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September 07, 2012 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 2012-09-07
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a s' t bu a
Michigan looks to- rebound against Air Force

U U

v W

By ZACH HELFAND
Daily Sports Editor
This week, the pregame discus-
sion was again about unmatched
recrtsiting classes. The dialogue
touched on size disparities and
about game-
changing speed Air Force at
that one side had Michi
and the other side
didn't. Only this Matchup: Air
week, the roles Force 1-0;
are reversed. Michigan 0-1
Michigan, in When: Satur-
week two, had day 3:30 P.M.
suddenly become Where: Michi-
Alabama circa gan Stadium
week one. TV/Radio:
"They're pret- ABC
ty darn quick,"
said Air Force
coach Troy Calhoun. "They're
pretty darn big.
"And they're very, very good.
They're gonna have a bunch of guys
out there that had a bunch of stars
after their name when they were in
high school."
Sounds familiar, and for No. 19
Michigan, its task this week should
be familiar: Prove it can dominate
Air Force just as Alabama dominat-
ed Michigan. This week, the gap in
talent and athleticism is arguably
larger, but that might not show on
the field.
If Alabama wins through the
sheer force of its talent, Air Force
wins despite its lack of talent. The
Falcons move, they pitch, they pull
and block downfield. They fake,
they counter and they option, and
when your head starts spinning,
they throw play-action passes over
it.
Earlier this week, -senior defen-
sive end Craig Roh likened the Air
Force triple-option attack to "mass
chaos".
"There's Army in there, there's
Navy in there," said Michigan
coach Brady Hoke, who referred to
the other service academies' offen-
sive systems. "The midline series,
the veer series, but then there's also
some pro-style offense. They give
you a lot of looks, a lot of different
formations. There's a lot of window
dressing that goes along with it."
Calhoun said this year's
iteration of the triple-option

relies more heavily than in years
past on zone reads and toss sweeps
with a good amount of play action
passing. The Falcons are built to
feast on a Michigan defense that
looked unsure and undisciplined
last Saturday.
"If your eyes aren't where they
need to be, if you're not physical at
the line of scrimmage,you're going
to have problems," Hoke said.
Against Idaho Statelast week,
Air Force rushed for 484 yards,
an average of 8.3 per attempt, and
scored an other-worldly seven
touchdowns on the ground.-
Michigandid not face a triple-
option offense last year, and they
won't face another aside from the
Falcons in 2012. Defenses, even
strong ones, that are unfamiliar
with the Air Force offense tend to
struggle. The Falcons gained more
than 400 yards of total offense
against its three toughest oppo-
nents last year - Notre Dame, TCU
and Boise State - including 565
yards against the Irish.
Compare that to teams accus-
tomed to defending the triple
option, Army and Navy, both of
which held Air Force to less than
400 yards. The Falcons gained
more than 250 more yards against
Notre Dame than they did facing
the Midshipmen.
"As a coach I'll be dead honest
with you," said defensive coordi-
nator Greg Mattison. "I don't care
who you're playing, getting 500
yards is a lot of yards."
For a run-heavy team, Air Force
does not chew up much clock.
Opposing teams averaged slightly
more time of possession in 2011
than the Falcons. And opposing
offenses last year averaged more
plays per game (68) than Michi-
gan averaged last year (66).
Yet when Air Force establishes
the run (and doesn't score on a
quick strike), the wait between a
punt and the next possession can
be excruciating.
Michigan must counter with
efficiency, something which offen-
sive coordinator Al Borges admit-
ted was lacking against Alabama.
Senior quarterback Denard Rob-
inson completed less than half of
his passes (11-for 26) and Michigan
converted just three third downs

outof12. The way to exploit the Fal-
cons' defense, though, is through
the air. Idaho State completed 42
of 53 passing attempts for365 yards
and two touchdowns.
Michigan performs best when
Robinson ignites the offense with
his legs. After the loss to Alabama,
Borges said he pulled Robinson
aside and told him, "I don't want
you to think you lost the game,
although there'll be people who
want to make you believe that."
Borges continued: "We didn't
run the ball."
The return of redshirt junior
running back Fitzgerald Toussaint
from suspension helps, but bynow,
Robinson is a known commodity.
To free up running lanes, Robin-
son will have to pass.
"You're not going to hit them
all, but if you can hit, you know, Redshirt junior ta
half your shots, it makes a big dif- able to adapt pr
ference in the run game," Borges All week, Mi
said. "People just can't force as quit. Ina way, tf
last. Michigan wa
"You completely change the nate? Can they
mindset of the defense when return?
you're plucking away at them in "Coach Hoke
the passing game." game of football
Michigan has the skill to domi- "And I think,
nate, but, like Alabama, the Wol- He paused ag
verines must impose their style in his head on th
and tempo on the game. tougher? Whose
Otherwise, Air Force will have game like (Alab,
a shot.
Of course, Michigan looks to
dominate play, but does so with SHOOTOUT
respect. Hoke said he addlressed From Page 3
the team during the week about
sacrifice and service. Special Teams
Someone asked Calhoun this If there was
week whether his team would be for Michigan la
intimidated by playing in front of freshman Denn
the masses at Michigan Stadium. ing kickoffs. He
Would his team crumble, like speed and agili
Michigan did, against a superior have been looki
team? He chuckled. man, and Hokev
"When you got to wake up when moving him to t
somebody's banging on your door chart this week.
at 4:15 in the morning," he began, Redshirt ju
"within 24 hours you've had all 'Brendon Gibbon
your hair cut off, and you have to talized in Mic
be dressed in a certain outfit in 25 "brunette girls"
seconds, and get up and do all these ing the 2012 Sug
extra push ups and flutter kicks at kick a field goalt
4:15 in the morning day after day But chances
after day, after a while, I won't say as good as hisI
you're numb, but you're going to be part Parker Her
able to move into a variety of ele- 15-for-18 on fielt
ments and environments and be season and misse

ilback Fitzgerald Toussaint returns Saturday.
etty well."
chigan talked about how the service academies never
his week provides an ideal test.
s dominated last week, but can the Wolverines domi-
regain discipline? Will the toughness, the resiliency
said it on Sunday, we really need to see if we love the
l," said redshirt junior tackle Taylor Lewan.
"he paused. "It's just..."
ain, this time longer, as though formulating the thought
e spot. He chuckled and then finished: "Who's gonna be
e team wants to be tougher. And we can't have another
ama)."

s one bright spot
st Saturday, it was
is Norfleet return-
e has the type of
ty the Wolverines
ng for in a return
wasted little time in
he top of the depth
nior placekicker
ns, forever immor-
higan lore for his
comments follow-
ar Bowl, has yet to
his season.
are he's at least
Air Force counter-
rington, who went
d goal attempts last
red his only attempt-

last week - a 43-yarder.
Edge: Michigan
Intangibles
Though many of his players are
relatively new to the triple option,
Hoke has prepared for coach Troy
Calhoun's unique offense before,
when he was coaching San Diego
State in the Mountain West confer-
ence at.
While there, Hoke split the
two games he played against the
Falcons, losing in 2009 and then
avengingthe loss in 2010.
A little bit has changed, though,
as Calhoun has since incorporated a
no-huddle offense to make the sys-
tem more difficult to defend. Also,
Calhoun has seen Hoke's defense, as
has Air Force's quarterback Dietz,
who started against San Diego State
in 2009.
Edge: PUSH
FINAL SCORE: Michigan 41, Air
Force 20

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