October 4, 2005
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By Matt Venegoni
Daily Sports Editor
Fifteen minutes was all it took.
That quarter of an hour may be what
sophomore quarterback Chad Henne
needed to return to form and put the
Wolverines back into the Big Ten race.
It was obvious from the first four
games of the season that Henne was
not the quarterback he was last year.
Was it because he was without departed
wide receiver Braylon Edwards? Was it
a sophomore slump? Or was he just not
as good as everyone thought?
Although Henne had eight touch-
downs and only two interceptions, he
completed just 53 percent of his passes
heading into the Michigan State game.
More worrisome was his play when
games were on the line. Against Notre
Dame, Henne threw an interception -
a forced pass to a covered receiver - in
the red zone when the Wolverines were
ready to score. In the road opener at
Wisconsin, he often looked rattled and
couldn't keep the offense on the field as
the Michigan defense tired.
But after his performance against
Michigan State - in which Henne
went 26-of-35 for 256 yards and three
touchdowns - it may have just been a
mechanical problem that was affecting
Michigan's signal caller.
After the 23-20 loss to the Badgers,
Henne and the coaching staff ques-
tioned whether his form was affecting
his throws. He admits that many of his
passes were either too high or behind
the intended target.
"I think, at Wisconsin, I had a lot of
physical mistakes; it wasn't so much
mental," Henne said. "We went back on
Sunday and Monday and fixed those.
It was something with my release and
body weight in my drop. It probably
only took about 15 minutes."
Ali-Frazier fights get
Varsity ready to rumble
We often hear the game of football equated with
war. The regimental pageantry, strict disci-
pline and use of military terminology leave
little to the imagination. In no other sport would partici-
pants named "gunners" sprint by teammates engaged in
But last week, Michigan coach Lloyd Carr used a differ-
ent approach in preparing his team for its upcoming show-
down with Michigan State. Instead of simply requiring the
Wolverines to watch film of the Spartans' previous games
this season, Carr added another mandatory item to the agen-
da: He showed his players clips from the legendary trilogy
of fights between boxing immortals Muhammad
Ali and Joe Frazier - the 1971 "Fight of the
Century," a 1974 rematch and the "Thrilla in
Manila" from 1975. The sweet science became
a running theme throughout the team's train-
ing and the game itself, with each player taking
away different motivational elements.
For defensive tackle Gabe Watson, the fights
demonstrated the importance of perseverance.
"One time, Frazier hit Ali," Watson
recalled. "(Ali) fell down, (but) he got back up
before they could even start the count. (Giving G
up) big plays was like us falling down, but we ED]
had to get back up and continue to fight. We Hone
did that, and we came away with the victory."
Linebacker Prescott Burgess used the fights' symbolism
to fuel his relentless effort on defense. His seven tackles in
the game were the second-most on the team.
"We had to go out there and throw blows even though
we were taking some," Burgess said. "We just had to
punch harder and harder. I think (watching the fights)
woke a lot of us up, seeing that, if they could do it, why
Whatever the Wolverines gained from studying Ali and
Frazier, the parallels between the heavyweight bouts and
the rivalry game were striking.
Ali had his sharp, staccato jabs and crosses to go along
with his famously fancy footwork.
Michigan had Chad Henne's precision passing and
Mike Hart's nimble scampers downfield.
Frazier used a bone-crushing left hook to floor his
Michigan State used Drew Stanton's swirling scrambles
and looping receiver routes to confuse its foe.
Ali loved talking trash to intimidate "Smokin' Joe."
Mike Hart relished jawing at the Spartans' sideline
after a 45-yard gain in the first quarter.
Ali made a point of calling Frazier "ugly" to the nation-
Watson called the Paul Bunyan Trophy - which goes
to the annual winner of the intrastate contest - "the ugli-
est trophy in the world."
The blood feud between Ali and Frazier came to an
end after 41 grueling rounds. Neither fighter was ever the
same. How fitting that, in the Michigan-Michigan State
series, the past two games have ended in over-
time, with this year's result ending the Spar-
tans' hopes for a perfect season.
"Back then, fights were 15 rounds," Watson
said. "We went 16 (on Saturday)."
In the gridiron version of the slugfest, the
Wolverines came out swinging, jumping out
to an early 14-0 lead. Michigan and Michigan
State then proceeded to stand toe-to-toe, trad-
ing punches and refusing to flinch until they
found themselves deadlocked at 31 points
BE apiece when the final bell sounded. In the
SON extra session, Garrett Rivas delivered the
Gabe knockout blow with his 35-yard game-win-
ning field goal. When Pierre Woods hoisted
the kicker up like a punch-drunk pugilist after an exhaust-
ing match, the symmetry was complete.
Safety Willis Barringer claimed he'd never seen boxing
related to football before. But Carr's motives for using the
ring footage were simple. It related directly to his team's
goal of picking up a third consecutive Big Ten crown.
"Every game that we play in the Big Ten at this stage
is a championship game," Carr said. "It's hard to think
that anybody is going to lose twice. We're trying to win a
championship, and those are two pretty good champions,
Ali and Frazier."
When the dust finally settled on Saturday, it was Michi-
gan walking away with the title belt. The Spartans found
themselves with a black eye, a puffy lip and a 12-month
wait for a rematch.
Chad Henne threw for 256 yards and three touchdowns in Saturday's win.
Henne looked confident as he threw
on Saturday, especially early on, when
he completed six-of-nine attempts on
the opening touchdown drive. The last
pass, a perfect toss to Jason Avant on a
fade route, gave Michigan a 7-0 lead and
Henne plenty to work with. Although he
did throw an interception on Michigan's
first drive of the third quarter, Henne
doesn't think it was another sign of sec-
ond-half woes for him.
"They dropped back into cover-
age, and (Michigan State's Sir Darean
Adams) reacted late and made a great
play," Henne said. "But you play each
play and forget that play and move on."
And Henne was able to do just that,
in part because of a change the team
made for the Michigan State game.
Other than - working on mechan-
ics, Henne also benefited from having
offensive coordinator Terry Malone on
"I thought it was a big impact, just
having the offensive coordinator to talk
to between plays," Henne said. "Even
though I talk on the phone with (quar-
terback) coach (Scott) Loeffler, it's just
not the same having someone out there
on the sideline with you."
Maybe fixing his mechanics and
talking to Malone was all Henne need-
ed to turn his season around and help
Michigan get back into the top 25. But
if the Wolverines want to stay in the
Big Ten race and win a third straight
conference title, Henne is going to have
to play more like he did against Michi-
gan State than how he did against Wis-
consin and Notre Dame.
- Gabe Edelson can be reached
WE COULD'VE TAKEN FRAZIER AND Au.
You work hard,
" romThomson Financa'
Grow your talents at Thomson.
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