Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  By DAVE HOGG  |  Last updated 11/4/13
ANN ARBOR -- For the first seven games of the season, Michigan was able to cover for its obvious problems on the offensive line. The cracks showed in nail-biting wins over Akron and Connecticut, and were exposed somewhat more in a bad quadruple-overtime loss to Penn State, but the Wolverines were still 6-1 and ranked in the Top 25. Michigan State, though, blew everything wide open. The Spartans sacked Devin Gardner seven times, shut down Michigan's ground attack and held the Wolverines to a school-record negative-48 yards rushing in a 29-6 victory. "We're all disappointed, whether it is from a coaching standpoint or a playing standpoint," Brady Hoke said Monday. "We all have to do a better job." As bad as the rushing numbers looked, though, Hoke was more disappointed with Michigan's passing game. He and offensive coordinator Al Borges were confident that Michigan's best shot was to hit throws down the field, but Gardner never had a chance. "We just have to give Devin a better opportunity," he said. "I really thought we had a very good game plan, and there were plenty of chances open down the field. We just needed to give Devin another half-click and he could have hit them." Gardner finished the game on the bench with freshman Shane Morris taking snaps, but Hoke emphasized on Monday that the move had nothing to do with the junior's play. "He was awfully beaten up by the end of that game," Hoke said. "Did he do everything perfectly? No, he didn't, but that young man is a warrior. He never stopped battling, no matter how many times he got hit." The biggest problem for the Wolverines has been a lack of experience at the interior line spots. Hoke has used nine offensive linemen this season, desperately trying to find a center and two guards to work between senior tackles Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield. Most of them have been redshirt freshmen and sophomores, with true freshman Kyle Bosch now starting at left guard. "Our problem up front is a youth issue as much as anything, and the only way to fix that is experience," Hoke said. "I wouldn't trade those kids for anything, but they don't have the experience you need. "Some guys can pick it up right away, but for most of them, it takes time. You just keep grinding away in practice and show them everything you can." Lewan said that his younger teammates have the physical gifts they need, but now they need to develop the right level of focus. "The younger guys are thinking about the whole game -- they think about the score, and how many times we've already had third-and-long, and how they've been playing," he said. "That doesn't work, because you need to be thinking about the next play and nothing else. You have to know what defensive front they are using, where players are shifting and what that means for your assignment. "These guys have the talent, but they have to get to the place where they can go 100 percent on the next play without thinking about anything else. That's tough to do." Lewan, of course, had problems with his own focus during the game, picking up a 15-yard penalty for shoving a Michigan State player in the face, and also getting caught on camera twisting the facemask of Isaiah Lewis. "What I did was wrong, and there's no way for me to take it back," he said. "When I'm on the field, I'm doing everything in my power to protect Devin and protect my teammates, but I absolutely should have done it in a different way." The Big Ten is looking into the incident, which is quite similar to the play that got Michigan State's William Gholston suspended for one game after twisting Denard Robinson's mask two years ago. Gholston had also punched Lewan during that game. Lewan said he wasn't in a position to compare the two incidents, and that the Big Ten's decision is out of his hands. Hoke said he doesn't think Lewan deserves a suspension -- one that would cripple Michigan's offensive line ever further this weekend against Nebraska -- but he certainly wasn't happy about the play. "That is not who we are, and it is not the way we want to portray the University of Michigan," Hoke said. "He and I have had a long discussion about that. (But) if I thought he should have been suspended, I would have done it." Unlike most of his teammates, Lewan stayed on the field after the game to shake hands with the victorious Spartans, but never got a chance to discuss the play with Lewis. "I would have absolutely apologized to him, but I never saw him," he said. "I hope he would have agreed that emotions are running high in a rivalry game, and that sometimes you lose your composure. "That's not OK -- I'm not making an excuse -- and I would have also told him that they deserved the win, because they beat us fair and square."
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