The 20-ounce bottle of Diet Coke I purchased from the office vending machine didn’t arrive with two discounted tickets to the Michigan-Minnesota game on Saturday. Looks like I owe the vending machine a high-five. Watching the Wolverines’ confused offense sputter against a middle-of-the-road Big Ten foe is something that, frankly, nobody should be subjected to at this point. Judging by his team’s performance in a 30-14 loss, coach Brady Hoke may not be around to watch it much longer either.
Michigan turned in yet another listless effort at the Big House and surrendered the Little Brown Jug for only the fourth time since 1968. As a large, unhappy and shockingly quiet crowd looked on, the Wolverines fell behind an opponent they have historically dominated. The program’s 26-10 rain-delayed home loss to Utah last week was embarrassing, but understandable. Getting run off the field and looking unprepared against the Golden Gophers is unforgivable.
Hoke tried a new quarterback (redshirt freshman Shane Morris) in an attempt to awaken the offense from a season-long slump. It didn’t work. Morris struggled to complete passes, threw a pick-six and took several enormous licks -- he trotted back on the field despite looking wobbly and disoriented -- before Devin Gardner was eventually put in to replace him. The Wolverines’ attack was outgained 381-183. Their defense looked helpless as Minnesota fed running back David Cobb 32 times for 183 yards and appeared to concede on a series of misdirection plays.
In three losses this season, Michigan has turned the ball over a combined 10 times and hasn’t eclipsed 200 yards passing. The latter statistic is troubling since the Wolverines have shown that, even when trailing, they’re incapable of throwing downfield to spread out an opposing defense. That glaring deficiency was best exposed on Saturday as Michigan finished with a paltry 88 yards through the air. Not only does it struggle to move the ball when games are close; it is incapable of inflating its passing numbers when trying to catch up. In a conference full of trudging offenses, Michigan’s is one of the worst. So much for the high-profile acquisition of former Alabama coordinator Doug Nussmeier.
As Andy Staples identified in this week’s Walkthrough, Michigan was thinking about annual Big Ten championships and major bowl appearances after its Sugar Bowl victory in Hoke’s debut season in 2011. This Minnesota loss virtually guarantees Hoke will be out of a job soon. It’s already a lost season in Ann Arbor. The only question now is how long Hoke survives.