Michigan LB Larry Foote was again named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after his outstanding performance against Iowa. Foote, a Butkus Award nominee, collected 15 tackles, including seven tackles for a loss--a school record.
A season when some picked Michigan to go 7-4 or even 6-5 continues to surprise and excite Michigan fans who saw the team comeback from 13 points down. But Coach Lloyd Carr refuses to look beyond Saturday's game against Michigan State.
Carr's concern is no doubt heightened because of the nature of the UM-MSU rivalry. The game's outcome could hinge on who protects the football the best.
While Carr says Iowa's was the best defense Michigan has faced this year, MSU has probably the best offense.
"Michigan State has more weapons on offense than any other team in the country," Carr says. "We'll find out how good this defense is on Saturday."
Carr says he was extremely pleased with the play of the defense and the kicking team at Iowa but equally upset at the way the Wolverines gave up the football. Michigan held Iowa to just 65 rushing yards but gave up three fumbles to Iowa.
"They (the Wolverines) don't share my passion for taking care of the football," Carr says. "They just give it away to the other team."
Avoiding fumbles has always been one of Carr's Commandments. Michigan coaches post newspapers in the locker room and circle photos of players exhibiting poor football protection.
"If we're not going to give the football to somebody who can take care of it, we're going to punt on first down," Carr says.
Carr credited LB Larry Foote with outstanding play against Iowa, saying Foote "played one of the best games of any linebacker at Michigan in 20 years."
But for most of the first half, things did not look good for the Wolverines, who were down in a 10-0 hole until Safety Zach Kauffman blocked an Iowa punt that Michigan recovered in the endzone. In the locker room at the half, Carr had some important words for his team.
"I told them, 'Look, you can't play any worse than this and we're still in the game,' " Carr says.
He was concerned about Michigan's inability to protect the football and protect QB John Navarre.
Carr called Iowa the best defense the team has faced all year, though he did not point to anything specific Iowa did to stop the Michigan rush. "They didn't do anything different, they just did it better."