- Ruby Wallau/Daily
By Liz Vukelich , Daily Sports Editor
Published October 12, 2013
STATE COLLEGE — Taylor Lewan is perhaps the most rock-solid player on the Michigan football team, who rarely has difficulty shaking off adversity.
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So that made him the last player the Michigan football team wanted to see lying face down on the field in Saturday’s game against Penn State.
The Wolverines were situated in the Nittany Lions’ half of the field after completing a first down. But Lewan was still far back in Michigan’s territory.
Trainers went over to assist, and every time it seemed like the fifth-year senior left tackle might be able to push himself up, he grimaced in pain.
Eventually, Lewan started to limp off the field on his own accord. But as he approached the sidelines, he seemed to lose balance and had to lean on the trainers who guided him to the bench.
Lewan sat on the bench for a play, before pushing past offensive line coach Darrell Funk and marching back out onto the field for the next snap. But he was back in the locker room shortly after.
Michigan radio later reported that the high noise level in Beaver Stadium meant Lewan had to leave the field in order to better hear the trainers. And though he did later return to the sidelines, it was without a helmet, with no intention of playing another snap.
After the game, Michigan coach Brady Hoke did not comment on the nature of Lewan’s injury, but seemed optimistic that “he should be all right.”
And Hoke also didn’t comment on how that critical moment in the third quarter allowed the rest of the offensive line to crumble, and in turn, severely stunt outlets for offensive production.
Fifth-year senior running back Fitzgerald Toussaint had 27 carries for a grand total of 27 yards — certainly not ideal for the tailback that, for the most part, has singlehandedly carried the ground game this season.
And most certainly not ideal for Michigan, who called 54 rushing plays against the Nittany Lions.
Hoke didn’t mince words about the offensive line’s inability to open holes for Toussaint.
“It wasn’t good enough, there’s no question,” Hoke said, before adding, “we better take a hard look at it.”
Redshirt junior quarterback Devin Gardner was equally vague after the game when asked about why the interior line was lacking against the Nittany Lions.
Some of it probably had to do with losing Lewan, the only offensive captain. But then the Wolverines had to put in even more fresh faces when left guard Kyle Kalis was the next lineman to take a seat.
After the redshirt freshman took an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for an after-the-whistle hit, Hoke benched him in favor of redshirt junior walk-on Joey Burzynski.
“This is Michigan,” Gardner said. “If a guy goes down, whether it be Taylor or whoever, the next guy has to step in and perform. I feel like they did that and they did the best they could.”
Scanning the names of the five linemen on the field at that point — Michael Schofield, Chris Bryant, Graham Glasgow, Burzynski and Erik Magnuson — you’d be hard pressed to find anyone with enough to respond to Penn State’s pressure from its defensive line. Bryant and Glasgow were just in their second week in their positions as right tackle and center, respectively and Burzynski and Magnuson only ever saw time as reserves.
With the ground game going nowhere, the Wolverines’ attack became more aerial-heavy in the latter part of the second half.
After the game, Gardner was as exhausted talking about how the changes affected the offensive line as he did about his own shortcomings.
“They battled, they fought,” Gardner said. “A lot of guys got called on that wasn’t expecting to be called on, and they performed. We just didn’t finish as a team.”