Michigan Football Preview 2015

2015 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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derstand it's not where you start in any race, it's how you finish. Is that a chip they have on their shoulder? They might. But that's okay." The Wolverines opened up 2014 with a 52-14 beatdown of Appalachian State in the first meeting between the two teams since the Mountaineers' mammoth upset in 2007. The win over ASU was the expected outcome, but still was a confidence-building way to start the season. The confidence didn't remain with the Wolverines for long. Michigan went into South Bend to face Notre Dame during the season's second week only to be shut out for the first time in 376 games. The 31-0 loss was U-M's first shutout since Oct. 20, 1984; the Wolver- ines' largest margin of defeat to the Irish in the 42-game series dating back to 1887; and the worst loss during Hoke's tenure as Michigan head coach. The Wolverines were able to rebound and defeat Miami (Ohio) 34-10 in Ann Arbor the following week, but again the good feelings wouldn't last long. Michigan went on to lose back-to-back home games at the hands of Utah and Min- nesota, and followed that up with a loss to Rutgers in Piscataway bringing U-M's over- all record to 2-4 and 0-2 in the Big Ten before the first week of October had passed. The Minnesota game proved a disaster, with fifth-year senior starting quarterback Devin Gardner getting pulled for sophomore Shane Morris. The backup Morris suffered a mild concussion that was not accurately diagnosed until well after the game, and he returned to the field after the hit that caused the injury. The incident became national news, with Morris becoming the poster child for the dangers of college football concussions. The Wolverines' handling of the issue came into question, and U-M put in new safeguards in this area. Negative news had started to swirl around Hoke's future at Michigan and he was asked if it was getting difficult to separate the nega- tivity of his job and his personal life. He had no choice but to address it after the third loss in a row, at the hands of the Scarlet Knights. "I don't know if I can separate it," he said. "We have great support here, and we have great kids here. That is the way of the beast, I mean, it's fun. I get to help mentor kids. And I have good support at home. Mrs. Hoke is a very good coach's wife." Hoke didn't specifically talk about his job, but a buzz was developing around Ann Arbor about his ability to coach his team. After an ugly 18-13 win over Penn State under the lights in Michigan Stadium, the Wolverines had to travel to East Lansing where Michigan State has owned the Wol- verines for some time. The Maize and Blue haven't beaten MSU in Spartan Stadium since 2007, and it didn't happen in 2014 either. Michigan State defeated Michigan 35-11 and outrushed the Maize and Blue 219-61. The Spartans were up 28-3 heading into the fourth quarter and the game was essentially over at that point. After the beatdown in East Lansing, ath- letics director Dave Brandon resigned from his post and the Michigan football team was able to handily beat Indiana 34-10 the very next day. The following week, the Maize and Blue squeaked by Northwestern 10-9 after denying a last-second two-point conversion attempt. Another home loss, this time at the hands of Maryland, brought Michigan's overall record to 5-6 and 3-4 in the Big Ten be- fore the regular-season finale with Ohio State. The Wolverines kept it close for three quarters, but fell to the Buck- eyes 42-28 in a loss that ended their season and Hoke's career at Michigan. On Dec. 2, 2014, interim athletics director Jim Hackett announced that Hoke would not be returning as football coach in 2015. "I met with Coach Hoke today and in- formed him of my decision to make a change in the leadership of our football program," Hackett said. It was not an easy decision Hackett noted, but a necessary one that ultimately led to a hiring that could change Michigan football moving forward for a long time. On Dec. 30, former U-M quarterback Jim Harbaugh was announced as the 20th head football coach in Michigan history. Oct. 25: Michigan is unable to stop No. 8 Michigan State's offense and loses 35-11 in East Lansing. The victory keeps the Paul Bun- yan Trophy at Michigan State for the second consecutive year. Nov. 1: Behind big performances from red- shirt junior running back Drake Johnson (16 carries for 122 yards and two touchdowns) and redshirt junior wide receiver Amara Darboh (nine catches for 107 yards and one touchdown), Michigan defeats Indiana 34-10 on homecoming. The Wolverines extend their win streak to 19 against the Hoosiers, dating back to 1988. Nov. 8: Michigan denies a Northwestern two-point conversion attempt with three sec- onds left in the game to hold on for a 10-9 victory. Wildcats quarterback Trevor Siemian slips and falls on the two-point try, effectively ending the game. Nov. 11: Gardner is named one of 10 finalists for the Senior CLASS Award. Nov. 22: Michigan has one of its best of- fensive performances of the year, racking up nearly 400 total yards, but still loses the home finale against Maryland, 23-16. For Michigan to become bowl eligible, it must win the regular- season finale against Ohio State in Columbus. Nov. 24: Fifth-year senior linebacker Jake Ryan is named one of five finalists for the Butkus Award, given to the nation's best line- backer. Ryan is the only member of the Big Ten on the list. Nov. 25: Former University of Michigan quarterback Brian Griese is honored with the Big Ten's Dungy-Thompson Humanitar- ian Award. The award recognizes Big Ten football players that have achieved success in humanitarianism after their college careers have ended. THE WOLVERINE 2015 FOOTBALL PREVIEW ■ 139 "I would say that these are pretty educated guys. They're at Michigan, No. 1. They understand it's not where you start in any race, it's how you fi nish. Is that a chip they have on their shoulder? They might. But that's okay." MICHIGAN HEAD COACH BRADY HOKE U-M sophomore quarterback Shane Morris' misdiagnosed concussion Sept. 27 led to a national debate on student-athlete safety and welfare. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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