Michigan's Rodriguez Remains Optimistic

Michigan will try to get back to its winning ways against Minnesota, but the Wolverines will have to improve their defense if they're going to pull an upset.

The bowl streak is gone. So is any chance at a winning season. With three games left in what has been a long, difficult season in Ann Arbor, the only thing left is pride.

"We're watching (the mentality) very, very close, not just the underclassmen, but the seniors as well," coach Rich Rodriguez said. "How they want to represent our program and our university the next three weeks. We'll be watching very, very closely. We talk about it every day as a staff."

Rodriguez admitted the situation is worse than he first imagined and there is even more work to do than he first thought upon taking the job.

The offense is struggling to move the ball, although Brandon Minor has been a pleasant surprise of late. The defense continues to miss too many tackles, a flaw that dates to the Lloyd Carr days.

"We're so poor fundamentally in tackling," Rodriguez said, referring to the 21 missed tackles against Purdue. "People say ‘What do you have to play for?' ... They're playing for themselves, for their teammates, and most importantly, they're playing for Michigan."

Rodriguez understands why the fans would be disappointed over how this season has transpired and admitted it's been hard on him, too. But he isn't wavering in his belief that he can pull Michigan out of the cellar and back to the top of the Big Ten.

"I'm sure a lot of people are saying that I'm a bad coach," he said. "Everybody can have their opinion, but I've been here 10 months. I feel as good as I have as far as I know we can build this program to be one of the best in the country.

"It's not showing that right now, but we can do that. It may take us longer than what I thought ... We'll get it right. Everyone wants to push the panic button."

NOTES

  • QB Steven Threet suffered a helmet-to-helmet blow late in the game against Purdue. He was doing better early in the week and is expected to start against the Gophers.

  • RB Sam McGuffie and S Michael Williams, both suffering from head injuries, should be ready to play by the weekend.

  • DB Troy Woolfork (ankle) is probable.

  • DE Carson Butler, a converted tight end, played about 25 snaps against Purdue. That number should continue to grow moving forward.

  • Freshman QB Justin Feagin, his redshirt year burned, will continue to play over the final month. Feagin can line up in the slot and contribute on special teams.

    SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Getting Sam McGuffie and Mike Shaw back healthy will help take some of the burden off Brandon Minor, who hasn't shown yet like he's wearing down. It's too late to salvage this season, but the offense is finally starting to find an identity in its ability to establish the run the last few weeks. Ball control will be a big issue for the offense against Minnesota — the Gophers lead the Big Ten with 26 takeaways, while Michigan has turned it over a league-worst 25 times.

    SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Missed tackles plagued the Wolverines against Purdue, much as they have most of the season. Rich Rodriguez was lamenting this week how poor his team is fundamentally, and how there probably isn't much that can be done to fix it this late in the season. The secondary has been ripped all season and is allowing more than 250 passing yards per game, a bad sign for a defense about to face QB Adam Weber, who has Minnesota's offense averaging more than 11 yards per completion.

    THIS WEEK'S GAME: Michigan at Minnesota, Nov. 8 — Two teams coming off crushing losses, for far different reasons. The Gophers still have plenty to play for, including a 10-win regular season. Michigan watched its 31-year consecutive bowl streak go up in smoke and is guaranteed to finish with a losing record. It won't get any easier against the Gophers.

    PLAYERS TO WATCH:

  • RB Brandon Minor has scored seven touchdowns over the last three weeks and continues to provide a spark to the offense. He's a little bit bigger than the type of back coach Rich Rodriguez is used to, but he's moving the ball better than anyone else. So the job is his.

  • DE Carson Butler has the body to make a sound pass rusher, now he needs the technique. Butler made his debut at his new position last week and should only get better.

  • CB Morgan Trent probably will be responsible for covering WR Eric Decker of Minnesota. Decker is one of the most underrated receivers in the league and possesses great hands. Trent leads the team with two interceptions.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm sure a lot of people are saying that I'm a bad coach. Everybody can have their opinion, but I've been here 10 months. I feel as good as I have as far as I know we can build this program to be one of the best in the country. It's not showing that right now, but we can do that. It may take us longer than what I thought ... We'll get it right. Everyone wants to push the panic button." — Coach Rich Rodriguez.


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