After poor performance, Wolverines hit the road
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP)
After one of its worst performances in the Big House, No. 15 Michigan is about to take its show on the road.
And Wolverines coach Brady Hoke is going to be staying up nights thinking about it.
''It's something I always worry about, and it is worse because we've got such a young team,'' Hoke said about this week's trip to East Hartford to face Connecticut.
''I think we should take a lot of nannies on this trip, or, what do they call them? Au pairs? We've got a lot of freshmen who have never been to a road game and we've got guys who redshirted last year, so the only time they traveled was to the bowl game.''
Michigan's seniors are generally expected to take the young players under their wing for the first road trip, and no one is going to do more of that than senior captain Taylor Lewan.
''As the only offensive captain, it's on me to explain to these guys what they need to do to win on the road,'' Lewan said. ''It's different than it is in high school, where every one of these guys was the best player on the team, and they were riding buses to road games. This is Division I, and it is hard to win on the road.
''We haven't played well on the road in the last couple years, and it has cost us our shot at winning championships. We can't keep doing this, and I'm not going to let them. I'm running out of time in my career - I want to win now.''
UConn isn't exactly a marquee opponent, but Hoke and Lewan aren't worried about overconfidence after Saturday's debacle against Akron. Facing a team coming off three straight 1-11 seasons, Michigan (3-0) had to make two defensive stops inside the 5-yard line to hang on for a 28-24 victory.
By the time Hoke got to the podium for his postgame press conference, he knew exactly how he has going to reward his team for the performance.
''I knew at about 4:07 on Saturday what we were going to do,'' he said. ''We went out and practiced with helmets and shoulder pads, the whole thing. I wouldn't say the kids were excited about it, but they accepted it. I was excited, though.''
Linebacker James Ross III, who had been dropped from the starting lineup because of an especially poor week of practice, thought Hoke had exactly the right idea. Ross rebounded with two key defensive plays in the fourth quarter, but he knew he and his teammates couldn't afford to take that chance again.
''I don't think any of us took proper advantage of our practice time last week, but I especially didn't give my best effort,'' he said. ''I deserved to miss out on starting, because I took the week for granted. Taylor wasn't the only one who was angry after Saturday's game. We were all upset, and we know that we've got to change what happened.
''We were embarrassed by Akron, so we need to go to Connecticut and prove ourselves all over again.''
Lewan did his postgame interview in a barely-contained rage, constantly repeating how embarrassing the game had been for the Wolverines.
''I was mad Saturday, and I'm still mad today,'' he said. ''But this could be a good thing if we are able to learn from everything we did wrong last week. Based on what I saw on Sunday, we're going to be prepared for UConn like no team has ever been prepared before.''
The only thing Lewan won't discuss is the ankle injury he sustained in the fourth quarter. He returned for the next series, but wouldn't talk about it after the game. Even on Monday, when he hobbled into the interview room with a walking boot, he brushed the problem aside.
''It's a fashion statement,'' he said. ''One boot at a time.''