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Posted on Thu, Oct 20, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Michigan football team begins prep work for stretch run, avoiding another post-MSU collapse

By Kyle Meinke


Michigan football players stretch before an August practice, above. Now, they're practicing for the stretch run of their season. file photo

The Michigan football team was humbled.

Now, it will have to be hardened.

The Wolverines burst out of the gates with a memorable six-game winning streak that included a 17-point fourth-quarter comeback against Notre Dame, a historic 58-0 blowout of Minnesota and a second-half comeback on the road against Northwestern.

That came to a grinding halt Saturday with a 28-14 loss to rival Michigan State. The score was close, the game was not.

The aftertaste was bitter.

Michigan coach Brady Hoke has preached physicality and toughness since first stepping off a plane from San Diego in January, but the Spartans showed Michigan still is not among the Big Ten's elite in those regards.

"They pounded us," junior safety Jordan Kovacs said after his team's fourth straight loss to Michigan State. "They beat us up. You've got to give them a lot of credit. They did what we thought they were going to do."

Now, as the No. 18 Wolverines (6-1, 2-1) lick their wounds, they must find a way to regroup if they are to avoid the kind of precipitous decline that followed their past two losses to the Spartans. They entered those games 9-0, but finished 3-13.

"We just can’t dwell on (the loss)," senior tight end and captain Kevin Koger said. "The past couple years, we dwelled on it and they beat us a couple more times, so we just have to put the game away and just move on as quickly as possible."

The schedule stacks up favorably for Michigan to do just that.

The Wolverines are idle this week, giving them a buffer between the loss and the rest of their schedule. That will help players and staff refocus, regroup and get healthy — something Michigan badly needs.

Quarterback Denard Robinson is the biggest concern. The junior, who left 10 games with injury, now has departed from the past two. He suffered a left hand injury against Northwestern and a right hand injury against Michigan State, and was knocked out of the latter because of a bruised back suffered on a late hit.

"He's just beat up a little bit," Hoke said. "It's more his back than anything. He'll be fine. The rest will be good for him."

Other starters who are dealing with injury include cornerback Troy Woolfolk (ankle), left guard Ricky Barnum (ankle), weak-side linebacker Cam Gordon (back) and left tackle Taylor Lewan (undisclosed). Receiver Roy Roundtree also left the MSU game after landing hard on his back, but returned.

The break will improve Michigan's health. Its next game could improve its spirits.

Purdue (3-3, 1-1) will present a winnable home matchup Oct. 29. It already has lost 24-22 to Rice and 38-10 to Notre Dame, one of two common opponents with Michigan. The other is Minnesota, whom the Boilermakers beat, 45-17.

It also could become a rebound game for Robinson. Purdue is allowing 204.8 passing yards per game, despite playing a largely pedestrian schedule so far, and its defensive line is among the league's worst. The Boilermakers have just six sacks on the season. Only Minnesota has fewer in the Big Ten.

The Spartans, by comparison, have 21. They had seven against Michigan.

Purdue should provide a nice chance for a Wolverines victory, which would move them to 3-1 in Big Ten play and keep them in the thick of the Legends Division race. If Michigan State loses to Wisconsin this weekend, they would be tied for first.

It also would go a long way toward showing this year will be different than the past two.

The heavy lifting for that matchup starts today, as Michigan begins installing the game plan and irons out unit-specific weaknesses that were exposed against the Spartans.

That's when Hoke expects his team to start turning the corner.

"I expect them to act like a Michigan football team," he said. "And that means that they will come to work."

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



Sat, Oct 22, 2011 : 5:29 a.m.

Quite an interesting comment thread going here. I haven't contributed much this week, I wanted to see peoples reaction and absorb last weeks game more than anything. Here are some thoughts: -1st off, I think there is a major over reaction going on with our fans and MSU fans among others maybe.We played pretty crappy I'd have to say, some of it is MSU's play, of course,but I think we were our own worse enemies for most of the day, players and coaches. -I've been one of Hokes biggest supporter, but that was a really badly coached game Saturday. That 4th and 1 call was awful, run the ball,no reason to pass in that situation for a myriad of reasons. -As badly as we played, IF we scored a TD there, it's a 21-21 game and the stiff wind at our back, MSU would have caved in that situation I felt, but we failed in all around execution from all involved. Things will change back to normal in this rivalry soon, but I have to give credit to MSU for getting it done. -Which leads to me to my next point, we played pretty awful and almost won the game with a little fortune, all is not doom and gloom, this is not last year or the last coaching staff, we will struggle maybe in some spots, but we will be much improved down the stretch. -Blu n Tpa and Unclefred, really good posts by both of you. Blu, I especially enjoy reading your comments as I find myself thinking quite the same as you. -I sense there is going to be quite a few changes on this team going forward, some guys haven't hardly played or are seeing less time, the stretch run seems like it's going to be real interesting to watch.I'm anxious to see it. -Denard wasn't out of the last 2 games that much really, the article makes it seem worse than it really is.I think Devin has earned playing time and I would rather see him be the QB, sorry if that irks some folks. -Except for the last few years, we have been a pretty spoiled fanbase and I'm very guilty of that too.This is a new era,be patient,we are a work in progress


Fri, Oct 21, 2011 : 8:08 a.m.

It would take a great coaching job to beat OSU at the end of the big ten season. OSU's defense will have all the players back from suspension and they look a lot like MSU's defense. Big athletic line and excellent db's. I hate to admit it but Michigan hasn't beat a team with a good defense in years. It may take some time. Sorry sevon Pittman is going to MSU instead of Michigan.


Thu, Oct 20, 2011 : 5:52 p.m.

The game wasn't close?! Michigan was down 1 score with possession of the ball and driving with under 5 minutes left in the game. I think that is the definition of a close game. Characterizing the game as "not close" sounds like you're trying to rub salt in the wound.


Thu, Oct 20, 2011 : 2:30 p.m.

Try playing some real teams, not cup cakes in the early season. 9-3 sounds good but it' against fluff, to bad you dont have wisky. That would be an A kicking. Man nebraska and evenOSU are going to lay the wood to UM.


Thu, Oct 20, 2011 : 6:13 p.m.

Well since UM doesn't play Wisconsin, I guess they will reserve that 'A' kicking for your Sparties. By the way, some cupcake ND was, right?

jeff blue

Thu, Oct 20, 2011 : 4:50 p.m.

The truth is that very few B10 teams have played any good teams. PSU lost to Alabama. Minny lost to USC -- not sure if USC is any good in 2011. UM and MSU have played ND, which is likely a top 25 Team.

Lorain Steelmen

Thu, Oct 20, 2011 : 3:50 p.m.

Trigg7. 1.msu is NOT a very good team, as will be shown over the next two weeks. 2.UM did not play well, and, that was the most difficult part of saturdays' game. Had they played any where near, the norm, they would have beaten msu. 3. UM will get their shot at Wisconsin in the Championship game at Indy on 12/3.


Thu, Oct 20, 2011 : 3:16 p.m.

Regarding early season scheduling; didn't MSU play cupcakes as well. Seems you forgot that our annual ND was a great math up. Sparty played ND as well. Home game versus road game? No winning that point. Name some elite level football programs that did not play a cupcake schedule. Nice to see the doom and gloomers are alive and well. Maybe we can revisit this at the end of the regular season.


Thu, Oct 20, 2011 : 2:59 p.m.

I agree Wisky would be tough. Nebraska and OSU, not so much. Won't be any wood laid on UM at home by either of those schools.

jeff blue

Thu, Oct 20, 2011 : 2:07 p.m.

This is a bitter pill. Our BIG TEN games since 11/03/2007 -- Mike Hart's comments after a great 28 - 24 road win. Michigan Big Ten football record after the "Little Brother" remark: 2007 0 - 2 2008 2 - 6 2009 1 - 7 2010 3 - 5 2011 ? Total Big Ten record 6 - 20 between Lloyd and Richard since the famous statement about our little brother. Time to stop the "curse" -- Brady Hoke can and will do it.


Thu, Oct 20, 2011 : 1:45 p.m.

I see the team going 3-2. Ill. and Neb. are the two games that I think they might have problems with. That would still end with a 9-3 record for Hokes first year, a lot better than most would have thought.

Blu n Tpa

Thu, Oct 20, 2011 : 11:34 a.m.

Well Michigan fans are faced with a couple of choices. We can keep the rose colored glasses on, revel on the 6-1 record and the number 18 rating in the country, and say "all is well", maybe like Kevin Bacon's character in "Animal House." Or, and you knew there would be one, you can join the doom and gloom of "oh no, not another collapse like the last two years after losing to msu" group and pray Michigan can win at least two more games this year. I think the reality is Michigan is just north of "doom and gloom" and still has a chance for something special. Maybe not Big Ten Championship Game special but win more than lose from here on out, with a victory over osu at the Big House. Given where we were on January 2 of this year, that would be better than hoped for just 10 months ago. Therein lies the trap set by Coach Hoke and staff. They have raised our expectations to higher than acheiveable goals and now following the loss to msu there's that little voice in the back of our heads saying, "you should have known better". I feel that's the job of coaches, raising the players up to obtain a level of success that mere ability would say is not doable. Is it sustainable against better teams with experienced coaches? We will see but I am on board for a strong finish the rest of the year, with or with the rose colored glasses. TiM Go Blue!


Thu, Oct 20, 2011 : 2:55 p.m.

How many times did Hoke tell all of us that this is not a top 10 team and that they, coaches and players, had a long way to go to play Michigan football? Almost every press conference? Seemed like it to me. If anyone has raised "our" expectations to unachievable goals it's us, not the team nor the coaches. Since most (many?) of us expected it to take more than a single season to get this team back (and they aren't back yet) to watch so many defects get corrected so quickly was heady. For deeply personal reasons I never pick us to lose any game, but I don't always expect us to win. If they bounce back, and I believe they will, these guys have a excellent shot at winning 9 games this season. After the last three years, that would be a fantastic come back, better than most of us hoped for in August. Actually 8 games would be terrific any more is gravy. The fact is that there is not a remaining team that these guys can't beat, but playing perfect football while you are in a new offense and defense for five straight games is a lot to expect. Not impossible, not to much to ask for or to much to hope for, but certainly beyond reasonable expectation.


Thu, Oct 20, 2011 : 11:24 a.m.

The loss to MSU revealed a lot of weaknesses on this Woloverine team. It means that they have not reached the elite level in the conference that they are seeking. The 6 game winning streak gave many of us fans the illusion that this team was in the threshold of a top tier conference team. At the same time, there were and still are a lot of skeptics out there, added that the MSU loss reaffirmed their opinion. The truth lies in the middle. It seems that Brady Hoke and his staff had more to learn from this loss than the players. They were certainly outcoached by the Spartan sidelines. It is refreshing to hear and read that they admit to their mistakes. Looking ahead, I think this coaching staff will make the adjustments and sharpen their coaching skills that will enable our players to improve for the remainder of the season. Taking it one game at a time; this is bad timing for the Purdue Boilermakers to come into town. I am confident that this Wolverine team will be hungry and they will play with an attitude. They will protect their undefeated winning streak at home. They are still in the hunt to win the conference division and they know it. Although I have respect for the Purdue football program, Michigan is primed to have a blowout victory on the 29th. Go Blue!!


Thu, Oct 20, 2011 : 11:21 a.m.

Nice article: Hoke is getting the Wolverines past the loss and readers too will start turning the corner. I include myself when I say "we've had our say" about the loss and I'm ready to move on. It helps a lot to know Michigan's schedule should provide more (and better) wins: yes, PLURAL, I mean wins. No one can take away the "-1" but Hoke's Wolverines can and will increase the "+6" by a good number. Hoke is brilliant IMO and I believe it's because everything he says and does feeds directly into improving this team and restoring Michigan's (earned) reputation. I'm not a very religious guy but what Jesus said about "let the dead bury the dead" applies here: He could have been talking about the last three years of Michigan football. ;-) Last thought on this: I really hope Brady Hoke and his players are thinking about what Coach Dantonio said about playing angry. I don't mean egregious personal fouls, but I do mean having and using anger to overcome one's own failings and to decisively dominate football opponents. Go (and dominate) Blue!