UM players yearn for game to erase bitter loss
Ann Arbor — Michigan returned to practice on Tuesday, three days after losing in the final seconds to in-state rival Michigan State on a botched punt.
The players admitted it took some time to digest what happened and move on. They are off on Saturday before returning to action Oct. 31 at Minnesota. The Wolverines are practicing Wednesday and Sunday this week before resuming a normal game week of preparation.
Center Graham Glasgow said he has seen the final play more than he ever wanted, but it’s been difficult to avoid since the clip has been broadcast so frequently.
“I’ve seen it a whole bunch of times,” Glasgow said Tuesday night after practice. “I just didn’t think it was real. It happened. And that’s it.
“I mean I don’t know how many times you see that (play happen). There were a lot of things that had to go their way. I would consider it more like a miracle than a fluke for them. Everything really went more their way as opposed to things not going our way, but good for them.”
The players said they’ve got that proverbial bitter taste in their mouths and would like to have a game on Saturday to help them move on but also know that it’s not a bad thing to rest their bodies.
Cornerback Jourdan Lewis said the loss is still fresh in his mind.
“I was in shock. It was just disbelief,” Lewis said.
“I’m still not over it. It’s in my mind that we lost, but we’ve just got to move on. We take that loss as a lesson, just execute better and just work on the things we have to work on.”
Michigan punter Blake O’Neill took questions from media Tuesday night and said he has moved on after the fumble. With 10 seconds left and Michigan leading by two, O’Neill dropped the snap, picked it up and spun around to kick it but fumbled into the hands of Michigan State’s Jalen Watts-Jackson. Watts-Jackson scored on a 38-yard return giving the Spartans a stunning 27-23 victory.
Tailback De’Veon Smith said that night and Sunday morning he hadn’t quite gotten over the finish and loss.
“But now I am,” Smith said. “I look back it and just laugh about it, because it was a crazy play, a great play by them. I laughed in disbelief it happened to you because you only see that happen to other teams and it just so happened to our team.
“I’ve seen it at least it four or five times. You think it’s a bad dream, you want to wake up from it, but just got to live with it.”
O’Neill said practice was “business as usual” on Tuesday. Glasgow said players were focused.
“I don’t think it was angry,” Glasgow said. “I think everybody was mentally locked in, and there wasn’t a lot of laughs. I wouldn’t consider it angry. I think everybody was just in tune with what they needed to do.
“I think everybody is, I wouldn’t say down, I think that everybody is really serious about what’s going on here now and there can’t be any stumbles and everybody needs to do their job to the best of their abilities.”
Michigan has five regular-season games remaining, including three on the road. The Wolverines’ season finale is against No. 1-ranked Ohio State. They are 5-2 overall, 2-1 in the Big Ten and their goal, Glasgow said, is to win out.
Glasgow said the players are more serious now after perhaps settling in following three-straight, comfortable shutouts heading into the Michigan State game.
“When you’re blowing teams out and when you’re shutting teams out winning by 30 points, I feel like there’s a little bit more leniency,” Glasgow said. “It’s like, ‘Hey, you got the job done, but step with the right foot next time.’ I’m taking it very seriously, a lot of the upperclassmen (are) — you just can’t make mistakes anymore.”
The loss, Lewis said, won’t serve to galvanize the team more than it already was.
“We’re always together,” Lewis said. “I don’t see one game unifying us more than any other game. That’s our mindset. We have to come in as a team. We win and lose together.”
The Wolverines said they are moving onto Minnesota.
“I think we’re going to be ready to play,” Glasgow said. “We’ve got a lot of time to get ready for them and we’ll watch their game this weekend and we already started getting into their stuff and I think we’ll have a good game plan that’s well executed.”