When I saw a clearly distraught Denard Robinson collapse onto David Moosman following Michigan's fifth and final turnover Saturday night, my frustration and anger disappeared. I simply couldn't be angry or disappointed anymore. After years of watching Michigan, sometimes emotionlessly, drop close games, I've been programmed to go into a deep funk lasting several days. I'd watch Henne, Brady, Navarre, Henson, or whomever else slowly walk off the field unbuckling their chinstraps with their heads down or stare onto the field in a vacant trace with mouth wide open search for something to say. It was business. It was over. Onward to the next game, meeting, scrimmage, etc. It's over. Move forward.
This was something new to me. I saw a small glimpse of it last week when Tate Forcier threw what in hindsight was not a bad pass to a covered Marataveous Odoms. On the pattern, Odoms shirt was grabbed just as the ball left Forcier's hand, pulling him back and giving MSU's safety a slingshot towards the ball Odoms would normally have caught. When it was over and MSU hand come down with the ball, Tate lied there on the field turf, obviously upset with himself and distraught, until a hand from one of his linemen lifted him up. As if to say "Come on kid, we're with you."
But this week it truly set in. When Denard's final pass ended up in the wrong hands, though his eyes were obscured by the mask he wears everyday in practice and games, I knew they were filled with tears of regret and disappointment. Turning to his left, Robinson looked as though he was looking for a place to bury his head, to find a place for his own misery in that moment. This was new to me. This was not the vacant stare I remembered and the internalization of pain that I so often saw from Michigan's quarterbacks. Robinson was visibly crushed by his mistake. And as the freshman turned to either collapse or stumble off to the sideline, David Moosman was there to hold him up.
In that moment of disappointment, this Michigan team became something more than wins and losses.
Over the past several years Michigan has been a collection of superbly talented individuals that sometimes played as a team. Henne. Hart. Edwards. Manningham. Terrell. Harris. Woodley. All talented young men who stood out and above. This is not that generation of players. No one on this team can transcend the team itself. And no one seems to want to. For all the nonsense this team, coaching staff and individual players have dealt with this season and last, this is the closest I've ever seen a Michigan team. And no amount of second guessing is going to change that.
Look no further than Moosman. David Moosman's playing days at this level, possibly at the next, are numbered. He could have, should have, been mad, angry, or consumed by some emotion other than compassion. This was the second straight week that an interception had ended a Michigan comeback attempt. Michigan had outgained and largely outplayed Iowa to that point without Tate and Denard's turnovers Michigan likely would've emerged victorious. But there wasn't the slightest hint of that coming from Moosman. He picked his quarterback up just like a big brother aiding his younger. He was there for his teammate.
This team is fine. Please. Please. Please. Don't look for reasons to pick it apart. Like it or not this is part of the process. The growing pains we all knew would eventually come. Don't delude yourself into thinking otherwise.
Much has been made of Forcier's benching at the end of the fourth quarter. I'll say this right now: it was the right decision. Forcier was absolutely awful on Saturday night. If you believe he was going to win that game, you're fooling yourself. He wasn't. Hopeless 40 yard chuck after hopeless 40 yard chuck, it was obvious the kid was rattled and totally lost as to what he was supposed to be doing.
I'll say this too, it's natural. It's supposed to happen. No one becomes a savior overnight. Tim Tebow had his growing pains. Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy were both wallopped too. Look at Henne and Brady. These things happen when freshmen start ballgames at quarterback. Occasionally they melt down. This was one of those occasions. When I saw a clearly razed and befuddled Tate Forcier wander back to sidelines after throwing three straight WTF passes from his own endzone, I knew his night was over. Denard Robinson was the right call. He was accurate and athletic leading a critical drive in the final quarter, and frankly was a misread away from doing what Tate had done two games previously. Robinson has done it in high school. Robinson will do it in college. Saturday was simply not his time.
Several months ago, looking at the upcoming season, I wrote the following about the Iowa game:
A win at Michigan State (regardless of our record) and everyone on the Maize n Blue bandwagon will be going out of their mind. We'll overlook all kinds of problems and flaws, because we won, and because of that we'll now expect to beat anyone on our schedule. Conversely, a loss at Michigan State and everyone will expect this to be the big rebound game, despite the fact it's AT Iowa.
Folks, this team isn't there yet. They are not world beaters yet. The scalps on their belt are WMU, EMU, Indiana and a vastly overrated Notre Dame squad. This is not the finished product.
Give it time. When the growing pains subside, you'll understand that this is all part of the process.