Taylor Lewan didn’t mince words after his team got overpowered by Michigan State Saturday. The senior captain had stated quite clearly that his squad got bullied during its last trip to East Lansing in 2011. So when he was asked after this year’s loss if it could be described the same way, he didn’t hesitate.
“I think that’s exactly what it was,” Lewan said. “I think a lot of this game absolutely falls on the offensive line. They ran a bunch of blitzes… a lot of the same exact blitzes that they ran in 2011. A lot of barrel crosses… a couple of corner sharks here and there… a couple of wolf cats. When it came down to it we couldn’t pick it up, and that’s our job.”
One of the most menacing Spartans on the day was defensive end Shilique Calhoun. He was a frequent visitor to the Wolverines’ backfield 2.5 sacks and three tackles for loss. While his impact on the game was undeniable, the rivalry’s chippiness was evident in Lewan’s response to a question about how tough the Calhoun was to block.
“He’s not,” responded Lewan. “They only put him on me a couple of times. I really didn’t have a problem with him at all. Totally honest.”
If Lewan didn’t have trouble with Calhoun, his Wolverine teammates certainly did. As a matter of fact after Michigan drove right down the field on the game’s opening possession, the pressure on Devin Gardner got more and more intense. By the time the fourth quarter rolled around Brady Hoke said his quarterback was “beat up.” Though bloodied and himself, Lewan knew #98 had been battered a great deal more.
“I feel bad for him,” Lewan said of Gardner. “That’s on us. That’s on the offensive line and the running back protecting our guy. We had a lot of full protections that they just got through. A lot of seven man protections and they got through it. We need to do a better job of protecting our quarterback. That’s always going to be the goal. We’re going to take away good things and bad things from this game and focus on the rest of the season.”
“We’ve just got to compete on every single down. It’s just matter of straining that extra half a second. There were a couple of runs where Fitz really could’ve broken out if we would’ve stayed that much more on blocks. These guys will get it. They will, but this is going to sting for a little bit. That’s what happens.
And to be clear, this isn’t a case where the fifth-year senior is placing all the blame on his young cohorts on the line’s interior.
Said Lewan, “It’s not just those guys… absolutely not. This is a team effort. This is all on the team, but it falls on the offensive line… and it’s not just those three guys.”
If there is a rallying cry coming out of this lopsided defeat it may be the theme that Lewan attempted to forward throughout his postgame commentary.
“We’ve just got to compete better,” he said matter-of-factly. “That’s really what it comes down to. We’ve really got to compete and understand that every block could be the block, every run could be the run, or every pass, or every catch. That’s just speaking from an offensive perspective because I’m on offense, but that’s really what it comes down to. What are you going to do that one play? There are six or seven plays in a game that can win or lose you a championship.”
Unless the Wolverines correct many of the issues that reared their ugly heads again Saturday afternoon and also receive a little help from their Big Ten brethren, those six or seven plays may have already taken place.
Taylor Lewan on Michigan's 29-6 loss to Michigan State