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Michigan's troubles on the road continue in loss to Ohio State

Erin Kirkland/Daily
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By Luke Pasch, Daily Sports Editor
Published November 24, 2012

COLUMBUS — Following a 44-13 win at Purdue on Oct. 6, senior quarterback Denard Robinson revealed his undershirt to the media. It had a blue-ish camouflage pattern, and it read “ROAD WARRIORS” across the front.

He announced that that was what the Wolverines needed to be in order to succeed this season. Last year, Michigan played in front of its fans eight times and hit the road just four times during the regular season. This year, there were six road games (if you include Cowboys Stadium, which was technically a neutral site), and it seemed that Michigan faced all of its tough opponents were on the road.

Throughout 2012, the Wolverines traveled to play Alabama (in Arlington, Tex.), Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State.

Two top-five teams, a top-15 team and an undefeated team. All outside of the cozy confines of Michigan Stadium.

It was a grueling schedule for sure, and ultimately the Wolverines (6-2 Big Ten, 8-4 overall) failed to be the road warriors they set out to be, losing each of those marquee matchups.

Whatever joy Robinson felt while talking to the media after the game at Purdue, it seemed the players felt an equal amount of dismay after Saturday’s game against he Buckeyes, having lost their fourth road game of the season.

“It’s not just about myself — you don’t want to come down here (to Columbus) and lose,” said fifth-year safety Jordan Kovacs. “That’s all I’ve got to say about it.”

The players claim this game wasn’t similar to the previous road losses, but there does at least seem to be a common denominator between them. In each of those losses, Michigan turned the ball over at least three times. Carelessness with the ball on the road tends to ignite the crowd and give the momentum to the home team.

On Saturday, the Wolverines fumbled away the ball three times and junior quarterback Devin Gardner threw an interception late in the fourth quarter. That doesn’t include a turnover-on-downs when Robinson was stuffed on a fourth-down running play at midfield early in the second half.

After that fourth-down stop, the Buckeyes converted the turnover to points on a Drew Basil field goal, taking the lead for good early in the third quarter. Ohio State added three more points later after sacking Gardner and causing a fumble deep in Michigan territory.

“I wouldn’t say there’s common things that’s happened (between the losses),” said senior defensive end Will Campbell. “It’s just not going out there playing Michigan football like we’re coached to do.”

Perhaps one difference between the loss at Ohio State and the previous ones was the way it likely stung for Michigan players as Buckeye fans stormed the field. Many of the fans were already running through the south end zone before the Wolverines could get off the field and into the locker room.

“Losing here is, of course, a bad thing,” said senior defensive tackle Will Campbell.

Of course, it was much the same way for the Buckeyes when they lost, 40-34, to the Wolverines in Ann Arbor last year.

Chances are, the young Michigan players who experienced the four road losses this season will learn some lessons about playing away from home. One of coach Brady Hoke’s messages after the game was that losing, in a way, is also learning how to win.

“We had a lot of underclassmen here, a lot of true freshmen here, that will remember today,” Hoke said. “That helps them as they continue to grow.”