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October 11, 2007 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2007-10-11

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Thursday, October 11, 2007 - 5A

New faces in
BCS title race

PETER SCHOTTENFELS/Daih
Redshirt freshman Obi Ezeh has adjusted to his new position, middle linebacker, after making the switch from running back when he came to Michigan.
Ezeh proves himself on D

By JACK HERMAN
Daily Sports Editor
As the first half of Saturday's
33-22 win over Eastern Michigan
wound down, Michigan's Obi Ezeh
fielded a short kickoff and returned
it 13 yards. A former high school
running back and returner, Ezeh
said in the post-game press con-
ference that
catching it
posed little
challenge.
But the
Wolverines A
aren't look-
ing at him as a
possible suc-"
cessortoSteve EZEH
Breaston.
Rather, they've needed Ezeh at
middle linebacker.
And at that position, the redshirt
freshman began the season a little
less sure-handed.
Skilled but inexperienced, Ezeh
struggled to adapt to his role in

the defense for much of the team's
first five games. But last weekend,
his ability finally began to shine
through. Filling in for the injured
John Thompson, Ezeh recorded
nine tackles and forced a fumble.
"Obi is very talented and very
athletic," safety Brandent Engle-
mon said. "Once he gets confidence
as aleader and getting the defensive
front set and things of that nature,
he will bring a lot to the team."
As the Wolverines' middle
linebacker, one of Ezeh's biggest
responsibilities - and also one of
his biggest problems - has been
calling out the defensive plays. At
times, the Grand Rapids native has
looked uncomfortable filling the
leadership role.
Saturday, though, he seemed to
gain confidence in his calls. And,
perhaps more important, he's rec-
ognized how integral that is to the
defense.
"I'm happy with getting the
defense lined up quick, because
when I'm hesitant with my calls,

then they're hesitant, and it kind of
shows," Ezeh said.
And Ezeh knows this Michi-
gan defense needs as few distrac-
tions as possible. After winning
a position battle with Thompson
this summer, Ezeh started in the
Wolverines' now-infamous loss to
Appalachian State, his first-ever
collegiate game.
A common sight in recent years,
a spread offense embarrassed the
Michigan defense. Mountaineer
quarterback Armanti Edwards
passed for 227 yards and rushed for
62 more.
Becauseofthespreadformations,
Ezeh often found himself guarding
swift fourth and fifth wide receiv-
ers who easily outmatched him. He
played just as poorly as many other
Wolverines and later said he wasn't
"emotionally ready" for his first
game.
Apparently, Michigan coach
Lloyd Carr didn't think so, either.
He sat Ezeh in favor of Thompson
the next two games.

Instead of sulking, Ezeh studied
Thompson in both games and prac-
tice and tried to imitate the junior.
And when Thompson sustained an
injury prior to the Northwestern
game, Ezeh got a shot at redemp-
tion.
He lookedshakymakinghiscalls
during play early on against North-
western, but he showed noticeable
improvement as the game contin-
ued. Ezeh finished with four tack-
les and an interception, and against
Eastern Michigan, he played even
better.
Defensive coordinator Ron Eng-
lish said after the Northwestern
game he gave Ezeh some simple
advice: relax.
The young Wolverine has taken
the message to heart.
"I just wantto be more of aleader
on the field, be more of a leader and
just be able to have fun and playand
not worry about 'Am I doing some-
thing wrong?"' Ezeh said.
And if keeps improving, he cer-
tainly won't have to.

By MARK GIANNOTTO
Daily Sports Writer
Remember when then-No. 5
Michigan lost to Appalachian
State, and it was called, without a
doubt, the biggest upset in college
football history?
Well, the way the 2007 college
football season has played out,
the history books should note
that game was simply a sign of
things to come.
Six games into the year, Loui-
siana State is the lone unbeaten
remaining from The Associated
Press preseason top 10. In the
past two weeks, nine top-tO teams
have fallen victim to the upset
bug. And with so many of upsets,
there's been room for some new-
comers like Arizona State and
Missouri, who have flown under
the radar despite their unblem-
ished records. Thisweekend, both
the Sun Devils and Tigers get the
chance to prove they belong in
the BCS Championship race.
No.1 Louisiana State (3-0 SEC,
6-0 overall) at No.17 Kentucky (1-
1, 5-1) - 3:30 p.m., CBS
It was beginning to look a lot
like one of those magical seasons
for Kentucky. Quarterback Andre
Woodson played like a Heisman
candidate and a first-round NFL
draft pick while the team started
with five straight wins, including
consecutive victories over Louis-
ville and Arkansas. But the magic
sputtered out quicker than a
Tommy Amaker-run offense with
the Wildcats' 38-23 loss to South
Carolina last Thursday. Kentucky
had three fumbles, including one
returned for a touchdown.
Now, to keep pace in the SEC
race, Kentucky must find a way
to make Louisiana State do its
best Southern Cal impression.
The Tigers are coming off a game
against Florida they had no busi-
ness winning. Tim Tebow shred-
ded Louisiana State's vaunted
defense repeatedly, but luck
always seemed to be on the Tigers'
side. And every National Champi-
on needs good fortune to make it
through a season unscathed.
Saturday's game gives Wood-
son a chance to shine in the
national spotlight and improve
his already soaring draft status.
But no matter how well he plays,
I think Louisiana State is just too
good to succumb to a single play-
er. If the Tigers were going to be
lose this year, it would have hap-
pened last week.
No.1 Louisiana State 31,
No.17 Kentucky 17

No.11 Missouri (1-0 Big12,
5-0) at No. 6 Oklahoma (1-1, 5-1)
- 6:30p.m.
While the Tigers of Louisi-
ana State have soaked up all the
attention sitting atop the national
polls, the Missouri Tigers have
quietly gone undefeated.
Their impressive record hasn't
come against a cupcake sched-
ule, either. Missouri's neutral-
site win over Illinois to start the
season looks even better after the
Illini's upset of Wisconsin last
week. And the Tigers are coming
off a 41-6 thrashing of then-No.
25 Nebraska.
They face yet another stiff test
this week, traveling to Norman,
Okla., to face a Sooner team that
righted the ship with a 28-21 win
over Texas last week. Quarter-
back Sam Bradford has already
thrown for 18 touchdowns, and
bounced back nicely after bomb-
ing in Oklahoma's loss at Colo-
rado two weeks ago.
If this game were in Missouri,
I might pick the Tigers. But Mis-
souri has started out the season
4-1 or better in three of the past
four years and then flamed out
each time. Something tells me the
slide will start anew this week-
end.
No.6 Oklahoma 34,
No.11 Missouri 14
Washington (0-2 Pac-10, 2-3)
at No.14 Arizona State (3-0, 6-0)
- 10:15 p.m.
Bet you had no idea the Sun
Devils were still undefeated.
Well, it's easy to get lost in the
Pac-lO shuffle this year. Califor-
nia, Oregon and Southern Cal are
all ranked in the top 10 and are in
the mix to make the BCS National
Championship game.
In the coming weeks, Arizona
State gets the opportunity to
show there's more to Tempe than
promiscuous hotties and drunk-
en debauchery. After this week's
matchup with Washington, the
Sun Devils have a home game
against the Golden Bears fol-
lowed by a trip to face the Ducks
in Eugene, Ore.
The Huskies have struggled
this season, but gave Southern
Cal a run for its money two weeks
ago. Although this is a home game
for Arizona State, my gut says
Tyrone Willingham won't allow
that many good-looking women
and an undefeated football team
to be on the same campus.
Washington 38,
No.14 Arizona State 31

Sans backup, Sauer ready for first test

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By ANDY REID gets hurt, a club teamer may have toi
Daily Sports Writer be called up for the regular season,
- - ---which would take his club team eli-l
CHA Media Day, Michigan gibility away for the rest of his col-l
ed Berenson said the team's lege career, no matter how much, if
goalie job for opening day any, ice time he actually gets witht
le open. the varsity squad.1
weeks later, junior Billy For Berenson, there are always
as emerged as the hands- other options.
hoice to fill that role. "We also have the option to cer-1
Sauer's newly solidified tify a goalie who isn't on the club
spot between the pipes team, just a regular student - couldt
t because of his play. be your roommate who played goall
10 Michigan's other two sometime," Berenson said. "But I
freshmen Bryan Hogan don't want to do that. I don't want
awn Hunwick, have both to make a mockery of the situa-
lelined with illness. tion, and I don't want to hurt the
wick will dress for Friday's club team by doing that. But if the
gainst No. 2 Boston College situation emerged where it was ant
ce Breaker Invitational, but emergency and that player mightI
't practiced all week and sat have to play, we might have to con-i
the Blue-White Scrimmage sider that."
exhibition game against Last weekend, Sauer looked
n Ontario last weekend. inconsistent, allowing six goals inl
n, who has mononucleosis, the Blue-White Scrimmage, but
as week-to-week by Beren- he recouped Sunday to hold West-
i will not make the trip to ern Ontario to just one goal on 17
polis. shots.
depth problems in the net, But the Walworth, N.Y., native
verines had to pull up net- had plenty of time on the ice this
s from the club team just to week to work out any kinks in his
quad last weekend. If Sauer system. With just one varsity goal-

ie available to practice, Michigan
needed Sauer on the ice as much as
possible. He and a club teamer have
practiced all week for Michigan.
And although Sauer admitted
the added practice time is tiring,
he said it will help his endurance in
games.
"I think (the added practice) has
been good for him," Berenson said.
"I think only having two goalies on
the ice is good for the goalies. They
get more shots in more situations,
so it's good for them."
Volunteer goalie coach Josh
Blackburn, a four-year starting
goalie at Michigan from 1999-
2002, has worked tirelessly with all
three goalies to make sure they are
ready for the season. His presence
is greatly appreciated by Berenson,
who has relied on goalie coaches
who could rarely make it to games,
let alone practices in seasons prior.
While Blackburn watches video

with Hogan and Hunwick to keep
their hockey minds sharp without
being on the ice, his objective is
obviously to get Sauer ready to play
this weekend.
"We watched the video, and
our biggest concern is just making
sure Billy is playing out of the net
at proper depth," Blackburn said.
"You know, beating the rush, find-
ing the forwards, not just stare
at the puck and making sure he
knows where the other forwards
and defensemen are so he can geta
head start on the push."
Sauer, who faced the Eagles in
Yost Ice Arena in one of his first-
ever starts for the Wolverines, will
need no extra motivation when he
skates out to the net on Friday.
"That (Boston Collegegame)was
one of the most fun games I've ever
played in," Sauer said. "The crowd
was electric, so I'm really looking
forward to that again."

I

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