had missed action earlier with ankle problems, left the Wisconsin game with an ankle injury.

--DE Craig Roh left the Wisconsin game with symptoms of a concussion.

--LB Jonas Mouton, a critical part of Michigan's already-depleted defense, returned to the lineup after missing the Purdue game with a chest injury and led Michigan with 13 tackles in the loss to Wisconsin.

--RB Michael Shaw left the Purdue game Nov. 13 with what was believed to be a concussion, and he did not play against Wisconsin.


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