What Could Have Been

You're darn right, they are mad. Michigan and Utah both could be undefeated heading in Saturday's matchup in the Big House. Both saw calls go against them in stinging losses. Now, both will attempt to regroup and prepare for their next set of downs, their next helmet-to-helmet bash. The trick is in controlling those boiling emotions.

Anger management will play a part in Michigan's game vs. Utah (12:05 p.m. EDT/ESPN-TV) on Saturday in the Big House.

Both teams are 2-1. Both teams are coming off hard-to-swallow setbacks. And, frankly, both teams are mad.

Carlyle Holiday scored a phantom touchdown right before halftime in Notre Dame's 25-23 victory over the Wolverines Saturday in South Bend, Ind. Television replays clearly showed Holiday fumbled as he darted into the middle of the Michigan defense. The ball was on the ground. He never crossed the plane of the goal line. Never came close, as a matter of fact.

"You can't print what I think," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said at Monday's football luncheon. "My mother would not be proud."

"Yeah," tight end Bennie Joppru said the loss left him angry. "I am pretty competitive, and we haven't lost that many games here. This is my last day of being upset about this loss and then we will have this week to prepare for Utah."

The Utes dropped a controversial 23-17 decision to Arizona, largely because of a blown call in the waning moments.

With 38 seconds remaining, Utah was on the Arizona 11 and looking to pull even at 23-23. Junior quarterback Lance Rice (6-2, 203) hit Josh Lyman in the back of the end zone for what television replays showed was clearly a touchdown. Instead, the official ruled Lyman did not get his knee down inbounds. The play was waved off. The Utes' bid for a big win over a PAC-10 team was denied.


Going into the season, Utah was the pick of many experts to win the Mountain West. The Utes returned 44 lettermen, including 13 starters, eight of those on defense, from a team that beat USC 10-6 in the Las Vegas Bowl a year ago. Leading rusher Marty Johnson (5-11, 222) tore his MCL and lateral meniscus cartilage in the fourth quarter of a Sept. 7 victory over Indiana. He underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Monday and will be out for the year.

Still, the Utes have Rice and a number of other weapons. He has completed 49 of 96 for 441 yards (147 ypg.) and five touchdowns. He has not thrown an interception. Junior defensive end Jason Kaufusi was named the Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Week for his career game vs. Arizona. Kaufusi racked up 11 tackles, including five tackles for losses totaling 28 yards. He also registered two sacks and forced two fumbles. Freshman placekicker Bryan Borreson connected on a career-long 53-yard field goal.

The timing of the matchup is a concern for Michigan's coaches, players and fans. The game with Utah follows on the heels of Notre Dame and comes right before the start of the Big Ten race, for the Wolverines a road trip to Illinois. Utah is no patsy.

"We are looking forward to playing a very good Utah team this Saturday," Carr said. "It is going to be a challenge for us from the standpoint that anytime you come off an emotional game like last Saturday it is a challenge for you team. We are looking forward to it."

The Wolverines' mental frame of mind will fall under scrutiny. Anger can be a good thing, if that anger is funneled in the right direction on the football field, if that anger is controlled.

"We need to get over this loss, and we are going to," Joppru said. "We have a big game on Saturday, and we all know that. We've seen what happens to past teams coming back after a tough loss. They do the same things the next weekend, and we can't do that because it ruins your season. We all understand that and realize that we have to prepare really hard this week."

There were some positives for the Wolverines to take out of their performance vs. Notre Dame -- believe it or not.

"After playing an extremely poor first half, we fought our way back," Carr said. "I thought defensively in the second half, with the exception of the big play that got us back on our own 3-yard line, we played extremely well. I thought offensively in the second half we played well. We ran the football.

"The first drive of the second half was stopped by a penalty. I thought we did some very good things. The worst play of the second half in terms of the game itself is when we turned the football over after running the ball out to midfield. We had good field position and fumbled the football.

"I think our offensive line protected the quarterback extremely well. I think the things that we have to get away from are turning the football over and penalties."

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