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Short but intense

Hoke finds balance in bowl preparation

Short-but-intense

Michigan coach Brady Hoke, right, has switched his philosophy in preparing for a bowl game over the years as a head coach. He has been impressed with the team's intensity.

The Blade/Andy Morrison
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ANN ARBOR -- Just because a practice ends quicker than usual doesn't necessarily mean its intensity has to suffer.

That's been Brady Hoke's philosophy since the end of the regular season, as the Michigan football coach has taken a less-is-more approach in preparing his team for the Sugar Bowl against Virginia Tech.

Michigan vs. Virginia Tech

When: Jan. 3, 8 p.m.

Records: UM 10-2; VT 11-2

Series: First meeting

Favorite: UM by 2 1/2

TV: ESPN

Asked this week what impresses him most about his team's preparation for the Jan. 3 game, Hoke didn't hesitate, answering "the intensity."

There's a wrong way and a right way in bringing that intensity, though, which Hoke knows because he made a mistake of pushing his players too hard at Ball State.

In readying his team for the International Bowl in the 2007 season, Hoke conducted arduous twice-a-day practices. The extra work didn't help. His team was flattened, 52-30, by Rutgers, and allowed 280 rushing yards to current Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice.

"I think we were a little sluggish, but I also think I did a poor job of preparing them," Hoke said.

"I think we were a little sluggish because we probably did too much."

Hoke learned his lesson last season and eased off his San Diego State team leading up to the Poinsettia Bowl.

In a win that surely made Hoke more attractive for the Michigan job, San Diego State rumbled out to a 14-0 lead against Navy before prevailing 35-14.

The Wolverines will convene in New Orleans on Wednesday. Most players went home for Christmas, and those within a four-hour radius of Ann Arbor are ordered to return in time to board a charter flight Wednesday morning. Those whose hometowns are beyond the four-hour circle can travel on their own at the expense of the university. Once everyone is on site, Hoke will hold a light practice at nearby Tulane University "and try to get some Christmas cookies off a couple of them."

As the week goes on, Hoke will be looking for his team to practice with the same speed and timing as he expects from them in the game. If he's satisfied that they've done that, he might cut practice even shorter than it has been.

"It's a fine line," Hoke said. "Yeah, probably a little bit. If our tempo and our intensity and our focus is good, we may go an hour and 10 minutes, an hour and 15.

"As long as we're getting the looks that we need from an offense and defense and kicking game standpoint, it will just depend."

Contact Ryan Autullo at: rautullo@theblade.com, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @RyanAutullo.

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