You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Tue, Sep 27, 2011 : 11:21 a.m.

Michigan football team starts fast again, trying to avoid another 'embarrassing' finish

By Kyle Meinke

Michigan football coach Brady Hoke likes to say championships are won in November.

In the past three years, the Wolverines were 3-8 in that month. They actually were worse in October, going 1-11 against FBS teams. All told, the Wolverines are 6-18 the past three years in Big Ten play.

That's embarrassing, right?


Michigan running back Michael Shaw hangs his head as the final seconds tick off the clock during the Wolverines' 37-7 loss at Ohio State last season. After a 5-0 start, Michigan finished the regular season with a 7-5 record. file photo

"Absolutely," senior defensive tackle Ryan Van Bergen said Monday. "It's not acceptable by anyone's standards. ... The guys who have played here before us left a legacy of competing for a Big Ten championship, and we haven't even been close."

Michigan is 4-0 and ranked 19th in the country after handling each of its non-league opponents. Its road to Big Ten redemption begins Saturday against Minnesota (noon, BTN).

Most teams would take pride in a 4-0 start, but the Wolverines are not; which makes sense, considering they were 4-0 two years ago, 5-0 last year, then finished those seasons a combined 2-12 against FBS teams.

"You can see our record against Big Ten opponents, and it hasn't been anywhere close to where it need to be," Van Bergen said. "Who cares about being 4-0 in non-conference? Yeah, it'd be great to be 4-0 rather than 0-4, but it doesn't matter once you start Big Ten.

"I'm glad that everyone's riding high on 4-0, (but) no one on our team thinks we're a good team, as far as where we could be."

So, the challenge becomes reversing that trend. Can they do it?

That process began with a recent seniors meeting, which posed that very question. The seniors also plan to meet with the team.

"Making them realize, 'OK, we won four games, but it doesn't matter anymore because now we're into the Big Ten,'" senior captain and center David Molk said of the meeting. "It's not just looking at what our strengths are, it's understanding our weaknesses."

One weakness was the team's sluggish workouts early in the practice week. Tuesdays, at times, have been a real problem in terms of sharpness and intensity.

Seniors Junior Hemingway and Mike Martin cited those practices as a possible source of their slow starts in games. They challenged the team last week to pick it up -- and they did, responding with their best practice week of the year.

In turn, the team responded last Saturday with its best start of the year in a 28-7 drubbing of San Diego State.

"It was complete opposites when it came down to the Eastern Michigan game and San Diego State game, as far as how we prepared and the intensity," Van Bergen said.

The intensity of practices is expected to heighten even further with the arrival of league play.

"(Every returner) who is on this team has been 4-0 at one point, and everybody realizes that doesn't mean anything once you get into the Big Ten schedule," Van Bergen said. "Coach Hoke says championships are won in November, and our November record's not very good.

"What we do in the next two months is what's going to be remembered of our team — forever — and that's all we have left as seniors."

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



Wed, Sep 28, 2011 : 5 a.m.

I'm guessing here but,I think D-Robs passing problems this year could be just a psychological thing,getting confused being under center,dropping back,and going right to the read option,I think he'll break that bad habit,and get above 50% efficiency.. The defense is first in the B1G in Red zone Defense,and first in forced turnovers (13) so that should help the team win games that they might not have in 2010. They don't play Wiscky this yr,and they could be showing up in Indy if they get the right cards to fall.. I know wishful thinking right,But thats what Brady has instilled in his team... TiM GO BLUE.


Tue, Sep 27, 2011 : 11:59 p.m.

Theo, are you the guy who voted 2-6 ? Your Queen is gone so we won't be 2-6 in the B1G anymore.


Tue, Sep 27, 2011 : 7:54 p.m.

Wow. Poll results thus far project a 5-3 B1G season, 9-3 overall. Seems a bit optimistic to me given the way our passing offense has sputtered. I hope the collective intelligence is right. I'd take 9-3 in a heartbeat. GO BLUE!!!


Wed, Sep 28, 2011 : 1:18 a.m.

I have expected 9-3 all along. If you look at last year's team, at 7-5, two games were ten point losses and riddled with turnovers. I expect better defense this year, which we are seeing. The turnovers have got to stop. Then I think two more wins over last year's record are quite possible. Poor passing is a concern. I think DRob was passing better last year I was quite impressed with his passing as a first time starter.

Yeah buddy

Tue, Sep 27, 2011 : 5:44 p.m.

Sounds strange, but this may be our best chance to win the BiG in a long time. Nebraska will probably lose a couple games with the brutal schedule they have been dealt, so even if we lose to them we should make the championship game. No way this team loses to OSU this year.


Tue, Sep 27, 2011 : 3:37 p.m.

Preseason is over. Same record as last year, but a very different attitude and team, in my opinion. If our defense continues to improve and force turnovers and Denard can find his passing touch, I think we'll finish the year with a much better record than most expected. Go Blue!


Wed, Sep 28, 2011 : 1:13 a.m.

And stop turning over the ball.

Atticus F.

Tue, Sep 27, 2011 : 3:29 p.m.

The most important thing, is that we beat OSU. Nothing else is relevant to me at this point.


Tue, Sep 27, 2011 : 2:29 p.m.

In order to be successful in the Big Ten, U-M is going to need to diversify the offense a little more. Just having Denard run and using his athleticism to juke out opponents won't cut it against the better teams on the schedule. It wasn't enough last year and it won't be this year. Throwing 'jump ball' passes into double coverage is not a recipe for success, either. Denard is just one hard hit away from being on the sidelines and that scares me since everything in the U-M offense seems to revolve around his runs. His passing ability is mediocre so far. On the defensive side of the ball, I am more encouraged that this group will be able to get more stops than the previous few years. This is not a strong defense by any means, but they show a lot of heart and seem to have a knack for forcing turnovers, which is a great trait for any defense.


Tue, Sep 27, 2011 : 1:56 p.m.

The remainder of the schedual shows that we will face some tough oppenents on the road. The senior leadership is focused and it starts with attitude. I get the feeling that they have yet to prove themselves. Brady Hoke is emphatic that he wants to win a Big-10 championship and win it this year. The players have already gotten the message. They goal is to execute on both sides of the ball. They will work as hard as they can to accomplish that. In the mean time, they are fun to watch. They hustle during the game. The defense is already a big bright spot. The offense has the most adjusting to do with the new system. Denards needs more confidence than the mechanics of passing, perhaps both. I admire the new found attitude with this team. They are more likely to delight us rather than dissappoint for the remainder of the season. Buckle up and enjoy the ride...GO BLUE!!!


Tue, Sep 27, 2011 : 1:36 p.m.

RVB is showing a tremendous amount of leadership. It's clear Hoke trusts him and respects him, and as my father always says, Respect is earned and not given. Go blue. Like the attitude. Let's hope it translates to better outcome.

Blu n Tpa

Tue, Sep 27, 2011 : 12:37 p.m.

The preamble is over. Hopefully most of the kinks have been worked out and the coaches should have a good idea of who can do what and who can't. Over the last few years one of the biggest drawbacks was coaches not using the talent Michigan had effectively. Not anymore. Based on the poll above it seems that everybody thinks Michigan will be more successful this BT season than during the previous years. I concur. TiM Go Blue!


Tue, Sep 27, 2011 : 12:12 p.m.

Focusing on problems is how good decisions are discovered. Great job Seniors! GO BLUE!