On second-and-nine, just three minutes into the second half, quarterback Chad Henne had wide receiver Jason Avant open in the middle of the end zone. Instead of making that pass, he tried to hit tight end Tyler Ecker in the right corner. Instead, Notre Dame safety Tom Zbikowski stepped in front of Ecker, made the pick and stole seven points from the Wolverines.

Michigan Football
Correction:
A caption on the front page of SportsMonday was incorrect. It should have said sophomore Chad Henne fumbles on the goal line in the fourth quarter.

Sophomore Chad Henne fumbles on the goal line in the fourth quarter.(DAVID TUMAN/Daily)

“I figured that they would have man-to-man coverage on Tyler, and I figured he would cross the space, but the safety made a great play and I just kind of forced the throw,” Henne said.

After that, it didn’t take long for the boo birds to come out. By the end of the day, the Michigan fans had booed their quarterback numerous times and had even called for his replacement, redshirt junior Matt Gutierrez.

Still, the crowd was back behind Henne when he and the Wolverines took the field with less than three minutes to go and the team trailing 17-10. They were expecting another comeback, a la Michigan State last season.

But this time, Henne looked more vulnerable than he did all of last year. He missed redshirt junior Steve Breaston on an out on first down. On second down he lobbed a deep pass to freshman Mario Manningham, who was flying down the right sideline. But the pass was just a little bit long. He tried for Ecker on his third chance, but again threw it incomplete. Then, after a false start penalty made it fourth-and-15, Henne tried to string another pass to Ecker, this time in the flat.

Incomplete. Game over.

“It’s not Chad’s fault,” offensive lineman Matt Lentz said. “It’s on the whole offense. For them to boo him or boo the coaches is just not right. That’s my take on it. It’s on everybody’s shoulders. The blame should go to the whole offense and the whole team. We lose as a team.”

Statistically, Henne’s game was below average. It was certainly not a Rose Bowl-esque performance, when Henne threw for 227 yards and four touchdowns. His completion percentage was under 50 percent for just the second time in his career. He had multiple passes batted down at the line of scrimmage, and threw an interception inside the red zone.

“I think it wasn’t his best performance,” Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said bluntly.

Henne was being pressured all game. He was sacked twice and was forced out of the pocket many other times. He had trouble throwing past the defensive line. Henne said that the pressure in the pocket didn’t affect his performance, but he had a handful of balls knocked down at the line of scrimmage.”

“It’s all right if you get hit after you throw the ball, but the ball wasn’t where it was supposed to be,” Henne said. “A couple of them were high. I just didn’t come out and execute today.”

Even with his poor performance, there were a couple of bright spots for the sophomore quarterback. Henne threw for more yardage on Saturday, 223 yards, than he did in five of his 12 games last year. In the first quarter, Henne threw a 17-yard pass to Ecker that put the young quarterback over the 3,000-yard mark for his career. The throw moved him into ninth-place all-time among Michigan quarterbacks, just two games into his second year.

Henne also connected on a 25-yard touchdown to Manningham with 3:47 left in the game. Not only did the pass bring Michigan back into the game, but it also kept Henne’s impressive streak alive. He has thrown at least one touchdown in every game he has played in the Maize and Blue.

But on Saturday, he was still one score short.

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