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September 20, 2013 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2013-09-20

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8 - Friday, September 20, 2013

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The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

S ports The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

TODD NEEDLE/Daily
Redshirt freshman Jehu Chesson not only caught his first pass but also his first touchdown last weekend against Akron.
What to watch or: lConn

By EVERETT COOK
Daily Sports Editor
1. Does Al Borges change the
interior offensive line?
All season long, offensive coor-
dinator Al Borges has said that
the starters for the offensive line
are penciled in. To be fair, the
tackle positions are written in
pen and then stenciled over in
Sharpie - fifth-year seniors Tay-
lor Lewan and Michael Schofield
aren't going anywhere.
The three interior linemen,
though, could be on the move.
Borges isn't pleased with the pro-
duction of those three spots, par-
ticularly in how the group is run
blocking. If there was any week
for a switch, it would be the one
before a bye week.
The trio of linemen - redshirt
sophomores Graham Glasgow
and Jack Miller and redshirt
freshman Kyle Kalis - had all
never started a game at the col-
legiate level before this season.
They've shown flashes ofcohesion
and talent, like late drives against
Akron and Notre Dame that
allowed fifth-year senior running
back Fitzgerald Toussaint to gash
the run defense, but haven't been
consistent enough to warrant the

same Sharpie treatment.
On Wednesday, Michigan
coach Brady Hoke listed three
players - redshirt sophomore
Chris Bryant and redshirt fresh-
men Ben Braden and Erik Mag-
nuson - who could potentially
see a bigger role Saturday. Bryant,
inparticular, drew abigresponse.
"Chris Bryant's a guy that
we've been excited about," Hoke
said. "He's been banged up a year
ago. Had a little bit early in fall
camp and probably right in the
middle. He got a little banged up
again, but he's back and playing
awfully hard."
If a change is going to come,
it will be now or during the bye
week before Big Ten play starts.
Saturday will be a good road
test for this young interior, but it
might be the last chance they get
to prove to Borges they can be a
solid group in between the stud
tackles.
"We're going to continue to
force people to compete at the
position," Borges said. "It's that
simple. But to say we're going to
start firing guys left and right, no.
We knew if we go through this
there's going to be some growing
pains, and there has been in the
first three games."

2. Does Gardner make
another costly error late in the
game?
In each of the last two con-
tests, redshirt junior quarterback
Devin Gardner has made a costly
mistake late in the game, both of
which allowed the opponent to
get back in the game. Without
those turnovers, Michigan likely
wouldn't have had to sweat out
close finishes (then again, with-
out Gardner, the Wolverines like-
ly wouldn't have even been there
in the first place).
Does this happen again Satur-
day, in Michigan's first road con-
test of the year? All week, the talk
from the coaching staff has been
about Gardner making the right
decisions while also maintaining
the aggression and playmaking
ability that make him such a dan-
gerous weapon.
"Those are the plays you have
to say, 'Well, when do I cut my
losses?"' Borges said. "You heard
me say it with Denard all the
time. When do you do it? There's
a fine line between being a play-
maker and making a bad decision.
Sometimes, the playmakers step
over that line and sometimes the
playmakers supposedly step over
that line and make a play. So, as

a coach, you have to make sure
you keep them aggressive, you
can't scare them into playing cau-
tiously."
One way or the other, Gardner
keeping the ball out of the hands
of Husky defenders is going to
have a massive impact on this
game.
3. How do the young players
respond in their first road con-
test?
Early this week, UConn
announced that the game Sat-
urday had already sold out, and
that it will be the largest crowd
in the history of Rentschler
Field. Granted, there will be an
enormous Michigan contingent
there, but it will still be a differ-
ent, intimidating atmosphere for
freshmen or younger players who
have never played anywhere but
the Big House.
Why have the Wolverines
struggled so much on the road the
last couple years? According to
Hoke, it's "turnovers, turnovers,
turnovers," but that he has "no
idea" why they are happening
more on the road than at home.
On Saturday, look to see if
those freshman nerves led to the
turnovers Hoke so desperately
wants to avoid.
4. Do wide receivers not
named Gallongetinvolved?
Freshman tight Jake Butt -
who looked more like a wide
receiver than a tight end in spring
camp - is tied for third on this
team in receptions. But does that
say more about his performance
or the performances of the other
veteran wide receivers that were
supposed to make an impact this
year?
Besides for fifth-year senior
Jeremy Gallon, no other wide
out has done much to establish
themselves. Senior Jeremy Jack-
son has three catches. Fifth-year
seniors Drew Dileo and Joe Reyn-
olds have five and three catches,
respectively.
It's not just the veterans -
redshirt freshman Jehu Chesson
caught his first career pass last
week.
Against Notre Dame, Gallon
could do it all by himself, but it
won't be like that every game.
Who else will step up?

FOOTBALL
Can Wolverines
limit turnovers?
By MATT SLOVIN chance to redeem himself Sat-
ManagingEditor urday, when he could prove that
he is more like the quarterback
One week after the Michigan that torched Notre Dame two
football team struggled to beat weeks ago than the one that
Akron, likely the worst school allowed the Zips the chance to
on the schedule, Saturday's climb back into the game last
opponent, Connecticut, pres- week.
ents its own set of challenges. "The whole world's going to
The Huskies (0-2) are in be able to watch us redeem our-
worse shape than the 2010 team selves from last week," Gardner
that lost 30-10 to Michigan at said.
the Big House, but eventually Offensive coordinator Al
reached the Fiesta Bowl. Michi- Borges said he thought Gardner
gan fans might best remember kept his composure for the most
the last meeting with Connecti- part in the Akron game, and
cut as then-quarterback Denard that their in-game conversa-
Robinson's coming-out party. tions were centered around cor-
The Huskies have already recting the errors Gardner had
lost at home to Towson and made. Hoke, on the other hand,
Maryland, but because this will said someone as competitive as
be the Wolverines' first road Gardner can be tempted to try
game, Michigan coach Brady and do too much on the next
Hoke still believes Connecticut opportunity to try and compen-
is dangerous. He even joked sate for earlier mistakes.
that, because of the Wolverines' "The big thing about a game
youth, he'll need to bring nan- like that is, because you're play-
nies along for the trip. ing a team against whom you're
"Every experience will be heavily favored, there's a natu-
different," Hoke said. "Believe ral tendency for everyone to
me, I've thought about this a think that every time you get
lot." the ball you should score," Borg-
Coming off a season in which es said.
Michigan went 2-5 in neutral- Against Connecticut and
site or away games, however, its base 4-3 defense, Michigan
Hoke's main concern going on might finally be able to find
the road is limiting turnovers. room to run the ball that hasn't
Wednesday, he had no answer been there the past two weeks.
as to why the Wolverines seem Last week, Maryland ran right
to give the ball away much more through the Huskies defense for
frequently in away games. 224 yards off 43 attempts - an
But perhaps most alarming average of 5.2 yards per carry.
is that the turnovers have been The outside is where the Ter-
popping up at home to start the rapins did most of their damage,
season as well. Against Akron, and the Wolverines will likely
a defense that had previously need to stretch the field too
allowed scoring totals of 38 and because Connecticut's strength
33 to Central Florida and FCS is up the middle. If they can,
school James Madison respec- fifth-year senior running back
tively, redshirt junior quar- Fitzgerald Toussaint should
terback Devin Gardner gave it have one of his biggest games of
away four times. the season, and Michigan will
Gardner said Wednesday that right the ship that looked well
the week has felt like it might off course against Akron.
never end. He is itching to geta

Breakdown: 'M'should bounce back vs. UConn

By ZACH HELFAND
Daily Sports Editor
Only in college football can a
win feel so empty. The Michigan
football team was expected to
blow out lowly Akron. Instead,
the Zips came within yards
of one of the biggest upsets in
Michigan history.
The week leading up to the
Wolverines' trip to Connecticut
has felt different than last week,
though. Players spoke of embar-
rassment and redemption. They
said this week has been more
intense. The team feels like it
has something to prove.
What's waiting at the end of
the long week is a UConn team
just marginally better than
Akron. This is another game
Michigan should dominate.
Either way, the Wolverines
will learn alot about themselves.
Was the Akron game an aberra-
tion? Or maybe Notre Dame just
wasn't as good as it seemed. To
convince the skeptics, they must
not only win this week but win
big. If they do, here's how:
Michigan pass offense vs.
Connecticut pass defense
This matchup, as will be the
case the entire year, depends on
the play of redshirt junior quar-
terback Devin Gardner. If he
protects the ball, Michigan will
have no problem passing over
the Huskies' secondary.
That has been an issue for
him this year, though. So far, he
has thrown six interceptions in
three games and added a fumble
last week against Akron.
The good news for Michi-
gan is UConn's fearsome 2012
defense has been defanged in
2013. That unit, which ranked
ninth in the nation in yards
allowed, returns less than half
of its starters.
Last year, defensive coordi-
nator Don Brown was master-
ful at creating pressure. He left
for Boston College and took the
pass rush with him. This year?
The Huskies have zero sacks

through two games. That's
somehow even worse than
Michigan's pass rush.
UConn's cornerbacks are
solid but unspectacular. Byron
Jones is a converted safety. Obi
Melifonwu is young - he's just
a redshirt freshman, filling in
for an injured starter. Gardner
should be able to target his side
of the field.
Gardner usually isn't both-
ered by pressure, but he was
against Akron. That may have
just been a one-game abnor-
mality. If he doesn't rebound
against this team, then it's time
to worry.
Players to Watch: CB Obi
Melifonwu
Edge: Michigan
Michigan rush offense vs.
Connecticut rush defense
In the ground game, a highly
moveable object meets a so-far
stoppable force.
Through two games, UConn's
rush defense has been abys-
mal. The Huskies have allowed
an average of 212.50 yards per
game, good for 104th in the FBS.
That figure looks even worse
when considering the oppo-
nents: Towson - an FCS team
- and lowly Maryland. UConn
lost both games by double digits.
In the middle, the Huskies
are actually rather stout. Middle
linebacker Yawin Smallwood
is the defense's best player and
a professional prospect. He
already has 30 tackles in three
games.
Defensive tackles Julian
Campenni and Shamar Stephen
both started games in 2012,
and they weigh a combined 611
pounds.
Michigan's young interior
line has struggled so far in the
season, which could give it trou-
ble. So much so that Michigan
coach Brady Hoke and offensive
coordinator Al Borges both left
open the possibility of shaking
up the starters.
The Wolverines should find
room to the outside. But the lack

6

Offensive guard Graham Glasgow and the Michigan football team's offensive line will look to get the ground game rolling this weekend in Connecticut.

of an inside running game has
hurt Michigan this year, and
that's where the battle will be
again.
Players to Watch: MLB Yawin
Smallwood, DTJulian Campenni,
DT Shamar Stephen
Edge: Push
Connecticut pass offense vs.
Michigan pass defense
UConn quarterback Chandler
Whitmer is proficient at com-
pleting passes. He has a 61-per-
cent completion rate this season.
Problem is, he's proficient at
completing passes to the other
team, too. Last year, Whitmer
threw 16 interceptions - one off
the highest totals in the country.
Though he is mistake-prone,
he is an able passer. On the out-
side, Shak Phillips is a physical
receiver who has some speed
and could give the Michigan
secondary trouble. Akron beat
Michigan on multiple well-
executed fly routes. If Michigan
doesn't force turnovers, UConn

could do the same.
Whitmer can absorb con-
tact well, which is a good thing
because the Huskies have
allowed 10 sacks through two
games this year, good for 116th
in the country. This game could
be the spark for Michigan's non-
existent pass rush.
Players to Watch: WB Chan-
dler Whitmer, WR Shak Phillips
Edge: Michigan
Connecticut rush offense vs.
Michigan rush defense
UConn's rush offense ranks
among the worst in the FBS - a
trend for a significant portion
of the Huskies' offensive and
defensive units.
The state of the ground game
is especially dire. Through two
games, UConn has rushed for
a total of just 115 yards. That's
second-to-last in the nation.
Lyle McCombs is the Huskies'
leading rusher and was a work-
horse for the offense in 2012. He
is an adequate rusher, but lacks

overwhelming size, speed or
athleticism.
Michigan should be able to
dominate here.
Players to Watch: RB Lyle
McCombs
Edge: Michigan
Special Teams
Last year, with punter Will
Hagerup, Michigan was one of
the better punting teams in the
country. Then Hagerup was sus-
pended for the third time and
was forced to sit out the 2013
season. Michigan's punting
game has suffered.
Junior punter Matt Wile has
been inconsistent this year as
a replacement. His average of
34.6 yards per punt is third last
in the nation. Against Akron,
the shanks gave the Zips good
field position while the offense
struggled to find its rhythm.
UConn, though, isn't much
better, averaging 37.5 yards per
punt. It also lacks much athleti-
cism in the return game.

Kicker Chad Christen is
experienced and has gone 3-for-
3 on field-goal tries this year for
the Huskies. Last year he was a
middling 14-for-2L Despite the
punting woes, Michigan should
have the edge.
Players to Watch: Chad Chris-
ten
Edge: Michigan
Intangibles
Michigan has struggled on
the road, and this one should be
rowdy. The people who make
these types of decisions for
some reason decided to make
this one a primetime game. It
will be the biggest game ever at
Rentschler Field.
That's both in terms of oppo-
nent and capacity. UConn has
added 2,300 temporary seats
and expects its largest crowd
ever.
Edge: Connecticut
FINAL SCORE: Michigan 31,
Connecticut 10

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