Rich Rodriguez must have known he had to explain himself.

The first-year Michigan coach went out of his way at his Monday press conference to clarify his statement that, “Michigan football will be back,” after his team’s loss to Notre Dame.

“I realize that every time you say something, you make a comment, not necessarily a reporter, but somebody will take it and make a big deal out of it,” Rodriguez said yesterday. “Like saying Michigan football will be back…. What I mean is that this program has had a lot of success by playing error-free football. Playing tough and physical and not beating yourselves. And those are the things that we can do immediately.”

Rodriguez reiterated the confidence he felt in the program, stressing the positives that aren’t easily visible to the public.

The press conference also offered the coach a chance to reflect on his team one-quarter of the way through its season and heading into the non-conference schedule.

“After three games I know where we’re at and I know where we need to go,” Rodriguez said. “I just hope we can get there. That doesn’t make it any easier.”

Butler fallout: Junior tight end Carson Butler may be suspended for his personal foul and ejection late in the fourth quarter of the loss in South Bend.

Replays appeared to show that Butler took a swing at the head of a Notre Dame player after the end of a play, with the game’s result already decided.

But the report filed by the Big East officials that worked the game didn’t make clear if he Butler was ejected for fighting or for a flagrant foul. An ejection for fighting results in an automatic suspension for the first half of the player’s next game. But a flagrant personal foul does not come with an automatic suspension.

Rodriguez said he is seeking clarification from the game officials to find out what Butler’s status will be for the Wisconsin game.

The coach said he still hadn’t seen any footage of the incident, but didn’t defend Butler.

“A guy was grabbing him or something at the end and he retaliated in the wrong way,” Rodriguez said. “He apologized for it, but you’ve still got to keep your poise better than that.”

A different schedule: Michigan has a bye this coming Saturday, which allows the coaches to adjust the practice schedule a bit and gives them time to do some in-season recruiting.

The Wolverines usually take Monday off, but had a short practice yesterday, mostly focusing on special teams, which was a particular sore spot in the loss to Notre Dame. Michigan return men, fumbled three times, including twice in the first 10 minutes of the game, which helped the Fighting Irish jump out to a 21-0 first-quarter lead.

The team will practice as usual today and tomorrow, but will hit the field in the early morning on Thursday. After the Thursday practice, many of the team’s coaches will leave town to get some recruiting in.

“We’ll get out full force to watch games and visit schools, you know check on the transcripts and get information from the coaches,” Rodriguez said.

The team will have Friday and Saturday off from practice before returning to a normal game-week schedule on Sunday.

Three in a row for Threet: Redshirt freshman quarterback Steven Threet will start his third game in a row when Michigan hosts Wisconsin in two weeks, Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez praised Threet’s ability to throw the ball downfield despite the wet conditions in South Bend. Threet went 16-for-23 with 175 yards and one touchdown against the Fighting Irish.

Redshirt sophomore Nick Sheridan was the starter in Michigan’s opening game against Utah. But Threet has taken the opening snaps in the two games since then.

Rodriguez didn’t go so far as to declare the quarterback competition over, saying Sheridan is still very much in the picture.

Injury report: Rodriguez didn’t report any new injuries from the Notre Dame game and suggested that the bye week could allow some key players to return in time for Michigan’s next game.

Offensive guard Mark Huyge, who suffered a high-ankle sprain in fall camp, is close to returning and could be ready for the game against the Badgers. Offensive tackle Mark Ortmann, who dislocated his elbow against Miami (Ohio) in week two, will be limited in practice this week, but could do much more next week, Rodriguez said.

True freshman slot receiver Terrence Robinson has been off the practice field with a knee injury since fall camp, as well, but he could be available for the Wisconsin game.

Rodriguez did say that redshirt junior offensive lineman Cory Zirbel would probably miss the entire season with his knee injury. Rodriguez had previously expressed some hope that Zirbel could return by the end of the season.

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