70F Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) -- - Brady Hoke wants to make sure his team bounces back mentally from Saturday's 41-14 loss to then-No. 2 Alabama.
"The important thing is that we can't let Alabama beat us twice," Hoke said. "This is a week where we will learn about our team's leadership and our motivation. 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."
Center Elliott Mealer thinks the Wolverines, who fell from eighth to 19th in the AP poll, can learn a lot from the dominant Crimson Tide heading into their home opener.
"Their defensive line is great - their whole defense is great - and it is going to set a bar that we can compare everyone else we play against," he said. "If we figure out what we needed to do against them, it is going to help us a lot against anyone else we come up against."
Star quarterback Denard Robinson struggled against Alabama, throwing a pair of interceptions and completing 11 of 26 passes for 200 yards and a touchdown. His 27 rushing yards were his second-lowest total in 27 games since the start of 2010.
Devin Gardner, now a wide receiver after two years as Robinson's backup, felt the same way as Mealer, although he did haul in a 44-yard TD from Robinson.
"I haven't looked at every defense we play, but they have got to be the best," he said. "I learned more in that game than I've learned in all the practices I've had since starting to play wide receiver. That's the important thing. We don't just want to forget this happened - we need to learn from this and apply the lessons to Air Force.
"We can't let one team beat us twice."
The Wolverines seem to be taking the right attitude toward overcoming the loss, but that won't help with the physical problems.
Hoke confirmed that starting cornerback Blake Countess will miss the rest of the season after tearing his ACL on a special-teams play early in the game. Countess, who will take a medical redshirt, will be replaced by Courtney Avery, according to the depth chart released Monday. Raymon Taylor is listed second, but both he and Avery struggled against the Crimson Tide.
"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."
Tight end Brandon Moore is also expected to miss Saturday's game against Air Force with a strained MCL, but left tackle Taylor Lewan is OK after leaving the Alabama game with a leg injury.
Michigan will get two key players back, as both starting tailback Fitzgerald Toussaint and second-string defensive end Frank Clark have been reinstated. They had been suspended after offseason arrests.
Toussaint is expected to boost a rushing game that only gained 69 yards against the Crimson Tide.
"We have to do better, but a lot of that is on us," Mealer said. "We need to step it up and open some holes for our running backs. We didn't do that on Saturday, and as the center and the leader of the offensive line, that falls on me."
Air Force (1-0) will be facing Michigan for the first time since 1964, when it lost 24-7 in Ann Arbor in the programs' only previous meeting.
The Falcons will be trying to end a 19-game losing streak against ranked opponents, although they've come close to some upsets in recent years. In 2010, they fell 27-24 at then-No. 7 Oklahoma and 28-23 to then-No. 8 Utah.
Last year, they challenged a fifth-ranked Boise State team on the road before falling 37-26.
Coach Troy Calhoun's team opened 2012 with a 49-21 win over Idaho State last Saturday, with senior Cody Getz running for 218 yards and three touchdowns on just 17 carries.
"It's kind of easy to be a good running back and get a lot of yards when you're hitting the hole and not even getting touched until you're 15 yards downfield," the 5-foot-7 Getz said.
Since the start of 2010, Air Force leads the FBS with 317.1 rushing yards per game.