Woulda, shoulda, coulda.

That’s probably what Michigan was thinking as the Wolverines left Camp Randall Stadium Saturday night.

A 13-3 lead is a good position to be in on the road, but Michigan could’ve had as much as a 24-3 advantage at halftime instead. Miscues and missed opportunities hampered the Wolverines from really taking control of the game.

After stopping Wisconsin’s first drive, Michigan took over from its own five-yard line and marched 94 yards down the field. But the Wolverines ended up with nothing to show for their time-consuming drive. On fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line, freshman running back Kevin Grady failed to push through the Badgers’ defensive line and was stopped for no gain.

“There are some things that are happening to us that are very frustrating,” Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. “That, to me, sums it up. That’s where we are.”

That wasn’t the last time Michigan fell short.

With just over a minute left in the first half, Michigan decided to drive toward the end zone instead of running out the clock. On the first play of the series, sophomore quarterback Chad Henne completed a five-yard screen pass to Grady. Then the Wolverines moved the ball down to the Wisconsin six-yard line when Henne found freshman Mario Manningham deep down the right sideline. But on the next play, Manningham dropped a sure touchdown, and the Wolverines settled for a field goal on third-and-goal after a delay of game penalty.

“There was a flag on the delay of game, but the game clock went down to six seconds,” Carr said. “They marched the penalty off, and with six seconds we were not going to chance having the clock run out on us. We substituted when they began to march the penalty off. … By the time I knew they were putting three seconds back on the clock, we were already on the field (with the field goal unit).”

With the possibility of another penalty looming, Carr decided to kick the field goal and take the 13-3 lead into halftime.

The second half proved to be more of the same for the Wolverines, with mishaps costing them even more points. The offense never got going, and Carr said that poor field position and a couple of mistakes in the kicking game held the team back.

Even the most experienced Wolverines made mistakes Saturday night. Senior co-captain Jason Avant – the receiver with probably the surest hands on the team – struggled in the second half.

“We had a third-down pass in our first drive (of the second half),” Carr said. “We dropped a pass – something Jason Avant just doesn’t do. That would have given us good field position and a first down.”

The costliest Michigan turnover came in the fourth quarter after Wisconsin closed the lead to seven. Sophomore Max Martin fumbled the ball, and junior linebacker Mark Zalewski recovered it for the Badgers. Wisconsin converted the opportunity, with a six-yard touchdown run by junior Brian Calhoun, taking a 16-13 lead.

“(Max Martin) ran hard,” Carr said. “I told him before the game – the most important thing is, if you’re a back, you can’t run afraid to fumble the football. You’ve got to run aggressively.”

In the end, the turnovers, drops and poor decisions sealed Michigan’s fate, and it dropped its sixth straight road opener. But Carr said he believes that the Wolverines can turn the season around.

“I think the main thing is we just have to keep fighting and keep believing that we can be a good football team if we make some corrections in terms of the mistakes that we’re making,” Carr said.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.