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October 16, 2009 - Image 12

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2009-10-16

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Foobal Sturay 0Otobr 1, 009

Six games down, six to go -
it's time to assess what's
wo ng and what
works a at.


Rushing yards per game: 197.3
Get senior tailbacks Carlos Brown and
Brandon Minor healthy at the same time,
and Michigan's rushing production is more
impressive than No. 2 in the Big Ten and
No. 23 in the nation. Besides ablip when
the Wolverines put up a measly 28 yards
against Michigan State, Brown, Minor and
the other Michigan tailbacks havebeen
beyond solid.

Turnover margin: -0.33
It's a statistic that's obviously not
where the coaching staffwould like it to.
he. But after finishing a dismal No. 110
in the nation last year with an atrocious
-12 margin, Michigan will acceptbeing
just below zero. After center David Molk
returns from injury, expect the fumbles at
quarterback to fade.

Passing defense: 246.5
yards per game
It's lonely at the hottom. Six games in,
the Michigan defense finds itself in the
cellar of the Big Ten after givingup 2465
passing yards per game. Chalk some of
that op to talented receivers like Notre
Dame's Golden Tate and Michael Floyd, but
you can't ignore the talent void opposite
cornerbackDonovan Warren. After moving
from safety to cornerback last week against
lowa, Troy Woolfolk looks like he could be
Warren's counterpart in the backfield.

Fourth down conversions: 71%
It's still early and the sampling is small,
but the Wolverines have proven themselves
five of seven times on the down that
matters. Against Notre Dame, quarterback
Tate Forcier capitalized on decisive
play calling when he ran for a 31-yard
touchdown on a fourth down.

*Brandon Graham's 1.67
tackles for loss per game-
Sure, he didn't have a sack during the
first month of the season, and it might
make you think he's slipping, hut Brandon
Graham is findinghis way around the
double teams. His 1.67 tackles for loss
per game puts him at No.15 in the .
nation. Although Graham was left offthe
Rotary Lombardi semifinal list, he's still
contributing with solid numbers you would
expect from the senior defensive end.



Which bowl game is
Michigan likely attending
this postseason?
Well, it will be a betterbowl than
last year.
Too soon?
Michigan needs just two more
wins to qualify for a bowl game,
and assuming one-win Delaware
State isn't the next Appalachian
State, the Wolverines will be sitting
pretty after Saturday.
Then, it just depends onwhere
Michigan finishes in the Big Ten.
The Wolverines already have two
conference losses, and no team has
won a Big Ten championship with
multiple defeats since 2000.
But Michigan has a good shot at
eclipsing .500 in the conference if
it can knock off Wisconsin or Penn
State. Wolverine fans can breathe
a sigh of relief - they will likely go
bowling in a warm-weather state,
which means it won't be at the
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.

Is the force actually with
Tate Forcier?
That certainly seems to be the
case, unless the 188-pound signal
caller gets his bell rung a few more
After a very good first six games
(57.2 completion percentage!
Nine touchdowns!), Forcier is the
clear-cut starter, although that's
assuming injuries don't prove to be
his downfall.
Forcier is the real deal because
he finds ways to win, and his
growth potential over the next
three seasons is exciting for fans.
The rest of the year should help
Forcier solidify his starting spot
for the future, even with the rivals.
com top-rated quarterback Devin
Gardner committed for next

Is Denard Robinson
more than a glorified
running back?
This could take a while to figure
Rodriguez has insisted that
Robinson will play quarterback -
he did groom Pat White at West
Virginia, after all - but time and
time again, Robinson has proved to
be much more effective as a runner.
Saturday's game against
Delaware State will hopefully
provide a little insight. Robinson is
expected to get many more snaps
than he has so far this season. But
then again, even if he looks like the
next Tim Tebow, it is against the
Thetsecond-half Big Ten
matchups will be the best
barometer for Robinson's future,
especially with Gardner poised to
enroll in January.

Could Warren leave
school early?
No. This is Warren's first
excellent season, and his
playmaking ability is accentuated
by the secondary's lack of depth.
But then again, considering
defenses have largely avoided his
side of the field, Warren's numbers
are even more impressive this
season. Warren's statistics, with
three interceptions and 10 pass
breakups, are some of the best in
the conference.
At the moment, Warren doesn't
look likea first-rounder, and
another year under his belt would
significantly help his draft stock.
It seems unlikely right now, but
with Warren playing the way he is,
it's something to keep an eye on..

What will come of the
Free Press allegations?
With all of the Detroit Free Press
allegations coming out this season,
particularly the preseason report
that Rodriguez violated NCAA
practice regulations, it is almost a
sure thing that follow-ups are in
the works.
The practice-related accusations
are currently under investigation.
Although the findings aren't
expected to be released any time
soon, it'll be interesting to see if
they have any significant effect on
the program.
We don't expect the allegations
to have any direct impact on the
team, but you never know what
could happen.


After getting off to a blistering start on the "Bend but not break" maybecome an
ground, Michigan hita speed bump against extremely overused cliche this season. Yardage-
the Spartans. It recovered against Iowa and is wise, Michigan is on pace for its worst defensive
now second in the conference in rush offense, year, yet the Wolverines somehow lock down
but the running backs still haven't managed to in the red zone. Brandon Graham and Donovan
overshadow comeback phenom Tate Forcier, Warren have been the lone highlights of the unit,
who has exceeded all expectations. Too many and their play has kept the defense from getting
three-and-outs and seven turnovers in the past a 'D' grade. Does the University give anything
two games knock the offense down to a 'B', less than a'C' in classes, anyway?


Boubacar Cissoko/J.T.
Fioyd, cornerbacks
Through six games, the
secondary has been the most
team's glaringweakness. The
Wolverines are dead last in
the Big Ten in passingyards
allowed per game, and the lack
of a true second cornerback
opposite stalwart Donovan
Warren has deeply hindered
their ability to find consistency
at the position.
one of these two needs to
step upo cornerback-turned-
Tiny Woolfolk can move hack
to strong safety, where his
speed can really help ashaky
defensive unit.
Obi Ezeh, middle
Yes, Ezeh is sixth in the Big
Ten with 55 tackles. But there's
more to his position than
takedowns, especially in new
defensive coordinator Greg
Robinson's wacky scheme.
Ezeh's pass coverage leaves

much to be desired, and as the
"quarterback of the defense,"
it's up to the middle linebacker
to shoulder the load for a
defense that's on track to give
up almost 300 points - which
could potentiallybe the worst
in school history.
Greg Mathews, wide
In the 2008 Capital One Bowl,
Mathews had areakoutgame
- or that's what Michigan fans
thought at the time. Rspecially
after Mario Manningham and
Adrian Arrington left for the
Through six games this season,
Mathews has the same number
of catches, seven, as in that one
bowl game - and just 24 more
total yards. He's also averaging
just 3.4 yards per punt return,
and he muffed a critical punt
late against Iowa that could
have changed the outcome of
the game.
Well, at least he had that one
touchdown against Notre

Darryl Stonum, vide
receiver & kick returner
If Michigan is going to continue
to play in these tight, heart
attack-inducing games, special
teams is going to plays huge
factor. One could definitely
argue that Stonum is the reason
the Wolverines upset Notre
Dame, but the Texan has trailed
off since then.
Stonum was No. 15 in the
country in yards per kick return
after the Indiana game, hut in
the losses to Michigan State
and Iowa, he averaged just 18.8
yards per return. That definitely
kills the field-position battle.
The return game is essential to
the offense's success - and that
success rests on Stonum from
here on out.
Tate Forcier/
Denard Robinson,
Here are the Daily, we're not
about to knock these two. They,
especially Forcier, have far
exceeded expectations - and
with their quick adaptation
to college football, there's no
way Michigan would be 4-2 at
the midway point. So, putting
Forcier and Robinson on this
list isn't necessarily negative -
we're just saying they need to
step up even more as leaders if
they Wolverines want to finish

Sophomore Darryl Stonum has gone from
stunning to just acceptable in the last couple
weeks, but is still just 147 yards away from
breaking Michigan's season record for kickoff
returns. Greg Mathews should find a cure for
that nagging senioritis, but for the most part,
he has been reliable. And who singlehandedly
boosted special teams by a full letter grade? It's
Zoltan Mesko, who has kicked a helluva ball
thus far.

It takes a lot to groom two freshman
quarterbacks, especially when one has a full
head of shaggy, light brown hair and the other
sports impressive dreadlocks. Although both
Forcier and Denard Robinson have looked like
freshmen at times, Rodriguez and his staff
have made the necessary adjustments to ensure
the two learn the playbook at an appropriate
pace. But some questionable coaching at crucial
times, like the defensive coaches' inability to
anticipate schemes Michigan hasn't seen on
film, has cost the Wolverines. At some point,
the second-half adjustments need to happen
before the second half.

David Molk breaks his
foot against Eastern
Center David Molk broke his foot
on a first-half play against Eastern
Michigan on Sept.19 and had
surgery two days later. His initial
prognosis suggested a return in
four to six weeks, and though he is
making progress, his exact return
date is still unknown.
Molk's injury has showed all too
well the value of an experienced
center. David Moosman, who
moved from right guard to fill
Molk's void, botched six snaps in
the next game against Indiana. The
offensive line, which had been one
of the most consistent units until
Molk's injury, has been struggling
to find its groove ever since.

Denard Robinson
outruns and outjukes
the Broncos
Tate Forcier threw his first
touchdown as a Wolverine to
put Michigan up 7-0 early, but
Denard Robinson answered him
one flashier. On his first play from
scrimmage, Robinson fumbled the
snap and drew collective gasps
of dismay from the Big House
crowd. But Robinson picked up
the ball and ran to the outside.
He shook off a tackler, cut back
toward the middle, found a hole
and broke free for 43 yards and
his first touchdown. The shocking
play showcased both Robinson's
greatest strength (blazing speed)
and his greatest weakness
(unfamiliarity with the offense).
Both would come back to help and
haunt him duringthe season's next
five games.

Mathews and Forcier
pull through in the clutch
vs. Notre Dame
Greg Mathews may only have
seven catches this season, but
one of them was the Wolverines'
biggest of the first half. Michigan,
desperately needing to prove itself
in the early-season game, trailed
Notre Dame 34-31 with 16 seconds
left. On second-and-goal, Forcier
threw under pressure to Mathews,
who caught the ball inside the one-
yard line and stepped into the end
zone. The play proved that Forcier
could calmly lead his team to a
comeback, and he would go on to
help Michigan come back against
Indiana and Michigan State.

With a chance to be the
hero, Forcier throws an
OT interception
That said, Forcier has also
showed he is human. The crazed
hype surrounding the freshman
quarterback after Michigan's 4-0
start followed him to East Lansing,
where the 1-3 Spartans were
determined to spoil the Wolverines'
record. After leading Michigan to
yet another improbable comeback
to force the game to overtime,
Forcier decided to go for the
end zone on third down - and
threw the ball directly at safety
Danny Fortener, who tipped the
ball enough for Michigan State
cornerback Chris L. Rucker to
catch it. Michigan State scored on
the ensuing possession to seal a
26-20 win. Forcier later called the
interception a "freshman mistake."

Michigan's defense
almost costs the team a
win against Indiana
Against Indiana, Tate Forcier's
leaping touchdown run and
two-point conversion run put the
Wolverines up by three with 9:15
left in the game. But that lead held
for just 18 seconds. On Indiana's
ensuing drive, Darius Willis took
the ball and ran 85 yards. Defensive
end Ryan Van Bergen said after
the game that the missed play was
the result of an incorrect check, a
mistake that he said was "something
very basic, first week." Though the
long run wasn't the beleaguered
secondary's fault, it was just another
big play the Michigan defense has
given up at a crucial moment this
season. The play gave Indiana
a four-point lead, which forced
Forcier and Co. to score a late
touchdown to win the game.

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