Monday, October 13, 2008
Sports NewsMayfield's Mutterings: A 'Wicked' weekend

Michigan's streak of 33 bowls bids in jeopardy

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[October 13, 2008]  ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) -- Motor City Bowl officials were at the Big House to scout the Wolverines.

InsuranceThe lower-tier bowl would love to fill Ford Field with maize-and-blue clad fans, many of whom live a short drive away. But even the most optimistic of those fans can't be sure the Wolverines can win four more games to be eligible for the postseason.

Rich Rodriguez's debut season in Ann Arbor started shaky with a loss to Utah, looked worse after blowout losses at Notre Dame and to Illinois before sinking to new lows on Saturday because of a 13-10 loss to little-regarded Toledo (2-4).

Michigan (2-4) has its worst six-game record since 1967 -- two seasons before Bo Schembechler took over -- and its streak of playing in 33 straight bowls is looking as if it's due to end.

"We can't go anywhere but up -- obviously," cornerback Morgan Trent said.

Well, the Wolverines could continue to tumble. Michigan plays at No. 3 Penn State on Saturday and hosts No. 20 Michigan State next, hoping to avoid a fourth loss this season at home.


"People said we didn't have a shot against Wisconsin, so you can't give up on us," said linebacker Obi Ezeh, referring to a 19-point comeback win over the Badgers. "We're going to start figuring out some things, we've just got to hang tough.

"We know some people are going to say some things about us, but we've just go to handle that and stay together."

Michigan was likely going to struggle this season even if Lloyd Carr hadn't retired because it lost Jake Long, Chad Henne, Mike Hart and others to the NFL.

But no one predicted college football's winningest team would slump so much that it would lose to a Mid-American Conference team -- and not even a particularly good one -- for the first time.

Rodriguez acknowledged being embarrassed, but he also sounded confident about how his players and coaching staff would respond.

"I've been through this before, but that's in the past," said Rodriguez, who turned West Virginia's program around. "Players aren't going to lay down. Coaches aren't going to lay down.

"We'll get right back to work."

Michigan's players insist they have a glass-half-full view of the rest of the season.

"We lost, but we still have a chance to win the Big Ten," defensive end Tim Jamison insisted. "We are still 1-1 in the Big Ten, so my job and this team's job is to keep our level and straight and keep pressing on."

After playing at Penn State and against Michigan State, the Wolverines will have three road games left -- including the finale at Ohio State -- and only one more home game.

To reach the necessary six victories, Michigan has to fix a lot of problems on both sides of the ball.

Quarterbacks Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan have been inconsistent, contributing to a lackluster offense.

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"Everybody goes through adversity in life," Sheridan said. "Obviously, we've had our fair share this year."

A week after Illinois quarterback Juice Williams had a Michigan Stadium-record 431 yards of offense, Toledo's Nick Moore caught 20 passes to break another mark against the Wolverines.

"If you're watching us on film, we've been hurt when people have spread us out and isolated us in space," Rodriguez said. "We tried to adjust to it and just didn't get a handle on it."

It didn't take the Rockets long to adjust to playing in storied Michigan Stadium.

"We talk a lot about keeping our focus mentally between the lines," Toledo coach Tom Amstutz said. "We talked about (how) there's 110,000 fans, but they're unarmed and they can't shoot at us and they can't come on the field, so you're playing Michigan and keep your focus on them."

Safety Tyrrell Herbert, who returned one of his two interceptions 100 yards for the first score, said the Rockets adopted Amstutz's mindset.

"Once you hit that field it's just football, and you've been playing football all your life," Herbert said. "It's a big stadium, but after the third play, you don't hear the crowd no more."

[Associated Press; By LARRY LAGE]

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.





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