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sports. michigandaily. com
By Stephanie Wright
Daily Sports Editor
This season, Michigan has played
as if it were re-enacting a chapter from
Charles Dickens's "A Tale of Two Cit-
ies." It's been the best of times in the
first half and the worst of times in the
In six games, the Michigan offense
has put up 118 points in the first half,
and the Wolverines have trailed at half-
time just once. But it's a different story
after the intermission, when Michi-
gan's offensive output has decreased by
more than 50 percent. The Wolverines
have scored 51 points in the second
half, including just 10 in the third quar-
ter. But when their 55-point showing
against Eastern Michigan is removed,
they have scored just 31 after halftime.
"We start our games great - going
down the field on our first drive and
playing strong in the first quarter -
but we're inconsistent," tight end Tim
Massaquoi said. "We don't start the
second half the same way we start the
first half. It's a lack of consistency that
has hurt Michigan."
But just looking at total points
scored disguises the fact that some of
those points have been put up by the
defense and special teams. Of the 10
points Michigan has scored in the third
quarter, just three have come courtesy
of the offense. Those points came off
a 38-yard field goal from placekicker
Garrett Rivas against Notre Dame.
Wide receiver Steve Breaston returned
a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown last
weekend for the Wolverines' only other
third-quarter points this season.
The picture is brighter in the fourth
quarter. Michigan has scored 41 points
in the final frame this year, all of which
were put up by the offense. In all, the
where would we be?
Remember those ESPN ads that
centered on what life would
be like without sports? Well, I
think about that quite a bit.
Sports don't seem to mean as much
to me nowadays compared to when I
was a kid, and it doesn't really have
to do with tragedies like Hurricane
Katrina or the Sept. 11
attacks. Those things
obviously put life into
perspective, but, more
than anything, sports
have come to be a form'
of entertainment, not life
and death. Basically, they
are something to keep my
mind off a term paper or
an upcoming exam. I stillM
like them a lot, but I won'tM
pout like a baby after a VEN
I think about this
because it's my mom's birthday in a
couple days, and I don't really know
what to get her. She doesn't want
anything, but maybe she doesn't
really need much either. She has
sports and my dad.
To be honest, it's not as if she likes
sports very much. The only inter-
est she has is to ask in a meek voice
if the Michigan football team won
- which hasn't been the case too
often lately. She always apologizes,
like she had some impact on the
outcome. Really, she just thinks it
kills me to see them lose, and it does
hurt. Sports aren't really her bag,
but I guarantee she appreciates their
While growing up in the land of
10,000 lakes, sports were more than
just a hobby for me. And thankfully,
for my mom's sake, I embraced them
from the beginning. It kept her sane,
and brought my dad and me together.
To me, that's what sports are really
about - father and son bonding over
a game of catch. I was reminded
of this when wide receiver Steve
Breaston talked at Big Ten Media
Day in August of his dad getting mad
at him for falling in a river when he
was young. I'm certain most everyone
here fell, got hurt and scared their
parents when they were young. So
just because most us aren't Division
I athletes, we all have something in
common - sports can bring a fam-
ily together, even if we scare our
folks. Lost in the confusion of class,
partying, girls and everything else
- sports are a great unifier.
In my rambunctious youth, I didn't
have much regard for anything but
having fun and getting wild - kind
of like your stereotypical frat boy.
For example, after having surgery
when I was 3 years old, the doctors
told me to take it easy for
a couple days. But within
two hours, I was building
a fort made of pillows
and jumping from the top
of them like the "Macho
Man" Randy Savage.
Mary Bess could only
watch in horror as she
thought every stitch in me
would pop out.
TT Nothing could keep me
GONI under control - except
Sophomore Mike Hart and the Wolverines have been outscored 53-51 in the second half so far this season.
Wolverines have scored 63 more points
on offense in the first half than they
have in the second.
No one on the Michigan offense
seems to have an explanation for the
unit's second-half problems. Mas-
saquoi attributed it to a lack of focus,
but he wasn't sure why it continued to
But one major effect of the offense's
struggles to score late in the game -
or even to stay out on the field - has
been extra pressure on the defense to
Even though the defense has given up
its share of big plays in crunch time -
most recently Minnesota tailback Gary
Russell's 61-yard run in the fourth quar-
ter last week - its struggles have result-
ed, in part, from the offense's inability
to put together long drives. Michigan
has lost the time-of-possession battle
in each of its last two losses. Minnesota
held the ball for six minutes more than
the Wolverines, but time of possession
hurt Michigan most in its loss at Wis-
consin, when the Badgers held the ball
for more than 20 minutes in the second
half alone. It's impossible to know for
sure, but the inability of Michigan's
defense to contain Wisconsin tailback
Brian Calhoun as the game progressed
might have stemmed from fatigue.
Against the Gophers, the Wolver-
ines' defense was on the field for 91
plays, which coach Lloyd Carr says is
25 to 30 more plays than he would like
to see. Michigan didn't run an offen-
sive play in the second half until there
was just six minutes remaining in the
"Part of that ... was the fact that our
defense made a great stop (and held the
Gophers to a field goal) after a long
kickoff return that gave Minnesota great
field position," Carr said. "Then Steve
Breaston ran the kickoff back, and our
defense had to go right back out."
But the Wolverines still allowed the
Gophers to string together a 13-play,
61-yard drive that took more than six
minutes off the clock in the middle of
"Considering our inability on third
down to keep drives alive, the number
of plays that our defense was on the
field and the fact that Willis Barringer
and Brandent Englemon went out of
there, I give our defense some credit
there," Carr said.
But odds are, the defense's effort
alone will not be enough to reverse
Balls for my dad because he
would join in on the fun.
Most of my earliest memories deal
with sports and my dad.
When I was five, we used to play
baseball on our cul-de-sac. I would
hit; he would pitch. I had aspira-
tions of being like Kirby Puckett,
and he would help me as much as
One day, when I was just raking
like a young Albert Pujols, I took
a particularly violent swing. The
line-drive shot headed right toward
my dad's crotch, and boom, he was
on the ground. He spit out a couple
obscenities, and I was really scared
- figuring my young life was over.
The wrath of a high-pitched swear
word never terrified my chubby self
so much. As I tried to sneak away
without letting my frightened laugh-
ter be seen, my dad stopped me and
said, "Just do it like that every time"
while patting my head. He was cool,
despite me trying to castrate him
with a baseball.
Finally, as I got older, I calmed
down, but sports still kept me from
making my mom go crazy.
Coming from a Catholic family,
we usually went to church on Sun-
days. But during baseball season
from fifth grade to junior year of high
school, my dad and I had an excuse
not to go - we could go to the fields
and play baseball.
Just like on the cul-de-sac, he
tossed them, and I knocked them
as best I could. Once other players
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