Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 9/3/12
ANN ARBOR, Mich. Brady Hoke made sure his Michigan Wolverines understood the week's big message. Hoke said when he met with the media on Monday, and so did both Elliott Mealer and Devin Gardner. "We can't let Alabama beat us twice." Hoke is worried that, after being humiliated 41-14 by the Crimson Tide on national television, his team won't be in the right frame of mind for Saturday's home opener against the Air Force Academy. "This is a week where we will learn about our team's leadership and our motivation," he said. "There are only 11 more guaranteed opportunities for University of Michigan football games, so we have to learn from what happened in Dallas and start focusing on Air Force this weekend." Mealer and Gardner, though, don't think there will be a problem. "A loss like that hurts, but we will learn from it," said Mealer. "We know that we need to step up and do a much better job against Air Force." Focused or not, the Wolverines will face Air Force with a slightly different roster. Starting tailback Fitzgerald Toussaint and second-string defensive end Frank Clark have been reinstated, and will play on Saturday. Both players were suspended after offseason arrests Toussaint for drunk driving and Clark for home invasion. Toussaint will be the key addition, as Michigan rushed for just 69 yards against Alabama. Vincent Smith served as the number-one tailback, but gained only 33 yards on 13 carries. "We know that's probably the best defensive line we will face all season, so it gives us a high bar to work against," said Mealer, who started at center after being listed at left guard during fall camp. "If we can figure out what we needed to do better against that group, it will really help us against every other line we face. "It will be great to have Fitz back out there, but it doesn't matter if the offensive line doesn't open holes for our running backs. That's our job." Toussaint is scheduled to meet with the media on Tuesday his first interview since his arrest in July. Michigan won't have any new players in the passing game, but Gardner is hoping to improve in his second career game as a wide receiver. After two year as Denard Robinson's backup, Gardner is now Robinson's favorite target. He was matched up against Alabama star cornerback Dee Milliner and only caught one pass, but it went for a 44-yard touchdown. "I've been working at receiver since the spring, but it is completely different when you are doing it in a real game," said Gardner. "I know I'm capable of making more plays than I did Saturday, and I also know that's going to be the best defense we play all season." Gardner did make it clear that, while he's a wide receiver this season, he doesn't plan on it being a permanent move. "I'm a football player, and if Coach Hoke thinks I can help the team at wide receiver, that's where I will be," he said. " The Wolverines will also have to make some roster changes based on injuries. Cornerback Blake Countess is out for the season with a torn ACL, while tight end Brandon Moore is not expected to play with a strained MCL. Courtney Avery and Raymon Taylor both struggled against Alabama after Countess was injured. "It's is tough to see anyone get hurt like that, and Blake is an important team player," Hoke said. "But our expectations are always that, if someone goes down, someone else will step up. Avery and Raymon have prepared, and we expect them to do a great job." Michigan will certainly be facing a different style of offense against Air Force. Unlike the balanced Crimson Tide attack, the Falcons rushed for 490 yards in a 49-21 rout of Idaho State. "We've had a game plan for Air Force for weeks, but it is hard to simulate that offense in practice, because we don't have a scout-team quarterback who can simulate (Air Force QB) Connor Dietz's running ability," Hoke said. "Denard and Devin could do it, but we're not about to use them on the scout team."
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