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September 26, 2002 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily, 2002-09-26

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Thursday
Septe er 26, 2002
michigandaily.com
sportsdesk@umich.edu

cieim talPORTS

7A

Illini puffig a
Northwestern
with 1-3 start
By Jeff Phillips
Daily Sports Editor
For the second consecutive season, the defend-
ing Big Ten champion has suffered an unexpected
meltdown.
Like Northwestern last season, Illinois has
been a tremendous disappointment. After posting
a 10-2 record last season, the Fighting Illini went
1-3 in their nonconference season, losing to Mis-
souri, Southern Mississippi and even San Jose
State - a team that was blown-out by Washing-
ton and Stanford by a combined score of 97-3 6.
The loss of quarterback Kurt Kittner cannot be
overlooked, but Illinois still retained many of last
season's players at the skill positions. According
to coach Ron Turner, this season's team lacks
chemistry. It was this chemistry that won games
for the Illini and caused them to play as well as
they did last season.
"Every year is different," Turner said. "It's a
new team, new chemistry, new leadership. Last
year, we probably weren't as good as a lot of peo-
ple thought. We played some games over our
head and won some games on pure character and
guts and found a way to win. We're not doing that
right now."
The Illini have been getting outstanding play
out of wide receivers Brandon Lloyd and a now
healthy Walter Young as well as quarterback Jon
Beutjer, who has established himself as the
starter with back-to-back four touchdown per-
formances.
But the problem for Illinois isn't scoring
points, it is keeping the opponent in check.
Despite putting up over 600 yards of total offense
against San Jose State on Saturday, the Illini lost.
The defense failed to force a turnover against the
Spartans and have forced just three turnovers (all
fumbles) this season, putting them last in the Big
Ten in turnover margin.
"We just know we want to win the turnover
battle and that is one thing we're not doing," Illi-
nois linebacker Jon Schumacher said. "Defen-
sively we haven't gotten any turnovers and we're
-not going to win games doing that."
On special teams, Illinois committed two criti-
cal roughing the kicker penalties to give the
Spartans a first down.
The fans have been less than kind to the Illini,

JOE
SMITH

Only 'new 'thing about
M'offense is its name

AP PHOTO
Illinois wide receiver Brandon Lloyd has been one of the lone bright spots for the 1-3 Fighting Illini so far this
year. The defending Big Ten champions will try to rediscover their swagger against Michigan on Saturday.

booing them several times last Saturday. But the
Illinois players and coaching staff know they
can't blame the fans for doing it.
"Obviously nobody wants that, but it's under-
standable," Turner said. "We have to go out and
play better."
Beutjer knows that the Illini can't let outside
influences affect their play.
"We have to be positive, that's the main thing.
We can't be negative, especially about the last
couple games," Beutjer said. "We can't worry
about what other people think because that will
just affect the team."
As cliched as it is, Illinois is happy to be get-
ting to the Big Ten season, where it can start with

a clean slate and can still earn a Rose Bowl berth.
Turner is relying on his captains to make sure his
team doesn't give up on the season.
"I just emphasized the point: Let's hold every-
one together; we are not as bad as it appears right
now," Turner said. "I really don't believe we are. I
still think we can still be a good football team."
Whether the Illini will continue their down-
ward spiral like Northwestern or whether they
can defend their title will depend on the defense
the play of which, Turner believes, depends on
its chemistry.
"We don't have the best ability in the Big Ten.
But we don't have the worst, either," Turner said.
"The ability's there, it just has to come together."

am ing to Michigan fans
entering the Big House on
Saturdays: You are victims of
fraud. No, it's not the hot dogs - those
are, in fact, real. And yes, you are really
a part of the largest "crowd to watch a
football game anywhere in America."
But look closer and you'll find out
that it's what's on the field that may be
deceiving and you'll come to realize that
the only things that never change are
death, taxes and the Michigan offense.
Ever since coach Lloyd Carr inserted
former offensive line coach Terry Mal-
one at the helm of the Michigan offense,
the word out of the football office was
that a "new" scheme was on the rise.
But after all, that building is named
after Schembechler. Not Spurrier.
No one really expected the Wolver-
ines offense to go crazy - after all,
Carr still coaches this team. But some
change was thought to be in store.
After four games in the nonconfer-
ence season, it appears to be the same
old song as far as Michigan offenses go
- same players, same efficiency, same
results. And the same record as last year.
But that's not what the players say.
"We are more balanced," quarterback
John Navarre said. "We are running the
ball better. We are more efficient in the
passing game. We are getting the ball to
everyone all over the field. I think over-
all we are balanced. I am happy with the
execution and the coaches are, too."
Yeah, and I can run a 4.4 40-yard
dash.
Let's start dispelling these "mythical"
differences one by one.
MORE BALANCED: Yes, Michigan
seems to be running the ball better - at
times. Chris Perry has already had more
long runs (over 20 yards) than the
Wolverines have had in the past three
seasons, but Michigan was averaging an
identical 159 yards per game on the
ground at this point last season. More
importantly, the Wolverines are still hav-
ing trouble creating a push in short
yardage and goalline situations.
And balanced offenses force oppo-
nents to be on their toes - respecting
the run while at the same time expecting
pass. Either Michigan isn't utilizing its
balance by changing up play calls or
something, because not many teams are
exactly biting on Navarre's play-fakes.
MORE EFFiCIENT: Efficiency is defined
in Webster's dictionary as "acting or
producing effectively with a minimum
of waste, expense or unnecessary effort;
exhibiting a high ratio of input to out-
put."'

Sound like the mantra of the Michigan
offense to you? Didn't think so.
At least not the one displayed in the
Utah game, in which the Wolverines
barely mustered more points (10) than
the field hockey team did (8) in its vic-
tory last Saturday. Michigan was hor-
rendous on third down, going 5-of-19,
and holds a 40-percent conversion rate,
identical to last year. The new offense
composed of short passes, easy gainers
and big plays was supposed to improve
this category by not putting Navarre and
Co. in numerous third-and-forever situa-
tions. That hasn't changed much either.
A crowning example of offensive
futility came against Utah, when Michi-
gan saw 10 drives that crossed midfield
end in zip, zilch, nada. Efficiency is
making the most of opportunities, and
while Michigan can move the ball, it's
letting its scoring chances waste away
like Pauley Shore's acting career.
SPREADING THE BALL AROUND: What
happened to sharing the wealth?
Navarre spread the ball around against
Washington by utilizing six receivers,
but ever since then that silver lining of
"everyone's involved" has slowly disap-
peared.
As for Navarre not locking in on a,
receiver like he did a year ago with
Marquise Walker, Navarre threw 18 of
his 36 passes last Saturday in the direc-
tion of his new favorite target - Bray-
lon Edwards. Edwards has nearly
identical numbers to Walker after three
games-except for the three fumbles.
Is Edwards the only one getting
open?
r"All the guys are getting open,"
Navarre said. "I have confidence in all
of them, but Braylon is the primary
receiver most of thetime."
Yes, other receivers like Tyrece Butler
have suffered from the dropsies, which
has to bother Navarre, but the junior sig-
nal caller says that most of the plays are
designed for Edwards - and in many
cases, the other three receivers on the
field at the time run routes "specifically
to get Braylon open."
If that doesn't sound like locking-in, I
don't know what does.
And I'm sure it won't take very long
for other teams to notice Navarre's ten-
dency to throw to Edwards and double-
team him. It also won't take long for
opponents to size up and diagram the
idiosyncrasies of the "new" offense.
If they can tell the difference.
Joe Smith can be reached at

. Blue hopes to delay Schmalz's run at 300 wins

By Gennaro Fice
Daily Sports Writer
On Friday, Fred Schmalz will enter
Black Beauty Field on Youth Night
in search of his 300th victory as head
coach of men's soccer at Evansville.
Schmalz, who is in his 24th year
as head honcho for Evansville,
already has 400 career wins, and has
been sitting on 299 with the Purple
Aces for three games.
So, tomorrow Schmalz plans to
obtain number 300, sign some auto-
graphs for the kids, and close the

night with some Cristal and cake in
celebration. There's only one thing
standing between Schmalz and his
tercentennial - the Michigan
Wolverines.
After losing the Big Ten opener to
Penn State, 1-0, the Maize and Blue
have dropped to 2-3-1 on the season.
Although Michigan has struggled
recently, coach Steve Burns likes the
steady improvements his team has
made, and believes that this weekend
on the road could be a defining mark
on the season.
"What I like is that our team contin-

ues to get better," Burns said. "We're
playing with a lot more confidence.
"As the pieces of the puzzle are
coming together, I think that we will
be a team that can play a strong sea-
son. We have to get on a little roll. I
think that this upcoming weekend
swing against Evansville and Dayton
is very important to us."
Evansville comes first for the
Wolverines, and the Purple Aces
have amassed a 4-2-2 record on a
simple game plan: great defense and
timely scoring.
In eight games this season, Evans-

EVANSVILLE AND DAYTON
Who: Michigan (2-3-1) at Evansville (4-2-1) and
at Dayton (3-3-1)
When: 7:30 p.m. tomorrow, 1 p.m. Sunday
Latest: Evansville coach Fred Schmalz can cap-
ture his 300th win as the Purple Aces' head
coach with a victory over the Wolverines.
ville has produced just 14 goals.
The Aces' biggest offensive threat
is freshman Marc Burch, who has
compiled 10 points off two goals and
six assists.
See PURPLE ACES, Page 8A

Tons of results with little effort: josephms@umich.edu.

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