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Herbert provides much-needed boost to UT defense

Herbert-provides-much-needed-boost-to-UT-defense

University of Toledo coach Tom Amstutz is congratulated by fans as he leaves the field at Michigan Stadium following the Rockets' stunning 13-10 victory. <BR> <img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/graphics/icons/photo.gif> <font color=red><b>VIEW</font color=red></b>: <a href=" /apps/pbcs.dll/gallery?Avis=TO&Dato=20081012&Kategori=SPORTS11&Lopenr=101209998&Ref=PH" target="_blank "><b>UT's historic victory </b></a> photos

The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
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ANN ARBOR - The University of Toledo defense has had plenty of critics the last few years. More recently, the Rockets hadn't put points on the board in a game and a half.

Defensive back Tyrrell Herbert took care of the second issue quickly at Michigan Stadium yesterday. In the Rockets' 13-10 victory over the Wolverines, the senior led the effort toward repairing the first as well.

Herbert's first-quarter interception and 100-yard return for a touchdown was the longest pick-six in UT history and also in the history against Michigan. He grabbed another interception at the start of the fourth quarter that led to UT's go-ahead score.

The Rockets shut out the Wolverines in the second half and held them to 290 yards of offense. Freshman Mark Singer also had an interception late in the fourth quarter to stifle UM. Herbert said the UT defense is better than the statistics show.

"You guys are surprised," Herbert said. "Us, we knew we could do this as a defense. Run to the ball, make plays and hit. Football ain't about what's in the paper or anything like that. It's about coming out and being ready to play."

The upset win was especially sweet for Herbert, a free safety from Pittsburgh who missed all but one game last year with an injury and came back for a second senior season this year.

"He went through a lot of grief and anguish last year with his health situations," UT coach Tom Amstutz said. "For him to come in and have a big play, I'm really happy for him."

In the first quarter, Michigan seemed poised to score the first points of the game, starting its possession at UT's 33 and driving into the Rockets' red zone. On second and goal from the 5-yard line, UM quarterback Steven Threet threw into the end zone and Herbert found the ball. He ran it end zone to end zone, his second interception return for a TD in his career.

"My read was the tight end," Herbert said. "He was a big guy, so I hid behind him and the quarterback didn't see me. He threw it, and I cut in front of him and went the other way with it.

"We'd been preparing for it all week. Everything happened like it did in practice, and I just made the play I was supposed to make."

From then on, the defense believed it could control the game.

"That's a big momentum swing and a big boost," defensive tackle Sean Williamson said. "Anytime the defense can put points on the board, it's a plus for the team and for the offense."

Herbert's second pick came on the first play of the fourth quarter. Nick Sheridan's pass intended for Toney Clemons was tipped, and Herbert used one hand to reel it in.

"When it's in the air, as a defense you think it's your ball," Herbert said. "I just went up and got it and just made sure I secured it and came down with it."

Herbert also had four tackles before he had to leave the game late in the fourth quarter with cramps. He was taken off the field on a cart with 10 1/2 minutes remaining, returned with seven minutes left but had to sit out the last few drives.

The three-time team captain has six career interceptions. He said the players' faith in each other pulled them through a three-game losing streak.

"I know we lost three games, but those were mental mistakes and those were things we could fix," Herbert said. "We came here tonight ready to fix them.

"[The win] makes a statement that we're back," Herbert said.

"We're back on track as a team."

Contact Maureen Fulton at:

mfulton@theblade.com

or 419-724-6160.

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