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DAVID ROCHKINOI Daily,.
respect to conference
By Sarah Ensor
Daily Sports Writer
When the Michigan field hockey
team arrived in Boston this weekend
to participate in the NCAA Final
Four, it was looking to solidify
respect not only for itself but for its
conference as well.
The Big Ten has enjoyed a break-
out year in field hockey and has
firmly established itself as the site of
much of the nation's premier compe-
tition in the sport.
Four of the six conference teams
are ranked in the top 25 of this
week's STX/NFHCA National
Coaches Poll, and two teams,
Michigan and Iowa, are taking part
in the Final Four.
Before this season, the Big Ten
was often overlooked in favor of its
east coast counterparts, which have
won 17 of 18 NCAA
Only one Big Ten team, Iowa in
1986, garnered the crown in the tour-
But, this year has seen a changing
of the tide. The Big Ten is one of the
most competitive conferences in the
nation, and its teams have occupied
three of the top 10 poll positions
throughout much of the year.
Earlier this month, the Big Ten
Tournament showcased some of this
season's fiercest field hockey com-
petition, leading Michigan coach
Marcia Pankratz to believe that her
conference deserves more recogni-
"This solidifies the fact that the
Big Ten is for real," she said after
winning the Big Ten title two weeks
ago. "It's an amazing conference,
and I think the east needs to recog-
nize that the Big Ten is" tough.
The Wolverines hope that the cal-
iber of play in the conference tourna-
ment and their success so far in the
NCAA Tournament will garner the
Big Ten the respect it so highly
"It is great for us, being from the
midwest," freshman midfielder
Molly Powers said. "The east has
dominated hockey for so long, so it's
hard for us to get recognition."
Three Big Ten teams - Michigan,
Iowa and Penn State - qualified for
the 16-team NCAA Tournament, and
both Michigan and Iowa are in
Boston for the Final Four.
"Even if neither of us ends up win-
ning it, just because two of us made
it to the Final Four is important and
will help us earn respect," junior
goalkeeper Kati Oakes said.
In addition, the Final Four will
allow Michigan and Iowa to show-
case their skills and demonstrate the
caliber of their conference in front of
an east coast audience. Many east
coast athletes dismiss midwest field
hockey as second-rate, but the
Michigan stickers intend to change
that perception this weekend.
Being in Boston "will help
because of exposure," Oakes said. "A
lot of times people on the east coast
don't even know that we have field
hockey out here in Michigan or
Iowa. Since the NCAA
Championship is on the east coast,
people who live there will come out
and see us play and see that we're for
The Wolverines hope that they will
be able to prove the critics wrong in
Boston and prove their conference's
merit once and for all. They are tired
of being overlooked in favor of east
coast teams, and want the nation to
know that they have what it takes to
"Twice before I got here (in 1997
and 1998) we were passed over by
the NCAA Tournament," Powers
said. "But I think this (season)
makes a statement that we're pretty
#amn good out here."
The Wolverines have burst out to
double-digit leads early in eight of
their 10 games. During these streaks,
Michigan has looked like one of the
better teams the nation.
But like the Gemini at Cedar
Point, the Wolverines don't stay at
their peak for very long. Like a five-
year old kid after eating a carton of
Sweet and Low, Michigan loses its
focus and tends to roam aimlessly
around the field.
The Wolverines went through this
streak in the second half against the
Nittany Lions. After Brady connect-
ed with Marcus Knight on a 35-yard
touchdown pass early in the third
quarter, Michigan decided to play
around for a while.
Like many good teams, Penn State
took advantage of Michigan's lack of
focus, scoring 20 points in the span
of 14 minutes. When Penn State cor-
nerback Bhawoh Jue returned an
interception 46 yards to put Penn
State up 27-17, it looked as if
Michigan were dead.
It's often easy to throw dirt on this
group of Wolverines. During a game,
they won't be able to run the ball,
they will call the same three plays for
a quarter-and-a-half and they will
cover receivers with the tenacity of a
hippie after a bong toke.
But like the Gemini, the
Wolverines love to climb back to the
peak of their game. For some reason,
it seems Michigan plays better when
faced with having a cattle prod stuck
up their rear end.
Saturday was another great exam-
ple of that. Brady, playing one of the
worst games of his career through
the first 50 minutes, was uncon-
scious during the last 10. Brady -
who is one quarterback that might
lose to Bernie Kosar in a foot race -
decided to impersonate Antwaan
Randle El during the waning
moments of the game, scrambling 15
yards for a key first down and rum-
bling five yards for a touchdown to
put Michigan within reach, 27-24.
Brady also killed Penn State with
his arm in the clutch, tossing an 1-
yard pass to Knight for the winning
The defense also came up big in
the end, holding the Nittany Lions
scoreless at crunch time. Linebacker
Ian Gold played a huge role, strip-
ping Thompson of the ball with 53
seconds remaining to kill Penn
While Michigan got the victory,
they showed the same things that
killed them against Michigan State
and Illinois. With such a schizo-
phrenic pattern, what can we con-
clude about these Wolverines?
All we know is that the Wolverines
are inconsistent - sometimes good,
sometimes sorry. After 10 games, the
Jekyll-and-Hyde nature of this team
So Michigan fans should buckle
up and prepare for a wild ride during
the last two games. And oh yeah,
keep your hands inside the car at all
- T Berka can be reached via
e-mail at email@example.com.
By T.J. Berka
Daily Sports Editor
Michigan-Ohio State. During the
week before this tilt of college football
superpowers, the hype machine is in
full force, spouting off about each
There is usually a lot to spout about
during this weekend, as the Wolverines
and Buckeyes are used to aiming high
4 on the national scale. Very rarely do
these teams meet without one of them
harboring Big Ten or national title
Today is one of those rare times. For
the first time in five years, the
Michigan-Ohio State matchup has no
bearing on the Big Ten championship.
That was already claimed by
Wisconsin last weekend against Iowa.
But as the Buckeyes enter Michigan
Stadium today, there will still be a lot
"It's a one-game season," Michigan
T-guard and co-captain Steve
Hutchinson said. "It's Michigan-Ohio
State. It's for bragging rights."
For Michigan, today's game is for a
lot of money.
t i - With their sixth consecutive win
S4 over the Buckeyes in Michigan
Stadium, the 10th-ranked Wolverines
(5-2 Big Ten, 8-2 overall) can secure a
Michigan safety Tommy Hendricks said he didn't really understand the MichiganOhio TBCS bowl bid.
State rivalry until his team lost last year. He doesn't want to suffer that fate again. The Orange Bowl or the Fiesta Bowl
Buckeyes hope to avoid humiliation
and their millions of dollars
Wolverines if they take car
ness today. That proves to t
tion enough for Michigan.
"We are playing to see whe
on New Year's Day," safety
'Hendricks said. "We need to
to a New Year's Day bowl, wh
Something that would be b
Buckeyes is going to any b(
finished second in the count
the last three seasons, the
have fallen like a rock thi
sporting a 6-5 record.
If Ohio State doesn't win
Buckeyes will spend the ho
son at home for the first ti
1988. That alone leaves the W
wary of their rivals to the sot
"Being an underdog in t
means nothing," coach LlI
said. "They are playing for a
you know they will come out
Carr already has learned a
ing a wounded Ohio State tea
In 1987, the Buckeyes we
ing a lackluster season tha
eventually get coach Earle Br
They were big underdogs con
Michigan Stadium but emerg
That happened to be Ohi
last victory at Michigan Stad
"We were huge favorites
"TRULY A NEW I
THE INFO RMATI
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ss 1953 .
t l IoN
By Josh Kleinbaum
Daily Sports Editor
Which is bigger motivation? Playing
for a Rose Bowl berth and a possible
national title, or playing to avoid the
humiliation of not qualifying for any
bowl? For coach John Cooper and the
Ohio State Buckeyes, the former never
seemed to work. The latter? We'll find
In 11 years, Cooper's well-document-
ed Michigan troubles translate to a 2-8-
I record. Four times in the last six years,
Cooper brought a team with realistic
national title hopes into the Michigan
game; every time, the Wolverines have
won. Despite consistently finishing near
the top of the conference, Cooper has
been to just one Rose Bowl, a 1996 vic-
tory over Arizona State.
But now Cooper finds himself in a
new position, and it isn't pretty. With a
6-5 record, a loss leaves the Buckeyes at
an even .500 and out of the bowl picture.
The Buckeyes haven't gone bowl-less
since 1988 - Cooper's first year - and
in that season they were eliminated with
a tie at Iowa the week before Michigan.
Every year since, Ohio State has
clinched a bowl before playing
So will they rise to the occasion and
earn the right to play Marshall in the
Motor City Bowl? Or will they crumble
- as some say they've been doing inter-
nally over the last month - ending the
season with just another Michigan loss?
MICHIGAN RUSHING OFFENSE VS.
OHIO STATE RUSHING DEFENSE: Early in
the season, Michigan running back
Anthony Thomas developed a reputa-
tion of struggling against good defenses
while padding his stats against the
porous ones. Well, after amassing 127
yards against Penn State's dominant
front seven, the junior dispelled that
Look for him to follow up with his
best game of the season. The Buckeyes
front seven is young, with four sopho-
mores and two juniors. While Na'il
Diggs is a threat at linebacker,
Michigan's offensive line shouldn't have
too much trouble opening up holes.
MICHIGAN PASSING OFFENSE VS.
OHIO STATE PASSING DEFENSE: A week
after a Jekyll-and-Hyde performance
against Penn State (259 passing yards, 3
interceptions), Tom Brady will be
throwing into a tenacious secondary led
by strong. attacking cornerbacks.
Senior Ahmed Plummer, who leads
the team with five interceptions and
nine pass breakups, has emerged as one
of the best corners in the country.
Sophomore Nate Clements is emerging
as a star, with two picks and eight
But the secondary has a weak link -
a freshman, Donnie Nickey, starts at
strong safety. If the Wolverines spread
out the offense with more than two
receivers, they should be able to exploit
Nickey and throw on the Buckeyes.
OHIO STATE RUSHING OFFENSE VS.
MICHIGAN RUSHING DEFENSE: Michael
Wiley was supposed to be the man in
Columbus. He was supposed to provide
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