LARRY LAGE,AP Sports Writer
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Denard Robinson took Michigan’s loss at Notre Dame hard.
The senior quarterback apologized to fans publicly and said sorry to teammates privately after throwing a career-high four interceptions and fumbling once in a 13-6 setback Saturday night.
The unranked Wolverines have quickly rallied around Robinson.
“You make sure he understands that we took 69 guys to the game and we’ve got 115 on this football team,” coach Brady Hoke said Tuesday night after practice. “We’re all responsible — coaches, players, everybody.”
Running back Fitzgerald Toussaint recalled Robinson telling teammates “it won’t happen again,” following a loss that dropped the team to 2-2 and out of The Associated Press college football poll.
“We all make mistakes, not just Denard,” Toussaint said. “We apologized to him, too.”
Michigan began the season ranked No. 8 with Robinson leading a team that went 11-2 last year in Hoke’s debut in charge of college football’s winningest program.
The Wolverines, who are off this week, are off to a shaky start. They were routed by Alabama, barely beat Air Force, got past lowly Massachusetts and struggled a lot offensively against the Fighting Irish.
Hoke and his players, though, are confident a Big Ten title is a realistic expectation even though the team has already lost as many games as it did all of last year.
“I’m very optimistic going into the Big Ten season,” safety Thomas Gordon said. “It’s kind of like a fresh start.”
Michigan took advantage of the beginning of the Hoke era with more victories than the program has had in a season since 2006 and by winning a BCS bowl for the first time since 2000.
“We had high expectations to live up to,” Gordon acknowledged. “We already lost two games, but that doesn’t define our season.
“We haven’t lost Big Ten games.”
The Wolverines haven’t won one this year, either, and they will open conference play with a tough test Oct. 6 at Purdue. They haven’t won a Big Ten title since 2004 in what has been the school’s longest drought between winning conference championships since titles in 1950 and 1964.
Gordon said this week’s bye is “definitely” coming at a good time.
“Time to get some reps and get guys’ heads on straight,” Gordon said. “We can still smell roses at the end of the season. That’s our focus and what we’re trying to get to.”
Hoke said nothing has happened in the last month to change what he thinks his team’s chances are to win a conference championship.
“I like our team,” he said.
While the Wolverines struggled to score or move the ball consistently because of turnovers against Notre Dame, their defense played pretty well.
“We’re finally starting to gel and we’re coming together as a group,” Gordon said. “We were flying around to the football and everybody was on the same page.”
Michigan had gotten used to Robinson’s statistics jumping off the page against Notre Dame. He had more than 900 yards of offense and eight touchdowns in dramatic wins the previous two meetings.
The Irish, though, seemed to figure him out in their latest matchup. He was 13 of 24 for 138 yards and had five turnovers and gained an average of just 3.5 yards on 26 carries.
“I want to say to everyone who watches Michigan football and follows Michigan football, it won’t happen no more,” Robinson said following the loss in South Bend, Ind. “I’m going to be accountable for the rest of the season. I don’t want to feel like this no more. In the 22 years I’ve been living, this is the most disappointed I’ve ever been in myself.”
Offensive guard Patrick Omameh said he simply told Robinson to keep his head up.
Teammates on the other side of the ball spoke up in support of him as well.
“We all as a defense went up to Denard and told him, ‘It’s a team thing,'” defensive tackle Will Campbell said. “As a defense, if they didn’t score, we would’ve won.”
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