Wolverines lose eight games for first time in 129-year history

Published 12:04 pm Monday, November 17, 2008

By By DON EDEN / Dowagiac Daily News
ANN ARBOR – History was achieved as the Michigan football team lost for the eighth time as Northwestern won 21-14 on Saturday with nine losses almost assured with the Wolverines visiting Ohio State in the final game for first-year coach Rich Rodriguez in 2008.
The "before" picture is not a pretty one but the "after" photo will be better looking was the best way Rodriguez could describe the fortunes of the program.
Northwestern (8-3,4-3) tried to help early as senior quarterback C.J. Bacher had his second pass of the game intercepted by junior Stevie Brown, who returned it 25 yards to the 8-yard line.
But the problems started as the offense took the field and after a 2-yard run with two incomplete passes a field goal was blocked.
The Wildcats punted on their next possession and Michigan returned the ball to Northwestern as they mishandled the football for a 38-yard gain.
Bacher helped lead the visitors into the end zone when on a 3rd and 18 from the 21 classmate Omar Conteh found freedom running through the defense for a touchdown.
Sophomore Nick Sheridan had his only successful drive later in the first quarter with junior Carlos Brown doing most of the work with 35 rushing yards as the former scored from three yards. The Wolverines took the lead and their final score midway through the second stanza as walk-on Ricky Reyes recovered a punt blocked by freshman Michael Williams and fell into the end zone from the three-yard line.
"Walk-ons have contributed a lot for this team and I am proud of them and Carlos (Brown) ran the ball pretty well today," said Rodriguez. "The fan turnout was outstanding considering our record and the weather conditions."
"The weather has always been bad in Ann Arbor, but that is Big 10 football," explained Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, who also was a star linebacker for the Wildcats. "We always need to be prepared to beat Michigan (2-9,2-5) and this was a big win for our program."
Fitzgerald gave the victory halftime speech as the 14-7 intermission lead for the Wolverines quickly disappeared as Bacher completed passes and was rewarded as another classmate (Ross Lane) hauled in a 17-yard touchdown on their initial drive of the second half.
The Wildcats took the lead for good with the next possession as Bacher found another classmate (Eric Peterman) alone over the middle for a 53-yard score.
"Northwestern ran a hurry-up offense to keep us off balance and caught us before our signals came in for the play," stated sophomore cornerback Donovan Warren on the final touchdown. Warren scored on an interception return early in the fourth quarter, but an inadvertent whistle stopped the play when he nearly stepped out of bounds and Warren admitted. "I heard the whistle but felt like I was in bounds so kept on running just trying to make a play."
A change of quarterbacks did not help the Michigan offense as freshman Steven Threet was intercepted in the end zone as senior tight end Mike Massey was wide open, but the pass was behind and too high for the Wolverine.
"The execution of the offense was more of a problem than the weather as both teams played in the conditions, but the problem is we are making progress during the week, but not on game day," noted Rodriguez. "We cannot worry about the past since that is gone but try to correct the problems and move on as nobody is as frustrated as the players and coaches."
Bacher completed 17 of his 29 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns while the duo for Michigan was fortunate on only a dozen of 36 throws for a total of 83 yards. Brown did reach the century mark with 115 yards on 23 carries as the total offense was almost equal with a 264-257 advantage going to Northwestern.
"Bacher was outstanding for us today as were all the captains and seniors who stayed focus after the defeat last week," an elated Fitzgerald exclaimed holding four year old son Jack after losing to Ohio State previously.
"I would like to go back out there and try to score," concluded Brown as the slippery conditions that made it hard to run and then repeatedly phrased, "we hate to lose but we need to keep fighting and to put this behind us to get back to work."