The Michigan Daily -- michigandaily.com
September 28, 2009 - 3B
The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom September 28, 2009 - 3B
M' finds third cornerback in J.T. Floyd
Kick retuns/ Yds
Time of Poss
Minor . 1
PUNT RETURNS .
M1I C H I G A N
By ANDY REID
Daily Sports Editor
Surrounded by friends and family after
the game, J.T. Floyd bubbled with excite-
ment. He exchanged high-fives and hugs
with those close to him. The cornerback
happily signed kids' hats and footballs
Floyd didn't seem to notice that most
autograph-hunters had to peruse their
game programs to figure out who he was
- this was his day to shine. After watch-
ing from the sideline for the first 15 games
of his career, the redshirt freshman was
finally in the spotlight. And he loved it.
In the first quarter, Floyd found him-
self subbing in for Boubacar Cissoko after
the sophomore gave up a 56-yard bomb to
wide receiver Tandon Doss. And as soon
as Indiana quarterback Ben Chappell saw
Floyd, he began to test the youngster.
Early and often, Floyd's number was
called, and nearly every time he answered
the challenge on the Hoosiers' deep-pass-
"I know football, and I know they're
alwaysgoingto testthe inexperienced guy
when you got a guy like Donovan Warren
on the other side," Floyd said. "I mean,
who would you go at? So, I knew it was
coming, and I was just ready to get it."
He was called for one questionable pass
interference penalty on one of Chappell's
deep throws, but for the most part, his
coverage was solid.
"At first, he was a little nervous, but as
the game wore on, he got more and more
comfortable, and he did a good job," defen-
sive coordinator Greg Robinson said. "He
really held his own."
If Floyd can continue to progress, he
could shore up the third cornerback spot,
which has been a concern since the begin-
ning of the year. Michigan coach Rich
Rodriguez has made no attempt to hide
his concern about the depth in the second-
ary, which has already seen some signifi-
cant injuries this season.
Free safety Mike Williams was dinged
up in the Notre Dame game, played limit-
edly against Eastern Michigan and sat on
Saturday, leaving the starting job to for-
mer walk-on Jordan Kovacs. And at cor-
nerback, Cissoko has struggled through
a few minor injuries and some execution
"We got a lot of young guys, we got guys
younger than me, so we just gotta go play
hard," Floyd said. "We're real inexperi-
enced, but when it comes down to it, we're
all (good) players."
On Saturday, Robinson and Rodriguez
both said it was a coaches' decision to sit
SAID ALSyL'H/ss e
Redshirt freshman cornerback i.T. Floyd replaced BouhacaF Cissoko iT Satarday's first quarter.
Cissoko after he gave up the big play.
While Floyd played opposite Warren for
the rest of the game, Cissoko roamed the
sideline near the defensive coaching staff.
"I think he was just having problems
with coverages," junior safety Troy Wool-
folk said of Cissoko's play. "So we just
had to try something new. Boubacar, he's
a great athlete, and once he comes back,
we'll be able to go back."
Even though Floyd and Kovacs held
their own on individual plays, having the
two regular starters on the bench definite-
ly disrupted the continuity of the second-
ary. Warren blamed many of the Hoosiers'
big plays - the 85-yard touchdown run in
the fourth quarter, for example - on mis-
communication within the unit.
"We had a really good defense, but if
you can't communicate and be on the
same page, then nobody can do anything,"
Woolfolk said. "We just had a little prob-
lem, and we fixed that later on and shut
the team down."
No YS Ag L TD
No. Yds Avg Lg TO
1 6 6 6 0
1 6 60 6 0
Soo Asst tot
5 6 11
3 3 6
1 5 6
3 0 3
0 3 3
0 2 2
0 2 2
1 0 1
1 0 1
21-3 27 1 . 1
21-38 270 0 1
Moosman's sloppy snaps a concern for Blue
By MICHAEL EISENSTEIN
Daily Sports Editor
You may not agree with the belief that
center is the second-most important posi-
tion on offense, the quarterback being the
But Michigan's six botched snaps -
including two that resulted in 20- and 22-
yards - probably changed your opinion on
Redshirt sophomore NOTEBOOK
center . David Molk,
whom Wolverine coach Rich Rodriguez
called "one of our best football players,"
broke his foot last week against Eastern
Michigan. With Molk out another three to
five weeks, fifth-year senior guard David
Moosman stepped in against Indiana.
"I thought the line did awesome," Moos-
man said. "I thought I did not do so well."
Moosman was certainly not shy in dis-
cussing his shortcomings.
"Put the blame on me," Moosman said.
"It was my fault, because I gotta put (the
snaps) right where they need themn. And
if they need them somewhere where I'm
not putting them, then that's on me and I'll
take care of it."
Granted, Moosman was returning from
a shoulder injury of his own that forced
him to sit out last week's game against
Eastern Michigan. And the ball was a bit
slippery from the misting rain. But Moos-
man was chosen to fill in because he had
played the position in spring and fall camp,
and Rodriguez felt "pretty comfortable"
with his snaps earlier in the week.
Moosman's bad snaps particularly hurt
Michigan in the third quarter, whentwo of
its three drives were essentially halted due
to the negative-yardage plays.
"It's a concern," quarterbacks coach
Rod Smith said. "We gotta get that honed
up, and that was probably the only concern
we had coming into the game, to be honest
with you. We knew we were good block-
and protection-wise, but the exchange is
a concern, which is natural, because it's a
Moosman was also called for a five-men-
in-the-backfield penalty, which is another
part of the learningcurve.
"We like to think that we can roll anyone
in there and do as good as if we had Molk
in there," redshirt sophomore right guard
Mark Huyge said. "It's hard to replace Molk
- that's for sure - as you could see today."
WARREN'S "WILLED" PICK: With just
over two minutes remaining in the game,
Indiana quarterback Ben Chappell and the
Hoosier offense took the field needing a
75-yard comeback drive.
To start, Indiana went with a five-yard
in-route that, according to Chappell, "real-
ly had been open all game."
Michigan junior cornerback Donovan
Warren wasn't about to let that drive get
"When the ball came, we both actually
had our hands on it," Warren said. "But I
tugged it, tugged it from the get-go and so
we were both wrestling for it, and - Bar-
wis, Mike Barwis."
Warren was referring to director of
strength and conditioning Mike Barwis,
who he credited for helping him become
strong enough to rip the ball free.
But just as much as Warren credits his
conditioning with Barwis, his third career
interception was caused in large partby his
determination to grab the ball - and poor
camera angles in the official review.
The six-foot, 185-pound Warren looked
like he fell to the ground with equal pos-
session of the ball with six-foot-five, 214-
pound receiver Damarlo Belcher. By rule,
that would be the offense's ball, but War-
ren popped up with the pigskin in hand.
As defensive coordinator Greg Robinson
put it, "all of a sudden, (Warren) just willed
Indiana coach Bill Lynch was under-
standably furious after the play, screaming
along the sidelines and chucking his gum
out of his mouth in disgust. He said after
the game that he couldn't see the play from
his vantage point, and he wouldn't elabo-
rate on the play that sealed the win for
"He's a big-time player," senior defen-
sive end Brandon Graham said. "Big-time
players make big-time plays. That's all I'm
going to say with that one."
SPECIAL CONTRIBUTORS: Wide
receiver Darryl Stonum and punter Zoltan
Mesko have about as different skill sets as
they come, but they both helped Michigan
win the field-position battle Saturday.
Stonum racked up 218 kickoff return
yards against Indiana, including four for
30 yards or more. Former Wolverine Steve
Breaston is the only player who has tal-
lied more kickoff return yards in a game in
Michigan history, which he did in the 2005
Rose Bowl when he ran back six returns
for 221 yards.
So far this season, Stonum is averaging
32.6 yards on 12 returns. Breaston never
averaged more than 28.1 yards on kickoff
returns for a season.
But Rodriguez knew the sophomore,
who was playing with a nagging hamstring
injury, will feel dissatisfied nevertheless.
"He's probably going to be disappointed
because he was probably within one trip
up, two or three times, of taking it the dis-
tance," Rodriguez said.
Just as Stonum set the offense up with
good field position, Mesko gave Michigan's
defense room to work by pinning Indiana
deep in its own territory.
The redshirt senior averaged 48.1 yards
a punt, including one that pinned Indiana
on its owntwo-yard line and one that went
59 yards after Mesko kicked from Michi-
gan's own two-yard line.
Mesko became the Wolverines' all-time
leader in both punts and punting yardage
in the first game of the season. Against
Michigan State next week, he will likely,
become the only punter in Michigan histo-
ry to rack up over 9,000 yards, a milestone
that is currently 61 yards away.
No. Yds Avg Lg
6 222 370 46
6 222 37.0 46
No. Yds Avg Lg TD
6 138 283 '89 0
NE, Yds Avg Lg TD
S 1 1I.0 11 0
1 10 ti 0
Freshman quarterback Tate Forcier led Michigan to another late-game comeback win.
BIG TEN STANDINGS
Team sioTew Overall
From page 1B
On third and seven, Forcier found
sophomore slot receiver Martavious
Odoms in the back of the end zone.
With a perfectly placed tight spiral
pass, Forcier led No. 23 Michigan to a
36-33 win over Indiana.
"The kid's got something about him
- he knows how to win ball games,"
quarterbacks coach Rod Smith said. "I
don't think pressure's going to affect
"You don't get much more pressure
than being down late in a drive when
you have to make a play and on (third
down), they give you cover zero. He
stepped up and made a play."
Forcier's late-game heroics saved
Michigan (1-0 Big Ten, 4-0 overall)
from an early-season conference loss,
and his 184 yards on 11-of-21 passing
prevented the Hoosiers (0-1, 3-1) from
upsetting the Wolverines at Michigan
Stadium for the first time since 1967.
With his recent accomplishments,
it's easy to forget Forcier is just a
freshman and a long way from a fin-
But during the last two games, the
San Diego native has shown signs of
inexperience, with inevitable flaws
"I got to get him to calm down his
feet in the pocket," Smith said. "We're
scrambling way too much. We're not
getting our reads in, and I think some-
times we're looking to run because
we're not getting our eyes downfield,
which causes us to get some negative
plays. We got to get that corrected."
Besides improving his decision-
making, Smith said Forcier can work
on keeping two hands on the ball at all
times and trusting the offensive line
more, which will give Forcier more of
a pocket presence.
Despite his shortcomings, Forcier
remains a true leader on the field. His
constant claims that he "doesn't get
nervous" seemed like a stretch at first,
but his poise and gutsy game-changing
plays continue to prove otherwise.
One of those plays meant sacrific-
ing his body early in the fourth quar-
ter. Forcier showcased his vertical
aptitude as he leapt over the throng
of defenders at the goal line for the
"I got a great view," sophomore wide
receiver Darryl Stonum said. "I was
blocking my dude. ... It was actually a
pass play, so I saw Tate scrambling. I
was trying to get open, and I just saw
him leap over my two defenders into
the end zone, and it shocked me, but
I'm glad he did it."
At the beginning of the season,
Forcier's youth seemed like a possible
Now, it might be more of an advan-
"I think a lot of times with young
guys, they don't panic as much," Rodri-
guez said. "Sometimes an upperclass-
man will think, 'Uh oh, what's going
on?' But the young guys go out and
play a little bit.
"Tate wasn't sharp all the time, but
he made some plays at the end."
From page 1B
At the time, that felt so true. This
year's team is undeniably exciting to
watch. Its offense is flashy and glamorous,
and it calmly pulls through at crunch
time. Saturday's two fourth-quarter
touchdowns - freshman quarterback Tate
Forcier's acrobatic leap into the end zone
and his clutch last-minute touchdown
pass to Martavious Odoms - are proof of
But it's obvious now there's only so
much longer the offense can continue to
cover up the defense's mistakes.
"To me, I felt like (the comeback)
should have never happened," defensive
tackle Ryan Van Bergen said. "We made
way too many mistakes, and I feel like all
we did was bail ourselves out. We were
able to get water out of the boat and stay
Some of Saturday's offensive gaffes,
like the team's six muffed snaps, are
correctable. Although David Moosman
hasn't played center in a game since 2007,
he is surrounded by a strong offensive line
and the quarterbacks will soon adjust to
The Wolverines are currently leading
the Big Ten in both scoring and rushing
offense, two foreign thoughts at this time
last year. And, of course, Michigan has
already managed to surpass last year's
win total in just three weeks - the most
important indicator of all.
But Forcier's bruised shoulder may
potentially be more serious than he or
Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez let on
after the Indiana game. And with the
Wolverines favored by just two points
against 1-3 Michigan State next Saturday,
the amount of time the Wolverine offense
can compensate for defensive weaknesses
looks like it might be almost up.
This weekend, the defense seemed to
have no sense of urgency until Indiana
had driven the ball inside the 20-yard line.
Other Big Ten teams with better offenses
won't be as easily held to field goals.
The scary part is that through four
games, last year's Michigan defense -
the one that allowed the most points per
game in school history - may have been
stronger than this season's. The 2009
Wolverine defense has given up 76.6 more
yards per game than it did last year, good
for ninth in the Big Ten.
The most striking indicator of how
much the offense has improved while the
defense hasn't maybe in points per game.
Last year, through four games:
Opponents 22.8, Michigan 20.8.
This year: Opponents 22.8, Michigan
That may be a little misleading,
though. Even if it looks like the defense
has stayed stagnant on paper, the 2009
Wolverines have played stronger after
successful halftime adjustments. That has
manifested in just 31 total points allowed
in the second half of the four games,
compared to the 60 they have allowed in
the first two quarters.
Their problem is anticipating the need
for those defensive adjustments in the
first place. Michigan was burned by big
plays again early on Saturday, notably
on the Hoosiers' first touchdown play,
a wildcat formation that caught the
Wolverines completely off guard.
The Wolverines have talked for three
straight games now about how they're
a second-half team, and how strength
and conditioning coach Mike Barwis's
workouts have made it possible to outlast
their opponents when the game comes
down to the wire. But as they get into the
meat of the Big Ten season, struggling
to read out-of-the-ordinary plays - and
allowing 280 yards before halftime to a
three-touchdown underdog - just isn't
going to cut it.
"We dodged a bullet, but I think we
helped ourselves to do it - it wasn't just
luck," Van Bergen said. "We secured our
assignments, made one big mistake in
the second half, and then we were able to
rally back and make some plays for our
At this time last season, the Wolverines
went on to lose six straight games. Unlike
last year, they aren't about to completely
implode. But even though this Saturday's
game is against a Michigan State team
whose season looks like it's already over,
it's probably one of the Wolverines'
biggest tests of the year.
"You find out a lot about your team
and I think your team matures a lot in a
tougher environment, and we're getting
ready to do that," Rodriguez said.
Michigan will find out plenty - starting
with the fact that if the defense doesn't
start pulling its weight very soon, the
surprising 4-0 start may soon be a distant
- Ratkowiak can be reached
Michigan 36, Indiana 33
Notre Dame 24, Purdue 21.
Ohio State 30, Illinois 0
Iowa 21, Penn State 10
Wisconsinh 38, Mich. State 30
Minnesota 35, Northwestern 24