The Wolverine

October 2014

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Lansing and Columbus. But the good news? This is not Team 134, a group many have said lacked leadership. There are many of the same players, but its fate doesn't have to be the same. "Bill Parcells always used to say, 'Every team is different,'" said former Michigan offensive lineman Doug Skene, who played under Parcells with the New England Patriots from 1993‑94. "You might have a lot of the same players … they might be most of the same players. But each team has its own identity." How Team 134 reacted to a loss might not be how Team 135 does. Sometimes, all it takes is a bounce of the ball to go your way, an epiphany, or … "Winning," head coach Brady Hoke said when asked what his team needed to break the losing streak to the rivals. "Win the game. You play — you don't turn over the ball. You don't give up big plays." And he's got a point. While every team is different, the 100‑plus on this year's team don't know what it feels like to expect to win on the road. They haven't, and the upperclassmen haven't been able to prepare them because they haven't, either. There's been a change in that part of the culture, and once you lose it, it's hard to get back. But it's not impossible. There are teams year in and year out that have looked far worse than the Wolverines did against the Irish, yet rebounded to have very good years when some had left them for dead. "You will talk about it enough into it being a mental thing. I don't think it's a mental thing," Hoke said of the rivalry losses. "Our goal is still there. Our goal, we've stated a thousand times, is to win the Big Ten championship, so that's out there. Now, do we have to get better and work hard? Yeah, we do. "If [our fans] are truly fans, they'll believe in these kids and what they've done and the hard work that they've put in. If they're not, they won't." His statement wasn't meant to alienate the fan base, as some portrayed it — only to let them know this was a group worth giving another chance. "What we have seen every day from them, from their work ethic, how they care about each other, all those things [are positive]," he said. The goodwill from the inaugural, 11‑2 season is gone, and so is the optimistic, preseason hue. The 2014 season, though, isn't. It might take something like a big win in East Lansing or Columbus to earn back the momentum Team 135 lost in South Bend, but they deserve the chance to try before the bandwagon empties completely. ❏ Chris Balas has been with The Wolverine since 1997, working part time for five years before joining the staff full time in 2002. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter at Balas_Wolverine.

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