The Michigan Stadium tunnel is never short of emotion.
Following a Michigan win, it’s the center of constant commotion, endless cheers and a likely rendition of “The Victors.” After a Wolverine loss, sorrow and frustration radiate through the ageless tunnel.
Following Michigan’s 38-36 loss to Purdue, Tate Forcier couldn’t escape that emotion.
Encouraging fans shouted his name like all was well, but Forcier looked stoically at the ground and kept walking. On his way to the Michigan locker room, the freshman quarterback forcibly ripped off his wristbands, one by one, and threw all four to the ground.
His frustration was understandable. Although he finished 15-of-24 and tossed his first touchdown pass in more than a month, Forcier’s third-quarter fumble on an option pitch led to a quick 19-yard touchdown score for the Boilermakers.
During the Wolverines’ 4-0 start, any “freshman mistakes” were masked by Forcier’s late, game-winning touchdown drives against Notre Dame and Indiana. It seemed fair, then, to expect Forcier to be more mature than his age would suggest.
But during Michigan’s five straight conference losses, it’s been easy to find faults with the 19-year-old freshman under center. During his four-game touchdown-throwing drought, which started in Iowa on Oct. 10, Forcier completed just 47.3 percent of his passes, fumbled five times and threw two interceptions.
“That’s my fault a little bit — making the little freshman mistakes that you don’t want to make,” Forcier said yesterday. “Turnovers happen, and you’ve just got to put it behind you. Especially these next two games, you can’t have any.”
With just two games remaining, on the road at Wisconsin and at home against Ohio State, Forcier is taking it upon himself to make sure nothing slips through the cracks.
For Michigan to garner the all-important sixth victory and become bowl eligible, Forcier will have to show the resiliency, strength and accuracy he displayed in the Wolverines’ early-season wins.
“You can never send your seniors out empty-handed,” Forcier said. “That’s something I don’t want to do. A lot of it’s on me and how I play, how I motivate these guys.”
If coming back from an injury is a motivational factor, Forcier has done his share this season. His injuries have piled on quickly — wrist, shoulder and concussion — and now include his left knee, which he twisted Saturday during the third quarter. Forcier said the knee injury would require him to wear a sleeve.
But even as he has battled injuries, Forcier says he has become more comfortable with the pace of the game. On Saturday, he looked more at ease in the pocket and showed less of the “happy feet” he’s been known for. Yesterday, Forcier said he has noticed the game has slowed down for him since the Wolverines lost to Illinois on Oct. 31.
“I told him this last week, … ‘I’ve got to ask you to perform and act and be older than what you are,’ ” Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said. “If he’s 19 years old, you have to act and play and behave like a 21-22-year-old. That’s easier said than done.”
In the Wolverines’ upcoming games, many are expecting Forcier to hold the keys to potential upsets against Wisconsin or Ohio State. But according to him, that means reverting back to his old ways.
“I’m trying to do what I was doing at the beginning of the season — getting the athletes the ball, let them be athletes,” Forcier said. “I did a great job last week, getting Roy (Roundtree) the ball and let him play. It’s hard when things aren’t going right. You want to be the guy to answer that question.”
Notes and injury updates: The Big Ten announced today the Nov. 21 Michigan-Ohio State game will be at noon on ABC. … Rodriguez said yesterday that senior tailback Brandon Minor has a bruised shoulder and continues to battle his ankle injury. Sophomore slot receiver Martavious Odoms (knee) is still day-to-day, and redshirt sophomore wide receiver Junior Hemingway is battling back pain.