Commentary

Hoke puts emphasis on routine

Coach understands emotion of week, tries to get seniors to stay on even keel

Updated: November 22, 2011, 11:23 AM ET
By Chantel Jennings | WolverineNation

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- This week in practice, it doesn't matter that a win over Ohio State could get the Michigan football team its 10th win of the season -- a feat that hasn't happened since 2006.

Nor does it matter that a victory Saturday would make coach Brady Hoke the only Michigan coach other than Bo Schembechler and Fielding H. Yost to win "The Game" in his first year as head coach.

Those factors will not affect how the Wolverines operate daily this week. In Ann Arbor, all things will go on as they have since the Wolverines opened with Western Michigan on Sept. 3.

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Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesHis players need only to do the same things they've done every week in forging their 9-2 mark, according to coach Brady Hoke.
"It seems like we're a pretty grounded team right now," Hoke said. "And hopefully, we'll do a pretty good job as coaches of making sure that our guys worry about the things that matter -- that's how you line up and compete on every play and how you execute on every play."

Hoke was clear that, for "The Game," the Wolverines will use the same tactics they have used all season. Each week, they've tried to build on the physicality in practice and build momentum from game to game.

And against Nebraska, the Wolverines played their most complete game, according to Hoke, which is a good sign for peaking at the end of November -- a goal for Hoke since the beginning. But they won't be changing anything in their practices as they finish their season or face their rival.

"Each week is a week," senior center David Molk said. "You progress and you learn. ... It's one of the things you really need to maintain on a football team. It's balance -- doing the same thing week after week and getting comfortable."

Hoke is calling on his seniors to set the example for the younger players in a game that has so much tradition around it. The seniors, who are 0-3 against the Buckeyes, know that it can be detrimental for a team to be too emotional early in the week.

Senior tight end Kevin Koger said it's necessary the team doesn't play the game before the game by getting too high emotionally, leaving the players drained by Saturday. The upperclassmen are focused on keeping things routine.

But Hoke also wants to make sure his seniors understand they can't take on more than they have in the past and that this week, while it is a rivalry week and it is the week before the seniors' last trip down the Big House tunnel, they need to remain focused on beating Ohio State.

"I think some of them probably are putting a little too much on themselves than they need to," Hoke said of the seniors. "All you have to do is go out and play for the guy next to you. And play as hard as you can and play with the greatest toughness you have."

Chantel Jennings covers University of Michigan sports for WolverineNation. She can be reached at jenningsespn@gmail.com or or on Twitter @chanteljennings.