For better or worse, season
begins or ends with Nebraska
By EVERETT COOK
Daily Sports Editor
For a team that has professed
a "Big Ten champion or failure"
mentality from the get-go, it's time
to put up or shut up.
Coming off one of the worstloss-
es in Michigan coach Brady Hoke's
three-year tenure, the Michigan
football team is entering a four-
game gauntlet that is perhaps the
.toughest in Hoke's coaching career.
Go 4-0, and the possibility to
play in the Big Ten championship
game still statistically exists. Win
one, and the underwhelming but
solid Capitol One or Outback Bowl
is in play. Win only one, or go win-
less, and the Wolverines are look-
ing at the Texas or Buffalo Wild
The renaissance - or continued
downward spiral - begins on Sat-
urday with Nebraska, one of three
teams currently ahead of Michigan
'*n the Legends Division standings.
"You know, coming off not the
way you want to start the five-game
stretch, the meat of your sched-
ule, Saturday is something we're
all disappointed with and every-
thing that we have to do from a
coaching standpoint and a playing
standpoint," Hoke said on Monday.
"Obviously, it was evaluated and
we all need to do abetter job. That's
just a part of it."
Even without star quarterback
Taylor Matinez - who won't play
in Saturday's game due to a litany of
injuries - Nebraska is a dangerous
Starting in place of Martinez
is freshman Tommy Armstrong
Jr., who is talented but raw. He's
thrown three interceptions in each
of his last two games, and wasn't
on the field when Nebraska com-
pleted an improbable last-second
Hail Mary to beat Northwestern
last week. That was senior Ron Kel-
' Armstrong will bethe first quar-
terback in the game, but don't be
surprised if Nebraska coach Bo
Pelini goes to Kellogg if Michigan
forces a few early turnovers.
"It's the same plays, same offen-
Rive line, same running backs, great
running back, great receivers,"
Michigan coach Brady Hoke needs a rebound performance from his team after MSU.
defensive coordinator Greg Mat- running back, fifth-year senior
tison said on Tuesday. "Taylor not running back Fitzgerald Toussaint,
being in there, I mean, their quar- is averaging 3.7 yards per carry and
terback that we play against will be has rushed for less than 600 yards
very good." on the season.
Regardless, the play of the quar- "All I know is (Abdullah) is real-
terback might ly, really good,"
be a' moot point Mattison said.
anyway. "He's fast, he
The star of the "...it was breaks tackles,
offense is junior he's a really good
running ' back evaluated and athlete, he steps
Ameer Abdul- over people. He
lah, who leads we all need to could be one of
the conference the best running
in rushing yards do a better job." backs we've gone
per game with up against. In my
more than 160, opinion he can
and is having one do it all."
Fifth-year senior tackle Taylor Lewan needs to keep his cool on Saturday.
share of turnovers, though, inter- in East Lansing.
cepting 12 passes so far this year. The offensive leader of this
That's before facing redshirt junior team, fifth-year senior tackle Tay-
quarterback Devin Gardner, who lor Lewan, lost his cool and was
has thrown 11 picks on the year and reviewed for a suspension this
has an interception in every game week for a dirty series of plays last
except for one, weekend.
against Minne- Michigan will
sota. need him, and
Saturday is "All I know is the other leaders
the beginning of this team, to
of a month-long (Abdullah) is be better against
test for this a Nebraska team
Michigan foot- really, really that might be
ball team. justgood enough
All week, good. to ruin the Wol-
coaches and verines' season.
players have "Well not just
emphasized that the captains but
of the best seasons of any running
back in the country. He's averaging
more than seven yards per carry
and has already rushed for more
than 1,100 yards this season.
For perspective, Michigan's lead
Defensively, the Cornhuskers
aren't spectacular. They are 70th in
the country in total defense, allow-
ing close to 400 yards and 24 points
per game. -
Nebraska does force its fair
there will be no hangover from the
wrecking ball that was Michigan
But that responsibility falls on
the captains and seniors, who had
their fair share of embarrassment
the whole group of seniors because
of what we ask of them," Hoke said.
"There's no question this is a time
when your leadership always either
steps forward or stays the same or
8 FootballSaturday - November 9, 2013