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It's 'State'ment week for Spartans against old rivals

September 28, 2005
Junior wide receiver Jerramy Scott rushes the ball for 16 yards after taking the snap on a trick play, while Illinois defensive back Justin Harrison tries to make the tackle. Scott rushed for 32 yards on Saturday.

A 2-2 record this early in the season and an absence from the national polls isn't a familiar place for the Michigan football program.

The Wolverines' most recent 23-20 loss to Wisconsin puts them at an overall record of .500, and marks the first time since 1981 that U-M has dropped their Big Ten opener, leaving many U-M fans calling for head coach Lloyd Carr's firing.

Things don't get any easier for U-M as they head into the hostile environment of Spartan Stadium this Saturday for an annual matchup with MSU.

Michigan has been troubled by injuries to starters on the offensive line, and most notably to running back Michael Hart, who still remains in question for Saturday's contest.

Hart has sat out since suffering an injury in the 17-10 loss against Notre Dame two weeks ago, an absence that Carr sees as a major factor regarding U-M's season thus far.

"He's a complete football player," Carr said.

"There's nothing that he doesn't do well. He's smart, he's tough, he's competitive. He's all the things you want in a football player."

Carr said that he looks at the injuries and other factors as just another part of sports.

"Whether things are going great or whether they're going poorly, you have challenges," he said.

One challenge that Carr and the Wolverines must prepare for is the explosive MSU offense.

"They've got tremendous experience, they've got great depth at the wide receiver position and certainly at the running back position," he said.

"Their offensive line is big and strong and experienced.

"It's as good an offense as we've seen in a long time."

One piece of the Spartans offense that Carr is most worried about is the play of MSU junior quarterback Drew Stanton.

"He's really improved on throwing the football from the standpoint of seeing the field," Carr said.

"In the pocket, when he's dropping back, he's doing a great job. His presence there is outstanding, and of course he still has the ability, when things break down, to make a play.

"He's doing all the things you want a quarterback to do."

So far this season Stanton has completed 79 of 108 passes attempted. He has thrown for 1,148 yards and 13 touchdowns.

He has also rushed the ball 34 times for a total of 123 yards and one touchdown.

Alvarez finally beats Carr

In his last year patrolling the Badger sidelines as head coach, Barry Alvarez beat a Carr-coached Michigan team for the first time in his coaching career, improving to 1-6 all-time against Carr and 4-7 as a coach against U-M.

"We're certainly satisfied with the win," Alvarez said. "(We're) really pleased with how our guys competed, and hung in there in the fourth quarter and got the opportunity to beat a very good Michigan team."

Wisconsin will try to stay perfect on the year when they entertain undefeated Indiana at noon on Saturday.

Zook looks to rebound

Illinois head coach Ron Zook got a taste of Big Ten play last Saturday when his Illini were downed by MSU, 61-14. The game also marked Zook's Big Ten coaching debut.

Following the game, Zook apologized to the home crowd in his press conference.

"This was not the same team we've seen the past three weeks," he said.

"We're a lot better than what we saw today."

The Illini travel to Iowa this weekend, looking to improve their conference record.

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