Ann Arbor was cold this Sunday, and not just because fall is coming early this year. This is the day after the Wolverines lost to the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. The Wolverines have found much success in games against the Irish in the past few years and a sort of comfort has set in. An expectation that is sometimes unrealistic.
With this new crop of players, and a whole new coaching staff with a brand new look, expectations were lower then normal this year, but that didn't mean people weren't anticipating a win on Saturday.
"I'm disappointed that we lost two games, but I'm not discouraged, because there's too many things I see internally that are going to lead to some pretty neat things in the future," said coach Rich Rodriguez told reporters after the game on Saturday.
The Wolverines have a bye week this week before they start their Big Ten play with Wisconsin at home. Their 500th game in the Big House, to be exact. So what can we expect from this point out?
"The sky's not falling," Rodriguez said. "Obviously, we've got to get a little bit better in all phases, and we've got to execute better. I can tell you this—there's a lot of positive things going on, too, that maybe the outside people, people that are outside our building, don't see as far as the work ethic, the steps that we're making."
Consistency, though, is what Michigan needs to improve its team, and its game. The bar has been set low for the coaching and personnel change, but by no means does that excuse this team from playing above the bar.
The offense has shown brilliant flashes of the mastermind coach that had led West Virgina to at least a share of four Big East titles in the last seven years. The defense has been stifling and suffocating at times, but again showed inconsistency.
"What I mean is that this program has had a lot of success by playing error-free football, playing tough and physical, not beating yourselves," Rodriguez said. "And those are things that we can do [fix] immediately."
Not everything was bad on Saturday, though.
Michigan found its starting quarterback in Steven Threet, and found its running game in true freshman Sam McGuffie. With the exception of the turnover ratio, the Wolverines won the yardage battle on every offensive category. The offense is clicking, but by no means is it there yet.
They have added more offensive plays other then the "bubble" and screen passes. Still, turnovers and consistency were the name of this game, and to win enough games, especially in the young Big Ten this year, they must capitalize on any defensive turnover, and not commit any themselves.
Michigan's offensive line must stand up and open lanes for McGuffie and Co., and the defensive front, thought at the beginning of the season to be the force to beat, must attack the pocket and force the young quarterbacks of the Big Ten to force errors. This weekend the team totaled zero sacks.
Much can be attributed to the youth on this team, but one thing is for sure: They will only get better with time and experience. They will fight another day. This is Michigan. They will be the victors once again.
"[To] all the naysayers out there," said Rodriguez, "Michigan football will be back."