Sunday, November 18, 2007

This loss wasn't Lloyd's fault


This one had to be the hardest to swallow — the absolute hardest — and not just because it was Ohio State.

Yes, losing to the hated Buckeyes six times in seven years is equivalent to hell freezing over in Ann Arbor, but the way the Wolverines lost on a dismal Saturday afternoon makes the sour taste in their mouth all the more acerbic.

There was no spread offense that lit up a slow Michigan defense for 400 yards passing. There was no running quarterback who eluded would-be tacklers all over the Big House's field turf, causing groans from the hundred thousand Maize and Blue faithful. There weren't even any silly miscues — Michigan didn't turn the ball over a single time.

Rather, the Buckeyes bullied the Wolverines from end zone to end zone, running over them on offense (hence Chris "Beanie" Wells' 222 rushing yards on 39 carries), and running to them — more specifically Michigan quarterback Chad Henne — on defense, sacking the senior leader four times and hurrying him several other times.

As a result, Henne was an anemic 11-for-34 passing for 68 useless yards. As a result, Michigan's most valuable player was punter Zoltan Mesko, who booted 12 punts for an average of 45.9 yards.

If this really was Lloyd Carr's last regular-season game as head coach, it's a shame. Here's why: The biggest reason people, including myself, have said it's time for Carr to step down is because he's behind in the innovation of college football. Despite having a bevy of talented players at the skill positions, Carr hasn't switched to the very popular — and successful — spread offense. Defensively, Carr and coordinator Ron English haven't figured out how to slow down the spread.

Those are the main reasons Carr needs to step aside after an accomplished 13 seasons.

But those weren't the reasons Michigan lost Saturday, which is demoralizing. Those who like excuses will point to the separated shoulder of Henne, who overthrew several passes that Randy Moss wouldn't have hauled in. They'll also point at onetime Heisman Trophy candidate Mike Hart, who — with a bum ankle — managed just 44 yards on 18 carries.

But despite the dropped passes by Mario Manningham and the freshman mistake by senior safety Jamar Adams, who ran himself out of the play on which Wells raced 62 yards to give Ohio State the 11-point lead, Michigan didn't lose on Saturday.

Ohio State won. The Buckeyes dominated the Wolverines in every phase — except punting — of the game. Especially, and most disheartening for Michigan, Ohio State was the stronger team. It dominated in the trenches, routinely opening holes for Wells while stuffing Hart and pressuring Henne.

No, Saturday's loss can't be pinned on Lloyd. His daddy, err, Jim Tressel, didn't pull any trickeration out of his bag to steal a victory in the Big House. Instead, he made sure Wells touched the ball whenever he wasn't winded, and he kept the heat on Henne all afternoon.

It wasn't rocket science, it wasn't even first-grade science. It was old-school football. Hit ya in ya mouth football. The kind of football that fueled the Wolverines to all those Big Ten and national titles. The kind of football that is no longer en vogue.

It really is too bad that Saturday's butt-whoopin' will probably be mostly remembered as Carr's final game inside Michigan Stadium instead of what it was: the players in red and white beating up the players in blue and gold.

As so many coaches like to preach, there's only so much they can do. Ultimately, players decide a game's outcome.

That rang oh, so true Saturday inside a damp Big House.

On a day when not even Bo could have saved the Wolverines.

No comments: