In the moments after the season-ending 37-7 loss to rival Ohio State, the Wolverines would be expected to regroup, lick their wounds, and move on. They put a 7-5 season in the books, secured their first bowl bid in four years, and put on some pretty flashy offensive shows along the way.
But there was little time for a quick retrospective or to let the excitement over a return to the bowl circuit begin to grow. One theme cast a pall over everything surrounding the program, and that is the speculation over the future of third-year head coach Rich Rodriguez.
Athletic director Dave Brandon was not showing his hand at all, so that fueled the rumor mill even more. Rodriguez has gone from three wins to five wins and now seven wins, but his resume is hardly adequate for impatient Michigan faithful.
Rodriguez is just 6-18 against the rest of the Big Ten, and 0-6 against Michigan's two main rivals -- Ohio State and Michigan State. Rodriguez seemed irritated by all of the discussion over his future, but he could not argue that his 15-21 overall record at Michigan is less than what he expected.
"I worry about my future every day," Rodriguez said. "Before I took the job, after I took the job. But nothing's going to change how we work. Sometimes it takes a little longer to mold the program the way you want to mold it. Sometimes you get more obstacles in your way when you're trying to mold the program the way you want to mold. That doesn't mean you can't do it. I'm not deterred one bit. I think the worst part is behind us. I know it is."
The bowl picture for the Wolverines shows them well down the pecking order in the Big Ten, and likely headed for the Insight Bowl in Tempe to face Missouri.
The ball is now in Brandon's court. In The Sport Xchange's opinion, the worst thing for this storied program is to have the distraction over the coach's future be the main story line for weeks on end.
--Michigan QB Denard Robinson had 192 yards of total offense in the loss to Ohio State. Robinson has 1,643 rushing yards this season, pushing him into fifth place on Michigan's all-time season rushing yardage list.
--The Wolverines lost their seventh straight game to rival Ohio State, Michigan's longest losing streak to Ohio State in the history of the series.
--Junior RB Michael Shaw had a 38-yard run on Michigan's second possession of the game against Ohio State, the third-longest run of his career.
--DB Jordan Kovacs, a former walk-on, led the Michigan defense with 17 tackles in the loss to Ohio State.
--The Wolverines pushed the ball into Ohio State territory on five of their six possessions in the first half, but managed just one touchdown.
GAME BALL GOES TO: QB Denard Robinson -- The fleet sophomore from Florida continues to present problems to opposing defenses. Robinson, who had 105 yards rushing and 87 yards passing in the loss to Ohio State, posted his ninth 100-yard rushing game of the season. He has 1,643 rushing yards on the year with 2,316 passing yards for a total of 3,959 yards of offense.
KEEP AN EYE ON: DB Jordan Kovacs -- A former walk-on who has been a two-year starter for the Wolverines, Kovacs led the Michigan defense with 17 tackles in the loss at Ohio State. He intercepted a pass near the goal line to stop an Ohio State drive, and he returned the ball 41 yards to near midfield.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm mad. I wish we would have played better, and I expect better out of this team. I'm going to be angry for a while. It's going to sting for a bit, but it's not something that we can go back and replay." -- Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez, following his team's 37-7 loss to Ohio State.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: The Wolverines are working toward more balance in the run game, and they showed signs against Ohio State of improvement in that area. QB Denard Robinson still carried the bulk of the load with 105 of Michigan's 182 rushing yards against the Buckeyes, but TB Michael Shaw contributed 52 yards on eight carries, and TB Vincent Smith showed a nice burst on several of his carries.
STILL NEEDS WORK: At halftime of the Ohio State game, the Buckeyes' running backs had 4 yards rushing. At the end of the game, they totaled 209 rushing yards. The Wolverines were able to stuff the run in the first half, but that effort fell apart after intermission. In its bowl game, Michigan needs to figure out how to sustain solid defensive play for four quarters.
--P Will Hagerup was left off the travel squad for the Ohio State game due to an undisclosed violation of team rules.
--PK Seth Broekhuizen, a freshman, was forced to handle the punting duties against Ohio State due to the suspension of starting punter Will Hagerup. Broekhuizen had a rough outing, averaging just 28.7 yards per kick.
--QB Denard Robinson dislocated two fingers on his left, non-throwing, hand in the first half against Ohio State. He returned later in the second half but was not nearly as effective.
--QB Tate Forcier replaced the injured Denard Robinson to start the second half, and his first pass was intercepted.
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