Thirty-two.

For Michigan fans, it’s the number of consecutive bowl games their team has made – a streak that looked in jeopardy of continuing to after Michigan’s dismal start.

For gambling addicts, it’s the number of points the oddsmakers in Las Vegas expected Michigan to beat Eastern Michigan by when they set the spread this week.

And for senior running back Mike Hart, it’s the number of yards he needs to reach Anthony Thomas (who donned the No. 32 jersey at Michigan) on top of the team’s all-time rushing yardage list.

But no matter the number-driven narrative, Michigan is more focused on avoiding a certain letter than obtaining a certain number.

An L.

The Wolverines (3-2) hope to extend their win streak to four games after an embarrassing 0-2 start.

“Obviously we had a slow start,” said senior quarterback Chad Henne, who returned last week from a knee injury. “Having so many good players on our offense and not going out and performing like we should was difficult to see. It was more hurting ourselves than having a team beat us.”

Going into the season, the words Eastern and Michigan next to each other on the Wolverines’ schedule were the closest things to the word bye – except, of course, for Appalachian and State. Eastern Michigan (2-3) hasn’t played in a bowl game in more than two decades.

But with the team still constantly reminded of what happened in its season opener, Michigan doesn’t expect to make the same mistake twice.

“We saw what happened against Appalachian State- we came out there and didn’t play to our capabilities and we got beat,” sophomore wide receiver Greg Mathews said. “I think we’ve all learned from that game that you can’t take anybody lightly. . You have to go out there and prepare like every game is a championship game.”

Despite its three straight wins, Michigan isn’t returning to Ann Arbor with too much momentum.

Against Northwestern last weekend, the Wolverines played flat in the first half, allowing more than 300 yards on defense and failing to score after their first drive.

Even though players on both sides of the ball stepped up in the second half, the team knows it has to start putting full games together before it reaches a tougher part of the schedule.

“Now, what we’ve got to learn how to do is play 60 minutes and not give up big plays,” Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. “We have to do a better job in the running game, there’s no doubt about that.”

Carr made that comment Monday. Just a day later, the Detroit Free Press reported wide receiver Mario Manningham is suspended for tomorrow’s game, making the running game an even bigger priority.

That’s fine for Hart, who needs 33 yards to eclipse Thomas as Michigan’s all-time leading rusher.

Last week’s Northwestern contest and tomorrow’s Eastern Michigan game were supposed to be opportunities for Hart to rest after taking on a heavy workload in Michigan’s first three week of action.

But Hart’s 30-carry performance last weekend showed Michigan may need him to continue carrying the load the rest of the year.

That means Hart could near his average carries per game tomorrow – which, of course, is 32.

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