- Said Alsalah/Daily
BY MICHAEL EISENSTEIN
Daily Sports Editor
Published September 27, 2009
You may not agree with the belief that center is the second-most important position on offense, the quarterback being the first.
But Michigan’s six botched snaps — including two that resulted in 20- and 22- yards — probably changed your opinion on the matter.
Redshirt sophomore center David Molk, whom Wolverine coach Rich Rodriguez called “one of our best football players,” broke his foot last week against Eastern Michigan. With Molk out another three to five weeks, fifth-year senior guard David Moosman stepped in against Indiana.
“I thought the line did awesome,” Moosman said. “I thought I did not do so well.”
Moosman was certainly not shy in discussing his shortcomings.
“Put the blame on me,” Moosman said. “It was my fault, because I gotta put (the snaps) right where they need them. And if they need them somewhere where I’m not putting them, then that’s on me and I’ll take care of it."
Granted, Moosman was returning from a shoulder injury of his own that forced him to sit out last week's game against Eastern Michigan. And the ball was a bit slippery from the misting rain. But Moosman was chosen to fill in because he had played the position in spring and fall camp, and Rodriguez felt “pretty comfortable” with his snaps earlier in the week.
Moosman’s bad snaps particularly hurt Michigan in the third quarter, when two of its three drives were essentially halted due to the negative-yardage plays.
“It’s a concern,” quarterbacks coach Rod Smith said. “We gotta get that honed up, and that was probably the only concern we had coming into the game, to be honest with you. We knew we were good block- and protection-wise, but the exchange is a concern, which is natural, because it’s a new guy.”
Moosman was also called for a five-men-in-the-backfield penalty, which is another part of the learning curve.
“We like to think that we can roll anyone in there and do as good as if we had Molk in there,” redshirt sophomore right guard Mark Huyge said. “It's hard to replace Molk — that's for sure — as you could see today.”
Warren’s “willed” pick: With just over two minutes remaining in the game, Indiana quarterback Ben Chappell and the Hoosier offense took the field needing a 75-yard comeback drive.
To start, Indiana went with a five-yard in-route that, according to Chappell, “really had been open all game."
Michigan junior cornerback Donovan Warren wasn’t about to let that drive get started.
“When the ball came, we both actually had our hands on it,” Warren said. “But I tugged it, tugged it from the get-go and so we were both wrestling for it, and — Barwis, Mike Barwis.”
Warren was referring to director of strength and conditioning Mike Barwis, who he credited for helping him become strong enough to rip the ball free.
But just as much as Warren credits his conditioning with Barwis, his third career interception was caused in large part by his determination to grab the ball — and poor camera angles in the official review.
The six-foot, 185-pound Warren looked like he fell to the ground with equal possession of the ball with six-foot-five, 214-pound receiver Damarlo Belcher. By rule, that would be the offense’s ball, but Warren popped up with the pigskin in hand.
As defensive coordinator Greg Robinson put it, “all of a sudden, (Warren) just willed it.”
Indiana coach Bill Lynch was understandably furious after the play, screaming along the sidelines and chucking his gum out of his mouth in disgust. He said after the game that he couldn’t see the play from his vantage point, and he wouldn't elaborate on the play that sealed the win for Michigan.
“He's a big-time player,” senior defensive end Brandon Graham said. “Big-time players make big-time plays. That's all I'm going to say with that one.”
Special contributors: Wide receiver Darryl Stonum and punter Zoltan Mesko have about as different skill sets as they come, but they both helped Michigan win the field-position battle Saturday.
Stonum racked up 218 kickoff return yards against Indiana, including four for 30 yards or more. Former Wolverine Steve Breaston is the only player who has tallied more kickoff return yards in a game in Michigan history, which he did in the 2005 Rose Bowl when he ran back six returns for 221 yards.
So far this season, Stonum is averaging 32.6 yards on 12 returns. Breaston never averaged more than 28.1 yards on kickoff returns for a season.
But Rodriguez knew the sophomore, who was playing with a nagging hamstring injury, will feel dissatisfied nevertheless.
“He’s probably going to be disappointed because he was probably within one trip up, two or three times, of taking it the distance,” Rodriguez said.
Just as Stonum set the offense up with good field position, Mesko gave Michigan's defense room to work by pinning Indiana deep in its own territory.
The redshirt senior averaged 48.1 yards a punt, including one that pinned Indiana on its own two-yard line and one that went 59 yards after Mesko kicked from Michigan’s own two-yard line.
Mesko became the Wolverines’ all-time leader in both punts and punting yardage in the first game of the season. Against Michigan State next week, he will likely become the only punter in Michigan history to rack up over 9,000 yards, a milestone that is currently 61 yards away.
The only all-time category in which Mesko does not lead the Wolverines in is average yards per punt. He sits in second with a 42.0 average — .8 yards behind Monte Robbins, who played from 1984-87.