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Breaking Down The Forcier-Robinson Decision

Michigan's defense had successfully stopped Iowa's offense, leaving Michigan with a minute and 30 seconds to drive down the field and get a game-winning field goal. On Michigan's last drive, Denard Robinson had led Michigan to a touchdown primarily by running the football. But as I waited for Michigan's offense to come back on the field for what surely would be their last drive, I sat nervoulsy praying that Rich Rodriguez would send Tate Forcier out with the rest of the offensive unit--not Robinson.

And then Robinson came out as Forcier walked unhappily back to the rest of the guys on the Michigan sideline.

"Oh, this is such a big mistake," I said to myself with doom in my voice, envisioning Robinson throwing a game-ending interception while hoping against hope that he would miraculously pull a Forcier.

Unsurprisingly, Robinson did throw that game-ending pick.

Call me an armchair coach. Say I'm not a Michigan fan. Proceed with the standard "Rich Rodriguez is going to get it done," "Be patient" and "You should be happy Michigan is 4-2" crap, all of which would continue to show that a lot of people--Michigan fans and college football "experts" alike--miss the points people who are mad about 2008, mad about the Iowa loss and, yes, even those who dislike RR are making. Everyone knows, whether they want to admit it or not, that Forcier would have been the better quarterback choice at that point in the game--and it doesn't take being a coach or a "fake" Michigan fan to know or say that.

But let's go beyond the typical whining that Forcier should have been in on that last drive, because there are other things questionable about this game with respect to the quarterback switch. Among them:

-Why did Robinson not appear before the 4th quarter? Michigan's offense, for the second week in a row, basically failed them--what, with the turnovers, Forcier's troubles passing, receivers seemingly having a hard time getting open, etc. The one thing Michigan was able to do well was run the ball. Other than that, the offense was highly stagnant. And while Robinson does pass sometimes when he enters games, he is a lot better at running.

Ding, ding, ding. Seeing Brandon Minor have success running the ball and watching Michigan do very little passing the ball, I waited for Robinson to come in and get some runs...because the one thing Minor never really did was break a big run. Robinson has that capability, and that's why I thought I'd see him in the second or third quarter. Early in the 4th quarter, in my mind, should have been the latest we saw him if Michigan was still behind, because then the game would have required quick scores--which means passing the ball...which brings me to my next question...

-Why did Robinson appear late in the 4th quarter? The point at which Robinson appeared is around the time Forcier starts to heat up. Plus, with around 7:42 left in the 4th quarter and your team is down two scores? That's not exactly the time to take these relatively lengthy drives running the ball, especially not having a full supply of timeouts for later in the game.

Michigan ended up running nearly 4 & 1/2 minutes off the clock...and to top it off, they did an onside kick! It was pure luck Michigan's defense stopped Iowa's offense! I would not have trusted Michigan's defense enough to do an onside kick, giving Iowa great field position with approximately only three minutes left in the game. Plus, had Michigan kicked deep and the Michigan D stopped Iowa...that's field position for Michigan, which would have helped a quarterback like Robinson out a lot more. With Forcier, it wouldn't have mattered, but Robinson needed all the help he could get. And Michigan would never have felt the need to do an onside kick anyway had they not wasted so much time on the preceding drive.

The last two Michigan drives simply required a proven passer in the game. True, we don't know what Robinson looks like in practice. But we know what he looked like against Eastern Michigan. Games over practice, people.

-RR swears up and down that he pulled Forcier and put in Robinson to get a spark. The buzz is that there was a heated discussion on the sideline between Forcier and RR, and also that RR was unhappy with Forcier's decisions/mistakes. Sporting News put it more blatantly--Forcier had been "ineffective" during this game.

Um...at worst, Forcier is generally ineffective in the second and third quarters, and, at best, he is most effective in the 4th quarter. This was nothing new. In this game? Forcier threw an interception, had trouble with a snap/slippery ball and fumbled, and made some risky decisions throwing the ball. Again--what else is new? Forcier throws risky passes all the time. Frankly, Michigan is fortunate he has not turned the ball over more. The plays that make him a hero for Michigan are also the same plays, a lot of the time, that could have resulted in him having more turnovers or lost yards than touchdowns or gains. But he gets it done...and, apparently, he is the one who does it best enough for RR to start him every single game so far.

As for other mistakes...everyone wants to make excuses for RR. How about an excuse for Forcier? He is a freshman. Turnovers will happen. Delay of game penalties will happen, especially on the road in an environment like Kinnick Stadium. Timeouts when you, as a coach, don't want them, will happen. Bad passes will happen. In other words, I saw no reason to bench Forcier, as long as he felt good enough to play. Losing is not the point. For pretty much all the reasons above, losing with Forcier would have been perfectly fine--disappointing, but understandable...especially against a team like Iowa on the road. That's why it's nearly impossible to have a problem with the way Michigan lost to Michigan State.

But losing the way Michigan did to Iowa is not fine or understandable--disappointing, but not fine or understandable.

-Ren Simon


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