ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Michigan’s new-look offensive line passed its first test. The next one is going to be much tougher.
After steamrolling Central Michigan 59-9 in the season opener, the 17th-ranked Wolverines face No. 14 Notre Dame in just the second night game in Michigan Stadium history.
The Wolverines had question marks coming into this season after replacing the three interior players on their offensive line. Jack Miller made his first start at center, while Graham Glasgow and Kyle Kalis debuted at guard. Miller is a redshirt sophomore, Glasgow is a former walk-on who only became a scholarship player last week, and Kalis is a redshirt freshman.
Behind them, and fifth-year senior tackles Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield, Michigan ran for 242 yards and six touchdowns.
“Jack, Graham and Kyle — we told them that they did a nice job last week, but it gets a little tougher this week,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke said Monday. “No disrespect to Central, but Notre Dame has some big guys up front who have played a lot of snaps. They line up in an odd front, so Jack’s going to have a big guy directly on him, and they are really active. It’s going to be a much bigger test.”
Manti Te’o was the star of last season’s Notre Dame game, and he’s gone to the NFL, but Hoke doesn’t think that is going to make life much easier for the Wolverines.
“They’ve pretty much got the same front seven that they had a year ago,” he said. “They had a very good player who is now playing at the next level, but they’ve done a great job of recruiting, so it’s just as good a group as it was a year ago, and you saw how much trouble they gave us.”
Lewan, a preseason All-America, agreed with his coach.
“Losing Te’o is tough, but that’s still a really good defense,” he said.
Lewan is more concerned with the distractions that his young teammates will be facing. The first night game in the Big House — two years ago against the Irish — was a massive event, and this one promises to be just as big. ESPN’s College Gameday show will be at the game, and Michigan hopes to break the attendance record of 114,804, set during the first primetime game between the two teams.
Lewan’s task, not just as the leader of the line, but as the offensive captain, is to try to get his teammates to forget that any of that is happening.
“It’s awesome that Gameday is going to be here, and there will be a lot of amazing things going on Saturday, but we need to remember that none of that is for us,” he said. “That’s for the fans, the media and the people watching on TV. We just need to focus on doing the same thing we do every Saturday — play a game of football. We can’t worry about the lights or the fans or anything else. Just play football.”
At the same time, though, Lewan knows that Saturday will be special. Not only is it his last chance to play the Fighting Irish, but it will be the last schedule visit for Notre Dame to Ann Arbor.
“This is a huge national rivalry — one of the three big ones Michigan has, along with Michigan State and Ohio,” he said. “I’m going to remember these games after I’m gone as special times in my career, but I won’t be thinking about that Saturday.”
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly made some headlines on Sunday when he said that he didn’t consider Michigan a “historic, traditional Notre Dame” rivalry, but Hoke wasn’t going to get involved in a war of words.
“He speaks for Notre Dame, and I speak for Michigan,” he said. “Maybe they don’t consider it a big rivalry, but we do. This is a game that started in 1887, and we’ve won 904 games and they are pretty close behind, so you are talking about two of the great programs in the history of the sport.”
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