Michigan’s inability to get a push up front in short yardage situations has plagued the Wolverines for the entire season, no game more evident than Ohio State Saturday. With extra practice time coming up, Coach Hoke says the young linemen on the team will be coached up. **with video**
Michigan’s lack of a consistent running game outside of Denard Robinson throughout the 2012 season can’t go unnoticed. Saturday at Ohio State, sophomore Thomas Rawls and senior Vincent Smith combined to run the ball 10 times for just 17 total yards while Robinson, who was able to break free for a potentially game-changing 67 yard scamper late in the first half, finished the game with a total of 122 yards on the ground.
122 yards for one “back” would normally satisfy a rushing attack, but after leaving Columbus with a 26-21 defeat in hand, attention rests with the decisions to attempt runs up the middle on key third and short situations, as well as the failed 4th and 3 attempt to open up the second half.
“We kind of prided ourselves on being good in short yardage,” said Hoke, “and we tried three different, really four different, schemes. We ran the iso, ran the power, ran the quarterback read play, and just didn’t execute like we’d like to. And they all had possibilities, besides probably the iso, that could have been executed.”
“That was disappointing.”
Michigan has now finished with back-to-back 6-2 marks in Big Ten play under Hoke, and all of the four losses came in games away from Michigan Stadium. While turnovers and various other communication issues plagued the Wolverines in the hostile settings, Hoke always returns to the ability, or inability, to control the ball on the ground.
“The one thing I know you have to do on the road is run the football,” said Hoke. “And we have not run the football or taken care of the football as well as we need to away from home.”
“I think there were plenty of opportunities,” he said, adding, “You got to block too.”
After losing All-American center Dave Molk and Mark Huyge, as well as the moves of Michael Schofield to right tackle and the training camp change that found Elliott Mealer in the starting lineup at center next to left guard Ricky Barnum, struggles along the offensive line appeared destined to happen, especially in the early going.
However, on the heels of an encouraging performance by that same line in the fourth game of the season at Notre Dame, it appeared the group might begin to gel moving forward. But the inconsistent play and question marks continued, leaving Hoke wondering what can be done to improve—for not only the bowl game, but for spring football and eventually the 2013 season.
“I don’t know if there’s any quick fixes,” Hoke said. “There’s some guys that we haven’t played that we’ll see. They’ve got some growth to do though. I think that’s a big part of it, and these fifteen days that we’ll practice will be a big part of bringing them along… there’s a higher expectation than what we’re doing right now.”
Waiting in the wings and behind the scenes are four talented redshirt freshmen, as well as the injured Chris Bryant and Jack Miller, chomping at the bit, with opportunity and expectations thrown upon them in the coming years of their development.
“The one thing we’ve tried to do is continue to develop them all fall,” said Hoke. “But there’ll be a couple practices in there that will be a little more focused on what they’re doing.”
To watch video of Hoke from Monday’s press conference, press play below.