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The Rich Rodriguez Years at Michigan: Your Memories

Tough Times in AA

Ohio State v Michigan Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Back in 2010, I interviewed Coach Rod, as the players called him, in an exclusive OTE interview.

It was fantastically interesting for a host of different reasons:

  1. He was on different pages with the Administration, who had no concept how to manage RR or the chasm between the Pro-Rod and Pro-Carr forces.
  2. He loved Michigan deeply and was perturbed that his dream job was turning into a bit of a nightmare.
  3. He felt he was being treated unfairly by the Free Press and had no problem lashing out at them in private or semi-private settings.
  4. His knowledge of the Spread was encyclopedic.
  5. The players loved him too and as 2011 would show, he had built up some veteran talent at Michigan...he just never got to enjoy the fruits of his hard work.

The combo of Lloyd Carr’s lackadaisical last few years, Rich Rod’s defensive issues, and a whole host of recruiting busts led Michigan into some tough times. Tell us about your experiences with those Michigan teams, playing against Denard, the MSU success, maybe beating Michigan consistently for the first time in program history.

Candystripes: Indiana got robbed in 2009. Absolutely robbed. Simultaneous possession goes to the receiver, you moronic refs! And then 2010, where if anything Indiana was even closer to winning, until Shoelace found Junior Hemingway deep and our defender on the play falling all over himself trying to make the tackle and almost certainly getting injured doing so. We didn’t play Michigan again for the next three years, which was probably for the best.

Andrew Kraszewski: MSU students in body paint spelled out KEEP HOKE in the stands during his last matchup with the Spartans. That, in a nutshell, should tell you how this stretch of Wolverine mediocrity has been for the MSU cohort: splendid. Whether it was Brian Hoyer breaking Michigan’s hold on the series, letting the air out of Tate/Denard’s September Heisman campaign, piss-pounding poor damn Devin Gardner, or tearing Harbaugh’s still-beating heart from his chest on a punt block TD with the clock hitting zeroes, it has been delicious and I regret nothing except that one time we started Andrew Maxwell at QB.

LPW: I hate the fact that Brady Hoke is undefeated against Pat Fitzgerald. We were so damn close to beating his Wolverine teams a few times. MNW, we should tell the chaps at the Yacht club to send our butlers to Eugene, Oregon (Hoke is Oregon’s DC) and have him thrown in the Williamette River for that indignity. I laughed when RichRod was crying and singing that Josh Groban song at the Michigan team dinner. We haven’t defeated Michigan since 2008, and it’s going to get harder now that they have a more competent coach. A khaki-clad absolute lunatic.

GF3: Everyone is aware that the Rod Years were the Middle Renaissance of OSU’s ongoing period of clowning Michigan, so there isn’t much to add on that front. Denard Robinson was fun to watch play, and even more fun to beat. My personal highlight actually predates the Rod era, but came at the end of Lloyd’s death-vigil tenure came in 2007. At that time, I was an LNO to our brigade plans office for a short hitch. I shared a workspace with a guy I’d known for years, a former captain of the USMA swim team. He was a prince of a guy except for his avid Michigan fandom. I will never, ever forget the look of total defeat on his face when Appalachian State downed the Wolverines. It’s hard to realize how fully we can rely on sports to lift us up in moments of great stress and weighty responsibility. That loss crushed him, and his hope for an uplifting season flitted away. By the by, he became an experimental test pilot, only to be taken cruelly by a rare form of tracheal cancer. In retrospect, I wish Rich Rod had been coach. He might have won that game.

Al NamiasIV: Iowa is 6-4 against Michigan dating back to 2002. Admittedly these were not the glory years for the Wolverines, but there were some victories over some solid teams: 2011’s Sugar Bowl squad, 2002 and 2003 were both 10-win teams.

I will also note that I would wager that Rich Rod could have gotten that 2011 squad to 12-0. Also, it's a damn shame that some legitimate Michigan greats like Mike Hart, Denard and David Harris played for some lackluster teams. Finally, yes I believe it is no coincidence that MSU is having a golden era while Michigan has been fading. I'm really curious if both can maintain elite play at the same time.

Brian: I mentioned that of all the Michigan-related "could-have-beens," Drew Henson tops the charts for me. Well, a close second would probably be, what if Kirk Herbstreit hadn't leaked the news on College Football Gameday and what if Bill Martin hadn't forgotten he was the Athletic Director of one of the nation's largest athletic departments and didn't turn off his cell phone and gone sailing for the weekend and what if Les Miles had succeeded Lloyd Carr at Michigan? This isn't to say that the Mad Hatter would have run off a decade's worth of ten-win seasons, or that Michigan isn't in good hands with Jim Harbaugh, but Miles would have been an immediate upgrade over Carr and his hiring would have spared Michigan fans the regrettable Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke eras. The tough times have been well documented, so no need to get into any of that here. Just another "what if" to spend sleepless nights pondering.

Having said that, I like Rich Rod, and have always struggled understanding why he got so little support internally. I also wonder if things might have worked out any differently had he brought Jeff Casteel with him to Ann Arbor.

MNW: I really, really, really don’t want to think about it. Besides the Snow Bowl in 2008 (a 21-14 victory for the ‘Cats), Northwestern has been positively inept against the worst decade of Michigan football in...well, a long time.

We all already know that Pat Fitzgerald was 0-4 against Brady Hoke, and quite frankly it’s 9:50 in the morning and I have a beer open but really don’t need to switch to hard liquor just yet.

Well, screw it, we’re picking this scab anyways. Let’s recap:

  • 2011: I’m being quite honest when I say that I have no recollection of this game. Don’t remember a goddamn thing about it. Michigan was still good, Hoke still had Rodriguez’s players, and it was a pretty solid pasting. It was definitely the first instance of Michigan realizing playing “500” against Northwestern’s then-inept secondary would work, though.
  • 2012: I was in Eau Claire this weekend and watched most of it on TV at Dooley’s, leaving because the girlfriend haaaad to leave to go to work as the ‘Cats led by 3 with little time to play. I pull out my phone to learn that Michigan completed a 53-yard Hail Mary to Roy Roundtree to the 2, kicked the FG, and won in OT. Once again, “500” pays off.
  • 2013: This game sucked. It just fucking sucked. 9-6 in regulation, awful game, no offense to speak of, and then the refs decide they just forget what a false fucking start is. Drew Dileo makes heroic slide into holding position, probably winks and impregnates 10 Northwestern co-eds as he holds the tying kick, Michigan wins in 15 OTs or whatever the fuck it was, 27-19.
  • 2014: M00N. ‘Nuff said. Nah, here’s a .gif of Trevor Siemian falling down while going for the game-winning 2-pt conversion on the same 2-pt conversion play Pat Fitzgerald still calls:

Alright, off to drink myself to death. Y’all have a pleasant Tuesday.

Townie: 2008 to 2013 we ripped off four straight wins against Michigan. Man, was that ever fun.

That last win in 2013 was my oldest daughter’s first ever college football game. She was 8 years old. It was the triple overtime win, showcasing the incredible talent of Allen Robinson. She made it through regulation and my mom took her home just before the first overtime.

She stood on the deck of my parents home in her pajamas and listened as the whole town erupted when Bill Belton broke free and rambled over the left side to seal the victory.

Thanks Michigan...she’s a huge fan now. That was a pretty special experience. Here’s the catch for your viewing pleasure:

babaoreally: 2008, Rich Rod’s first year, 2-6 UM at 2-6 Purdue. After QB injuries took out Curtis Painter and Joey Elliot in previous weeks, Justin Siller made his first start and beat Michigan on a hook and ladder play in the final minute. 2008 was not a good season, but that game was spectacular. And two years later, Elliot led the Boilers to a win in the Big House. I miss Rich Rod.

Stew: The RichRod era was a lot of fun. The games were generally high scoring, wild affairs that ended in Michigan losing. Great times. As for the games I remember from the era, it was generally the dismantling of whoever was the starting QB, at the time. First it was in 2009 when Iowa knocked the Tater out of the game in the 4th quarter. Denard promptly brought the Wolverines back into the game, only to throw an interception to seal the victory for Iowa. Then in 2010, the roles were reversed. Iowa knocked Denard out of the game, only to have the Tater attempt a furious comeback in the 4th quarter. Still, that came up short, too.

Thumpasaurus: After losing to an inferior Michigan team in 2007, Juice Williams went to the Big House and set all kinds of offensive records in a 45-20 rout. I am convinced that Denard Robinson’s main purpose at Michigan was to pad his stats against non-con opponents so they could take back those records from Juice.

2009 is the most crushed I’ve ever been by Illinois football. Preseason dark horse Big Ten title considerations gave way to a 1-6 start, and early on Halloween, Roy Roundtree got free over the middle at his own 30 or so for what would be the go-ahead score. BUT WAIT. Freshman corner Terry Hawthorne chased down Roundtree at the 1 yard line. It was a great effort, even if it would ultimately be futile. OR WOULD IT? I had seats near that goal line in the East Main section and I snuck down to the first row to watch a 4-down goal line stand from the 1 yard line. The Illini took over on downs and began to feed Mikel Leshoure, who would run all over the Wolverines en route to a 38-13 blowout that was a brief rain on the dried-up, wilted cornfield that was Illinois Football 2009.

I don’t know what happened in 2010. Someone told me Tate Forcier led a comeback to force overtime, but that just sounds almost as ridiculous as the reported 67-65 score. Maybe the game got cancelled.

Aaron Yorke: I was at the game in 2008 when a really good Penn State team had a chance to break its losing streak against Michigan. It didn’t really matter that this particular Michigan team was very bad and alternating between Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan at quarterback; the crowd was psyched to see the Lions lay a beatdown on the team that had tormented them since 1997. But that desired result almost never came to fruition. Rodriguez’s Wolverines controlled the clock and took a 17-14 lead into halftime, but a sack in the end zone by Jared Odrick late in the third quarter helped spark a 32-point run for Penn State that ended the game in proper blowout fashion.

Like Townie said, the Lions went on to win their next three games against Michigan as well. Only the 2010 game was started by Denard Robinson, and he put on a show at Beaver Stadium, rushing for 191 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries while also passing for a touchdown. Fortunately, the Wolverines were unable to slow down Robinson’s counterpart Matt McGloin. The scrappy Scranton product threw for 250 yards and a touchdown on just 28 passes while tailback Evan Royster rushed for 150 yards and a pair of scores in the 41-31 PSU victory.