2 QBs double the test for Lions
Thursday, October 22, 2009
By Ron Musselman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Michigan freshman quarterback Tate Forcier will face Penn State for the first time Saturday, but he already is familiar with the Nittany Lions' football program.

Penn State finished second on his list of college choices coming out of high school in San Diego.

"It'll be interesting to play against them," Forcier said. "It was pretty close. The thing that sold me was coach [Rich] Rodriguez and his staff."

Forcier, who has led the Wolverines' turnaround, is finally healthy after spraining his right throwing shoulder late last month and having a concussion two weeks ago.

Even so, Michigan (5-2, 1-2 Big Ten) will continue to use two quarterbacks against No. 13 Penn State (6-1, 2-1). Forcier and another freshman, Denard Robinson, will see playing time in the spread offense, although Forcier is the clear No. 1.

"Forcier's definitely become their leader over the first half of the season just because of the plays that he's been making," Penn State defensive end Jerome Hayes said. "When Robinson comes in, the difference is, Robinson is like a wide receiver at quarterback. He's almost unfair. He's pretty fast."

Forcier, 6 feet 1 and 188 pounds, is the passer on the Big Ten's top scoring (37.3 ppg) and rushing offense (235 ypg). He has thrown nine touchdown passes and four interceptions while directing two winning drives and a tying drive that sent another contest into overtime.

Robinson, 6-0, 185, is the runner. He has 312 yards on the ground and five rushing touchdowns. He has thrown two touchdown passes, but has three interceptions among his 19 attempts.

Forcier and Robinson figure to be a stern test for Penn State's defense, which leads the Big Ten in points allowed (8.71 ppg), rushing yards (75.4 avg.), passing yards (163.4 avg), total yards (238.9 ypg), tackles for losses (59) and sacks (21).

The Lions have allowed just six touchdowns and six field goals and have not surrendered a first-half touchdown this season.

"Our job is to get the opposing offense off the field and get our offense out there," outside linebacker Navorro Bowman said.

Tailback Carlos Brown is the Wolverines' top rusher with 336 yards and three touchdowns, although he has missed the past two games with a concussion. Brandon Minor has 274 yards and four scores. Overall, the Wolverines have scored 21 rushing touchdowns.

Outside linebacker Sean Lee, a fifth-year senior co-captain from Upper St. Clair High School, played for the first time in a month Saturday against Minnesota. He played roughly 15 snaps in the nickel package before tweaking his sprained left knee in the fourth quarter.

Lee said yesterday he was been practicing this week and "I think I'll be out there more," against Michigan.

Lee, who wears a brace, said he's still not 100 percent.

"I feel good for the most part, and sometimes you'll feel some soreness, and you just have to play through it," he said.

Many believe Michigan is a statement game for Penn State, which has won its six games by at least 18 points. But the victories have come against three non-conference bottom feeders (Akron, Syracuse and Temple), two struggling Big Ten teams (Illinois and Minnesota) and a Division I-AA opponent (Eastern Illinois).

The Lions' lone loss was a 21-10 setback to unbeaten Iowa at home in which they experienced a fourth-quarter meltdown, allowing 16 points.

"We'll look at it as a great challenge," middle linebacker Josh Hull said. "If you're a fan, this is the type of game you'll enjoy watching.

[HIGH-LIGHT]NOTES [/HIGH-LIGHT]-- Quarterback Daryll Clark said yesterday that Brent Carter and Brandon Beachum have been splitting snaps at tailback with backup Stephfon Green (right ankle) out. ... Clark said he's not sure he could handle the two-quarterback system employed by the Wolverines. "Obviously, it's not the ideal thing you want to do," he said, "but as long as you're winning and it's a winning formula, you really can't complain too much." ... As a freshman in 2005, Lee was on the field for Steve Breaston's kickoff return that helped set up Mario Manningham's winning touchdown catch with no time left, giving Michigan a 27-25 win. Lee called it a "demoralizing" loss. "From the kickoff perspective, a lot of us who were on that team felt we had lost that game; we had put our team in a bad position," he said.