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Mays, linebackers step up at UM

Mike Gilloon | Monday, September 12, 2005

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Corey Mays leapt over a Michigan defensive lineman, crashed into the backfield and hassled Wolverine quarterback Chad Henne.

After four years in a reserve role, the Irish senior linebacker was having fun – and establishing himself as a leader of an unexpectedly stout defense – during Notre Dame’s win over Michigan Saturday.

“It’s the Michigan-Notre Dame game,” Mays said. “How much fun can it get?”

Well, fun for Mays at least.

He recorded eight tackles, broke up two passes and teamed with fellow senior linebacker Brandon Hoyte to make Henne’s day not so happy.

The Wolverines’ sophomore quarterback was 19-of-44 for 223 yards with one touchdown. Notre Dame sacked him twice.

Irish coach Charlie Weis said Mays fell sick during the game and needed to be replaced by freshman Scott Smith for several plays. However, the sickness didn’t sideline him for a significant amount of time.

This is Mays’ first season as a starter and the first time he saw significant action against Michigan.

The fifth-year player has spent his previous four seasons playing mostly on special teams though he did start the 2003 Washington State game.

Mays’ teammates are impressed with his vocal leadership, especially in May’s first season as a major contributor to the defense.

As linebackers, Mays and Hoyte are like quarterbacks of the defense, responsible for making sure each player is in proper position before the snap.

“[Mays and Hoyte] are playing great. I couldn’t be happier,” Irish defensive tackle Derek Landri said. “They’re getting us our calls on our defense. It’s really call-oriented, and they’re doing a good job.”

Mays, a former Chicago (Morgan Park) standout, assisted on three tackles against the Wolverines during Notre Dame’s 28-20 win in 2004.

He was also on the field shortly in 2003 at Michigan Stadium when the Wolverines demolished the Irish 38-0.

With so many of the same Irish players suiting up Saturday as in 2003, Mays was unsure how to attribute the different outcome.

“I really can’t tell you what’s different,” Mays said. “We just made some more plays [Saturday] really.”

Hoyte made many of those plays while recording a team-high 12 tackles.

However, as a team captain with 15 career starts under his belt heading into 2005, Hoyte is doing what’s expected.

Meanwhile, Mays himself is one of the reasons for the dramatic change from the 2003 game.

He blitzed often Saturday, disrupting the timing of Henne and helped hold the Wolverine running back tandem of Mike Hart and Kevin Grady to a total of 83 yards in a game many expected to be high-scoring.

“We really didn’t know what to expect in any game so you just have to come prepared,” Mays said. “That’s why we practice all types of different situations – so we can come prepared.”

With this early-season success, both for the Irish and personally for Mays, the potential for overconfidence is high.

But Mays believes it’s his duty to keep his younger teammates hungry and prepared.

“I feel [Hoyte and I] are leaders on this team,” Mays said. “It really has to stay consistent each week. You know we can’t come out and be a one-week wonder. You just have to take it one game at a time. Each week is a different week so trying to get a big head is really not the thing to do.”