Ann Arbor – The answers were brief and the mood upbeat.
Welcome to Michigan-Michigan State week where the team that last lost five of the last six in the in-state rivalry is staying quiet -- really quiet.
Michigan players and coaches did not offer any bulletin-board material at Monday's news conference to advance Saturday's game in East Lansing. In fact, they didn't offer much at all, making one wonder if they attended a workshop during last week's bye on how to give non-answer answers to the media.
Fifth-year senior quarterback Devin Gardner, last seen in a walking boot on his left foot after suffering a sprain in the Penn State game, said he was mostly held out of practice last week but participated Sunday and is ready. He was not in a boot on Monday and did not appear to walk with a limp.
Gardner, who gave a few one-word answers, was asked if Michigan is out to ruin Michigan State's season. The defending Rose Bowl/Big Ten-champion Spartans are 6-1, 3-0 Big Ten. Michigan is 3-4, 1-2.
"It's not about us ruining their season," Gardner said. "It's about us."
Michigan lost 29-6 last year at Michigan State and because of a quirk in the Big Ten schedule must return to Spartan Stadium again on Saturday. Michigan had minus-48 yards rushing.
Michigan coach Brady Hoke talked about both teams being different this year with different personnel and different approaches.
But the Wolverines, who ones who were on the field that day, obviously have some residual feelings about it.
"It would bother me if I played in that game (last season), if you were asking me personally, and I didn't do my job, it would bother the hell out of me," Hoke said.
Gardner took seven sacks and had an interception in the game. Michigan was shut out in the second half. Clearly, the offensive line took the majority of the pounding and was physically overwhelmed by Michigan State's defense.
"Last year as an offensive line we just went out there and just let go of technique, fundamentals and just played kind of chaotic," said Jack Miller, Michigan's starting center who did not play in the game last season. "It was a great team Michigan State had last year, just like they do this year. I think it was a perfect storm of probably a bunch of different things."
Michigan has struggled since 2008 in its efforts to regain its role among the Big Ten's top teams. Michigan State has played in two of the three Big Ten championship games.
In some ways, it seems Michigan would like to, at least identity-wise, look more like MSU.
"I don't know about that. I want to have the same helmets and everything we have," Hoke said, drawing some laughter. "Do we want to run the football? Yeah. Do we want to have a good play-action game? Yes. There are a lot of teams that do that."
And Michigan will face one that does that all pretty well on Saturday.