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October 05, 2017 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily — michigandaily.com
Sports
Thursday, October 5, 2017 — 7A

Secondary to face new test against Spartans

Jim Harbaugh’s assessment

was brief, yet accurate.

“He throws very well, runs very

well,” Harbaugh said of Michigan
State quarterback Brian Lewerke
on Monday. “He has a penchant
for making the big play.”

Against Western Michigan,

Lewerke flashed an example of his
playmaking ability, taking a read
option 61 yards to the house — a
play on which he beat the safety
and linebacker in a foot race.

Through four games, Lewerke

has completed 84 of his 133
attempts for 963 yards. He boasts
eight passing touchdowns and has
thrown just two interceptions.

As for Lewerke’s ability on the

ground, Harbaugh might have
been making an understatement.
He leads the Spartans in rushing
yards and touchdowns, with 248
and two, respectively.

And therein lies the latest

challenge
for
a
Michigan

secondary that ranks as the
fourth-best passing defense in

the nation. Lewerke and the
Spartans present a threat that
this young Wolverine defense has
yet to face.

To this point, that unit may

still be getting overlooked on
the
grand
scale.
Sophomore

cornerback Lavert Hill admitted
as much. That’s what happens
when your team boasts a defensive
line leading the country in sacks
and a linebacker like Devin Bush
Jr. who has made the case that he
is the best player on the roster.

But it’s those same reasons

that perhaps escalate the threat
that Lewerke could pose to the
Wolverines’ secondary. Michigan
may have the ability to collapse
the pocket, but Lewerke has
a knack for escaping it. And
while the secondary has been
exceptional at times, it has also
been susceptible to big plays — a
busted-coverage play against Air
Force that turned into a 64-yard
touchdown reception being the
most startling example.

On top of Lewerke’s individual

ability, he has a useful crop of
receivers as his weapons. Felton

Davis leads that group, fresh off
a performance against Iowa in
which he caught nine passes for
114 yards and two touchdowns.

“Just from watching the film,

they keep their routes on when
he’s on his feet and he’s constantly
looking downfield,” said junior
safety Tyree Kinnel. “So I feel
like we’re gonna have a great
chance to get back there and push
him out the pocket a lot during
this game, so the secondary has
to stay on the receivers as much
as we can.”

Added defensive backs coach

Brian Smith: “(The secondary
will) face a good challenge.
They have good solid receivers.
They’re young. Felton’s coming
off a good game against Iowa
and he’s a threat down the field.
He’s a tall guy that they can go
out and throw him the ball and
then he can come down and get
it. He poses a problem, and they’ll
spread it around a good bit. We’ve
got our hands full.”

Still, the trio of Kinnel, Hill

and sophomore cornerback David
Long have plenty going well for

them.

The Wolverines are allowing

just 134 yards per game in the air,
rank second nationally in team
passing efficiency defense and
have shown an affinity for forcing
turnovers — recording three
interceptions for 52 yards and two
touchdowns.

The unexpected production,

in large part, is a product of
improved
communication


an aspect that Hill pointed out
Monday afternoon.

And when asked about it

Wednesday
afternoon,
Smith

acknowledged the same thing. He
said he couldn’t point to a specific
play or series, but that the Purdue
game stood out.

The Boilermakers, of course,

implemented plenty of trickery
and Michigan was capable of
handling it. In the first half,
Purdue posted 139 yards in the air.
In the second half, the Wolverines
conceded just 25.

But the one phase that stood

out to Smith was Michigan’s
ability to stop the jet sweep
package, a collection of plays that
he said have given the Wolverines
some problems in the past.

“The
communication
has

improved with the group as
a whole,” Smith said. “Again,
just seeing things over and over
again — the first time, guys learn
differently. Some guys learn in the
classroom, and other guys learn
by actually going out on the field
and doing it, getting reps.

“You can see it, when teams

give us different looks — maybe a
look that we haven’t seen before —
and we can adjust to it. That’s the
result of guys communicating and
getting on the same page.”

Michigan
has
faced
an

up-tempo offense. It has faced
the triple-option. And it has
faced a two-quarterback system
brimming with deception.

Now, another look is coming to

Ann Arbor. And if the Wolverines’
defensive backfield can adjust
to this one, its place among
nationally-ranked secondaries is
going to look a lot more legitimate.

ICE HOCKEY
Lockwood looks to be
more complete player

As the Michigan hockey team

wound down practice Wednesday,
Will Lockwood, as usual, was one
of the last players to leave the ice.

According to his coach, Mel

Pearson, that’s no surprise. It’s
why the Wolverines’ new coach
has
gained
an
even
greater

appreciation for Lockwood since
watching him from the opposing
sideline while coaching Michigan
Tech last season.

“That’s how you define a true

hockey player,” Pearson said.
“When they enjoy practice and
they can’t wait to get to the rink
and get on the ice.”

Due to a nagging shoulder

injury, though, Lockwood wasn’t
on the ice quite as much as he
would have liked last season. As
a freshman, the forward quickly
made a name for himself, finishing
with 20 points on eight goals and
12 assists — good for second on the
team in all three categories. But
the injury kept Lockwood out of
five games, and restricted him at
times when he did play.

During
the
offseason,

Lockwood had surgery on his
shoulder, undergoing a multi-stage
rehabilitation process he described
as “pretty tedious.”

“After you get the surgery, a lot

of it is getting your motion back, so
that’s the first month,” Lockwood
said. “Then getting some strength
into the muscle is the next couple
of months, and then after that it’s
strengthening it past what it was so
you can prevent it from happening
again.”

But Lockwood did see a silver

lining in being limited, and at
times, sidelined last year. The
injury helped him understand the
need to continue adding facets
to his game and fine-tuning his
technical skills alongside his raw
athletic attributes.

“I like to play a very physical

style,” Lockwood said. “(I) kind of
have to shy away from that a little
bit more this season. It’s not going to
change the way I play in the corners
or the way I have confidence going
into the dirty areas, but I think the
game’s changed a lot, where it’s
a lot of speed and skill. So that’s
something I want to focus on a little
more this year.

“The game’s always changing,

and that’s the side of the game
that everyone’s adapting to right
now, so I’m going to try to use my
strength, my speed and skill to my
advantage.”

And Lockwood has plenty

to use to his advantage. He’s
one of the Wolverines’ fastest
skaters — Pearson describes him
as “explosive” and “dynamic.”
Pearson’s new offensive system
also plays into Lockwood’s biggest
strengths by emphasizing quick
movement.

Michigan caught a glimpse of

that Saturday against Western
Ontario. Halfway through the
second period, Lockwood tore
after the puck on a breakaway
and was brought down near the
Mustangs’ goal. On the ensuing
penalty shot, Lockwood smoothly
sped towards goal, deked right and
calmly deposited the puck into the
net for a 4-0 Wolverine lead.

Considering
his
substantial

physical gifts, a more refined —
not to mention fully healthy —
Lockwood has the potential to
be a dominant offensive force for
Michigan this season. But even if
that were not the case, his passion
and work ethic have already won
Pearson’s endearment.

“A lot of guys think they’re

players or want to be a player,”
Pearson said. “But you have the
guys that really, really, really
want to be players, and there’s a
difference.

“He’s full out. There’s no

halfway or taking drills off, he’s
full out all the time. He’s just a
hockey player.”

Amid scathing NCAA scandal,
Beilein remains unblemished

Michigan
men’s
basketball

coach John Beilein can afford a lax
answer when discussing the recent
FBI investigations into violations
at college basketball programs.
He’s earned that luxury.

“I take a couple showers a

day,” Beilein said. “That keeps me
clean.”

Some
coaches
around
the

country, it appears, need to shower
more often.

Last week, the FBI released

findings of mass corruption within
college
basketball,
stemming

from payment of recruits and
the untidy relationships between
shoe companies and recruiting.
The FBI arrested four assistant
coaches last Tuesday. Louisville,
currently the most high-profile
school implicated, has effectively
fired its legendary coach Rick
Pitino and has placed its athletic
director, Tom Jurich, on a leave of
absence.

Lousiville is the first major

victim. It doesn’t seem likely to be
the last.

While coaches around the

country plan calculated responses
with public relations staff to fend
off reporters’ inquiries, Beilein
doesn’t have to sweat.

After all, he was recently voted

the “cleanest coach in college
basketball” in a poll of 100 of his
coaching peers.

Wednesday, when speaking to

reporters, a jovial Beilein didn’t
tense up, nor recite some painfully-
rehearsed plea of innocence.

Instead
he
came
to
the

defense of the integrity of college
basketball.

“How isolated is it? I do not

think it’s rampant among NCAA,”
Beilein said. “I don’t think the sky
is falling in college basketball. I
think there’s certainly some rogue
coaches. How many? Maybe I’ll be
proven wrong, but I don’t think
there’s too much of that going out
there.

“There’s a lot of really, really

clean coaches out there.”

While “the dark underbelly of

college basketball,” as US Attorney
Joon H. Kim described, slowly
comes to the fore, Beilein remains
perched above the fray.

He admits to having lost

recruits over his staff’s overt “tone
of compliance,” but notes that
those aren’t the types of players he
would want at Michigan anyway.

“People

whether
its

parents or prospects — if they
are looking for that, they’re not
talking with me or we’re off
their list immediately,” Beilein
said. “Because they know it’s not
happening here, so we don’t even
have to deal with it. It might not
get us some recruits. Well, we
don’t want those recruits that
come for any other reason than
what Michigan is all about.”

In 2009, Beilein was named

head
of
the
NCAA
Men’s

Basketball Ethics Coalition. He
takes compliance seriously and
doesn’t think he’s alone in doing
so.

“I’m not trying to put ourselves

on some pedestal,” Beilein said.
“Most programs are doing it this
way. I believe that deep in my
heart, most of us are doing it.”

Though
he
maintained
a

joking tone at times, Beilein was
unmistakeably stern in regard to
his coaching peers who do violate
the rules.

“If people are breaking the law,

if people are committing felony
crimes in our business,” Beilein
said, “then get them the heck out
of our business.”

“College basketball is my life,

and it should be clean.”

Beilein went on to commend

his team’s defensive grit, lament
the hefty travel schedule, detail
the trials and tribulations of the
incoming freshmen class, discuss
fifth-year transfer guard Jaaron
Simmons’ desire to make the
NCAA tournament and more.
He didn’t dwell on the black
cloud looming above the college
basketball world.

He didn’t have to.

Michigan falls to Iowa on the road

Despite the efforts of junior

outside hitter Carly Skojdt — who
posted a season-high 22 kills —
the No. 22 Michigan volleyball
team fell to Iowa on Wednesday
night in a four-set battle.

Skojdt put the team on her back,

as the next highest scorer for
the Wolverines totaled just nine
kills. Skojdt pulled together the
22 kills on a total of 59 attempts,
solidifying her role as Michigan’s
offensive workhorse.

“We need more of it,” said

coach
Mark
Rosen.
“We’re

obviously really excited about
how she’s playing — she’s playing
really hard. But we have other
players who can step up and be in
the mix with her.”

Coming off a strong weekend,

in which it beat Ohio State and
Maryland at home, Michigan
went into the match looking to
continue its hot streak.

The Wolverines started strong,

decisively winning the first set
of the match, 25-21. Everything
was clicking early as Michigan
maintained
a
.326
hitting

percentage, its highest of any set

during the match. The Wolverines
also racked up 19 kills during the
set, setting the tone early.

“I think we started out really

well,” Rosen said. “The first
half we played really steady.
Defensively, we did a good job, we
executed the gameplan, and the
first set we started well. But then
we let our execution go down.”

The
explosive
Michigan

offense of the first
set
seemingly

vanished.
After

that, its hitting
percentage
dwindled to .256
in the second set
before dipping to
a shocking .079 in
the third set.

The

Wolverines
still
managed

to put together
a respectable second set, only
dropping it, 25-22. Michigan
even started the set strong,
establishing a 16-11 lead, but a
composed and balanced Hawkeye
team mounted a steady comeback
to claim the set.

The Wolverines then seemingly

hit the panic button as Iowa

waltzed through the third set to
a decisive 25-15 win. Michigan
never led as the Hawkeye offense
found its groove.

With the end of the match

inching closer, Michigan made a
last-minute rally in the fourth set
to try and salvage the night but
eventually fell short, dropping the
last set, 25-21.

“(The team) played really,

really well, but I
think we didn’t
do a good enough
job defensively,”
Rosen said.

The

Wolverines will
look to bolster
their
defensive

unit
before

facing a talented
Minnesota team
on
Saturday.

Rosen will look

to leaders such as Skojdt, senior
middle blocker Claire Kieffer-
Wright, senior outside hitter
Adeja Lambert to lead the team to
a bounce-back performance.

“Those guys usually do a great

job,” Rosen said. “Those are the
players we look to, and we’ll look
to them next weekend.”

JACOB SHAMES
Daily Sports Writer

KATELYN MULCAHY/Daily

Junior safety Tyree Kinnel and his position partners will have to tackle dual-threat quarterback Brian Lewerke.

KEVIN SANTO

Managing Sports Editor

MAX MARCOVITCH

Daily Sports Editor

SAM MOUSIGIAN/Daily

Michigan coach John Beilein vouches for the integrity of college basketball.

VOLLEYBALL

JACOB KOPNICK

For the Daily

“I think we

didn’t do a good

enough job
defensively.”

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