September 23, 2005
sports. michigandaily. com
Blue front seven
, need work: Sacks
still on the decline
LaMarr Woodley and the Michigan defense, which has only tallied six sacks so far this season, will have a lot to handle against the Badger defense tomorrow.
Michigan's nonconference schedule didn't go
exactly as it would have liked, with an unimpres-
sive win over Northern Illinois and an embarrass-
ing loss to Notre Dame. But after their blowout
win against Eastern Michigan last weekend, the
Wolverines head into the Big Ten season with a
renewed focus on winning its third consecutive
Unlike Michigan, Wisconsin enters Big Ten play
with an unblemished 3-0 record. But it hasn't been
an easy ride for the Badgers, who just barely eked
out a victory against Bowling Green in the first
game of the season. Wisconsin has extra motivation
to win this year with long-time coach Barry Alva-
rez stepping down at the end of the season.
Michigan passing offense vs. Wisconsin pass-
So far this season, Wisconsin's opponents have
actually out thrown the Badgers. Bowling Green,
Temple and North Carolina averaged 265 yards
through the air. Michigan hasn't been able to
find a consistent deep threat yet this year, but the
Wolverines have the weapons to be unstoppable.
Senior co-captain Jason Avant leads the team
with 22 receptions for 310 yards. The real ques-
tion will be if the coaching staff allows sopho-
more quarterback Chad Henne to air it out. In the
past, the Michigan offense has gone conservative
edge i its fir
in its first road game.
Michigan rushing offense vs. Wisconsin rush-
Having given up just 39.7 yards per game on the
ground this season, Wisconsin is fourth in the nation
in rushing defense. The Badgers have yet to give up
more than 75 rushing yards, and two weeks ago they
held Temple to a meager 11. Of course, Temple is no
Michigan. The Wolverines have -had three different
running backs lead the team in rushing in the last
three weeks. The big question is if sophomore Mike
Hart will play after not dressing last week because
of a leg injury. Though Kevin Grady and Max Mar-
tin are certainly capable ball carriers, the backups
have had trouble holding onto the football in the past.
They should be able to rack up more than 100 yards
against the Badgers, but the test will be limiting the
Wisconsin passing offense vs. Michigan pass-
The Badgers rank fourth in total offense among
Big Ten teams, but very little of that production
has come through the air. Quarterback John Stoc-
it road gm
co is efficient but has completed just 34 passes for
434 yards on the season. Against North Carolina,
Stocco passed for 138 yards on 14-of-23 pass-
ing but was sacked four times. Michigan has had
trouble pressuring the quarterback this season,
notching six sacks in three games. But the Wol-
verines have still found a way to slow down their
opponents' air attacks, giving up just 459 passing
yards to this point.
Wisconsin rushing offense vs. Michigan rush-
Badgers tailback Brian Calhoun torched the Tar
Heels last weekend, amassing 174 yards and two
touchdowns on 38 carries. The redshirt junior is
currently the second-leading rusher in the Big Ten
with 471 yards in three games. The Wolverines'
defense held Eastern Michigan to just 15 rushing
yards at the Big House last week. Michigan has
improved its run defense since it gave up 224 yards
to Northern Illinois in its first game. Still, none of
the running backs the Wolverines have faced com-
pare to Calhoun.
See BADGERS, page 9
By Ian Herbert
Daily Sports Editor
At the beginning of the season, the
defensive line looked like it might be
one of the stronger units on a defense
full of question marks. With a second-
ary that, including injured free safety
Ryan Mundy, was missing three start-
ers from last season, the thought was
that the line had to be impressive if
Michigan was going to do well.
But through the first three games,
Michigan has managed just two sacks
from starters in the front seven. In
total, the Wolverines have six sacks
this season, but cornerback Leon F'all
has two, safety Brandent Englemon
has one and backup rush linebacker
Tim Jamison got one last week in the
final minute of Michigan's blowout
victory against Eastern Michigan.
"Defensively, I'm very, very disap-
pointed in the way we played, partic-
ularly in the front seven," Michigan
coach Lloyd Carr said after the sea-
son opener against Northern Illi-
nois. "We're just not where we need
to be. We need to play harder. We
need to play more physical. That is
After that game, Carr made some
adjustments to the front seven, hop-
ing that it would spark some change.
He sat nose tackle Gabe Watson and
started Will Johnson in his place. He
also started Rondell Biggs in place of
Jeremy Van Alstyne at defensive end.
Neither Van Alstyne nor Watson, who
last year was an All-Big Ten first team
selection, started last week against
Eastern Michigan either - leading
some observers to believe that no
position is guaranteed.
"I think it puts pressure on us to do
our best," Biggs said earlier this week
about the changes in the line. "I think
it can be a good thing. The way we
look at it is it's good. It sends a mes-
sage that we've got to do what we've
got to do and probably exceed what
their expectations are."
But still the defensive line cannot
seem to get pressure on opposing quar-
terbacks without help from blitzing
safeties and cornerbacks. Last season,
the defense didn't fair much better,
racking up just 21 sacks in 12 games.
But 20 of the 21 sacks were made by
linemen or linebackers - senior cor-
nerback Marlin Jackson picked one up,
The decline in sacks is part of a
larger, more disturbing trend for the
Michigan football team. Four years
ago, the defense picked up 50 sacks,
the next year it was 42 and two years
ago the total was a meager 29 before
dropping to 21 last year.
Michigan brought in new defen-
sive line coach Steve Stripling this
year to try to stop the decline in
sacks. He was hired to replace Bill
Sheridan, who was naturally a line-
backers coach and left Michigan to
take that position with the New York
Giants. Stripling has spent 19 sea-
sons in the Big Ten, and the last two
years he coached just up the road at
Michigan State. In 2003, the Spar-
tans were fifth nationally in sacks
with 45 - 27 of which came from
the defensive line.
"At the beginning of the spring,
we gave him a hard time for coming
from Lansing," senior co-captain and
defensive tackle Pat Massey said. "But
he's an intense guy. He's got certain
goals for us, and he's definitely deter-
mined to get us to where we need to
be. If you look at the film from the
beginning of the spring to the end
of the spring, I think you'll see some
significant improvement, and I think
that's because of him."
Even though there haven't been many
bright spots for the Wolverines' defen-
sive line this season, rush end LaMarr
Woodley has been an exception. The
defensive line this year has just two
sacks, and Woodley has accounted
for both of them. In one of the biggest
defensive plays of Michigan's loss
to Notre Dame, Woodley lined up at
right defensive end, beat the left tackle
and sacked Irish quarterback Brady
Quinn, pushing the Irish back eight
yards. Last week against the Eagles,
Woodley again got to the quarterback
for a 12-yard loss - this time from
the left end. Woodley is fourth on the
team with 12 tackles, including four
tackles for loss. But it is the two sacks
that stand out - especially consider-
ing the rest of the team has combined
for just four.
0 IC HOCKEY
Tambellini skates at Yost one more time *
By James V. Dowd
Daily Sports Writer
After shocking the Michigan hockey team by leav-
ing Ann Arbor for the Los Angeles Kings, forward
Jeff Tambellini was assigned to the Kings' American
Hockey League affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs,
Yesterday, Tambellini - who spent the past month
at the Kings' training camp in El Segundo, Calif.
- returned to Michigan to practice with his old team-
mates before joining the Monarchs on Monday.
"It's good to be back in Ann Arbor," Tambel-
lini said. "I get back four days of my senior year.
I get to enjoy it for a few days, and then I'll get
ready to play,."
Tambellini skated with the team during yesterday's
captains' scrimmage, giving him the opportunity to
check out the team's 11 freshmen. Even though he
was impressed with the play of the group, it was
tough for him to single anyone out with so many new
"I walked in the dressing room and didn't know half
the room," Tambellini said. "It was kind of a weird
feeling for the first time in three years. I'm still trying
to figure out who's who with the helmets on, but they
look like a good, solid group."
The freshmen will have to find their game fast if
the Maize and Blue hope to replace Tambellini's 57
points from last year. The learning curve will be simi-
larly steep for Tambellini in Manchester on Monday.
Even though he won't start the year in Los Angeles,
Tambellini hopes to have a chance to join the Kings
at some point.
"Hopefully I'll get a call-up and make an impact,"Tam-
bellini said. "I just have to play as well as I can, and that's
as much as I can control. Sometimes guys get injured, or
they make moves, but all I can do is keep playing hard,
earn a chance to go up and take advantage of it."
While at the Kings' camp, Tambellini found that the
biggest difference was the speed of the game. He said
that finding his comfort zone amidst the fast-paced
play will be the key to earning a shot in the NHL.
"Everything is so much faster at that level," Tam-
bellini said. "Nobody misses passes. The practices
are a lot shorter, but they are harder and more intense.
The guys are stronger and work every single time they
touch the puck."
Tambellini was one of three Michigan players to
depart early for NHL camps this summer. Goalten-
der Al Montoya joined the New York Rangers, and
forward Mike Brown signed with the Vancouver
Canucks. Both Brown and Montoya have remained in
their respective training camps thus far.
Tambellini spoke to Montoya recently and said that
he is settling in well.
"I talk to (Montoya) a lot," Tambellini said. "He's
doing well, still with New York. I don't think he's
played in a game yet, but when he gets a chance, I
know he'll do well."
Before every football game this season, two of the Daily football
writers will take the weekend's matchup to the PlayStation 2 and then
let you know what happened.
" Play of the game - With 1:02 left in the game, Michigan DT #94
broke through the line for a 10-yard sack. Wisconsin QB #7 then spiked
the ball despite the fact that he had more than a minute to play. The game
ended two plays later when Wisconsin couldn't manage a first down.
* Player of the game - Michigan HB #20 ran the ball 23 times 177
yards and three touchdowns. He picked up 91 yards after the first hit.
Michigan coach Ian Herbert: "That
onside kick almost killed us. I don't
know what TE #89 was thinking
when he swatted that ball right to
the other team. He's supposed to
have good hands. Thankfully, DT
#94 saved him with a tremendous
"No, I was not surprised by the 45-
yard catch by WR #15 at the end of
the half. He looked like Santana Moss
against the Cowboys last week."
"HB #20 showed a lot of hart coming
back from that injury. I think that
speaks to his character."
"Recovering that botched punt just
before halftime did remind me a lot
the last time we played at Camp
Wisconsin coach Gabe Edelson: "To
tell you the truth, we never should have
put ourselves in this position to begin
with. Some costly mistakes - like a
muffed punt just before halftime and
a bad decision to spike the ball that
hrnuht un third-and-lnno - came
athletic play to get the
sack on the