- Erin Kirkland/Daily
By Luke Pasch, Daily Sports Editor
Published October 29, 2012
With the Michigan football team’s loss at Nebraska last Saturday, the Wolverines no longer control their own destiny en route to the Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis.
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Michigan (3-1 Big Ten, 5-3 overall) and Nebraska (3-1, 6-2) are now tied atop the Legends Division in the conference standings, but the Cornhuskers have the advantage in the tiebreaker because they won head-to-head against the Wolverines. So, even if Michigan wins each of its final four games — at Minnesota, home against Northwestern and Iowa, and at Ohio State — Nebraska would still go to the championship game if it also wins out.
“I don’t think anyone in our locker room is doubting anything,” said senior defensive end Craig Roh. “All we can do right now is win these four games, and that’s all the power we have. And then everything else is up to a higher power.”
In practice, Michigan coach Brady Hoke has been preaching to his team that every week is a championship week. That is, each matchup in conference play is immensely important if the team wants to reach that championship game. Now, the situation is more dire, and if the Wolverines lose again, they could all but kiss their title dreams goodbye.
At home against Minnesota last season, Michigan trounced the visitors, 58-0, to keep the coveted Brown Jug trophy in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines would like to keep the jug resting in Schembechler Hall, but they care more about the grander implications of the matchup.
“I’m playing to win a Big Ten Championship,” said redshirt junior offensive tackle Taylor Lewan. “The Brown Jug, it’s a nice trophy, I want to win the trophy, want to keep it in Michigan. But I’m focused on the Big Ten Championship and one week at a time.”
Added Hoke: “There’s four guarantees left, and we’ve got to play our best in each one of those four. … November is when you win championships in this league. Our guys believe that, and that’s an important thing for us to realize.”
LEWAN FRUSTRATED: Lewan was all smiles when he first took the podium on Monday afternoon, even joking with a reporter that his sweater looked like it was straight out of the “Bill Cosby Show.”
When he got to the microphone, though, his demeanor changed, and he let everybody know he was unhappy with how Michigan performed on Saturday. He was also displeased with some of the criticism redshirt freshman quarterback Russell Bellomy has been receiving following his poor performance filling in for senior quarterback Denard Robinson.
“All these things being told about Russell, I don’t appreciate it because Russell’s my quarterback,” Lewan said. “Denard’s my quarterback, Devin, Jack Kennedy. Anybody who’s in that game, it’s a tough spot to be in, especially going in, and I really don’t appreciate some of the things I’ve heard.”
Lewan didn’t specify who he was upset with, whether it was the media or fans, but he was standing up for a quarterback who had a very rough go on Saturday. In his first real test in the spotlight, Bellomy finished the game a miserable 3-of-16 passing, with three interceptions.
After that comment, Lewan was concise in his answers, clearly frustrated with how the team played on Saturday.
Regarding the offensive line blocking for the running game, Lewan said, “It needs to get better. That’s it.”
When asked about the importance of ball protection and avoiding turnovers, he responded, “It’s very important.”
Somehow, Lewan’s brevity illustrated his discontent better than words could.
RUN GAME WOES: As poor as Bellomy’s performance was on Saturday, Michigan’s rushing attack didn’t help him at all.
Redshirt junior running back Fitzgerald Toussaint picked up a mere 40 yards on 15 carries, and it’s tough to set up the pass with such futile effort on the ground.
It’s also difficult to score in the red zone with that type of production, as the Wolverines failed to get into the end zone for the second straight week and for the third time this season.
“We need to play better in the red zone, from an offensive standpoint,” Hoke said. “Part of that, and most of that, is you have to be able to run the football in the red zone. That’s an important place because in the throw game, it shrinks down there a little bit.