The TSX Files: Michigan Enters B1G Undefeated

The Wolverines are 4-0 and ranked in the top 25 in both national polls, and they move into the Big Ten portion of their schedule unbeaten for the third season in a row. But a sluggish and scoreless effort in the third quarter has Coach Hoke concerned.

INSIDE SLANT
Wolverines enter Big Ten play unbeaten again

The Wolverines are 4-0 and ranked in the top 25 in both national polls, and they move into the Big Ten portion of their schedule unbeaten for the third season in a row.

First-year head coach Brady Hoke sees enough positive indicators to be encouraged that the program is headed in the right direction. In their most-recent 28-7 win over San Diego State, the Wolverines demonstrated a much improved defense, an ability to sustain drives on offense, and at times, a resolve that Hoke has been waiting to see.

"The kids went out and executed, and I think the first half of the football game probably was our best total team half of football that we've played all year," Hoke said after watching the Wolverines build a 21-0 lead by halftime.

"Offensively, we kept possessing the ball, scored a couple touchdowns. Defensively, I thought our guys fought like heck and played well against the run and did a nice job in the transition passing game."

But a sluggish and scoreless effort in the third quarter has Hoke concerned. Heading into Big Ten conference play, the Wolverines need to show more consistency and the ability to get an opponent down, and then put it away.

"We need to talk about that (flat third quarter)," Hoke said. "It's what happened out there and that's what's keeping us from being the kind of football team we need to be. We turned the ball over, and we couldn't get a first down. Really I wasn't happy with how we played there in the second half." Hoke knows the sledding gets tougher from this point onward. The Wolverines open Big Ten play with a struggling Minnesota team, but the rest of the conference schedule is much more formidable.

The questions remain for Michigan, despite the unblemished record and the seemingly dominant performance over San Diego State. Hoke's quandary involves how to keep the confidence level high, the momentum moving in the right direction, and not let his team get too full of itself.

Being unbeaten four games into the season certainly has its worth, but Hoke does not want to place too much value on it.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Michigan knows the value of "home, sweet home". The Wolverines open the 2011 season with five straight home games, and has won the first four. In their win over San Diego State, Michigan had 110,707 in the seats for its 234th consecutive game with more than 100,000 fans at Michigan Stadium.

--Michigan swept through its non-conference schedule unscathed for the third straight year.

--The Wolverines have been very productive in the red zone this season, cashing in all 13 trips. Michigan has 12 touchdowns and a field goal in those 13 red zone ventures.

--San Diego State head coach Rocky Long has high expectations for the Wolverines and new head coach Brady Hoke, Long's former boss at SDSU. "Brady will win a national championship here," Long said. "I don't know how soon it will be, but he'll win a national championship."

KEEP AN EYE ON: QB Denard Robinson -- Michigan's coaches keep saying they want to cut down on Robinson's carries to protect him from injury, but he had 21 more carries in the win over San Diego State. "We want to keep him healthy," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said as the Wolverines prepared to move into the historically more physical Big Ten play.

LOOKING GOOD: Michigan played its best defense of the season in the win over San Diego State. "I think that we got enough pressure on the quarterback at times with four guys, which is something we need to continue to strive for," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. "We did a nice job of covering their wide receivers. And I think we forced some bad throws, but it all starts with stopping the running game."

STILL NEEDS WORK: Ball security remains an issue with the Wolverines, although they dodged a bullet despite a mistake-prone performance against San Diego State. Michigan saw QB Denard Robinson throw interceptions on back-to-back drives to start the second half, and had RB Vincent Smith and RB Stephen Hopkins both lose fumbles.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We all love each other, and enjoy being with each other. We're like family. That's what we're proud of. We take everyone in, so when the freshmen come in, we want them to know that." -- Michigan junior QB Denard Robinson on the 2011 team

PLAYER NOTES

--QB Denard Robinson was versatile and effective against San Diego State, completing 8-of-17 passes for 93 yards and also ran the ball 21 times for 200 yards and three touchdowns. It was the third 200-yard rushing game of Robinson's career. --RB Vincent Smith had nine carries for 47 yards and a touchdown against San Diego State, while also catching three passes for 44 receiving yards.

--DE Craig Roh had two tackles for loss, a sack and a forced fumble in the win over San Diego State.

ROSTER REPORT:

--DB Troy Woolfolk re-injured the ankle he sprained in the season opener against Western Michigan and is sidelined again. Woolfolk's status for the Big Ten opener against Minnesota is yet to be determined.

--DB Blake Countess, a true freshman, replaces the injured senior Troy Woolfolk in the lineup.

--CB Terrence Talbot, injured in the win over Notre Dame, has missed the past two games.

--LB Cam Gordon has missed the past two games with a back injury. His status for the Big Ten opener against Minnesota has not been announced.


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