October 11, 2005
- - - - -- - - -
Henne will start,
no matter what
loyd Carr made it clear for
what seems like the 100th time
- he has no plans to bench Chad
Henne in favor of Matt Gutierrez.
The reasons to make the change were
obvious after Michigan's 23-20 loss to
Minnesota. Henne completed just 14
of 29 passes for 155 yards on Saturday,
and it was the first time in his Michi-
gan career that he didn't throw for a
touchdown. Under pressure all day, the
sophomore repeatedly missed wide-open
receivers for almost guaranteed scores.
It's been that kind of season for
Henne. His overall num-
bers are respectable
- 108-of-192 passing for
1,266 yards, 11 touchdowns
and just three interceptions.
But like his team, Henne
has struggled in critical
moments. Michigan's three
losses have coincided with
the three games Henne's
completion percentage has
been less than 50 percent. STEPH
In the six second halves WRI
combined, he has complet- Wright o
ed just 46.2 percent of his
passes and thrown all three of his picks,
compared with 61.6 percent passing and
nine scores in the first half.
But Carr has not lost faith in his
quarterback. After the Wolverines' loss
at Wisconsin, Carr was asked whether
Gutierrez could receive playing time in
light of Henne's struggles. In response,
Carr said he had "great confidence" in
Henne, and that hasn't changed despite
his poor performance on Saturday.
So to all those fans who want the
Wyomissing, Penn., native to start this
weekend on the bench - I'm sorry to
burst your bubble, but it looks like Henne
will be under center when the offense
takes the field against Penn State.
And I couldn't agree with the decision
Henne proved he is capable of being
a great quarterback last season when
- as a true freshman - he completed
60.2 percent of his passes for 2,743 yards
and 25 touchdowns. It was the third-best
statistical year of any quarterback in
But no one cares about his past suc-
cess when the Wolverines are just 1-2
in the Big Ten. Except for the big win
over Michigan State, Henne hasn't
done much for us lately, and that is a
problem. But it doesn't mean he should
lose his job.
For starters, Henne is still just a soph-
omore. I know, I know - that shouldn't
be an excuse, especially after he played
so well in his first year. But with as much
experience as he gained last season, I
have to believe Henne is still learning
this year. And even if he has an expert's
command of the offense, he has to adjust
to the fact that teams have seen a lot of
him - either in person or on tape - and
are better able to exploit his faults this
time around. It's frustrating to watch, but
playing through it is the only way Henne
It doesn't help that inju-
ries have forced Michigan
to start a different lineup
on offense in each of its six
games. In fact, Henne is one
of just four offensive play-
ers who have started every
contest. (Jason Avant, Leo
Henige and Adam Stenavich
are the other three.) The
Wolverines have also been
ANIE without injured All-Big Ten
1HT second-team right tackle
Target Jake Long all season. As a
result, the offensive line's
pass protection has been sub-par in a
number of games, leading Henne to
speed through reads, force throws and
move out of the pocket.
But explanations aside, Henne
deserves to start because he is the best
quarterback on the team, and the fact
that he continued to start even after Guti-
errez returned from injury is proof.
A similar situation took place in New
England in 2001 when Patriots coach
Bill Belichick started Tom Brady even
after Drew Bledsoe was healthy. Three
Super Bowl wins later, I'm pretty sure
Belichick made the right choice.
It's not an exact comparison, but
Carr made a similar decision last year.
Gutierrez had been named starting
quarterback for the season opener
against Miami (Ohio), but he suffered a
shoulder injury before the game. Henne
started in his place and had an impres-
sive debut, completing 14-of-24 passes
for 142 yards and two touchdowns. And
after struggling against Notre Dame, he
led Michigan to its second straight Big
Carr saw something special in Henne
then, and he continues to see it now. I'm
confident that he will be proven right.
David Harris dives
to make one of
his I8 tackles
23-20 loss to
Loss mars career game for Harris
By Ian Herbert
Daily Sports Editor
He was everywhere on Saturday.
With his performance against the Gophers, Michi-
gan linebacker David Harris catapulted himself into
the record books. His 15 solo tackles and 18 total
tackles tie him for fifth and 12th, respectively, in
tackles in a single game. The Grand Rapids native
was everywhere, helping contain Minnesota's star
running back, Laurence Maroney. But to Harris, the
only numbers that matter are 23-20.
"It doesn't mean anything," Harris said. "I'll give my 18
tackles up in place of a win anytime. All that matters is if
we win, and we didn't."
But it's more than Harris just being modest. When
the middle linebacker on Michigan's defense makes
15 solo tackles, something is wrong. There are some
units - such as the Baltimore Ravens led by Ray
Lewis - that design their schemes around allow-
ing the middle linebacker to roam free and make the
majority of the team's tackles.
But Michigan is not one of those teams. The Michigan
defense is built around many players getting to the ball.
For the season, six players have 30 or more tackles. Line-
men, linebackers and defensive backs are all in the top-five
- an example of the team's depth.
"It's designed more to get more people in on the ball,"
Harris said. "It's everybody's job to get off their block and
find a way to the ball somehow, some way. And Saturday,
we didn't do that as a team, as a unit."
Harris, a redshirt junior, didn't play much last
season. Two years ago, he suffered a season-ending
knee injury in just the second game of the season.
And because he didn't see game action at all during
his freshman year, Harris didn't have a great deal of
experience under his belt. Though he saw the field in
seven games last season, he made just one start. He
started against Iowa and recorded a career-high six
tackles against the Hawkeyes.
Despite his inexperience coming into this season,
Harris has been one of the defense's most consistent con-
tributors. Because of nagging injuries, Harris didn't play
against Northern Illinois in the first game of the year. But
since seeing game action against Notre Dame, he has led
the team in tackles.
"I think David Harris had a great football game on Sat-
urday," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. "I think Harris
is having a great year. He is one of the real outstanding
linebackers in this conference. He played great."
Even though he had an impressive game, Harris could do
nothing on the most important play of the game. With time
running out in regulation, Minnesota was backed up deep in
its own territory and was just trying to run out the clock. On
third-and-10, backup freshman running back Gary Russell
took the ball on a stretch play to the right. Michigan's line-
backers were supposed to force the play inside, but Russell
made it outside of junior Prescott Burgess and ran 61 yards
to set up the game-winning field goal.
While cornerback Leon Hall said he saw people "loaf-
ing," or not trying, when he watched tape of that play, Har-
ris didn't see that. He thought players were running hard,
but he said he saw some poor execution.
"I saw a defense that lost the game and a lot of players
getting caught on blocks that were not able to get off and a
lot of players got chopped in that play," Harris said. "And
when that happens, it's a big play."
And though he seemed to make every tackle on Satur-
day, he couldn't make the one that mattered most.
0 ICE HOCKEY
Defensive duos succeed in different ways
By Mark Giannotto
Daily Sports Writer
As the saying goes, "offense may
win games, but defense wins champi-
If the Michigan hockey team plans on
defending its CCHA Championship and
eventually win the NCAA Champion-
ship, the defense needs to be solid.
The fact that this is the first time in
three years that the Wolverines have a
- Stephanie Wright can be
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newcomer between the pipes means the
defense has to be that much better than
last season. They need to avoid letting
the opposing team pile up high shot
totals while freshman goaltender Billy
Sauer gets comfortable.
Although this season is still very
young, Michigan's defense appears to
be getting the job done. Sauer faced just
49 shots in this weekend's two games
against Quinnipiac. The defense was
able to block numerous shots before
they reached Sauer.
This weekend's games also made it
obvious that the top defensive pairing of
junior alternate captain Matt Hunwick
and freshman phenom Jack Johnson
will more than adequately fill the role of
Hunwick had six points (three goals,
three assists), including a hat trick in
Saturday's game, while Johnson collect-
ed four points (one goal, three assists).
But not all defensive pairings are like
Hunwick and Johnson. The Wolverines
have another pairing between a junior and
a freshman. Junior David Rohlfs and fresh-
man Mark Mitera are defensemen in a com-
pletely different mold than the counterparts
in the team's top defensive pairing.
Rohlfs and Mitera are more like the
traditional defensive pairing that hockey
fans are used to seeing. They focus more
on shutting down opposing lines, rather
than their own offensive proficiency.
"They are strong in the corners and
in our own zone," Michigan coach Red
Berenson said. "They get the puck out
of their zone pretty well. They've been
very responsible defensively."
Rohlfs and Mitera are both very
imposing figures out on the ice. Each
stands at 6-foot-3 while weighing 235
and 210 pounds, respectively. They try
to make up for their lack of speed with
the size advantage they usually have.
"We're two big guys out there, so we try
to add a physical aspect to the team,"Rohlfs
said. "We try to intimidate (the other team)
so that they don't want to go into the cor-
ners. And when the puck is in the corners,
we get it right out to our forwards."
Mitera has been playing particularly
well so far. In Friday's 3-1 win over
Quinnipiac, Michigan (2-0) was on the
power play but lost the puck at center
ice. This left the Bobcats with a break-
away chance on Sauer. Mitera raced
down the ice after the puck. Using his
6-foot-3 frame, he dove with his stick
outstretched and knocked the puck from
the Quinnipiac player's possession.
"He's a good player, and he's smart,"
Rohlfs said. "It's good to have him back
there with me. He passes well, he skates
well, and he's always in position."
Even though Rohlfs and Mitera had
an impressive weekend against Quinni-
piac while playing together, they know
that their relationship on the ice is still a
work in progress.
"We've been working after practice
on our passing, as well as getting to
know each other's tendencies," Rohlfs
said. "The better we get acquainted with
each other, the better we can be on the
Mitera and Rohlfs appear to have
accepted their roles within the team.
Both know that they can leave the
offense to other people because defense
is where the team needs them most.
"I pride myself on strong defen-
sive play," Mitera said. "I chip in a
little offensively when the time comes,
but I pride myself on just good strong
Rohlfs and Mitera face a stiff test this
Friday when they go up against a talent-
ed No. 3 Boston College team. For the
11 freshmen on the team, it will be the
first big-time college hockey atmosphere
they will have experienced. Solid play
by the defense will be essential if No. 8
Michigan hopes to pull of the upset.
NOTES: Yesterday former Michigan
captain Eric Nystrom was called up to
the Calgary Flames from the Omaha
Ak-Sar Knights of the AHL. Nystrom
appeared in seven preseason games for
the Flames before being assigned to the
Knights to start the season.
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