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Posted on Sun, Jun 10, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Michigan football coach Brady Hoke guarding against a sophomore slump

By Kyle Meinke

The Michigan football team played two games last year on a truly national stage, and won both of them in improbable fashion.

The Wolverines beat Notre Dame in Week 2 after staging a 17-point fourth-quarter comeback, aided by a series of fortunate twists that included quarterback Denard Robinson scooping up a fumble at the goal line for a touchdown and the Irish losing receiver Jeremy Gallon on a 64-yard pass with 23 seconds left. Michigan won on the next play.

In the season finale against Virginia Tech, the Wolverines' offense was doubled up by the Hokies. Robinson finished with a career-worst 13 yards rushing. No receiver caught more than two passes, no rusher gained more than 30 yards.

And yet, Michigan emerged as Sugar Bowl champions in overtime due to another series of fortunate plays.

The 11-win season was a tremendous accomplishment for a program that had been mired in mediocrity and controversy for three years. But it also has raised expectations, and raised them for a season in which Michigan faces one of the nation's most difficult schedules.

That could be a recipe for a letdown. Is second-year coach Brady Hoke concerned about a sophomore slump?

You betcha.


Michigan football coach Brady Hoke said the second year at a program can be the toughest. His second team at Ball State went 4-8 and his second San Diego State team went 9-4.

Angela J. Cesere |

"I think the hardest year, in doing this at two other schools, is usually the second year," he said last week.

Hoke would know. He languished through a trying sophomore season during his first head coaching stint at Ball State.

The Cardinals went 6-6 in his debut season, and started 4-4 the following year. But things quickly fell apart and Ball State lost its final four games, including a 38-14 blowout against a 3-9 Eastern Michigan team.

Hoke was so distressed by the situation, he had a sports psychologist to work with the team. But he also learned from the experience, and it helped him when he took over San Diego State in 2009.

The Aztecs went 4-8 in Hoke's first season, then flourished during a 9-4 year in 2010. That remains the program's winningest season since 1977.

The biggest lesson Hoke seems to have taken from those experiences: Leadership helps avoid letdowns, and leadership starts with the seniors.

That philosophy has since become part of the basic fabric of Hoke's coaching style.

"It was a group of seniors who really got the message and the impact," he said of the Aztecs. "May have taken a little longer, little more hesitation the first year. Just like the seniors on last year's (Michigan) team, we had some games on both sides that could have gone either way. I mean, that's football, though. That's athletics and competition.

"But I think that part of it helped us. The fifth-year seniors this past year, and at San Diego, the second year with those seniors."

Michigan had strong senior leadership last year with captains Mike Martin, David Molk and Kevin Koger, as well as pseudo-captain Ryan Van Bergen. They each were vocal leaders, which helped set the tone for the season and keep the team on course after losses to Michigan State and Iowa.

Next year's seniors could have a different style. Robinson and safety Jordan Kovacs are multiple-year starters who likely will be counted upon to set the tone, but neither is outspoken by nature.

Defensive lineman Will Campbell is expected to lead, but never has been a consistent producer on the field. Receiver Roy Roundtree is another captain candidate, but is coming off a disappointing season.

Those players will try to find their voices as Michigan not only seeks to match last season's laurels, but exceed them.

“We had a good season a year ago, we didn’t have a great season,” Hoke said. “If you have a great season, you win a Big Ten Conference championship, which is the goal every year. As a team, we embrace the expectations we have yearly, and that’s to win a championship.”

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.



Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 4:34 p.m.

shouldn't rightmind be on here saying something biased and idiotic? either way, i don't think we'll have a true slump because this should be a better team all around than it was last year, however, i would be very surprised to see match our win total. i would be happy with an 9-10 win season (including a bowl game) and wins over osu and msu to put us in the B1G championship discussion

Eric Douglas

Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 3:34 p.m.

Sophmore slump? Try Freshman scheduling miracle. 1 tough road game in 2011 (L at MSU) and no Wisconsin, versus 4 tough road games in 2012. Call it a slump if you want, but Hoke and UM really lucked out with last year's schedule.


Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 4:59 p.m.

that schedule wasn't was planned! heck, they're scared to play poor little UConn away...


Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 4:25 a.m.

In the season finale against Virginia Tech, the Wolverines' offense was doubled up by the Hokies. Robinson finished with a career-worst 13 yards rushing. No receiver caught more than two passes, no rusher gained more than 30 yards. One of the reasons that there is NO THREAT! The UM offense was TERRIBLE against the mediocre Hokies! HINT: The Alabama defense gave up 8 points per game last year. If you couldn't move the ball against a mediocre ACC defense go luck against the SEC's best (Bama) and the Big 10's best (Michigan State)! It will be HILARIOUS to watch "your" team crumble in 2012! No threat!


Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 9 p.m.

sec fan. . . i never said MICHIGAN'S game plan was to hope bama messed up, your word's not mine. nobody really expected south carolina and auburn to beat bama. i watced the bama-auburn game and it was a great game and when bama was up by 24-0 i never expected auburn to come back and win, bama was just to good. that was my point, college football in my opinion is the best sport out there and the fact that any team can beat any other team on any given day proves that. injuries and mistakes in a game almost ALWAY'S play into every game know matter who you play and can be the deciding reason if you WIN or you lose (you can call it luck if you want). EVERY fan for EVERY team has excuses for why there team lost, some good excuses and some not, so don't put that just on MICHIGAN. if we WIN we will be giant killers (just like sc and auburn were), if we lose and it is close it's still a WIN for MICHIGAN. if we get blown out "which i don't think will happen" it will hurt a lot more then if the game were close and we lost. . . GO BLUE!!!!!!


Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 7:09 p.m.

@umgoblue47, So, if I understand you correctly, Michigan's game plan is to hope 'Bama messes up? :-) And yes sir, if Bama loses, I'll be here giving shout outs. I commended State for beating Georgia...Conversely, though, I hope that I don't have to listen to the litany of typical Michigan excuses if 'Bama wins.


Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 6:57 p.m.

sec fan. . . i can see the love you have for sparty! bama will be a very tough game for MICHIGAN, no question and the deck is stacked against us. but stranger thing's in college football have also happened, like bama's 2010 losses to south carolina (35-21) and auburn (28-27), a game bama lead 24-0 at one point. injuries and mistakes can be a killer for any team no matter how good a team is. if we do lose i don't think MICHIGAN will get beat as bad as your lover sparty did. . . and if we do WIN will you be on here showing MICHIGAN some love? GO BLUE!!!!!!


Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 4:56 p.m.

@umgoblue47, yeah, and I expect come September we'll have an equally lopsided scrimmage :-)


Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 2:26 p.m.

tom you have a very short memory! michigan state rolled by alabama in biggest capital one bowl blowout in history, 49-7!! NOW THAT IS HILARIOUS!! GO BLUE!!!!!!


Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 4:49 a.m.

Hey Tom, here's a stat for you: Michigan 23 Virginia Tech 20. That's the only stat that will ever matter, unlike the ones that you post on every single Michigan article to try and make yourself feel important.


Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 1:11 a.m.

Someone is finally saying it beside me...there unfortunatly will be a senior slump...There are games Michigan was dominated against last year, yet they came out with a Win. The sole reason for those struggles were due to offense. An offense Mr Al Borges stubbornly and foolishly forced down the throught of an offense ill-equipted to flourish in it.r


Tue, Jun 12, 2012 : 3:14 a.m.

Terry its funny that you cannot understand the concept that in football your offense is not on the field at the same time as your defense. We can have the great d that we are going to have AAAAnnnnddd... At the same time we can run some form of creative offense instead of playing one that is afraid to lose a game.

Terry Star21

Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 3:45 a.m.

Sounds like the 'Theo Offense Theory'.....all offensive and no defense, could wait, we tried


Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 1:13 a.m.

correction *sophomore


Sun, Jun 10, 2012 : 9:49 p.m.

Coach Hoke is on top of the situation. He knows that there will be a fan expectation of matching last year's 11 and 2 record. He also has his own goals or team goals of winning the B1G. That sums it up. One key to the success of this team will be to avoid injuries during the season to any of the first stringers on the depth chart. The last point is that this team will play 6 games away from the Big House. Real contenders will be able to win those games on the road. All we can do is hope with some confidence that the 2012 Wolverine team can pull it off.


Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 4:23 a.m.

"Our" fans, Terry? LOL! Where's the threat?

Terry Star21

Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 12:45 a.m.

That's right. And the great thing is,our fans (though always high expectations) will give him space. You won't see the pressures that maybe existed a few years ago, only dedicated support.

Terry Star21

Sun, Jun 10, 2012 : 8:46 p.m.

Sophomore jinx - hello, this is not Ball State or San Diego; 'This is Michigan for God's sake". There will be trying times of course, but this team will pull through in fine fashion - as they have for 132 years. Michigan did not invent the game, which will probably surprise 85% of America, but they did perfect it and lead the way, showing other schools how to do it - but Michigan kept winning, where others fail at times. One thing is clear, Michigan football will give us the greatest show on earth this fall and we should be very happy as always to be a Michigan Football Faithful - it's a great time, it's our time. It's the story that makes 86.4% of America happy, 13.5% unhappy with silence and a whopping 0.1% to come here to our site and show us their fear, frustration and intelligence level. MgoBlueForTiM....foes won't want to mess with this sophomore.


Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 4:52 p.m.

Only peeps surprised about the origins of football are Michiganians and ya'll are far far far from having perfected the game. ...and that 86.4% made up number...I assume your poll was taken in Ann Arbor....

Terry Star21

Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 2:31 a.m.

Yep, saw that one coming....change to 0.2% and


Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 1:20 a.m.

oh Terry, why ? what has anything you have just wrote got to do with this coming football season ? Sometimes I feel as if I have to teach most of you on the site here about the inner workings of the Michigan Football Program. Again my knowledge and my inside information leaves me with an understanding known of you will ever be able to attain. This year Michigan will lose 5 games. And Al Borges will be called out by many more in addition to me.

Scott Laux

Sun, Jun 10, 2012 : 3:07 p.m.

Isn't that RR in the photo?

Howard the Duck

Sun, Jun 10, 2012 : 3:04 p.m.

Lucky wins will not materialize this year. Expect a 6-6 season and the Little Ceasars Pizza Bowl!

Lifetime AA ND Fan

Tue, Jun 26, 2012 : 8:18 a.m.

@Hailmary... we did until 1993. I'd like to get it back, and sometime soon!


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 7:02 p.m.

ND fan, I thought the Irish had all the luck.


Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 8:02 p.m.

ok...I know you have all been waiting for this, so I'll end the suspense...drum roll... My Prediction for the Wolverines, 2012: 8-4 with losses to 'Bama, Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Ohio St. (I have Nebraska winning the Big10). I have the Mich St. game as a toss up since it's in Ann Arbor and I don't know Johnny Adams, so 7-5 is actually quite possible should Johnny prove to be as good as Kirk... I know, I everyone can sleep at night :-)

Lifetime AA ND Fan

Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 10:46 a.m.

@azwolverine... eh, there was some luck involved. Like the ND game. A ghost causing Rees to fumble, recovered by UM (right as we--ND--were about to score). Or ND causing Denard to fumble at the goal line, only to have him pick it back up and walk in. Yes, we still should have won despite those plays, but UM most likely would not have won if it wasn't for a bit of luck in that game.


Sun, Jun 10, 2012 : 5:32 p.m.

Lucky wins didn't materialize last year, either. In those tight wins, UM made critical plays when they had to and earned victories.


Sun, Jun 10, 2012 : 4:24 p.m.

duck, i'll take that action. . . if what you posted happen's i will buy you a pizza of your choice. . . and if it doesent you will buy mine. . . right? i like domino's with ham a mushrooms!! GO BLUE!!!!!!


Sun, Jun 10, 2012 : 3:58 p.m.

Sorry Howard, this is 2012. We have a compitant coach now. If it was 2010 I wouldn't contest your prediction.


Sun, Jun 10, 2012 : 3:26 p.m.

Lucky wins like Iowa vs Michigan? Yeah... I hope not.


Sun, Jun 10, 2012 : 2:25 p.m.

Wouldn't that be a sports *psychologist*?


Sun, Jun 10, 2012 : 1:55 p.m.

I don't think I'd call it a sophomore slump, although some fans will be distressed and critical if they don't match or exceed what was a very unlikely 11 wins. It's not a sophomore slump, it's losing size, experience, and leadership on the defensive lines, offensive center, playing Alabama at a "neutral" site in Texas, playing ND, Nebraska and OSU on the road. They've got their work cut out for them. 9 or 10 wins in the regular season will be a tremendous accomplishment. Brady's recruits cannot get here and mature into young men fast enough. We're still quite shallow.


Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 4:34 p.m.

Michigan is also 20-21 in bowl games...guess that's a reflection of the typical Michigan schedule.


Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 4:19 a.m.

Michigan State has back to back 11 win seasons. UM has never done it...and won't do it in 2012! There is no threat!

Terry Star21

Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 4:04 a.m.

Sorry, eight times....

Terry Star21

Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 3:53 a.m.

"Nave".....? You must have been in church this morning. Don't get mad at the Michigan fans, when you're that successful over 132 years, you shoot for 11 wins or more every year.....does it happen often, only three times but whose counting...


Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 1:22 a.m.

I dont expect 11 wins, but the nave Michigan fan does.