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October 07, 2004 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 2004-10-07

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I

Thursday
October 7, 2004
sports.rmichigandaily.com
sports@michigandaily.com

PORTS

1OA

. ................ . . . . ............

'M' ready
for running
onslaught
By Bob Hunt
Daily Sports Editor
Whether it's the shovel option or the fake punt,
opposing teams seem to always come into their
game against Michigan this season with a trick
up their sleeve.
But this week, the Wolverines know exactly
what's coming. It's just a question of whether they
can stop it.
"We know they're going to try and run the
ball," Michigan linebacker Lawrence Reid said.
"We just have to go out and try to defend it."
There are currently two running backs in the
Big Ten that average more than 100 yards per
game on the ground.
Both will be on the field this Saturday, and
both will be wearing maroon and gold.
The Golden Gophers' "starter" at running back,
junior Marion Barber III, is a 215-pound power
back that likes to run between the tackles and plow
through his offensive line. He averages 120.4 yards
per game, good for 11th in the nation.
The Golden Gophers' "back-up," sophomore
Laurence Maroney, is Barber's speed counter-
part, and happens to average almost 14 yards per
game more than Minnesota's starter.
Either Barber or Maroney has had a 100-yard
first half in four of the first five games the team
has played this year.
"(They have) maybe the best running game I've
ever seen in 25 years in the Big Ten conference,"
Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. "When you look
at the yards per game, it's outstanding especially
in a day and age when people are having trouble
running the football."
Carr said that what makes the Minnesota run-
ning game so great is the running pair's ability
to see the field, and the offensive line's ability to
create necessary green space.
"They've made a lot of plays where the .ball
cuts all the way outside to the tight end to the left,
which really takes great blocking and great vision
on the part of the ball carrier," Carr said.
The Wolverines come into the week as the No.
I rush defense in the nation, giving up just 47.2
yards per game. But they came into last year's
matchup with Minnesota also doing very well
against the run. Then the Golden Gophers ran for
424 net-rushing yards, with Barber picking up
197 yards on 21 carries.
No team had ever run for that many yards
against the Wolverines.
For Michigan to prevent a repeat performance,
it's going to have to fight off the excessive number
of chop blocks that Minnesota throws at opposing
defenses.
"That's what happened to us a year ago," Carr
said. "We had too many guys on the ground - or
turf."
While the Wolverines implement the same
WOMEN'S CROSS COUNTRY

This year doomed
from outset for Cubs

Minnesota running back Marion Barber 111 leads the Gophers with seven touchdowns this year.

strategy on occasion, most teams typically try to
block defenders high in. The Golden Gophers, on
the other hand, want to take would-be tacklers out
from underneath. This allows for the two-headed
Minnesota running attack to have plenty of room
to storm down the field.
"The instinctive thing to do is to look up," Carr
said. "You know there's a guy back there with the
ball. When you look up, now you're vulnerable,
and he gets to your legs. Once he gets to your
legs, you're on the ground and you're done."
Despite the fact that the Denver Broncos have
made the scheme famous in the NFL, not many of
Michigan's opponents have that philosophy.
"The difficulty, even if you use that scheme, is
how do you teach it without getting a lot of guys
hurt?" Carr said. "A lot of credit goes to their
coaching staff. They've done a great job of being
able to get that system taught and implemented.
Nobody has enough players that you could go out
Tuesday and Wednesday and do those blocks live,
where everybody is on the ground. If you've got
a guy 300 pounds, and he goes to the ground 50
times a day, something is going to give."
The Wolverines have tried to prepare for the

scheme with occasional drills throughout spring
practice and this fall, but the team understands
the task at hand.
"I think we'll know a lot more about our defense
after we face the challenge that this Minnesota
team presents," Carr said.
RUN, GOPHER RUN
Minnesota leads the Big Ten in rushing with its one-
two combo of running backs, Marion Barber III and
Laurence Maroney. Here's a look at how the two backs
have performed in the team's first five games:

BOB HUNT
Unleashed
s the baseball playoffs begin
this week, one of the sport's
most popular teams will be
sitting at home. With the National
League wildcard in their grasp, the
Cubs lost seven of eight games in the
final week and a half of the season
to be eliminated from playoff con-
tention. At this time last year, the
Cubs became the team of bandwagon
jumpers everywhere, sending rat-
ings into the stratosphere. They were
poised to become the story of the
sporting year, needing to win just one
out of three games to win their first
pennant since 1945.
They lost all three.
But 2004 was a new year. The
foul ball snatched by Steve Bart-
man was gone - literally. The ball
was blown up in public display on
national television, beginning the
team's downward spiral in the eighth
inning of the 2003 National League
Championship Series.
Forget the old Cubs fan phrase
"Wait 'till next year," 2004 was sup-
posed to be the year where the team
would make and advance in the
playoffs. Sports Illustrated picked the
Cubs to win the World Series (even
though this was probably just done to
sell magazines, but I digress). Cubs
tickets became more popular than
ever before, as the entire regular sea-
son sold out before the home opener.
Chicago, and much of America,
believed the hype. Yeah, the Astros
were improved, but the Giants hadn't
done anything during the off-season,
the Braves were the weakest team
to come out of Atlanta in years and
the Dodgers had no offense. And the
Cardinals. Heck, they didn't have any
pitching. The Cubs couldn't miss the
series this year!
As it turned out, the hype ended
up being like watching one of those
infomercials for a Jujitsu knife at 4
a.m. It sounds great, but once you get
it, it doesn't seem to slice and dice
the way that guy who had drank way
too much coffee told you it would.
Frankly, the fact that the Cubs had
the opportunity to lose five straight
games at home in the final week was
a miracle in itself. The season ended
up being one fiasco after another off
the field, something few teams could
recover from. Yes, many Cubs com-
plained so much that the media have
labeled the team a bunch of whiners.
While almost every team in every
sport at every level has to face some
type of adversity in order to succeed,
what occurred this season gave me
the feeling that maybe this wasn't the
year everyone made it out to be.
For those of you who weren't pay-
ing attention, these are some (there
are more) of the things that happened
to those Cubbies this year:
" Starting with Mark Prior's
nagging Achilles tendon in spring
training (and later, his elbow),
almost every important Cub spent
some time this year watching from
the dugout. Kerry Wood missed a
month with a bad elbow. Sammy
Sosa injured his back while sneez-
ing. Yes, sneezing. Third baseman
Aramis Ramirez had a strained
groin. Second baseman Mark
Grudzielanek had his own Achilles
injury. Even Nomar Garciaparra,

the team's major mid-season acqui-
sition, spent weeks at a time on the
bench for various reasons. The list
goes on...
* At the request of his art-lov-
ing agent, Prior agreed during the
off-season to make a promotional
appearance at "Just Ducky," an arts
and collectables store in the western
Chicago suburb of Naperville. He
supposedly agreed to sign a bunch of
$300 handcrafted porcelain replicas
of Wrigley Field. The problem is,
the event happened to fall the night
before Prior's first start of the season,
which was following a two-month
stay on the disabled list. Prior tried
to get out of the event, but the store
declined after putting thousands
into advertising. The pitcher, who
rejects all media requests any day
before he takes the mound, freaked.
He left over an hour before he was
supposed to, forsaking people who
bought something just to get Prior's
signature with an expensive desk item
and others who didn't know about the
purchase requirement, furious. The
store sued Prior, and it has yet to be
resolved.
Richard Daley, Chicago's Mayor
and a White Sox fan who has never
set foot in Wrigley Field, threatened
to cancel home games at the last min-
ute twice because of falling concrete
in the ballpark. Daley fought with
the Tribune Company - which owns
the Cubs - throughout the entire
year, and the Cubs put up protective
netting around the stadium. The two
groups, which have squabbled over
the Cubs' proposed ballpark reno-
vations and the expansion of night
games for years, still aren't in agree-
ment as to Wrigley's status for next
season.
" In September, the Cubs left for
Miami to play a three-game series
against the Marlins. They ended up
taking the weekend off because of the
arrival of Hurricane Frances. This
forced the Cubs to play 26 games in
the remaining 24 days of the season,
which definitely could have led to
team's final-week collapse.
" Putting the cherry on top of the
sundae of disaster, Sammy Sosa,
whose me-first antics-wore thin as
his performance diminished, decided
that he couldn't take it anymore.
After the Cubs were officially elimi-
nated from the playoffs last Saturday,
Sosa decided to skip town - without
permission - before the season fina-
le. This capped a feud between Sosa
and manager Dusty Baker that was
just one of the disputes Cubs players
had this season. Almost no one was
spared. Management, coaches, broad-
casters and umpires were all involved
in verbal fisticuffs with Cubs this
season.
In the end, the Cubs finished three
games behind the resilient Astros, and
light years behind the Cardinals. The
season ended like the season finale
of a primetime soap, with plenty of
issues yet to be settled before next
April. Play-by-play announcer Chip
Caray has already announced that he's
leaving for Atlanta. Sosa trade rumors
are flying everywhere. Garciaparra's
and Alou's chances of re-signing look
dim. Now a team looking to build a
multi-year run doesn't know where it
will be next week.
What will happen to these Cubs?
Well, like most years, fans are just
going to have to wait 'till next year.
Chicago-area native Bob Hunt
hopes that he won't have to wait 13
hours online next year when Cubs tick-
ets go on sale just so he can purchase
weekday games in August. He can be
reached at bobhunt@umich.edu.

I

Bark~
$ arlber
M a oeTo t a l

Att.
106
98

Yards
602
670

Avg.
57
6.8

TD Avgffr
7 120.4
5 134.0~
,T 1 2 2 5 4 .4

204 1,272 6.2 1

,...

Kohimejer transitioning to highest level

By Katie Niemeyer
Daily Sports Writer
How do you go from being the
undisputed top runner in your school
and Canadian province to just one
of many? Friendly and upbeat cross
country freshman runner Alyson
Kohlmeier looks at it as a challenge
that can be overcome with a little
balance and a lot of hard work and,
in the end, will make her a better
runner.
"I have a lot of room for improve-
ment," Kohlmeier said. "Being in
an environment like this, I can see
myself improving a lot."
Kohlmeier was the star runner at
St. Patrick's High School in Sarnia,
Ont., but she never had a real team
to run with and compete with. Now,
she looks forward to having strong
runners around her to push her and
make her better.

"I've never had a team before,"
Kohlmeier said. "In my high school,
we never had other strong runners,
so it's really nice having the envi-
ronment where you have 10 girls
doing a workout together. It's really
different, but I like it a lot."
Michigan coach Mike McGuire
believes that how well Kohlmeier
makes this transition will be a key
to her success in college, and he
thinks she has all the tools to make
this adjustment.
"I think her development indi-
vidually will be a byproduct of how
she transitions into working within
a team environment," McGuire said.
"We're looking for her to transition
smoothly and feel like she can con-
tribute without the weight of the
world on her shoulders. We've got
other outstanding athletes to pull
from, train with, race with, and
help her in the adjustment to col-

lege level running. All that would
facilitate her getting the individual
accolades I'm sure she strives for."
She was four-time provincial
cross country champion in Ontario
without the help of strong runners
pushing her every day in practice.
McGuire believes that she has the
capacity to be even better.
"I think if she stays healthy, she
can be as good as anybody we've
had here," McGuire said. "Obvious-
ly we've had a long line of outstand-
ing All-Americans and Big Ten
Champions, and she's more than
capable of achieving those types of
accolades."
Kohlmeier wants to improve her
times and achieve personal success,
but team success is just as impor-
tant to her.
"I just hope our team can do
really well at (the NCAA Champi-
onships) this year, because we have

a really strong team and most of us
are healthy right now," Kohlmeier
said.
Kohlmeier has already begun to
contribute to team success. As the
third Wolverine to cross the finish
line (with a time of 17:11), she con-
tributed to a second-place team fin-
ish at the Notre Dame Invitational
on Friday. Kohlmeier looks forward
to the next race tomorrow and fur-
ther improvement, but in the mean-
time she's enjoying her first year
with the Wolverines and learning
as much as she can from the older
runners.
"I really like the team because I
think the girls are really balanced,"
Kohlmeier said. "Even though we
have to train hard and be serious at
practice, we still make it really fun.
We don't dread coming to practice
every day. It's something to look
forward to."

Gajic looking to step up role in final campaign

By Ryan Sosin
Daily Sports Writer

Milan Gajic is serious.
OK, not that serious. But the senior forward wants to
make his last season in Ann Arbor his best yet.
After three roller coaster seasons on and off the ice,
Gajic aims to put everything out on the ice en route to
what he hopes is Michigan's first National Championship
since 1998.
"If we don't win it this year, I think, hockey-wise, my
four years will be much of a disappointment," Gajic said.
This season marks an important crossroads to his
career. After two-and-a-half years of underachieving,
Gajic finally began to live up to the hype in the middle

his own shots - almost to the point of passing up on too
many opportunities.
"He makes good plays in the offensive zone, but I want
to see him score goals," Berenson said. "When he gets his
chances, he's got to bury them."
While Gajic feels that the younger players need to learn
some things on their own, he knows he has a lot to share.
"You just show them the way - they ask questions and
you try to give them your advice," Gajic said. "It's a nice
compliment from the coaches when they think you can
help out those guys."
Gajic quickly points out that his role on the team is to
score goals. Many critics have pointed to his lackluster
defensive play over his career. But he feels that as long as
the goals are coming, he doesn't need to stand out in his

to suspend twice.
This season gives Gajic a chance to not only finish his
stay in Ann Arbor on a high note, but also to put himself
in a good position when he reports to the Atlanta Thrash-
ers organization -which drafted him in the fourth round
in 2001 -next September.
With all the focus on a national championship, Gajic
still manages to keep things simple:
"That's what I do, I score goals."

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