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September 16, 2013

Wolverines eager to take out their frustration on UConn

Poor Connecticut. The Wolverines are mad, and as history has shown, when the Maize and Blue are angry, and they face an unranked team the following week after a close call or an unexpected loss, they exact their revenge. Big time.

Beginning in 2000, Michigan lost to an unranked Purdue squad 32-31, and then took Indiana behind the woodshed the following week, badgering the Hoosiers in a 58-0 victory. Didn't matter that the Boilermakers would go on to share the Big Ten title or that Drew Brees was a darn nice quarterback; the Wolverines were embarrassed and they took out their frustration on Indiana.

Two years later, following a slim three-point win over unranked Utah, the 14th ranked Maize and Blue raced out to a 45-13 lead over Illinois en route to a 45-28 win. And on and on the list goes.

Michigan won Saturday, but didn't play its best and was humiliated by the final score of 28-24. U-M head coach Brady Hoke can give the Zips all the credit he wants, and certainly UA played inspired football, but this was a program that went 3-33 its last three seasons, going 0-9 against BCS Conference foes in losing by an average score of 44-11.

"We are all upset because we know we didn't give our best effort during the week [leading up to the Akron game], and everything that happened in that game was deserved," sophomore linebacker James Ross said. "Everybody, the whole team, it wasn't a good vibe. We learned from that game and we know come these next few weeks, the preparation needs to be 100 percent."

While fans may be lamenting the performance Saturday and questioning the direction of this program, almost every team seems to have one clunker on its season-long resume. In 2004, it was a 24-17 win over San Diego State; in 2005, an inexplicable 23-20 loss to Minnesota on Homecoming; and in 2006, with Michigan's best team in a decade, the Maize and Blue beat Ball State just 34-26.

Each time, the Wolverines rebounded with a Big Ten win the following week, besting Iowa 30-17, No. 8 Penn State 27-25 and Indiana 34-3, respectively.

"I feel like everyone was embarrassed and now we want to go back out there and show what we're really made of, show how much improvement we will make throughout the week," Ross said. "We're just ready to show up."

There are very real issues with this team, including the play up front on both sides of the line of scrimmage, but never underestimate attitude and effort when it comes to physical execution. The Maize and Blue weren't ready to play the Zips and because of that, they likely looked worse than they are.

But like in 2010 when they edged Massachusetts 42-37 and rebounded with a 65-21 win over Bowling Green, and 2012 when they snuck by Air Force 31-25 and then demolished the Minutemen 63-13, the Wolverines will be a different team this weekend. They will be focused. They will mad, and they will be eager to unleash their anger on someone else.

"I don't have any doubt in my mind that this team understands what happened Saturday, and they know it's not acceptable," fifth-year senior left tackle Taylor Lewan said. "At the end of the day, we're 3-0, so that's great. We've got that major goal done.

"But they're focused, and we're going to prepare like no other team has ever prepared before."

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