Braden, Wolverines have to 'band together' on the road

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — For the second time in three weeks, Michigan is on the road. And next week the Wolverines hit the road again.

This is the final stretch for the Wolverines, before their regular-season finale against Ohio State, and it begins Saturday against Indiana, the first of back-to-back road games.

Michigan (7-2, 4-1 Big Ten) plays at Indiana’s Memorial Stadium, where the Wolverines have a 16-1 record, the only loss coming in 1987.

“Playing on the road, that definitely shows an aspect of we have to band together, we have our goals and we’ve got to stick to them no matter what,” junior left guard Ben Braden said this week. “Playing on the road has always been a proving point of how well can you handle adversity in someone else’s stadium.

“It’s different when you’re at the Big House, and you have all your fans cheering you on. That’s definitely a testament to our ability to handle adversity when we’re on the road.”

The Hoosiers have the Big Ten’s top-rated offense but also are ranked last in defense.

Michigan vs. Indiana: Another test for UM's vaunted 'D'

Running the ball for the Wolverines has been a challenge as defenses have been geared toward taking away the run. Braden said the offensive line has to improve to allow room for the running backs.

“For our running game it’s been doing better, but we need to work on our technique as far as blocks and combos,” Braden said. “Every week we’ll see different ways they’ll bring more people in the box, or less people in the box, different coverages. That’s going to test us in our ability to adapt and be able to handle different styles of defenses.”

While center Graham Glasgow has consistently been praised by coach Jim Harbaugh as the most consistent of the offensive linemen, Braden recently has been mentioned for his improved play. He will make his 22nd consecutive start Saturday.

“I felt like, personally, I’ve done well throughout the season, but I always expect more from myself, and the coaches expect the same from me,” Braden said. “They’ll always say, ‘OK, that was a good job, you do well on this, but we want this a little more.’

“The coaches are always really good about keeping things balanced as far as that was a really good play, good job, but this play you didn’t do this right or he got around you. They’re really good about keeping you level-headed.”

Braden is maintaining his focus on football, although when hockey season gets into gear, he is reminded of his hockey-filled past.

He was an avid hockey player before deciding the summer before his junior year at Rockford High to devote himself to football.

Imagine the 6-foot-6, 322-pound Braden on skates.

“I’m not as fast as I once was,” Braden said, laughing.

He was a defenseman, then moved to center, then to left wing. So he’s like the Jabrill Peppers of hockey?

“I wouldn’t say that,” Braden said. “He’s a heck of an athlete.”

Hockey, which developed his flexibility, has translated to playing offensive line.

“Foot coordination, that was definitely a huge aspect having a lot under my belt with hockey and coming to football,” he said. “Being able to feel with my feet, that really helped.”

He counts Steve Yzerman and Dominik Hasek among his favorite players and said he always wanted to play goalie, like Hasek, who won two Stanley Cups with the Red Wings.

“That was my dream,” Braden said. “Thought it was the coolest thing in the world.

“Just being able to stay there and catch the puck in the glove and just the fact that everyone’s trying to beat you on something, and not letting them do it. That’s was just the cool part of it. And they had to be really quick and flexible, and as a kid, I was pretty flexible. It was just cool to watch.”

Michigan at Indiana

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, Indiana

Line: Michigan by 13.5

TV / radio: ABC / WWJ 950, WTKA 1050

Records: No. 15 Michigan 7-2 (4-1 Big Ten); Indiana 4-5 (0-5)

Series: Michigan leads 54-9 (Last: Nov 1, 2014 — (at) Michigan 34, Indiana 10)