The Wolverine

October 2011

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Wolverine WATCH ������ john borton S Seniors Passionate To Rewrite Ending ure, beating Notre Dame is fun, but not exactly unique. Knocking off the Irish in breathtaking fashion, in the final seconds, when the game looks lost, registers as a good time, but it���s almost growing monotonous. Reeling off a perfect non-conference slate works just fine, but again, been there, suffered after that. Michigan���s September pretenders of 2009 and 2010 started their seasons 4-0 and 5-0, respectively, generating optimism that felt hollow by Halloween and roasted by turkey day. By the time the leaves all hit the ground, the Wolverines��� Big Ten hopes were getting raked. ���We started like this before,��� fifth-year senior center David Molk recognized. ���We���ve done this before, and it hasn���t panned out. We haven���t played well in the Big Ten. We haven���t.��� In the hard, cold facts department, Michigan spent the past three Big Ten campaigns masquerading as Indiana. In 2009, they went 1-7, tying those very same Hoosiers for dead last in the conference. The last time a Michigan team got caught with the standings turned upside down in that fashion, Jack Kennedy ran the White House, not Michigan���s scout team. The Wolverines won fewer than six Big Ten games just seven times from 1968-2007, capturing five conference wins in each of those exceptions. Michigan won a combined six Big Ten games from 2008-10, going 6-18 in the league. Asked if he considers that embarrassing, fifth-year senior defensive lineman Ryan Van Bergen didn���t hesitate. ���Absolutely,��� he assured. ���It���s not acceptable by anybody���s standards ��� our standards, the coaches��� standards, the fans��� standards, the alumni standards. The guys who played here before left a legacy of competing for a Big Ten championship, and we haven���t been close. ���It���s something we need to take seriously. There is no way around it. You can see our record against Big 8��� the wolverine��� ������ October 2011 Fifth-year senior Ryan Van Bergen and the rest of the Wolverines in their final campaign are determined to improve U-M's record in Big Ten play compared to 2008-10. photo by lon horwedel Ten opponents, and it hasn���t been anywhere near what we need it to be.��� U-M hasn���t captured a Big Ten title since 2004, frustrated for three seasons by Columbus��� cheating champions, then three more through their own headlong plunge into defenseless purgatory. That makes six in a row, without a title. The last such streak of conference title futility stretches back into the 1950s. For long-time Michigan fans, that���s deeply frustrating. For Michigan���s seniors, it���s personal. Almost anyone outside of Schembechler Hall will insist that streak is bound to hit seven. They���ll point out the Wolverines don���t have enough of a passing attack, or enough production out of their tailbacks, or enough defense, despite the turnaround in emphasis and results instigated by a new staff. Brady Hoke cautions that anything less than a Big Ten championship represents failure. His seniors desperately want to succeed, against all odds. They swear they���re not for a moment buying the fool���s gold of 4-0 as October approaches. ���We���re hungry to get into the Big Ten schedule,��� Van Bergen said. ���Everybody that���s on this team has been 4-0 at one point. We realize that doesn���t mean anything once you hit the Big Ten. ���Coach Hoke says that championships are won in November, and our November record is not very good. What we do in these next two months is going to be remembered by the seniors forever.��� The U-M seniors don���t care to ponder the past three Novembers: 1-3 in 2008, 0-3 in 2009, 2-3 in 2010. ���No one on our team thinks we���re a good team, as far as where we could be,��� Van Bergen said. The question remains, what can they be? The answer seems as elusive as Denard Robinson on an open-field run. No question, they���re more fundamentally sound on defense with more experience and a significantly upgraded scheme for the Big Ten. That said, the one Big Ten-quality opponent they faced scored 31 points and led 24-7 with one quarter to play, prior to a Robinson-led miracle comeback. Molk isn���t much for talk. That said, he quietly assures that this time around feels different. ���We have more of an understanding of what we need to improve on a weekly basis, on a daily basis,��� he said. ���It���s not looking at what our strengths are ��� it���s understanding our weaknesses.��� Deep down, part of it might involve understanding there won���t be another chance. If Michigan���s seniors are to be remembered for something beyond late-season decimation ��� fairly or not, transitions or not ��� they have just nine weeks of football to make it happen. A championship still seems like the longest of long shots. But battling for one late into November is a fight they���re anxious to pick. ��� Editor John Borton has been with The Wolverine since 1991. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @JB_Wolverine.

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