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October 27, 2005 - Image 8

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2005-10-27

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Thursday
October 27, 2005
sports.michigandaily. com
sports@michigandaily. com

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- - ----- ----- -

Thompson
shines in
C M '*
'M'victory
By Gabe Edelson
Daily Sports Writer
Iowa running back Albert Young finished last Satur-
day's game against Michigan with 153 rushing yards.
Putting together his big day, Young repeatedly ran by,
around and through a long list of Wolverine defenders.
But there was one man the redshirt sophomore had plen-
ty of trouble with: Michigan linebacker John Thompson.
Before traveling to Iowa City, Thompson had never
recorded more than three tackles in a game in his
Michigan career. But during Iowa's second possession
in the third quarter on Saturday, the redshirt freshman
- on a single drive - nearly doubled his career-high
for stops in a game.
"John Thompson stepped in there. He made some big
plays," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. "He made some
physical hits that put Iowa into some long-yardage situ-
ations, because when he made hits, he stopped the ball-
carrier in his tracks."
Thompson managed to take down Young four times
with solo tackles. The Detroit native also assisted line-
backer Prescott Burgess in stopping wide receiver Clin-
ton Solomon after a 16-yard gain. All five tackles came
in an eight-play span and, perhaps most impressive, three
came behind the line of scrimmage, dropping Young for
a combined negative-four yards. Thompson finished with
eight tackles, including two critical stops in Michigan's
overtime defensive stand that held the Hawkeyes to a field
goal.
"Big-time players make big-time plays when it's
crunch time like that, and that's what he did," rush line-
backer LaMarr Woodley said. "I've seen that from him
before. He let everybody see it this time."
Thompson, a regular participant on special teams
who has normally entered the game only in spot duty
on defense, got extended playing time at linebacker for
the first time all season. With recently-struggling starter
Chris Graham on the sideline for most of the game due
in part to a knee injury, Thompson found himself play-
ing alongside Burgess and linebacker David Harris for
much of the afternoon. Typically a middle linebacker,
Thompson was asked to play on the weak side and didn't
disappoint.
"It was shocking that he could just step in there and just
do it," Burgess said. "Most people, they get their chance
to play and there's like a second when they're really not
sure what to do. But he went in there and he went after the
ball. That's what I like about him."
But Thompson's hits weren't the only way the line-
backer made his presence felt on Saturday. His trash-
talking, flexing, enthusiastic clapping and gesticulating
were also extremely noticeable follow-ups to his tackles.
"He was just hyping, saying he's ready to go," Bur-
gess said. "He just wanted everyone to join him. I'm like,
'Yeah, I see you.' ... He got wild out there."
Thompson has earned a few nicknames from his team-
mates. Rush linebacker Pierre Woods calls the Crockett

Longs importance
tough to overstate

When Jake Long went down
with a serious leg injury at the
end of fall camp in August,
I was afraid the mammoth right tackle
had pulled Michigan's national title hopes
with him. The moment defensive tackle
Gabe Watson and center Mark Bihl
- who weigh a combined 634 pounds
- locked up and fell on Long's left ankle
in practice, the Wolverines'
chances for making the
Rose Bowl took a big hit.
We'll never know exact-
ly what this team could
have accomplished with the
redshirt sophomore playing
at full strength all season,
but one thing is pretty
clear: Lloyd Carr and his
players are much better
off with Long in the game GA
than on the sidelines with EDEL

LS

crutches and a protective Honest
boot on his foot.
Over a month ago - with Michigan 1-1
after a loss to Notre Dame - I expressed
my concerns in this space about the state
of the Wolverines' offensive line. The sea-
son's first seven games made it apparent
that many of my fears were well-founded.
Aside from the opener against Northern
Illinois, Chad Henne was sacked two or
three times in every one of Michigan's
next six games. The Wolverines' oppo-
nents were getting penetration, the pocket
was breaking down, and holes weren't
being opened all that frequently for the
running backs. Sure, Mike Hart had a
few spectacular games, but his production
came largely from long runs (at Michigan
State) and all those times when "he made
something out of nothing," as we all like
to say. What we don't always think about
in those situations is why there's nothing
there to begin with. Wouldn't Hart and his
backups be even better if they had room to
run on a regular basis?
In my Sept. 15 column, I cited a loss
of talent - with the departure of David
Baas and Long's injury - along with
injury issues and chemistry as the major
obstacles stacked against the line. Long's
surprising return last Saturday in Iowa
City gives the blockers a huge boost in all
three of these areas.
Long is probably Michigan's best NFL
prospect. His quick feet, solid hand tech-
nique, explosiveness and sheer strength
complement his 6-foot-7, 330-pound
frame and make him an ideal bookend on
the offensive line. His learning curve in his
time as a Wolverine has been extremely

quick, and he's shown all the necessary
effort and desire to make him a potential
first-round draft pick, barring another
injury.
Long played in every game a year ago,
starting the last 10 and bonding effectively
with his fellow linemen. So he already has
plenty of experience playing with tackle
Adam Stenavich, guard Matt Lentz and
all-purpose lineman Rueben
Riley, who had filled in admi-
rably for Long over the past
few weeks. Long's comeback
will likely boost the morale of
center Adam Kraus as well.
Kraus wasn't a regular last sea-
son, but the first-year starter is
Long's best friend on the team.
It's hard to believe Kraus's
already-solid performance
BE won't improve with his buddy
SON playing two spots over.
Gabe The offensive line was
noticeably better against Iowa
in Long's 2005 debut. Despite boasting
nationally renowned linebackers Abdul
Hodge and Chad Greenway, the Hawkeyes
failed to amass a single sack. Henne had
more time to throw than usual. Backup
running back Kevin Grady, who received
the bulk of the carries after Hart's early
exit due to injury, picked up 62 yards on 18
carries without bothering to hit the holes
his linemen opened for him. And Jerome
Jackson, Michigan's fourth-string tailback,
gained 44 yards and added the winning
touchdown - which followed Long's
block - in overtime despite not entering
the game until the fourth quarter.
Long didn't play the whole game. Riley
got significant time at the beginning of
the contest before his now-healthy team-
mate saw the majority of the snaps in the
second half, Still, Long made his pres-
ence felt when he was both on and off the
field, inspiring his fellow Wolverines with
encouragement when he wasn't in the
action and dominating defensive linemen
when he was.
It's too late for Michigan to climb back
into the national championship picture, but
the Big Ten Championship remains up for
grabs - as long as the Wolverines win out
and get plenty of help. While it would've
been nice to see Long on the line for every.
game this year, there's plenty he can do to
help his team in the conference race.
Saturday was a start. Let's just hope he
stays healthy enough to see the end of it.

{
I

6

TREVOR CAMPBELL/Daily
Linebacker John Thompson filled in for Chris Graham on Saturday and finished with eight tackles, three for a loss.

High School graduate "Baby Ray Lewis," in honor of the
Baltimore Ravens' hard-hitting, hyperactive linebacker.
Senior defensive tackle Gabe Watson likens his younger
teammate to Bobby Boucher, Adam Sandler's superhu-
man linebacker character in the movie "The Waterboy."
"He's a player, isn't he?" Watson said. "Just take a look
at his forehead and he has bruises everywhere from hitting
guys.... He's not afraid to come up and fill the gap."
Thompson recently started a tradition with some
of his teammates. The Wolverines sit down and watch
their respective high school highlight tapes to determine

which player was the best before college.
"John loves to show his tapes," safety Jamar Adams
said. "The funny thing is, when you watch his high school
tapes, he did the exact same thing he did on Saturday."
Despite his frenetic celebrations on the field at Kinnick
Stadium, Thompson displayed humility when discussing
his late-game rolein the Michigan victory.
"I was just stepping in for an injured player, trying
to do my best for the team," Thompson said. "We're an
overtime football team. When it's overtime, we have to
step up and make big plays. I made a big play."

- Gabe Edelson can be reached
at gedelson@umich.edu.

Sauer looks
to stay solid
for ICers
"I don't like giving up three goals at home no matter who
we are against." - Michigan coach Red Berenson
By Mark Glannotto
Daily Sports Writer
Before the season, one of the big question marks for the
Michigan hockey team was its goaltending situation. Last
year's goalie Al Montoya left after his junior year, leaving
behind backup Noah Ruden and 17-year-old freshman Billy
Sauer. Sauer got the nod and has performed admirably in four
appearances, allowing just 2.2 goals per game with a .922
save percentage.
Sauer showed that he was capable of rising to the occa-
sion in big games when he allowed just two goals against
Boston College and stopped 36 shots against Michigan
State. But there are still some questions that Sauer must
answer. How will he deal with a raucous crowd at an away
game? Can he avoid some of the soft goals that have trou-
bled him so far? Will senior Ruden's presence as a backup
affect his play?
Berenson seems to think Sauer is up to the task.
"(Billy) has shown that he can keep us in the game when
things are going against us," Berenson said. "I like his pres-
ence in the net."
Sauer does not turn 18 until Jan. 6. This makes him the
youngest starting goaltender in the CCHA. His ability to
adapt at such a young age was one of the major concerns for
the Michigan coaching staff, but Sauer's play has calmed
some of those worries.
"I wasn't worried about where he was when he got here,"
Berenson said. "He needs some confidence, some experience,
and to grow with our team, but I really like our goaltending
situation now."
Last year, Sauer played in the United States Hockey League
for the Chicago Steel, where he performed well in what many
consider to be a very high-scoring junior league. He had a
3.05 goals against average with a .904 save percentage. But
Sauer admits there is a big difference between the USHL and
college hockey.
"The forwards are a lot more skilled," Sauer said. "There's
rlnfinitn a l mr e:.cr:int z fanP. T T ThI -I

One-run victory gives Sox
sweep, first title in 88 years

:

0

HOUSTON (AP) - The Chicago
White Sox are World Series champi-
ons again at last, and yet another epic
streak of futility is not just wiped
away but swept away.
After seven scoreless innings, Jer-
maine Dye singled home the only run
in the eighth, and the White Sox beat
the Houston Astros 1-0 last night to
win their first title in 88 years.
Just a year ago, the same story line
captivated baseball when the long-
suffering Boston Red Sox swept St.
Louis to capture their first title in 86
years.
Who's next, the Chicago Cubs,
without a championship since 1908?
"It's unbelievable, unbelievable,"
catcher A.J. Pierzynski said.
It was the third title for the White
Sox, following wins in 1906 and 1917.
And it was the first since "Shoeless"
Joe Jackson and the "Black Sox" threw
the 1919 Series against Cincinnati.
In the Windy City, where the Cubs
have long been king, Chicago's South
Side team for once trumped its North
Side rival, no small feat for the Sox.
Owner Jerry Reinsdorf once said
he'd trade all six of the Chicago
Bulls' NBA titles for a single Series
ring. No swap is needed now: He's
got the prize he dreamed of since he
was a kid growing up in Brooklyn.
"I hope this is not a dream," he
said, holding the trophy under his left
arm like a kid clutching his first base-
ball glove.
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen
said during the regular season that he
might retire if his team went on to win
the Series, and now he'll have to reveal
that decision. He hinted after the game
that he wanted a new contract.
"Now I'm oinR to make my

RYAN WEINER/Daily
Freshman goalie Billy Sauer has played well so far this season,
but the young netminder must show consistency all year long.
has not named a permanent starting goalie for the rest of
season. Instead, they will decide on a week-to-week basis.
At first glance, this philosophy seems to be a positive for
Sauer.
"It helps in practice to have Noah there because it pushes
you a lot," Sauer said. "Knowing that there is another goalie
that can come in and play adds some pressure to perform well
every week. But you (have to) try and look past that and play
your own game."
Now that teams have film of Sauer from the first five games
of the season, they will be better able to exploit his weak-
nesses. To counteract that advantage, Michigan goaltending
coach Stan Matwijiw has a private session with Sauer once a
week in which they address some of the issues from the previ-
ous weekend's games.
"ftaltjndAinn ;o cnmpthinpr that von're nnstntIv learnino

The White Sox celebrate in Houston after beating the Astros 1-0 and winning the
team's first World Series in 88 years.

Houston. which finally won a oen-

off. and that led to Houston's down-

I

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