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Published: Sunday, 9/13/2009

Clay graduate Kovacs sees action as walk-on safety

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Michigan quarterback Tate Forcier was 22 of 33 for 240 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 70 yards and a touchdown. Michigan quarterback Tate Forcier was 22 of 33 for 240 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 70 yards and a touchdown.
TONY DING / AP Enlarge

ANN ARBOR - Needing a touchdown on its final possession, Notre Dame certainly wasn't short on scoring options.

Recruiting junkies surely remember quarterback Jimmy Clausen, one of the most sought after players in 2007. And guys like Golden Tate, Michael Floyd and Kyle Rudolph were all ranked near the top of their classes coming out of high school.

And then there is Jordan Kovacs, a University of Michigan freshman safety with absolutely no fanfare but a ton of will. A walk-on safety from Clay, Kovacs somehow found himself on the field at the Big House yesterday, he and his defensive teammates desperately fighting to retrieve the ball against nationally ranked Notre Dame, a game the Wolverines ultimately won 38-34. This wasn't just special teams duty either - Kovacs was responsible for covering guys like Floyd, Tate and Rudolph.

"He's playing at safety in the middle of crunch time on national TV," UM coach Rich Rodriguez said. "To me, that's pretty special. I'm proud of him."

Kovacs finished with three tackles, including a stop on ND's final drive when it wanted to eat up the clock to protect a 34-31 lead. Some walk-ons are recruited without the promise of a scholarship. Kovacs, though, just showed up at tryouts last year and a knee injury ended his season. He returned to tryouts this year and is listed as third on the depth chart at strong safety.

"He's been proving himself," Whitmer graduate Kevin Koger said. "He started on special teams and then played [on defense] today. It's good to see a Toledo kid getting reps."

MINOR RETURNS: Tailback Brandon Minor returned from an ankle injury that sidelined him last week and finished with 106 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. Minor rushed just three times in the first half - although one resulted in a 2-yard TD - but was a central figure in UM's second half attack.

2 FOR 2: With another touchdown reception, Koger has two in UM's first two games. He finished yesterday with four catches for 38 yards and a 3-yard touchdown catch from Tate Forcier in the third quarter. The hook-up was set up by a Notre Dame fumble.

"I guess I've been getting lucky," Koger said. "I jumped inside the defensive end and saw Tate getting pressure and I fell over the goal line."

GOOD DECISIONS: Rodriguez made two wise decisions in the fourth quarter. With his offense at midfield facing a fourth-and-14, Rodriguez elected to punt even though only about three minutes remained. His decision was then validated by ND not being able to pick up a first down or chew clock.

"I wasn't 100 percent convinced to do that," Rodriguez said.

Then, with his offense driving, Rodriguez kept his options open, neither pleading for or against a field goal attempt to send the game into overtime. Forcier hooked up with Greg Mathews for the win.

"Some guys, when everything's going crazy around them, you can see them change their personality," Rodriguez said. "Tate is just the opposite."

SPECIAL TEAMS: Forcier, acting as quarterback, punted for 50 yards and Darryl Stonum chased down the ball to pin ND at its own 4. Earlier, Stonum returned a kickoff 94 yards to give UM a 14-3 advantage.



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