Ready to Roar

Cierre Wood's return from a two-game suspension last Saturday helped secure an Irish upset in East Lansing. Now the senior has his sights set on the one that got away last fall.

Senior running back Cierre Wood has accomplished much in his two seasons as a contributing back.

The 10th-best single season rushing total (1,102), the most rushing scores at the program in a season (9) since 2006, and at 5.1 yards per pop in both 2010 and '11, Wood is the only Irish runner to top the 5-yard per carrier barrier in consecutive seasons since all-time leading rusher Autry Denson turned the trick in the mid-90s.

Wood's best game was last September in Ann Arbor, a 194-yard, one-score tour de force that coincided with the team's stunning 35-31 defeat at the hands of the Michigan Wolverines. In Wood's best career outing, the Irish fell short, and he hasn't forgotten.

"I was really, really positive that was the game," said Wood of Theo Riddick's 29-yard touchdown catch with 30 seconds remaining. "But you can't take your foot off the gas pedal, and that's what I feel we did. The results were what they were. This year its going to be a different outcome.

"Basically no matter how much you're up, you can't take your foot off the gas. Some people may look at it in a bad way if you keep scoring, but for us, all we have in mind is the game from last year and our main goal is to not let that happen again."

Wood feels he's learned from that defeat just as he did last season's prime time thud in South Bend, a 31-17 defeat vs. USC.

"Going into any big game with a lot of excitement, the thing I found out is you have to channel that excitement and use it the right way," said Wood. "A lot of hootin' and hollerin' that's not really going to do any good. You come out and you make plays. That will replace the screaming and yelling. If you can focus energy onto making plays every down, we should be pretty good."

Never lacking for confidence from the moment he hit campus in 2009, Wood never believed he needed to get his feet wet at the collegiate level. The Oxnard, Calif., native would rather hit the ground running, which is one reason why last week's win at Spartans Stadium is one in which he takes great pride.

"I hadn't played the last two weeks so I felt like I had something to prove," said Wood of his performance in the 20-3 win over Michigan State. "I think I did great. Basically I really wanted the win for my teammates."

Division of Labor

While Wood, along with most 'backs, would prefer every rushing attempt be his, the senior knows his position mates have talent that can't be ignored, and that in congress with another, the offense can continue to grow.

"The way we come in and come out makes it so there's basically fresh legs on the field the whole time," he said. "So its like (a starter) never comes out, as far as the running backs go. All three of us have a great amount of talent so (the coaches) putting us in different positions on the field will make our offense that much better."

"The way we come in and out, its hard to get a rhythm but as my coach always says, you just have to stay the course. Down near (his own) end zone they called on me and I got the job done."

Pressed for his greatest improvement from his days as a boastful freshman to an accomplished, equally boastful senior, Wood offered, "My strength and vision. Unless 3-4-5 people are there, I don't think one guy can tackle me. There was a play in the Michigan State game I made where I stiff-armed the dude, I even surprised myself. Coach always says, 'Throw at his chin, where his chin goes, his body's going to follow,' and that's what happened."

Playing in shorter spurts has somewhat altered Wood's approach. Fewer carries means fewer chances to make an impact, but also fresh legs when he might normally be spent.

"They say every play isn't going to be a big play, but I'm trying as hard as I can to make every play be a big play," Wood said. "Given the fact that we come in so often, I try to make every play a huge play or a 30-yard gain, just whatever I can to make every play a score."

Wood's first score of 2012 was likely delayed by a two-game suspension for an unspecified rules violation. The suspension was not unexpected, but it hurt Wood's pride as he felt he'd become a trusted team leader in recent seasons.

"It was terrible. I was just trying to be a great team player but not playing was terrible," he said of watching the first two contests. "You practice all summer and put in so much work and so much time, to not play those two games is heartbreaking, especially for me. But my teammates kept me up and I just cheered them on from afar."

The suspension might not have humble Wood as much as it refocused his efforts. Saturday night will be the senior's first home contest in front of what promises to be a raucous crowd.

Does his past success vs. the Wolverines afford an added dose of confidence?

"I have confidence going into any game, Wood said. "Last year we had a great game plan, this year is even better and I can't wait to see it play out."


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