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Posted on Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 8:27 a.m.

Michigan football team searching for ways to avoid another post-MSU collapse

By Kyle Meinke


Michigan's 2009 late-season collapse included a 38-36 loss to Purdue, the Boilermakers' first win at Michigan Stadium since 1966, that had Gerald Gooden banging on the school's World's Largest Drum. Purdue visits Michigan Stadium again Saturday. file photo

Michigan football coach Brady Hoke instructed his players to stay away from the team's practice facilities last weekend. He told them how important it was to have a mental and physical break during the team's off week.

Senior center David Molk was having none of it.

Molk, one of the Wolverines' three captains, spent his off time studying film, watching some of the Purdue-Illinois game on TV and getting ready for this week. Why?

He'll do "anything it takes" to avoid another post-Michigan State collapse.

“You’ve got to keep away from that dark side of going ‘Oh we lost one, we’re going to lose the rest,’” Molk said. “That’s what happens. You have to keep that away.”

As the No. 17 Wolverines (6-1, 2-1 Big Ten) prepare to face Purdue on Saturday (noon, ESPN2), it is difficult to escape comparisons to the meltdowns of the past two years.

Michigan was 4-0 when it faced Michigan State in 2009, but lost that game, 26-20, and finished the season with seven losses in eight games -- beating only Delaware State.

The Wolverines were 5-0 last year, but lost 34-17 to the Spartans and finished with losses in six of eight games.

This year, Michigan was 6-0 before it lost 28-14 to the Spartans on Oct. 15. As critics say "Here we go again," team leaders promise things are different.


"Losing faith? I guess that's happened in the past," Molk said. "But that’s not going to happen anymore, and I’m not going to allow that."

Doesn't that sound a lot like what players were saying last year before losing five of seven? What makes this year different -- especially considering Michigan is 2-6 the past two seasons against the final five teams on its schedule?

“The same words were coming out, but the actual confidence and presence in the locker room and in practice, and the intensity, wasn’t where it is now," senior defensive tackle Ryan Van Bergen said.

That, for Molk and Van Bergen, is one of the biggest differences between this year's team and last year's. While they said all the right things last year, the words were hollow. The team lacked confidence, even when exuding it publicly.

This year, that's not the case.

"The leadership is different, the attitude is different," Van Bergen said. "The main reason why it won't happen is because we won't let it happen. There's a sense of will not -- there will not be a crash-and-burn."

Leadership and confidence are always nice, but they also take a team only so far. Luckily for Michigan, it also has three tangible advantages for avoiding another Big Ten skid.

First, this defense is considerably stronger than its past two installments. A year after allowing 35.2 points and 450.8 yards per game, the Wolverines are holding teams to 14.7 points and 336 yards through seven games.

Second, this team is considerably healthier than the past two years, when injuries blighted several key positions, especially in the defensive secondary. This year, that is not the case.

Third, right after the team's most physical game -- that Michigan State matchup that has caused so many problems the past two years -- players had an off week to rest up, get healthy and right their minds.

“There’s a lot of teams who have starters banged up, guys who are impact players banged up,” Van Bergen said. “Luckily for us, we’re healthy. That’s definitely an advantage. I don’t think everybody can say that in the conference.”

Was it tough for the team not to play right away after the loss?

"Sure, you want to play again because that’s what we do," Molk said. "At the same time, a week off is a week off and, the older I get, the more I realize that bye week is a good thing.

"We’re a healthy team, and we’re ready to play again."

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



Wed, Oct 26, 2011 : 12:24 a.m.

I agree completely that we have to temper our own expectations with regard to this season. At the same time, I think we have a proven winner in Coach Hoke. This is why I think so... Ball St... let's see. He started in 2003, they didn't have a winning record since 1996. Three years to get his recruits in. In 2007, they nearly upset NEBRASKA (losing 41-40). 2008? The team was UNDEFEATED. 12-0. Ok. That might've been a fluke. Let's look at SDSU, which was 2-10 in 2008. The Aztecs had SEVEN winning seasons since 1980, not a single one of those in the last ten years. By year #2 they were 9-4, nearly upsetting #2 TCU and #12 Missouri. The truth of the matter is that we have a coach with a proven track record. Even better yet, he seems to be doing what I think football is really great at sometimes: he's building leaders. Look at how Molk's developing. So, while I love to win, I also want to see the seeds sown that will have Michigan competing at an elite level in the next 3-4 years. I trust Hoke. Let's give the man the time and support he needs.


Wed, Oct 26, 2011 : 6:07 p.m.

I couldn't agree any more with your post. It's also obvious that coach Hoke knows how to put together a winning staff to support him. He understands his deficiencies on offense and lets a true offensive coach run the offense. With minimal meddling, I might add. I'm really excited about the future of this program.


Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 10:46 p.m.

Kyle I would add a 4th reason why there wont be a letdown for the remainder of the season.... Coaching. I truly believe that this coaching staff knows how to prepare this team for the remaining games. I don't feel that was the case with the prior regime. We may not win them all, but we will compete till the clock reads 00:00. GO BLUE!


Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 9:15 p.m.

Lots of mixed emotions from the fan base. I am right of center and expecting a 3 win 2 loss remainder of the season. I have this Purdue game as a "W" for the Maize and Blue. They want to remain undefeated at home, they came off a spanking from Sparty in the physical aspect, they want to prove (to themselves) they can win after a loss to Sparty and they feel they are still in the hunt for a Big 10 division (Legends) champsionship. The offense has more to prove than the defense. 1) Denard's passing; 2) the running backs coming through; 3) the wide recievers making the catches to balls thrown at them and bailing out Denard when needed. Too much to ask? These are goals the Wolverines probably have for themselves so we shall see. GO BLUE!!

Matt Patercsak

Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 7:47 p.m.

I think the team will come ready to play. My prediction is that this team will go back to basics perhaps a bit more. Does anyone agree that perhaps we spread the playbook (as well as the field) a little too much? I feel that it may be better to get a couple of core-component base formations down-pat before turning the page of the playbook. and I'm sure Borges is no dummy, but it is hard to ignore the feet of Robinson. I'm excited that Koger said he expects Rawls to get more PT. He needs to build his confidence back up to where it was before his shoulder injury and establish himself as the bell cow. I'm craving to see him run with the first team offense at 100% confidence. I'm also anxious to see Frank Clark in the mix to see what he can do. what a potential senior class. jake ryan, blake countess, desmond morgan, frank clark, brennen beyer, thomas rawls. I expect a very tough performance from our guys on Saturday, a week in the weight room building strength back up and improvement from the MSU game should yield positive results. a strong win would quiet nay sayers about this team. lets just Hope shoelace doesn't throw any picks.


Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 5:26 p.m.

It's easy to let our emotions and expectations push us into extreme thinking. The Wolverines have ONE loss - and it was to a pretty good team which had / has the No. 1 defense in the country! Please- let's not panic. First and foremost: I have to believe David Molk when he says this year is nothing like the past 3 years. Just look at what we do know about the Hoke Difference. BETTER trainers and coaches, much improved team morale and - this team is more mature (but not fully yet) than any of RR's teams. Coach Hoke has blatantly put his own life's work, the career he obviously loves, on the line. That's really gutsy. He has also elaborated on what he sees about the 2011 Wolverines and has been clear about what he intends to do to make improvements. So yeah, this team has problems but to say that ONE loss to a good team means there will not be more than 2 more wins or that this team isn't an elite team and may never be one: is extreme (pessimistic) thinking. The Wolverines are not an elite team right now, but we see all the pieces being fit into place to return the Wolverines to elite status. That makes Michigan better than Michigan State - because MSU doesn't have an elite status TO RETURN TO. I'll say it even more boldly: By the end of the 2014 season, the Wolverines will be on top of the college football pyramid and there'll be not even a memory of fan negativity.


Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 5:53 p.m.

Nobody said that 'ONE loss to a good team means there will not be more than 2 more wins'...the reason is because the of the remaining teams on the schedule, 4 are as good or better than UM. Of the first 7 games, UM was better than all but 2, hence the 6 victories. As to UM's return to Elite status...I believe it could and probably will happen at some point, but I don't know about 2014. At some point they are either going to blow up their offensive scheme (they will NOT win a B10 title with Denard, period) or Denard will graduate. How quickly can they get the players needed for a sustainable offensive system up and running AFTER Denard...maybe another 2-3 years?


Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 5:19 p.m.

Meangoblue, you've been given your due; But the MCC has a word for you. Meangoblue, you forgot one key thing; Our program shall stink, Till we re-hire THE KING!


Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 4:52 p.m.

Ways to avoid another post-MSU collapse: 1.Beat Purdunck---very winnable game . 2. Slap the Squackeyes!!-----It's time for big blue to do the hokey-pokey at kinnick stadium.(sorry Hayden Frye) 3.Play defense against the Illini----if we hold em under 65--we win! 4.Hook the huskers-welcome to the big house...children of the corn!!! 5. Smush the punkeyes- nothing like kicking an injured dog while he's down-- See Ndamukong Suh 6. Continue to read all of the MEANies posts and marvel at his wisdom and way with the ladies! MEEEEEANchigan football will go 5-0! i was told by a guy that I know!!!


Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 4:52 p.m.

PRIDE....before the fall


Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 3:45 p.m.

This is a re-birth of the Michigan Football......PRIDE.


Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 1:55 p.m.

U-M has 3 bowl wins in 10 years The last BCS type Bowl win was 2000 - Tom Brady was still the QB Yes, U-M has had some good seasons since that Orange Bowl but a GREAT season means you finish with a win! Folks, lets face reality: U-M is no longer an elite program and might never be again. We keep waiting for a return to the old days - but college football has changed so much it may never happen Penn State was once elite - now they are better than average. Florida State, Miami, Nebraska good to better than good but not great and they once were great --- how many people are waiting for Notre Dame to be great again and not understanding its been 15 years since they had a great team??? So lets focus on rebuilding one season at a time and not expect too much from Hoke.


Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 2:58 p.m.

Never? Wow. Fatalist much? We come out of the worse 3 years in modern Michigan football history and in Hoke's first season have an excellent shot at winning 8 or more games, and you use the word never. Back in August the prospect of 8-4 was reason to cheer in the streets and look forward to continued rebuilding, and somehow the fact that there is no magic wand this year eliminates Michigan's chance of ever reaching the top again. The reality is that MIchigan has all the resources it needs to restore greatness to its football program. This time around it seems to understand what is required and is willing to do what is necessary.


Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 2:54 p.m.

You mean Michigan has not been relevant since 08'. Losing a bowl game does not make you an irrelevant or not elite program! I.E. Boston college had the longest bowl win streak until last year so I guess they are the most elite program in the Nation. 07': 9-4 ranked 18th 06': 11-2 ranked 6th, 3 pts away from going to a NT 05': 7-5 worst year under lloyd 04': 9-3 won the big ten, ranked 12th 03': 10-3 won the big ten, ranked 6th 02': 10-3 ranked 9th 01': 8-4 ranked 20th 00': 9-3 won the big ten, ranked 10th 99': 10-2 ranked 5th and 9 points away from going to a NT 98': 10-3 ranked 12th and won big ten 97': 12-0 ranked 1, NT and Big ten Champ So since 07'-97' Michigan has not been ranked at the end of the year once, has won 5 big ten titles, one NT, and could have easily gone to 2 more NT games! A final top 15 ranking every year except 07,05, and 01. So your Post is incorrect! If you want to repost something along the lines of "Michigan has dropped in its skill and power as a football program since 08' because of RR" is perfectly fine because it is accurate! Did Michigan have a lot of attrition from Lloyd to RR with players leaving? Yes, and that is where you get the drop off. What causes that? Coaching philosophy and style not the eliteness of Michigan. That is why Michigan has one of the top 5 recruiting classes in the nation and will most likely have the top class next year as well!


Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 2:29 p.m.

yes they have changed for the better - but when was the last time we beat a ranked team???? (forget ND, they had a pity ranking) I agree - lets look to the future - but temper our expectations

Matt Patercsak

Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 2:13 p.m.

you may want to hold your tongue sir. A top 5 recruiting class and an NFL experienced defensive coordinator are a potent mix. dont let 3 tough years get you down. things have already changed for the better. just give it time


Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 1:18 p.m.

Sorry to say, but this team will be lucky if they win 2 more games this year.


Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 2:34 p.m.

It really depends on how physical U-M can play ... Nebraska and OSU are still both physical teams ... Illinois was a mirage but they are not bad by any means -- Iowa plays U-M tuff usually -- the only gimme game should be Purdue Can U-M play physical teams for 4 quarters? They have yet to do that since the Lloyd era ended. i see a 3-2 finish in the next 5 games for a 9-3 season... but a 2-3 finish would not surprise me either - 8-4 is a good season for rebuilding


Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 2:32 p.m.

Yes...2 more wins is realistic, 3 is being optimistic. The only game on the schedule that UM 'should' win is against Purdue. All the others are a coin toss at best (with Nebraska being a doubtful win). The BIG has Denard fairly figured out, so he can't be counted on to get 35 points a game like he can against the earlier opposition. UM's defense is better, but not good enough to win games for them yet.


Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 2:26 p.m.

Not lucky. They'll win 2, probably 3. Lucky would by 4.


Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 2:17 p.m.

Really? How about they will be lucky to win out. Purdue will get burried by 24 or more. Iowa does not look that good, (given it is a tough road game). Illinois is collapsing. Nebraska will be tough but is at home. OSU is always a tough win but is very winnable at home with OSU having no offense! Michigan should be 9-3 or 10-2 going into a bowl game.


Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 1:23 p.m.

Sounds realistic to me.