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December 06, 1993 - Image 13

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The Michigan Daily, 1993-12-06

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I The Michigan Daily - SPORTSMonday - Monday, December 6, 1993-

fit wrong: A look back at the season

:l

I" y

ANDY DE KORTE
Judgement of De Korte

The season was only twoweeks old,
yet Michigan was already looking for
ways to salvage the season.
A MATTER OF TALENT
"Maybe we're just not that good."
-Moeller following loss to
Michigan State.
Playing weaker opponents such as
Houston and Iowa after the Notre Dame
game allowed deficiencies such as
Michigan's tackling problems and its
inability to sustain a consistent ground
game to remain camouflaged behind
the fact that Michigan had come away
with two victories. It was only a matter
time before these weaknesses would
exposed.
It did not take long, as Michigan fell
to Michigan State in the game follow-
ing Iowa, 17-7. On a miserably cold day
in East Lansing, Michigan State's of-
fensive line controlled the Wolverine
defense while the Michigan offense
could muster only 33 yards on the
ground, the first time it lad been held
under 0 yards since 1982.
* Particularly in light of Michigan's
season-ending28-0 humiliationof Ohio
State, it seems unlikely that Michigan
was not good enough to compete, but
perhaps that was the case in certain
areas.
On defense, Michigan had trouble
wrapping up ball carriers. The second-
ary was prone to giving up big gains as
the bend-but-don't-break defense was
t only bending, but also breaking.
'is season, Michigan gave up an aver-
age of 222 yards a game in air.
Offensively, four of the linemen
were new starters, as was the quarter-
back Collins. They had escaped serious
scrutiny at the season's beginning, the
line because it was Michigan and Michi-
ganlineswere alwaysgood, and Collins
because in two starts last season he had
torn up Oklahoma State and Houston.
* At times, both failed to live up to the
perhaps unfair expectations set for them.
"Just the look in his eyes, he looked
like he didn't know what was going on
out there," Michigan State corner Myron
Bell said of Collins after the Spartans'
17-7 win.
"We're not real good right now,"
Moeller confessed after the Wisconsin
loss. "And you know where it's all at.
up front that counts."
Perhaps Michigan should not have
been expected to win games, or at least
should not have been expected to win
easily each time out. It bears consider-
ation that this team, in many facets of
the game, was not as able as it and
others thought it would be.
WHAT's IN A NAME?
"It's just been like an attitude all
Oar that the team comes out and it's
like were going to win because we're
Michigan, just because of the name or
something."
-offensive tackle Trezelle
Jenkins following the 13-10 loss to
Wisconsin
No player on the team had failed to
win a Big Ten ring each of his seasons.
No one knew the sting of coming up
ert. There were no older players to
remind everyone that Michigan doesn't
always win the Big Ten. The Wolver-
ines were getting soft.
"(Michigan State) came out and
fought tough. I expected the same from
us, but I guess that didn't happen,"
Moeller admitted following the loss to
the Spartans.
Playing lethargically against a team

like Houston is understandable, maybe
&n expected. But to play like that
repeatedly against conference competi-
tion is cause for alarm.
"We're picked almost every year to

win the Big Ten," Collins said after the
Wisconsin game. "We did a lot of talk-
ing that maybe we shouldn't have done.
We're just as not as good a football
team as we thought we were. I guess we
were resting on the laurels of the guys
who went before us and I guess we
didn't earn it."
Call it cockiness, hubris or just plain
overconfidence - the 1993 Wolver-
ines weren't prepared for the long haul
of the Big Ten.
THE 'Lrrrsu NiE' GROWS UP
"They've got a good football team.
There's no question about that."
-Moeller following the
Wisconsin defeat
"There's no question, Illinois played
very well."
-Moeller following the Illinois
defeat
"I give Michigan State a lot of credit
-they played hard and did agoodjob."
-Moeller following the Michigan
State defeat
Between 1988 and 1992, when
Michigan had its run of five straight
titles, Big Ten teams had gone 80-90-5
when playing opponents outside the
league, including bowl games.
In 1993, the conference rebounded
with a nonconference mark of 23-10,
including wins over Boston College,
Washington and Southern Cal.
Another measure of the league's
improvement is that seven of its 11
teams will be playing in postseason
games, as opposed to only three last
year, not including Penn State. And had
Illinois not blown all three of its
nonconference games, the number
would have been eight.
In seasons past, with players like
Heisman Trophy-winner Desmond
Howard, All-American defensive line-
man Chris Hutchinson and an offensive
line that currently has four of its five
members in the NFL, the disparity of
talent between Michigan and a weak
Big Ten was so great that even if Michi-
gan didn't play its best game, it would
likely be enough to beat any Big Ten
team. That was not the case this season.
"When we played here last year, we
weren't sure we could win," said Illi-
nois coach Lou Tepper, whose team
snapped Michigan's 19-game confer-
ence winning streak last year with a 22-
22 tie. "Then we tied, and it was very
different coming up here this time."
Oct. 23, Illinois quarterback Johnny
Johnson completed a fourth-down, last-
minute touchdown pass to Jimmy Klein
to escape with a 24-21 win.
However, the coincidence of
Michigan's decline and the conference's
improvement was only part of the prob-
lem. The rest of the conference was
dying to pay Michigan back for the
punishment it had doled out for years,
and sensing Michigan's vulnerability,
did not waste its chances.
"Everybody wants to come out and
knock a team like Michigan off and you
can't give anyone the minimum, espe-
cially when they're in their home sta-
dium," Jenkins said after Michigan's
loss to Wisconsin.
PAIN, PAIN EVERYWHERE
"Anytime you lose a guy that could
win the Heisman Trophy you're going
to miss him"
-Collins after losing to Wisconsin
without Wheatley
For all the rhetoric and philosophiz-
ing, perhaps the only reason worth con-
sidering is the toll injuries took on the

team.
The linebacking corps got battered
each week. Matt Dyson and Steve
Morrison were both being counted on
to provide All-Big Ten-caliber play,

and injuries kept them on the sidelines
much of the season.
LinebackerShawn Collins leftthe team
midseason. Defensive tackle Ninef
Aghakhan was unable to complete theyear
healthy. That was just the beginning.
But not only did the injuries mean
that the injured players' talent and ex-
perience was missed, but also that
Moeller had to plug the holes with
players unready for action.
While freshman linebacker Jarrett
Irons' play steadily improved, the job
of running the Michigan defense might
have been too much for him at first.
With the gaps at linebacker, safety
Shonte Peoples was often inserted at
the position, leaving the secondary vul-
nerable.
It was not much better on thevoffen-
sive side of the ball. Center Marc Milia,
who was looked to as the glue of the
offensive line, missed the Michigan
State game.
Wheatley missed Purdue, Wiscon-
sin and the fourth quarter of the Illinois
game, when Michigan lost control of
the game, unable to run out the clock.
"Obviously you're going to miss a
guy like that (Wheatley). There isn't
any question," said Moeller after the
Wisconsin loss. "I think what you miss
without Tyrone is the experience - a guy
that's been there before."
Whether or not Moeller's definition
of experience meant not fumbling the
ball at a crucial point of the game is
uncertain. But the image of Wheatley's
backup Ricky Powers losing the foot-
ball against Illinois and then Wisconsin
may be memories etched in the coach's
mind as long as any from this season.
A FINAL LOOK
"You come to Michigan you think,
'We've already won five and we're
supposed to win another one.' Then all
of a sudden you think they are going to
hand these things out. You realize that
every guy on this team has had those
rings passed to them every year."
-Moeller after the Wolverines'
final game in 1993
As the Wolverines head to the Hall

of Fame Bowl to play North Carolina
State, they are on a roll, having finished
the season with three victories by a
combined score of 111-17. But the 28-
0 over then-No. 5 Ohio State did not
ease the pain.
"This definitely didn't sum up ev-
erything, because we wanted to go to
the Rose Bowl and be Big Ten champi-
ons," Law said.
The strong finish was a spirit-booster,
but almost made the rest of the painful of
the season more painful to look back
upon. What if Michigan had played this
well each game? What if the Wolver-
ines hadn't had all those injuries?
Obviously, though, it is academic,
because no amount of politicking will
earn Michigan a shot at the national title
or Big Ten championship.
But the lesson is learned. It is time to
move on.
"We just didn't work right," said
Moeller after the Ohio State game. "And
you know something? That's my job. I
have to accept that as well as everybody
else. Believe me, it's my job and I've
tried my darnedest and I'm just glad
that this team has learned that when
adversity stares you in the face that you
just get tougher. I'll remember this team
for that reason." i
- Daily Football Writer Ken
Sugiura contributed to this story

Date Opponent
9/4 WASH. ST.
9/11 NOTRE DAME
9/25 HOUSTON
10/2 IOWA
10/9 Michigan St.
10/16 Penn St
10/23 ILLINOIS
10/30 Wisconsin
11/6 PURDUE
11/13 Minnesota
11/20 OHIO ST.
HOME games in CAPS

W 41.44
L 27-23
W 42-7
W 24-7
L 17-7
w 2143
L 24-21
L 1340
W 25-10
W 58-7
W 20

FPrOs must learn to
accept realit of game
n the whole, Michigan fans have been traditionally tagged as spoiled.
Whatever the sport, anything shy of a conference championship is
described as a failure.
Especially in football, second place is unappreciated. Coming into the
season with five consecutive Big Ten titles created a new breed of Michigan
football fan, the First Place-Only fan, or FPO.
The FPOs forget the fact that Michigan now starts the season with a one in
11 chance of being successful in this endeavor, lest anyone forget the national
title hunt. When the FPOs put the Wolverines past the fantasy hash mark on the
expectation meter, it is not fair to the players or the coaches.
Dismissing probability sounds more like a Michigan State student. In East
Lansing, the omission is perfectly understandable since the Spartans'
mathematical odds of going to Pasadena, one in 11, about nine percent, are a
gross exaggeration of its real chances.
Of course, Michigan coach Gary Moeller came into this year having
achieved the one outcome out of 100 which pleased the FPOs by winning
outright titles in the last two seasons. Even the year his squad did not claim
sole possession of the Big Ten crown they still grabbed a share of it.
Obviously, since Bo Schembechler also won the two years before Moeller
arrived, there must be more to it than straight odds. Repeatedly coming up in
the top percentile must mean Michigan has a natural advantage, and is not just
lucky. Believing in comparative advantage of Wolverines might explain the
proliferation of the all-or-nothing attitude the FPOs display.
However, there is little basis for this view. Every year, the Michigan
coaching staff beats the bushes with hundreds of other schools for the best
available prospects. And every year, the coaches have to train the team to play
its best football. Still the FPOs might continue, "The team won last year and
they did not lose too many players, so they should win again. Right?"
There is a paradox, while winning should just lead to more winning, all
winning streaks end.
But alas, the laws of probability cannot be beaten forever. Just ask a bookie.
Even if Michigan had a confirmed 80
percent chance of winning, there is
still that other 20 percent to worry
about. The favored team is always the
favorite target for the rest of the
league, even among the conference
cellar dwellers.
With exception of the recent rash
of NBA teams who seem to repeat as
often as a howitzer, following one
title with another is a rare occurrence
in collegiate and professional sports. k
Talking about rare occurrences,
Wisconsin clinched the Rose Bowl
bid early yesterday morning in Tokyo
by beating Michigan State. Although
the Badgers tied with the Buckeyes at
6-1-1, after testing a myriad of
tiebreakers Wisconsin came out on Collins
top. It's lucky for the Badgers their
nickname comes before Buckeye
alphabetically.
Actually, at last check, Wisconsin came out on top because its Rose Bowl
futility had lasted longer, Jan. 1, 1963 to be exact. The Buckeyes celebrate the
ninth anniversary of their last trip to the Rose Bowl in just a couple of weeks.
The Buckeye faithful once viewed Pasadena as a common holiday
destination. Now with at least a 10-year interim between Rose Bowls, any
Ohio State FPOs must be long gone. Ohio State has not even beaten Michigan
in its last six attempts. Unfortunately, Michigan's current undefeated string
gives more ammunition for the Wolverine FPOs. They figure, if we beat Ohio
State every year why should we ever lose to Illinois or Michigan State.
Rest assured, Moeller and the rest of his team spent plenty of time looking
for the answer to that question. If I had the answer, I could be the coach. Even
Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, who supposedly, without question, had the
best team in the nation, lost a game this season.
Regardless of Moeller's previous accomplishments, the FPOs raked him
over the coals for every loss this year. Notre Dame's Lou Holtz outcoached
him. Perles fired up his players better. Moeller never should have let Ricky
Powers touch the ball against Illinois, even if he is a captain. Barry Alvarez had
his players more focused in the Wisconsin game.
After all the complaints in this season of discontent, Michigan will play
North Carolina State in the Hall of Fame Bowl the same day Wisconsin plays
UCLA in the Rose Bowl. The FPOs will just have to get up a few hours earlier
to watch the Hall of Fame game instead of the Rose Bowl parade.
After seeing the Wolverines dismantle the Wolfpack they can begin talking
about how great the team played and complain they should have played that
well all season. Listen to the din around Ann Arbor next year, when everyone
will be saying how fun the Rose Bowl will be. The odds will sure look great.

7-4 overall - No. 23 in country
5-3 conference - 4th place

Derrick Alexander's dejection after the Michigan State game characterizes
much of the 1993 football season.

The Wolfpack -Starting Lineup and Player Notes
OFFENSE DEFENSE

v /25 UNC L 35-14
10/2 Clemson L 20-14
10/9 Texas Tech W 36-34
10/16 MARSHALL W 24-17
10/23 GEORGIA TECH W 28-23
10/30 VIRGINIA W 34-29

SKILL PLAYERS

SKILL PLAYERS

QB:
TB:

14
45

Terry Harvey, So., 119-208, 1,701 yds., 14 TD, 7 INT
Gary Downs, Sr. 163 att., 786 yd.s, 9 TD

QLB:
ILB:
.. .

8
36
.-..-

Ed Gallon, Jr., 87 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT
Damien Covington, Jr., 128 tackles, 1 sack

I

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