As Appalachian State coach Jerry Moore celebrated near midfield Saturday, one of his media relations staffers had a message for him:
“We’ve got a lot to do.”
But for as many interviews as Moore and his Mountaineers will be doing in the next week, the call to action might make more sense to the Michigan coaches.
They’ve got a lot to do.
And not the fun kind of stuff Appalachian State will be doing.
Whether it’s changing personnel to make the team more competitive or rethinking its schemes, the Michigan coaching staff has a lot to work on to right the team’s ship before it’s too late.
“Now we have to fight back and we have to deal with some adversity to find out what we are made of,” Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said Saturday.
At the team’s press conference leading into last week’s game, senior defensive end Tim Jamison said the team’s goals were “real high. Huge.”
The team’s three senior offensive leaders – Mike Hart, Chad Henne and Jake Long – all shunned the NFL and returned for a shot at the program’s first National Championship in a decade.
But as quickly as Corey Lynch broke through Michigan’s field goal protection and blocked Jason Gingell’s attempt at a game-winning kick, the Wolverines’ National Championship hopes vanished.
While some players tried to remain optimistic following Saturday’s loss, one of the seniors who stayed at Michigan for the chance to be a champion all but conceded his team’s fate.
“If everybody goes out and loses two games each, we’ll be back in the picture,” Hart said. “But what are the chances of that happening? So the focus is on the Big Ten Championship now.”
At yesterday’s press conference, Carr and a handful of seniors faced questions regarding the team’s changing goals.
Long still spoke about the team striving for a championship, but referred to the Big Ten title as the team’s new goal.
“That was only one of our goals,” he said when asked about the National Championship. “We have a lot more goals that we can accomplish.”
But the newly shifted focus toward a Big Ten Title may even be too ambitious if Michigan’s defense continues getting off to sluggish starts.
The coaching staff has already made changes to help make sure what happened Saturday doesn’t become habit.
Fifth-year senior Brandent Englemon and true freshman Donovan Warren replaced struggling secondary members sophomore Stevie Brown and junior Johnny Sears at halftime. Both were effective, but Carr said yesterday that starters for the Oregon game will largely depend on who performs best in practice this week.
Tactical adjustments were made at halftime, too. Appalachian State went from putting up 28 points in the first half to just six in the second. But 28 first-half points puts any team – even a purported Big Ten power – in a deep hole.
Defensive tackle Will Johnson said yesterday that adjustments weren’t made until halftime. Like substitutions, fixing mistakes becomes less effective if it takes too long to do it.
And with three traditionally strong teams entering the Big House before September is over, changes need to be made, and quickly.
They’ve got a lot to do.