Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Forcier To Be Reckoned With

Michigan did not stop Notre Dame on Saturday. Far from it. The Fighting Irish shredded the Michigan defense to ribbons for over 490 yards of total offense in Ann Arbor. Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen throttled the Wolverines young secondary for 336 yards, 3 TDs and no interceptions. He was not sacked once during the entire game. Meanwhile, Fighting Irish tailback Armando Allen rushed for a jaw-dropping 139 yards, 6.6 yards per carry and 1 TD.

But this was only half the story.

Prior to kickoff one of the fired up Notre Dame defensive players apparently told ESPN's Holly Rowe that "if they (Michigan) play a freshman quarterback, then that is just stupid!"

Well, unnamed Notre Dame defender, you see, Michigan doesn't really have a choice this fall. It's called "play a freshman quarterback (Tate Forcier or Denard Robinson) or be destroyed".

Despite such high risk of destruction on the gridiron, Michigan, a 3-9 football team only a year ago, has two freshmen playing at quarterback and plenty of youth on defense. Not Rich Rodriguez's first choice. Deal.

Indeed Jimmy Clausen had his way with the Wolverine secondary all afternoon, and the Fighting Irish were able to run the ball almost at will on the aggressive Michigan front line.

But what on earth could offset this assault by the Fighting Irish?

Enter freshman quarterback Tate Forcier. The youngster from Scripps Ranch, California, all 6 feet 190 lbs of him, threw for 240 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception. Forcier also rushed for 70 yards and 1 touchdown. But the most impressive thing about young Forcier, aside from the stats, was that he was able to compartmentalize previous game errors and lead the team to victory by making big plays when they were needed most.

With Michigan down 31-34 with only 30 seconds to play in the game, Forcier scrambled on a roll out and connected to spectactularly-named senior wide receiver Laterryal Savoy for an 18 year connection to give the Wolverines a 1st and goal. Two plays later Forcier scrambled again, this time hitting Greg Mathews in the end zone for the game winner. Michigan 38, Notre Dame 34.

Forcier repeatedly states to the media that he never gets nervous. This claim appears to be supported by one other compelling statistic: 70%. In one of Michigan's biggest rivalry games of the year, in front of a record crowd and national television audience, Forcier connected on 70% of his passes against the Irish Saturday afternoon, compared to Clausen's 60% from the field.

That's sick. That's crazy. But it most definitely is not "stupid".

For Rich Rodriguez beating 18th-ranked Notre Dame on national television is without question the first major win of his young career at Michigan.

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