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October 01, 1999 - Image 15

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1999-10-01

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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Measuring up
How Michigan's offense, run by two quarterbacks, measures up to
the Drew Brees-led Boilermakers:

Michigan turning to the air


Drew Brees' passing yards
Michigan's total yards
touchdowns produced by each

By Andy Latack
Daily Sports Editor
In college football, certain calls are
almost second nature.
Punting on fourth down. Playing pre-
vent defense when you're up big.
Running a fourth-quarter sideline pat-
tern when you're out of timeouts.
And, if you're coaching at Michigan,
here's another one that's a no-brainer:
Run on first down.
Yes, it's the time-honored tradition of
the Wolverines, a school that has always
taken a 'run first, run second' attitude.
It's the motto of the Big Ten - three
yards and a cloud of dust. In this con-
ference, the weather gets cold before
the title race heats up, so an old-fash-
ioned, terrestrial gameplan is the way to
get things done.
But opposing defenses haven't been
cooperating with the Wolverines. When
they face Michigan, they seem to have
one goal in mind - stopping the run.
So they are bringing nine players, a few
trainers and a waterboy up to the line of
scrimmage, making any kind of rushing
room hard to come by. By doing so,
defenses are daring the Wolverines to
beat them with the pass.
Well, who says old habits die hard?
Don't look now but, with its running
game handcuffed by opponents' defen-
sive schemes, Michigan has become a
passing school.
All right, that's a little extreme. But
with their running game bottled up, the
Wolverines have turned to the air out of
necessity and have been remarkably
Last week against Wisconsin, the
Badgers stacked the line to stop running
back Anthony Thomas. Michigan coach
Lloyd Carr stuck to his guns in the
beginning, running Thomas on three of
the first four plays of the game.
But when Thomas gained just two
yards on those three carries, Carr
switched gears immediately. Michigan
turned to its passing attack, even - are
you ready for this? - throwing on first
down. Neglecting the ground game,
quarterback Tom Brady threw two first-

Holes like this have been few and far between for Anthony Thomas, as Michigan's
opponents have geared their defenses toward stopping the running game.

By T.J Berka
Daily Sports Editor
Michigan got through the month of September
unscathed by stopping the run and scoring just enough
points to scrape by.
But if the Wolverines want to stay undefeated after
the first game of October, stopping the run and scoring
the bare minimum of points won't exactly suffice:
When No. I1 Purdue (1-0 Big Ten, 4-0 overall) flies
into Michigan Stadium today, it will bring a high-octane
passing offense which has put up points and yards in
huge amounts thus far this season.
The Boilermakers, led by Heisman hopeful Drew
Brees, have scored an average of 41 points per game.
Therefore, Michigan realizes that its offense -- slug-
gish in the season's first four games - must answer the
"Teams that play Purdue know that they are going to
score points, so they have to be more aggressive on
offense," Michigan quarterback Drew Henson said.
One thing Michigan has to do to counteract the
Purdue offense is run the ball better. Normally a
Michigan staple, the running game has had a hard time
getting untracked this season.
The low point of the Michigan ground attack came
this past Saturday against Wisconsin. The Badgers held
the Wolverines to 94 on 38 attempts, a 2.47 yard aver-
To keep the ball out of Brees' hands, Michigan real-
izes that it needs to get things going on the ground.
"We have to be able to control the ball and allow the
defense to rest," Henson said. "We have to run the ball
and have five-to-six minute drives."
Michigan coach Lloyd Carr would like to go a step
An advocate of smash-mouth football, Carr wouldn't
mind if Henson and Tom Brady gave their arms a break

Potent Purdue offense can
make Wolverines take flight
Boilers try to 'Brees' through Ann Arbor j"

against the Boilermakers.
"I'd love to line up and run the ball every single
time," Carr said. "There would be no running out of
bounds, no passing, just running and scoring touch-
But when Brees and the Boilermakers eventually get
the ball, the Michigan defense will have its work cut out
for it.
Purdue runs a spread offense that uses as many as
five wide receivers at one time, something that the
Wolverines haven't seen since they defeated
Washington State - led by Ryan Leaf -- 21-16 in the
1998 Rose Bowl.
"We are going to have to shift gears," Carr said.
"We're facing another Heisman Trophy candidate with a
great group of receivers."
The most lethal of those receivers is Vinny
Sutherland, a 5-foot-9 wideout with blazing speed,
connected with Brees on a Purdue-record 99-yard
touchdown pass against Northwestern this past
But what scares the Wolverines is not necessarily
Brees' passing ability, but his ability to avoid being
"He's a great quarterback," Michigan safety
DeWayne Patmon said. "What stands out for me is that
he's only been sacked once this year."
The lack of sacks against Purdue can be explained by
a multitude of things - Brees' mobility, his quick
release, or just a skilled offensive line. But Michigan
brings to the table something that Purdue hasn't dealt
with v.et.
"The teams that Purdue has played are good," Patmon
said. "But they don't have a Michigan front seven.
(Purdue) hasn't had to deal with a Michigan front

quarter touchdowns and completed
nine of his 13 passes in the game's first
15 minutes. Some Michigan quarter-
backs of years past didn't throw 13
times in the entire game.
So, when does Michigan join the
"Teams seem to be making up their
minds that they are going to stop us
from running the football," Carr said.
"When teams do that, it forces you to
pass, and I think we have proven that we
can pass the football."
They certainly have.
So far this season, Michigan is aver-
aging 223.8 yards passing per contest.
If the Wolverines were to continue at
that clip, they would finish the season
with the second best mark in school his-
The leader in that category? Last
year's team.

So Michigan has been pretty pass-
happy recently. Which is just fine with
the signal-callers.
"I like it," said sophomore quarter-
back Drew Henson, who has thrown 58
times this season. But Henson also real-
izes that relying solely on the passing
game will only get Michigan so far.
"In order to win big games, we have
to be able to run the ball," Henson said.
"So far up to date, I don't think we've
been as succcssful as we need to be."
Indeed, Michigan is not exactly
chewing up yardage on the ground.
The Wolverines are averaging 117.8
yards rushing per game. If they were to
finish the season at the same pace, they
would be the second-worst team in
Michigan history in that category. The
only team to finish with a lower mark
was the 1962 squad, whose 99 yards per
game helped them end the season 2-7.
Carr is not overly concerned. If any-
thing, the fact that Michigan can take
what the defense gives it is a testament
to the team's versatility.
"When you look at the way people
have defended us, you see they have put
the free safety anywhere from six to 10
yards right over the ball or the tight
end," Carr explanied. "He becomes the
guy that supports the run. The defense
has the ability to dictate how they want
the game to be played and as an offense,
you have to adjust to that."
But if Michigan keeps winning
games through the air, it's their oppo-
nents that will have to do the adjusting.
Which means bringing more guys
into the defensive backfield to defend
the pass.
Which means more room to run.
Until that time, though, Michigan
will keep passing the ball. Besides,
three yards and a cloud of dust leaves
you with a fourth-and-one. And in the
Big Ten, it's customary to punt on
fourth down.

For the last few weeks, Michiga
has shouldered more than his s
chance to shoulder some of the

Nothing easy about this game

/ i

By Rick Freeman
Daily Sports Editor
Michigan's defense has won four
games for the Wolverines, while
Purdue's offense has won just as many
for the Boilermakers. It would be easy
to say something has to give, but noth-
ing will be easy about today's game.
Look at it the other way. Michigan's
offense has struggled through most of
its games, but Purdue's defense allowed
23 points to Northwestern. But then
maybe the Wildcats are better than they
appear on paper.
An offense like Purdue's shrinks
Michigan's margin of error to Mini-Me
size proportions. So this game could be
decided by almost anything.
How about that. Who would have
guessed Purdue had a defense?
Anthony Thomas would have, since
once again he'll be handling the bulk of
the ball-carrying duties. And who
would guess that Thomas is going to get
the ball on a rushing play? Anyone in
Michigan Stadium.

As much as it may pain staunch Big
Ten loyalists to say this, Michigan will
run to set up the pass. Thomas will do
well on pitchouts and swing passes, but
his up-the-gut game will keep the
Boilermakers' linebackers honest and
away from Michigan's tight ends.
Don't believe this? Purdue's defense
is allowing an average of 104 yards per
game on the ground. Michigan would-
n't mind doing that well.
Advantage: PURDUE
Yes, we all know that Purdue has out-
gained Michigan on the ground so far
this season. They didn't do it against
Michigan's front seven. Dhani Jones
leads the Wolverines in tackles, and he
and his run-stuffing buddies held 252-
pound Ron Dayne to precisely zero
yards in the second half last week. 190-
pound J. Crabtree is no Ron Dayne,
even with five receivers to distract the

linebackers and secondary.
Advantage: MICHIGAN
Please see MATCHUPS, page 15F

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