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Rich Rodriguez Must Correct Mistakes Hampering Michigan Wolverines

Michigan's offense looked unstoppable the first five weeks of the season, but turnovers and a lack of discipline have the Wolverines tumbling toward another late season slide.

Michigan outgained Iowa by 139 yards on Saturday. They once again put up over 500 yards of total offense.

That should have been plenty to win the game. It wasn't.

For the second consecutive week, Michigan is looking at another notch in the loss column after letting a winnable game slip out of their hands due to stupid mistakes. This time, the Hawkeyes took advantage of four Wolverine turnovers to escape with a 38-28 victory in Ann Arbor on Saturday.

Escape might seem like a harsh term for Iowa fans considering the Hawkeyes led 35-14 at one point. But the game was much closer than the score indicated, with Michigan turning the ball over four times and committing 66 yards worth of penalties to dig itself a hole it couldn't climb out of.

Sound familiar? Last week against Michigan State, Denard Robinson threw three costly interceptions that allowed the Spartans to down the Wolverines for the third straight year.

In the fourth quarter of the Iowa game, as Michigan was trying to rally, kicker Seth Broekhuizen committed the two costliest penalties of the game. Broekhuizen booted two kickoffs out of bounds -- both after Michigan touchdowns -- that gave the Hawkeyes prime field position at the 40-yard line. Both times Iowa turned the mistake into points.

Then there were the turnovers. Michigan coughed up the ball four times, and all four were avoidable. 

Facing a third and ten to start the second quarter near midfield, Robinson was unable to find anybody open and heaved an ill-advised throw into triple coverage. It was easily picked off and returned by Iowa's Tyler Sash to midfield. Four plays later, Ricky Stanzi hit Derrell Johnson-Koulianos on a 31-yard touchdown to go ahead 14-7. Iowa never relinquished the lead.

But perhaps the most gut-wrenching turnover didn't even result in points for the Hawkeyes.

With Michigan down 21-7 in the third quarter, Vincent Smith fumbled at the Iowa 15 after being hit hard at the line of scrimmage by Karl Klug. The Hawkeyes didn't score, but when you're trying to come back from a 14-point deficit, fumbling in the red zone is not the best idea.

When Robinson went out with an injury in the third quarter, backup Tate Forcier came in to try and lead the surge. Forcier led Michigan to three touchdown drives, but he also threw two interceptions that stalled potential scoring drives. Both came when Forcier was scrambling from pressure; both times he probably should have just chucked it out of bounds.

These mistakes were not only unnecessary, but they were avoidable. Some of that falls on the players; the three interceptions were just bad decisions by Michigan quarterbacks.

But the Wolverines are also lacking discipline and fundamentals in key situations. That falls on the coaches. Case in point: Michigan had a chance to stop Iowa on third and long twice with under seven minutes to play, but poor tackling allowed the Hawkeyes to convert both times and chew up the clock. The drive resulted in a field goal that essentially put the game out of reach.

It's true the defense is young and inexperienced. They're going to give up their share of big plays. But they are being put at a severe disadvantage before the game even starts by not knowing the most fundamental part of defense, which is tackling. A defense that can't tackle is a defense that's not going to stop a lot of people.

With a 5-2 record, the season is certainly not over. The next three games against Penn State, Illinois and Purdue seem winnable. They're only going to be winnable, though, if Michigan doesn't constantly shoot itself in the foot like it has the past two weeks. 

Michigan is obviously not the best team in the Big Ten right now. But if they make an effort to be the most disciplined team in the Big Ten, it will go a long way toward achieving that goal.