Hoke Talks Rushing Game, Lewis' Emergence

Brad Hoke on winning the rushing game versus Michigan State, Jourdan Lewis' emergence and De'Veon Smith embracing his starting role.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The winning formula is simple: whoever rushes for more yards this Saturday – wins.

That’s usually how it plays out anyways.

In 41 of the last 44 matchups between Michigan and Michigan State, the victor walked away with the most rushing yards, with MSU outgaining U-M 148 to minus-48 in last year’s 29-6 Spartan victory.

But is rushing yardage the most important statistic in this game?

“I don’t know,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. “I think being able to run the ball because it sets up so much of your offense is an important part of it. I don’t think it’s too much different than what this is. I think every year we talk about the rushing yards with one team. And when you look at it, there is probably something to it a little bit.”

The Emergence of Lewis

Jourdan Lewis leads the Wolverines with two interceptions this season, and has been one of the more consistent players in the U-M’s secondary, Hoke says.

“I think consistency and technique,” Hoke said, when asked to describe Lewis’ game. “His competitiveness out on the field. In practice, whoever he is trying to defend. Obviously, he’s got the athleticism. He’s got some length to him. He’s not the tallest guy. He’s long armed. He’s got a real knack for the football. The consistency he’s showed week-to-week has kept him in the lineup.”

Hoke continued, saying Lewis found his niche with the team back in spring practice.

“I think coming out the spring we were excited about his development,” Hoke said. “… That started it. Getting into fall camp, he had more veteran guys he competed with. He’s been the guy.”

Smith’s Featured Role

With Derrick Green sidelined due to injury, De’Veon Smith has taken over as Michigan’s new feature back. And while he has one start against Penn State, with two weeks of practice under his belt, he’s finally adjusting to his new role, Hoke says.

“De’Veon [Smith] knows he needs to be the lead back,” Hoke said.

Smith struggled in U-M’s 18-13 win over PSU, gaining 24-yards on 12-carries.

“I think probably, even though you have that one week that’s three practices basically before the Penn State game. I think this is something he’s thought about,” Hoke said. “We were walking up the tunnel, and he was walking next to me and he said, ‘Boy, did I play terrible.’ He said, ‘I missed more holes that were there.’ And you know, it’s refreshing to hear a guy say that. it’s also refreshing when he fixes it.”

Michigan (3-4, 1-2 Big Ten) plays at No. 8 Michigan State (6-1, 3-0) this Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

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