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October 11, 2005

Michigan's Hall: We had some guys kind of loafing

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. - About 110,000 people at Michigan Stadium knew Minnesota wasn't going to throw when Gary Russell ran 61 yards to set up the Gophers' winning field goal.

Why didn't the Wolverines stop him?

"After watching it, we had some guys kind of loafing," cornerback Leon Hall said Monday, two days after Minnesota's 23-20 win.

"The guys that were loafing, they know," Hall later added. "I'm sure they're down on themselves about it."

Some teammates and coach Lloyd Carr disagreed with Hall's assessment of the pivotal play, explaining that a cornerback and a linebacker got blocked and a safety took a bad angle.

"If there would have been anybody loafing there, we wouldn't have run them down," Carr said.

The Wolverines did prevent Russell from scoring. But his run around the right end and down the sideline was long enough to set up a kick that gave them their first 3-3 record since 1990.

The two-time defending Big Ten champions are unranked for the second time in three weeks after being ranked as high as third.

After Michigan hosts No. 8 Penn State (6-0, 3-0) on Saturday it will either have its worst start since losing five of six games in the 1967 season, or it will knock off a team many are raving about.

Coach Joe Paterno has led Penn State to its first 6-0 record in six years.

"It's a great opportunity for us to bounce back," Hall said. "It's a big game for us."

Michigan has beaten the Nittany Lions six straight times, but the two storied programs haven't met since 2002.

As they have all season, the Wolverines will scramble their lineup because of injuries.

Starting safeties Willis Barringer and Brandent Englemon went down with undisclosed injuries against Minnesota, and both might be replaced by inexperienced underclassmen. Defensive ends Rondell Biggs and Jeremy Van Alstyne will also miss the Penn State game.

On offense, Carr expects standout right tackle Jake Long to be back during the regular season and said receiver Adrian Arrington could come back.

Several other key players have missed games this season, but the Wolverines refuse to point to injuries as an excuse for their lackluster season.

"It happens every week, every year," defensive tackle Pat Massey said. "You lose a starter and you have to replace him. That's what happens at Michigan and at every school in the country. That's something we're more than capable of overcoming."

The Wolverines have earned 30 straight bowl bids, the longest streak in the nation, but they have to win three of their final five games to qualify this season.

After hosting Penn State, they play on the road against Iowa and Northwestern and finish the regular season at home against Indiana and Ohio State.

Michigan insists it has enough talent to beat anybody on the schedule, but what if its potential is not reached?

"That would be something that would haunt us," tight end Tim Massaquoi said.

For more coverage of the Michigan Wolverines, check out TheWolverine.com.

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