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Posted on Fri, Dec 23, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Michigan football team to hold last practice before Christmas break

By Kyle Meinke

The Michigan football team will have a light workout this morning, then break for four days before reconvening in New Orleans on Wednesday.

Brady Hoke knows just how much such a break is needed after seven consecutive days of practice.

The first-year Wolverines coach was routed in his first bowl game as a head coach. He had guided Ball State to the International Bowl, but lost 52-30 to Rutgers. He attributes the setback to overworking his team.


Michigan football coach Brady Hoke on heading to New Orleans: “When we get in, we’re going to go practice for about an hour and try and get some Christmas cookies off a couple of them — maybe a couple of the coaches, too."

Melanie Maxwell |

“I think we were a little sluggish because we probably did too much,” Hoke said. “We did some two-a-days and stuff like that. I won’t do that again, to be honest with you, or the length of the two-a-days that we did.

“I just think we were dead a little bit, and we played a great Rutgers team. I mean, Ray Rice wasn’t bad.”

Hoke is 6-4 as a coach in bowl games, and 1-1 as a head coach. He's learned from those experiences that there is a fine line between backing off to keep a team fresh, but also going hard enough to maintain timing. Michigan will try to navigate that dichotomy as it goes five weeks between its regular-season finale against Ohio State and its Sugar Bowl matchup with Virginia Tech on Jan. 3 (8:30 p.m., ESPN).

The Wolverines finished the season with a flourish, pounding Nebraska and then edging the rival Buckeyes. They scored 85 points in those games, and their offense was operating at its highest level all season.

They have won three games in a row overall.

But offensive coordinator Al Borges said the most difficult thing about bowl prep is maintaining timing in the passing game. That could be a concern for quarterback Denard Robinson and his receivers.

Hoke said it remains too early to gauge whether his team will build off its momentum, or come out flat, but added he would know more after the team reports to New Orleans on Wednesday for a short practice.

Players who live at least four hours away from Ann Arbor will meet the team in Louisiana. Everyone else will board the team charter that morning.

“When we get in, we’re going to go practice for about an hour and try and get some Christmas cookies off a couple of them — maybe a couple of the coaches, too," Hoke said. "Get them back into the speed of the game. That’s the biggest thing, the timing and the speed of the game that you want to play with.”

Hoke said he would like to keep practices to less than an hour-and-a-half, as long as the team looks crisp. Michigan will have two sessions at the Superdome, site of the game, and hold the rest of its workouts at nearby Tulane University.

There also will be off-the-field matters to address, including ensuring players stay out of trouble. Virginia Tech place-kicker Cody Journell already has been suspended because of an arrest Wednesday.

Hoke, who likes to keep information close to the vest, told reporters the players' curfew will be “sometime in the night.” He said he would have a local speak with the team about what (and where) to avoid in New Orleans.

Longtime running backs coach Fred Jackson, from nearby Baton Rouge, won't talk to the team about discipline.

“Fred will talk about food,” Hoke quipped.

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



Sun, Dec 25, 2011 : 2:18 a.m.

the team that backed into a bowl game needs to back out a loser.


Sun, Dec 25, 2011 : 4:37 a.m.

I agree with you. Va Tech should leave a loser. Good call.


Sat, Dec 24, 2011 : 5:19 p.m.

Oiur lives are so much like football, we have so many ups and downs. Isn't it great to see Michigan bounce back from such a dismal last 6 yrs. We all have had to bounce back from adversity and in many ways this 2011 team is an identiy to our own lives. What I like the most about this 2011 team is how scrappy they are which defines turmoil in my own life. I probably love this 2011 team more than any Michigan team I've watched since 1955. For some of you old school I apologize because that great 1969 team played fantastically but I don't think they had the same adversity as this 2011 team.


Sat, Dec 24, 2011 : 4:47 p.m.

It is my opinion that Brady Hoke and his staff had their finest year or hour in 2011. I believe that those coaches know that as t hey are approaching old age that their finest hour will be to turn around the greatest college football team around and back into an elite program.


Sat, Dec 24, 2011 : 1:45 p.m.

well Tulsa, that's usually the type of defense that Frank Beamer has at VT. I haven't seen them this year although I live in VA. They won 11 games, how horrible could they be, even though their schedule was pretty bad? Obviously Clemson found something in their D to exploit. As has been said, if Denard completes 60% of his passes with no interceptions, or fumbles either, then Michigan has an excellent chance of winning. Michigan must also stop a 1500 yard rusher, but their opposition all year was pretty weak.


Fri, Dec 23, 2011 : 6:34 p.m.

I was at the International Bowl with Ball State and Rutgers. At the time, I had no idea who Brady Hoke was and I don't even think I knew Ball State was 12-0. I just wanted to see a bowl game and as I live in Toronto this was my best chance (I'm originally from Windsor, Ontario and have been a huge Michigan fan my whole life). I do remember Ray Rice running all over the Cardinals and Rutgers pretty much dominating the game.


Fri, Dec 23, 2011 : 5:29 p.m.

Good luck Maize and Blue. Bring home a victory.


Fri, Dec 23, 2011 : 5:05 p.m.

I hope the bowl preparation goes well and that U-M is firing on all cylinders on game day. Denard is the wild card. We know he will be able to run the ball well, but what wil the layoff do to his passing? If he plays like he did in the past few games U-M will be in great shape. As to whether U-M deserves to be there or not, it's all speculation. Under the current bowl system, U-M made it fair and square within the BCS rules. In my opinion, it's all about matchups as to whether a lower-ranked team could beat a higher-ranked team. For example, I think U-M could beat some of the teams ranked above them that are more one-dimensional on offense and who struggle against a running QB. The hardest kind of team for U-M to play against is one whose defense is quick and physical, like MSU. The kind of offense that poses the most problems for U-M would be a team who is able to run and pass equally welland mix it up, passing in running situtations and run in passing situations, kind of like Notre Dame and Ohio State did against U-M.


Fri, Dec 23, 2011 : 4:33 p.m.

I agree there should be a playoff. Boise state just won their 50th game in 4 years (12.5 wins per year). They do it with mostly 2 and 3 star recruits. For those who think they don't play enough good teams- remember they will play anyone who lets them and have beaten Oklahoma, Virignia Tech., SC runner up Georgia and every PAC team and other top ten team they have faced (only loss TCU at TCU by a missed field goal- who beat Wisconsin last year). That a program like Boise State doesn't deserve a shot in a playoff system is wrong. They are the ultimate Cinderella team.


Fri, Dec 23, 2011 : 9:57 p.m.

TCU beat them in Boise, but point taken.

Theo's Brother

Fri, Dec 23, 2011 : 3:54 p.m.

11 days, 9 hours and 36 minutes to kickoff in New Orleans! And I'll will be there. Can't wait! GO BLUE!!! Who's coming down here too?????!!!

Theo's Brother

Sat, Dec 24, 2011 : 4:19 p.m.

Me too!!!!! Sec. 122 Row 31.


Sat, Dec 24, 2011 : 1:42 p.m.

sec 122, end zone corner left from the visitor's bench, I believe. thanks, UM ticket office.


Fri, Dec 23, 2011 : 3:52 p.m.

It's too bad aarox that you just assume that every team ranked ahead of Michigan is a better team. Even the way people rank the teams is flawed. Isn't that why 'they play the games'? The only game that means anything towards rankings is the national championship game. "If you are not first you're last" thanks Ricky.


Fri, Dec 23, 2011 : 5:20 p.m.

Don, I would have loved to play Boise. I know some say it's a lose lose for a big name BCS team to play a team like Boise, but I think they have built a reputation that is now respectable. It's no longer the old sentiment of well your supposed to beat them. With that being said, I agree that they have some suspect areas. I think M would have matched up very well. I also thought even before the Houston loss that M would have handled them convincingly based on athleticism and line of scrimmage play.


Fri, Dec 23, 2011 : 4:36 p.m.

Good point ... "reserved for the top 10 teams" does not mean the best 10 teams would be there. There's a great deal of subjectivity in the rankings past about two or three. Personally I don't see anything wrong with the bowl committees seeking to maximize their revenue and profit potential. It's a free country ... if people really hated the pairing then attendance and TV ratings would reflect it. Plus, did y'all watch Boise State v. ASU last night? The final score is misleading. Boise State did not play that well. Kellen Moore is a fine QB, and their offensive line is pretty good. Their secondary is suspect. And I'm not convinced their defensive line could handle a top-tier offensive line.


Fri, Dec 23, 2011 : 2:10 p.m.

Hope for the best but just happy to be in a bowl game win or lose. We have no business being in a BCS game - neither should WV - it should be reserved for the top 10 teams not the schools that bring the most $$$ to the party. But hey, nobody seems to care that the system is whacked. Sorry Kansas, South Carolina, Boise State, and Arkansas, you have better football but we have fans with more moola. Welcome to America.


Sun, Dec 25, 2011 : 8:02 a.m.

Yeah aarox, what the hell are you talking about man, give this team credit. I agree that we can beat any of those teams you mentioned, why do you have to concede that we're not as good. Nobody knows and we have the money, sorry, boo hoo to other teams. The U-M has built this powerful image over a very long period of time, we're not a johnny come lately. Besides, the way our team started humming at the end was impressive.


Sat, Dec 24, 2011 : 1:41 p.m.

Michigan could beat any of those teams, apologist. Let's see you pony up $25 Million in payout and then see who you chose to invite when your dollars are on the line. If it were mine, I'd choose Michigan over K-State, having lived 12 months in Manhattan.


Fri, Dec 23, 2011 : 9:38 p.m.

Should? When you take the financial risk or write the check to hold a bowl game, you can decide who goes. As for "better" football. No one knows unless they play on the field. Sounds like you should be pushing for a play off.


Fri, Dec 23, 2011 : 4:39 p.m.

We may have fans with more moola, but I think Blue could beat any of the teams you just mentioned.