In the 135 year history of Michigan Football, Michigan has never lost 3 games before October. Ever.
After five weeks of watching this Michigan Football team, its pretty fair to say this team has not improved from last season...actually, they've regressed. A year ago, in front of a home crowd, Michigan beat up the Golden Gophers 42-13. And this year when Michigan jumped out to a 7-0 lead early on, it looked like we may in store for a similar outcome. But Minnesota responded with 30 unanswered points to put Michigan away and tote the Little Brown Jug back to Minneapolis for just the 5th time since 1967.
The issues that plague this team are not hard to spot. The offensive line is in disarray. Whichever quarterback is on the field, often looks disoriented and lost. The running game is sometimes hit and more often miss. The defense, thought to be the strength of this team, played a horrible game yesterday – missed tackles, missed assignments and generated no turnovers. Granted, they spent too much time on the field, but its tough to watch the supposed strength of this team give up 183 yards on 32 carries to Minnesota's David Cobb. Until yesterday, Michigan's defense had held every opponent to under 100 yards on the ground.
And then there's the helmet-to-helmet hit on Morris. This is where everyone failed.
First to fail was #55 Theiren Cockran for Minnesota with that vicious hit. Next to fail were the refs. They threw the flag for roughing the passer, but Cockran should've been ejected from the game immediately for targeting. In this era of football we live in where quarterbacks (especially) are protected by rules, that's disgraceful.
Then Michigan's coaches failed Shane Morris. It's the coach's job to know whats going on at all times with the players on the field. Hoke admitted to not seeing Shane Morris visibly wobbling back to the huddle after that hit. How you miss that it beyond me. He could barely stand up. How could Doug Nussmeier, the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach not pull his guy immediately after seeing that. Shane probably shouldn't have been in the game at that point anyway. He was limping very badly.
I don't even know what to say abut this series of events other than its easily the most concerning thing that happened on a day when there was a lot to be concerned about. But this goes beyond football and x's and o's. This is a blatant disregard for player safety, plain and simple.
The rest of the game pretty much doesn't matter. Devin came in and drove Michigan down the field for a touchdown in front of maybe 40,000 fans left inside the stadium at that point. After that, no 2-point conversion attempt, no onside kick, no urgency...Minnesota gets the ball back and drains whatever life Michigan has left off the clock. And when it was all over, the Gopher players mobbed the Michigan sideline to hoist the Little Brown Jug above their heads for the first time in 9 seasons.
Now, Michigan and the entire athletic department face a more questions and doubts. And its not just Hoke who's feet are being held to the fire. AD David Brandon is also feeling the heat. Throughout the second half of the game, students chanted "Fire Brandon". They were drowned out frequently by the band and music over the PA system, but the message was loud and clear. When even the students want wholesale changes, its obvious the problems reach far beyond the poor product on the field.
We're not even the midpoint of the year yet, but its tough to see this Michigan team rebounding to salvage even a bowl-eligible type of season. They'll need to win 4 of their next 7 games. In a year when Brady Hoke was already feeling the heat before the season began, now its not even sure whether the 4th year coach will make it through to the end.
The mismanagement of the Shane Morris incident is just a small example of how overmatched this coaching staff is. When Gardner lost his helmet and was forced to come out for a play, how does Russell Bellomy not have a helmet he can put on to come into the game? Why wasn't a timeout called to sort it out before trotting out a concussed and injured Shane Morris back onto the field?
And when it was all said and done, for Hoke to claim to have no knowledge of anything at all, I'm sorry, that's just not good enough.
In the 8 years I have been running this blog and the countless years before it when I was just a fan, I have never once said that the man coaching the Michigan team needed to go...even through the bleak Rich Rod years. But I can not sit here and defend Brady Hoke and his actions yesterday. Results on the field and outcomes of games are one thing, and we all know how that's going...but this is the first time I've seen a situation where the a player was in legit danger, and the Michigan coaching staff and especially the head coach was simply not up to the most basic task of managing the situation.
If they can't even see what happened to Morris and get that right, then what else are they missing?
I've said form day one that I liked Brady Hoke, and I still do. I think he's a good man. I think he honestly does love his players and wants the best for them. I don't think he purposefully put Shane in danger. But he wasn't able to do the most basic things to protect him either. Ultimately, that's on him. I think he's in over his head. And if that's the case, then a change must be made.