October 2, 2003
will test Blue
By Kyle O'Neill
Daily Sports Writer°
Northwestern All-Big Ten running back Jason
Wright remembers much from last season, but just
one team stood out to him when he was asked to recall
the top defense he saw.
"Iowa ... Iowa ... Their defensive front was domi-
nating," Wright said at the Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon.
Any hits he might still see in his sleep?
"(Iowa safety) Bob Sanders ... Bob Sanders ... He
comes out of nowhere," said Wright, laughing. "I had
a stinger for two months. He comes out of nowhere
and smacks you good. It just wore on me as the game
Wright, who ran for 1,200 yards last season, man-
aged just 33 yards on 10 carries against the best
defense he saw last season.
That rush defense returned all but two players from
last year's squad and has allowed just 84.2 yards per
game - most of that coming without Sanders in the
lineup. But the safety returned to action last week
against Michigan State (seven tackles) and expects to
be at 100 percent this week.
"Bob brings a lot more than just his play," Iowa
offensive tackle Robert Gallery said. "We're just glad
to have him back. He's a guy that likes to come up and
fill a hole."
Sanders has even filled a few holes that Gallery has
been in during practice, as the tackle has been on the
receiving end of the hits that Wright was able to laugh
about when off the field.
Gallery described playing with Sanders as
"fun," even if Gallery's 6-foot-7 frame causes the
5-foot-8 Sanders to jack him in the stomach
instead of the pads.
Michigan will have to hope it does not share
Gallery's fate of having the wind knocked out of its
"They're playing a defensive front, a 3-4 front, that
we played at Michigan here for a long time and it's
based on, first and foremost, stopping the run and not
the michigan daily
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It's time to find out what
. Varsity's real identity is
Michigan's Chris Perry will have his hands full against Iowa's swarming 3-4 defense In Iowa City Saturday.
giving up big plays," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said.
"Anytime you can stop the run and not give up big
plays, you've got something special. Their tackles are
going to be almost head-up on our tackles. Their nose
guard, a lot of the time, is going to be head-up on the
center, which creates very small seams to run inside,
and they're going to make you run east and west.
They're very talented"
And with Sanders now looming in the secondary,
Michigan's rushing attack will need to be solid in
order to open up its passing game. That means Michi-
gan tailback Chris Perry will have to show the All-Big
Ten-quality yards and respect that he produced in the
first three weeks.
"He's amazing," Iowa linebacker Chad Greenway
said of Perry. "The first film we watched was the Notre
Dame play. He stiff-armed that corner. You can just tell
how physically dominating he is when he touches the
ball. He's a great running back, and I'm sure we'll see
enough of him on Saturday. I don't think we've faced a
back to his level at all. I don't think there are a lot of
backs at his level in the country. It's a challenge to our
defense; if we can slow him down a little bit."
For Iowa, the Wolverines are just what it needs after
a 20-10 loss to Michigan State and its spread offense
"I think Michigan State kind of took us away from
Iowa football: Hardnosed," Greenway said. "Michigan
has the same style as we have, just by watching them.
Michigan gives us a chance to play a style we like"
In other words, Iowa will be focusing on winning
the battle up front first and foremost, meaning Perry
might be the next back to succumb to the "Iowa ...
Iowa ... Their defense was dominating" disease.
The Daily Grind
Last week, right before kickoff of
the Michigan-Indiana game,
ESPN-Plus put up its keys of the
game. Michigan was given just one:
Forgive me for being confused, but it
has been a little hard to tell what that
Nearly halfway through the regular
season schedule, it seems Michigan has
been afflicted with multiple personalities.
For the first three games, Michigan
had its offense rolling and national
championship aspirations. But the team
that showed up against Oregon and Indi-
ana seemed to be a different set of guys
- they looked the same at first, but then
they started playing. The offense was
sluggish, at best. The running game
pulled a disappearing act. And the
Wolverines didn't do the little things it
takes to win championships, like protect
the football and win on the road.
So which team is the real one?
What does "be Michigan" mean?
We're about to find out.
The Wolverines are entering the meat
of their Big Ten schedule and consecu-
tive road games against Iowa and Min-
nesota will go a long way in revealing
Michigan's identity this season.
Michigan can't afford another loss if
it hopes to hang onto its slim Sugar
Bowl chances. And Iowa is no Indiana
- not even close - so lack of intensity
and an offense that takes two quarters to
warm up won't cut it this week.
Disappointment was the word more
than one Michigan player used to
describe last week, and the sloppiness
baffled receiver Jason Avant.
"I don't know if I've seen John
(Navarre) throw an interception in prac-
tice," Avant said. "We had a tremendous
week in practice, we just didn't come
out to play."
Avant does know one thing for sure.
"We can't play like that. Next time, we
will get beat if we play like that," he said.
Besides gauging the offense as a
whole, the Iowa game will be a chance
to determine what the real Michigan
running game looks like. Chris Perry
seemed like a leading Heisman candi-
date in the first three games, but Satur-
day he may have to work hard to prove
he's the best back on the field. Iowa's
Fred Russell, whose stats aren't far
behind Perry's, will be a definite threat
to Michigan's defense.
Michigan's other challenge, which
starts this weekend and continues next
week in Minneapolis, is to prove that it
can win on the road. Michigan hasn't
won road games in back-to-back weeks
since 1999 and has lost at least two
games away from home in each of the
last three seasons.
Captain Grant Bowman expects the
Michigan of the first three games to
show up in Iowa City.
"We have the motivation of getting a
win on the road," Bowman said. "We
are playing against a tremendous team
that beat us last year. I do not think
there is any chance of us not being pre-
pared for a game of this caliber."
Someone told me this week that he
thought Saturday's game could define
Michigan's season. It may seem a little
early for that, but he might not have
been far off. A loss would put the Sugar
Bowl completely out of reach and a Big
Ten crown in doubt. A win would make
it look like just another conference
game - which is what ESPN-Plus's
"Michigan" is supposed to do.
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