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September 08, 2003 - Image 13

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2003-09-08

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Everyone's enjoying the new attraction
at the Big House -the Casanova line

J. BRADY MCCOLLOUGH
The SportsMonday Column
F or one Saturday afternoon, the
Big House actually seemed like
an amusement park.
The cotton candy was delicious.
The funnel cakes melted in mouths.
The basketball shooting game ripped
everyone off, but no one seemed to
care.
Timmy Bracken, Pierre Rembert,
Jerome Jackson and Alijah Bradley
waited in anxious anticipation while
Chris Perry and David Underwood
kept riding that sweet new ride. And
riding it. And riding it. And riding it.
M hl a tl r backs, along with the
Wolverine faithful, hadn't
seen a ride like this since the.
fall of 2000. Lil' Chris and Dave
weren't about to waste this
opportunity, as they spent the whole
afternoon jumping on and off, buy-
ing more tickets so they could
experience the feel-good sensation
known as the 2003 Michigan offensive
line - I prefer "The Casanova line."
When Chris and Dave got dizzy
from riding so many times, the
younger kids took a break from bob-
bing for apples and had a field day.
Once Lloyd Carr - equipped with a
huge measuring stick on the sidelines
- deemed them tall enough to enjoy
the ride safely, they hopped on 12
times between the four of them for
102 yards and two scores.
"To put it simply," said right guard
Matt Lentz, "it's fun."
To put it simply, it didn't matter
which Wolverine tailback was riding.
A fun time was had by all.
Well, everyone except Houston's
defense, which allowed 392 yards
rushing to Michigan Saturday. The
line pounded the Cougars. It embar-
rassed them. It made them feel like
the kid who isn't big enough to get on
the ride at all. Go back to the Tilt-o-
whirl, Cougs.
In two games - albeit, against two
teams that have no business trying to
stop the ride - Michigan has rushed
for 367 yards per game and nine
touchdowns. That's a big step up from
148.4 per game and ninth in the Big
Ten last season, when the line was
still trying to find its best five-man
combination.
It hasn't mattered at all that John
Navarre is hovering around a 50-per-
cent completion rate and has thrown
for just 381 yards. Or that No. 1
receiver Braylon Edwards has contin-
ued to drop balls, a problem that
plagued him last season.
The line focuses on one thing: Let's
do our job, because that's all we can
control.
"If we do our job and set the tempo
up front, we're going to help our team
to the national championship," said
David Baas, who mans the left guard
position of the ride. "Because that's
THEA
CASAN OVA

LI Forget the days of
a LIN "A-Train," a new

where we want to be."
That's a big statement. But this line
appears ready to make statements and
back them up with its performance.
They want all the expectations on
their shoulders, because they believe
there isn't a defensive line out there
that can stop them from accomplish-
ing their goals.
So who are these guys? They'd
probably prefer it if I didn't say. Their
job always leaves them out of the
spotlight, but you don't make big
statements and stay in hibernation.
The ride doesn't run without the
brains of the operation. According to
Baas, that's center Dave Pearson. He's
the redhead who you'll see guarding
his buddy Navarre all over campus.
Underwood says that Pearson, a sen-
ior, can't help making fun of the
backup tailback's thick Texas accent.
Left tackle Adam Stenavich, a red-
shirt sophomore, is the comical cog
of the machine. He's not the loudest
guy, but when he does talk, it is
something worth listening to. Baas -
and "Steno," as they call him, claim
to have good chemistry on
the left side of the line.
It was tough for
Baas to give
Pearson the title
of "the brains."
But it is obvious
that Baas, a pre-
season All-

America candidate, has the brawn. If
you meet him, the junior will remind
you of a bull with his menacing fore-
head. He's the last person any defen-
sive lineman would want to line up
against.
Right tackle Tony Pape calls Lentz,
his mate on the right side, "the goofy
kid." He's got a "strange" laugh
according to Baas. Lentz is from a
small town in Michigan and used to
pull his father's pick-up truck up a
hill to train for football season. The
redshirt sophomore claims the reason
he came to Michigan was to run the
football, and run it some more.
And then, there's Pape. He's been
tabbed "Fat Elvis" because of his
crazy Elvisesque sideburns, painting
him as the wildman of the line. Pape
can't talk without grinning (or gig-
gling), but Baas thinks Pape has been
portrayed incorrectly. He sees the
senior as a team leader and someone
that everyone on the line looks up to.
So, that's the ride: A shy comic, a
brawny bull, a red-headed brain, a
goofy country boy and a misunder-
stood leader with wild burns.
It's a ride that could end up in
many places, but luckily for Michi-
gan, its five personalities are stream-
lined in one direction: South to New
Orleans.
Will the ride look the same when
it's going against four kids who meet
the size requirement Saturday against
Notre Dame? It's the first big test for
this group that could leave a lasting
legacy in Michigan football lore.
From what I've seen from the
Michigan passing game, still strug-
gling to find its rhythm without Ben-
nie Joppru and B. J. Askew, I think
it's time for Michigan to look back to
its roots and run the ball first, pass
second.
And this isn't even Bo Schembech-
ler's "three yards and a cloud of dust."
It's 10 yards and a cloud of crushed
R tires.
Follow the line to the promised
land. For the first time since 2000,
the Wolverines have the ride to get
itthem there.

I

J Brady McCollough can be
reached at
bradymcc@umich.edu.

is

j3

AP PHOTO
Much like the
Millenium Force,
a roller coaster
at Cedar Point in
Sandusky, Ohio,
the Michigan line
is leading
Michigan on a
wild ride.

E7\\/7

I

rnitchs placel

ELhVLi

60 oz.jumbo

era has begun.
We're giving the
nickname to the
big boys up front,
the line the trains
ride on. Let's call
them, "The
Casanova line" -
"C-line" for short
- because we're
dealing with some
smooth players.
Just whisper it
once..

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