The most important part of preparation Michigan might do all week happened nearly a week before it will take the field against Nebraska, when the Wolverines forgot about their embarrassing loss at the hands of the Spartans.
Michigan coach Brady Hoke said he ran Sunday’s practice a little bit differently. However, he acted the same way he did on the Sundays after the big Notre Dame win, the Penn State loss or the Indiana blowout.
“No. 1, it falls on me,” Hoke said. “The leadership, coaches, captains, seniors … but it starts with me first.”
And Hoke’s message to the team was that the Wolverines still -- though unlikely and completely out of their own hands -- could contend for the Big Ten title.
But the first step toward winning that championship would be moving on from the disappointment in East Lansing to the Wolverines’ next test against Nebraska.
It obviously wasn’t going to be the easiest task to completely forget about Michigan State and move on to Nebraska because of how the Wolverines lost to Michigan State, and the numbers of holes that were exposed, both offensively and defensively.
But Hoke kept it simple. He explained that they couldn’t let Michigan State beat them twice. And most important,, he did it with a level head.
“Do you want your leader to freak out? Do you want George Patton to go crazy in the middle of a battle and get everyone killed? No. He had a bad temper, and Brady does, too,” offensive coordinator Al Borges said. “But if cooler heads prevail at the end of the day … then generally they’ll recover. But if you go in the tank or overreact or do something, the players will follow you right into the tank.”
Borges said that he and the other assistants take their cues from Hoke and that the captains and seniors follow their lead. The whole team seems to have gotten past their rivalry loss and moved completely to the Cornhuskers.
“We have to bounce back,” senior captain Cam Gordon said. “This isn’t a time to mope around. It’s time to really focus in, focus in on winning a Big Ten championship.”
Hoke has always wanted the seniors to be the vocal leaders and coming off this defeat, that’ll be especially important. With Nebraska coming off an emotional win over Northwestern and the Wolverines coming off such an emotional loss, controlling those feelings on the field will be paramount this weekend for Michigan.
And the next biggest lesson Hoke might give his team is how he reacts this Sunday. Win or loss, by a lot or a little, chances are it’ll be the exact same way he came in last Sunday and the one before that.
“I’ve always believed with young people that this may be the only consistent discipline thing that some of them have ever in their lives,” Hoke said. “For us to be consistent with how we act and how we react to different situations … I think that’s important.”