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Published: Monday, 10/6/2003

Nothing special about Carr, UM this season

You can blame Lloyd Carr for knocking Michigan out of the national championship chase.

Carr, to his credit, didn't hide from the criticism. He took full responsibility after Michigan's 30-27 loss at Iowa on Saturday.

Carr, however, didn't need to speak to the obvious. He's the head coach. Most everyone will blame him, anyway.

And since the Wolverines came in ranked No. 9 in the nation, and were also three-point favorites, there is no rebuttal for playing so poorly in a must-win game.

To sum up Michigan's second loss of the season, the defense couldn't hold an early 14-point lead. Meanwhile, the offense managed only 74 yards rushing and couldn't finish what it started, bogging down at key points in the game.

Michigan's special-teams performance was a joke. To compensate for injuries, Carr unveiled a new punt-blocking formation with seven blockers on the line and three players protecting the punter, Garrett Rivas, who was punting for the first time this season.

The result: UM had one punt blocked, and another punt was nearly blocked. Iowa also had a 43-yard punt return.

Poor special-teams play also contributed to Michigan's loss at Oregon.

The Wolverines are losing games because they've been unable to grasp one of the most basic elements of football.

Finally, this loss wasn't about John Navarre, the most criticized quarterback in school history. Navarre threw for 389 yards and two touchdowns against Iowa, but he had one costly interception.

Nothing, however, suggested that Navarre was responsible for Michigan's special-teams mistakes, or the Wolverines' lack of focus in a game it couldn't afford to lose.

Besides, blaming Navarre, a fifth-year senior, is getting old.

Since Navarre has a track record of struggling in big games - he's now 0-6 against ranked teams on the road - Carr should have another quarterback on stand-by.

This is, after all, the University of Michigan.

We in the media have always given Carr plenty of leeway. Part of it is because he led Michigan to a national title in 1997.

Carr has lost two in a row against Ohio State, but his reputation is such that the media have looked the other way.

Michigan is now in the uncomfortable position of looking up to Ohio State, which has become the team to beat in the Big Ten.

Maybe now, the media will start to question why Michigan hasn't been able to mentally zero in on this season. The Wolverines fully expected to contend for the national championship.

What's become obvious is that Carr's football team is underachieving.

The Michigan team that embarrassed Notre Dame by 38 points last month is nowhere near the team that lost to Iowa by three points.

Michigan's cover was blown Saturday. Iowa upset the Wolverines a week after losing at Michigan State. Iowa was clearly beatable.

Losing to Iowa, after kicking one away at Oregon, is the new low point for Michigan in 2003.

Players win games. Coaches lose games.

Put this one, this season, on Carr.

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