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December 11, 2007 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 2007-12-11

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Tuesday, December 11, 2007 - 9

Legacies on the
line in Orlando

Daily Sports Editor
Back in the first week of August,
three Michigan seniors enumer-
ated their goals for the upcoming
Bring home a
National Cham-
Hoist a Bigx
Ten Champion-
ship Trophy.
Beat Ohio
Oh, and win CARR
their bowl
So far, the seniors are 0-3 - the
same as their career bowl record.
And now, the Capital One Bowl
on Jan. 1 is unranked Michigan's
last chance to salvage any of those
preseason goals.
The only obstacle?
A 9-3 Florida team quarter-
backed by the lone sophomore in
NCAA history to take home the
Heisman Trophy - man-child
Tim Tebow.
The trio of running back Mike
Hart, quarterback Chad Henne and
left tackle Jake Long all spurned
the NFL for one last chance to
cement their legacy.
On the individual side, there's
no question they did just that. Hart
and Henne will leave Michigan as
the career leaders in several statis-
tical categories in their respective
Meanwhile, Michigan coach
Lloyd Carr always made it a point
to praise Long, an Outland Trophy
finalist and first-team All-Ameri-
Carr said the trainers told him
Henne (shoulder) and Hart (ankle)
will both be ready to go for the
bowl game.
Speaking of Carr, this com-
ing New Year's Day will also be
his last roaming the Wolverines'
sideline. The face of the Michigan
football program for the past 13

years announced his retirement
Nov. 19.
"I admire Lloyd Carr," Florida
coach Urban Meyer said in a tele-
conference. "I've had the chance
to meet him, and I have a great
respect for him."
But the reputations of the three
decorated seniors and outgoing
coach have been marred by late-
season failures the past four sea-
0-4 against Ohio State.
0-3 in bowl games.
The Wolverines still have a
chance to alter the latter, even
though some feel the three seniors
have already done enough to etch
their names in Wolverine lore.
"I don't think that will be how
they look at it," said running backs
coach Fred Jackson regarding the
winless record against Ohio State
and in bowl games. "They'll look
at each year being a year based on
how well we did, and just go to a
bowl game and win a bowl game
and send them out that way."
After all the heat Carr and his
seniors have endured this season
with the 0-2 start and the 0-2 fin-
ish, an upset win might be just the
way to end the unpredictable sea-
Michigan (6-2 Big Ten, 8-4
overall) will arrive in Orlando the
third-largest underdog in the bowl
season (Florida is a tO-point favor-
Beside the clear mismatch
Tebow and the Gator spread
offense bring to the field, the Wol-
verines,who are alreadyunranked,
stand the chance of finishing out-
side the Associated Press Top 25
for just the second time in the last
19 years.
But these seniors don't need to
be reminded.
They were members - of that
other team. They lost to Nebraska
in the 2005 Alamo Bowl.
And this coming Jan. 1 will be
their chance to make good on one
last goal.

M' can't run from Heisman winner

Daily Sports Editors
You all know the storylines.
Michigan coach Lloyd Carr's last
game. The supposed heat between
Carr and opposing coach Urban
Meyer from last season's National
Championship Game hoopla. And
finally Gator quarterback Tim
Tebow, the newest member of the
Heisman club.
With all the chips seemingly
stacked against the Wolverines,
can they break a five-game losing
streak in bowl games?
Well, probably not on paper.
Michigan rushing offense vs.
Mike Hart.
Two words that Wolverine fans
and players rejoice to see. The star
running back should return to full
health from a high ankle sprain
after six weeks of healing time.
Florida's rush defense is 11th in
the country, allowing fewer than
100 yards per game on the ground
and no more than 48 yards to any
runner in their last four games.
Hart is by far the best runner
the Gators will face during the final
stretch, though, and might be the
best back Florida has seen all sea-
son. But the Michigan offensive
line has struggled to open holes for
Hart late in the year, meaning it
might be difficult for the big Wol-
verine linemen to block the Gators'
fast linebackers.
Edge: Push
Michigan passing offense vs.

Florida passing defense
Quarterback Chad Henne should
sufficiently recover from the sepa-
rated throwing shoulder that lim-
ited him in the final games of the
regular season, and his return
makes the Wolverines much more
explosive through the air.
Receivers Mario Manning-
ham, Adrian Arrington and Greg
Mathews shouldn't struggle to get
open against a subpar Gator sec-
ondary that allowed 249 yards per
game through the air and 16 pass-
ing touchdowns on the year.
The secondary looks like theone
weak part of a Gator team that has
given up 20 or more points in all but
two games this season.
Edge: Michigan
Florida rushing offense vs.
Michiganrushing defense.
You could scour the country, and
we're not sure you'd find a worse
match-up for Michigan in this cat-
egory than the Gators. Tebow, this
year's Heisman Trophy winner,
leads the team with 838 yards on
the ground and 22 rushing touch-
downs. Given how much the Wol-
verines struggled to contain even
Wisconsin's Tyler Donovan, they
don't appear to have much of a
chance here.
If the Gators want to give sonme-
one else a shot to run on Michigan,
they have numerous options. Wide
receiver Percy Harvin is one of the
most dangerous players in the coun-
try, and he's racked up 599 yards on
the ground this season, averaging
almost nine yards per carry. Tail-
back Kestahn Moore isn't too far
behind Harvin, either, tallying 571

rushing yards and finding the end
zone six times.
Edge: Florida
Michigan passing defense vs.
Florida passing offense
You might want to just look at
Michigan rushing defense vs. Flor-
ida rushing offense, because either
way, the Wolverines face the same
problem: Tim Tebow.
When Tebow isn't slashing
through his line on the run, he's
beating defenses through the air. In
fact, he ranks as the nation's second
most effective passer, completing
68 percent of his passes for over
3,100 yards and 29 touchdowns.
Sure, Michigan had some suc-
cess stopping spread offenses dur-
ing the Big Ten season, but, as it
learned late in the year, it's the run-
ning quarterback that's the prob-
lem. Wisconsin quarterback Tyler
Donovan, for instance, scrambled
from pressure often, and his threat
to run often left men open down-
field. Donovan's good, but he's no
Special teams
At its best, Michigan features
a decent special teams unit. At its
worst - which it plays at far more
often - it's a useless one.
Kicker K.C. Lopata has done an
admirable job since earning his
spot midseason, and he's a perfect
8-for-8 from inside 40 yards. But as
his 48-yard miss against Ohio State
proved, Carr needs to consider
going for it on fourth down from
any deeper than the 25, even if the
weather is a little nicer than it was

against the Buckeyes.
Punter Zoltan Mesko returned
to form against Ohio State, boom-
ing a number of punts, including a
career-long 68 yarder. But his great
punts don't help as much when his
teammates provide poor coverage,
which is more often than not.
And then there's the return
team, which we can't really think of
something nice to say about. Mich-
igan's kick return unit is among the
worst ten in the nation, and its punt
return unit isn't that much better.
Florida, on the other hand, fea-
tures one of the nation's best return
men in running back Brandon
James, best punt coverage and a
punt return team that has blocked
four punts.
Edge: Florida
Had Michigan known it would
be destined for the Capital One
Bowl at the start of the season, it
would have considered it a disap-
pointment. By the end of the year,
Michigan needed luckto even make
it there.
Even if the Wolverines would
rather not be in Orlando, it is Carr's
finalgame, so they'll likely be keyed
up to win it for him. And after fail-
ing to accomplish some of its other
goals, you'd figure the senior class
would like to at least win one bowl
game before it graduates.
Orlando is less than a two-hour
drive from the Florida campus,
though, making this more or less a
home game for the Gators.
Edge: Push
Florida 34, Michigan 21

We'll post online covers,
staff picks, live game blogs and
Capital One Bowl coverage.

Michigan offense awakens in victory over Irojans

Daily Sports Writer
It may have taken nine games,
but for Michigan junior Carly Ben-
son, better
late than SOUTHERN CAL 61
never. MICHIGAN 82
junior broke out of her early-season
slump, when she averaged just more
than five points a game, to score 13
points and pick up four rebounds in
her team's biggest win of the year.
But it was the awakening of
the Michigan women's basketball
team's offense that paced the Wol-
verines in a dominant 82-61 victory
over Southern Cal at Crisler Arena
last night.
Bensonwas amajorbenefactorof
a fluid Michigan (6-3) offense. The
Wolverines had many open looks in
the first half and much of the sec-
ond. Michigan knocked down 71
percent of its 3-pointers in the first

half and 52 percent for the game.
"It felt really good to play good
because I was in a slump there for
a while," Benson said. "But when
you can't make a shot, you just have
to play good defense and try to pick
your teammates up."
It was Benson's play that sus-
tained the Wolverines' lead. She
made two wide-open treys in a
slow-paced second half. Benson's
points allowed the Wolverines to
maintain their lead while the Tro-
jans attempted a comeback and
allowed Michigan to extend its lead
to 30 before bringing in the bench.
The Wolverinesopened the game
on a tear, scoring the first 11 points.
After a strong performance against
Kentucky, senior Krista Clement
continued her solid play, knock-
ing down a couple early threes in a
nine-point first-half effort.
"We executed our offense real-
ly well," junior Jessica Minnfield
said. "We cut to the basket and set

screens for each other, and that got
our offense moving."
Minnfield benefited from solid
possessions, shooting 3-of-3 from
downtown and scoring 16 points.
Center Krista Phillips also got into
the 3-point groove, knocking down
a three from the top of the arc.
The Wolverines were also domi-
nantinthe post. Sophomore Sireece
Bass came in off the bench, split-
ting the Trojan defense to make an
acrobatic layup for her first points
of the season.
But perhaps most impressive
was the Wolverines' defense, which
shut down a team that averages
more than 70 points per game. Phil-
lips dominated the post, forcing the
Trojans to look outside for scoring.
Trailing 16-2, Southern Cal (4-
4) ran off eight points in less than
a minute, but the Wolverines stood

their ground and dominated the
rest of the half.
After taking a 20-point lead into
halftime, Michigan coach Kevin
Borseth was concerned his team
would be complacent in the second
half and allow the Trojans (ranked
just outside the top 25) back into
the game.
"I'm never comfortable in a
game," Borseth said. "You got a
lead, and you always wonder some-
times at what point is it going to
start dissipating."
Since losing at No. 16 Notre
Dame last Saturday, Michigan has
won against two quality teams.
Borseth is not buying his team's
performance of late; he knows
things can fall apartjjust as quickly.
But if the offense continues to
play as well as they did last night,
the year could get much better.


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