What they're saying: Michigan Wolverines above moral victories, expect more than 8-5
Junior left tackle Taylor Lewan impressed analysts in his matchup against the revered Gamecock defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, junior wide receiver Jeremy Gallon had a career-high performance (nine catches for 145 yards) and Wolverine legend Denard Robinson set the NCAA record for rushing yards by a quarterback.
But, as they say in Ann Arbor, this is Michigan. And Wolverine football isn't built for 8-5 satisfaction. While three of their five losses were against the nation's top three teams in the final regular-season Associated Press poll (Notre Dame, Alabama and Ohio State), when it's Michigan, according to Oakland Press columnist Pat Caputo, "the big block “M” isn't supposed to stand for “M”oral victory."
"In the end, the Wolverines were 8-5. Their signature victory was over either, take your pick, Michigan State or Northwestern. The future is unsettled," Caputo wrote. "So while the Wolverines put forth a terrific effort Tuesday, the result was typical of their season overall.
"Disappointing more than distinguished."
That may seem harsh to some Wolverine fans, who of course expect more than 8-5 and a home-win over the Spartans, but who firmly believe that championships are on the horizon. For those fans, the pride comes from a future full of promise. Michigan currently has the nation's No.4 recruiting class according to Rivals.com headed to campus in the fall of 2013, No.1 in the Big Ten. The 24 commitment class includes 15 four-star players, led by quarterback commit Shane Morris, who is No. 54 in the ESPN 150.
A season of disappointment maybe, but in Brady Hoke, Wolverine nation trusts.
"The Wolverines will be better, Hoke quietly assures," wrote TheWolverine.com's John Borton hours after the loss in Tampa. "He's building lines on both sides of the ball that will be more dominant in the future. He's convinced close, misery-laden losses of the present will unfold differently down the road, and he knows why."
Here's a roundup of coverage from around the country following Michigan's loss in the Outback Bowl:
-- CBSSports.com: Daniel Lewis says there's no shame in Michigan's five losses: "It ended a somewhat frustrating year for a Michigan team that began the season with title hopes. The Wolverines lost to some of the best teams in the country -- Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame and now South Carolina. Nebraska was the only loss where Michigan was the clear favorite going in. There's not much shame in its list of losses, but five total is more than it expected this season."
-- SI.com: Sports Illustrated reports that when South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier asked the official why he gave Michigan the first down during a controversial measurement result in the fourth quarter, the official replied "I don't know".
-- ESPN.com Wolverine Nation: Michael Rothstein says the Outback Bowl loss could never tarnish Denard Robinson's legacy: "That was already determined. He might have helped his draft stock Tuesday by playing mostly running back, giving a glimpse into his potential NFL future, but his college legacy was already understood."
-- CBSSports.com: Rob Rang says the battle between Clowney and Lewan lived up to the hype: "At a time when highly touted matchups rarely live up to their billing, this one proved well worthy... and NFL talent evaluators won't soon forget it."
-- The Post and Courier: South Carolina columnist Gene Sapakoff says that despite their higher ranking and record, the win over Michigan was actually an upset: "Though the Gamecocks are favored in the actual football game Tuesday at Raymond James Stadium, this was an upset. Bowling is as attached to the chilly Wolverine State as white pine, cherries and whining about the Lions."
-- GamecockCentral.com: Ron Aiken reported that Brady Hoke, if given the chance, wouldn't change a thing about his defense on the game's final drive: "After a game of gutsy calls - going for it on fourth downs, calling a fake punt and a fake field goal - it was playing it safe that cost Michigan coach Brady Hoke as South Carolina drove down the field for the game-winning score in the game's final three minutes to seal a 33-28 Outback Bowl win. When asked about whether he'd do anything differently to slow the Gamecocks' clinching drive, Hoke was clear."
-- The Daily Gamecock: South Carolina wide receiver Ace Sanders said Clowney's hit on Michigan running back Vincent Smith sounded like a "car crash".
-- Detroit Free Press: Columnist Drew Sharp questions the Michigan coach staff's use of Denard Robinson during his final season: "After accepting the congratulations and appreciation of friends and foes, Robinson removed the winged helmet from his head one final time and formally walked into the pantheon of "What might have been?" What might have been -- had Brady Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges employed Robinson and quarterback Devin Gardner the last two seasons as they effectively used them in the Outback Bowl on Tuesday?"
-- The Detroit News: Columnist Bob Wojnowski says that while it was great four-year ride watching Shoelace, the Wolverines aren't looking for more of the same: "Hoke's program didn't exactly take a step back this year, but it didn't advance. U-M lost close games, but that's not enough. What must they do now? Some of it was pretty obvious this day, and this season.
"Robinson's electrifying unpredictability will be missed. Now, Michigan needs to fill in with some punishing predictability, because there won't ever be another show like this."
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