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October 31, 2012 - Image 8

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8A - Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

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FOOTBALL
Ko vacs, Taylor not
buying into stats

Redshirt junior running back Fitzgerald Toussaint hasn't gotten off on the right foot this fal, and Michigan is running out of time in the season.
Still no answers at tailback

By ZACH HELFAND
Daily Sports Editor -
A one-dimensional offense.
became a zero-dimensional
offense with senior quarterback
Denard Robinson out of the game
on Saturday, the running backs so
stifled they gained just six yards
in the second half. A seven-point
deficit never felt so insurmount-
able, nor had the tailback ques-
tion seemed so perplexing.
On Tuesday, redshirt junior
tailback Fitzgerald Toussaint
danced around explanations
for yet another sluggish perfor-
mance just like he danced around
running lanes. The lack of pro-
duction, he said, is no one's fault,
it's just good defense. In other
words, still no answers.
The running-back question
has baffled the Michigan offense
all season, but it reached a head
on Saturday when the tailbacks
generated a paltry ;32 yards on
the ground. Redshirt freshman
Russell Bellomy bore most of the
attention after the loss to Nebras-
ka, but Toussaint and senior
Vincent Smith were just as bad.
And they have five full seasons of
experience between them.
"Because we are a running
team, when we don't run well,
we don't play well," said offensive
coordinator Al Borges. "That's

kind of been the theme since I've ity, but with his health status still
been here." unresolved, the answer to the tail-
The answer to the running back problem is even more press-
woes has eluded seemingly ing. Toussaint has yet to rush for
everyone on the Michigan team. more than 100 yards in a game
In the past, redshirt junior offen- this year, and he averages just 3.3
sive tackle Taylor Lewan has yards per carry. He rushed for
blamed the line. Michigan coach more than 1,000 last year but has
Brady Hoke has done the muchof amassed just 321 yards this year.
the same. On Saturday, each drive was
Toussaint credited the defens- as good as over before it began -
es. Never mind that Michigan because the drives usually began
dominated those same defenses with a Fitzgerald Toussaint rush
on the ground last year. And into nowhere. Toussaint rushed
Borges said it seven times
doesn't matter in the second
who gets the half, most on
rushing yards "I have to give first down. Five
- running back times, he went
or quarterback credit to the for one yard or
- as long as less. Still, that's
it's someone. defense." better than
Never mind Smith, who
that last year, rushed twice in
Michigan said the half, both
time and again they needed pro- times for a loss of four yards.
duction from the tailback position "I have to give; credit to the
specifically. defense that we play," Toussaint
"I know the media, everybody said. "They can key on the run.
always wants to blame it on one Key on the fun a lot and force us.
thing," Borges said. "The depth, to pass."
the quarterback, the play-calling, That was Nebraska's plan with
whatever it is. I heard Bill Par- Bellomy in the game, sending
cells say this years ago. It's never blitzes at will without fear of get-
one thing. It's always a bunch of ting beat through the air.
things." "He's not really a threat,"
Robinson typically bears the Nebraska safety P.J. Smith said
bulk of the rushing responsibil- after the game on Saturday. "We

were able to not be so (worried)
about the quarterback."
To a lesser extent, that's how
defenses have attacked Robin-
son. Yet he has generated plenty
of yards on the ground. Hoke has
pointed out that defenses can
attack the tailbacks without being
able to eliminate a mobile quar-
terback. But no one has explained
why defenses would be more
worried about Toussaint over the
explosive Robinson.
Borges said again on Tuesday
that he doesn't care who rushes
the ball, as long as someone rush-
es effectively.
The offense only has problems,
he said, when no one rushes the
ball. He had problems on Satur-
day.
Hoke, too, said he was disap-
pointed with the ground game,
but he absolved Toussaint on any
blame, saying that he "was happy
with how he played."
Instead, Hoke blamed the line,
unlike Borges, who blamed every-
thing.
"There's times it's the line, and
there's times it's the back," Borges
said. "There's times it's the quar-
terback, and there's times it's the
wide receiver ... and I'm part of
that, now."
For the Wolverines, that leaves
a lot of question marks. And
they're running out of answers.

By STEPHEN J. NESBITT
Daily SportsEditor
The Michigan football team
boasts the best- passing defense
in college football, but the players
don't even care.
Fifth-year senior safety Jor-
dan Kovacs and sophomore cor-
nerback Raymon Taylor, two
integral members of the second-
ary, both shook their heads when
they heard the ranking on Tues-
day. They hadn't heard about it.
"It doesn't matter at all,"'
Kovacs said.
The numbers mightnot matter
to 'Team 133,' but they're impres-
sive nonetheless. The Wolverines
have allowed a nation-leading
145.3 passing yards per game,
and they have more interceptions
(7) than passing touchdowns
allowed (5).
For comparison's sake, Michi-
gan allowed 190.5 passing yards
per game last season, and over
220 passing yards per game for
each of the three previous sea-
sons under former, coach Rich
Rodriguez.
"We take pride in (our pass
defense)," Taylor said. "That's a
big thing. That's good to be num-
ber one in any thing, so we take
pride in it and appreciate it."
As Michigan coach Brady
Hoke was quick to point out dur-
ing a weekly teleconference on
Tuesday, the secondary's statis-
tics could be improperly skewed
byseveral factors.'
Alabama threw just 21 times in
the season opener - "They didn't
have to," Kovacs said. Air Force
and its triple-option attack ran
roughshod over Michigan's front
seven, but the Falcons passed
just 19 times. So while Michigan
is No. 1in passing yards allowed
through eight weeks, it has also
faced the sixth-fewest number of
pass attempts (198).
Kovacs cautioned that it might
be too soon to label the secondary
as elite. In the Wolverines' 23-9
loss to Nebraska in Lincoln last
Saturday,. Cornhusker quarter-
back Taylor Martinez passed for
just 166 yards, a touchdown and
an interception, but Kovacs said
there were open receivers that,
much to the secondary's delight,
Martinez simply didn't see.
"You can't let that happen,"
Kovacs said.

While the Michigan offense
stuttered and stalled in Lincoln,
the defense held relatively fast.
But Martinez engineered a drive.
early in the second quarter that
gashed the secondary for five
consecutive completions and
ended in a 32-yard touchdown
pass to receiver Kenny Bell.
When the defense took to the
film room on Sunday, the players
remembered exactly how that
drive felt and, more importantly,
what went wrong. Nebraska's
hurry-up offense had caught
them by surprise - Taylor said
they hadn't been preparing for
that tempo - and Martinez
picked them apart with ease.
The calls, selected by defen-
sive coordinator Greg Mattison
and then signaled onto the-field,
never made it across the field to
all 11 defensive players.
"Basically we were out there
lost for a couple plays," Taylor
said.
The defense's biggest goal isn't
a surprising one: communication.
"If you don't communicate,
you're not lined up and you're
not ready to play," Kovacs said.
"There's guys on the other side of
the field that don't see the signal.
"It's our responsibility as cor-
ners or safeties, whoever's closest
to the sideline, to relay that mes-
sage and keep relaying it until
everybody knows the play."
The crowd noise from the
Sea of Red in Lincoln certainly
played a significant factor, but
considering that three of the four
members of the secondary are
upperclassmen, Kovacs called
the communication breakdowns
"very disappointing."
Still, the Wolverines held Mar-
tinez and the upstart Nebraska
offense to its lowest passing
yards, rushing yards and point
total ofthe season. To remedy the
communication errors for this
weekend's tilt against Minne-
sota at TCF Bank Stadium - not
quite the ferocious atmosphere
that Nebraska has at Memorial
Stadium - Kovacs emphasized
that there's no such thing as over-
communication.
"Keep echoing the call,"
Kovacs said. "Coach Mattison
emphasized that today: you've
got to echo the call and you've
got to make sure you take care of
your buddies."

WOMEN'S GOLF
MEichigan finishes
fourth in S. Carolina
By LEV FACHER my putting," Grogan said. "I had
For theDaily two bad holes (Monday) that
kind of put me in a bad spot. For
Not even the threat of a hur- the team overall though I think
ricane could stop the Michigan it was a very good ending to the
women's golf team from setting fall season."
a season-best combined stroke The Wolverines were forced
total at the Edwin Watts/Pal- to overcome adverse weather
metto Intercollegiate on Kiawah conditions throughout the tour-
Island, S.C. nament.
The Wolverines combined for "The wind was howling,
a score of 894 over the weekend, probably at 25 miles per hour,"
which earned them fourth place said Michigan coach Cheryl
in the tournament, held at the Stacy.
Oak Point Golf Club. "The course played even
Michigan topped its previous tougher (Monday) than it did
tournament low of 930, which (Sunday). These were probably
was recorded in late September the highest winds we've played
in Ann Arbor at the Wolverine in this season."
Invitational. Grogan agreed, talking about
Michigan's total of 296 in the the concern felt throughout
first round set a season best, but the weekend about the poten-
the Wolverines broke their own tial effects of Hurricane Sandy,
record in the next round with a which despite early worries
295-stroke performance, mark- didn't cause substantial dam-
ing the team's first two rounds age in South Carolina or disrupt
of the season with total scores Michigan's travel plans.
under 300. The tournament "This tournament was pretty
marked the end of Michigan's tough from a weather stand-
fall campaign - the Wolverines point," Grogan said. "Everyone
don't compete again until Feb- was concerned about the poten-
ruary. tial hurricane around the coast.
Sophomore Linda Luo led "A couple days ago going into
Michigan by tying for 15th place it we knew the weather could be
overall with a total score of 222, pretty dicey, there wasn't neces-
shooting a 71 in Sunday's early sarily so much rain but the wind
round, 75 later in the day and 76 made it pretty cold. (Monday)
on Monday. turned out to be very nice. It was
Sophomore Lauren Grogan just windy overall.
also finished in the top-25, tying "We've played in wind before,
a career-best with a one-under- but it's just a matter of us being
par score of 71 over the first 18 smart. You need to adjust
holes on Sunday. accordingly."
Grogan added a 74 in later "Our team scores were a lot
play on Sunday and finished at better at this (tournament) than
79 on Monday. they have been for the year,"
"One of the biggest things Stacy said. "There's good chem-
I've been trying to work on is istry."

Faceoffs troubling Wolverines

By LIZ VUKELICH
DailySports Writer
Go to any Michigan hockey
game and you'll see the Children
of Yost getcrestless for the faceoff.
"Drop the puckt" they scream
at the referee, who dangles it in
front of the centers for what feels
like eternity to fans who just
want the game to resume play.
For most fans, the faceoff is a
blip in the game that doesn't last
more than a couple of seconds.
They're not too interested in it.
There are more exciting things
to focus on, like who scores or
who slams who into the boards.
For most hockey players, it's
just a routine part of the game.
They win some, they lose some,
but it shouldn't be anything to
lose sleep over.
But for eighth-ranked Wol-
verines, faceoffs are becoming a
troubling issue, and they're get-
ting more anxious for them than
they should be.
Michigan (1-1 CCHA, 3-2
overall) has been plagued with
a slew of bad faceoffs lately, the
most recent of which resulted
a crucial third-period goal for
Miami (Ohio) in the Wolverines'
4-3 loss on Saturday night.
"I can't tell you (faceoffs) are
(always) a concern as they've
jumped up and bitten us
already," said Michigan coach
Red Berenson. "We give up ... a
handful of goals (that) have been
on faceoffs. That shouldn't be."
In Saturday's miscue, Curtis
McKenzie scored Miami's game-
winninggoal just moments after
a quick breakaway from the
circle in Michigan's zone. With
the whole play happening in just
seconds, the Wolverine defense
barely had time to react to losing
the draw before their goaltender
had been beat.

PATRICK BARRON/Daily
Sophomore forward Travis Lynch is one of the Michigan hockey team's primary faceoff-takers.

"I think (the goal) was just
a communication error," said
sophomore forward Travis
Lynch. "I know the defensemen
didn't talk to the forwards on
that one, so that's why there's
some confusion on that. It cost
us for sure."
That goal reflected the worst
of the faceoffs in the Miami
series, in which Michigan won
less than half of the draws. But
it's still a major concern, espe-
cially when the Wolverines con-
sider that they're losing most of
the draws in the most dangerous
part of the rink: their own defen-
sive zone.
On Friday, for example, Mich-
igan went 1-for-12 in faceoffs
in its own zone. As Berenson

points out, he can't expect the
players to win draws in their
opponents' end if they can't even
win enough to protect their own
goal.
Senior forward A.J Treais is
arguably the Wolverines' stron-
gest center, and Berenson usu-
ally trusts the captain enough to
pit him against the opponent's
best center on the draws.
But against the RedHawks,
Treais' position at the point
on the power play meant that
faceoff responsibilities fell to
someone else. It shouldn't have
been a problem - according to
Lynch, the team prides itself
on the draws - but something
about the system got lost in
translation last weekend.

"(We) have to take each draw,
make it more important and
really focus on winning those,"
Lynch said. "If we lose a draw,
then we have to get in shooting
lahes (and) make sure no one
gets outof place and is notopen."
Berenson didn't even try to
hide his frustration about the
faceoffs after the series. Though
he plans to put more emphasis
on draws in practice this week,
there's still no guarantee of any
improvement during games.
"Part of it is mental and the
other part of it is actually tech-
nique and working on it," Beren-
son said. "We will definitely be
working on faceoffs. And we
have been (working at it) enough
to be better at it than we are."

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