Brady Hoke doesn't discount Michigan's chances of still winning the Big Ten. He insists he appreciates the team's leadership, and the pride with which the Wolverines are going about their business. Now, all of that has to translate on the road.
The Wolverines are 0-for-2 away from Michigan Stadium so far, in part because they've played No. 1 Alabama and No. 9 Notre Dame on the road. Hoke knows what the Wolverines have to get done in West Lafayette on Saturday, and what all good road teams must accomplish.
"Good teams on the road have got to take care of the football," Hoke stressed. "You need to make sure as you're taking care of the football, you're running the football, which can help you take a little bit out of the home crowd. People don't like seeing offenses get first down after first down.
"Defensively, don't give up the big plays. If you give up the big plays, then you really get a crowd involved."
Given six turnovers at Notre Dame, Michigan has obviously committed more on the road than at home this season. There isn't any justification for being more generous with the football away from home, though.
"There shouldn't be," he said. "The field is a same width and length. There are 11 guys on each side of the ball. From my perspective, no.
"I wish I had the answer. The coaching is the same, on both sides of the ball. We haven't gotten many take-aways, either. That part of it, we've coached the same way, just like ball security and decision-making, we've coached that the same way."
The mistakes at Notre Dame went beyond the turnovers, with redshirt junior offensive tackle Taylor Lewan citing 23 missed assignments on the offensive side of the ball.
Hoke wasn't certain the tally was that high, but he acknowledged some issues in that game.
"There were a number of them, and they're from different guys on different plays," he said. "You always look at how much you're doing. Maybe you have too much in, and they don't understand it well enough.
"Playing at night, you get a little extra time, with walk-throughs and those things. It always comes down to a matter of your focus on every play. When you don't do that, you're not going to play as well."
The Wolverines need to get better, and quickly, Hoke stressed. That's why he was particularly pleased to oversee a crisp Tuesday practice, and looked forward to a similar follow-up today.
"We had a really, really good practice yesterday," he said. "I really liked the speed and tempo we practiced with. I liked the execution, from an offensive and defensive standpoint. When you look at mistakes and missed assignments, we were very minimal on those.
"We competed really well with each other. I thought it was a good day. Now we've got to come back and have them back-to-back."
• Hoke indicated it's not time to say Michigan's defense has turned the corner, even with an encouraging game at Notre Dame, featuring just 13 Irish points amid the U-M turnover troubles.
"You're probably too quick to say it," Hoke noted. "It was better. We played stouter up front, and one of the biggest things is, we were controlling the line of scrimmage and getting off the block. There's a difference.
"[Redshirt junior defensive tackle] Quinton [Washington] really played his best game he's played at Michigan, in a lot of ways, when you watch that tape."
• Fifth-year senior wideout Roy Roundtree recently cited timing issues on pass patterns marking the biggest hurdle in U-M's throwing game.
"I would hope it would be better," Hoke said. "That's always a part of it, the timing of the routes and the adjustments you make on the fly are a big part of it, because of coverage."
Roundtree also indicated he's enforcing running among the wideouts after "loafs," practice plays in which those at his position didn't go all out.
"Most of the time, he has pretty good judgment," Hoke said, before quipping, "If it was something where he was going to beat them up, or something like that, I think I'd probably have some influence there.
"The guys know him. They know how he feels, and how he goes about his daily life. He expects the same from them, which is a good teammate."
Hoke insists Roundtree has earned respect from all.
"His leadership, since day one as a junior
that's one reason he's in the jersey that he's in," Hoke said. "He's really been a guy you can count on, whether it be in special teams, in a team run or whatever it might be. Roy's leadership and commitment to his teammates - those are things that stick out to me."
• Michigan coaches have stressed getting redshirt junior tailback Fitzgerald Toussaint going at a high rate of production, and Hoke likes what he sees lately.
"He's been more downhill, in my opinion," Hoke said. "Getting him [running] vertically is what we need to do, and what he needs to do. It's blocking the point a little better, it's sticking your foot in the ground as a back and not seeing ghosts - know where you want to go with it and be physical, come out the other end of it."
Hoke didn't put the onus for Toussaint's slow start (150 yards in three games) entirely on the back.
"I don't know if we've blocked it real well, to be honest with you," Hoke said. "He missed a cut yesterday, in full line drill. Jake [Ryan] hit him right underneath the chin. He got up and he finished, because we finish everything we do.
"He ran 35 yards down the field, and I'm usually in the back. The first thing he said was, 'That's my fault. I missed the cut.' That's encouraging."
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