Wolverines spin forward

Players speak of progress against Air Force, albeit not as much as hoped

Updated: September 9, 2012, 1:14 PM ET
By Chantel Jennings | WolverineNation

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- It definitely wasn't the disjointed and overrun Michigan team that lost to Alabama. But the team that beat Air Force 31-25 at the Big House on Saturday was not a cohesive unit that looked even close to being ready to win a Big Ten championship.

The struggles were obvious. But, in the light of the Wolverines' first victory, they're choosing to look at the progress made from game one to game two.

Coach Brady Hoke referred to his team as a "work in progress."

Linebacker Jake Ryan said nearly the same thing.

"Coming off that Alabama loss, that was tough, but just going this [last] week I think we progressed," Ryan said.

Offensive tackle Taylor Lewan put the same spin on it.

"If we keep progressing as a team, as an offensive line, we should be successful," Lewan said.

Week-to-week progress might be what this team hangs it hat on. Because even though Michigan knows that where it is and where it wants to be are two very different places, the Wolverines will attempt to bridge the gap going forward.

Offensively, quarterback Denard Robinson looked like the player Al Borges has said he would be. The senior was decisive both passing (14 of 25, 208 yards, two touchdowns) and rushing (20 carries, 218 yards, two TDs). Two targets also stepped forward -- freshman tight end Devin Funchess (four receptions, 106 yards, one TD) and junior receiver Devin Gardner (five receptions, 63 yards, one TD). Gardner, the converted quarterback, has a touchdown catch in each game.

Defensively, the Wolverines still looked shaky at best. But to their credit they were able to turn out the necessary stops late in the fourth quarter, showing mental focus and maturity for a group that overall is very young.

As against Alabama, the Michigan defense harped on its poor technique, which in both games led to big gains for the opponent's offense. The Falcons managed to putting up 290 rushing yards -- 43 more than the damage the Crimson Tide did on the ground against Michigan.

"Technique was huge in this game," Ryan said. "They were really disciplined, coming downhill real fast. They were physical. ... Just looking at what they did and how we came to it, I just feel like we can progress from there and keep moving forward."

It definitely wasn't the kind of game the Wolverines had hoped for. But with two more games to prepare before the conference opener Oct. 6 against Purdue, the Wolverines will be proud of the progress made from game one to game two and continue to use their struggles as a measuring stick for where they are as a team.

"We just have to keep moving forward and progressing and getting better at everything we do," Robinson said. "We did get better than we were the first week. We just have to keep doing that."

Chantel Jennings | email

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