Brady Hoke has always shied away from questions about his 19-game winning streak at Michigan Stadium, but there was always a smile behind his eyes when he said the record didn’t matter — though he never would admit it, Hoke always seemed proud of the streak that he had built.

Now that unbeaten streak — the one thing the Wolverines still had to play for despite all their struggles this season — is gone. And after Saturday’s loss against Nebraska, Hoke finally showed some emotion when talking about one of the big things that’s defined his tenure in Ann Arbor.

“Any winning streak … ” Hoke paused as he searched for words. “You’re disappointed when it’s not there.”

The home streak isn’t the only thing that isn’t there anymore, though. A lot of other things seemed to break on Saturday too — things bigger and more significant than never having lost at home.

The team’s levelheadedness is broken.

Hoke looked defeated and exhausted after Saturday’s game. The players were exasperated when asked the same questions about where Michigan’s fundamental problems are stemming from. Anger flashed in Devin Gardner’s eyes as he defended the state of his team’s “toughness.”

The team’s purpose is broken.

Fifth-year senior linebacker Cam Gordon was asked about what remains for the team now that locker-room morale has to be at an all-time low.

“Things are still out there to be won,” Gordon said.

Things. There are “things” to be won.

For the first time, Michigan has had to lose its rhetoric that a Big Ten championship is still possible — that pipe dream, though a long shot considering the Wolverines’ performance the past two weeks, was finally mathematically eliminated on Saturday.

That was the goal Michigan never believed was too far out of reach. Now, what it has to play for is something as wonderfully vague as “things.”

The fans’ optimism is broken, too.

Boos echoed around the Big House early in the first quarter when Michigan wasn’t moving the ball. Ten minutes later, when Michigan got its first first down in the game, the boos were replaced with sarcastic cheers.

There are always going to be critics. But the fact that some of the loudest cheers in the stadium on Saturday came when Michigan successfully completed a pass? That says something.

The Wolverines have looked so disheveled and inconsistent in their past four games that maybe it’s surprising things didn’t start to break down sooner. With every turnover, botched assignment and sack, so much of the Wolverines’ strength has slowly dwindled over time.

No one would argue Michigan looks lost and confused. Worrying about something as trivial as a home streak seems so petty now, especially as the Wolverines have just three more games to fix the problems in their machine, find an identity and maybe salvage a little bit of their pride that’s slipped further and further out of their grasp.

Hoke is already talking about getting back to practice, as if the start of another week will be enough of a Band-Aid to help Michigan recover from this loss.

But when something is as broken as this team looks, maybe a Band-Aid as small as another week to work things out isn’t big enough.

Vukelich can be reached at elizavuk@umich.edu or on Twitter @LizVukelich

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.