Michigan turns focus to Big Ten schedule

Angelique S. ChengelisThe Detroit News

Ann Arbor — Michigan's mantra is simple — there's still the Big Ten.

The Wolverines are 2-2 with a 31-0 loss at Notre Dame and now a 26-10 loss at home to Utah on Saturday. They have won four of their last 10 games, against Indiana and Northwestern last season and Appalachian State and Miami (Ohio) this year.

They open the Big Ten season against Minnesota next weekend. Of course, the Wolverines' Big Ten schedule includes difficult road games against Michigan State and Ohio State.

"I'm with these kids every day," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. "I know how they go to work. There are things we did very well today. We did some things not as well as we needed to. We've got to improve on that. We've got to go back to work. It starts with me as the head football coach. It starts with the assistants. Everyone who's in Schembechler Hall. We've got to do a better job for those kids."

The players said they know fans are questioning the team and the direction of the program.

"Yeah, everyone hears it, but you can't let it affect you, and I think we've done a good job to this point not letting it (bother us)," center Jack Miller said. "You just have to (tune things out). Whatever the fans want to say, I can't control.

"(We're) disappointed, but our goal, which is the Big Ten championship, is still out there. We'll keep striving for that goal. I think there's a lot of potential on this team, and there's a lot of season left and guys haven't lost faith at all."

Hoke was asked how tough it was to hear the boos during the Utah game.

"You know what I don't like? Those are 18- to 20-year-olds. That's what I don't like," Hoke said. "That's fine, and I know they buy tickets, and they're welcome to do it. But they're 18 to 22. Yeah, they're out there, they are student-athletes. Believe me, they're working their tails off.

"If they're (the boos) all for me, good. I don't have a problem with that at all."

After the game, Hoke said he told the team about the 1998 Michigan team. The Wolverines were coming off a national championship and opened with a loss at Notre Dame, then lost at home to Syracuse. They went on to win a share of the Big Ten title. Hoke was on Michigan's staff at the time.

"Those goals, our goals are all out there," Hoke said. "I do believe we have a team that can do that. Now, you can't play the way you did today and do that. We realize that. We've got a bunch of guys in the locker room who every day work their tails off and are supportive and believe in each other."

Senior linebacker Jake Ryan said, as he did after the Notre Dame loss, that the team is moving on.

"There's a sense of urgency going into this Big Ten season," he said. "The team is really excited about it."