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September 25, 2002 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 2002-09-25

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'a

Wednesday
September 25, 2002
michigandaily.com
sportsdesk@umich.edu

PORTS

10

Mills and
Co. prove
oePa wrong
By J. Brady McCollough
Daily Sports Writer
If there's one thing Joe Paterno likes to
do with the media, it is doubt his own Nit-
tany Lions.
At Big Ten Media Day in late July, Penn
State coach Joe Paterno didn't have much
praise for his redshirt sophomore quarter-
back Zack Mills, whose performance at
the end of last season almost made the
Nittany Lions bowl eligible.
"I think Zack was a good redshirt fresh-
man," Paterno said. "I don't know if he's
any better than that."
And how about Larry Johnson, Pater-
no's senior running back who has been
waiting for a chance to be the No. I guy
for three years?
"He's a big back with great speed, but
at times he wastes blocks and he hasn't
done a couple things
consistently," Paterno FOOTBALL
said.
Either the 74-year Notebook
old coach is the tough-
est judge of talent and character in the
country, or his nay-saying spree in Chica-
go was by design.
Currently, his 12th-ranked Nittany
Lions are 3-0 after Saturday's 49-17 win
over Louisiana Tech. And just who are the
main reasons for Penn State's success thus
far? You guessed it - Mills and Johnson.
In Penn State's first three games, Mills
has completed 64 percent of his passes for
616 yards, three touchdowns, and no
interceptions. On top of this efficiency, he
adds an athleticism that has been absent in
recent Penn State quarterbacks, allowing
the Nittany Lions to do a variety of things
offensively, including some option plays.
"I think the big difference I see now is
they have a quarterback that everyone has
rallied around," said Iowa coach Kirk Fer-
entz, whose Hawkeyes (3-l) face Mills
this weekend. "The whole team believes
in Zack Mills with good reason. He's only
a sophomore, but he sure doesn't play like
one."
Johnson, who led Penn State's quartet
of inconsistent runners last season with
358 yards on the ground, has already sur-
passed that total with 378 yards, averag-
ing almost seven yards per carry. In the
Nittany Lions' huge upset win over

Big Ten beginning marks
time for improvement

By David Horn
Daily Sports Editor
In years past, Michigan's nonconference
schedule has been a fair to good indication of
how the team will play in the Big Ten season.
So far this time around it seems like every
player at every position and every coach in
maize and blue is saying that some things
needs to improve. So as the Wolverines pre-
pare to step into the exciting and often unpre-
dictable world of Big Ten football, it's time to
look at what's worked - Marlin Jackson, for
instance - and what hasn't - like field
goals.
y SPECIAL TEAMS: It is among the most press-
ing issue facing the Michi-
gan coaching staff. Why FOOTBALL
can't placekicker PhilE
Brabbs knock them Evaluation
through the uprights on
S # Saturdays the way he does in practice? His
coaches and teammates say they have faith,
although coach Lloyd Carr has hinted at mov-
ing punter Adam Finley (who, incidentally,
AP PHOTO has been more than reliable in his punting
duties) to the position.
ar. "I wish I had an answer," Carr said. "You
have to remember that there are a couple of
ways to look at this. Philip Brabbs has kicked
for 471 two game-winning field goals here. Is he
is first kicking as well as we would like? No, but you
ranked just have to have faith and;
ati this confidence that it will get x
better."
I don't Brabbs' game-winner
wasn't against Washington, and
re mis- solid (and fumble-
t three free) punt and kick- 7
isn't a o f f
rett not returns
Depend- from

Despite Penn State coach Joe Paterno's hesitancy to praise his offensive skill players
quarterback Zack Mills (above) and running back Larry Johnson have excelled this ye

Nebraska two weekends ago, he had a
breakout game, rolling through the
Huskers' famous "blackshirt" defense for
128 yards and two scores.
"He's emerged as their top player this
year," said Ferentz of Johnson. "And
based on the film, you can certainly see
why."
Penn State's playmaking ability goes
further than Mills and Johnson, which
make the Hawkeyes' trip to State College
even tougher. Wide receiver Bryant John-
son and backup running back Michael
Robinson, who has scored five touch-
downs already, combine with the afore-
mentioned duo= to give Paterno his most
talented offensive nucleus in years.
"We're very concerned about their skill
position players up and down the board,"
Ferentz said. "They're damn good. They
had a bump in the road, but to me they
look like the Penn State team I grew up
watching."
Don't expect Paterno to publicly agree
with Ferentz any time soon.
BRING THE MO BACK: Ohio State coach
Jim Tressel wouldn't come out and say
that his team is different without freshman
running back Maurice Clarett in the line-

up. He didn't have to.
Without Clarett, who rushed fi
yards and seven touchdowns in hi
three collegiate games, the sixth-
Buckeyes struggled to beat Cincinr
past Saturday, 23-19.
"I don't think we played as well,
know if it was simply that he
there," Tressel said. "We had mor
cues than we had had in the firs
games, and I'd like to think that
direct proportion on Maurice Clai
being there. I hope we're not that d
ent."
Tressel said he expects Clarett,
recovering from arthroscopic surg
his right knee, to return Saturday
Indiana.
A VOTE OF CONFIDENCE?: Minne
4-0 entering its matchup at Purdu
this weekend with its wins coming
Southwest Texas State, Loui
Lafayette, Toledo and Buffalo.
When told that his team recei
votes in this week's USA Today
Top 25 Coaches' Poll, Minnesota
Glen Mason replied, "I guess I h
friends out there, or six enemies.I
(Purdue coach Joe) Tiller voted for

special teams that can improve is its field goal
kicking, but it requires serious and immediate
improvement.
C+
Quarterback: John Navarre, up until last
weekend against Utah, probably deserved an
A. All the old criticisms of Navarre - his
inability to check off his receivers, his lack of
pocket presence, his tendency to overthrow
receivers - seemed to have been silenced in
the first three games.
Navarre even showed some mobility, scram-
bling out of the pocket against Notre Dame
and Utah. But his most recent outing was by
far his worst. Granted, Navarre has had little
help from his receivers (who are dropping
passes with unfortunate frequency), but his
paltry 186 yards passing and difficulty in
keeping the offense moving downfield is
cause for concern. Navarre has looked
increasingly worse as past seasons have pro-
gressed; if he can play like he did in the first
three games for the next eight, the Michigan
offense will be all right.
Dropping passes "is the big thing that we
have to fix and it is an easy thing to fix,"
Navarre said. "That is what we have to do
going into the Big Ten season where teams get
a lot better."
B
RUNNING BACK: Chris Perry has looked
good, carrying the balls 82 times and rushing
for an average of 101.8 yards per game. But
the fumbles! Perry was benched temporarily
after coughing up the ball on the goalline in
the first quarter against Utah, and knows that
he has something to prove to his teammates
and to coach Carr. If he can keep running the
way he's been running and also keep the ball
tucked away safely, his grade in the Big Ten
season will improve.
B
WIDE RECEIVER/TIGHT END: Braylon
Edwards is as explosive a receiver as Michi-
gan has seen this season, earning comparisons
to David Terrell and Marquis Walker. His
game-breaking abilities were no more appar-
ent than in the Utah game, when a 44-
yard bomb from Navarre set up a
12-yard touchdown reception -
Michigan's only touchdown.
All the Michigan receivers need to keep
from dropping the ball, and Navarre some-
times needs to do a better job finding his sec-
ond and third option. Bennie Joppru has
shown the ability to be the offense's wild card.
B-
See GRADES, Page 12

0

who is
;ery on
against
esota is
e (2-2)
against
siana-
ved six
/ESPN
coach
ave six
Maybe
me."

4

rbAN NY
MOLOSHOK/
Daily
Adam
Finley

Julius Curry
and Jeremy
L e S u e u r,
r respectfully,
keep the special
teams unit afloat.
The only aspect of

Multiple offenses give strikers flexibility

By Brian Schick
Daily Sports Writer

Fresh of a national champion run
last season, Michigan field hockey
coach Marcia Pankratz knew her
team would be the one under the
microscope this season. In particu-
lar, she wanted to develop a new
offense that her opponents hadn't
seen last season.
This season has seen some major
changes for some of her players, and
the team's versatility has made that
possible. The majority of the
Wolverine forwards are upperclass-
men, and Pankratz is relying on
experience from previous seasons to
lead the Wolverines.

"It makes us tough to scout,"
Pankratz said. "We have a ton of
versatility in our older players. We
have Jess Rose, Molly Powers and
even April (Fronzoni) playing both
forward and midfield, which (are
new positions) for them, and
expands their role on the team."
The second-ranked Wolverines (7-
1) look to keep opponents on their
toes as they open Big Ten action at
home on Friday afternoon against
No. 19 Ohio State (4-4), followed by
a nonconference match with Boston
University (3-4) on Saturday.
Pankratz admits that there are
changes to her offense each season,
depending on the talent she has on
her roster. So it's no secret that for-

mations change to allow certain
players to excel. The team's flexibil-
ity to switch positions for various
opponent gives the Wolverines a
new look for each game.
"We try to match up our talent
and our strengths to tweak the for-
mations here and there," Pankratz
said. "It comes down to where peo-
ple play on the field. We try to fit
the appropriate system to our per-
sonnel."
The tweaking of the system has
led to an offense that is sixth in the
nation in goals per game (3.65),
including four games with five
goals or more. Last season, the
Wolverines had just five such
games.
Pankratz attributes the change to
players learning from last season,
and the results are now becoming
apparent.
"We have some really skilled, fast
players that now have a lot of expe-
rience and confidence," Pankratz
said. "It was just a matter of time
before they became dangerous play-
ers."

01

Another learning experience from
last season that will carry over are
the Wolverines' problems against
the Buckeyes. In two contests last
season, Michigan dropped both
matches - one during the regular
season in Columbus and one at the
Big Ten Tournament.
Michigan appears as if it might
have the advantage this season, as
the Wolverines are riding high after
last week's overtime win against
Northeastern, their second overtime
win in three games. Ohio State
comes to Ann Arbor with its offense
in a rut, having scored just four
goals in the past three games, two of
them losses.

ALYSSA WOOD/Daily
Senior captain Nick Stanko and the Michigan men's cross country will stay in Ann
Arbor this weekend to run in a race hosted by Eastern Michigan.
Blue unitedfor CCC

STUDENT TRAVEL!

By Daniel Bremmer
Daily Sports Writer
No matter how well a team practices,
all goes for naught if it cannot compete
at the same high level.
The Michigan men's cross country
team was impressive in its last outing,
placing four runners in the top 10 at the
Spartan Invitational last Friday.
On Monday, the team headed to
Huron Hills Golf Course for its first
workout of the week, which consisted

"These guys are really staying
together. The individuals who are really
good are helping the other guys come
along," Warhurst said. "The guys who
are (toward) the back end are staying
with the good ones."
Now, it's just a matter of the team
coming out and competing the way that
it has been practicing. As Warhurst was
quick to point out, any team in any
sport can practice and practice and
practice, but the circumstances all
change during the actual contest.
"You can only improve
so much unless you com-
PARK pete," Warhurst said. "So
we want to compete and
at the ccc improve even more, both
Friday mentally and physically."
lverines The Wolverines will
themselves have their chance to do so
they play at on Friday when they take
to the paths of Buhr Park
in Ann Arbor, competing

> :..
l:K:
p .i a .:..
h
f.

of a five-mile course over a
series of hills. The runners'
goal: To run hard and to
stay together in a pack for
as long as possible.
After only being able to
keep together for the first
two and a half miles on Fri-
day, there was room for
improvement. During their
practice, the runners ended

sUHR
Who: Michigan
Championship
When: 4 p.m. F
Latest: The Wo
intend to make
at home when1
Buhr Park.

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