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September 26, 2006 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-09-26

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Tuesday
September 26, 2006
sports.michigandaily.com
sports@michigandaily.com

SP ORlTSigtn ailI
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Riley excelling at tackle

By Kevin Wright
Daily Sports Editor
Michigan coach Lloyd Carr doesn't like to
single out players for mistakes.
But yesterday at his weekly press confer-
ence, he made an exception for right tackle
Rueben Riley.
"I'm very disappointed in Rueben Riley'"
Carr said, with his voice dripping with sar-
casm. "Rueben and Jake Long have been bug-
ging me since they got here to get a pass to
them, to let them carry the ball. So I designed
that play to get Rueben a pass, and I don't like
what he did with the ball. He lost five yards;
he didn't run with it, and so that play's out of
our playbook."
Late in the second quarter of Saturday's
game against Wisconsin, quarterback Chad
Henne fired a pass to the right side. A Badger
defender deflected the ball into the hands of a
surprised Riley. The fifth-year senior cradled
the ball and dropped to the field, registering
his first career reception for a nine-yard loss.
Carr won't involve Riley in future passing
plays, but the coach knows the Grand Rapids
native has made a big impact in the trenches.
The offensive line was one of the many
question marks for the Wolverines coming
into the season. Jake Long anchored the left
side at tackle, but the right side had a lot to
prove. Riley, whose natural position is guard,
played tackle in training camp, and junior
Alex Mitchell filled in at guard.
"He has proven to his teammates, and I

think he's proven to himself that for us to be
a good football team, we asked him to play
tackle" Carr said. "I think he's really accepted
that, and he's playing well. He has really grown
up, and I'm really pleased with him."
Riley showed his toughness during the
Notre Dame game two weeks ago. Late in the
third quarter, Riley got kicked in the shin and
had to visit the locker room for a Wolverine
possession. But in such a big rivalry game,
Riley wasn't about to stay on the sideline.
The following Michigan drive, Riley
trotted onto the field with the rest of the
Wolverine offense.
"You don't want to come out," Riley said.
"It was tough, and I knew whatever was going
on, I was coming back in. That was the bottom
line for me."
But that wasn't always the case.
Last season, Riley struggled while playing
six games with casts on both hands. He frac-
tured his thumbs and was forced to wear rub-
ber casts. Riley was unable to do everything a
healthy offensive lineman can do to fend off
the opposing rush, such as punch or grab.
But ever the optimist, he saw the silver lin-
ing in the unfortunate injury.
"It was a catch-22 because I had no hold-
ing calls;' Riley said. "You can't be too mad
about that"
After suffering the injuries, Riley constant-
ly feared he wasn't performing on the field
the way he knew he could. The support from
those around him was what eventually got
him through the low point. Former Wolverine

and current Washington Redskin Jon Jansen,
who also dealt with a similar injury, told Riley
he could continue to play effectively. Riley's
teammates also encouraged him, never letting
him get too down on himself.
Now, Riley feels like the new season has
brought him new life. Finally free of the casts,
Riley anchors the right side of a Michigan
offensive line that has helped running back
Mike Hart run for over 100 yards in three of
the first four games.
"It was hindering playing in two casts," said
Riley, whose dad was an offensive lineman at
Mississippi Valley State. "To have those off
and just feel healthy and feel rejuvenated (is a
great feeling). It's a new year and getting off to
a great start, it feels great"
Even though Riley's recent foray as a wide
receiver didn't turn out as planned, Long
defended his linemate's actions.
"I didn't know what was going on because
the ball was just batted," Long said with a
chuckle. "I saw Rueben catch it and just fall. It
was kind of funny at first, but I probably would
have done the same thing."
NOTES: Wide receiver Mario Manningham
won Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week
award for the second consecutive week.
Manningham caught two touchdown passes
and racked up 113 receiving yards against
Wisconsin last Saturday. The sophomore is
just the second Michigan player to win the
award two weeks in a row. The last Wolver-
ine to do so was Heisman winner Desmond
Howard in 1991.

MIKE HULSEBUS/D
Fifth-year senior offensive lineman Rueben Riley had his first career reception, on
Saturday against Wisconsin.

Sperry tries to follow in
footsteps of Blue great

4

By Jamie Josephson
Daily Sports Writer
Imagine entering your first sea-
son of eligibility as the starting
goalkeeper for the Michigan men's
soccer team.
Now picture replacing a gradu-
ated goalie who broke nearly every
Michigan record in the books.
Welcome to the life and times of
redshirt freshman Patrick Sperry.
Last season, the Wolverines
already had a permanent starter in
former goalkeeper Peter Dzubay,
and Sperry redshirted during his
freshman year. While Sperry
spent the year training, Dzubay

Redshirt freshman Patrick Sperry has played well in his role as starting goalkeeper.

found his way into the Michigan
record books. Over the course
of his four-year career, Dzubay
became a goalkeeper legend; cur-
rently holding Michigan records
for career saves (298), wins (36)
and shutouts (19).
In a nutshell, Sperry has a pair
of extra-large shoes to fill. But the
Hinsdale, Ill., native welcomes
the challenge.
"I don't feel pressure, but Peter
was obviously a very good goal-
keeper" Sperry said. "I just feel
more of a responsibility to take his
spot and do as good of a job as he
did as much as I can."
So far, Sperry is on his way to
making his mark as a Michigan
goalkeeper. He already notched
a total of 40 saves in the first 10
games of the season. He also
recorded two shutouts for the Wol-
verines, including their 3-0 victory
against Oakland on Sept. 20.
"It's all about maturity and
experience, and Sperry is now
getting that level of experience,"
Michigan coach Steve Burns said.
"In that (goalkeeper) position, it is
the most difficult one on the field
because you are that last line of
defense. More than any other posi-
tion, you have to go through some
failures, realize what your fears are
and deal with criticism. When you
can withstand all that pressure, it
builds your confidence base. While
Sperry's at the beginning of that
curve, I think he's doing really well
with it."
Sperry has shown incredible
maturity as a starter despite this
being his first taste of college
competition. In Sunday's double-
overtime game against Indiana
that ended in a 2-2 tie, Burns
pointed to Sperry's contributions
in keeping Michigan (0-1-I Big
Ten, 5-4-1 overall) in the con-
test. Specifically, Burns noted
Sperry's impressive range of dis-
trihution, an important skill for a
goalkeeper.
"I choose to punch out a ball if
it is coming through a lot of traffic
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or if it is further out of my range"
Sperry said. "If I may not be able
to hold the ball cleanly, I just make
sure it gets out of danger. But if I
have a little bit more time, I try to
catch it."
Sperry's style of defending has
proven very aggressive. He doesn't
shy away from leaving his post and
challenges opposing attackers.
"I'm always on my toes, ready to
come off my line and make asplay,"
Sperry said. "You don't know
when someone may miss a head
ball or (if there's) a bad bounce.
Anything can happen. You just try
to be ready to make aplay."
Burns mentioned that Sperry's
assertive style testifies to the
goalie's motivation. He said that
Sperry hopes to claim the goal-
keeper spot this summer for the
Michigan Bucks, the Premier
Development League (PDL)
team based in Detroit. Sperry's
impressive shutout performance
against Oakland, in which he also
notched five saves, certainly sent
a statement - Oakland's losing
goalkeeper was the starter for the
Bucks last summer.
In that contest as well as in many
others Sperry has demonstrated
his incredible drive, especially by
sacrificing his body to save a goal.
But for the first-year goal keeper,
throwing his body at the mercies of
the game is his job; "It's business
then;' Sperry said.
As the last line of defense for
Michigan, Sperry also provides a
valuable set of eyes and ears for the
rest of his teammates.
"I see the whole field back there,"
Sperry said. "I'mthe lastman. I can
see something that maybe the other
players can't see. Communicating
helps the others stay focused, and it
also helps me stay in the game for
90 minutes. And then I'm ready to
make a big play or any kind of play
that comes myway:'
Sperry and the Wolverines
will look to contain Detroit on
Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the U-M
Soccer Field.
THINK TONY
KORNHEISER
READS HIS
COLUMN ON
MONDAY NIGHT
FOOTBALL?
IF SO, JOIN
DAILY SPORTS.

I

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