One catch for negative one yards.
In the third quarter of Saturday’s loss to Wisconsin, wide receiver Steve Breaston made his only catch. Breaston lined up in the backfield and took a screen pass on the left side of the field. He made the grab cleanly, but, when he turned up-field, his knee hit the ground and he was ruled down, one yard behind the original line of scrimmage.
“I think we’ve got some guys that are pressing because they’re not playing like they want to play in every occasion,” Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said yesterday. “I think sometimes that happens. I think Steve may be pressing a little bit because he’s a guy that has such high expectations.”
Carr didn’t really explain any more than that, but, in addition to making just one catch, Breaston struggled as Michigan’s return man. His seven punt returns totaled just 69 yards. Perhaps the biggest mistake came in the fourth quarter when he was tentative returning a kick that made it into the end zone, resulting in Michigan starting the drive inside the 10-yard line.
“Well, he just made a mistake,” Carr said. “I’ve made a few mistakes myself, so I’m very understanding.”
The fans haven’t been as nice, and it’s safe to say that Breaston did not have his best game on Saturday. Statistically, Breaston is in the middle of one of his worst seasons at Michigan. So far, he has caught six passes for 43 yards, and he has averaged just 15.7 yards per kickoff return. His mother, Charlene, said she was worried that her son was disappointed with his limited role, but she said that, unlike last season when he dealt with nagging injuries all season, Breaston has been healthy.
Struggling is not something that Breaston is used to. In high school he was a four-star athlete and was rated by Rivals.com as the eighth-best athlete in high school his senior year. In addition to being a star quarterback – he converted to receiver at Michigan – Breaston also was a district champion sprinter and a varsity basketball player.
Last year, Breaston caught 34 passes for just 291 yards. But in the Rose Bowl, he put together the best game of career. Breaston caught three passes for 77 yards and one touchdown and also showcased his talent on special teams. He returned six kickoffs and one punt for 223 yards during the Rose Bowl. His returns and receptions combined with three rushes for 15 yards gave him the record for most all-purpose yards in a Rose Bowl game.
And that was a sub-par year for Breaston, who battled injuries for much of the season. His freshman year set the bar high. That year, he caught 38 passes for 444 yards and was second on the team with three receiving touchdowns. He also racked up 810 yards worth of returns. That year, he was named the Big Ten co-freshman of the year and also received All-American freshman honors.
“Of course Steve Breaston can be an electrifying football player because he has special abilities,” Carr said at media day before the season started.
Because of his play-making ability, the eyes of the Michigan faithful were on Breaston at the beginning of the season to provide the Michigan football team with a deep threat. With a lightning-quick first step, Breaston seems to have the speed to go deep. And Breaston never shied away from his increased role at the start of the season.
“I’m just excited to be playing again,” he said before the season. “My role has increased; it’s now on my shoulders. I have a lot of great players around me.”
Now Breaston, possibly one of Michigan’s best athletes, has to find a way to deal with the type of slump that he hasn’t yet been forced to endure. And since Carr won’t elaborate on what is holding Breaston back, fans will have to hope that Breaston can figure it out himself.