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October 05, 2007 - Image 11

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The Michigan Daily, 2007-10-05

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6 B Saturday, October 6, 2007
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Eagles pose little
threat for Blue

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Saturday, October 6, 2007
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Odds, defenders
can't stop Hart

By SCOTT BELL Most think this will be a low-
Daily Sports Editor volume game for the Heisman
- Trophy candidate, but if last week-
Michigan cornerback Brandon end showed anything, assume the
Harrison doesn't think it's possi- worst.
ble for the Wolverines to overlook With Mario Manningham sus-
another opponent after the Appa- pended, Hart could surpass 25 car-
lachian State fiasco. ries and should definitely become
But c'mon. It's Eastern Michi- Michigan's all-time leading rusher
gan, a perennial bottom dweller of by Saturday afternoon.
the Mid Athletic Conference. Eastern Michigan's Daniel
See if the Eagles have a chance Holtzclaw is among the nation's
to compete against the heavily elite in terms of tackles, but the
favored Wolverines. Eagles will need every one to stop
a hungry Hart ready to get back on
Michigan rush offense vs. track.
Eastern Michigan rush defense:
Mike Hart may have topped the Advantage: Michigan
4 century mark for the fifth-straight
game last weekend, but it wasn't Michigan pass offense vs.
pretty. It took him 30 carries to Eastern Michigan pass defense:
reach 106 yards, and even that stat Chad Henne made a success-
line was padded by a late-game 23- ful return last weekend, but if
yard run. he wants to keep his momentum
going Saturday, he'll have to do it
without his favorite target, Man-
ningham.
Henne will still have Adrian
Arrington, who is quietly hav-

ing a very strong season, and Greg
Mathews, Michigan's emerging
third-down passing threat, at his
disposal.
That should be enough to gain
the edge over an Eastern Michigan
team that has surrendered more
than 200 yards a game through the
air this season.
Advantage: Michigan
Eastern Michigan rush
offense vs. Michigan rush
defense
Michigan coach Lloyd Carr spe-
cifically challenged Michigan's
rush defense this week, saying
it's something the team definitely
needs to improve. This comes after
Michigan's less-than-stellar per-
formance against Northwestern,
in which the Wolverines allowed
the Wildcats to run all over them
in the first half for more than 300
total yards.
Eastern Michigan enters the
game averaging just a hair more
than 100 yards per game as a
team.
With Carr specifically calling
the front seven out, expect some
positive results. I'm not predicting
a repeat of the Notre Dame per-
formance, but be surprised if the
Eagles near their triple-digit sea-
son average on Saturday.
Advantage: Michigan
Eastern Michiganpassoffense
vs. Michigan pass defense
Bad news for Michigan: Eastern
Michigan runs a spread offense.
Good news for Michigan: It's
Eastern Michigan.
Despite the Wolverines' inaus-
picious start to the season against
spread teams, they seemed to
show at least a little progress last
weekend against Northwestern.
The Eagles run a similar offense,
so expect Michigan to continue
improving against it.
Even though Eastern Michigan
quarterback Andy Schmidt began
the season with five touchdowns
to just one interception, his solid
season hit a bit of a speed bump
last weekend against Vanderbilt.
The Commodores met the Eagles'
spread offense with pressure, forc-

" i e's one of best foot-
ball players to ever
wear that uniform."
Just think about the praise
Michigan coach Lloyd Carr
bestowed upon running back
Mike Hart after the win over Penn
State.
One of the best players ever to
wear the Maize and Blue.
Notable Michigan alumni
include, but
aren't limited
to: Tom Brady
(he of the
three Super
Bowl rings
and a possible
fourth this
year), Charles
Woodson and DANIEL
Desmond D
Howard. BROMWICH
We could go
back even fur-
ther, to the days of Ron Johnson,
Bump Elliot and Tom Harmon.
And Carr, who has been a part
of Michigan football for 27 years,
just put Hart in that group.
You'd be hard-pressed to find
somebody on this campus to dis-
agree, given the feats we've seen
over the past four years.
But nearly nobody expected
this.
When Hart arrived on campus
as a freshman in 2004, he boasted
one of the most impressive high-
light tapes ever circulated on the
Internet. He had obvious talent.
There was some serious criticism,
however.
Not big enough, they said.
At barely 5-foot-9 and 185
pounds, he'llnever be able to
shake off BigTen tacklers, notto
mention pick upsa defensive end or
blitzing linebacker in pass protec-
tion.
Three years later, Hart might be
the best pass blocker on the team.
"There's a lot of ways to miss
a linebacker when he's coming if
he's 240 pounds and you're 200,"
Carr said. "Sometimes you want
to. Mike Hart never wants to. He
met (Penn State linebacker Dan
Connor) head up and didn't give
an inch."
He's also been just big enough
to average almost 117 yards per
game for his career, the best in
Michigan history. He's had 25

games where he's topped 100
yards and four where he's topped
200, both Michigan records. And
he's been strong enough to hold
on to the football as well. It's been
928 consecutive touches since
Hart has lost a fumble, and he's
lost just one his entire career.
So size and strength haven't
been too big a problem.
He's never played against real
competition, they said.
Coming out of a Class D high
school in notoriously weak New
York State, he won't match up well
against Division I competition.
Hart gained 144 yards against
Ohio State's defense last season
- a defense that entered the game
ranked the best in the country.
He cut up this season's Nittany
Lion defense for 153 yards when it
ranked as the best rushing defense
in the nation.
But the evidence isn't just in
the statistics. Every fan has seen
him carry two, sometimes three
tacklers an extra several yards
for a first down. He never falls
backwards at the end of a run,
always falling forwards to gain an
extra yard. And when a linebacker
sneaks through the line and meets
Hart in the backfield, 95 percent of
college backs go down right away.
With Hart, we almost expect him
to somehow, some way elude the
tackler. He rarely disappoints, and
whenever he does go down, he
usually comes up yapping.
Apparently, the competition
needs to step up a level.
Even if he does eventually
become a significant contributor,
he won't be able to do it his fresh-
,man year, they said.
He needs to put on weight and
becomeaccustomed to taking hits.
Maybe sophomore or junior year
he can start to see some time.
Hart didn't want to wait. In
the third game of his freshman
season, he rushed for 121 yards
against San Diego State. Three
games later, he tallied 163 yards
against Minnesota. Next game, he
topped the 200-yard mark, with
237 yards at Illinois. He finished
with 206 at Purdue in the next
game and ran for 224 against
Michigan State the next week.
Getting tired? Hart wasn't.
He recorded 151 yards against
Northwestern the following week.

Just to sum up, that's five straight
150-plus yard games and three
consecutive 200-yard games as a
freshman. Hart had already tied
Ron Johnson's record for career
200-yard games at Michigan. And
he still had three years to break
it. Not surprisingly, he did so the
next season.
He's just too slow, they said.
He doesn't have the breakaway
speed to take it to the next level, to
have the long, backbreaking runs
that squash a defense's spirit.
Eh, maybe. He's been fast
enough for a 64-yard run against
Michigan State sophomore year
and 54-yard runs against Minne-
sota last season and Appalachian
State this year, to name a few.
Still think he's not fast enough
to bea successful back? At the
end of this season, Hart will own
almost every all-time Michi-
gan rushing record there is. He
already holds the records for 100-
plus, 150-plus and 200-plus yard
games ina career. Barring injury,
he'll break the all-time yardage
(4,472) and all-time carries (924)
records Saturday against Eastern
Michigan.
All these statistics, all this
evidence, and yet it doesn't even
touch on what really makes Hart
special. His leadership, his never-
say-die attitude, his willingness
to sacrifice his body to help his
team get that crucial first down
or give his quarterback a couple
extra seconds to throw is what
separates Hart from other backs.
His ability to galvanize the team
with a victory guarantee after two
losses to start the season and his
consistent support for and confi-
dence in the guys around him are
why, even though Jake Long and
Shawn Crable are also captains
and Chad Henne is the quarter-
back, everybody knows who the
real leader of this team is.
Unfortunately for Michigan
fans, Hart graduates at the end of
this season.
He'll head to the NFL Draft
in April, where he's considered a
borderline second- or third-round
prospect. Apparently the scouts
have questions about whether he's
big enough.
- Bromwich can be reached
at dabromwi@umich.edu.

RODRIGO GAYA/Daly
Junior Adrian Arrington will replace the suspended Mario Manningham as the No.,1

receiser Saturday.
ing Schmidt to toss three intercep-
tions. Expect a similar strategy
from Ron English and the Wolver-
ines, with similar results.
Advantage: Michigan
Special teams:
Eastern Michigan could have a
quasi-trained seal as a kicker and
a one-eyed goat as a holder and
there'd still be no way Michigan
escapes with more than a push in
this category.
No matter how well Zoltan
Mesko punts - and he's punting
well this season - special teams
have been a big question mark for
Blue. Jason Gingell has gone just
3-for-9 in his field goal attempts,
and Carr reopened competition for
the spot this week.
our bet for starting kicker is
K.C. Lopata, but no matter who it
is, Michigan hasn't earned its way
to an advantage in this category.

Advantage: Eastern Michi-
gan
Intangibles:
Eastern Michigan has a chance
to slay Goliath, but the Eagles will
probably be satisfied with leaving
Ann Arbor with a nice fat appear-
ance check. Michigan, on the other
hand, has to prove it can be a mid-
major at football. The last time
a huge underdog entered the Big
House, the Wolverines were a part
of college football's greatest upset.
Something tells me the words
Appalachian and State have been
heard quite a bit this week around
Fort Schembechler. I'm pretty
sure motivation won't be an issue
this time around.
Advantage: Michigan
Prediction: Michigan41,
Eastern Michigan 10

Senior running back Mike Hart is just 33 yards and 18 carries away from holding both
all-time Michigan rushing records.
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RODRIGO GAYA/Daily
Senior Chad Henne
should be able to take
advantage of a weak
Eastern secondary.

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