The seniors already saw this script.
Two years ago, the Wolverines faltered to a 7-5 record, finishing the season by blowing a lead to underdog Nebraska in the Alamo Bowl.
That team forgot how to win, and this year’s seniors didn’t want to let that happen again, especially after a 0-2 start.
So they called a team meeting the Sunday after the Oregon loss.
“We just want to make sure that people weren’t going to buckle,” senior captain Jake Long said. “We wanted to make sure everybody still was buying in, wanted to come to practice, wanted to play.”
Senior captain Shawn Crable talked about refocusing the team on winning, rather than “the hype of us being this big, high-powered team.”
The first loss to Appalachian State left the preseason No. 5 team in the nation with an extremely outside chance at a National Championship. But coupled with the Oregon blowout, the seniors understood they had to regroup or lose the season.
The three captains – Long, Crable and running back Mike Hart – made sure their teammates knew some of the season goals could still be accomplished.
“I just wanted to make sure . everybody still had the mindset that we wanted to win,” Long said. “There still was a championship out there.”
Michigan finds itself positioned quite nicely for a shot at a conference title. The Wolverines and Ohio State are the lone teams with unblemished Big Ten records.
Michigan’s offense has started to click with its balanced display against Purdue. Senior quarterback Chad Henne appears to have finally rediscovered his touch since returning from a knee injury. In his first three games back, he threw six touchdowns compared to the two he threw in the Appalachian State and Oregon games combined.
“The most important thing was just getting back on track, knowing we hurt ourselves,” Henne said. “We didn’t execute well and didn’t execute the gameplan.”
Most surprising, the Wolverines’ defense has dictated play in each of the Michigan’s wins. The unit has gang tackled and pressured the opposing quarterback better, which has helped it force 19 turnovers during the streak.
The seniors all point to the well-timed meeting as the reason for the more focused play. Since the meeting, the Wolverines have rattled off five consecutive wins and regained a spot in The Associated Press Top-25 poll.
“It’s always a tough thing when you lose a ballgame, but you don’t want to lose guys mentally, in the sense of believing in what we do here,” senior safety Jamar Adams said. “We have a system and a structure that we believe in here.”