OAKLAND, Calif. – For the No. 1 Michigan men’s gymnastics team, last weekend’s meet against Minnesota was a wake-up call.

This Saturday’s Pacific Coast Classic was the fire alarm going off next to your ear.

Despite posting a respectable 214.4 team score, previously-undefeated Michigan finished fourth at the Classic. No. 3 Oklahoma looked the part of the defending national champions, scoring 218.45 overall to claim victory.

Last year, Michigan’s score would have been cause for celebration.

This year, it was a disappointment.

“This actually feels worse than last year, because now I know what it feels like to win,” sophomore Jamie Thompson said. “I guess we needed one of these. More than almost being beaten, I guess we had to be (actually) beaten to really get our ass in gear.”

Michigan’s night began with a thud, as four of six gymnasts came off the pommel horse. Like the past weekend, Michigan put itself in an immediate hole. But this time, its opponents failed to buckle under the pressure – and the big Wolverine hits failed to materialize in their usual timely clusters.

Additionally, Michigan did not immediately move to floor, its best event, as in a dual meet. Instead, it went to the still rings – leaving the electrifying floor exercise until the last rotation.

By then, it was too late.

Going into the final rotation, Michigan was in fifth place. Usually the loudest gymnasts in any building, until floor the Wolverines were even outdone by last-place Minnesota.

But Michigan ended the night on a high note. From the first floor routine, the Wolverines suddenly produced their normally constant uproar, even standing on chairs to better cheer on their teammates.

Sophomore Ralph Rosso led off with a 9.25 routine, later matched by Thompson. Fellow sophomore Scott Bregman, after notching an 8.95 on vault for the second straight week, performed possibly his best floor set of the season for a 9.5. Sophomore Kent Caldwell’s 9.4 gave Michigan an impressive event score of 37.4.

However, against such elite competition, a couple of solid events weren’t enough.

The Wolverines could have blamed any number of things for their performance – the three-hour time difference, the arena’s intense heat, or opening competition on their old enemy, the pommel horse.

Certainly none of those things helped. But the gymnasts refused to point fingers or blame any outside challenges.

“We’ve just got to stick together and spread the love,” senior co-captain Andrew Elkind said. “We’re going to share this crappy feeling together and we’re also going to work hard to improve upon it together.”

This team knows about milking a painful experience for all it’s worth. Since failing to advance to the 2006 NCAA team finals, the Wolverines have been burning to redeem themselves, a fire that sustained them until now.

They hope to turn the Pacific Coast Classic into added motivation for the rest of the season – another reminder never to get too comfortable, or take their multitudinous No. 1 rankings for granted.

“(Minnesota) was a temporary wake-up call,” Michigan coach Kurt Golder said. “When you have a scare like that, but then you win, you sort of get the wake-up call but you sort of go back to sleep. Now this will go a long way. We can turn this into a real positive.”

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