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Posted on Sat, Sep 24, 2011 : 8 p.m.

Michigan whips San Diego State, then shows humanity toward a team with familiar faces

By Kyle Meinke

Al Borges hung around just outside the tunnel that leads to the depths of Michigan Stadium, consoling players after a tough loss.

They just weren't his players. Not anymore.

But it's obvious, after Michigan football coaches spent the past week downplaying the emotional subplot of facing their old team, that detachment probably was the only emotion not in play Saturday as the Wolverines hammered San Diego State, 28-7, at Michigan Stadium.


Michigan football coach Brady Hoke spent a moment with San Diego State linebacker Larry Gibbs before the game.

Angela J. Cesere |

Look no further than the nearly 15-minute conversation Borges, Michigan's offensive coordinator, had outside the tunnel with Aztecs quarterback Ryan Lindley, a fifth-year senior who blossomed into a top-10 quarterback under him.

Lindley was abysmal in their reunion.

Coordinators love hammering opposing quarterbacks. Not this time.

"I told him to hang in there," Borges said. "He’s a good player and they’re going to have a good season. They’ve got a good team. They’re better than they played today."

Michigan coach Brady Hoke brought five assistants with him when he departed San Diego State in January. They had to leave promptly, during semester break, meaning there never was a proper goodbye.

Just a mass text.

They reunited Saturday, when Michigan bludgeoned them in nearly every facet of the game. Afterward, though, coaches downplayed the rout. It was a moment for humanity.

"We spent two years with those kids," Borges said. "They’re near and dear to our heart. You know, I’m glad this game’s over, I really am. I was kind of in denial until we actually had to play it."

Hoke also spent time on the field afterward, consoling the players he helped mold into winners — into a team that, on the right day, could triumph at a place such as the Big House.

Hoke declined to elaborate on those conversations — "It's great to see them, but it's personal" — yet his intentions were clear.

"That part of it is being a human being," he said. "There's a love you have for those guys that you've coached and you've been around."


San Diego State coach Rocky Long: "Brady (Hoke) and I are good friends."

Melanie Maxwell |

San Diego State coach Rocky Long served as Hoke's defensive coordinator with the Aztecs. When Hoke left for Michigan, he extended an offer for Long to join his staff in Ann Arbor. When the Aztecs offered to make Long their head coach, he decided to stay.

He embraced Hoke at midfield after the game, surely a bittersweet reunion.

"Brady and I are good friends," Long said. "I just wished him good luck the rest of the way. Brady will win a national championship here. I don't know how soon it will be, but he'll win a national championship.

"It was like brothers playing against each other. Loved each other before the game, loved each other after the game. Don’t like each other between."

There was a lot for Long not to like during the 60 minutes football was played.

Hoke's defense emerged from a season-long slumber to post its best game of the year. It hounded Lindley into a miserable day and held Ronnie Hillman, the nation's second-leading rusher, to 112 yards. He had been averaging 167 per game.

For Hoke, those are encouraging signs as his team closes nonconference play with a perfect record.

He must have been impressed, for him to say something as out of character as this: "I think our defense is playing pretty good, to be honest with ya."

Coming from a man who, quite literally, demands perfection on that side of the ball, it's a telling sign for just how good that unit played against a team averaging 38 points per game.

The players launched into unbridled celebration, with the hooting and hollering and chants of "Go Blue!" spilling into the team's news conference.

But for coaches, it wasn't so pure.

College football can be a cruel game, on the field and off it.

The sight on the field after Saturday's game was a reminder just how good this game can be, when good men play it and good men coach it.

It was a tough week for Hoke and his staff, and they faced tough questions. Saturday, they came up with hard answers on the field and soft hearts off it.

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


Buster W.

Mon, Sep 26, 2011 : 4:34 p.m.

I was somewhat surprised there were only 6-8 players that met up with Hoke mid-field at the end of the game.

Captain Dave

Mon, Sep 26, 2011 : 1:12 p.m.

Michigan's game Saturday confirmed the great improvement in our defense . Watching what WMU did at Illinois where if they had a good field goal kicker they would have won by 3 points instead of losing by 3. Everyone was raving about the Illinois defense last week. ND spanked MSU the week before. I feel if the defense continues to improve we will definitely be in the Big 10 championship hunt and a major bowl. I hope the positive attitude that Denard Robinson has will start to equate to a much better passing attack on the field as we enter the Big 10 season. If it does we will be playing in the Championship game. GO BLUE


Sun, Sep 25, 2011 : 9:37 p.m.

Did Kyle Turley congratulate Hoke after the game?


Sun, Sep 25, 2011 : 4:22 p.m.

The story has feel-good written all over. Now we can wish SDSU well for the rest of their season. There was a sense of respect each team had for each other during the game. Yep, glad this one is behind us.

Stephen Schewe

Sun, Sep 25, 2011 : 3:31 p.m.

I am SO impressed with Brady Hoke. He seems to represent all the positive values that should permeate college football. It's not just about winning games. It's about building character and playing as gentlemen---respecting the game, the Michigan football tradition and the other team. The coach sets the standards, and I feel Brady does that very well.

Blu n Tpa

Sun, Sep 25, 2011 : 11:35 a.m.

Kyle, good mix of the people and the emotions. As stated Coach Hoke had downplayed the meeting of his old team vs Michigan Saturday afternoon. It was the right thing to do since he couldn't tell his players to concentrate if he was walking around all nostalgic about the coaches and team he left behind. And like a good Disney story, Michigan won, goodbyes were said, and tears were dried. Time to move on. TiM Go Blue!

Hot Sam

Sun, Sep 25, 2011 : 3 a.m.

I felt a great deal of pride having them all in our town today!


Sun, Sep 25, 2011 : 1:55 a.m.

"The sight on the field after Saturday's game was a reminder just how good this game can be, when good men play it and good men coach it. It was a tough week for Hoke and his staff, and they faced tough questions. Saturday, they come up hard answers on the field and soft hearts off it." == Kyle Meinke says it right here. This is the kind of coaches and program Michigan stands for - once again. Our state and federal elected officials should have Brady Hoke and the other coaches of character in this country on speed dial! They (the Lansing and Washington "players") need a lot of coaching in character and commitment to the TEAM they're supposed to be working for. This game marks something of a mile stone: a test of combined character and will which both teams passed with flying colors. So long as we have men like Brady Hoke coaching at Michigan, I am proud to be a Michigan fan.


Sun, Sep 25, 2011 : 1:07 a.m.

Nice article Kyle. I was interested in knowing how Hoke was going to interact with his old players. Thanks for that. It seem like Hoke is the type of coach who will engender a whole lot of loyalty from his players and give it right back. He grabbed his dream job and had to take it, and based on what we know, he did not get a proper departure from SDSU or his players. Glad he got to do that today. This bodes very well for our future, too.