The Wolverine

November 2012

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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WOLVERINE WATCH JOHN BORTON hen November hits and Indiana enjoys a glimmer of hope in the Big Ten race, it might be time to start taking the Ma- yans a little more seriously. That's how mind-numbingly ridic- ulous Delanyville has become this season. By virtue of winning a con- ference game, the Hoosiers climbed to 1-3, nailing down a solid second place among Leaders Division teams not already ousted from champion- ship game consideration by morally bankrupt leaders. Wisconsin remains the icon of the eligible, at 3-2, but just lost its start- ing quarterback for the season and faces a dicey remaining schedule. The Badgers, having been handed a division championship prior to the season opener, are scrambling to avoid insisting someone else take it. Which brings us, inevitably, to a Legends Division race in which Michigan lingered one step out of bounds from becoming legendary. That's not what happened at Memo- rial Stadium. W Senior quarterback Denard Rob- inson, competitor that he is, chose to stay in bounds and fight for the go-ahead touchdown. Instead, he banged his recalcitrant throwing arm, and it went numb. Getting Back Up Means Everything When senior quarterback Denard Robinson went down with an injury versus Nebraska, it shook up the Big Ten Legends Division race, yet U-M remains squarely in the hunt. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL did Michigan's hopes for a dominant drive to the conference title game. But as unpredictable as the Big Ten remains, the chances of still getting there remain high. There is no loss multiplier in Big For the 33 Shoelace-less minutes that followed, Michigan's offense followed suit. Had Robinson remained in the game, there would be no Legends Division race remaining. The Wol- verines would have covered the final eight yards for a go-ahead touch- down, taking a 10-7 lead into the halftime locker room after control- ling the ball for 21 first-half minutes. They'd have worn down Nebras- ka's defense, just like the Cornhusk- ers eventually cracked Michigan's defenders, themselves betrayed by a Denard-devoid offense that couldn't make a first down. The Wolverines would be sitting at 4-0 in the division, and everyone else sitting on at least two conference losses. November would have repre- sented a limo ride to Indianapolis. Not now. Now it's a fistfight. When Robinson hit the deck, so 10 THE WOLVERINE NOVEMBER 2012 Ten play. So as suffering saturated as Michigan's sans-Robinson perfor- mance became — a grand total of 44 yards in the final 33 minutes — the loss made the Wolverines 3-1, not 1-3. for," head coach Brady Hoke cau- tioned. "There are four guarantees left, and we've got to play our best in each one of those four. "There is no question — that's what we talked about yesterday. There is no doubt there is a lot of season left. November is when you win championships in this league. I've always believed that. It's an im- portant thing for us to realize." A quick glance at the Big Ten standings entering the regular sea- son's final month drives home the point. The Wolverines are no longer in control, but they're a far cry from finished. They're deadlocked for the divi- sion lead with Nebraska, a team now holding the head-to-head tie- breaker. If the Cornhuskers win out, Michigan loses out. "We've got a heck of a lot to play But the table-running prospects for a crew that hemorrhaged 63 points in Columbus and had to rally from 12 down to win at Northwest- ern rank near the Detroit Tigers' chances of successfully securing a World Series do-over. It's not likely. The Cornhuskers have to play at Michigan State, and travel to Iowa for the final game of the conference regular season. In between, they host Penn State and Minnesota. One loss in those four reopens the door. Michigan's defensive rallying cry has long been: Give us a place to stand. Its team outlook has to now be: Give us a crack to push through. For players like redshirt junior left tackle Taylor Lewan, that means not lingering on a tough night in Lincoln. His shifter doesn't include reverse at this point. "You have to have a short mem- ory in football," Lewan said. "Every single play is the most important play, and then as soon as it happens, it's like it never happened. That's what we have to do here. Tough loss. We have to move on to Min- nesota, change some things — we have to realize what the problem was and fix it." The Wolverines need to fix plenty for a November sweep at Minne- sota, home against Iowa and North- western, and inside the Cauldron of the Ineligible. But honestly, the big- gest item requiring fixing involves Robinson, and the nerve irritation bedeviling him. If he can't rebound effectively, Michigan looks as dead in the Big Ten race as an alligator in Antarc- tica. Even if he does bounce back, it won't be easy. Those barred from a real postseason will look to make Nov. 24 their Ineligibowl. There's still a chance — a very vi- able chance. And this year, in this mixed-up mess known as the Big Ten Conference, that means every- thing. u Editor John Borton has been with The Wolverine since 1991. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @JB_Wolverine.

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