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BIG TEN REPORT: Michigan’s Brady Hoke will have job as long as pipeline flows

Quarterback DevGardner is capable athlete yet Wolverines have rushed for minus-69 yards back-to-back losses Michigan State Nebraska. | Getty Images

Quarterback Devin Gardner is a capable athlete, yet the Wolverines have rushed for minus-69 yards in back-to-back losses to Michigan State and Nebraska. | Getty Images

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Updated: December 11, 2013 6:52AM



Michigan coach Brady Hoke seems to refute this longstanding idea that wins, losses and performance on the field matter to job security.

After a horrendous loss to Nebraska on Saturday and another week of offensive ineptitude, Hoke would be feeling the heat if it weren’t for a slew of top-tier ­recruits who annually come to Ann Arbor to put out the flames.

Teenage recruits have become an annuity for Michigan’s third-year man.

Since taking the Wolverines to the Sugar Bowl in 2011, his first season on campus, Hoke’s last two teams have been wildly mediocre.

Over the last two weeks Michigan has rushed for a combined minus-69 yards. Yep, that’s not a typo. For two consecutive weeks the Wolverines’ rushing total has been negative. Seems apropos. A program that is going backwards literally is running that way.

Such futility can’t solely be blamed on the players. They have an athletic quarterback, Devin Gardner, who used to play receiver.

With that kind of athlete at the position and a player adept at running, the team’s rushing yardage never should even approach a negative number.

But it seems all that administrators count when it comes to coaching performance are the stars next to the names of recruits headed to their school. Not the statistics of those already there.

What Hoke does with that talent seems to be overshadowed by the next incoming class. Derrick Green was supposed to be the do-it-all running back who was going to challenge Fitz Toussaint for carries. Yet Green, a “five-star recruit” and high-school All-American has gained 116 yards. Fifty-eight came in the opener.

Michigan’s incoming class is headlined by Jabrill Peppers, a defensive back considered among the top-five recruits nationally in the class of 2014. Drake Harris, a 6-4 playmaking receiver, is another in the class expected to make an instant impact.

Those guys are seen as being tied to Hoke. The administration is afraid that getting rid of their coach means losing such recruits.

If they’re coming, Brady Hoke isn’t going anywhere.

WEEK 11 STARS

RB Jordan Canzeri, Iowa

The sophomore validated the Hawkeyes’ depth at running back with his first 100-yard rushing game of the year. Canzeri carried 20 times for 165 yards and a touchdown.

RB Zach Zwinak, Penn State

Eclipsed 100 yards rushing for the second time this season when he carried 26 times for 150 yards and a touchdown.

RB Tevin Coleman, Indiana

Rushed for 215 yards and two touchdowns, ­averaging 14.3 yards per carry. The sophomore has 948 yards, despite having gotten 20 carries in only one game.

RECORD-SETTING ROBINSON

Allen Robinson added to his resume as arguably the greatest Penn State receiver ever.

With his seven-catch, 63-yard performance, the junior broke the school’s season record for receiving yards. Bobby Engram has held the mark since the 1995 season when he had 1,084 yards.

Robinson has 1,106 yards and is on pace to break his season receptions record of 77, which he set last season.

Robinson, who has gone over 100 yards receiving in six of nine games this season, is likely to leave Penn State early to enter the NFL draft.

EMOTIONAL RIDE

Typically, the effects of an emotional speech only last a game, maybe two. But the coattails of the passionate halftime speech that Jerry Kill delivered when his Minnesota team played at Northwestern likely have had a longer shelf life than even he could have imagined. Dealing with epilepsy, Kill, the architect of a resurgent Gophers football program, stepped aside — rightfully so —to deal with his health issues. With Tracy Claeys serving as interim coach, Kill has coached the team in a lesser capacity from the coaches’ booth. On Saturday, Minnesota earned its first eight-victory season since 2003, when the team went 10-3.

DE FACTO SEMIFINAL

At the start of the conference season, the Legends Division looked more complicated than a Rubik’s Cube. With the talent level appearing close between the teams, it seemed as if the winner wouldn’t be determined until the final week. But underwhelming seasons by Michigan and Northwestern have left next week’s game between Michigan State and Nebraska in Lincoln essentially as the conference semifinal. If the Huskers win, they’ll be in control of the division. Winning out would get them into the title game. A Spartans win would allow them to clinch the division with a win at Northwestern the following week.

BY THE NUMBERS

1 — Third-down conversion in nine attempts for Penn State — a shocking statistic considering the Nittany Lions ran the ball well.

1.9 — Yards per carry for Purdue. The Boilermakers have averaged a pitiful 2.5 yards per carry on the season and only have three rushing touchdowns all year.

-21 — Rushing yards for Michigan. The Wolverines’ leading rusher, freshman Derrick Green, gained 11 yards.

THEY SAID IT

“We’re having fun now. Before it was more of a job. You’d come into work and didn’t know if you were going to win or not. But now we expect to win. We’re having fun at practice, having fun during the games. No one’s really uptight about it. The coaches believe in us. We trust each other.” — Minnesota RB David Cobb, on his team’s winning streak

Email: sgruen@suntimes.com

Twitter: @SethGruen



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