Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the source of the boycott for Saturday’s game. MGoBlog creator Brian Cook did not organize the boycott. Commenters from the site set it up.
The Michigan football team has plenty to brag about with its defense. That is, until it allowed 476 yards in a meltdown against Rutgers.
One of the few bright spots in the 2014 season — the run defense — held its own against the Scarlet Knights, allowing 30 carries for 74 yards on the ground.
The Wolverines (0-2 Big Ten, 2-4 overall) rank sixth in the Big Ten in total defense and 19th in the country. But one area defensive coordinator Greg Mattison’s unit has struggled with all season is during the possession right before the half.
In Michigan’s four losses, the Wolverines have allowed a score in the last minute of the second quarter.
“That’s just something we’ve got to work on,” said senior middle linebacker Jake Ryan. “It’s something we practiced today, we did the two-minute drill.”
Ryan maintains that the team remains positive in the locker room at halftime following those defensive struggles, but it’s something that Michigan coach Brady Hoke and Mattison have touched upon as areas for improvement.
“The defense loves to go back out onto the field and that’s what we did (against Rutgers),” Ryan said. “We got a three-and-out (after the half).”
BOYCOTT?: It’s no secret Michigan’s disgruntled student body is frustrated with the Athletic Department. A petition to fire Athletic Director Dave Brandon and a last-minute ‘Fire Brandon’ rally were last week’s cover stories. This week, there are movements for not only students, but also other fans, to boycott the Wolverines’ impending nighttime matchup with Penn State.
Started last week by commenters on MGoBlog.com, select Michigan fans are calling for a boycott of the game’s opening kickoff. During the past two Under the Lights events, the Athletic Department had a panoramic camera take a stadium picture of the record-setting crowds. The goal is to make the stadium’s student section as empty as possible so when the picture is taken this time around, it’s devastatingly empty.
While it’s unclear how much traction the movement will get, it’s something the players are fully aware of.
“I would say I understand their frustration, I share it,” said junior center Jack Miller on Monday. “We have just as high of expectations of any fan or any critic does. … At the end of the day things are more important than wins and losses.
“This experience, and what the atmosphere could be like Saturday night, is special for everyone involved. To represent the University, to represent Ann Arbor and what a special thing that can be, for that to go to waste would be disappointing.”
As of Tuesday, a Facebook event to boycott kickoff was created, with the hashtag, #DownwithDave, but as of 8 p.m. only 48 people were set to “attend.”
Ironically, Michigan’s student section struggles to fill up by kickoff even when the student body approves of the Athletic Department and the team is winning, so it may be unclear to the public if the boycott is a planned success.
“We understand the frustration in life or on the field, but in the end, we love the fan support,” said senior defensive end Frank Clark.
BRIGHT LIGHTS, NEW UNIS: In Michigan’s third-ever home night game, the Wolverines will don new uniforms for the special occasion. Unveiled in August, the uniforms take a step back from the traditional maize bottoms and blue or white tops and take a more “nighttime” approach to the design.
“The whole dark night theme has a good little thing going on,” Ryan said.
The uniforms are dark blue on top and bottom, with striped maize numbers and maize gloves. Adidas has created an alternate uniform for each of Michigan’s Under the Lights games.
Note: According to Minnesota coach Jerry Kill, the Little Brown Jug is traveling on a state tour right now. During the Big Ten’s weekly teleconference, Kill said, “Earlier in the week, I couldn’t get an appointment.”