ANN ARBOR — If there’s anything more humbling for a football team than getting beaten up, it’s them having to swallow their pride and admit to getting beaten up.
No excuses, finger pointing, or misdirection was done Monday at Schembechler Hall during a sobering news conference in the wake of Michigan’s 28-14 loss Saturday at Michigan State. Instead, a new word was introduced, one that’s not recognized by any reputable dictionary but which best sums up the events in East Lansing.
“They just outphysicaled us plain and simple,” senior tight end Kevin Koger said. “They controlled the line of scrimmage. They brought a lot of great blitzes, but they just outphysicaled us. That had a lot to do with it.”
Koger’s assertion is backed by facts. MSU rushed for more yards (213 to 82), recorded more sacks (7 to 0). The Spartans also were penalized six times for personal fouls. All of that added up to a painful day for Michigan (6-1), which dropped from No. 11 to No. 18 in the Associated Press poll.
“The truth never hurts,” coach Brady Hoke said. “It’s things that aren’t truthful that hurt. They outphysicaled us. They outplayed us. They outcoached us.”
Michigan will have the week off to regroup, refocus, and get healthy before coming back in two weeks for the homecoming game against Purdue.
Whether the Spartans’ bullying style ever escalated into cheap and dirty is a topic Hoke didn’t care to discuss. MSU was penalized four times for unsportsmanlike conduct, such as the time William Gholston punched Taylor Lewan in the facemask, and twice for roughing the passer. Regarding the brutal hit on quarterback Denard Robinson by defensive end Marcus Rush, Hoke said, “It’s football. You’re playing football.” Robinson left the game after that fourth quarter play and did not return.
Hoke said he submitted a few plays to the Big Ten for review, just as he does after every game, but would not say whether any of them involved alleged dirty behavior by the Spartans. He would not say whether he thinks Gholston should be suspended. In 2009, Wolverines linebacker Jonas Mouton was suspended one game by the Big Ten for punching a Notre Dame player underneath his helmet.
When asked if MSU is dirty, Koger responded, “I wouldn’t say that.”
UM center David Molk agreed.
“Football’s a tough game,” Molk said. “The line between cheap and fair is pretty thin sometimes. Really, it’s in the eye of the beholder. What could be a tough play could be a rough play could be too much. They’re a tough team. They played well. That’s not why they beat us.”
ROBINSON STILL STARTER: Hoke won’t change quarterbacks even though he put in Devin Gardner for one series in the fourth quarter.
Robinson is not throwing the ball well and is coming off of one of the worst performances of his career (9 of 21 passing, 42 rushing yards) but he will be the starter going forward, Hoke said.
“Denard is our quarterback,” Hoke said. “We’re 6-1 and a lot of that is because Denard is our quarterback.”
Hoke said he put in Gardner to run a few specific plays, including two bootleg runs. When might Hoke consider making a change?
“I wouldn’t event speculate because that’s a point that’s way out there,” he said.
HEAD BUTT: Before every game Molk picks out a teammate to head butt as a way to get himself fired up. Two years ago he sought out Rocko Khoury before moving on to Ricky Barnum in 2010. The unlucky recipient of Molk’s pregame routine this year is freshman Jack Miller, a St. John’s Jesuit graduate.
“I just chose Jack because I like him,” Molk said. “I kind of took him under my wing when he got in and taught him center. He doesn’t like it. He always says it’s OK if he knows it’s coming.”
Miller has traveled with the team to both away games but has yet to play. Hoke hopes to redshirt him but may use him in an emergency.
“He’s a guy that has to be ready,” Hoke said.
SHORT YARDS: Hoke said there’s legitimate competition for a starting cornerback job between senior Troy Woolfolk and freshman Blake Countess. Countess replaced Woolfolk after the first series Saturday when Woolfolk was nearly beaten for a touchdown. He never returned. ... Among those who will use the down time to heal injuries are Robinson (back), Lewan (ankle), and Barnum (ankle).
Contact Ryan Autullo at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @RyanAutullo.