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September 10, 2002 - Image 10

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2002-09-10

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9

Tuesday
September 10, 2002
michigandaily.com
sportsdesk@umich.edu

P O h eRTShug tn tilg

10

. . . ........... . .. . . .. .. ... .. ..

Turnovers key to
opportunistic Irish

DAVID
HORN

9i

By Jeff Phillips
Daily Sports Editor

For Michigan coach Lloyd Carr,
there may be nothing more important
than hanging on to the football.
Turnovers plagued the Wolverines at the
end of last season, and it is a problem
that the Michigan coaching staff has
worked hard to correct this year.
Thus far, the
Wolverines have
commited just three FOOTBALL
turnovers: Two John Notebook
Navarre intercep-
tions and one fum-
ble. But despite losing just one fumble,
Michigan has still coughed the ball up
four other times.
Against Notre Dame, the Wolverines
will have to be especially careful to take
care of the football because they may
not be quite as fortunate against an
aggressive Fighting Irish defense.
"Defensively, anytime that you pur-
sue the football and get to the football,
they turn and their defensive front turns
and they chase the football," Carr said.
"And anytime that you do that, you are
going to be good. And they are good."
So good in fact that the defense has
led Notre Dame to a 2-0 record and an
average of 23 points per game - all
without an offensive touchdown. Last
Saturday against Purdue, the Fighting
Irish scored on three turnovers: Safety
Jerome Sapp's 54-yard fumble return, a
4-yard fumble return by safety Lionel
Bolen and a 33-yard interception return
by cornerback Vontez Duff. With two
Getting defensive
While college football fans can joke about
Notre Dame's impotent offense, the
Fighting Irish's defense is no laughing
matter. It ranks highly in many important
defensive and special teams categories.
Here is how they rate against the rest of
the Division 1-A.
Defense
,Category Rank
Total defense No. 17
Scoring defense No. 11
Rushing defense No. 25
Passing defense No. 26
Turnover margin No. 8
Special teams
Category Rank
Kick returns No. 6
Punt returns No. 11

touchdowns on the season, Duff, who
scored on a 76-yard punt return against
Maryland, has been the biggest scoring
threat for the Fighting Irish other than
kicker Nick Setta.
Michigan linebacker Victor Hobson
knows how much scoring a defensive
touchdown can impact the game.
"It helps out the offense and it's a big
momentum builder," Hobson said.
"They have been able to do it the past
two weeks and it is something we have
to respect them for."
Despite the lack of offensive produc-
tion, Carr still respects the scoring
threats of Notre Dame.
"When you can establish a great
defense and special teams, and the fact
they are averaging 23 points per game, I
don't think it matters how you score,"
Carr said. "You average 23 points per
game and play defense and special
teams like they have, and you are going
to have a hard time losing games."
While forcing turnovers, Notre Dame
has been quite careful with the ball on
offense. It has turned the ball over just
once in two games while its defense has
stolen the ball seven times.
While turnovers are always empha-
sized, Navarre knows that in preparing
this week it will be especially important
to prepare for turnover prevention.
"It is a big premium every game but
especially against a team that is danger-
ous," Navarre said. "With the speed that
they have and what they have done in
the past couple of games, you have to
be especially careful"
Running back Chris Perry is con-
cerned about Notre Dame's ability to
cause turnovers, but he also sees this
characteristic as an opportunity for the
Michigan offense.
"They're going to take a chance to try
to strip the ball, so you have to take that
chance to break and make a big play,"
Perry said.
KICKING WOEs: While in the friendly
confines of Michigan Stadium, the
Wolverines have made just 1-of-5 field
goals - Philip Brabbs', game-winner
against Washington is the lone made
attempt. Brabbs has looked good on
extra points thus far, but has struggled
with field goals.
"It is a mindset like hitting a golf ball
or baseball," Carr said. "There are so
many things to think about that some-

Best memories made when
best teams are scheduled

0

BRENDAN O'DONNELL/DaiFy
Michigan runningback Chris Perry has scored three touchdowns this season giving
him three more than the entire Notre Dame offense.

times you can think too much."
Against Notre Dame, Brabbs will
have one more thing to think about -
75,000 rabid Fighting Irish fans all
wanting him to miss.
Carr pointed to Brabbs' excellent
kicking on extra points in order to dis-
play Brabbs' ability.
"We lost four footballs a week ago on
extra points and that has never hap-
pened," Carr said. "Brabbs hit four foot-
balls over the netting. What that tells
you is that those kicks would have been
good from 50 yards."
Carr even jokingly offered a reward
for the safe return of the footballs, on
one condition: They return the footballs
to him personally.
INJURY UPDATES: Last Saturday against
Western Michigan, Michigan played

without senior wide receiver Ron Bel-
lamy and junior defensive lineman
Grant Bowman. When asked whether
Bellamy and Bowman would be ready
to play against Notre Dame, Carr
responded, "Affirmative."
Wide receivers Tyrece Butler and
Braylon Edwards have stepped up well
in Bellamy's absence and have been the
focal point of the Michigan passing
game. An already deep defensive line
will only be reinforced with the return
of Bowman, who should jump right
back into the rotation.
Fullback Sean Sanderson received
extensive playing time against the Bron-
cos while wearing a wrap on his hand.
As per his always endearing policy,
Carr refused to comment on Sander-
son's injury.

Freshman year, fall of 1999. On
Sept. 4 my life as a Michigan foot-
ball fan commenced with a game
that will be remembered by students of
our generation as one of the greatest in
the history of Michigan Stadium. Michi-
gan's 26-22 victory over Bob Davie's
Notre Dame team was my first ever
game at the Stadium, and made an
imprint so great that nothing I've seen
over the last four years has displaced it
as my finest memory of Michigan foot-
ball. Six lead changes. Late-game hero-
ics by David Terrell, Anthony Thomas,
Tom Brady and Dhani Jones. A then-
record 111,523 fans.
I was not just a freshman, but an out-
of-stater. I was drawn to Michigan in no
small part by the mystique of Michigan
football, but didn't really grasp the
nature of that mystique until the clock
ticked away on the Irish on that hot Sep-
tember day. I sat by myself - the ticket
office was putting freshmen in the south
endzone that year - directly behind an
enthusiastically inebriated assemblage
of Irish hooligans. It was the first and
last time I ever sat alone for a Michigan
game, and although at the time I felt
like an extraordinary loser, in retrospect
I'll argue that the experience was all the
more special-I am tempted to use the
word spiritual - as a result.
This Saturday in South Bend, things
come full circle. The supremacy of that
game above all other games was seri-
ously challenged two week's ago in
Michigan's last-second defeat of Wash-
ington. This year's version of Michigan-
Notre Dame may or may not outshine
that Washington game, but it's the kind
of game that could.
Michigan-Notre Dame: A war that
has seen 29 battles over 115 years. It is
something that, as coach Lloyd Carr said
yesterday, "everybody that loves college
football will watch, want to watch, or
want to know what the score is.".
This game and games like it are the
reason Michigan schedules the way it
does. Michigan-Notre Dame will
remain on the docket for at least anoth-
er 10 years, but Carr believes that
Michigan's current schedule - which
includes nonconference games against
two ranked teams (Notre Dame and
Washington), as well as a difficult
matchup against a WAC power (Utah)
- is not the kind of schedule that
makes a national title bid easy. Never-
mind the regular trials of the Big Ten
season; Michigan plays 12 games,
some of them more difficult than they
need to be. There is a school of thought

that to best take advantage of the BCS;
a team need not schedule difficult non-
conference games. If a team is serious
about being a national contender, it
should avoid early season losses in
unnecessary games.
"When by scheduling you put them at
a disadvantage as compared to the peo-
ple you're competing against, then you
have to wake up," Carr said.
When Carr began discussing his dis-
satisfaction with the Michigan schedule,
I at first objected. I thought of three
things: How unbelievably incredible is to
witness games like Notre Dame in 1999
and Washington two weeks ago, how
uninterested I would be if there was
nothing but Western Michigans on the
nonconference schedule and how illegit-
imate a national title claim would be
without a few difficult nonconference
games to booster the Michigan resume.
The reality, though, is that Carr is
absolutely right. To study the BCS
mathematics is to study a system so
flawed that if it wasn't for schools'
incentive to schedule games that will
entice people to buy tickets (Florida-
Miami being a prime example) or entice
television networks to broadcast games,
there would be nothing but Western
Michigans on everyone's schedules.
Indeed, some teams in the Big Ten have
already run that route, and if Carr gets
his way, Michigan may eventually do
that as well.
Please don't, coach. Schedule the
Notre Dames. Schedule the Washing-
tons. Schedule the Oregons or the Vir-
ginia Techs or the UCLAs. That game
freshman year made me a real fan, and
the game two weeks ago probably made
some freshman sitting in the strato-
sphere behind the south end zone a fan
too. Notre Dame will remain on our
schedule for years, but the opportunity
to develop new rivalries - such as the
one developing with the Huskies -
should not be lost in an attempt to
"beat" the system of the BCS.
The BCS needs to be reformed, to be
sure. But we're Michigan; and we
should be afraid of no one. We should
challenge our team and not leave any
questions when the pieces finally come
together in a national championship sea-
son. And as long as I watch Michigan
football- in the Big House or on tele-
vision - I will be watching for games
like my first.
David Horn can be reached at
hornd@umich.edu.

ps ,,
/ A ,

Butler a slam dunk
in M' receiving core

,

By Joe Smith
Daily Sports Editor

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AR M Y ROTC Unlike any other colege course you can take.

Junior Tyrece Butler often finds him-
self challenging fellow receiver Braylon
Edwards to slam-dunk contests at the.
CCRB and IM Building.
Both 6-foot-3 wideouts were former
basketball stars in high school. And
while Edwards, 19, may have some
fresher legs than the elder Butler, 22,
Butler was a state finalist in the long
jump in high school - and he can sup-
posedly jump out of the gym.
So who comes out on top in these
"cut throat" match-ups?
"We have some battles, but I got to
prove that the older guy has still got it,"
Butler said with a grin.
Butler finally is showing he's "got it"
on the football field as well this season.
Butler is leading the Wolverines with 10
receptions for 129 yards, and he's
become a clutch, go-to guy.
He caught several key, third-down
passes from quarterback John Navarre
in Michigan's dramatic 31-29 win over
Washington on Aug. 31. And coach
Lloyd Carr called him the savior of the
game for his hustle play and recovery of
Edwards' fumble on a critical fourth-
and-two play with 27 seconds to go. If
Butler hadn't fallen on the ball, Wash-
no-ton would have ran out the clock and

Butler had zero catches.
"He was extremely down," said Mike
Gillin, Butler's high school coach at
Decatur Central High School. "He was
always demanding of the ball, and that's
what I liked about him."
Butler wanted to play. He wanted the
ball. He remembered reading Keyshawn
Johnson's controversial book "Just Give
Me the Damn Ball!," a couple times, but
he never planned on writing his own
novel. He realized that he had to wait.
While he was waiting, he took notes
from watching Terrell. He noticed that
buried behind all of Terrell's brash con-
fidence and charisma was a tireless
work ethic and a "film rat" mentality.
"Dave used to watch film on Sun-
days, then sneak back into the building
on Mondays to watch it again," Butler
said. "It was definitely something I was
missing."
SButlernever lacked competitiveness.
Gillin remembers when Butler tried out
for his sixth grade travel football team
called the Junior Hawks. A lanky Butler
had to lose 14 pounds in a week to qual-
ify for a spot in the backfield, instead of
on the line. Gillin said Butler looked
like a "skeleton" by the end, but starred
on the team.
And he's looking like a potential star
now. After catching four balls last year,
including a 77-vard homb in Michigan's

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