- Alden Reiss/Daily
By Luke Pasch, Daily Sports Editor
Published October 4, 2012
Late in the second quarter at Notre Dame Stadium on Sep. 22, quarterback Tommy Rees and the Fighting Irish were driving in Wolverine territory. On third-and-5, Rees aired one out down the sideline, and Michigan sophomore cornerback Raymon Taylor was flagged for pass interference.
The contact while the ball was in the air wasn’t excessive, but Taylor never turned his head around and the ref threw the flag for effectively screening the receiver.
On third-and-goal of the same drive, Michigan freshman safety Jarrod Wilson very clearly obstructed the route of a Notre Dame receiver in the end zone and he was flagged for pass interference as well.
On the very next play, Rees squeezed through the line and fell into the end zone for Notre Dame’s only touchdown of the night.
Those third-down mistakes didn’t necessarily characterize the Michigan defense two Saturdays ago as defensive coordinator Greg Mattison’s unit played impressively overall in the 13-6 loss. But it was clear the young defenders were making mistakes, and they’ll have to use the performance as a learning experience.
“That was just a guy who had to get out of his backpedal a little faster and not looking back for the football and trying to get it out,” Mattison said of Taylor’s penalty. “That comes with experience. He learned from that.”
“I think that was just a tough play, it really was,” added senior safety Jordan Kovacs. “I just told him, ‘Hey, you’re not going to make them all.’ The key is, is the defensive back is like the quarterback — he’s got to have a short memory.”
For now, Mattison says he's merely proud that his players are playing hard. That extra effort, in a way, provides compensation for the inexperience that plagues the defense.
“It just showed that that’s the only way we can play right now,” Mattison said. “That’s our only chance. Until these guys get old, and these inexperienced guys get experienced, we have to play hard every day.”
As of now, Taylor is still listed behind junior cornerback Courtney Avery at the second cornerback position on the depth chart. But it appears on game days that Taylor has taken over the primary role behind fifth-year senior cornerback J.T. Floyd.
“It’s different from when you’re second string to when you’re a starter,” Taylor said. “It’s a whole different place. It’s a whole new world, basically. When you’re a starter, you got to make plays. And when you’re number is called, you got to make plays.”
Taylor is already making plays, even with his slip-up near the goal line on Saturday. Earlier in the game, on Notre Dame’s very first play from scrimmage, Fighting Irish quarterback Everett Golson dropped back to throw down the sideline to receiver Chris Brown. Taylor was initially beat on the route but recovered in time to jump up in front of Brown for the interception.
The Wolverines were not able to convert the turnover to points because of Brendan Gibbons’ missed field goal, but Taylor did his part as a playmaker.
Because Taylor and some of the other young players — Wilson, freshmen linebackers Joe Bolden and James Ross III, and sophomore defensive ends Frank Clark and Brennan Beyer — are getting extra playing time and are accelerating up their learning curve a bit faster than expected.
Part of that learning curve is mastery of technique. Taylor knows that it was a lapse technique that led to the flag against Notre Dame. And it will serve as a reminder to him for the rest of the season.
“Play with your eyes, play with your technique and it’ll set you free,” Taylor said.