Michigan Daily Sports Editor Kyle O’Neill is not a collegiate
athlete, nor is he a collegiate coach. But he was a starting wide
receiver for his winless team at Garber High School, was third in
Bay County in receptions his senior year and claims to know
something about the game of football. So each game, we’ll let him
and his 5-foot-10, 158-pound frame break down why Michigan either
succeeded or failed.

Janna Hutz
Janna Hutz

3 Observations

1. You hate to see someone get hurt because they went balls-out,
but kicker Troy Nienberg is an animal on his own kickoffs. He’s
already got five tackles this season – three individual. So, to
watch him get injured for running down to make a play is a shame.
Nienberg has also been one of the unsung heroes this season, as his
constant touchbacks have been excellent for the defense in terms of
field position.

2. The shotgun – the media hyped it like it was sliced bread and
it had just been invented, and the fans desired it like the turkey
leg on Thanksgiving. You saw hints at it, but it wasn’t a primary
threat like it was against Minnesota. Don’t sweat about it. It’ll
be back. Probably not like it was used against the Golden Gophers,
but it’ll be used against Purdue in situations where the coaches
want to keep Purdue’s secondary and linebackers back in pass
coverage instead of rushing.

3. For the first time in years, Michigan has talented depth in
the secondary. Jeremy LeSueur’s coverage is easily the best on the
team. Markus Curry has great closing speed that allows him to stay
off receivers a little more than other defensive backs. The
safeties – even without Marlin Jackson – are not allowing much room
to breathe for quarterbacks. If Jacob Stewart doesn’t return,
Jackson will need to step up.

Key play: 1st-and-10; 11:12, Third quarter

Explanation: I’ve been waiting too long to have a Steve
Breaston punt return as the key play … so here it is, sans the
lines and other players that would make a diagram impossible to
read. Essentially, this run came down to four parts.

Part one: Marcus Mason meet Steve Breaston … well,
actually say good-bye. Illinois’ freshman running back got through
Michigan’s protection nearly untouched to get within a yard of the
early-phenom. The two stared each other down before Breaston did
two quick juke moves to free himself to the left.

Part two: As Breaston ran across the field, credit should
be given to his blockers, especially safety Jon Shaw, who took out
gunner Eric McGoey and running back Alijah Bradley and who removed
linebacker Winston Taylor from chasing down Breaston. The redshirt
freshman then used his wheels to get him to the west sideline.
Illinois defensive back Kyle Kleckner actually might have had a
shot at Breaston, but his teammate Bryan Truttling took a bad angle
of pursuit and ended up tripping himself and the defensive
back.

Part three: This is where things could have turned ugly
for the Wolverines, but a heads-up play saved the touchdown return.
Breaston was turning around defenders so much that many were
getting hit in the back by Michigan blockers. But those like LaMarr
Woodley, who were setting up the final seam, kept their arms in the
air in order to stay penalty-free. Darnell Hood’s final block
allowed Breaston to make his cut to the middle of the field at the
40-yard line

Part four: No real analysis here. Breaston met up with
Michigan’s other punt returner Markus Curry and strolled into the
endzone with him.

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