Under Brady Hoke, Michigan is 15-0 when it scores more than 17 points. That’s all the defense needs to stand its ground and hold off its opponent. This weekend, however, Michigan came up well short and suffered its third loss of the season. All three have been away from the Big House.
Early on it looked to be a great defensive battle but it all went downhill in the second quarter when Denard Robinson went down and suffered what is being called an aggravated nerve on his throwing arm. Without Denard the Wolverines turned to redshirt freshman Russell Bellomy. I think Bellomy has the tools to be a good quarterback at Michigan, but it just wasn’t his time yet. Bellomy hasn’t had much game action and he doesn’t get starter reps in practice, so a poor performance in a hostile environment wasn’t really a surprise. He didn’t get much help from his receivers, and Fitz Toussaint once again failed to do anything of note to keep the pressure off the young QB. The defense stood strong and kept Michigan in the game, but without any movement from the offense it wasn’t enough to hold off the Huskers.
Nebraska opened the scoring early in the second quarter on a 32-yard pass to a wide open Kenny Bell who made a great play after the catch to get into the end zone. Coverage on the play appeared less than stellar, but a second look showed Thomas Gordon effectively being “picked” near the line of scrimmage allowing Bell to get open in space. Michigan added two field goals before the half, and even with Denard out, was still in the game, trailing only 7-6.
Michigan’s defense continued to hold its ground and give the offense a fighting chance, only allowing field goals during the third and Michigan was still within striking distance heading into the final period down 16-9, as Brendan Gibbons hit his third field goal late in the quarter. Bellomy just could not get things going as Nebraska blitzed the unproven quarterback often and Michigan’s offense became one-dimensional. He was 3-of-16 and threw three picks, though they were not all his fault as one bounced off Vince Smith as he was falling before being snagged by the Husker defender.
Michigan failed to reach 100 yards passing and rushing, finishing with only 188 yards of total offense. The defense gave up more yards than usual but played extremely well and kept Michigan in the game until Ameer Abdullah sealed it with a 12-yard touchdown rush with just over 10 minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
It was a bit surprising that Devin Gardner did not come in during Denard’s extended absence. He may not be a great passer but he has more game experience than Bellomy plus he is a threat with his feet. Say what you will about his passing skills, or lack of, but Denard is the heart and soul of this offense and it showed how pedestrian it can be without him. The ‘Huskers took advantage and came away with the win.
Michigan fell to 5-3 (3-1 in the Big Ten), and while the Wolverines are tied for the lead in the Legends division Nebraska now owns the tie breaker. That means Michigan would need to win out and Nebraska would need to suffer another loss in conference play. I’m already on record as saying Michigan probably won’t win against its bitter rivals to the south, and the way OSU has been playing doesn’t make me want to change my mind yet. Of course it is possible for Michigan to reach the Big Ten title game but it no longer control its own destiny, and that is a hard pill to swallow.
This week, Michigan heads to Minneapolis to take on the Gophers. Michigan is 28-2 in its last 30 in the matchup and Minnesota is traditionally a bottom feeder in the Big Ten, though they did hang 44 points on Purdue on Saturday in a blow out win. Regardless, the pressure is really on Brady Hoke and this team if they want to stay in the hunt for Indianapolis.
Nebraska travels to Michigan State next week and then takes on Penn State in Lincoln the following week, so it is possible they drop one of those games and give Michigan some hope if they can win out.
All five of Brady Hoke’s losses since he’s been at Michigan have come way from the Big House. The game at Minnesota should be a win, but heading to Columbus for a game that will essentially be OSU’s national championship will be tough. I have faith in the Maize and Blue but their fate is no longer in their hands. They will do all they can to win every game but they will need a little help from the football gods if they are to achieve their goal of a Big Ten championship.
It is yet to be determined the extent of Denard’s injury and the likelihood of his return. The road will be tough even with Denard, but without him or at least with all the uncertainty at this point I am not sure how confident I am that this team can win out. Hopefully it is just another “boo-boo” and Shoelace suits up next week.
The Prilosec OTC Wildberry Wild American Flavor Tour hit Lincoln for the game on Saturday. Check out some photos from the tailgate as well as some information on the new product and the Wildberry Flavor Sweepstakes.
Yardbarker and frequent heartburn sufferers (and Prilosec OTC users!), Larry the Cable Guy and Former NFL running back Roger Craig, attended last Saturday’s Nebraska v. Michigan showdown to promote the Prilosec OTC Wildberry Wild American Flavor Tour. Larry has been attending some of the most AWESOME sporting events across the country getting tailgaters excited for the new Prilosec OTC Wildberry product (now with a coating that gives you a burst of wildberry flavor) and a chance to enter and win the Wildberry Flavor Sweepstakes. Visit WildberryFlavor.com for the chance to be the envy of all your friends and win three trips to experience the nation’s most flavorful cities that also host the most incredible sporting events, courtesy of new Prilosec OTC Wildberry.