Thursday, November 11, 1999 - The Michigan Daily - 19A
--=The Daily Grind-
illy Madison sulks into Miss
EB Lippy's classroom, pouting,
his recess ruined by the
youngest O'Doyle. But Miss Lippy
is busy with Special Time, so she
'sends the slightly aged kindergarten
student back out to the playground.
And in a matter of minutes,
covers just how Josh
much fun dodge- .
ball can be. Klembaum
* That's it!" he
elts. "You're all
in big, big trou-
played by actor s
hUrls the red ball APOCA YPSE
aoind the play- Now
ingeout his classmates one at a time.
t For a day, he was the dodgeball
°Dodgeball is the leveler, the all.
,teUing final test of childhood. Do
you simply try to elude the spher-
oid, fighting for your life just to
stay in the game? Or do you take
the aggressive approach, going for
the catch, trying to eliminate your
The true dodgeballer always goes
for the kill. Those are the athletes
Michigan should recruit for its first
varsity dodgeball team.
.No, dodgeball isn't a varsity sport
y t, but it should be.
Dodgeball is a true test of athleti-
cism;It takes natural instinct and
agility to avoid the oncoming ball.
It tak'es strength and accuracy to
make the good throw to eliminate
your competitor. And it takes great
and-eye coordination to catch the
all and avoid elimination. Is there
anything more humiliating than
going for the catch and having the
ball pop off your chest?
But at the same time, it doesn't
take amazing, natural-born talent.
Anyone with time on their hands
canhone their dodgeball skills. You
dojx't need to have a five-foot verti-
cal leap. You don't need sprinter's
* tpeed or a shortstop's reactions.
4rformance-enhancing drugs don't
help, despite the Great Dodgeball
Scandal of 1989.
.Everybody can relate to the
dodgeballer, because everyone has
-been one. Which of you, gentle
readers, have not played a game or
<two during your lunch break, at
camp or after school?
It'41 even please the administra-
rs in Tom Goss' office. It's
tremely cost-efficient. Clear out
theYost parking lot, buy a red kick-
ball and you got yourself a game.
NQ:expensive equipment, no wor-
rieabout ice time.
,Dodgeball can make history.
'There has never been a coed
Division I varsity sport. Dodgeball
can be the first, eliminating any
Title IX concerns.
,We've all seen the beauty of a
ylose, hard-fought dodgeball game.
ut we've never seen it at its best.
;.close your eyes and picture this:
It's April, 2001, and Michigan is
phiying Florida in the finals of the
first-ever NCAA Dodgeball
,.Tournament. Ten finely tuned ath-
letes on each side of a white line,
running, jumping and diving to and
from loose balls. No, these aren't
your every day recess dodgeballers;
Wiese are chiseled, well-trained
A Michigan man pulls a midair
split to avoid an oncoming ball.
A Florida woman dives on the
ground, scrapes her legs below her
knee-pads and grabs the ball just
before it hits the ground to elimi-
nate a Michigan man.
A Michigan woman pulls off a
perfectly timed surprise lob, nailing
an :unsuspecting Florida dodgeballer
the back row who didn't see the
ick play coming, a beautiful play
on a gutsy coaching decision.
Dodgeball at its finest.
-1-can see the critics already -
dodgeball is a children's game. It
doesn't take skill or strategy, it
shouldn't be played by adults.
If you think that, get a group of
friends together and go outside and
play a game. The weather's unsea-
ionably warm for November, so get
3 tho game in while you have a
chance. You won't regret it.
rn the meantime, I'm going to
send out a recruiting letter to Billy
Madison. And maybe that O'Doyle
- Josh Kleiaybaurn can be reached
By Josh Kleinbaum
Daily Sports Editor
Two years ago this week, the
Wolverines travelled to Happy Valley
with one of the best defensive units
ever. Led by soon-to-be Heisman
Trophy winner Charles Woodson,
Michigan's D was brash, loud,
aggressive and - most importantly
In a display that was remarkable in
both its simplicity and its thorough-
ness, the fourth-ranked Wolverines
dismantled the second-ranked
Nittany Lions, 34-8. It was a state-
ment game in a statement season.
The team made the statement, but the
defense provided the exclamation
But this Saturday, Michigan will
bring a limping defense into Beaver
Stadium against a ferocious, hard-
hitting Penn State bunch. Oh, how
the tables have turned.
Michigan's defense didn't disap-
pear all at once. It went in bits and
pieces. First, Woodson left early for
the NFL draft and Glen Steele grad-
uated, leaving holes in the secondary
and the defensive line. When Marcus
Ray accepted benefits from an agent
and received a half-season suspen-
sion, the secondary became even
By last season's fifth game,
Michigan's defense had already let
up more points (120) than the '97
defense did in its 12 (114), and lost
two more games.
But still, no reason to panic.
Scores dropped as the season pro-
gressed. After letting up 74 in the
first two games, opponent's scored
20,17, nine then six. Over a four-
game stretch in mid-season, the
Wolverines allowed just 30 total
points including a 27-0 victory over
those pesky Lions. Everything
seemed to be normal again.
Despite more personnel losses this
season - a lineman (Juaquin
Feazell), a linebacker (Sam Sword)
and a defensive back (Andre
Weathers) - Michigan, led by its
defense, rolled to a 5-0 start.
All was well in Ann Arbor, right?
Boom, boom, boom. Three
"At times, we give up the big pass
play," Michigan safety . Tommy
Hendricks said. "That's the biggest
thing that's killed the secondary. It's
hurt the whole defense. You take that
away, we're successful."
But Michigan can't seem to take
away the deep pass, and you can't
take it out of the past. As nose tackle
and team captain Rob Renes said
earlier this week, there are no take-
backs in football.
So WHAT'S WRONG?
Just two years ago, Michigan's
secondary was the center of a special
team, an aggressive, attacking force
not to be trifled with. Throw on those
Wolverines? Not likely.
"We lost some ' key guys,"
Hendricks said. "Guys in the sec-
ondary and guys in all the defense."
But the big problem hasn't been
who's gone. There's still plenty of
talent in the secondary, the players
there just haven't lived up to it. For
three games, they played on their
heels. They didn't blitz, they didn't
attack. They played passive defense
as Spartans, Illini and Hoosiers cut
over the middle and up the sidelines
for big gains.
air," Hendricks said. "That shook us
up a little bit."
If Michigan jumps out to an early
lead this Saturday, don't be too quick
to grab the remote. Michigan has a
habit of making games exciting, even
when they shouldn't be. How else
can they explain blowing a 21-point
lead to Illinois, then almost blowing
a 17-point one to Indiana the next
"We'd get up, and sometimes we'd
have a tendency to relax a little bit,"
Howard said. "We've discussed that
at meetings and practices. Four quar-
ters are four quarters."
The '97 defense had a killer
instinct - if the offense gave them a
lead to work with, you could pretty
much put the W in the books; in
those games against Indiana and
Illinois, the current Michigan squad
proved it lacked one.
"Against Illinois and Indiana, we'd
get a lead on them, then we'd have a
letdown on the defense," Hendricks
said. "We weren't playing up to 6u
Northwestern coach Randy Walker
thought he saw one in Michigan last
A new-look Michigan squad fre-
quently used a nickel package and
blitzed out of an aggressive sec-
ondary while holding the Wildcats
to 79 passing yards in the 37-3 vic-
"We wanted to get after this team,"
Hendricks said. "It was a good job by
coach Herrmann in his game plan.
Defensively, we played the way we're
supposed to. We got them down and
we didn't let them breathe."
But Northwestern never tested
Michigan's biggest weakness, the
deep pass. The real test comes this
Saturday against Penn State.
"We wanted to show people that
the last couple of weeks is not really
an indication of how we play,"
Patmon said. "We want to show peo-
ple that we can really come and
knock people out and can cover."'
The Michigan secondary has seen a lot of things happen in the past two years. Unfortunately for the Wolverines, a lot of
those things have taken place in their end zone.
"The last couple weeks, we've had
breakdowns," , safety DeWayne
Patmon said. "We're not there yet."
A major part of the problem has
been Todd Howard, a cornerback
who's been beaten more often than
the Washington Generals -
Michigan State's Plaxico Burress
and Indiana's Jerry Dorsey both did
pretty good Globetrotter impressions
against Howard. No one questions
Howard's talent; for the sophomore,
the problem may be lack of maturity.
"We've got a lot of new faces, but
we've got a lot of guys that have
been there before," Howard said.
"We've got to get on their backs.
They're going to carry us through
When Woodson started as a fresh-
man, he wasn't climbing on anyone's
back. Instead, he took the team on
his back. He turned the biggest game
of that freshman season into a per-
sonal coming-out party, grabbing
two interceptions against Ohio State
in a 31-28 victory.
Woodson had swagger. Howard
and Michigan's secondary have just
"We played well at first, then
Michigan State had the big game
against us offensively through the
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