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September 20, 2012 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily, 2012-09-20

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Thursday, September 20, 2012 - 7A

Toussaint key to establishing
run game against Irish 'D'

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has seen his defense gashed by Denard Robinson
for huge plays in Michigan victories the past two seasons.
Kelly wary of QB
Robinson as big-
play threat vs. ND
By BEN ESTES been big plays.
Daily Sports Editor In 2010, Robinson threw a
31-yard touchdown pass, ran for
If Notre Dame coach Brian an 87-yard score - the longest
Kelly's press conference this rushing touchdown in the histo-
week proved anything, it's that ry of Notre Dame Stadium - and
Brady Hoke doesn't control the added another 36-yard run for
market cornered on coachspeak. good measure.
All week, Hoke and the Wol- Last season, Robinson was
verines have shot down questions more effective through the air.
about the two teams' matchups As part of his 338 passing yards,
the last two seasons, both of he had a touchdown throw of
which ended with last-minute 43 yards and other passes of 77,
heroics by Michigan quarterback 45 and 64 yards. (The 64-yard-
Denard Robinson, resulting in er was the last-minute heave
dramatic wins for the Wolver- to wide receiver Jeremy Gal-
ines. lon that set Michigan up for the
When asked about whether winning touchdown pass to Roy
there was any sort of "revenge Roundtree one play later.) The
angle" for his team this week, quarterback also added a 39-yard
Kelly responded in a fashion that rush.
would make the media-repellant over the two games, it comes
Hoke proud. to a total of 422 yards in just eight
"(The players) don't talk about plays. Robinson has certainly
it. They don't talk about it at also made his share of mistakes
all," Kelly said. "They just want against Notre Dame, especially
to win. They just want to win last year, when he threw three
games. There's not much that we interceptions. But the big plays
reflect on 2011. . have more than
Everything made up for the
is pretty much miscues.
focused on "He's not a great "He's a dif-
getting better ference maker,"
individually. player - he's Kelly said. "So
"And if we we have to
do that, there's the best player find a way to
no need to limit big chunk
reflect back on on the field." plays, just like
what happened we have the
last year." first few weeks.
Thanks to ..We have to
Robinson's feats in this rivalry eliminate and control those big
game the last two years, Kelly plays that are out there. If we do
was more forthcoming when the that, we feel pretty good."
. topic of stopping him came up. Saturday will mark the fourth
The Deerfield Beach, Fla. time that Kelly and Hoke will
native has been the most domi- face off as head coaches, with
nant player for either team in the two of the meetings happening
most recent installments of the when the former was at Central
rivalry, leading the Wolverines Michigan and the latter was at
on long scoring drives to clinch Ball State.
a win in each of the last two sea- Kelly brushed off that aspect
sons. of this year's game, pointing to
Robinson was especially effec- the fact that Hoke has different
tive in 2010, the last time Notre coordinators now than he did
Dame hosted Michigan. In his at Ball State, which Kelly said
second game as the starting means more. (This came after
quarterback, he accounted for Kelly joked that Hoke would
502 of the team's 532 yards. It easily defeat him in a wrestling
amounted to a breakout game for match, since the Michigan coach
Robinson, one that first put him is "as big as he's ever been.")
on the national radar. So like most games do, this
Kelly is keenly aware of the year's installment of the Mich-
threat that Robinson poses as igan-Notre Dame rivalry will
both a runner and passer. likely come down to the players,
"It's a difficult proposition not the coaches. If recent history
because you can't sell out on is any indication, the Irish will
either one of those," Kelly said. have their hands full.
"You have to be balanced. You "The only thing that comes to
have to be able to manage it, and mind is we have not beaten them
you've got to keep him from mak- the last two years, for me," Kelly
_ ingbigplays. said.
"So there isn't an easy answer "I wasn't part of the other
to that. He's a superior football games. I know it's a great clash.
player. He's not a great player - It's Notre Dame, it's Michigan,
he's the best player on the field." it's great college football. But for
If there's one thing that's made me, we have not beaten them.
Robinson particularly effective That's what I remember about
against the Fighting Irish, it's this series."

Daily Sports Editor
Fitzgerald Toussaint was
uncharacteristically gregari-
ous on Tuesday, slapping backs,
cracking jokes and smiles. But
when the subject of last year's
game against Notre Dame arose,
he stiffened.
Teammates point out that
Toussaint, the redshirt junior
running back, loves to dance,
but he couldn't dance with his
teammates as they celebrated
late into the night with the stu-
dent section after their stunning
35-31 victory over the Fighting
Irish. Toussaint watched. He
was sidelined with a shoulder
And the fact that he didn't
play, that he couldn't help his
teammates, still kills him.
"That's exactly what I think
about to this day," Toussaint said
on Tuesday. "I could've played."
Last year's Under The Lights
game was a frenetic rush of
lights and colors, pom poms and
"Seven Nation Army." On the
field, it was a pinball game of
turnovers and big plays, a battle
to establish some - any - mea-
sure of rhythm.
Michigan coach Brady Hoke
said he remembers thinking to
himself that the game wasn't
like a normal game. It didn't
have any sort of continuity. It
didn't have Toussaint.
"The rhythm of the game
wasn't there anywhere,"Hoke
said. "There wasn't any momen-
tum. Anywhere."
Some of that stemmed from
emotion, some from mistakes
and fluke plays. But Hoke drew a
connection between the game's
lack of momentum and the fail-
ure to establish a running game
outside of senior quarterback
Denard Robinson.
Toussaint sat as his fellow
running backs sputtered. Ste-
phen Hopkins, now a junior,
went for just 10 yards, and he
was the leader of the group.
Fifth-year senior Vincent Smith
rushed for three. Michael Shaw
actually lost three yards.
"I was speechless," Toussaint
said. "It really hurt me to know I
could've done something to help
the team."
Toussaint missed both the
Tuesday and Wednesday prac-
tices in the week before the
game, and he knew he couldn't
play. Still, he explained that
sometimes, a football player
must play through injury.
This year, Toussaint is
healthy, but his play has lagged
behind last season's pace.
Against Air Force, he ran for just
seven yards,though he improved
against Massachusetts, rushing

Redshirt junior running back Fitzgerald Toussaint sat out the Notre Dame game last season with a shoulder injury.

for 85 yards and a touchdown.
Hoke and redshirt junior
tackle Taylor Lewan have put
much of the blame on the offen-
sive line's inability to spring
Lewan said the line lacked
an edge, and Hoke has tried to
address that in practice.
"We have very physical prac-
tices, even during game week,
you know, and that's a demeanor
and a mentality," said offensive
coordinator Al Borges. "Don't
expect them just to show up and
all of a sudden be trained kill-
ers on game day if their mindset
isn't right during the week."
Of course, Toussaint won't
be Notre Dame's chief concern.
Michigan's past two games
against Notre Dame have been
dominated by Robinson. In 2010,
he totaled more than 500 yards.
Last year, without Toussaint

to share the burden, he totaled
nearly 450 yards and five touch-
The Fighting Irish focused
their defense on stopping Rob-
inson last year, often sending a
safety into the box or using both
a linebacker and a safety to box
him in.
"They were keenly aware
of what Denard had done the
year before," Borges said. "They
restructured their defense to
stop him and force the issue
with the passing game."
Borges explained that every
team tries to stop Robinson but
"they don't all have the ability to
do it."
Notre Dame's defense,
though, has proved capable.
Last week, the Fighting Irish
held Michigan State to just
three points and its prolific run-
ning back, Le'Veon Bell, to just

77 yards. After watching film
of that game, Hoke said he was
surprised by the ability of Notre
Dame's front seven, led by one
of the nation's best linebackers,
Manti Te'o.
"You knew they were good,"
Hoke said. "But they were really
The game could again hinge
on Michigan's ability to find
continuity - typically, Robin-
son struggles when he doesn't.
Against the Fighting Irish
last year, he gained 338 yards
through the air, but also threw
three interceptions and com-
pleted less than half of his
passes. He struggled similarly
against Alabama this year and
Virginia Tech in last year's
Sugar Bowl.
Enter Toussaint. It will be up
to the running back who loves to
dance to establish some rhythm.


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