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Saturday, November 22, 2008
Michigan not in panic mode despite 3-9 season


Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

 
 Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE
 Michigan Head Coach Rich Rodriguez wore the disappointment of a season on his face Saturday as the Wolverines were crushed, 42-7, by Ohio State.

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Brandon Minor was among the last Michigan players to leave the field Saturday, and as he walked off he looked toward the south grandstand.

Cascades of Ohio State students streamed down the staircases to party with their team on the field. Above them read the scoreboard: Ohio State 42, Michigan 7.

It marked Michigan's worst loss to its archrival since a 50-14 setback in 1968 and the third worst ever. It also marked Michigan's fifth consecutive loss to the Buckeyes, a first in the 105-year series.

"I'm going to prepare myself so that this doesn't happen again," said Minor, one of few bright spots for Michigan with 67 rushing yards and a touchdown on Saturday. "I'm going to bust my tail and hope that others follow.

"I promise it won't be like this next year."

A different P-word might be sweeping through Wolverine Nation right now: Panic.

Their team lost a school-record nine games this year, finished 10th out of 11 teams in the Big Ten and showed few noticeable signs of progress. Michigan missed a bowl for the first time since 1974 and suffered its first losing season since 1967.

Head coach Rich Rodriguez's celebrated spread offense generated a season-low seven points Saturday and eclipsed 25 points in just three games.

Much like this year, the Wolverines will be using a lot of young players next year, particularly at the quarterback position, where incoming recruits Tate Forcier and Shavodrick Beaver will be in the mix for a starting spot right away.

Time to panic? No way, Rodriguez said.

"It's disappointing to not be as successful as we would have liked with our record," Rodriguez said, "but there is no panic with it being the first year. We have a lot of things to overcome, and I'm confident that the work we do Sunday through Friday will show up on Saturdays soon."

Most of that work begins with the offense, which committed a league-high 30 turnovers this season. Michigan struggled in the red zone and couldn't generate big plays on a consistent basis despite some dynamic young players.

Several season-long warts came out Saturday, as Michigan couldn't convert a first-quarter interception into points despite being set up in the red zone. The Wolverines had seven possessions end in Ohio State territory but converted only one into points.

"The missed opportunities are a big thing we've dealt with all year," Rodriguez said. "We are not good enough to win ballgames without taking advantage of those opportunities."

The criticism for Rodriguez will only intensify during the next few weeks, though the coach has a track record of turning things around in his second year. West Virginia went 9-4 in his second season after a 3-8 campaign. Clemson went 9-3 in Rodriguez's second season as offensive coordinator, and Tulane went 12-0 in his second season there.

Michigan needs to replace three starting defensive linemen but returns most of its core, for better or for worse.

"Coach is going to reevaluate," senior defensive end Tim Jamison said. "Rodriguez is going to build a foundation, and the young guys are going to turn the team around."