No. 24 Michigan Still Searching For Its Identity
LARRY LAGE, AP Sports Writer
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Michigan coach Brady Hoke was asked what the identity of his team was after its shootout win over Indiana.
“I don’t know if I can answer that,” he said after the Wolverines outscored Indiana 63-47.
Hoke doesn’t expect to find out during the bye week, but hopes he does on Nov. 2 in East Lansing against the rival Spartans.
“Michigan State is a heck of a test,” he said Monday. “We’ll find out more after that game.”
Hoke wants Michigan to have a powerful offense that runs the ball early, often and effectively with its running backs. On defense, he wants his linemen to get off blocks, linebackers to make tough tackles and defensive backs to pick off or deflect passes.
So far, those things haven’t happened consistently.
The 24th-ranked Wolverines (6-1, 2-1 Ten) have gotten through the easier stretch of their schedule with mostly good results. They beat Notre Dame, avoided upsets against Akron and Connecticut and lost only at Penn State in four overtimes after losing a 10-point lead late in the fourth quarter.
Each of the last five games, though, potentially present problems for college football’s winningest team.
After resting physical and mentally this week, the Wolverines will close the regular season on the road against the Spartans, at home against Nebraska, on the road again against Northwestern and Iowa before hosting rival Ohio State.
Hoke said he’s sure Michigan has a shot to win a Big Ten title this season for the first time since 2004.
“There’s no doubt that we’re confident in that,” he said. “We have to keep improving on both fronts.”
The Wolverines took a hit in their quest to get better on the offensive line in Saturday’s win over the Hoosiers because redshirt junior guard Joey Burzynski tore a knee ligament.
“Joey will probably lose for the rest of the year,” Hoke said. “You look at depth and you look at the last five games you’re going to need everybody.”
And, everybody that plays Michigan the rest of the season will likely come up with a plan to slow down receiver Jeremy Gallon after he was named the Big Ten offensive player of the week. The slippery, 5-foot-9 senior had 369 yards receiving against Indiana, surpassing the previous conference record of 301 set in 1999 by Purdue’s Chris Daniels, and 50- and 21-yard touchdown receptions.
“Everybody is going to look at it different,” Hoke said.
The Hoosiers focused so much on tight end Devin Funchess and on stopping the run that they often left Gallon with a lot of open space to catch and run.
Michigan broke school records with 751 yards of offense — averaging 9 yards per play — and quarterback Devin Gardner set marks with 584 yards of offense and 503 yards passing.
The defense didn’t make many plays until Thomas Gordon intercepted two passes on consecutive drives in the fourth quarter and Frank Clark ended the game with the team’s second sack.
“They made plays when they had to,” offensive tackle Taylor Lewan said. “Our defense has played way more consistently than our offense has throughout the year, and it was nice to have their back in this one.”
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