Michigan's season is fading fast

9/25/2005

MADISON, Wis. - The Michigan Wolverines didn't score enough points and couldn't stop Wisconsin's one-man offense last night in a heartbreaking 23-20 loss at Camp Randall Stadium.

It's not quite time to label 2005 a disappointment for 2-2 Michigan after only four games, but fair is fair, OK?

This is Michigan we're talking about. And with upcoming battles against Michigan State, Iowa and Ohio State looming, disappointment is a generous way to describe a season that is slipping away from the Wolverines.

Now it's time to question everything. Let the second-guessing begin.

Why did a Michigan team that seemed to be in control of its destiny through three quarters fall flat on its face in its Big Ten opener?

No. 13 Michigan waltzed into last night's contest having won 23 consecutive conference openers. Michigan was facing a Wisconsin squad that hadn't beaten the Wolverines since 1994.

It seemed like the perfect recipe for another Michigan win over Wisconsin.

Instead, it turned out to be the ingredients for Michigan's most distressing performance of the season.

"We had great field position in the first half and left some points on the board," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. "As we got into the second half, everything changed. We couldn't get a drive going."

How come Michigan's potentially explosive offense (401 total yards) was unable to generate more big plays like the 49-yard touchdown bomb from Chad Henne to freshman Mario Manningham on a flea-flicker that gave the Wolverines a brief 20-16 lead in the fourth quarter?

It all starts with Henne, the sophomore quarterback.

Henne was less than sharp, completing only 16 of 34 passes for 258 yards, including a fourth-quarter interception in Michigan territory.

UM dodged a bullet following Henne's interception. But Wisconsin capitalized on a fumble by UM running back Max Martin when Brian Calhoun scored on a six-yard run for a 16-13 Wisconsin lead.

Offensively, Michigan didn't play like a Top 20 team. Worse, when UM's defense needed to get the ball back for its struggling offense, it was powerless to stop one of the country's most lethal ground attacks.

Calhoun, a Wisconsin native who transferred from Colorado, ran over and around the Wolverines all night. He carried the ball 35 times for 155 yards and one score and he also caught seven passes for 59 yards.

"I gained a lot of respect for him," Carr said. "I liked him coming into the game, but he is one tough guy."

Imagine UM's surprise when Calhoun didn't get the ball at the end.

With every able-bodied UM defender concentrating on stopping Calhoun on Wisconsin's final drive, quarterback John Stocco bolted four yards up the middle for the winning score with 24 seconds to play.

Even when he didn't touch the ball, Calhoun was a Michigan killer.

The game ended badly for Michigan and especially for Henne, who slipped down for a 14-yard loss without being touched on the final play.

Henne sitting on the seat of his pants is symbolic of how 2005 is shaping up for UM.