ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) – Michigan has gotten comfortable at home, winning five straight to open the season.
The Wolverines beat Minnesota 58-0 in their Big Ten opener and climbed seven spots to No. 12 in The Associated Press college football poll Sunday.
Now, they have to hit the road.
Michigan’s next two games are at Northwestern and at Michigan State.
Coach Brady Hoke joked that it would be wonderful to play a 10-game home schedule, but is seriously curious to see how the Wolverines fare away from the Big House.
“I’m interested to see how we react and what we’re made of, our mentality, our mental toughness,” Hoke said. “And if we’re business like.”
Even though the Wolverines are undefeated, they’re not fooled into thinking they’ve arrived as a Big Ten or national powerhouse.
“We’re still miles away from where we need to be,” defensive end Craig Roh said.
Michigan might find out how far college football’s winningest program has come in Brady’s first season over the next two weeks.
The Wildcats welcomed back Dan Persa for the first time since November and led by 18 points at Illinois only to lose and fall to .500 after their standout quarterback aggravated his injured right Achilles tendon.
The Spartans improved to 4-1 with a win at Ohio State in the Big Ten opener and get to rest during a bye week before going for a fourth straight win against rival Michigan.
Michigan gave opponents something new to prepare for – as Hoke acknowledged – after lining up Denard Robinson at running back and Devin Gardner at quarterback against Minnesota.
Gardner took snaps and gave the ball Robinson or faked a handoff to him in one of many misdirection plays against Minnesota.
“We have been doing that in practice and we have been working on it,” Robinson said. “Coach said he was going to throw it at us and for us to be ready, and he called it. So we were ready.”
The seldom-used Gardner was thrilled he finally got extended playing time, being on the field with Robinson and filling in for him for more than a quarter against the Golden Gophers. His only previous experience this season was a 7-yard carry against Eastern Michigan after playing sparingly in just three games as a freshman last year. Gardner was 2 of 5 for 31 yards and ran six times for 39 yards.
“I’ve just been waiting my turn,” Gardner said. “I felt that I did the most I could with it.”
Brendan Gibbons made the most of his opportunity as well, going 3 for 3 on field goals, including a career-long 38-yard kick against Minnesota. He was 1 of 2 previously this year, making a chip shot, and 1 of 5 last season.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence in him and hopefully that interjects even more confidence into him,” Hoke said.
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