Rodriguez-led Wolverines had a good week – finally

Rich Rodriguez and the Michigan Wolverines had a good week.

Finally.

It’s hard to settle on the best news for Rodriguez and his

team.

The embattled coach and college football’s winningest program

escaped severe NCAA punishment, beat Illinois 67-65 in a

triple-overtime thriller and finally became bowl-eligible in his

third topsy-turvy season.

”I’m really proud of the players handled everything,”

Rodriguez said. ”They’ve kept a laser focus with all the outside

drama.”

As soon as Rodriguez left his news conference, he was greeted by

bowl representatives from the Capital One and Little Caesars Pizza

Bowl.

If the Wolverines (6-3, 2-3) lose Saturday at Purdue (4-5, 2-3),

next week against Wisconsin and on the road against rival Ohio

State, they might have to settle for a bowl in Detroit. If Michigan

can win at least another game, it will likely earn a trip to a

warmer climate.

”We’ve talked about it and thought about it,” Rodriguez said.

”You’ve got to get to six to be bowl-eligible, then every win

after that elevates your bowl status.”

Rodriguez and Michigan’s football program won’t be able to shake

the stigma of major NCAA violations. But athletic director Dave

Brandon said the governing body vindicated the coach to a degree

with its decision to not harshly penalize Rodriguez or the school

for rules regarding practice and training.

”The situation is over,” Brandon said.

The Fighting Illini (5-4, 3-3) will have three chances to become

bowl eligible – hosting last-place Minnesota on Saturday, playing

at Northwestern next week and Dec. 4 at Fresno State – after a

heartbreaking setback at the Big House.

”It’s tough, I feel bad for the kids,” coach Ron Zook said.

”They had a great plan on offense and we couldn’t slow them down.

Our team did the same thing. We had a great plan and their defense

couldn’t slow us down.”

Illinois knocked Denard Robinson out of the game in the third

quarter – after he threw for a career-high 305 yards, three

touchdowns and an interception – with concussion-like symptoms.

Robinson’s status for this week’s game against the Boilermakers

in a matchup of seventh-place teams is in doubt.

”I’m not a doctor, so I don’t know,” Rodriguez said.