You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 5:58 a.m.

Michigan football coach Brady Hoke preparing to face his former San Diego State team

By Kyle Meinke


Ronnie Hillman, recruited to San Diego State by Brady Hoke, is the nation's second-leading rusher at 165.7 yards per game.

AP Photo

How did Brady Hoke tell his San Diego State players he had taken the Michigan football job in January?

Mass text.

Players were on semester break, so it was impossible to meet. No phone calls, either. Nothing.

They'll see him again Saturday, though, when San Diego State visits Ann Arbor (Noon, BTN) in a game of unbeaten teams that was scheduled by Hoke himself.

Think the Aztecs will be motivated to face their old coach and 22nd-ranked Michigan?

"It would be very motivating," senior defensive tackle Ryan Van Bergen said Monday at the team's weekly news conference. "I can imagine that they are going to come in with a demeanor of, 'We are going to play hard and beat them in their own house.'

"That is what I would expect from them and that is what I would expect from myself if I was placed in that same situation."

Hoke said he now regrets scheduling the game, which will pay San Diego State more than $1 million, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

In fact, he tried to get out of it.

"I told Dave Brandon 'Let's buy that one out,'" said a smiling Hoke, referring to his athletic director. "(But) the game was scheduled and you've got to play it. It would've been way too hard for both teams to try and find new opponents and do all that kind of stuff."

Hoke said he has kept in contact with his replacement at San Diego State, Rocky Long, who was his defensive coordinator with the Aztecs. They've mostly talked about personal matters, though.

Hoke's worried about facing his former assistant, and for reasons other than revenge.

As in, Long's team is good.

"I don't know if they have a weakness," Hoke said.

Added Van Bergen: "I have seen the film ... and they are going to be the toughest challenge we have faced so far."

San Diego State's strength is its offense, which is ranked 27th in the country at 38.0 points per game. Its running back, Ronnie Hillman, is second nationally in rushing at 165.7 yards per game.

He rushed 32 times for 191 yards and four touchdowns last week in a 42-24 win against Washington State, which improved the Aztecs to 3-0. Although unranked, they received votes this week in both major polls.

In the passing game, Ryan Lindley was one of the country's most prolific quarterbacks last year, when he finished seventh nationally (294.6 yards per game). He is averaging 212.3 yards per game this year, which is 60th.

Pass-heavy Western Michigan and turnover-prone Notre Dame posed problems for the Wolverines' defense, and so did run-heavy Eastern Michigan for more than a quarter. The Aztecs' balanced attack could provide the stiffest test of all.

No wonder Hoke wanted out of the game. But, he may hold one advantage over the Aztecs.

"They know our personnel a lot better than we know their personnel," Long, the SDSU coach, told the San Diego Union-Tribune this week. "I think there’s a huge advantage, yes.”

Hoke dismissed having a game planning edge, though, in deference to the Aztecs' talent level.

"We've got a lot work ahead of us," Hoke said. "(They're a) very talented team, a team that's going to play with a lot toughness and team that's well-coached."

He would know. He's the one who built them into a winner.

San Diego State won two games the season before Hoke's arrival in 2009. Two years later, he led the Aztecs to a 35-14 win against Navy in last season's Poinsettia Bowl.

It was the program's first bowl win since 1969, and its nine wins were a 33-year high.

Less than a month later, he jilted San Diego State for Michigan without meeting a single player.

"You send a text because you couldn't get 'em all together," Hoke said. "There was a time element in everything, obviously. We had a full team meeting when I left Ball State, my alma mater -- that was hard to leave and hard to leave those kids.

"So we were fortunate enough to be able to do that. We couldn't do it out there."

So, they'll do it Saturday instead, and Hoke is sure to get the Aztecs' best shot.

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



Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 6:46 p.m.

Proud SDSU Alum here... Great for our program to come out there and experience arguably the best college football venue. I am sure that our boys from San Diego are more than excited. I have had a chance to see your Michigan team play...very fast, very dynamic and VERY well coached. Our players will surely be bringing their A game this weekend. We have one of the nation's top backfields with our RB Hillman and our QB Lindley. They will surely give the Michigan D some fits come Saturday. You have an amazing coach in Hoke and I predict a national championship at Michigan while he is in power. Best of luck to both teams...we are bringing an Aztec team that is both hungry and talented.

Chad Williams

Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 6:45 p.m.

If the offense plays 70/30 on offense with more spread like formations, they will win a close shootout. Its a not a secret that this defense is terrible so you have to score at least 5 touchdowns possibly more. Maybe if the defense can hold them to a touchdown and field goal in the first five possessions then they will be in good shape. As much as the hype surrounded the coaching change the fact remains that denard is a run first qb. His abilty to run so well makes his passing easier.


Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 5:08 p.m.

@Bruce- Come on how could you not see the vastly improved Defense. Yes, they still are not where they should be. But, I see a huge improvement. You can see it in there attitudes and play. Total difference from last year. I do worry about the teams slow starts in the first three games. But, boy do they finish strong. Go Blue !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Bruce Kennedy

Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 4:46 p.m.

I enjoyed living in San Diego and even had season tickets to the Aztecs, when Marshall Falk, Darnay Scott and L'Roi Glover played for them. I went to see Michigan twice in the Holiday Bowl, 1984 against BYwhU and 1994 against Colorado State. I worry about this game. I still don't see a significant improvement in Michigan's defense. I think Michigan is going to have to turn DR loose to stay in this game. I just hope DR can start hitting his receivers. It should be a great game. GO BLUE!!!!

Blu n Tpa

Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 6:50 p.m.

Who wrote "vastly improved"? Also EMU had 140 in the 1st quarter but averaged about 20 yards a quarter after that. Other than that you're dead on.


Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 6:16 p.m.

The term "vastly improved" is a gross exaggeration. If there is an improvement it is that in game adjustments are slowing down the scoring, whereas last year the D was even more inept with each quarter. If WMU and ND moving the ball with impunity didn't get anyone's attention, the last place EMU slashing Michigan for 150 first quarter yards definitely should, unless one is blinded by optimism.


Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 2:19 p.m.

This should be an excellent match up. Michigan will have the home field advantage. We will benefit from a Noon kick off which is 9:00 AM West Coast time. I am confident that we'll have a coaching advantage because Brady Hoke is very familiar with the SDSU roster, coaching staff and film of their first three games. Coach Hoke will make sure the Maize and Blue are focused and up to the task. This might go down to who has the ball last type game. This Michigan team has been slow starting thus far, but are good finishers on both sides of the ball thus far this season. No doubt that many of the SDSU players have a bitter taste on how Brady Hoke departed their ranks. Perhaps if we win the coin toss, we should opt to go on offense.

Blu n Tpa

Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 1:52 p.m.

I think this is a "trap" game for the Wolverines. Although they are home and favored to win I feel the SDSU team has continuity on both sides of the ball, even with losing 5 coaches from last year's team. Their record speaks for itself and if Michigan comes out flat, and that's happened already this season, they could find themselves in a hole early they won't be able to dig out of. Michigan is going to have to jump out early and force the Aztecs to be one dimensional otherwise this game is a pick'em. Get them ready to play Coach. TiM Go Blue!


Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 5:26 p.m.

There is only a "trap" if the Wolverines do not recognize it. They seem to have a pretty keen understanding of what they are walking into. It will, certainly, be a challenging game, but isn't that the point?

Lorain Steelmen

Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 4:02 p.m.

No 'trap games' exist, for this 2011 team. Each week will present a unique challenge. SDSU is no exception. What we don't know yet is....which team is better, ND or SDSU?...time will tell.


Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 1:43 p.m.

We are playing at home in front of 100,000 plus fans that's a huge advantage. There is just as much motivation from the michigan players to defend there coach and team. Coach Hoke is a coach his players will play there hearts out for. We have seen this since this season has started. So lets get it ON. Go Blue Forever !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 11:33 a.m.

I've seen the term "revenge" used to describe the motivation of the SDSU players. I don't think that's quite it. Based on what I've seen of Hoke and the discipline he puts in place, my sense is the SDSU players are going to be playing with a more powerful motivating thought in their mind. Pride. But not just pride in their team. There will be that. But I'm thinking about something more. My sense is the SDSU players will be there to earn the respect of Hoke -- "Do you see, coach? You've moved on but we're holding true to your message of hard work and dedication to team and principle. You taught us this and we take pride in this." That's a powerful motivator right there. I think Hoke knows they'll coming with their in their hearts. And he's getting Michigan ready for a helluva fight.

Lorain Steelmen

Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 3:59 p.m.

Don I agree, I think you have very accurately expressed what is going on here. Good post.


Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 12:08 p.m.

Good one!