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September 23, 2013 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 2013-09-23

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4B - September 23, 2013

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

FOOTBALL
Morgan, defense bail
out stagnant offense

Fifth-year senior running back Fitzgerald Toussaint had his best game of the year against Connecticut. He rushed for 120 yards on 24 carries with two touchdowns.
the end, Fitz carries offense

By LIZ VUKELICH
Daily SportsEditor
EAST HARTFORD, Conn. -
There's one thing that Michigan
defensive coordinator Greg Mat-
tison never wants to leave for a
road trip without. At times, it
seemed like the
Michigan foot- NOTEBOOK
ball team left
it in Ann Arbor, but luckily for
them, junior linebacker Desmond
Morgan remembered to bring it to
Connecticut.
"(Mattison) tells us every
time we go on the road you've
got to pack your defense, you've
got to pack your championship
effort," Morgan said. "He always
preaches to us we always have to
step up and hold opponents to as
little yards as we can and keep the
points off the boards."
Morgan remembering to bring
that effort can certainly be called
the turning point in the game for
Michigan. His fourth-quarter,
one-armed interception that he
returned for 29 yards compen-
sated for the Wolverines' stagnant
offense and led them to a 24-21
win over the Huskies.
Morgan said all he had to do
was read the quarterback's eyes
and he knew where the ball was
going to be. As soon as he caught
it, his high school running back
days kicked in and he set up an
easy touchdown for the Wolver-
ines.
Michigan coach Brady Hoke
acknowledged that, even though
the defense didn't truly pick up
until the end of the game, it still
played "awfully hard" during the
lackluster first half.
Though Morgan's interception
was the highlight of the Wolver-
ines' performance, Hoke also
made sure to mention the pass
rush - an area of concern that
Mattison took upon himself to fix
in the week of practice leading up
to UConn.
According to junior defensive

end Frank Clark, the Wolverines
live for those fourth-quarter big
defensive plays. Clark, who bold-
ly predicted double digit sacks
for himself this season, finally
notched his first two on Saturday.
"When you get the game and
you're able to have the game put
on the defense's back that's what
we come here for," Clark said.
"We come here for those situa-
tions like this."
SPECIAL TEAM'S SPECIAL-
TIES: Between Morgan's big
moment and the absence of any
huge offensive plays, it would be
easy to overlook one of the most
consistent aspects of Michigan's
game all night: its special teams
performance.
The Wolverines reverted back
to senior wide receiver Drew
Dileo handling punt returns,
partly due to his veteran status,
and partly due to the breezy con-
ditions on the field.
"I think tonight, the (UConn
punter) in the two previous games
sprayed the ball around a little
bit," Hoke said. "To have a guy
who has that experience is always
good."
Michigan also saw more pro-
duction from junior kicker Matt
Wile. Wile struggled in the pre-
vious week, with either too many
kicks out of bounds or ones he just
shanked. On Saturday, though,
Wile averaged 42.4 yards on five
punts, prompting praise from
Hoke.
RESTING GARDNER: Hoke said
that Michiganhadno seriousinju-
ries, but that redshirt junior quar-
terback Devin Gardner would use
the upcoming bye week to recover
from a few big hits he took. In the
preseason, Gardner said it was
going to be a goal of his to run out
of bounds more frequently to try
and avoid unnecessary hits.
"I'm sure he's banged up," Hoke
said. "He took some licks and
sometimes he puts himself in that
position because he's competitive
and tries to get that extra yard."

By EVERETT COOK
Daily Sports Editor
EAST HARTFORD, Conn. -
The breakout performance of the
man once sidelined by a broken
leg came in a game where every-
thing on offense seemed to be
broken except the way he carried
the ball.
For the second week in a row,
redshirt junior quarterback
Devin Gardner had his worst
game as a college quarterback,
and for the second week in a
row, the Michigan football team
needed fifth-year senior running
back Fitzgerald Toussaint more
than ever.
Against Akron last week,
more than SO rushing yards were
called back due to penalties. The
game ended on an incomplete
pass in the end zone that was
about 6 inches away from being
caught.
On Saturday, the game ended

with a victory formation. This
time, there was nothing to bring
Toussaint back. He scampered
for 120 yards and two touch-
downs, leading the Wolverines
to a 24-21 win over Connecticut
in his best game of the season.
It was the first time a Michigan
running back had 100 yards in
a game since he had 120 against
Ohio State in 2011.
Toussaint hasn't necessarily
struggled this season, but until
Saturday, he hadn't exactly car-
ried the offense, either.
Part ofthat was due to a young,
inexperienced offensive line. It's
hard to run through holes that
aren't there. And those problems
didn't go away on Saturday - the
line continued to struggle, espe-
cially at the point of attack in the
interior.
Still, Toussaint made it work,
particularly toward the end of
the game. With Michigan down
two touchdowns, he got a pitch

on UConn's 40-yard line from
Gardner, who was pummeled as
he released the ball. It was an
option pitch, the same one that
Gardner fumbled last week.
Gashing through the line of
scrimmage, Toussaint cut toward
the Husky sideline and ran later-
ally for seven yards before juk-
ing his way to the end zone for a
35-yard touchdown run. That got
Michigan back in the game.
"Before the play started, I
know it would have to be a quick
pitch just like last week," Gard-
ner said. "This week I responded
early and pitched it and the result
was a touchdown. It was a great
run from Fitz."
Then, in the fourth quarter,
junior linebacker Desmond Mor-
gan made the play of the game on
a one-handed interception.
His long return set up Tous-
saint, who took a handoff on the
next play and slashed diagonally
toward the end zone to tie the

game.
The offensive play-calling
had to get conservative after
another onslaught of turnovers
from Gardner, which meant that
Toussaint had a bigger role than
in past weeks. Through the first
three weeks of the season, he
was averaging 3.4 yards a carry
and hadn't crossed the 200-yard
threshold yet.
Now, he's leading the team
in rushing for the first time this
season. Gardner is undoubtedly
the team leader on offense, but if
his awful turnover pace contin-
ues, Toussaint is going to have to
be the one to pick up the slack.
The Wolverines go into the
bye week with more questions
than answers on offense. Michi-
gan coach Brady Hoke said his
offense had a "major league
problem" with turnovers.
And yet, in a broken offense,
the guy who recovered from a
broken leg might be the key.

THE MICHIGAN DAILY TOP-10 POLL
Each week, Daily sports staffers fill out ballots, with first place votes receiving 10 points, second-place votes receiving nine, and so on.

6

1. ALABAMA (18): 2.OREGON: With the 3. CLEMSON: By playing
Alabama played its first week off, the Ducks were . on Thursday, the Tigers
home game this week. forced to wear normal enjoyed a second-straight
Huh. street clothes, thus quiet weekend with all- .,
restoringthe vision of night study sessions and
half of America. unlimited ice cream.

4. OHIO STATE: The
Buckeyes scored 76
points. FAMU had 80
yards of offense.

5.STANFORD: The nerds
beat the partygoers and
the engineers got the girl.
All is wrong.

0

6. TEXAS A&M: Johnny 7. LOUISVILLE: FIU had 8. GEORGIA: Woof.
M Football was left shaking three rushing yards.
his head after only Three.
playing two-plus quarters
against SMU. SMH, SMU.

9. LSU: In the battle 10. SOUTH CAROLINA:
of the Tigers at Tiger The Cocks were spent
Stadium, the Tigers won. after pounding Vanderbilt
and hung loose during the
bye week.

STAFF PICKS
The Daily football writers do their best
to predict, against the spread, what
happens in the 2013 football season.
No. 15 Michigan (-18) at Connecticut
No.1 Alabama (-39.5) vs Colorado State
No. 3 Clemson(-14.5) at North Carolina State
No. 4 Ohio State (No line) vs Florida A&M
No.5Stanford (-7.5) vs Ariona State
No. 6 LSU (-17.5) vs Auburn
No.7 Louisville(NL) vs Florida International
No.8 Florida State (NL) vs Bethune Cookman
No.9 Georgia(-33) vs North Texas
No.10 Texas A&M (-29)vsSMU
No.13UCLA (-42) vs New Mexico State
No. 16 Miami (FI) (N) vs Savannah State
No.17 Washington (NL) vs Idaho State
No. 18 Northwestern (NO) vs Maine
No. 19 Forida (-16.5) vsTnessee
No. 20 Baylor (-19.5) us Louisiana Monroe
No, 22 Notre ame (-7)vs MichiganeState
No. 24 Wisconsin (-24) vs Purdue
No. 25 Texas Tech (27.5) vs Texas State
Minnesota (NL) vs San Jose State
owa06.5)s Western Michigan
Nebraska (NO) vs SDSU
Pann State (-21))us tent State
Indiana (+2) vs Missouri
This Week
Overall

6

Colorado State
Clemsoe
Ohio State
Stanford
LSU
Louisviltle
Florida State
Georgia
Texas A&M
Nee Mexico State
Miami
Washington
Northwestern
Florida
Baylor
Michgan State
Purdue
Texas Tech
Minnesota
Western Michigan
Nebraska
PenState
Missouri
14-9
58-42

Colorado State
NorthCarolinaState
Ohio State
Stanford
Auburn
Loulsile
Florida State
North Texas
Texas A&M
New Menico State
Miami
Washngton
Northwestern
Florida
taylor
Notra Same
Wisconsin
Texas Tech
Minnesota
WsternMichigan
Nnbraska
PenState
Missouri
17-6
59-41

Alabama
Clemson
Ohio State
Arizona State
Auburn
Louisille
Florida State
North Texas
Texas A&M
UCLA
Miami
Washngton
Northwestern
Florida
taylor
Micohigan State
Wisconsin
Texas Tech
Minnesota
Western Michigan
Nebraska
Pene State
Missouri
17-6
66-34

Colorado State
Clemson
Ohio State
ArisonaState
LSU
Louisvlle
Florida State
North Texas
SMU
UCLA
Miami
Washington
Northwestern
Florida
Baylor
NotrelDame
Wisconsin
Texas Tech
Minnesota
Iowa
Nebraska
Penn State
Missouri
16-7
y07-43

Alabama
Clemson
Ohio State
Stanfard
Auburn
Leuisoille
Florida State
Georgia
Texas A&M
New Mexico Stole
Miami
Washington
Northwestern
Floirda
Baylor
Notre Dame
Purdue
Texas Tech
Minnesota
Western Michigan
Nebraska
Pen tate
Missouri
13-10
13-1o

a
S
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