Michigan Wants To Finish The Football Season Strong

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) -- Michigan appears headed for a dubious milestone, but its players and coaches aren't throwing in the towel.
Coach Rich Rodriguez and several players said Monday that their heads are high as the 2-4 Wolverines head into a make-or-break final stretch of games.
Saturday's 35-21 loss to rival Michigan State put Michigan's back against the wall. The Wolverines must win their remaining four games -- three are on the road -- to give themselves a shot at the school's 34th consecutive bowl game.
"When you play for Michigan, you play hard all the time," Rodriguez said.
Asked later if he saw signs of his team giving in to frustration, he said "there'd better not be. We won't allow it."
One more loss will tie the 1934, '36 and '62 teams for the most in a single season. An eighth setback will give Rodriguez's first team a sad distinction in the storied program's 129-year history.
"Sometimes we're playing pretty well and sometimes we're not," Rodriguez said. "The frustrating part is after eight games we should have more consistency in the level of play. That's the thing that's probably most frustrating to our coaches."
That was the case in Saturday's loss to the Spartans, which saw the Wolverines capitalize on a handful of Michigan State errors and take a 21-14 lead in the second half. Poor tackling and missed assignments hurt, however, as Michigan State roared back to end Michigan's six-game winning streak in the series.
The Spartans finished with 473 yards of total offense while Michigan amassed only 252. It was the third time in their four-game losing streak the Wolverines allowed an opponent more than 450 yards.
Though it faces lowly Purdue (2-6), the Big Ten's only team without a conference victory, on Saturday, the odds of a Michigan turnaround aren't good.
The Wolverines rank last in the Big Ten in total offense and are allowing almost 29 points per game. Only Indiana's scoring defense is worse. Its punting unit, which has been on the field 55 times this season, is the only group leading the conference.
Defensive end Tim Jamison, one of six seniors on a defensive unit that was expected to be the team's strength this season, said the players share a lot of blame.
"A lot of coaches could call it quits and get ready for next year," he said. "But it's not the coaches' fault we mess up on the field.
"Our backs are against the wall and we have to come out fighting."
The Wolverines last missed the postseason in 1974, when the Big Ten only sent the conference champion to the Rose Bowl.
Cornerback Donovan Warren and guard David Moosman echoed Jamison's pledge to battle to the end of the season. Rodriguez found a sort of silver lining in the season's struggles.
"It's not the end of the world," he said. "One positive in recruiting is guys can see that 'hey, maybe I can make an impact and help get it turned around."'
"Is it going to take longer to get to where I want to be and everybody else wants to be at? Yeah, maybe. Longer than maybe I anticipated."
Leading rusher Sam McGuffie and safety Mike Williams suffered slight concussions against the Spartans and did not practice Sunday. Rodriguez said both will be evaluated daily.
The school also announced that its Nov. 8 trip to No. 20 Minnesota will kickoff at noon and air on ESPN or ESPN2.


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