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September 08, 1994 - Image 63

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1994-09-08

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THE MICHIGAN DAILY NEW STUDENT EDITION SPORTS THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 1994 Page 3F
Football
No roses for Blue in Hall of Fame season

Injuries, quest for No. 1
lead to football's fall in '93

DOUGLAS KANTE R/Daily
Mlichigan quarterback Todd Collins, who starred as Elvis Grbac's backup two years ago, found starting against Notre Dame a tougher assignment.
Remember'93, Michigan, or it' ppen all over again

hroughout your life you probably have come
to understand that some thingsjust naturally
belong together. There are tried-and-true pairs
which cannot be distin-
guished from one another a ...
lest the entire universe would
be thrown off balance,
wobbling around like so
many drunk freshmen during
their first weekend in Ann
Arbor. These combinationsf
give life consistency, putting RYAN
the q-u-o into status quo. HERRINGTON
Peanut butter and jelly. The R.H.
South Quad and fire alarms. Factor
Michigan football and Big
Ten championships.
Unfortunately for Wolverine fans, that tremor
in the force last season was the tearing apart of a
wonderful five-year tradition. Since 1987,
Michigan had a virtual monopoly on the confer-
ence gridiron title, winning all but one of its five

straight crown outright. Only an Ohio State team
that had six consecutive championships in the
1970s had achieved such sustained dominance.
But 1993 was the proverbial different story.
For whatever reason - injuries, inexperience,
complacency or just plain underachievement -
the Wolverines were unable to ... well, six-peat.
Stunning losses to Notre Dame, Michigan State
and Illinois, coupled with an embarrassment at
Wisconsin left all of Michigan's men rubbing
their eyes in disbelief. The final statistics
describe the nightmare best. 8-4. Fourth place in
the Big Ten. Hall of Fame Bowl.
Now granted, some college programs would
give money just to play in the post-season - and
some do. But at Michigan, an 8-4 season is worth
about as much as a pair of Bermuda shorts in
January. The Big Ten title is treated like it is part
of the school's endowment. No team has won
more conference football championships (37). In
fact, the Wolverines could take, oh say the next
12 years off and unless the Buckeyes somehow

win the title every' year, Michigan would still
have the edge over its closest competitor.
An even closer look at the Michigan history
book shows that since 1971 - when they started
playing 11 regular-season games - the Wolver-
ines have won eight or fewer games only six
times. Compare this to current Big Ten champ,
Wisconsin, which during the same period had
won more than eight games only once.
What makes the 1993 season all the more
frustrating is that everything seemed so perfect
going into August practices. There was even talk
of a national championship. And not barroom
talk mind you. Serious talk. Ring-sizing talk.
Sure quarterback Todd Collins had yet to prove
himself as a starter and the offensive line had but
one senior. Yet with Tyrone Wheatley and three
other high-caliber running backs, five explosive
receivers and as quick a secondary as any that
has ever played in Michigan Stadium, no one
See HERRINGTON, Page 9F

By RYAN HERRINGTON
Daily Football Writer
Gary Moeller, his squad, and just
about everyone else firmly believed
that the 1993 Michigan football team
was going to once again sing "The
Victors" in Pasadena on the way to a
sixth consecutive Big Ten title.
What instead transpired was a 12-
week tale of anxiety and frustration.
For a team that once looked to be as
strong as any of the other champion-
ship teams, 1993 became a nightmare
that would rival any Freddy Krueger
creation.
What went wrong? How could a
team that was ranked No. 3 in the
preseason and expected to contend
for a national championship finish 8-
4 and have the worst season of any
Michigan team since 1984?
The No. 1 Letdown
Michigan football teams have tradi-
tionally shunned prospects of a national
championship, focusing more on mak-
ing the Rose Bowl. But ever since
Moeller took over in 1990, the Wolver-
ines have expressed a change in mindset.
More and more they professed there to
be a grail holier than the trip to Pasa-
dena - the national championship.
But one game into the season, Michi-
gan lost to Notre Dame and any serious
hopes of a national title evaporated.
"The whole team wasjust convinced
going in that we were going to win,"
Michigan quarterbackTodd Collins said
following the 27-23 loss.
Though the Wolverines would
quickly retreat to the standard com-
pany line regarding the importance of
the Big Ten title, it sounded like a
hollow sentiment.
"I think it's kind of a letdown, be-
cause this year we really seem to have
set our sights on the national title,"
Collins said. "Maybe those hopes are
gone now; maybe they're not. The Big
Ten isstill very important. We stillwant
to go to the Rose Bowl. I guess that is
the goal we're going to focus on now."
The season was only two weeks old,
yet Michigan was already looking for
ways to salvage the season.
A Matter of Talent
Playing weaker opponents such as
Houston and Iowaafterthe Notre Dame
game allowed deficiencies such as
Michigan's tackling problems and its
inability to sustain a consistent ground
game to remain camouflaged. It was
only amatteroftime before theseweak-
nesses would be exposed.
It did not take long, as Michigan fell
to Michigan State in the game follow-
ing Iowa, 17-7. Michigan State's offen-
sive line controlled the Wolverine de-
fensewhile the Michigan offense could
muster only 33 yards on the ground, the
first time it had been held to under 50
yards since 1982.
On defense, Michigan had trouble
wrapping up ball carriers. The sec-
ondary was prone to giving up big
games as the "bend but don't break"
defense was not only bending but also
breaking. This season Michigan gave
up an average of 222 yards a game in
the air.
Offensively, four of the linemen
were new starters, as was the quarter-
back Collins. They had escaped seri-
ous scrutiny at the season's begin-
ning, the line because it was Michi-
gan and Michigan lines were always
good, and Collins because in two starts

last season he had torn up Oklahoma
State and Houston.
What's in a Name?
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
short. There were no older players to
remind everyone that Michigan doesn't
always win the Big Ten. The Wolver-
ines were getting soft.
Playing lethargically against a team
like Houston is understandable, maybe
even expected. But to play like that
repeatedly against conference compe-
tition 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 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, hubrisorjust plain
overconfidence - the 1993 Wover
ines weren't prepared for the long haul
of the Big Ten.
Pain, Pain Everywhere
For all the rhetoric and philosophiz-
ing, perhaps the only reason for the
season's outcome worth considering 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,
but injuries kept them on the sidelines
much of the season. Shawn Collins left
the team midseason, and defensive
tackle Ninef Aghakhan was unable to
complete the year healthy.
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.
It was not much better on the offen-
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 lostcontrol of the
game, unable to run out the clock.
A Final Look
The Wolverines ended the season
on a roll, but the 28-0 win 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," defensive back Ty Law said.
The strong finish was a spirit-
booster, but almost made the rest of the
season more painful to look back upon.
What if Michigan had played this well
each game? What if the Wolverines
hadn't had all those injuries?
"It just didn't work out 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 darndest and
I'm 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."
- Daily Football Writer Ken
Sugiura contributed to this story.

WIEATLEY
Continued from page1F
him, said he wasn't surprised when
Wheatley informed him of his deci-
sion to stay at Michigan.
"I knew in his heart he wanted to
stay," he said. "It wasn't his time. I
knew he wanted to stay."
Others were not as confident.
"I'm shocked," said ESPN draft
expert Mel Kiper Jr. "I thought he
would be entering the draft with the
rest of the juniors like (San Diego
State running back) Marshall Faulk
and (Tennessee
Heath Shuler." knew1
Kiper added he wantec
that, should
Wheatley continue wasn 't hi.
to play at the
record-breaking
standards that he WO
has performed at,
he would probably
be the first player chosen in next year's
draft. Michigan's all-time touchdown
leader was being pegged as the sec-
ond-best running back in this year's
draft, following Faulk.
However, in postponing his en-
try into the NFL, Wheatley acknowl-
edged that he would run the risk of
suffering a career-ending injury.
"But in order to play a sport like
this, you can't think about that. If I
was worried about blowing out a
knee, I wouldn't have chosen to
play football, I would have run
track," said Wheatley, also a mem-
ber of the Michigan track and field
team. "I would have put my aspira-
finnc n rnnina in the Olvmnic if

With Wheatley's decision to re-
turn, Michigan coach Gary Moeller
welcomes back a player who in-
stantly becomes a leading candidate
for the Heisman Trophy.
"I'm very happy, not just for the
touchdowns and those things,"
Moeller said. "It's just the contin-
ued association with him. I'm happy
for the rest of the team."
Wheatley was a preseason All-
American this past season as well,
but a disappointing team record as
well as two games missed due to a
shoulder injury kept him from re-

in his heart
d to stay. It
s time. "
- Ed Davis

ceiving similar
postseason rec-
ognition.
He.finished
eighth in the bal-
loting for the
prestigious
Heisman, but did

)IV

'erine tailback earn his second
consecutive
bowl game MVP
trophy, earning Hall of Fame Bowl
MVP honors New Year's Day in
Michigan's 42-7 victory over North
Carolina State. Wheatley was also
voted the Most Valuable Player in
the 1993 Rose Bowl after a record-
setting performance.
Wheatley's next touchdown
would break his tie with Anthony
Carter for most career touchdowns
with 41. He can also become the all-
time leading rusher at Michigan with
1,360 yards next season. He gained
1,357 this year despite the sidelin-
ing injury.
"Why not leave college as one of
the greatest running backs of all
time- and thean n tothe NF and he

patagoniw
SYNCHILLA CLASSICS

DOUGLAS KANTER/Daily
Wheatley carries more than just the ball as he gains yardage against Houston.

he Synchilla Snap T-Neck has seen most of the
known world. It could well be the ultimate multi-
purpose utility garment. Now
A.",available in prints or solids.

SKA TE
SMART

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FUN

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