A passing fancy?

Lloyd Carr's son was a Michigan quarterback, and the coach, himself, loves to pass the football. But 20 times on the first 26 plays against Illinois? What's up with that? And who is the next Michigan star in the passing game?

If Bo knows running, then Lloyd knows passing.

Or maybe Terry Malone should share in the credit for the most recent evolutionary development in Michigan football. In the 20 years since Bo Schembechler handed off the coaching reins and the eight years since Carr was appointed in charge of the Wolverines' fate, the Michigan offense has undergone dramatic change.

Nor more is this a 3 yards and a cloud of dust clone of Woody Hayes.

Rather, this is a Michigan offense that plays a high-tech, spread-the-field brand of football. The Wolverines passed on 20 of their first 26 plays in a 45-28 victory over Illinois. How come?

Malone has put his own twist on the West Coast offense in his first season as Michigan's offensive coordinator. But there is more to the Wolverines' passing than merely keeping up the times or opting for some razzle-dazzle.

"I think defensive coordinators must be prepared to defend our passing game," Carr said after John Navarre completed 22 of 37 for 264 yards and four touchdowns against the Illini. "You must be prepared for us to throw on first down.

"Sometimes, you have to be predictable, though, because if you don't do everything particularly well, and you do have a few things you can hang your hat on and you're not a team that's capable of driving the football or scoring a great deal, then you play to your defense. There are a lot of teams that do that, specifically that team that won the Super Bowl two years ago.

"The object is to win, so you do whatever it takes to win. If they're stacked up in there, you have to be able to throw the football. You know I love to throw the football, but you have to be able to do both, in my opinion. You need to have balance in order to win.

"You could throw the ball every down and entertain people, but at the end of the day if you get beat, what have you done? You are trying to win."

Win Michigan did at Illinois because Navarre picked apart the Illini with short drops and quick throws, designed to offset the Illini's stacked line and heavy pressure. He threw touchdown passes to Ronald Bellamy, Braylon Edwards and two to Bennie Joppru, matching a career-high.

Bellamy, a senior from New Orleans, La., said this week another Michigan player will emerge as a star in the passing game in the not too distant future.

"If I had to pick out a person, it would be Tim Massaquoi," Bellamy said. "He is doing great things in practice. He is catching the ball well, running great routes and blocking better. He is going to be a great player here."

Massaquoi (6-4, 231) is a redshirt freshman from Breinigsville, Pa. He made the move from wide receiver to tight end in spring drills. He caught a ball in traffic against Illinois and showed he can be a force because of his combination of size and speed.

"I thought he was going to be a pretty good receiver because he is big, but the coaches decided to move him to tight end," Bellamy said. "It allows him to go against a linebacker or a strong safety who is not used to covering. He is used to playing receiver, so he can use the things he learned at receiver to his advantage."

The Michigan Insider Top Stories