Wow, that was ugly.
The Michigan Wolverines lost to their bitter rivals, the Ohio State Buckeyes, 37-7 on Saturday. Frankly, the game wasn't as close as the score might indicate.
Terrelle Pryor led the No. 8 Buckeyes by going 18-for-27 passing with 219 yards and two touchdowns through the air and Daniel Herron ran for 175 yards and a score as Ohio State racked up 479 total yards against a beleaguered Michigan defense.
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel won his seventh straight matchup against the Wolverines and improved to 9-1 against Michigan in his 10 years in Columbus. With the win, the Bucks clinched their sixth straight (outright or share of the) Big Ten title.
But Saturday's loss was just as much about Michigan's failures as Ohio State's successes. And based on those failures, the subsequent slides will explain why Rich Rodriguez absolutely needs to go as the head coach in Ann Arbor.
Coming in at 7-4 against the heavily favored 10-1 Buckeyes in Columbus, Michigan needed to play nearly a perfect game to have a shot at a victory.
To put it nicely, they didn't quite get it done.
Early-season Heisman candidate Denard Robinson fumbled on the Ohio State 9-yard line late in the first quarter, ending a long, promising Wolverines drive.
Running back Vincent Smith fumbled at the Buckeyes' 46 late in the second quarter, terminating another solid-looking drive.
Backup quarterback Tate Forcier threw a pick on the first play of the second half.
Michigan turned the ball over on downs four times.
The Wolverines had the the ball in Ohio State territory five times in the first half and seven times in the game. The result? Seven points.
That's not going to win you many (OK, any) ballgames.
The Michigan defense played its heart out, especially in the first half. And despite being undermanned and undersized, it largely contained Terrelle Pryor and the Buckeyes running game.
Then the Wolverines defense got back to normal, playing like one of the worst units in the FBS.
They allowed a 33-yard scoring pass from Pryor to DeVier Posey late in the second quarter. And then things really got back to normal in the second half, as the Wolverines allowed a 98-yard touchdown run to Daniel Herron (it was shortened to a mere 89-yard run due to a holding penalty) and couldn't stop the Buckeyes the rest of the way.
As expected, Ohio State moved the ball up and down the field against the Michigan D. Defensive coordinator Greg Robinson is going to be under the spotlight at the end of the season—if he lasts that long.
If you have two kickers competing for the job, that really means you have none.
Such is the case with Michigan's Seth Broekhuizen and Brendan Gibbons.
Broekhuizen is 3-for-9 on the season with a long of 37 yards. Gibbons is an even more embarrassing 1-for-4 on the campaign with a long of 24.
I think I could kick a 30-yard field goal if I practiced for a couple hours.
But one of the proudest college football programs in the country? They have no one.
Despite being at the helm for three seasons now, coach Rich Rodriguez has yet to recruit a kicker who can make a field goal.
And Rodriguez—rightfully—has no faith in either guy. He would rather go for it on fourth down and long than kick a 40-yard field goal. And when you fail on fourth, as Michigan did multiple times on Saturday, that's potential points you're taking off the board.
OK, so you have no legitimate kicker. Then your starting punter, Will Hagerup, gets suspended for not just any game—the flipping Ohio State game— for "a violation of team rules," according to a university spokesperson.
Not only do you not have anyone to back him up, but you then give the punting job to one of your already known-to-be-crappy placekickers? Already unable to do any significant placekicking, Seth Broekhuizen was equally crappy as a punter, averaging 28.7 yards on his three shanks.
And that's completely neglecting the issue of a punter breaking team rules. We'll deal with that shortly.
If it wasn't enough to have the third-worst placekicking team in the FBS and one of the members of that horrendous duo doing the punting, the Michigan special teams squad gave up an 85-yard kick return for a touchdown in which Jordan Hall was hardly touched.
The most frustrating part was that the kick return occurred just after the Wolverines took back a bit of the momentum with a solid drive that culminated in Michael Shaw's one-yard touchdown run in what would turn out to be Michigan's only score of the day.
Momentum gone, game over.
By the way, it's laughable—yet ridiculously sad—that one of the top programs in the country, arguably the best in college football history can't recruit a kicker, a backup punter or anyone who can tackle a returner following a kick or punt.
Yes, the Wolverines were suffering from injuries to wide receivers Junior Hemingway and Darryl Stonum (who played despite an ankle injury)...but seriously...while Ohio State receivers like Dane Sanzenbacher and others were making amazing catches over the middle to keep drives going, Roy Roundtree simply dropped two potential big-gainers in the first quarter.
In the second, he dropped a no-doubt, first-down catch on third-and-long. Then he dropped yet another long pass over over the middle on fourth down.
Roundtree also dropped another ball on a third-down out pattern in the third quarter.
Yes, he's leading the team in catches, but a go-to player has to make those plays in the big games. Roundtree did not.
Even clueless ABC announcer Matt Millen was making more sense than Rodriguez, telling Denard Robinson to continue throwing at a wide receiver who has trouble ... you know ... RECEIVING:
"At this level of football," said Millen, "you cannot drop those balls."
Let's run the ball with Denard Robinson.
Then let's run it with Vincent Smith or Michael Shaw.
Then, hmmm, let's run it with Denard again.
Wait, we didn't score? We're not in the end zone?
Since we don't have a punter or kicker, let's now throw it to a guy who can't catch.
Not exactly a recipe for success.
Terrelle Pryor made every play he had to. Dane Sanzenbacher (pictured) made three catches for 71 yards and a score. DeVier Posey had five for 82 and a score of his own. Jordan Hall returned a kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown. Even Ohio State kicker Devin Barclay was 3-for-3 on field goals and made all four extra points.
Roy Roundtree dropped five balls. Denard Robinson fumbled deep in Ohio State territory.
As ABC's Sean McDonough said during the second half: "We're seeing the main difference between these two teams: one of them makes plays when it has to, the other one doesn't."
Electric Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson left the game late in the second quarter with a hand or finger injury.
By the time he was back in, it was clear he was having trouble gripping the ball, the score was 31-7 and the game was all but over.
Yes, once again, Tate Forcier was brought in for the oft-injured Denard Robinson, hoping to rescue the Wolverines.
But he would be the one needing the rescue. On the first play of the second half, Forcier was pressured in the pocket, threw the ball up for grabs and it was intercepted by the Buckeyes.
What has Forcier done this season against good opponents? Not much.
Let's be up front about this: This Michigan team has a complete and utter lack of discipline at nearly every level.
It hasn't yet been disclosed what punter Will Hagerup did to get suspended, but he did something. And he did it just before his team's biggest game of the season. Great discipline.
Early in the game, a Michigan receiver was whistled for a personal foul on a crack-back block. On the same play, another Wolverine received a personal foul for pushing and shoving with a Buckeyes player. Great discipline.
The team was whistled for another offsetting personal foul following a shoving match in the third quarter. Great discipline.
As I wrote earlier, Michigan needed to play a nearly perfect game to have a shot at pulling out a win in Columbus. They were far from perfect.
Not only were they overmatched by a far superior opponent, but they were underprepared, they were undisciplined and they were stupid.
And that fault lies at the feet of the coaching staff.
All of these problems, issues and shortcomings ultimately come down to head coach Rich Rodriguez.
Yes, defensive coordinator Greg Robinson deserves plenty of the blame, and something tells me he'll get his before the season is through.
But the larger preparation issues, the inadequacies in recruiting, the attitude problems—the head coach is to blame for that.
And sure, Michigan will play in a bowl game next month for the first time in Rodriguez's tenure as Michigan coach. Even with a loss in a bowl, the Wolverines' 7-6 mark will be the best he's posted in his three seasons at the helm.
So, yes, this team is making some progress.
But this is one of the top programs in the country. And losing a seventh straight game to Ohio State—in a 37-7 blowout, no less—isn't progress enough.
RichRod's numbers in his nearly three seasons as the head coach at Michigan:
—A 15-21 overall record.
—A 7-18 mark in Big Ten play.
—An 0-6 combined record against rivals Ohio State and Michigan State.
—An 0-11 mark vs. Big Ten teams that ended their season with a winning record.
In 2008-09, he led the team to the first consecutive losing seasons since 1962-63.
Yes, on a macro level, this Michigan team is a better one than the last two seasons.
But given the team's talent on offense and the expectations of a hugely passionate, dedicated fan base, shouldn't we expect better?
Please, athletic director David Brandon, let's say goodbye to RichRod and usher in a new era of promise, success and achievement, both on the field and off.
One year from now, when the Buckeyes come a calling at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, let's do better. And I think we'll all be better off without Rodriguez running the show.