The Comeback Kid could only watch from the bench this time as his team made another late-game rally.
Tate Forcier didn’t appear injured; rather, his coach decided his team was better off without him on the field. The results were mixed and in the end, Michigan came up short, losing to Iowa 30-28.
The freshman quarterback had only five college games under his belt, but had established himself as a comeback artist (see: Notre Dame, Indiana, and Michigan State). Rich Rodriguez obviously didn’t feel he’d be getting the same magic from Forcier last night in Kinnick Stadium.
With 7:42 left in the fourth quarter, Rodriguez inserted Denard Robinson, another freshman, into the game. It took 4:46 but Robinson led Michigan to a touchdown, rushing for over 40 yards on the drive, including a three-yard scoring run. The Wolverines had turned the ball over four times and had two egregious blown defensive assignments that directly resulted in Iowa touchdowns, yet they were only down two after the score.
Following a three-and-out by the Hawkeyes, Michigan got the ball back with 1:30 remaining, needing a field goal to win. Forcier acted as if he was taking the field, but Rodriguez held him back. This time, Robinson was getting the chance to be the hero.
Unfortunately for Michigan fans, Robinson is not yet the dual-threat QB they hope he can become. After a 14-yard completion and a seven-yard run, Robinson was intercepted. He has now thrown 15 passes and been picked off three times.
Should Forcier have been on the field for the final drive?
If I were the coach, he probably would have been. At the same time, I don’t think it’s fair to question Rodriguez for his decision.
Look at it this way: If Robinson didn’t come in on Michigan’s previous drive, would their final possession have even been meaningful? You can point out that Robinson’s value comes in the form of running, something that Michigan didn’t have enough time to do. Therefore, Forcier — the much better passer — was the logical choice to lead the team down the field. Oh, and you might also reference Forcier’s three previous instances of late-game heroics.
But Forcier had also played pretty well in the early parts of those three games, particularly the Notre Dame and Indiana games. Last night, he was 8-of-19 with no touchdowns, an interception, and a fumble before being replaced. In his two fourth-quarter drives, Michigan unnecessarily burned a timeout and was penalized for a delay of game (though the former may not have been Forcier’s fault).
These mistakes made Forcier a liability in Rodriguez’s eyes. Can you blame a coach for benching a guy he doesn’t trust?
Some are saying Rodriguez sat Forcier because he was “mad” at him. I must agree with that, but only because of the reason why he was so mad: Forcier was making too many costly mistakes. The odds of Robinson leading Michigan into field goal range weren’t great (which reminds me, if you want to argue a coaching decision, question Michigan’s onside kick) given that the clock was likely going to force him to do it through the air. But he’s shown high-level explosiveness this year, so who’s to say he couldn’t rip off a 40 yard run?
Like many of the people who are likely criticizing Rodriguez, I’ve watched all of Michigan’s games this year — including the first three and a half quarters of Saturday night’s game. Nothing from that chunk of time (and that should be the most important chunk when making in-game personnel decisions) suggested that Forcier would get the job done in that situation.