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Posted on Sat, Oct 29, 2011 : 6:52 p.m.

Michigan football team wins, but injuries mount ahead of tough 4-game stretch

By Kyle Meinke


Michigan offensive lineman Taylor Lewan congratulates running back Fitzgerald Toussaint after a touchdown. Lewan played through an injury against Purdue.

Joseph Tobianski |

Well, so much for being healthy.

The 17th-ranked Michigan football team handled its business Saturday in a 38-14 win against Purdue, and in doing so rose into a three-way tie for the Legends Division lead by virtue of a Michigan State loss.

But it paid a price to get there.

Coach Brady Hoke indicated last week this was one of the healthiest teams he's had at this point in a season, which partly was due to a well-placed off week. Now, though, Michigan (7-1, 3-1) is coping with several pressing injuries at critically thin positions.

To add insult to injury, they come as the Wolverines prepare to embark on the most difficult four-game stretch of the season. Tough stuff.

Taylor Lewan, Ricky Barnum, Vincent Smith and Jordan Kovacs are four of Michigan's most important players, and each played reduced roles against the Boilermakers because of injury.

That made the team's rout of an upstart team all the more impressive.

I asked Hoke if he's concerned about the injuries, considering what lies ahead and the fact he already has five freshmen playing significant roles on defense.

"It’s football," he replied. "That’s why you have guys on the team that can compete. They just got to keep improving and, when their opportunities come, you have to take advantage of them."

The positivity is encouraging, and expected, but the concerns are real with road games against Iowa and Illinois and home dates with Nebraska and Ohio State looming.

Kovacs did not play due to a knee injury, and a source told he is questionable for next week's game against Iowa.

That is a real blow for the Wolverines, as Kovacs is one of the team's best defensive players. He had started 28 consecutive games since first becoming a starter in 2009, was second in the Big Ten in tackles a year ago and has become the team's field general on defense.

Exacerbating the issue for the Wolverines is five freshmen already are playing significant roles on defense — including two who started at linebacker and one at corner against Purdue. Michigan could use Kovacs' leadership, as well as his play.

The offensive line might be in worse shape. It began the season as Michigan's thinnest position group, drew fire for poor play against Michigan State and now is being ravaged by injury.

Lewan, Michigan's starting left tackle and best lineman, appeared to tweak his knee in pregame warmups, played with a noticeable limp and left the game at several junctures. He's also dealing with ankle and wrist issues.

But Lewan, whom Hoke calls "one tough sucker," continued to play despite the injuries. He did not leave for good until the game was well in hand.

"I think it lifts your team," Hoke said of Lewan's ability to play through pain.

Added right tackle Mark Huyge: "(Lewan) was just saying, 'I’m going to stay in and let’s go.' There’s no way he was going to get pulled out."

Another offensive lineman, Barnum, exited shortly before halftime after aggravating an ankle injury and did not return. That's two linemen down from what Hoke has called his thinnest position on the field — and it's also the position that has drawn the most scrutiny the past two weeks after being dominated by Michigan State.

That made their terrific play against Purdue — one sack allowed and 339 rushing yards — all the more impressive.

Hoke said Michigan's ability to play through such debilitating injuries comes down to one thing more than any other. He knows it sounds corny — he didn't say Hoke-ey, unfortunately — but says it anyway.

"I like how they like each other," he said. "Maybe that’s corny, or whatever, but from where I sit, I like that they respect each other and they want to play for each other.

"Look, they’re on scholarship to get a great education and play football. So, they’re expected to do both."

They're doing the latter pretty well, and very well considering the circumstances.

The future, though, is more concerning.

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


Lorain Steelmen

Mon, Oct 31, 2011 : 3:17 p.m.

What on earth is all the RR commentary about? C'mon...Seriously. He's gone, as is Carr...All that is in the past. This is 2011, and the UM team is competing for title #43. Let's focus on the task at hand. Regarding injuries, I have been saying from the jump, that UM could have an outstanding year, depending on the extent of the injuries. The spartans were able to knock DRob out of that game, but unsuccessful in kncking him out for the year. msu was a bit MORE successful in knicking up Lewan, and Kovachs. And that may be a huge factor going forward. WE NEED both those kids, the rest of the way. I knew, that Kovachs would likely not play, but Hoke managed to keep all that 'under wraps'. Kovachs wanted to play, but the trainers held him out. No word on his availability yet, for Iowa. If we lose Lewan, Hugye moves over there, and we lose both athleticism, and spirit. Barnum, just hasn't been a factor for several weeks now, and I am beginning to wonder if we'll see him back, all year. Opposing coaches are NOT dumb. They'll take advantage of both weak points. msu (aka 'cheap shot U'), was exposed saturday, as I knew they would be. Their remaining schedule is much weaker, but having been exposed, their opponents will know how to attack them. Iowa, and Nwestern have a shot at taking them out. Right now you'd have to say, the favorites to play in Indy, are Penn State and Nebraska...unless UM can pull the upset on Nov 19th. Time will tell, of course, but there are two huge games to be won, before we can think about Nebraska.


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 7:30 p.m.

Injuries? Who cares about injuries? We're AP #13 now. With the depth and coaching we have, UM is well set to run the table and keep moving up. 11 & 1, here we come. I wonder which BCS game we'll get? GO BLUE!!!

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Mon, Oct 31, 2011 : 1:51 p.m.

My bad. Sarcasm is a tough read on-line. Go Blue & Good Night and Good Luck


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 11:55 p.m.

Ghost, I was being sarcastic and didn't think anyone would take me seriously. Sorry about that. I should have included a "/s" or "/sarcasm" in my post above. (Actually, in my first post yesterday afternoon immediately after the game, I expressed concern about that very injury to Lewan.)

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 10:38 p.m.

News flash: We do not have depth on the D-line, at linebacker, or on the O-line. It will be a serious problem if Taylor Lewan misses any playing time. Good Night and Good Luck


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 7:29 p.m.

Rich Rodriguez Career record 120–84–2 Brady Hoke Career record 53–51


Mon, Oct 31, 2011 : 3:41 a.m.

...the RichRod apologists kill me. Obtuse. Myopic. Choose your own description. RichRod wasn't a "coach." Coaches teach. They mentor. They lead. RichRod was an opportunist. A charlatan. He did NONE of the above. We require our coaches to be men of character. That's why RichRod is gone.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 10:36 p.m.

Gotta love the RichRod lovers who cite the career record of the WCiMFH but who appear not to be interested in his record in three years at the U. The RichRod Error: *6-18 in the Big Ten *0-12 against Big Ten teams with winning records *1-13 against MSU/OSU/PSU/Iowa/Wisky *Never finished higher than tied for 7th in the Big Ten *2-11 against teams that were in the Top 25 at the time the game was played *Winless against teams that finished the season in the Top 25. *Three straight seasons not in the Top 25 (had not happened since 1965, '66, and '67) *From 24th in the nation in defense in 2007 (Carr's last year), to 67th in 2008, to 84th in 2009, to 110/120 teams in 2010 *A mediocre offense against quality teams (e.g., EMU scored more points against OSU in 2010 than we did). *Worst bowl loss in Michigan history *1st NCAA probation in Michigan history Either get on board this train with the coach you have--a coach who has won nearly as many games in his first year (a season not yet over) as the WCiMFH won in his first two--or go watch your boy on CBS. Good Night and Good Luck


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 10:10 p.m.

What's your point? BTW: Hoke at 7 wins in season number 1 @ Mich (in 8 games), Rich Rod did what in his first year @ Mich?


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 9:03 p.m.

Rich Rodrguez Career B1G record: 6-18-0


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 4:22 p.m.

Odds of winning: At Iowa 60% At Illinois 60% Home Nebraska 40% Home Ohio 40% A bunch of things could markedly change those numbers, a consistent offense against the last 2 opponents could really tip that in favor of Michigan, namely accurate and consistent passing. Ohio is a good and physical defense, the type that we have had trouble with in past and current seasons.


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 12:10 a.m.

Having Countess really helps because Woolfolk can play a good Safety. Purdue's receivers were tightly covered all game. Remember last season when opposing receivers were wide open every play? As tough as Smith is I don't think we lose anything when he is out. Toussaint and Shaw? Touissant and Smith. Looks the same to me. Shaw was last years best RB. He can play. Only the OL concerns one against the teams with better D lines.


Sat, Oct 29, 2011 : 11:40 p.m.

Re: injuries. Hoke is a throwback to coaches of old (before last 3 years). His quote at the end of the game: "The touchdown at the end is disturbing because at Michigan the expectation is for the position and who's in there," he said (source: detroit news) Quote from last year (paraphrased): "Come on now. We've got injuries, and lots of young guys playing. Even Lombardi could not coach this defense". Well, maybe not, former coach, but Mattison and Hoke could!! Go blue.


Sat, Oct 29, 2011 : 11:24 p.m.

While the injuries limited Michigan in some ways, Purdue could not respond. We have enough depth to maintain the level of play needed to win. I would rather see Kovacs come back at 100%. Both IA and IL have sputtered but from what I have seen this season in B1G conference play, the home team seems to have a huge advantage this season. So Michigan will need to remain focused and keep bringing this intensity they showed against Purdue, perhaps moreso given being on the road for the next two games. GO BLUE!!!


Sat, Oct 29, 2011 : 11:31 p.m.

"We have enough depth to maintain the level of play needed to win." Against teams like Purdue. Maybe Iowa. Nebraska? Probably not.


Sat, Oct 29, 2011 : 11:12 p.m.

I'm sure most teams are dealing with injuries of some sort at this point in the season. It's just going to come down to which teams deal with injuries most effectively through toughness and good backup play. OSU may actually be at an advantage at this point in the season with a fresher team than most since many of their players missed large parts of the early season.


Sat, Oct 29, 2011 : 11:12 p.m.

Injuries are a concern, for sure. I wondered where Kovacs was today. BTW, I think you meant "exacerbating the issue" above rather than "exasperating the issue....".


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 3:42 a.m.

heartbreakM editor-in-chief


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 2:36 a.m.

looks like you corrected it :)