It’s not exactly breaking news that time is running out for the Michigan football team to solve its laundry list of problems.
Some things, like inexperience, will inevitably take another season or two to solve. But in the meantime, Michigan coach Brady Hoke is trying to figure out what, if anything, can be fixed immediately.
After Saturday’s game, Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory — who had three of the Huskers’ seven sacks — told Omaha.com that he could easily tell what play the Wolverines were going to run based on their formation.
Hoke seemed to take some offense to that statement, reiterating the fact that he approved of the play calling.
“He’s wrong,” Hoke said. “We know what other guys are doing, too. Everybody has that. There’s certain things people are going to do certain ways. Now, when you win a football game, I think sometimes it’s easy to say that.”
Sophomore linebacker James Ross III agreed with Hoke, saying that was the case for the Michigan defense at times too — being able to predict plays is more a sign of a well-prepared defense than a stagnant offense.
“Our defensive coaches do a great job looking at film all the time, day in and day out, giving us tendencies and personnel you’re able to recognize,” Hoke said. “If it’s a key tendency, you’ll know what it is before it happens most of the time.”
Hoke didn’t seem to want to change much in regard to the offensive approach, except perhaps Michigan’s performance on first downs. It took until over 12 minutes into the game for the Wolverines to complete a first-down throw, a 13-yard pass to sophomore tight end Devin Funchess.
The majority of Michigan’s plays on first downs were runs, and seeing as the Huskers stuffed those early on, it put the Wolverines in too many 3rd-and-long situations. They went 3-for-15 on third downs.
“We get a first down in a critical part of the game, and we miss a snap,” Hoke said. “Those things happen. Then you’re working in negatives. Do you look at everything? Yeah. You always look at personnel. You always go back to evaluate.”
THREE FOR THREE: With a Big Ten championship officially out of the picture, the Wolverines have had to refocus their efforts on what they hope to achieve in their final stretch of the season.
With three more games remaining, Hoke says Michigan has three things to play for.
“Well, number one, you’re a competitor,” Hoke said. “You want to go out and fight. We always play for our seniors, and we’re always going to work hard for those guys. The other thing is, you have a chance to win 10 football games. That opportunity is always out there. That’s always been a benchmark.”
HEALTH UPDATE: By Saturday night, redshirt junior quarterback Devin Gardner had been sacked 14 times in seven days. So it wasn’t surprising to see him walking gingerly at the end of the game.
But Hoke isn’t worried about the beating Gardner took, saying he’s healthy and that there shouldn’t be any residual effects this week.
Redshirt sophomore cornerback Blake Countess exited the game shortly after the first quarter and never returned after he suffered an undisclosed injury, but Hoke said he should also be fine.