Fickell: “We Might Refer to Michigan in Different Ways Too”
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — If Luke Fickell is bothered by the fact Michigan coach Brady Hoke refers to Ohio State only as ‘Ohio,’ he isn’t showing it.
“It is what it is,” he said Monday during his weekly luncheon press conference.
“We all get our guys ready in different ways. Whether they get that from Coach (Woody) Hayes who use to refer to them as ‘That School Up North’ or whatever it is.”
A native of Dayton, Ohio, Hoke’s father, John Hoke, played for Woody at Miami University in Oxford. He would go on to coach the Buckeyes to 13 Big Ten championships and three national titles, but by then Hoke was already rooting for Michigan.
He understands the rivalry, having coached the Wolverines’ defense as an assistant from 1995-2002. He served as Lloyd Carr’s associated head coach his final season in Ann Arbor before taking the head coaching job at Ball State, his alma mater, in 2003.
Hoke, who is in his first season as the head coach in Ann Arbor, said he has always referred to the Buckeyes simply as ‘Ohio.’ Even in his days at Ball State, Hoke said would call Ohio University the Bobcats.
“So, whatever that is, hopefully there’s no disrespect to Ohio University because they are ‘Ohio,’” Fickell made sure to point out on Monday.
“We might refer to Michigan in different ways, too.”
If anything, Hoke is using at as a dig at the Buckeyes, a little reminder that the boys in Maize in Blue are taking this rivalry a little more seriously than they did under their previous head coach.
“The emphasis is definitely on Ohio,” senior right tackle Mark Huyge said.
“We talk about it every day.”
Hoke even had countdown clocks installed in Schembechler Hall, the football building in Ann Arbor to remind the players of their two biggest rivals: Ohio State and Michigan State.
They haven’t beaten either of them since 2007, which was also Carr’s last season as the head coach at Michigan. Under his successor, Rich Rodriguez, the Wolverines were outscored 94-58 by the Spartans and 100-24 by the Buckeyes.
Michigan had not won more than seven games in a season since Carr retired, that was until Hoke took over before the 2011 season. With the help of defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, he has already guided them to nine wins in 11 games, including a 45-17 thrashing of Nebraska last weekend. The Michigan defense that was ranked 107th in scoring a year ago is now allowing the sixth fewest points in the country. They also have one of the top-ranked offenses in the Big Ten, but none of those numbers matter compared to this one: 2,921.
As in 2,921 days since Michigan’s last victory over Ohio State.
That means more than eight full years have gone by since the Wolverines knocked off then-No. 6 ranked Ohio State 35-21 in Ann Arbor back on Nov. 22, 2003. That is a memory this group his hungry to erase.
“We all know what next week has in store for us and this program,” senior tri-captain Mike Martin said.
“This is a huge game for our legacy as a team, for this senior group, for team 132. We want to make sure we finish this season the way we want to.”
Ultimately, they will have to settle that score on the field at Michigan Stadium. The Wolverines are favored for the first time since 2004, but that too doesn’t mean much in this historic rivalry.
“It's about a football game,” Fickell said.
“There's a million different stories. There's a million different story lines. It's not about me. It's not about Coach Hoke. It's about the greatest rivalry in all of football, their team our team and the history of the traditions.”
That’s what it will always be about.
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