Are the Wolverines Ready for the Illini?

An understandable lack of concentration prevented UM from dominating the Broncos on Saturday-that and an outstanding performance by Bronco QB Jeff Welsh. Are the Wolverines ready for an even better quarterback in the Illini's Kurt Kittner?

Michigan Coach Lloyd Carr saw a little of the good, the bad and the ugly on Saturday against Western. He said Monday that while it was understandable that his players might be a little rusty or even a little distracted because of the attention focused on paying tribute to the victims of Sept. 11, he was concerned about the plethora of penalties and a couple of banged up players.

"From a coaching standpoint, I was disappointed," Carr said. "We did not play with good concentration. Bad penalties lead to self-destruction."

Michigan was flagged 13 times on Saturday, two shy of the school record. The Wolverines gave up 111 yards in penalties.

Carr said he was especially concerned with the penalties Michigan surrendered before the hike of the ball. Those occurred on both the offensive and defensive lines, even with veteran players "who should know better."

Not only will UM have to reduce penalties if the team hopes to beat Illinois, it will have to shore up the pass defense, which gave up a career day for Welsh in both attempts and yardage. Though Michigan held Western to just 13 yards rushing, Welsh passed for 379 yards in 63 attempts.

Illinois Quarterback Kurt Kittner threw two touchdowns against Michigan and 352 yards last year in a losing effort. Michigan came from behind to win that game in Champaign, 35 - 31.

"Kittner may be the first quarterback drafted next Spring," Carr said. Kittner is bright, an outstanding thrower and knows how to read defenses.

Injuries also could be a concern for Michigan.

"We're a banged up football team," Carr said.

The most notable could be Chris Perry's strained left knee. Though Carr typically does not discuss the severity of a player's injury, it is believed that Perry's is not major and he could be back in the lineup for Saturday.

Michigan tailback B.J. Askew, who also had a career day (112 yds. rushing, three td's), will carry the load for Michigan. Freshman David Underwood also could see action against Illinois.

"Coach, I didn't want to make up excuses," Carr quoted Michigan Quarterback John Navarre in the locker room after the game regarding a couple of badly thrown passes late in the game. Carr found out Navarre had injured the thumb on his throwing hand when it hit a helment during a play in the second half. Navarre is expected to be fine for Saturday.

Carr praised Navarre's performance against Western, noting that the third year sophomore has improved with each game.

"He reminds me of (Tom) Brady and (Brian) Griese when they were at this stage," Carr said. "He doesn't get rattled."

And Navarre's size--6'5" and 240 lbs--is an advantage. During a safety blitz in the first half, Navarre was knocked down. On TV it looked pretty bad, but Navarre got right back up. The Western Michigan safety, however, was bent over on the sidelines.

 


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