Brandent Englemon is sick of it.
The fifth-year senior has been questioned again and again about Michigan’s three-game losing streak to rival Ohio State, and he’s had about enough of the talk.
“Any time you have a rivalry and you haven’t won in a couple of years, you get tired of hearing, ‘Oh, they can’t beat O State’ or ‘They can’t win this game,’ ” Englemon said. “It’s getting old.”
Englemon and several other fifth-years watched from the sideline in 2003 – the last time the Wolverines won – but the true seniors face the scenario of ending their careers at Michigan without a win over their biggest rival.
That possibility is an aberration for this group of Wolverine seniors. They came to Michigan expecting to win Big Ten titles – and beat Ohio State.
Just go back to the 2003 game. Englemon and fellow fifth-year seniors Adam Kraus and Jake Long remember watching the atmosphere in the Big House after the win. They just didn’t realize at the time that would be their only memories of winning The Game.
“I didn’t really understand what it takes to get there being a freshman,” Englemon said of about winning a Big Ten Championship. “I just thought it was kind of given to you.”
And for the 2004 recruiting class, which featured stars like running back Mike Hart, quarterback Chad Henne and safety Jamar Adams, it will have to find a way to stamp a happy ending to what has already been a topsy-turvy season for the Wolverines.
Michigan was primed to collapse after its 0-2 start, but the seniors wouldn’t let the poor beginning ruin the final chapter to their college careers.
They held a meeting after the Oregon loss to refocus the team around a single goal, a Big Ten Championship. Michigan coach Lloyd Carr never gave up on his team’s potential. And now, with one game left on the regular-season schedule, the seniors have a chance to go out with a Big Ten Championship.
“I think that’s part of being at Michigan,” Adams said. “The seniors have to step up. The seniors are the guys that have been around the longest, have the experience. And it’s our time now, you know what I mean? It’s our time.”
They claim they’re not focused on past failures against Ohio State, but the mental block can’t be written off so easily.
That last Wolverine Big Ten title, captured in 2004, came on the heels of a bitter loss in Columbus. The following two seasons, Ohio State added to a winning streak against Michigan unheard of in the mid-1990s, back when Carr owned a 5-1 record against then-Ohio State coach John Cooper.
Still, the Wolverine seniors aren’t focused on the doubters surrounding their class. They seem adept at bouncing back.
It started with the 2005 campaign, where the Wolverines slugged out a 7-5 season. The criticism attacked the team’s talent and effort as if Michigan had lost its elite status in college football.
But the Wolverines silenced those naysayers through 10 games last season, posting an unblemished record. Then Ohio State eked out a win for the Big Ten Championship, and Southern Cal rolled in the Rose Bowl.
The seniors seemed as upbeat as they could be during the summer, especially considering their 0-3 record against Ohio State and in bowl games.
Then Appalachian State rewrote the history books and Oregon flew through the Big House.
Still, the seniors didn’t waver. They centered their goals, and with a win on Saturday, they will recapture a Big Ten Championship and break the streak.
“Right now, I don’t care what happened in the past,” Long said. “I don’t care what my record is against them. I just want to go out and focus on this game and win this game.”
At least then Englemon wouldn’t mind talking about the most recent edition of the rivalry.