ANN ARBOR (AP) – At some point, perhaps later this week, Michigan will have to move on from its loss to Michigan State.
Wolverines coach Brady Hoke acknowledged he’s not quite ready to do that.
“Kids are more resilient than we are – period,” he said Monday.
The 18th-ranked Wolverines (6-1, 2-1 Big Ten) have a bye this week, meaning Hoke doesn’t have another team to focus on. That means the 28-14 loss to the Spartans – matching a school-record four-game skid in the rivalry – is going to linger longer in the minds of Hoke and his players.
“It’s going to hurt a little bit, losing to Michigan State four years in a row and knowing I’ll never get a chance to play them again,” senior tight end Kevin Koger said. “But eventually, we’ve got to put it away and move on to Purdue.”
Hoke plans to put his players through a pair of hard-hitting practices and a few weight-lifting workouts during the off week before getting ready to play the Boilermakers (3-3, 1-1) on Oct. 29 at home.
The Wolverines’ weaknesses were exposed Saturday in their first loss under Hoke.
The Spartans dared Denard Robinson to throw and the quarterback completed his lowest percentage of passes as a starter – and his lowest rushing total as a starter.
Devin Gardner got a chance to play more than he had this season, including some snaps with Robinson on the sideline before he was hurt, but Hoke insisted there aren’t plans to play him for an entire series or a quarter.
“Denard is our quarterback,” Hoke said. “We’re 6-1, and a lot of that is because Denard is our quarterback.”
Hoke said rotating Gardner with Robinson is no different than substituting one defensive end for another.
The Spartans knocked Robinson out of the game for good in the fourth quarter with what Hoke said was a bruised back. Hoke said Robinson will practice this week and Robinson sounded as if he fully expects to play against Purdue.
“We got two weeks,” Robinson said after the game. “And our training staff is one of the best in the country.”
Robinson has never been regarded as one of the nation’s best passers, but he has not been as accurate of a passer in Hoke’s first year as he was last season in Rich Rodriguez’s spread offense. He is connecting on just under 54 percent of his attempts – down from 62.5 percent last season – and has thrown 10 interceptions, one fewer than he had in almost twice as many games last season.
Michigan State safety Isaiah Lewis, who returned Robinson’s interception for a touchdown to seal Saturday’s win, said the game plan was to force Robinson to run because the Spartans didn’t think he could throw the ball.
Hoke called that a “bogus statement because he can throw.”
“He’s proven it a couple different times this year, I believe,” he said. “I mean, there’s a lot more than just Denard.”
Still, Michigan’s offensive line has not been able to create a pocket consistently for Robinson. The front also isn’t creating many holes for an assortment of running backs.
The Wolverines have bent often this season on defense, but haven’t broken down enough to let teams score a lot and they have covered up mistakes by creating turnovers. They were solid at times against Michigan State, but ended up allowing 200-plus rushing yards and a TD along with two scores through the air in the pivotal third quarter.
Michigan’s first losses in each of the previous two years were against the Spartans, leading to six- and seven-loss seasons under Rodriguez. Koger is confident this season will be different.
“I think the past couple of years, we dwelled on it and they beat us a couple more times,” Koger said. “We have to put this game away, find out what we did wrong, correct it and move on as quickly as possible.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)