Amazing the difference a week makes. After a gritty, hard-hitting victory over rival Michigan State in the previous week, a different Wolverine team came back for Homecoming Saturday at the Big House. In front of the quietest 111,000 people anywhere in America that day, Michigan gave the home crowd a virtual replay of their game against Wisconsin in Madison. "Flat" doesn't do it justice..."non existent" is more accurate. They couldn't put it in the end zone. They couldn't make a field goal, with Rivas missing two in the second half from 42 and 34 yards out. But more importantly, they showed no signs that they wanted to keep The Little Brown Jug in Schembechler Hall anymore. Michigan needed a kickoff return by Steve Breaston, the first since 1994, to keep it close. After what could only be classified as a Hail Mary 61-yard run by the second-string running back, on a handoff from a backup quarterback that everybody (except for Jim Herrmann apparently) knew wasn't going to throw, Minnesota kicked a game winning field goal as time had all but expired. Minnesota celebrated their first victory over Michigan since 1986, and our trophy case was left as empty as our hearts.
This is no longer an aberration. This is no longer about team goals or lofty expectations. The 2005 season has become a salvage job of epic proportions. At 3-3 for the first time since 1990, Michigan is going to need a little more than a closed team meeting to fix what is on its way to becoming one of the worst seasons in modern team history. The Northwestern Wildcats received more poll votes this week than the Wolverines, who are out of the top 25 again, and it will take a little more than winning the next one, two, or even three games to get us back onto the list.
And the season will not be stopping to wait for us. Next week, Joe Paterno is coming to Ann Arbor, and he is bringing with him the #8 team in the country.
In 1990, Michigan suffered early season losses to Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Iowa...going 3-3...before running the table and winning a share of the Big Ten title. In their last six games, they averaged 31.5 points a game on offense, while not allowing more than 19 in any of those games. 1990 and 2005 were eerily similar as far as expectations and rankings go, with the Wolverines starting the season at #4 and making it to #1 before falling as far as #20 after their 3rd loss. Their main difference? Desmond Howard.