Michigan rested and rejuvenated after bye week
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan might get some easy matchups in the lackluster Big Ten this season. The Wolverines just don't think Saturday's opener at Purdue is one of them.
"We've got a tremendous challenge because I think Purdue is playing as well as anybody in our league right now," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said Monday. "We got our work cut out for us."
The Boilermakers (3-1) are off to their best start since 2007. Their loss at Notre Dame, a three-point setback, was more impressive than Michigan's 13-6 loss on the road to the Fighting Irish.
If the slightly favored Wolverines (2-2) lose Saturday at Purdue, they will have three losses by early October for the first time since 2008 when Rich Rodriguez lost a school-record nine games in his debut as the coach at college football's winningest program. Michigan is coming off a bye, giving the team two weeks to evaluate, rest and get ready for the Boilermakers.
"A week off always helps," offensive tackle Taylor Lewan said.
It has lately for the Wolverines, who have won eight of their last nine games following a break, including last year's 36-14 win over Purdue following a bye. Denard Robinson didn't throw a touchdown pass in the lopsided win, but he did throw an interception in that matchup and nine other games last season.
The senior seems to be slipping even more in the passing game this season. He threw a career-high four interceptions in his last game at Notre Dame and has more interceptions (eight) than TD passes (six). Robinson has thrown at least one interception in every game this season.
Hoke continues to defend Robinson.
"He's our quarterback, and he's a damn good quarterback," he said.
Hoke has been quick to point out Robinson's teammates could help him out by blocking, running and catching better, but also added his decision-making and accuracy can improve.
"Do we want him to throw the ball away when the opportunity is there?" Hoke asked. "Do we want him to be a little more on target with the ball times? No question."
Michigan might have a better chance at seeing Robinson have success if it keeps Purdue's Kawann Short away from him. Short has four sacks in four games, living up to the pregame hype he generated and ranking high on Hoke's list of defensive tackles.
"He's got to be at the top of the ladder," Hoke said.
The Wolverines are getting a key defensive lineman, Brennen Beyer, ready to return from a knee injury, but they're losing another one. Nathan Brink is out indefinitely with an undisclosed injury from a practice last week.
Hoke said tight end Brandon Moore (leg) will be "close" to being healthy enough to play this week and that receiver Devin Gardner (undisclosed), offensive guard Ricky Barnum (shoulder) and fullback Stephen Hopkins (hamstring) are "fine" after dealing with ailments.
Even the relatively healthy players took advantage of a week without a game.
"I feel very rested and rejuvenated," defensive end Craig Roh. "Had a lot of time to catch up on some sleep and whatnot."
While the Wolverines got some rest during a 36-hour window Friday and Saturday, the coaching staff studied what has gone right and wrong so far for a team that has looked more shaky than stable in its second season under Hoke.
Hoke said the coaches evaluated themselves and scouted their own players, looking at what they might want to do differently and what may stay the same.
Just don't expect him to share what the details.
"If I tell you, then we reveal a lot of secrets," he said.
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Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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