Brady Hoke has to be hoping the break in Michigan's schedule signifies a break between sitting on the ugly side of the turnover chasm and leaping to the winning one. He spoke about that gap today.
The Wolverines stand at minus-seven in turnover margin through four games, compared to a plus-two by their next opponent, Purdue. Last year, turnover margin marked a strong point for the Wolverines, one cited often as pushing U-M to an 11-2 season.
Last year, they were tied for 16th in the nation in turnover margin, securing an average one turnover per game more than foes. This year, the Wolverines have seen 10 passes intercepted, while picking off only two, and secured two fumbles while losing one.
"I think one of the big differences is we forced or got our hands on a lot of balls last year turnover wise and have not seen that," Hoke said.
"We had the two interceptions [against Notre Dame], but we haven't been around the ball as much from a coverage aspect, and also the other aspect is we got to do a better job pressuring the quarterback.
"At times with the four man rush we're not bad. This goes all the way back to week one against Alabama. With a four man rush we put on decent pressure, but we've got to be better in that, forcing some ill advised throws."
Hoke acknowledged Michigan's emphasis and teaching efforts regarding getting defenders to the football hasn't changed. Some of the circumstances have, though, including personnel.
"Most of it is the fact that we're not taking the quarterback off his mark, timing wise, with pressure or with tighter coverage," Hoke noted. "We've got some different guys obviously, but at the at the same time, we think we should be able to do the same kind of things with who we have."
With regard to personnel, Michigan benefited from the bye week in that area, getting some players ready to go for the Purdue game that were previously rehabbing injuries.
Hoke noted sophomore defensive end Brennen Beyer will be ready to go against the Boilermakers, while fifth-year senior tight end Brandon Moore will be "close" to performance ready. Junior fullback Stephen Hopkins and junior wide receiver Devin Gardner are both "fine," Hoke indicated.
In fact, he said all of Michigan's players who have not been declared out for the season are "okay."
Hoke said he saw improvement on the line of scrimmage by Michigan's blockers against Notre Dame, and expects U-M's offense to look more like it did in the second half against the Irish going forward. That includes an upgraded effort by senior quarterback Denard Robinson.
Robinson, Hoke assured, has been coached extensively regarding taking care of the football, and ways to avoid turnovers in the passing game.
"You've got a lot of quarterbacks and guys who are competitors at a high level," he said. "Yeah, they believe in their ability. And you want them to believe in their ability.
"At the same time, you've got to understand that maybe a punt is a good play. Maybe sticking your foot in the ground and going north and south is a good play."
• Hoke indicated the bye week proved significant for a portion of his team in ways that most might overlook.
"The guys who are traveling who are freshman have not been home since June 25th," he said. "We have a lot of those guys from the state, a lot of those guys within driving distance in Ohio and Chicago. It was good to give them about 36 hours to be a human beings and go home and maybe watch their high school play, see mom and dad, grandma and grandpa, aunts and uncles, whoever. I thought that was positive.
"From the academic side, also I think it's always a help. We'll find out obviously Saturday."
• Hoke noted Purdue will present a significant challenge, as a 3-1 team that battled Notre Dame to the very end in South Bend before losing by a field goal.
"Their two corners are very good football players," Hoke said. "They're really good cover guys. Kawaan Short and the front itself, you watch them against Notre Dame, they played a very good football game.
"Offensively they've got good skill, and they've had good skill. They had good skill last year. A lot of the same guys are playing. [Quarterback] Caleb TerBush is better. [Robert] Marve was the guy; he got hurt. This guy has come in and, percentage pass wise, done a good job with the football."
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