Michigan Recap: Turnovers Doom Wolverines

Jason BarczyCorrespondent ISeptember 15, 2008

Is it hockey season yet? How about basketball? Did the Lions win? Nevermind.

I'm sure some of you are asking yourself these questions especially after Michigan's horrendous 35-17 loss in South Bend over the weekend but don't fret yet. It's not as bad as everyone thinks it is.

Believe it or not, Michigan actually outplayed Notre Dame on Saturday and Steven Threet and Sam McGuffie solidified their respective positions.

Notre Dame scored 28 points off of six Michigan turnovers. If the Wolverines don't turn the ball over, it's a 17-14 Michigan win. But, Michigan did fumble the ball away four times and the Fighting Irish pounced on every opportunity.

Luckily, Mike Barwis has two full weeks to take out his rage on the team before Michigan's next game. Maybe he'll take them all to the Upper Peninsula and teach them how to hunt and kill bears with your bare hands.

Rich Rodriguez has to be mad at the team. Six turnovers is unacceptable and all but one of those seven fumbles (four lost) were unforced drops.


Unless he gets seriously injured Steven Threet should start the rest of the season based on Saturday's performance. He actually showed that he could play at the D-I level.

He threw 16-for-23, 175 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. He did fumble twice, losing one, but I won't rip into him too much for those because everyone was fumbling for Michigan, even Notre Dame although the Irish didn't lose any of their three fumbles.

The first drive of the game could not be more of a disaster. First off Boubacar Cissoko pinned Michigan at the eight yard line when he botched the kickoff. Threet and McGuffie got the Wolverines up near the 30 but David Molk was called for a stupid chop block but then Brandon Minor drops a poorly thrown backwards pass to give Notre Dame the ball at the 11.

That was pretty much Threet's only bad pass of the day and I'm not sure who's more at fault because the pass did hit Minor's hands.

The only time I wasn't impressed with McGuffie on the day was during Michigan's second drive and he couldn't convert a third and one situation. Michigan kept the ball though in what will be later described as "Space Emperor Returns" in the special teams section.

Later, Michigan was screwed by Big East officials who failed to see Greg Matthew's hand underneath the ball on a long touchdown pass. I officially hate the Big East now and request SEC officials for the Ohio State game.

McGuffie took over the game from this point forward. He took a screen pass 40 yards to the house in which he spun off his own blocker on his way to the end zone. On the next drive he made a beautiful 29 yard run in which he tip toed down the sideline and had everyone in the stadium jaws drop. It was perhaps the most beautiful run I've ever seen by a Michigan running back.

McGuffie finished the day with 138 yards rushing on 25 carries and 47 yards receiving and one touchdown. He has separated himself from all other Michigan backs and should hold onto the spot the same way Hart did for four years.

Remember Hart's breakout game as a freshman was the 2004 loss to Notre Dame in South Bend. Just sayin' is all.

Matthews is clearly the number one target but Threet needs to not stare right at him and check down to his other receivers. I thought Odoms did a nice job on a couple catches. He led the team with six catches for 56 yards.

Carson Butler is irrelevant from this point forward. After he got ejected late in the game for throwing a punch I thought to myself, why is he even in the game?

Michigan is still dismal in several areas. They only converted four out of 12 third downs and Nick Sheridan throwing two late interceptions shows why he is better fitted to be playing at Albion College.

Overall Grade for Offense: C-


I feel bad for the defense. What could they have done in the first quarter? Minor's fumble put the Irish at the 11 and Michael Shaw fumbled the ensuing kickoff putting Notre Dame at the 14.

Twice in a row Notre Dame had less than 15 yards to the end zone. Big East officials called Morgan Trent for pass interference in the end zone and Jimmy Clausen recovered his own fumble, all things Michigan could not do anything about.

Then there was the crap pass interference Big East officials (yeah, I'm going to point that out every time) called on Donovan Warren right before Clausen went deep to go up 21-0. I'm sorry but that was the worst pass interference call ever and shows why pass interference calls should be up for review.

Steve Brown needs to be benched too, along with Charles Stewart. Although I don't know who would replace them at this point. Anyone would be fine. Rich Rodriguez should walk across the street to Ann Arbor Pioneer on Friday night and pick a safety, any safety, and dress them.

Golden Tate burned the Wolverines on a simple slant pattern. He barely beat Warren for the catch but Brown should've had him wrapped up right away but instead Tate zipped by him and proceeded down field for a 60 yard gain.

It's a common theme now. Expect this every week. Teams are going to beat Michigan deep, especially with receivers covered by Brown expecting safety help from Stewart. Where's that safety RichRod was so in love with during spring ball that he almost gave him the No. One jersey? J.T. Floyd right? Put him in for cryin out loud.

The big mismatch of the game was suppose to be Michigan's defensive line against Notre Dame's offensive line. Well that didn't happen. Clausen wasn't sacked once and as far as I'm concerned, rarely if ever saw any pressure.

See what happened was...I don't know what happened. Brandon Graham and Tim Jamison were no where to found all day. I think I heard Will Johnson's name called once but I could be mistaken.

Michigan linebackers were getting burned early and often or run over by Robert Hughes. Obi Ezeh was not heard from.

When defensive backs account for three of your top five tacklers in a game, something is wrong with the pass rush.

Jimmy Clausen passed for 147 yards and two touchdowns while the Fighting Irish rushed for 113 yards. To the defense's credit, they limited Clausen to just 11 yards in the second half but that's when Notre Dame went to rushing mode and didn't have to throw.

Overall Grade for Defense: C-

Special Teams

"Space Emperor Returns" is of course referring to Zoltan Mesko who earned back his galactic status after I questioned his abilities.

When he took off on the fake punt I jumped out of my seat in shock. I can't remember if I've ever seen Michigan fake a punt or anything else before.

That boy can run too. And his punts were amazing throughout the day as well. Three out of his four punts landed inside the 20 and he boomed one 58 yards. He's back!

But special teams is marred by three botched returns. Boubacar Cissoko is a freshman and will get a pass in the sense that he better not ever do it again. Shaw as well. They both fumbled the first two kicks of the day and set Notre Dame up to take a 14-0 lead minutes into the game.

Donovan Warren should never, NEVER return kicks, punts or anything but an interception again. He fumbled of course, actually learned how to fair catch, then refused to do anything but fair catch.

Overall Grade for Special Teams: B (only because of the fake punt).


Fumbling on a rain drenched day is not Rich Rodriguez's fault and Michigan actually did outplay Notre Dame on a down to down basis.

Michigan out-gained Notre Dame 388-260 and the Wolverines offense looks capable with Threet at quarterback.

The offensive line is blocking better than I've seen it this season as evidenced by Threet and Sheridan never seeing the ground and McGuffie actually finding holes on stretch draw plays.

I like his use of Kevin Grady periodically and in short yardage situations. There was nothing Grady could've done on that fumble He had it stripped from him pretty good.

Still, I don't like Rodriguez throwing the white flag by putting Sheridan in late in the game. It just shows that we basically gave up at the end and there was still 9:13 left to go. If the spread offense is suppose to produce points so quickly don't you think 9:13 would've been plenty of time to comeback from down 35-17?

Scott Schafer's whole defensive gameplan must of been thrown out the window after the first five minutes but still, where was the pressure on Clausen? Trent and Warren were depended on too many times to make plays when the defensive line wasn't.

Rodriguez now has two full weeks to prepare for Wisconsin, the first ranked team RichRod will face as Wolverines coach.

Overall grade for Coaches: C

Final Thoughts

Michigan should've won the game. They really beat themselves though and Notre Dame is too good to not take advantage of the many short fields Michigan gave them.

I can't help but point out though, 28 points off of turnovers, Michigan turnovers. Without those, Notre Dame doesn't win.

Notre Dame is the best worst team in the country and Michigan is rebuilding.

Although, Michigan's rebuild looks to be a lot closer after Threet and McGuffie's performance.

It's going to be tough to find five or six more wins for this team to go to a bowl game.

Overall Grade: C-


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