Septernber 12, 2006
be IdTrbigan iOagi1
By Scott Boll
Daily Sports Editor
When Mark Bihl watched his
teammates go away for Spring Break
last season,he knew most were head-
ed off to escape for a week and have
Bihl's destination? His fam-
ily's farm in Washington Court
The fifth-year senior's trip
home wasn't a punishment for
him. He was doing exactly what
he loves to do.
"I get the night checks, the mid-
night checks, to go and check cows'
Bihl said. "That's always fun for me:
Watching cows have calves and get-
ting to see all of the baby calves.
"My dad is like 'Relax,' but I
want to do work; it's something I just
enjoy doing. It's something that I see
myself doing for the rest of my life,'
Bihl's farming habits are more
than just a hobby, they're part of
the reason for his success on the
"Ireally creditmy great workethic
to my parents;' Bihl said. "My dad
and my grandparents were always
giving my brother and I chores so
we'd always have something to do."
Bihl said the joke around his
hometown was that his family had to
buy a $15,000 bailing machine just
to keep up with the productivity lost .
when Bihl and his brother left for
Along with his work ethic, Bihl
also had to display a great deal of
patience to get where he is today.
That's because Bihl, now the
Michigan football team's starting
center, has experienced quite the
rollercoaster ride since coming to
Ann Arbor as a three-star recruit
"He had some very difficult times
when he was here as a sophomore,
All week long, Daily Sports will
run its original coverage of one
of the 33 games in the historical
series between the NCAA's two
most winningest programs.
The series begins today with
coverage from 1978's battle,
which pitted the defending national
champion Notre Dame squad
against visiting Michigan.
g v a M oL AN-ABRAHAMIAN/Daly
Fif1th-year senor center Mark BIhi has paid his dues and now anchors the Michigan offensive line from the center position.
Blue battles back
to beat Irish
By Henry Engelhardt
SOUTH BEND - Michigan's 28-14 win over Notre Dame yesterday
might have looked easy, but it wasn't.
The 2-0 Wolverines played the second half of the game as if it were their
last of the season, and they also got a few breaks, in dealing the Irish (0-2)
their second consecutive home defeat.
It took a lousy Notre Dame handoff, a Jerry Meter interception, a few
wide-open receivers for Rick Leach's throws and a team attitude of "never-
say-die" to earn the victory.
"Lots of our kids played their guts out in that second half,' said Michigan
coach Bo Schembechler, with a proud smile. "We will not wilt physically"
Schembechler's squad started slow, but hit with more intensity as the day
wore on. The Irish, on the other hand, stepped on their own toes with greater
frequency as they and their capacity (59,075) crowd saw a 14-7 halftime lead
After taking the second-half kick, Notre Dame drove from its own 24, to
Michigan's 26, where on first and 10,quarterback Joe Montana and running
back Vagas Ferguson had handoff trouble. Curtis Greet pounced on the loose
ball for the Wolverines..
The Irish did not move the ball effectively the rest of the afternoon, get-
ting only four first downs and turning the ball over four more times after that
initial possession of the second half.
Meanwhile, the Wolverines grew more confident and capable on each
possession. They turned the Montana-Ferguson fumble into seven points on
a seven-minute, 71-yard drive that ended with a Leach-to-Doug March pass
covering five yards.
"I thought we played excellent offensive football in the second half,"
Tight end Marsh was open repeatedly and Leach hit him four times,twice
for touchdowns. It was Leach's second-half passing (three touchdowns) and
fine blocking by the offensive line that keyed the offensive surge.
Leach, who did not practice Tuesday or Wednesday because of an ankle
injury, completed 4-of-13 in the first half but was 5-of-6 for 89 yards in the
The offensive line gave Leach ample time to find his receivers, who were
wide open most of the time. The line, missing tackle Bill Dufek due to a
leg injury, pushed the Irish around in the third and fourth quarters, and the
backs,.most notably Harlan Huckleby, took advantage.
"The offensive line really pumped them out;' Schembechler said. "You
don't (usually) run Notre Dame out like that."
See IRISH. age 11
because he thought he was ready to
play, but he wasn't big and strong
enough," Michigan coach Lloyd
Carr said. "He really had to make a
decision on whether or not he wanted
to fight through all of the discomfort
and the unhappiness he had. I'm glad
Bihl did see time in his first sea-
son of eligibility (2003), but just as
a fill-in, playing primarily on spe-
cial teams. In his last two seasons,
he finally got to play more than
just mop-up action at center, but
could never maintain a starting
job. He finally gained momentum
late last season, starting the team's
final three games and showing
"I always remained positive;' Bihl
said. "Everybody has a role on this
team. Everybody has to be ready
when it's your time to step up. Last
year, Adam (Kraus) went down, and
I had started the Eastern Michigan
game and played in a couple of games
here and there when his shoe fell off
or something. I think he played the
first eight snaps against Northwest-
ern, and I went in there and played
a great game. You just need to be
ready when your time comes."
If the confidence gained from
seeing significant time late last sea-
son wasn't enough, Carr and his
staff decided to revamp the block-
ing system for this season. The team
switched to a zone-blocking scheme,
a system that Carr says caters to
Bihl's strengths perfectly.
"I think what we're doing up front
is a tremendous thing for him," Carr
said. "He's a very athletic guy and a
very smart guy."
Through two games, the line com-
bination and new blocking schemes
have worked better than expected
for the Michigan running game. The
Wolverines lead the Big Ten in rush-
ing after posting back-to-back 240-
yard plus games.
Bihl knows his collegiate football
career has a shelf life of less than a
dozen games remaining. Because
of this, he's already thinking of life
after college, in case the NFL doesn't
Bihl recently bought a farm back
in Ohio, and said he would love to
go back to his roots and return to
farming some day.
He's also kept another option open
by majoring in history. Bihl said he
has hopes to get a teacher's certificate
so he can teach, possibly at his high
school, where he graduated from a
class of about 120 students.
"I'd like to teach in my school and
maybe someday even coach;' Bihl
said. "My high school coach said
I've always had an open invitation to
coach, so we'll see what happens."
And if football or teaching doesn't
work out for Bihl, he already has a
farm hand lined up to help out with
his new investment.
"I'm going to go down and farm
for him. " Carr ioked.
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