Michigan coach Brady Hoke stood at midfield, hugging each San Diego State player that walked in his direction. He talked with each one just long enough for another to make his way over.

In a robotic profession, Hoke is at the top of the class. His coach-speak is impeccable. There is no emotion or insight in Hoke’s answers, he just plows through them. Ask him about not giving up points after turnovers and he’ll answer that his players are on scholarship to play defense at Michigan. Every single injured player is feeling good and “should” be available to play.

But standing there after beating the Aztecs, Hoke showed emotion for one of the first times. Those talks and hugs were real.

“That part of it is I guess, being a human being and there’s a love that you have for those guys that you’ve coached and you’ve been around,” Hoke said after the game.

Hoke was coaching against his friend, Rocky Long. The two spent four years together at Oregon State in the early 1990s and for the past two years together at San Diego State. Their relationship goes far beyond just a healthy respect for an opposing coach. Long went so far as to guarantee the ultimate prize for a Hoke-led Michigan team.

“Brady will win a national championship here,” Long said after the game.

As much as Hoke made it about just another game, there had to be an underlying element, even if he didn’t let it show. There was probably nothing different before or during the game. He wanted the offense to score as many points as possible and the defense to break Ryan Lindley’s will. But I get the sense that after the game he felt slightly compassionate. Long compared the experience to playing your brother. You want to beat your brother, but you don’t want to embarrass him.

Seeing him postgame, Hoke’s façade came down a little bit. The raspy voice stayed and he was still supremely sure of himself, but he showed emotion. That was Hoke.

It made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. He was just like us.

But none of it matters.

We’ll all forget the hugs by next Saturday. Most of you have already forgotten about it. That fourth win will stay on Michigan’s record for the rest of the season. Hoke’s robotic ways have Michigan 4-0. Are those ways the difference between this year and the past two? Do they bring more focus, which will prevent the perennial Big Ten collapse?

There’s no denying something different is happening. As robotic as Hoke is, he has a bit of wizardry in him. Whether it’s the new scheme or not, every time Michigan seems in danger of blowing the game or falling out of the game for good, they find a way to force a turnover.

Up 7-0 with San Diego State driving? Redshirt junior linebacker Kenny Demens forced a fumble.

Right after junior quarterback Denard Robinson threw an interception and Aztec running back Ronnie Hillman broke a big run to the seven yard line? Fifth-year senior defensive end Ryan Van Bergen chased him down from behind and punched the ball out.

San Diego State trying to bring the game within two scores in the fourth? Sack and fumble recovery.

Michigan still can’t pass. Denard Robinson threw for less than 100 yards for the second straight game. It still can’t kick a field goal longer than 30 yards. Redshirt sophomore Brendan Gibbons missed a 40-yarder Saturday. One more injury to the secondary still means opposing teams will have success chucking it deep like they’re running “Da Bomb” in “NFL Blitz.”

But the Wolverines are still 4-0. Hoke has the touch. And with three of the next four games against the bottom tier of the conference in Minnesota, Northwestern and Purdue, Michigan would need a dramatic collapse to not have seven wins by the start of November. An upset of Michigan State gives Hoke a realistic chance at 8-0. After watching this team for four games, do you really think it deserves to be 8-0?

Maybe not, but it’s already halfway there.

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