Wolverines fall to another Big Ten newcomer
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) If Michigan's dismal season ends without a bowl, the Wolverines can blame the Big Ten's two newest members.
Maryland and Rutgers, whose presence in the league still baffles some traditionalists, both beat Michigan this year. The Terrapins went to Ann Arbor and beat the Wolverines 23-16 on Saturday, leaving Michigan still a win short of postseason eligibility.
''Everyone is frustrated. We're not playing as well as we should. I wish I had the answers,'' offensive lineman Jack Miller said. ''This team won't quit, and we're going to go back to work (Sunday) and get ready to try and beat Ohio State.''
The Wolverines (5-6, 3-4 Big Ten) will need a monumental upset next weekend against the Buckeyes to become bowl eligible. As badly as this season has gone, Michigan would already be at six wins if it had beaten Rutgers or Maryland, but the Wolverines lost on the road against the Scarlet Knights and at home against the Terps.
So Michigan appears unlikely to reach the postseason, while Rutgers and Maryland are already eligible. In fact, the Big Ten has nine teams that are bowl eligible, with next weekend's Northwestern-Illinois winner set to join that group.
Saturday's victory was a memorable one for Maryland, which also won at Penn State earlier this season. The Terrapins (7-4, 4-3) are now guaranteed at least a .500 record in conference play.
''When we don't turn the ball over and we play good defense we can win a lot of games,'' coach Randy Edsall said.
The Terps take on Rutgers next weekend to end the regular season.
Before Saturday's game, Michigan interim athletic director Jim Hackett spoke to reporters extensively for the first time since taking over at the beginning of the month. Hackett replaced Dave Brandon, whose resignation was part of a tumultuous football season at the school.
Hackett says he'll evaluate the football program at the end of the season, although he wouldn't specify if that meant the end of the regular season or after a potential bowl.
The distinction will be moot if Michigan can't beat Ohio State. The Wolverines have won only once in their last 10 meetings with their biggest rivals.
''It's the biggest rivalry in all of sports,'' linebacker Joe Bolden said. ''Obviously it's a meaningful game. You can throw out the records, you can throw out what the point difference is - it's a football game. It's played like every other football game, and at the end of the day you're going to see who is better.''
The Wolverines did make it through their home schedule with their attendance streak intact. The announced crowd of 101,717 on Saturday was Michigan's 258th consecutive game at the Big House with at least 100,000 fans, although it was also the smallest home crowd since 1995, when the capacity of the stadium was lower by several thousand.
The spectators who braved the chilly November weather watched a team that moved the ball well at times, but ultimately made too many mistakes to win. A penalty wiped out Dennis Norfleet's punt return for a touchdown. A call of roughing the kicker helped Maryland turn a field goal attempt into a touchdown.
The Wolverines looked disorganized when they called two timeouts in the second half before the final minutes. Then they couldn't get the ball back when they needed it late.
''We had some mistakes in the kicking game that obviously hurt us as a football team, and some of those are very aggressive mistakes,'' Hoke said. ''You appreciate that kind of effort and that kind of aggression, but at the same point we've got to be a little smarter if that's the right word.''