Hart: We won’t lose 3 in a row



Notre Dame linebacker Maurice Crum Jr. (40) and lineman Victor Abiamiri (95) stop Michigan running back Mike Hart in Ann Arbor, Mich.in this Sept. 10, 2005 file photo. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, DUANE BURLESON

By Larry Lage - The Associated Press

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Mike Hart didn’t meet with the media Monday, but Michigan’s star running back has said enough to last the rest of the week.

Hart guaranteed the Wolverines would beat Notre Dame in a packed, postgame news conference Saturday after they fell to 0-2.

He didn’t back off his comments when a handful of reporters surrounded him for follow-up questions.

“I honestly think we’re not going to lose,” Hart said after the Ducks dominated Michigan 39-7. “There’s really no doubt in my mind. After you go 0-2, there is no where to go but up.

“Get beat again? It’s not going to happen.”

Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis said he might have made the same guarantee if he watched his team get routed in its first two games, but he certainly plans to use the bulletin-board material.

“Will I say it to my players? C’mon, of course I’ll say it to the players,” Weis said. “If anyone wants to give you a layup, you’re going to use the layup.”

The Fighting Irish will have plenty of chances to make Hart regret those words because a freshman quarterback likely will be handing the ball off a lot to him.

Ryan Mallett will play in place of injured Chad Henne, making his first start in place of a senior who was the No. 1 quarterback in all 39 games since he stepped on campus and tied a school record with 72 touchdown passes.

“Our job as coaches is to give him a plan that he feels good with,” Carr said Monday.

Translation: Mallett will put the ball on Hart’s stomach a lot.

Despite being limited with a bruised thigh, Hart has run the ball 48 times for 315 yards and three touchdowns in losses to Oregon and second-tier Appalachian State.

He might approach his career high of 40 carries against the Fighting Irish, if he can stay healthy, in part because backups Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown have been slowed down by injuries.

Michigan receiver Adrian Arrington said it’s “extremely important” for the passing game to prevent the Fighting Irish from putting eight defenders near the line of scrimmage to stop Hart.

“We have to make sure we get off bump-and-run coverage so that we can get open, and take some of those men out of the box,” Arrington said.

Hart didn’t have to deal with any of this.

After finishing fifth in voting for the Heisman Trophy, the shifty running back could’ve entered the NFL draft and had Tuesday off like the rest of the players in the league and counted money in the bank.

Hart insisted he didn’t second-guess his decision after Oregon handed the Wolverines their worst loss since Ohio State rocked their program with a 50-14 slaughter in 1968, the season before the revered Bo Schembechler was hired.

“I don’t regret anything at all. I’m glad I’m on this team,” he said. “This is my team. I’m the leader of this team.

“It’s crazy to say, but deep down at the end of the (Oregon) game, I was telling myself, `I wouldn’t rather be on any team right now. I wouldn’t rather be getting paid.’ It’s going to test me as a person, a player and a leader.”

If Hart and his teammates fail to back up his bold guarantee, Michigan will be 0-3 for the first time since 1937.

“I’ve never been a part of something like this in my life,” said Hart, who was born in 1986 – the year Jim Harbaugh guaranteed a victory ahead of time over Ohio State. “It’s going to test me, and it’s going to make me a better person.

“I know we can turn this around. At the end of the season, when I look back and we come out with a great record, I’m going to say, `Don’t ever quit.”‘