Bad year gets worse as Michigan falls to Maryland
ANN ARBOR -- There have been a lot of bad moments for the Michigan football team this season.
Saturday might have had the worst.
Within seconds of Maryland scoring what turned out to be the winning touchdown in its 23-16 victory, one of the Wolverines' top recruits bailed on the program.
"I'm decommiting from the university of Michigan thank you Michigan for the love and support I'll remake my decision at the army bowl," tweeted Mike Weber, the four-star running back from Cass Tech.
The loss to the Terrapins means that Michigan needs to pull off a huge upset next weekend in Columbus just to make a bowl game, but Weber's defection could mean more in the long run.
Michigan has lost several recruits as this season has stumbled along, but they had been able to keep the local core intact, including Weber and Birmingham Brother Rice quarterback Alex Malzone.
Now, though, other schools will press Malzone and Saginaw's Brian Cole even harder to change their minds. Michigan is now down to just seven committments, including only five four-star players, and will have to fight in order to keep them.
That became even more obvious when a second recruit, four-star tight end Chris Clark, took to Twitter after the game:
"Man michigan has officially hit rock bottom," tweeted the Connecticut native.
Things aren't likely to get better, given the bleak short-term prospects for the program. If Michigan had been able to beat Maryland, they would have clinched a bowl bid -- probably the Pinstripe Bowl in New York City -- and would have at least had that to show recruits. Now, though, they will need a much-improved effort to avoid being routed in the season finale at Ohio State.
After that, the recruits will be faced with the uncertainty of who is going to coach the team next season. Interim AD Jim Hackett made it clear that he'll be the one making the final decision on Brady Hoke's future, but it is hard to imagine that he'd be asked back after a season that already includes lopsided losses to Michigan State and Notre Dame as well as defeats by the conference's newest teams, Maryland and Rutgers.
The worst part, both in the short term and the long term, was that Michigan had the game in their hands. They led 16-9 after three quarters, Devin Gardner was running the ball like the healthy playmaker from a year ago and the defense had shut Maryland down.
But there were still signs of the problems ahead. Dennis Norfleet's spectacular punt-return touchdown had been called back on an illegal block away from the play. Gardner was throwing some inaccurate passes and having too many good ones dropped by his receivers.
At the start of the fourth quarter, it looked like the Wolverines had forced Maryland to kick yet another field goal, one that would still leave Michigan with a 16-12 lead. Jourdan Lewis, though, was called for roughing the kicker, and the Terrapins tied the game on the next drive.
Michigan drove down the field, with Gardner and Drake Johnson gaining yards on the ground, but Matt Wile missed the tie-breaking field goal.
And then, finally, the defense ran out of gas. C.J. Brown completed a pair of big passes to get Maryland to the Michigan 3, and on second-and-goal, just as Mike Weber made his tweet, Wes Brown dove over for the go-ahead touchdown.
The Wolverines still had 5:59 to force overtime, but Devin Funchess, the player who started the season looking like the natural heir to the #1 jersey, dropped two key passes, the second on 4th-and-3, and Maryland ran out the clock on the game and probably on Michigan's season and Hoke's coaching career.
"In our locker room, there's a lot of disappointment," Hoke said. "There's also still a lot of pride."
At this point, pride probably isn't enough.