Big Ten: Kevin Leach
Michigan fans had a good reason to be optimistic entering the season despite the team's 3-9 disaster in 2008.
|AP Photo/Tony Ding|
|Michigan hasn't made the leap many were expecting in coach Rich Rodriguez's second year.|
In a sense, the pattern has continued, as Michigan already owns two more victories (5) than it did all of last season. But the jump many expected the program to take isn't happening. The Wolverines are in danger of finishing with a worse Big Ten record than they did a year ago (1-7 vs. 2-6), and the defense is performing just as poorly as last year, if not worse.
Did Michigan present greater challenges in Year 2 than Rodriguez's other coaching stops?
"I think every situation is a little different," Rodriguez said. "There's always a lot of factors that go into each season, whether it's the second season, the first, the fourth or what have you. We've certainly have had some different challenges this season from the beginning of August camp all the way until now, but as a coach and as players, you expect you're going to face adversity."
Rodriguez acknowledged that youth remains a problem for the Wolverines, particularly at key positions. Everyone knows about freshmen quarterbacks Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson, but Michigan could start six freshmen or sophomores on defense against No. 20 Wisconsin if sophomore Kevin Leach once again gets the nod over senior Obi Ezeh at middle linebacker.
Several veterans haven't progressed this fall, but there weren't that many in the mix for serious playing time to begin with.
"We have to make sure we know what our problems are and we try to fix them as quickly as we can but not sacrifice anything for the future," Rodriguez said. "We've got to make sure we're building the program the right way, so when we get it right, it stays right."
The game officials didn't blow the whistle on Jonas Mouton. Neither did Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez.
But after further review, the Big Ten decided to suspend Mouton for one game for punching Notre Dame center Eric Olsen during Michigan's victory last week in Ann Arbor. Mouton will sit out Saturday's game against Eastern Michigan for striking Olsen following a run play with 8:42 left in the second quarter.
No penalty was called, and when asked about it Wednesday, Rodriguez said he saw no reason to discipline Mouton.
"What are you talking about?" Rodriguez told local reporters on Wednesday. "I know they were talking about one incident on film, and I didn't see anybody throw a punch or anything like that. The little bit I saw on the clip, I saw guys got tangled up together, and Jonas tried to free himself. There's a whole lot of officials out there, and I'm sure if there was an infraction, then they'd call it."
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany saw things differently and determined Mouton, a starting outside linebacker, struck Olsen and violated the league's sportslike conduct agreement. The video evidence substantiates the league's decision.
The Big Ten issued a public reprimand to Mouton, and Michigan accepted the suspension.
A Michigan spokesman told me the team had no comment on Mouton's suspension, though Rodriguez will address the issue following the Eastern Michigan game.
"The actions of Jonas Mouton during the Notre Dame game are unacceptable," Delany said in a statement. “Mouton’s behavior has no place in the sport of football or the Big Ten Conference."
The suspension isn't a huge deal, but Rodriguez's decision not to take action casts a negative light on Michigan. Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis alluded to the incident last Sunday, and Michigan reviewed the same tape as the Big Ten.
This is the first time in recent memory that the Big Ten has suspended a football player without the team doing so first. The league issues public reprimands all the time, but almost always after discipline has been handed down by the school.
Sophomores Brandon Herron and Kevin Leach likely will fill in for Mouton against Eastern Michigan.