Wolverines shrug off sentiments of disgruntled semi-throng

John Niyo
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — The first delay of game penalty was an accident. The second was intentional. And the touchback that came next — as well as the jeers that followed it — just seemed to come naturally.

This is what you get when you’re marketed as an elite team but playing like a generic brand. This is what you get when you’re struggling to handle one of college football’s worst teams a week after enduring one of your program’s worst losses.

You get restlessness and resentment and what’ll undoubtedly be viewed as a lack of respect — highlighted by that halftime shower of boos at Michigan Stadium — by some folks inside Schembechler Hall after Saturday’s 34-10 win over Miami (Ohio).

“You know what? We’ve got great fans,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke said, smartly declining to pick any fights with the paying customers following the game. “And you know what? They have high expectations just like we do.”

And they expect better than what they’ve gotten lately, starting with that blankety-blanking loss at Notre Dame and continuing with that sloppy, sluggish start Saturday.

Three more first-half turnovers by the Wolverines — two by the offense and another on special teams — allowed Miami (Ohio) to stay in the game a lot longer than you’d expect. This was a school, mind you, that’d dropped 18 in a row coming in — most recently to FCS foe Eastern Kentucky — the longest active FBS losing streak in the nation.

And after watching Michigan treat a four-minute drill at the end of the first half like a teenager does the snooze button on an alarm clock, the announced crowd of 102,824 (yay, Groupon!) was hardly amused by Hoke’s decision to line up in punt formation on fourth-and-1 from the Miami 32. (The RedHawks actually had to call a timeout to put a returner on the field.)

They were even less amused when, after a confusing delay-of-game penalty on the Wolverines, and another Miami timeout, Michigan took a second delay-of-game penalty on purpose, only to watch punter Will Hagerup drill his kick deep into the end zone for a touchback.

Suddenly, a halftime fireworks show didn’t seem like such a bad idea, right?

Beware the Utes

So they booed, and rather loudly, as the home team headed for the tunnel, and the players certainly heard it.

“Yeah, but you’ve got to block that out,” said Jake Ryan, Michigan’s fifth-year senior linebacker.

Added Ryan: “You can’t stress over that. If that’s how they feel, that’s how they feel.”

And how the Wolverines really feel about that is probably best kept to themselves at the moment, as Hoke might have learned earlier in the week when he took flak for suggesting true-Blue fans were above that sort of thing.

Saturday, he opted not to go there again, saying, “As far as the players, they know that they can only control what they can control, and that’s playing the best Michigan football we can.”

They’d best play it soon, with Utah’s high-powered offense (57.5 ppg) up next, headed to Ann Arbor off a bye week. Another first-half showing like this and the Wolverines will find themselves in a deep hole similar to the one they dug in South Bend a week ago.

“We’ll have our hands full,” Hoke said.

The stands maybe a bit less so. Saturday’s home attendance was the lowest since 1995, and next week’s tally probably won’t be much better.

But for now, they’ll have to deal with that. Because what you get isn’t always what you want: It’s what you expect.