18-The Michigan Dily-Kickoff'5 -Thursday, September 7,1995 _
Northwestern ho pes
17conquest of Irish is
typical fare for year
The Michigan Da
Hayes and Toomer lead bounty of rec
By Scott Burton
It's hard to figure how a three-win
season can lay the foundation for a foot-
ball program's turnaround. But if you
know anything about the history of the
Northwestern football team, you know
that things are truly getting a lot better in
That's not to say that the Wildcats
are going to be dancing on a bed of roses
anytime in the
But for a team
that hasn't had a
since 1972, last
year's two Big
Ten victories (its
most in the 90's)
represent a move
in the right direc-
"I feel we are
at a point now
1994: 2-6 Big Ten,
"I feel ... we're ready
to make a move in this
- Gary Barett
Northwestern football coach
yard rusher and the Wildcats' top of-
fensive threat from a year ago, gradu-
ated, leaving a group of untested
sophomores to fight for the starting
role. But Darnell Autry proved that he
is an adept feature back, gaining 160
yards on 33 carries.
The quarterback spot was expected
to be an area of controversy, with three
helmsmen competing for the starting
role. The two returning Wildcats with
game experience - Steve Schnur and
Tim Hughes -threw a combined 18 in-
terceptions last year.
However, Schnur looked solid in the
Notre Dame contest, throwing two
The defense returns eight starters, in-
cluding honorable mention All-Big Ten
safety William Bennett. Yet the Wildcats
had only 12 sacks in conference play last
season and finished 10th in total defense,
so it remains to be seen whether
Saturday's impressive defensive effort
will be typical fare.
Perhaps the Wildcats' one unquestion-
able strength is their kicking game. Punter
Paul Barton was a first-team All-Big Ten
with a 43.0 average. Placekicker Sam
Valenzi has a strong leg and contributed
six field goals in the Wildcats' four non-
losses in 1994.
By Ryan White
Preseason predictions are a risky
business. There is always the chance that
when the year is done you can end up
looking like a fool.
That said, the Michigan receiving
corps will make an impact this season.
The Wolverines return one of the
top receiving pairs in the country in
seniors Mercury Hayes and Amani
Last season, Toomer became only
the third player in Michigan history to
top 1,000 yards receiving breaking the
Wolverine record for most yards in a sea-
son with 1,096. Toomer also found the
end zone six times in 1994.
Hayes' numbers paled in comparison
to Toomer's. He finished with 589
yards, but he has already proven himself
invaluable this season.
Hayes racked up 179 yards on seven
catches in Michigan's season-opening
win over Virginia. His biggest catch was,
of course, the game-winning touchdown
grab in the comer of the end zone as time
The relationship between Hayes and
Toomer is built upon friendship and a
little friendly competition.
"We watch film together and watch
how we run the routes," Hayes said. "I'll
say, 'Hey, I did it better today, you do it
Although Toomer didn't put up his
normal numbers in the opener against the
Cavaliers, he was just as happy to see the
performance Hayes put on.
"He showed a lot of skills that some
people were doubting and I think he
proved it to them," Toomer said. "I'm
glad for him because it's good for him
and the team."
Another receiver who will see exten-
sive time is redshirt freshman Tyrone
While not normally considered re-
ceivers, the Wolverine tight ends will
also play a pivotal part in Michigan's
passing attack this year.
Two years ago, senior Jay
Riemersma was a backup quarterback
who didn't know if he would ever be-
come anything more than just that. But
last season, after a move to tight end, he
became a pro prospect.
Riemersma finished last season with
33 catches for 336 ya
downs and he was an
All-Big Ten by the m
However, he's no
"I'm looking for
this season and provi
again, and hopefully
the guys I'm playing N
ing staff," Riemersm<
will backup Riemersi
two balls for 25 yards
ready to make a move in this league,"
coach Gary Barnett said. "We're prob-
ably a year away from maturity, being
able to compete in the first division of
this league, but we may be closer than
Notre Dame can attest to just how close
the Wildcats are. The then-No. 8 Fighting
Irish suffered perhaps their most humiliat-
ing defeat in over a decade in their 17-15
loss to Northwestern Saturday.
In that game, the Wildcats an-
swered a lot of the concerns that had
made them a preseason pick for the
Big Ten's cellar.
Tailback Dennis Lundy, a 1,000-
Flanker Mercury Hayes caught seven passes for a career-high 179 yards against Virginia in the Pigskin Classic.
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