Wolverines hope to avoid a Michigan State hangover
Ever since early January, the news had always been good. Brady Hoke had just taken the helm and Michigan football was coming back. The positive energy flowed through recruiting, through spring ball, fall camp and into the 2011 season.
When the Wolverines rattled off six straight wins to officially open the Hoke era, the results matched the expectations. A loss in game seven against rival Michigan State has slowed the euphoria express and forced the Wolverines to regroup for the final five games of the Big Ten schedule.
"It's time for me, along with my senior group and fellow captains, to step up and take control of the emotional level of this team and stride on," senior center David Molk said. "We can't let one loss set us back for the entire season and really make us feel like it's over. That's not going to happen."
For the first time since he arrived in Ann Arbor, Hoke is worried about a hangover and guarding against letting one loss lead to another.
"You really don't know until you go through it and see how we learned from it," Hoke said. "But I know one thing: you can't let one team beat you twice. So you've got to do a great job of pointing out the things that need to be corrected immediately and then focus on what's next."
The immediate "what's next" is Purdue, a surprisingly competitive bunch that has to be motivated by the game film from Michigan's loss to the Spartans. Michigan senior DL Mike Martin said it is critical for the Wolverines to turn things around right away.
"It starts with my attitude, my message, every day to the team," Martin said. "I'm excited. We're 6-1. We're not 1-6. I really believe this is a pivotal point for our team and the leadership on this team to step up. I think that's when leadership is supposed to really come in."
Martin said he believes the Wolverines will learn from the Michigan State loss and move into their final stretch of games as a stronger, more unified group.
"When times are good, it's easy to be a leader. When times are bad, I think that's when leaders have to step up and really show the way," Martin said.
--Michigan junior QB Denard Robinson is regularly criticized for his passing, but he leads the top division of college football with 16.49 yards per completion.
--The Wolverines have scored on 27 of their 30 trips to the red zone this season. Twenty-two of those Michigan trips to the red zone have been finished with touchdowns.
--Michigan's defense ranks first in the Big Ten and third in the nation in red zone defense. The Wolverines have allowed the opposition to score 11 touchdowns on 22 red zone trips this season.
SERIES HISTORY: Michigan leads Purdue 42-14 (last meeting 2010, 27-16 Michigan).
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Wolverines base their offensive strength not only on dynamic QB Denard Robinson, but more on their veteran offensive line. Michigan has four starters back from the 2010 team, a group that allowed a Big Ten low of 11 sacks for the season. To date, Michigan has allowed nine sacks in seven games. The Wolverines are also benefiting from their explosive capability, producing 37 plays this season that have gone for 20-plus yards.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Michigan's defense was an embarrassed and humbled group following the recent first loss of the season at Michigan State. Senior DL Mike Martin expects the group to play with passion and intensity against Purdue. "Controlled anger, controlled rage is a good way to put it," Martin said about the approach the Wolverines need to take. "I think it comes to keeping your poise and composure ... but also playing with a high intensity and high level." The Michigan defense got a lot of credit over the first six games for its marked improvement over last season, but now needs a strong showing against Purdue to regain some of that stature.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Football is a physical game, and guys are going to get bumped up, get sore. I know we have some guys that have been feeling that a bit, so having the bye week is key. I think it comes at the perfect time. We're at the halfway point of the season, and we have five more guaranteed opportunities as a football team. For us to be able to prepare longer for Purdue is also going to help. I think it's going to show up on Saturday." -- Michigan DL Mike Martin on the value of the recent bye week
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Purdue at Michigan, Oct. 29 -- The Wolverines come off the bye week and their first defeat of the season looking to rebound against the Boilermakers. Heading into the final five games, keeping QB Denard Robinson healthy is a priority.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Michigan's best formula for success is to keep its offense on the field for long stretches of time, moving the chains and piling up the yards while the Wolverines' defensive unit rests. Avoiding errors is always a priority, but the Michigan plan is one that needs the momentum that mistake-free possessions can produce. Michigan also wants to see its offense move the ball without putting most of the load on QB Denard Robinson's back. When other players do the damage, Robinson's skills are saved for another day.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
P Will Hagerup -- He will be a very important field position weapon as the Wolverines grind through the final five Big Ten games. In his most recent outing against Michigan State, Hagerup pinned the Spartans inside their 20 four times, with three of those punts stopping inside the 10.
WR Jeremy Gallon -- He leads the Wolverines with 20 receptions this season. His 305 yards in receptions ranks second on the team.
TE Kevin Koger -- He has made 25 starts in his Michigan career and is tied for the team lead this season with two touchdown receptions.
--QB Denard Robinson is practicing this week in preparation for starting the game against Purdue. Robinson left the recent Michigan State game in the fourth quarter with a back injury.
--DB Troy Woolfolk, who started all 12 games in 2009 and then missed all of the 2010 season after breaking his ankle in camp, has been slowed by a variety of injuries this season but still has played in all seven games, starting six times.
--DB Jordan Kovacs, a former walk-on, has 42 tackles through seven games and leads the Wolverines with three sacks.
--OL Ricky Barnum has been battling an ankle injury he suffered in the early-season win over San Diego State and did not play in the recent loss at Michigan State. He is expected back for Purdue.
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