October 11, 2008
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Toledo 13, Michigan 10. In retrospect Michigan probably would have rather not beaten Wisconsin two weeks ago. It was thrilling at the time, I'm sure, but if the Wolverines hadn't erased a 19-0 halftime hole, today's collapse against one of the weaker outfits in the MAC -- the first loss in Michigan history to any outfit from the MAC -- would be just the fourth straight loss en route to 1-5, just another insult to a team already at rock bottom. They might have already been dead inside.
Instead, Michigan got the idea from beating the Badgers that maybe it could survive this rebuilding season, after all, and losing to Toledo is the sickening thud, the devastating, unfathomable loss that officially ends whatever threads of hope remained dangling from a rapidly unraveling race to the bottom of the Big Ten.
It's not even the kind of "Well, we outplayed them, and if a couple plays go the other way ... " sort of loss you'd guess it takes for Michigan to lose to Toledo. Even with the Rockets' 101-yard interception return in the first quarter, their only touchdown, the Wolverines were outgained on top of turning the ball over three times. After the killer, highlight interception early, Nick Sheridan came on for Steven Threet and threw two more. The decisive missed field goal, at the end of Michigan's longest drive of the day, would have only extended a day of misery.
So, yeah, it's a rebuilding year. Yeah, the offense is like all freshmen. Rich Rodriguez does not have to worry about his job a year into the thing. Michigan is still much, much worse than anyone expected, and not getting better in any apparent way. It's at an historical low rivaling what Notre Dame endured with similar turnover in the lineup last year. Extending the thousand-year bowl streak is a virtual impossibility; from here on, it's just about avoiding a complete, irredeemable last-place collapse. Today, on the heels of a 25-point loss to an Illinois team that subsequently went down at home to Minnesota, makes even the bare minimum of dignity seem like a pretty distant goal.
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Photo of Tyrell Herbert's INT return for touchdown via the Associated Press.