CHAMPAIGN — After starting the season with a flurry of
turnovers, Michigan started to hit a slump against teams that took
extra precaution to hold onto the ball.

Michigan Football
Max Martin got his first extended action on Saturday. (TONY DING/Daily)

Enter Scott McClintock.

One of the Wolverines’ unsung heroes, the linebacker
shined on defense Saturday with two interceptions. Both plays came
at crucial moments during the contest.

The first came during Illinois’ first drive of the second
half with the ball up by seven. McClintock cut in front of Illinois
wide receiver Franklin Payne, picked off quarterback Jon
Beutjer’s pass and took the ball to the Illinois’
six-yard line. Michigan scored a touchdown three plays later to
come within one. But Garrett Rivas missed the extra point.

The second came when Illinois was driving late in the fourth
quarter and trying to make it a one-possession game. Beutjer threw
the ball into the middle of the endzone, right into the hands of
McClintock, sealing the victory for the Wolverines.

But that was not the only aspect of McClintock’s game that
impressed Michigan coach Lloyd Carr.

“I saw him make a lot of other plays today,” Carr
said. “Scott’s a tough guy; he’s paid his dues.
As a senior, as a fourth-year guy here, he’s having his best
year.”

McClintock has fought injury this year to become a crucial part
of the defense. Before the season, McClintock was slated to have a
consistent starting role for the first time after playing in mainly
nickel situations last year behind fellow linebacker Carl Diggs.
Carr said that the Bell Vernon, Penn. native was one of the fastest
non-skill players on the team.

McClintock suffered a setback when he hurt his leg against San
Diego State and walked out of the locker room after the game on
crutches. Although the coaching staff thought that he had little to
no chance of playing against Iowa, his recovery was so rapid that
he received select action in the second half against the Hawkeyes.
He then co-led the Wolverines in tackles with LaMarr Woodley at six
against Indiana.

Now McClintock was a crucial part of the defense in terms of
winning the turnover battle. Carr makes a point after almost every
game of mentioning how vital turning over the ball fewer times than
the opponent is to Michigan’s chances, so every Michigan
player will stress their importance.

“He’s played very well,” Carr said. “We
expected when we recruited him that he was going to be an
outstanding football player. I think last year he really began to
come into his own; he played two years ago quite a bit, and he
still has another year. To be able to step in there as a starter
this year and play as well as he has, it’s been a great bonus
for our team.”

Switching it up: Woodley, a sophomore outside linebacker,
has been a consistent starter. Senior Pierre Woods, on the other
hand, has mysteriously received less playing time this year after
being on the field a lot last year. Carr said that Woods was
injured, even though Woods would not confirm that this was the
case.

But Woods was placed above Woodley on the depth chart that was
released yesterday. Carr would not delve deeply into why he made
that change.

“Pierre has done a great job in every area,” Carr
said. “He’s getting a little healthier. I think
that’s the reason.”

Carr had just this to say about Woodley: “As I always say,
it’s better to be three hours early than one minute
late.”

Rolling the dice: Having already missed an extra point,
Michigan has decided to go for two occasions on Saturday. Having
taken a 22-17 lead on a run by true freshman Max Martin, Carr
decided that with the two-point conversion chances were better
going for two. Henne threw an incomplete pass.

He felt that, with the strong gusts of wind that blew up to 35
miles per hour and the fact that Michigan would have the wind in
the fourth quarter, the Wolverines would have been better off going
for a seven-point lead.

“I went for two because I felt like it was the thing to
do,” Carr said. “I normally am very reluctant until
late in the game to go for two, because I really think the odds are
against you. But at that particular point I felt it was worth the
risk because I felt anybody was going to have trouble kicking field
goals.”

Adding to the rotation: After Mike Hart was on the field
for every play except one against Minnesota, Carr decided to
feature Martin in spells against Illinois. Martin played well,
carrying the ball 12 times for 67 yards and a touchdown. At the
beginning of the season, Carr didn’t mention Martin among the
pool of backs competing for a starting role. But after the game,
Carr said Martin has made strides in practice and that he will
likely be used down the stretch.

Carr also mentioned that senior David Underwood, who started the
season as the No. 1 tailback, had a good week of practice and may
see time in upcoming weeks.

“We’re going to need everybody, and I think the key
is just that everyone keeps working hard,” Carr said.

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