NEW ORLEANS — Fifth-year senior safety Troy Woolfolk joked earlier this season that he was thankful that he broke his ankle last season, allowing him to redshirt and come back for the Michigan football team’s Sugar Bowl run.

Last year, he had to watch the bowl game at home. This season, he’ll have to wait on the sideline before getting into the game.

Michigan coach Brady Hoke revealed yesterday that redshirt sophomore Thomas Gordon, not Woolfolk, would start alongside redshirt junior Jordan Kovacs at safety.

Woolfolk should still see playing time depending on the package.

Hoke also gave another personnel update. Fifth-year senior defensive end Will Heininger, dealing with a foot sprain, “probably won’t be ready to go.”

“He’s tried and it’s just going to be a shame because he’s played his senior year like a senior should and has done a great job as a leader up front,” Hoke said. “It’s not one of our positions of depth.”

Redshirt sophomore Quinton Washington and junior Will Campbell will fill the position for the game.

TWO LIVE (NASTY) CREW: The power run game had some unlikely advocates this season: Michigan’s receivers.

Receiving numbers were down almost across the board this season. For those on the outside, that meant an increased involvement in the blocking game.

“We just try to be a nasty crew, try to be the best blocking receiving corps in the nation and then when it’s time to make a play in the receiving game we do that too,” said fifth-year senior receiver Junior Hemingway.

According to Hemingway, redshirt sophomore Jeremy Gallon has the season-long achievement award for the most pancakes. But redshirt junior Roy Roundtree made the season’s best block.

It came in the second quarter of Michigan’s game with Nebraska, but it was inspired in the days leading up the game. Watching film with his receiving corps, receivers coach Jeff Hecklinski saw Nebraska’s Lavonte David and issued a challenge.

“Coach was like, ‘Hey, somebody is going to have to knock him out of the game. Who is it is going to be?’ ” Roundtree said at a team bowling event on Friday.

When a screen was called in the second quarter, Roundtree didn’t disappoint, cracking back on David.

“Tree hit this man, oh my God,” Hemingway said. “It was just like his head snapped off.”

Hemingway didn’t see it until he got in the film room the next day.

“We started celebrating like it was the game,” Hemingway said.

“We would just rewind it back and forth,” Roundtree added. “He ran off to the sidelines, took his helmet off and took a knee.”

The next play, with David still on the sideline, junior quarterback Denard Robinson ran up the middle for a 19-yard touchdown run.

“I’m like, ‘OK, I guess I did my job,’ ” Roundtree said.

THE TURNING POINT: For a team that went 15-22 in the previous three seasons, you would figure the turning point in this season came long before the team had the record 7-2. But in Champaign-Urbana, the Wolverines finally realized that this season, which will culminate in the team’s second Sugar Bowl on Tuesday, was different.

The Michigan defense was dominant, holding an explosive Illini offense to just 14 points. The offense was efficient, punting just four times and topping the Illini by 27 points. But there were no indications of that type of performance in pregame warm-ups.

“Just lackadaisical (in warm-ups), like no one was ready and no one wanted to be there,” said fifth-year senior center David Molk. “Everyone, I guess, was underestimating Illinois and what they could do.”

So Molk took the matter into his own hands.

“We got in the locker room, and I took the entire offense over to the side and ripped them a new one, because it just needed to happen.”

On defense, senior defensive tackle Mike Martin said that type of thing never had to happen, but after that game defensive coordinator Greg Mattison got emotional talking about his unit’s performance.

Even 7-2 teams need a turning point every now and then.

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