Salvation: How RichRod became a Michigan Man Part I: Roundtree outruns the avalanche
October 31, 2009
Memorial Stadium, Champaign
The Michigan Wolverines were in the midst of a tough game against the Illini of Illinois. The Wolverines were 5-3 at the start of play and were needing one win to be bowl eligible despite some tough losses at Iowa and to Michigan State. 2nd year coach Rich Rodriguez has been under fire from the alums and from the NCAA because of his subpar record so far and allegations that he exceeded limits on mandatory hours and was facing an NCAA investigation. Despite this, his team was playing well for the most part, and a nice win would mean his team would be going to a bowl game and that might by him some time to save himself and his team. Tate Forcier had shown flashes of greatness, but was either hit or miss and looked like a promising future for Michigan if he could play well. Illinois was in the midst of a tough season and was 1-5. Michigan had jumped out in front early, but Illinois had cut the lead to 13-7 at the halftime
Third and 7 in the 3rd Quarter
Forcier recives the snap and takes a three step drop. He is calm and confident, which is either a good thing or a bad thing. Out of the corner of his eye he sees Roy Roundtree and fires. The ball is on target and Roundtree is in full stride, just as Rodriguez and his staff drew it up. Roundtree cuts to the middle and he is off to the races and he can run. The Michigan sideline eurpts knowing it is going to be a huge play and it could be a dagger. On the Illini side there is a look of horror. They sense the knockout punch may be happening right now and there could be no way to come back. Ron Zook was wondering if Juice Williams should be benched in favor of his young freshman quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase and he figured that it would have to happen in order to give his team a chance. Roundtree kept running and most of the Illini defenders had given up because it looked like nobody had a shot to get him. But Terry Hawthorne wasn't. As any player would, he was running after Roundtree because he wanted to play hard and figured that there was a chance. At the 5, they were even and Hawthorne reached out to try and strip the ball. But he tripped and Roundtree looked back and then hustled the rest of the way in.
Touchdown, Michigan. They had a 20-7 lead and looked like they were going to have an excellent chance to go to a bowl game. Rodriguez was looking like a happy man on the sideline. He then thought that this team could get it done and land the knockout punch that was needed and that the process was working out. The offense came back to the sidelines and Forcier was pumped. He gave Roundtree a chest bump and said "That's how we do it baby! Nice route and way to execute." Roundtree looked back and said "Nice throw Tate. You really put it on the money and had the vision to see me." Rod Smith came over and then said "Tate that was just like what we practiced and your footwork was nice. If you keep doing it all day long, we have a chance." Rodriguez then smiled and said "all right defense lets do it right now. No more points and we will win this game."
Ron Zook had no reason to be happy. His team had just stood and watched while Michigan had made them look bad. He was screaming at his defense "C'mon we have to do better! Don't stand and watch! React dammit!" Hawthorne came off looking mad. He knew that he had played very hard to have a chance to get Roundtree and he didn't. He sat down on the bench and resolved that he would get a chance next time and would make them pay. Zook huddled with his assistants and said, "We need to make a change. Juice has not shown us anything and we need to see if the freshman can give us something." The offensive coordinator looks at Zook and asks "are you crazy? Scheelhaase is the future and why strip him of his redshirt!?" Zook then glares at him and says "we need to see if the kid has anything."
The Detroit Free Press had been a critic of Rodriguez and his team, because they were the ones who had published the article alleging the violation of practice limits. Some said that they had an agenda against Rodriguez. But Michael Rosenburg and Drew Synder were standing by their story and would not back down from it. But today it looked like they were the ones who had been surprised. Rosenburg was writing his notes for his piece in the next day's paper when Roundtree scored. He was shaking his head and turned to Snyder and said, "Maybe Rodriguez is not the wrong choice. Maybe this team doesn't need to break rules." Snyder then said, "you know what Mike? Maybe you are right, but he still broke the rules and we were able to trick those freshmen into telling us the dirt. I stand by the story unless proven wrong."
Brian Barnhart couldn't believe his eyes after the kickoff as he told his listeners "And Scheelhaase is coming on in place of Juice Williams. Kurt, I can't understand this move down only 13." His partner Kurt Kittner said, "You might as well try it. Williams hasn't given a whole lot and a QB change here could work because our season and pride is on the line." Barnhart then said "well I guess we'll see how Nate does here."
But the quarterback change would not be much help on this day. Scheelhaase was able to move the ball somewhat, but could only add 10 points in mostly garbage time. Forcier added another run of his own and Denard Robinson was able to take a reverse in to make the final 34-13. Illinois had another season go down the drain by the looks of it, and Michigan had a big win on the road.
Visitors Locker Room
Rodriguez was jubilant in the locker room and then said "This team has been questioned to no end and we have been called names. But what can they say now? Nothing, because the record speaks for itself. And let's make sure we have a good week in practice men and then beat Purdue and go to a better place!" The players were excited beyond belief and knew that they could just play now.
So the Point of Divergence from reality is that Roy Roundtree scores instead of fumbling. Scheelhaase has no more redshirt left and Michigan is bowling. But will it be enough to save Rodriguez? Or will something else happen?