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November 9, 2013
Notebook: Nebraska snaps U-M's home winning streak
In a rain-soaked Michigan Stadium, the Wolverines clobbered Western Michigan, 34-10, in a game shortened by lightning delays. That was Sept. 3, 2011, and it marked Brady Hoke's first game - and victory - as Michigan's head coach.
Through the excitement of 2011's 11-2 finish, 2012's disappointing 8-5 campaign and the up-and-down emotional rollercoaster that is 2013, one constant remained, until Saturday: Hoke and the Wolverines won in The Big House.
The Cornhuskers, who toppled Michigan, 17-13, Saturday, became the first visiting team since Wisconsin in the final home game of the 2010 season to walk away from Michigan Stadium with a win.
Hoke won his first 19 games in Ann Arbor, some by enormous totals, like a 58-0 win over Minnesota in 2011 and a 59-9 blowout over Central Michigan this year, and some by inches, like a 38-31 overtime victory over Northwestern last season and this year's hectic 28-24 win over Akron with a goal-line stand.
But they were all wins, regardless of the margins.
That is, until Saturday.
"Home winning streak, away winning streak, any winning streak, you just hate it when it's not there," Hoke said.
With the loss, Michigan snapped the second-longest active home winning streak at the FBS level. The Wolverines were gaining ground on Northern Illinois' current streak, since the Huskies have had just three home games so far this season.
But Northern Illinois' streak of 24 consecutive home wins, which dates back to a 38-3 win over Western Michigan Oct. 3, 2009, will hold as the nation's current longest.
"It hurts," redshirt junior quarterback Devin Gardner said. "It always hurts to lose. Being at home, it just puts a little more on top of it. We didn't finish, lost at home and ended the streak we took a lot of pride in."
The streak included a 45-17 blowout win over the Cornhuskers in 2011, their first season as members of the Big Ten.
"Two years ago, they killed us up there," Nebraska junior running back Ameer Abdullah said in the week leading up to the game. "I was kind of shell-shocked. I didn't play much, but, just being there, Michigan fans are nasty, man. They're ruthless. I wouldn't have it any other way. Honestly, I'm not a big fan of Michigan. Nothing would make me happier than to go up there and shut them up."
Mission accomplished, as Michigan fans quietly found their way to the exit with Nebraska taking a knee to kill the final seconds off the clock.
Although it's disappointing to see the win streak end, it still stands as one of the most impressive in program history. The Wolverines' 19-game home winning streak stands as the fourth-longest ever for the program, and the second-longest home-winning streak by a coach to begin his Michigan tenure.
Both records are held by the Fielding H. Yost teams of yore. Yost began is Michigan career with an incredible 50 consecutive home victories, stretching from Swept. 19, 1901 to Nov. 16, 1907.
Wolverines Shake It Up Defensively
When the Wolverines' starting lineups were announced during the pregame festivities at Michigan Stadium before Saturday's 17-13 loss to Nebraska, there were a few surprises on the defensive side.
The Wolverines' usual starting safeties - fifth-year senior strong safety Thomas Gordon and sophomore free safety Jarrod Wilson - were nowhere to be found.
Senior journeyman Courtney Avery, who has gotten extensive experience at safety, cornerback and nickel back in the last three years, earned the start at free safety.
Redshirt junior Josh Furman, who made his first career start earlier this year when Gordon was suspended for Michigan's season-opening win over Central Michigan, got the nod at strong safety.
Thomas never saw the field on defense, and Wilson played came off the bench to replace both Furman and Avery in certain situations.
"Thomas we thought he had a little bit of an ankle," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. "He played on the punt team. We also thought Courtney and Josh could give us something, and Jarrod."
Furman, Avery and Wilson finished with three tackles apiece. True freshman Dymonte Thomas, a safety by trade, also got in as the nickel back, but did not record any stats.
The safeties weren't the only ones seeing changes, though.
True freshman defensive end Taco Charlton, who had seen some spot duty in three of the Wolverines' first eight games, earned the most extensive playing time of his career, lining up at both end and defensive tackle.
Charlton finished with one tackle and 0.5 tackles for loss, but his presence on the field goes beyond the box score.
He created heat on Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong, Jr., which directly led to a sack by fifth-year senior outside linebacker Cam Gordon.
"Taco has been fortunate enough that he's' been able to improve in the course of the year without having to take full snaps in a lot of critical situations," Hoke said. "We liked how he's come along and it's about the right time for him because he's come along to play.
"He's still an outside end but got the length and size and as good a quickness as anybody. He's pretty good inside when you get to sub packages."
The Wolverines worked in several young defensive linemen, including redshirt freshman nose tackle Willie Henry, who has steadily improved throughout the season and has started each of the last two games.
Redshirt freshman nose tackle Ryan Glasgow and redshirt freshman Chris Wormley also played extensively. The two have been steady contributors throughout the year and have garnered more and more playing time as the season has worn on.
Henry had two tackles, and Wormley had one.
"Willie started last week and played well," Hoke said. "I know Willie made some more plays again, which is a good sign. I think Taco really forced the sack Cam got did a nice job on a game, also did a nice job on a run play over there. Until you really look at it it's hard for you to make an evaluation that's fair."