COLUMBUS, Ohio – No sooner had Michigan's season come to an end than many were wondering if it was also the final game of Brady Hoke's four years with the Wolverines.
In the wake of a 42-28 loss to No. 7 Ohio State, much as he has all season, Hoke repeatedly batted aside questions about his job security.
What do you know about your future at Michigan?
"What I know is I'm going to be the football coach at Michigan," he said. "That's what I know right now."
Has any meeting been scheduled with interim AD Jim Hackett?
"No," Hoke said.
He said he would meet with his players on Tuesday afternoon.
Maybe by then the speculation will be over. As of a chilly Saturday night in Columbus, Ohio, Hoke asserted he was still the Wolverines' head coach.
Hoke's job status has been in question as the Wolverines (5-7, 3-5 Big Ten) have sagged since his 11-2 start at Michigan in 2011. The Wolverines have gone 8-5, 7-6 and this year's 5-7 to give him a 31-20 record.
Hackett will make the call on whether the coach stays or goes.
The rivalry known around these parts as "The Game" became almost a subplot to the larger issues dogging both teams.
Ezekiel Elliott scored untouched on a 44-yard run on fourth-and-1 with 4:58 left to help Ohio State (11-1, 8-0, CFP No. 6) pad its lead after losing star quarterback J.T. Barrett to a broken right ankle on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Buckeyes linebacker Darron Lee then returned a fumble 33 yards for a score a minute later to put the game out of reach.
Barrett threw for one TD and ran for two before his right leg crumpled underneath him when he was tackled on a run. He will undergo surgery on Sunday and will be lost for next week's Big Ten championship game and Ohio State's bowl game.
Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner was among those who came up to say words of encouragement to Barrett.
"It's like having a little brother get hurt," said Gardner, who completed 22 of 32 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. "I didn't like to see that at all."
The Wolverines played well until the Buckeyes ran off 21 points in a row to send a 21-21 tie into an insurmountable 42-21 lead.
"This adversity that we've been through this year has been tough on everyone, but it's only going to make us better," center Jack Miller said.
Gardner defended Hoke's impact as head coach.
"His belief and his fight and him coming to work every day haven't wavered one bit, no matter what has happened: lose, win, Sugar Bowl or no bowl game," Gardner said. "We love him for that. I don't make those type of decisions (about jobs). I just know he's a great coach."
Hoke said the program has gotten better this year because so many young players have gained experience. He pointed out that 50 of the 56 players listed on the two-deep have eligibility remaining and can return next season.
He was most upset about the Wolverines not qualifying for a bowl trip.
"That stinks. That's disappointing for all of us," he said.
Miller was asked if he was playing to win the game for Hoke.
"I don't think so," he said. "It was to win it for Michigan — the way he'd want it to be."
Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/RustyMillerAP