Michigan's goal of 11th win replaces pain of Ohio State loss
Ann Arbor — A loss is a loss, but some hurt more than others, and how players respond also differs.
For Michigan, which had so much at stake riding on its regular-season finale against rival Ohio State — a spot to play for the Big Ten championship and to remain in the national playoff conversation — how the Wolverines reacted to the 62-39 loss has been a perfect example of varying reactions.
The Wolverines (10-2) said they have moved on from the Ohio State loss and are now eager to begin preparations to face Florida (9-3) in the Peach Bowl, a New Year's Six bowl, on Dec. 29 in Atlanta.
“It’s different with every guy,” junior offensive guard Ben Bredeson, a co-captain, said Monday. “I watched the game once, picked out what I did well, picked out what I did wrong, and that was it. Put it away. Didn’t look at it again.
“There are some games like that that will just sting forever, and you learn what you need to learn and move on. It’s individual for every guy. Everybody learns their own way. Some guys like to dwell on those games and really let them motivate them. Some guys respond to that really well. Other guys, like myself, watch it, move on. It’s always in the back of your head. Games like that really sting. You put it behind you and focus on the next one.”
Left tackle Jon Runyan said he has watched the game a few times and graded the offense as having played “decent” but not particularly well.
He admitted that while everyone has moved on, it wasn’t as easy as flipping a switch.
“After the game, we dwelled on it for a little bit,” Runyan said. “Yeah, it definitely hurt. I know it hurt a lot of the fans and wish we could take it back, but it’s in the past. We can’t do anything about it. Sat on it for a little bit. It was kind of hard watching the Big Ten championship game this weekend knowing we had a shot to be in it. What happened, happened.”
The Wolverines did some lifting last week but mostly had some time to rest. He said teammates were “down.”
Senior safety Tyree Kinnel, also a co-captain, said it is important to not dwell on how the season finished after a 10-game winning streak.
“We’ve just got to move on from that,” Kinnel said. “If we keep that with us we won’t do good in this next game.”
Now, it’s about getting to 11 wins — Bredeson said that currently is the team’s motto — and playing for each other.
“After the Ohio State game, you’re pretty much down and bummed out you’re not going to be in the playoff and the Big Ten championship,” Kinnel said. “But now we’ve got to play for ourselves, our pride and for Michigan.
“There are seniors that’s going to be in this game that’s their last game. For me it’s not going to be hard to be motivated or pumped for this game. I’m excited to play one more college football game. It’s on a big stage so I’m happy.”
The players learned through the course of the season, that began with a seven-point loss at Notre Dame that triggered the 10-game winning streak before the loss at Ohio State, how close they’ve become.
“When stuff like that happens, a lot of people tend to break down, shy away,” safety Josh Metellus said. “We came in Monday and everybody had each other’s back. This team has built this relationship that can’t be broken no matter what happens.
“You learn from it. It is what it is. It didn’t go our way, we know that, and we know we’ve got to fix certain things, certain things we didn’t fix earlier because it never happened before so now we know going into this bowl game.”
The Wolverines will play Florida for the third time in four seasons. Michigan is 4-0 against the Gators.
“I’m indifferent about that,” Bredeson said. “They pick the team we’re playing. I’m not one to be complaining about a New Year’s Six bowl.”
There was a letdown after losing to Ohio State, but playing on this stage in a New Year’s Six bowl has the Wolverines’ attention.
“We did better than last year,” Metellus said. “Last year we won eight games, this year we won 10 and that was a big jump. Beat most of the teams we lost to (last season), that’s another big jump. We came together as a team and found what works. I just felt like this was more of a learning year. Even though it didn’t end up how we wanted it to, it really brought a lot of us together, a lot of us that’s going to be here next year. It’s just building for something that’s going to happen better in the future.”
It has been important, the players said, as the upperclassmen, to make sure the younger players don’t lose interest now that their goals are gone. It’s also important, they said, for everyone to understand that a 10-win and potential 11-win season is something to be happy about considering the Wolverines were 8-5 last season.
“We’ve had a hell of a year here,” Bredeson said. “We lost to two rivals and everyone tries to make it out like we had a bad year, but we finished 10-2. It’s not the year everybody wanted, but it’s a great year nonetheless. We really need to get this big bowl win.”
Bredeson was asked who had been making this season out to be a bad one.
“Just kind of the vibe some of the guys get from you guys, the media. Just around ourselves too,” he said. “We had all these high hopes. Those are taken away. You want to finish the year with something great. We’re all looking forward to winning this one.”