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November 04, 2011 - Image 8

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2011-11-04

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

a

8 - Friday, November 4, 2011

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Hawkees wllbe'most F TBA LL
Tlawkeyes will be The telling noise ofIowa
nhvsieal' tes for Bl1P

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By STEPHEN J. NESBITT
Daily Sports Editor
Three weeks ago, the Michigan
football team traveled to East Lan-
sing to face Michigan State - the
toughest team on the schedule,
according to
Michigan coach Michigan
Brady Hoke.
On Saturday, at Iowa
the 13th-ranked Matchup:
Wolverines (2-1 Michigan 7-1;
Big Ten, 7-1 Iowa 5-3
overall) travel When: Satur-
to Kinnick Sta- day 12 P.M.
dium to again Where: Kin-
face the tough- nick Stadium
est team on their TV/Radio:
schedule. But ESPN
this time it's
Iowa.
The Hawkeyes (2-2, 5-3) sit one
game behind Michigan, Michigan
State and Nebraska in the Big Ten
Legends division, but are unbeat-
en in Iowa City this season.
"They play awfully well and
they're a very well-coached foot-
ball team and have been for many,
many years," Hoke said. "It will
be the most physical game to this
point for us as ateam."
The Wolverines' only loss of the
season came on the road against
the Spartans, a game that was
plagued with personal fouls and,
well, toughness of all sorts.
Still, for Hoke, that game wasn't
the toughest. This one will be.
"Oh, yeah," Hoke said. "(The
Hawkeyes) always have been (the
toughest), in my opinion. I always
thought they were well-coached
and physical. It's a fun week. As a
defensive line coach, this is fun. I
love this."
Added fifth-year senior captain
David Molk: "They're old-school
football. It's hit-'em, smash-mouth
football. That's what they play.
Always have."
Michigan has dropped its past
two decisions with Iowa and
hasn't won in Iowa City since

MAROSA MCCLA/Daily
Michigan coach Brady Hoke is 1-1 on She road is his first season in Ann Arhor.

2005.
Seeming to ignore the Hawk-
eyes' defensive rankings - they
are in the bottom half of the Big
Ten in both rushing and passing
yards allowed - Hoke has empha-
sized Iowa's tenacious, exemplar
defense to his players.
"Iowa is one of those teams
that's not going to change anything
they do in preparation for you,
especially offensively," said fifth-
year senior defensive end Ryan Van
Bergen. "They're going to do the
same thing they've been doing for,
I don't know how many years."
Saturday's matchup with Iowa
also marks the beginning of Mich-
igan's November slate of games.
The Wolverines' final month con-
sists of consecutive games against
the Hawkeyes, Illinois, No. 9
Nebraska and Ohio State. Those
four teams currently have a com-
bined record of 23-10.
This is exactly the competition
that Hoke wants in November.
"It's going to be a great chal-
lenge for us," Hoke said. "When
you get in November, you play for
championships in the Big Ten con-
ference, and that's kind of how it's
been for many years."
Michigan is certainly within
striking distance of the confer-
ence championship, sitting in a
three-way tie atop the division but

the Wolverines' roster has slowly
begun to deteriorate. Sophomore
safety Carvin Johnson left the
team this week, becoming the
sixth player to depart this fall.
Perhaps more importantly, sev-
eral everyday starters are ques-
tionable entering the weekend.
Redshirt junior safety Jordan
Kovacs missed last Saturday's
game with a knee injury, while
redshirt sophomore offensive
tackle Taylor Lewan and redshirt
junior offensive guard Ricky Bar-
num have both been slowed by
nagging ankle injuries.
Hoke gave no final indication as
to whether any of the three would
play, but he also didn't rule any
player out. Even with the depleted
roster, junior quarterback Denard
Robinson is healthy, and thatgives
Michigan a chance in any game.
"I don't know if our blueprint
is ever going to be different (in
November)," Hoke said. "We want
to run the football. We want to be
able to possess the football. We
want to take care of the football.
"I can't tell you that's going to
be any different, but it's how you
have to improve on a daily basis
so you can play your best football
through the month."
At 7-1 to begin November,
Michigan fans won't be demand-
ing anything different.

egend has it, the field at
Kinnick Stadium talks to
unwanted guests.
They say you can hear the
fan in the first row while you're
in the huddle. They say Iowa's
stadium is
so tight, you
can feel the
noise breath-
ing down the -
back of your
neck.
"They
could prob- TIM
ably touch ROHAN
you," said
junior quar-
terback Denard Robinson.
After driving through miles
of corn stalks, opponents dress
for battle in pink locker rooms.
Ahead of them is an opponent
who doesn'ttry to trick or dis-
guise anyone or anything. Soon
enough, you'll be facing a physi-
cal, unrelenting defense.
Brady Hoke will play the role
of the leader of the unwanted
guests. Unimaginable prior to
the season, Hoke has Michigan at
7-1, ranked 13th in the country.
The seniors can still talk about
how they have something to play
for, how the Big Ten Champion-
ship is within reach. Their voices
grow more confident each week.
All this because Hoke has them
playing the right way. But there's
one thing he has yet to do: Prove
he can win consistently on the
road in the Big Ten.
This is where the Kinnick
Stadium voices come in. The
Spartans were too loud - too
boisterous for Michigan's liking.
The Wolverines had problems
with their snap count. All the
preparation didn't matter when
the Michigan State blitzers could
easily pounce on Denard Rob-
inson once they timed that snap
count perfectly.
Even in the quiet, high-class,
less-than-raucous academia set-
ting of Evanston, Michigan wasn't
prepared in the first half to take.

on Northwestern in their house.
And this field in Iowa can talk,
remember. Silence it - silence
the crowd and the questions
about his team - and Hoke will
have proven this team worthy of
being in the hunt this late in the
season. He may just be able to
add another check to the list of
his impressive start. The noise is
deafening though. The top eight
teams in the Big Ten, regardless
of division, are 39-3 at home this
season. The last time Robinson
threw a pass in Kinnick Stadium,
he was merely a freshman and
in the spotlight for the first time,
charged with leading Michigan
on a game-winning drive against
undefeated Hawkeyes.
The sound reached a crescen-
do as Robinson tossed an inter-
ception with 46 seconds left.
"I actually missed the sig-
nal," Robinson said Wednesday,
recalling what many consider the
defining moment of his freshman
season. "It kind of bothered me
because I think I could've done
better - beinga little calmer
about the situation.... I was just
trying to do so much."
How will he respond this'
time? Could he rise above his
past mistakes - including a three
interception half at Evanston
and a poor showing in East Lan-
sing - and play with poise? Can
he silence the noise - the racing
thoughts - within himself?
The last time Michigan took
the field, Robinson was calm
and the offense looked a lot like
Michigan. Less Robinson, more
Toussaint. Questions turned
from whether Robinson could
ever figure out his mechanical
issues in the passing game to
whether Fitzgerald Toussaint
could keep this up.
Offensive coordinator Al
Borges said that's what the
offense is supposed to look like:
pound the ball 20 times with
Toussaint, with Robinson safe
behind "BREAK ONLY IF NEC-
ESSARY" glass. Sounds like

Michigan circa Lloyd Carr and
Bo Schembechler, right?
But Ricky Barnum and Taylor
Lewan - the whole left side of
the offensive line - are banged
up; and Michael Schofield can
only spot one of them.
But Toussaint had been absent
in so many games this season,
carrying the ball 16 times for 32
yards in Michigan's two road
games. Against the Spartans, he
had two carries for seven yards.
But Hoke should know better,
that the noise is louder on the
road. That staying true to your
identity is all you can do when
it gets loud. Players revert to
muscle memory and what feels
comfortable when it gets loud.
Toussaint and the offensive
line will have their chance to
prove that not only was last
week's Purdue game how Michi-
gan runs the ball, but also how
Michigan will run the ball.
Iowa plans to run the ball too.
"And they're going to dare you
to try and stop it," said fifth-year
senior defensive end Ryan Van
Bergen.
There will be no tricks. No
fancy gimmicks. Just tough on
tough. For a coach that has fed
his players three square meals
of toughness since he arrived in
January - he recently called out
their manhood, saying football
players don't wear long sleeves
when it gets cold outside, they
embrace it - this is the ultimate
test: Is his team truly tough
enough? The winning team won't
make the most noise. It'll be
whoever silences the other long
enough to either bask in the glory
of its own screaming crowd or to
hear a collective audible moan
once the Wolverines answer all
these questions.
Regardless, by Saturday's end,
Kinnick Stadium will have said
something about Brady Hoke's
team.

-Rohan can be reached
at trohan@umich.edu

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