Michigan coach Brady Hoke sounds more like the coach of a team struggling to reach .500 than one that is 5-1 with the only loss on the road in quadruple overtime.
“We have issues that we need to shore up on both sides of the ball and in the kicking game,” Hoke said Tuesday. “And the mental effort needs to be better.”
The Wolverines, ranked as high as 11th this season, have fallen out of the Associated Press Top 25 this week. Few are arguing the drop after UM's lackluster escapes against Akron and Connecticut, then the 43-40 overtime loss to Penn State.
Offense is what has Michigan fans puzzled.
With junior Devin Gardner taking over at quarterback and offensive coordinator Al Borges finally getting to install his pro-style power attack, big things were expected.
But through six games, UM is 63rd nationally in rushing offense, 72nd in passing offense and 74th in total offense. More maddening is that tailback Fitz Toussaint averages just 3.4 yards a carry behind an offensive line that includes All-America tackle Taylor Lewan but also three new starters.
“We've got to address the issues of being able to run,” Hoke said. “That starts up front. We're not letting Fitz get started.
“That means we'll look at some personnel. If guys aren't getting the job done, there are other guys who want to get out there and get it done.”
Hoke said the offense got an exhaustive review during last week's open date. But don't look for a return to the zone-read running game with Gardner trying to impersonate previous starter Denard Robinson.
“We may tweak a thing here or there,” the coach said. “But we can't ask Devin to run the ball 27 times. You're going to get him beat up and you won't have him for the heart of the Big Ten schedule.”
Players of the week
Offense: Michigan State running back Jeremy Langford. The junior from Wayne, Mich., ran for 109 yards and accounted for four touchdowns in a win over Indiana.
Defense: Penn State defensive end C.J. Olaniyan. The junior from Warren, Mich., forced a fumble, had 2.5 sacks and six other tackles in a win over Michigan.
Special teams: Michigan State punter Mike Sadler. The junior from Grand Rapids, Mich., averaged 59.3 yards on four punts in a win over Indiana.
Freshman: Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg. The Palmyra, Va., product threw for 305 yards and accounted for four touchdowns in a win over Michigan.
Stat of the week
Wisconsin is one of only two teams ranked in the top 10 nationally in total offense (ninth) and total defense (fifth). The other is Florida State.
Bits and pieces
Ľ Wisconsin All-Big Ten receiver Jared Abbrederis, who missed the final three quarters against Northwestern with a head injury, was expected to practice fully on Tuesday, but his status for Saturday's game at Illinois won't be determined until later this week.
Ľ Penn State's four-overtime win over Michigan was the longest game in Big Ten history.
Ľ Minnesota acting head coach Tracy Claeys filled in on the Big Ten coaches call again this week for Jerry Kill, who is on medical leave.
Ľ Ohio State defensive end Adolphus Washington (ankle) is close to 100 percent, defensive tackle Tommy Schutt (broken foot) had “a great day” of practice and running back Jordan Hall (leg) has returned to practice and could play on special teams this week.