It's no guts, no glory for Blue

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The Kickoff

September 10, 2007|By DREW SHARP | DREW SHARP,DETROIT FREE PRESS

Michigan flunked its character test. Where was the anger after its season-opening national humiliation? Where was the resolve?

Instead, the Wolverines resembled a team Saturday that already had accepted its fate, surrendering the season after just two weeks with barely a whimper. There was little emotion - and even less execution on both sides of the ball. The Wolverines looked like a team that already knows its beloved coach isn't coming back after this season. They played like a team still burdened from the immense weight of a historic embarrassment just seven days prior.

Michigan quit.

As I watched from Oakland, Calif., where another underachieving team in this state - the Lions - played yesterday, I saw Oregon didn't just beat the Wolverines. It gutted them like a fish. It cut through them looking for the heart that Michigan vowed would save them after Appalachian State, but all it discovered was an empty shell.

The Ducks beat a lame duck.

How obvious can it be to even the most stubborn Blue apologist that Lloyd Carr and his staff have lost this team?

He should have offered his resignation to athletic director Bill Martin afterward, accelerating his retirement exit strategy a little earlier than initially orchestrated. As shocking as Appalachian State was to the system, the Wolverines' timid response against the Ducks was perhaps a more damning statement of where the Michigan program sits right now.

Nobody fears coming to Michigan Stadium any longer.

There was once an intimidation factor when a visitor stepped out of the tunnel and into a sea of 100,000-plus detractors. But opposing teams no longer fear coming to town.

This isn't a new revelation. The criticisms bear a familiar tone, but if the Wolverines are tired of people kicking a dead horse, then perhaps they shouldn't offer a fresh carcass every week.

This is a soft team. Perhaps there is a leadership void inside that locker room that blindsided the coaching staff, but preparation remains the coaches' primary responsibility and, for the second straight week, Carr and his staff failed miserably.

This is how you respond when your character and pride are challenged? This is how you respond when you're the subject of national ridicule?

The 32-point margin of defeat was the worst for a Michigan team since Ohio State bludgeoned the Blue, 50-14, in Bump Elliott's final game in Ann Arbor in 1968. Bo Schembechler was brought in afterward.

It has been nearly 50 years since the last time Michigan lost its first two home games of the season. It has been 40 years since the last time Michigan has lost four consecutive games.

Carr stood defiant Saturday, saying that nothing would ever keep him down - even the prospect of losing his job. But when he categorized his team's predicament with an "it is what it is" dismissal, that's tantamount to admitting that what's happening is beyond his control. And that's a concession.

His future now becomes an unavoidable distraction to his players and his assistants. The story won't go away because, even if all agree that Michigan was overrated, nobody expected them to get exposed to this degree in the season's first two games.

Drew Sharp writes for the Detroit Free Press.

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