Following arguably the worst loss to date of Jim Harbaugh’s six-year tenure, the schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Michigan football team.
As Harbaugh and his players addressed the media on Monday, one of the most commonly used phrases was “bounce back.” With teams like Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State still ahead, the 23rd-ranked Wolverines will be forced to do exactly that if it wants to avoid embarrassment.
And with a trip to No. 13 Indiana on tap this week, they’ll have to do it sooner than later.
“(Bouncing back) is huge,” fifth-year senior Carlo Kemp said. “And it’s definitely the only way in football to move on and erase things that have happened in the past. It’s not basketball or baseball where you’ve got to have a seven game series. You get your one Saturday, you get your one opportunity and your one chance to go out there and play and walk away with a win. Saturday, we didn’t do that, so that’s the only thing that’s kind in the back of your head and on your mind.
“The only way to erase that is to go out there as hard as you can on this coming Saturday and win. Walk away with a win because now, going into the stretch of games that we have coming up with already one loss, every game is so crucial. The impact it can make on (our) season — win or lose — is huge.”
After falling short against a Michigan State team fresh off a loss to lowly Rutgers, bouncing back is easier said than done. The Wolverines’ flaws were exposed in their loss, most notably on the defensive side of the ball.
Cornerbacks Vincent Gray and Gemon Green were consistently beat over the top, but even as the Spartans’ game plan became clear, defensive coordinator Don Brown made minimal in-game adjustments. Instead, he relied on a man coverage scheme that surrendered 196 receiving yards to Michigan State freshman Ricky White — the most by a Spartan against Michigan since Plaxico Burress tallied 255 in 1999.
“Definitely talk to the young corners,” senior linebacker Josh Ross said. “The main thing I tell them is, it’s tough, we made some mistakes, we have some tough plays, but at the end of the day, a man is judged by how he faces adversity and tough situations. … We will bounce back strong.”
The secondary wasn’t the only unit that struggled. The Wolverines’ defensive line made little impact up front, and by the end of the afternoon, Michigan didn’t have a single sack or turnover in a game it entered as a three-touchdown favorite.
The Hoosiers, meanwhile, could prove to be the young season’s tallest task yet. After upsetting Penn State in the season-opener, they cruised to a 16-point win over Rutgers on Saturday. The Wolverines have won 24 straight against Indiana dating back to 1988, but they’ll need more than just history on their side to keep the streak alive.
This time, they’ll need a bounce-back effort.
“The only thing that’s gonna get the sour taste out of our mouths is winning the next game,” senior tight end Nick Eubanks said. “That’s how we’re gonna approach it and that’s how everyone’s mindset is right now. … Anybody’s allowed to get beat. It’s up to us to fine-tune the details and be able to execute.”
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