September 15, 2004
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By Chris Burke
Daily Sports Editor
The challenge presented to the Michigan
defense this weekend just got a little easier.
San Diego State's star running back Lynell
Hamilton - who rushed for 1,087 yards last year
- will not play on Saturday in the Big House, as
he has been slow to return from
an ankle injury.
"He won't play at Michigan,"
San Diego State coach Tom Craft
said during his weekly press con-$
Last year, as a freshman, Ham-
ilton was one of the nation's top
runners. But in the Aztecs' tenth game of the
year, Hamilton went down with a broken ankle
and missed the rest of the season.
It's that same injury that kept Hamilton out of
the lineup during San Diego State's 38-21 vic-
tory over Idaho State last week.
Hamilton returned to practice this week, but
Craft decided to play it safe and hold his star
out of the Michigan game in order to ensure he'd
be ready for the start of the Aztecs' conference
season next week.
"Hamilton is feeling a lot better," Craft said.
"He ran well (yesterday) and made some sharp
cuts without any real pain. We are looking for
him to suit up against Nevada - there is a
point where he has to feel healthy and confident
enough in our offense."
The impact of Hamilton's absence on the
Michigan defense remains to be seen.
On the one hand, the Wolverines will likely
not be mourning the absence of a 1,000-yard
rusher on the other side of the field.
But Michigan also might have benefited from
facing a very solid back before the Big Ten sea-
son starts, seeing as how Notre Dame running
back Darius Walker bolted over and around the
Wolverines en route to 115 yards.
Hamilton, a Stockton, Calif., native, was
recruited heavily by Michigan before deciding
to stay in state and play for the Aztecs.
"He is a great back," Michigan coach Lloyd
Carr said of Hamilton on Monday.
PUNT-CHED oUT: Adam Finley was having a
spectacular day punting the football against
Notre Dame on Saturday, until he had a punt
blocked. The block set up the Irish's third touch-
down which gave, them an insurmountable 21-12
"The blocked punt was a freakish play," Carr
said. "I have not seen anything quite like it.
What happened was that (Notre Dame) came
with a rush from the right side of our line. The
guy who blocked the punt came from the outside,
and Tyler Ecker stepped on Scott (McClintock's)
foot. As a result, when he went to protect, he had
another shot at back
Michigan punter Adam Finley was the victim of a crucial punt block in the Wolverines' loss to Notre Dame last
Saturday. But Michigan coach Lloyd Carr still praised Finley's efforts earlier this week.
"It was a very unusual play, and certainly a
bad break for us."
Unfortunately for Finley, the block over-
shadowed what was an impressive day for the
Michigan punter. The senior - who had aver-
aged more than 45 yards per punt against Miami
(Ohio) - averaged almost 44 yards per attempt
against the Irish.
"I thought Adam Finley punted the ball
extremely well," Carr said. "When you look
at the stats, our stats are going to be skewed
because of the block.
"But Finley did a great job."
On the heels of a terrible effort in punt cover-
age during the Miami (Ohio) game, the Wolver-
ines really kept the Notre Dame punt return in
"Our coverage teams, particularly the kickoff
team, were outstanding," Carr said. "Even our
punt coverage was about nine yards a return. For
the most part, our coverage - with one excep-
tion, where we allowed about a 13-yard return
- was good."
HURTS SO BAD: Carr, as always was fairly tight-
lipped about the Wolverines' injuries heading
into the game against San Diego State.
Michigan's head man refused to comment on
running back David Underwood's health, but
did say that linebacker Pierre Woods had been
"banged up" and that minor injury had caused
his limited playing time in South Bend.
As for quarterback Matt Gutierrez, Carr again
refused to say much:
"The only thing I can tell you there is that our
kids have Monday off because of academics. We
had a short workout (Sunday). He did not throw,
so I don't have anything other than that to add."
LINE DANCING: The Michigan defensive line
managed no sacks against Notre Dame. That's
something Carr feels definitely needs to change
against the Aztecs.
"I don't think we did a good job there of get-
ting off our blocks and forcing the quarterback
to throw the football," Carr said.
NOTES: Michigan's home game against Iowa
on Sept. 25 has been picked up by ABC televi-
sion and will be a 3:30 p.m. kickoff ... Saturday
will mark the first football game ever between
Michigan and San Diego State.
There's no question the Michigan
running game has a problem. A
big problem. Blame it on what
or whomever you want: the inexperi-
ence of the running backs, the inef-
fectiveness of the offensive line or the
inability of the passing game to keep
opposing defenses from stacking the
line of scrimmage.
But the reality is that, if the Wol-
verines can't get their offense going,
they'll be lucky to head back to central
Florida - much less Pasadena - this
The reloaded Michigan offense
that features one of the best receiving
corps in the nation has been anything
but spectacular in its first two games.
And for a team that was almost a
unanimous favorite to win the Big
Ten, the current situation has whipped
the Wolverine faithful into a frenzy.
Who's going to carry the void left
by Chris Perry? David Underwood?
Jerome Jackson? Mike Hart? Pierre
Rembert? Max Martin? Current East
Grand Rapids High School senior and
Michigan signee Kevin Grady?
For those of you losing sleep at night
because Michigan can't run the ball for
more than three yards unless it's third-
and-19, I have a word of advice.
Don't forget David Underwood.
No, Underwood is not Chris Perry.
No one ever said he was. But so far
this season, Underwood's plans of
becoming the clear-cut No. 1 Michi-
gan tailback clearly have not gone
according to form. In the season open-
er against Miami (Ohio), Underwood
looked nervous and indecisive, averag-
ing just 2.8 yards per carry and getting
replaced at points by Jackson in the
second half. Underwood still received
half of the reps in practice the follow-
But, against Notre Dame, his day
ended on the game's second Michigan
play from scrimmage when he suf-
fered a mild concussion while throw-
ing a block.
The Wolverines then played a
parade of running backs that were,
for the most part, ineffective. Lloyd
Carr's comments after Michigan's loss
to Notre Dame and on Monday have
led to speculation as to who will be
running the ball this weekend against
San Diego State. Many have figured
that Carr will try to give a younger
running back, such as Jackson or Hart,
a chance to step into the role as start-
ing tailback since Underwood has yet
to rise to the occasion. While Jackson
and Hart deserve to be in the mix to
receive carries, that does not mean
that Underwood should be left by the
Now there is a chance that Under-
wood will not be able to play this
weekend. No one within the program
has officially commented on the status
of his injury.
So it's even possible that Underwood
will enter the "Matt Gutierrez Land of
Mystery," leaving us to wonder if he'll
'-^~' ' - " ''''"'
ever play significantly again.
But the thing to remember is that
Underwood has gone through too
much to have his Michigan career
effectively end after two games. The
senior has been a Michigan fan his
whole life, despite growing up in a
small town in east Texas, and wanted
to sign a letter of intent to come to
Ann Arbor even before he made his
official visit. Although his mother
wanted him to play close to home,
Underwood chose to dawn the Maize
Underwood's Michigan career hasn't
been what he has envisioned, as he has
spent the majority of his time play-
ing behind Chris Perry. At times he
felt homesick, and he even considered
transferring to a school closer to home.
But this was supposed to be his
year, his time to shine after so much
waiting. Since Perry's graduation left
Michigan with little experience in the
backfield, Underwood trained harder
than he ever had before during the
summer, losing significant weight.
The week before the season opener, a
reporter asked him when he last ate at
McDonald's. Underwood laughed and
said, "It's been a while."
That same week, and throughout
the preseason, Carr gloated about how
Underwood was ready to become the
running back he had set out to be.
"What I really admire about David
is that he has really endured the disap-
pointment of not being able to play as
much as he dreamed about," Carr said.
"He's a wonderful, wonderful human
being. There's nobody out there that
wouldn't like David Underwood if you
got to know him. I'm just happy that
he's going into this season with a lot of
Wide receiver Braylon Edwards
- Underwood's best friend on the
team - said that the team was hoping
he would fill that role.
"To be honest, I'd rather Dave have
a big year than myself," Edwards said.
"If he could get that breakout year that
we're all pulling for him to have, it
would be a great feeling for him and
Although Carr said last Monday
that he has someone in mind to fill the
running back void (he did not indi-
cate who that was, and it may even be
Underwood), expect Underwood to get
another shot as long as he is healthy.
He's done enough for the program to
deserve it, and I doubt that anybody
will take such a command of the
role that he won't carry the football.
Edwards feels that Underwood just
has to have the game come to him,
and then he'll blossom.
"He's fallen into a situation where
he's trying to replace a great running
back, and he's thinking too much,"
Edwards said. "He's trying to make
a home run happen every play. I told
Dave, 'Don't create a home run.' In
baseball, you try and hit a home run,
but in football you have to let it come."
It's like what Underwood said about
the running backs as a whole after the
loss to Notre Dame.
"We have to keep fighting."
For Underwood, the fight should not
be over yet.
Bob Hunt hopes that Lloyd Carr
will "unleash " the entire Michigan
offense in an upcoming game. He can
be reached at bobhunt(alumich.edu.
0 WOMEN'S CROSS COUNTRY
Steward finally healthy, ready to help out
By Chastity Rolling
Daily Sports Writer
An athlete's greatest fear is to
get injured right before the season
begins. But while many who suf-
fer this fate decide to quit, Michi-
gan junior Jessie Steward fought
all odds and remained dedicated
to cross country and track practice
despite her two years of injuries.
"My first injury was my back
problem - it is not properly in
alignment, which is a pretty com-
mon problem," Steward said.
But what is a common problem
for most people can be a big setback
for runners, because of the "highly
repetitive nature of the sport, con-
stant pounding and the high mile-
age," said Steward, who had to go
to physical therapy for five months
to recover from that injury.
While in rehab, Steward met her
physical therapist, Pete Kitto, who
helped keep her active even though
she could not run.
"(Pete) made me ride station-
ary bikes and weight train so that I
could stay in shape," Steward said.
Then, after rehab and rest, Stew-
ard began running for practice
when she suffered a muscle strain
in her hip.
After recovering from the hip
injury, she developed a stress frac-
ture in her right foot, followed by a
bad case of I.T. band tendonitis - a
common but nagging injury among
At this point, Jessie's parents
wanted to step in and make her
quit, but they knew that quitting
was a decision that only Jessie
"She has such a determined per-
sonality," Jessie's mother, Joanne
Steward, said. "And (her determina-
tion) would not let her (quit), but it
was painful to watch her struggle -
I felt like it was happening to me."
Painful as it was for Joanne
Steward, she did not interfere with
her daughter's running career. By
the end of her sophomore season,
Steward had been on the cross
country team for two years, but had
not participated in any training -
let alone races. Finally she decided
to take a break from running. After
she rested for two months, things
began to change for her.
"I was beyond frustrated," Stew-
ard said. "I knew I could not take
another year in the training room.
So I took off a solid two months,
doing absolutely nothing, no cross
training at all.
"I rested until I was finally feel-
ing better and I decided if I could
make it through this summer,
healthy and in shape. I would give
it one more shot, because running
for the team had remained my ulti-
Steward said that what she loves
about running on a team is how
good it feels after a hard workout,
or accomplishing a goal, or set-
ting new personal record. She pre-
fers distance running to sprints,
because she "could always run for a
long time and never tire out," Stew-
Steward has always remained
confident that her determination
would pay off in the end.
"That's the thing about cross
country that I love," Steward said.
"You get rewarded for the work
you put in. If you train hard, you
will improve. So I just want to keep
improving and stay healthy and
enjoy training with all my team-
Steward is reaping her reward,
as she was finally able to represent
Michigan over the weekend.
"Standing on the line in uni-
form on Saturday at the meet in
Indiana was just an awesome feel-
ing," Steward said. "I was just like,
'Finally!' I couldn't believe I was
actually getting to race."
Not only did Steward race, she
placed 19th out of 80 entrants.
"I'm really happy about (19th
place), but honestly that was not my
goal for (the Indiana Invitational).
The biggest thing for me about this
past weekend was finally getting a
chance to run. It was my first big
meet, so placing well was just icing
on the cake."
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David Underwood lies on the ground after receiving a concussion last Saturday.
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