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October 30, 2008 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2008-10-30

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8A - Thursday, October 30, 2008
Senior
T here's no iore talk about
how the preseason predic-
tions of a 6-6 record were
way off base..
No more talk about a "second
season" or a Big Ten champion-
ship. _
Not much
talk about a
bowl game.
Two days
before Michi-
gan faces fellow
Big Ten cellar-
dweller Purdue, COURTNEY
the Wolverines RATKOWIAK
said their main --
goal this week
is just to play well for the seniors.
But facing Purdue in a must-win
road situation, it seems like some of
them don't even think they can do
that.
"You really can'tgetinside some-
one's mind and let them know how
important it is when it's your last
year or when you don't geta chance
to play in the Big House again,"
senior defensive tackle Terrance
Taylor said quietly after Michigan's
35-21 loss to Michigan State Satur-
day. "My sophomore year, playing
with (Lamarr) Woodley and (Alan)
Branch and (Leon) Hall and all
them guys, I understood that."
Sure, there have been major per-

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

4

s must take responsibility for season

sonnel and culture changes in the
Michigan football program. While
the transition has been tough, atti-
tudes have remained mostly posi-
tive.
But Taylor's frustration illus-
trates that now, even one of the
Wolverines' emotional leaders
doubts the mentality of his team-
mates.
His comment was unnervingly
honest, but he's blaming the wrong
people. The seniors' job is to make
the rest of the team feel like they
have something to play for, even if
the Wolverines are only playing for
three more weeks.
And that job comes down to
simple leadership. It comes down
to getting "inside someone's mind"
and making sure the team knows
exactly why it's playing. It comes
down to making every player care
about the seniors' last season, even
if that isn't a top priority for some
underclassmen right now.
The Wolverines finished 7-5 in
Taylor's freshman year. The next sea-
son, the seniors were sick of losing.
They let the underclassmen know
that all the way to an 11-2 record.
But this year, that leadership just
isn't there.
"I just had that mentality that
I understood that it was their last
year and I wanted todo everything

I could to help this be a good year
for them," Taylor said. "And I can't
say any more."
This year's disconnect and frus-
tration isn't because the team lacks
official captains, even though so
much was made of Michigan coach
Rich Rodriguez's decision not to
appoint them before the season.
The emergence of the Wolverines'
natural leaders - Taylor, Brandon
Graham, Obi Ezeh - have made the
naming of game-by-game captains
only ceremonial.
It's just that the seniors aren't
sure how to deal with losing, and
the number of young players makes
it hard for the team to be on the
same page. Right now, Michigan
is more focused on dealing with
individual personnel shuffles than
playing as a cohesive unit - or unit-
ing for a common goal.
"I can't speak for anybody else
about playing for the seniors,"
redshirt junior right guard David
Moosman said Monday. "It's just a
youththing. They have a lot of time.
Everybody always says when you're
a freshman, you don't see that you
have four years, five years. You feel
like you're forever."
Yes, the upperclassmen have
occasionally made thatclear. Taylor
was responsible for the impromptu,
impassioned halftime speech to his

team when Michigan was losing to
Wisconsin, before he became one
of the heroes in the 19-point come-
back.
"Terrance came over and talked
to the offensive line about doing it
for the seniors," redshirt sopho-
more right tackle Stephen Schilling
said after the Wisconsin win. "And
doing it for them, it motivated us
in the second half and we knew we
had to send the seniors out with a
win today."
The freshmen understood how
to play for the seniors then, when a
little luck and a lot of heart turned
into a victory. But four straight
losses later, it's obvious there is
frustrationregardless of how many
players say the morale is still high.
This week, Rodriguez tried to
do what the team's leaders haven't
consistently been able to - provide
focus for both the underclassmen
and upperclassmen. Freshman
Mike Martin described how the
coach lined the Wolverines against
the wall of the indoor practice
facility after Sunday's practice and
told them to throw a punch. He told
them to take a step forward, throw
another punch and feel how much
more powerful the punch could be
when they had some leverage.
"We have to fight, fight, to get our
backs off the wall," Martin said.

I
I

Senior defensive lineman Terrance Taylor confronts Michigan Stat
Javon Ringer during last week's game at Michigan Stadium.

Maybe the seniors don't have
many more speeches like Taylor's
halftime rally left. Maybe they
don't know how to motivate under-
classmen to fight after allthey could
hear in the Big House Saturday was
the "Go Green, Go White" chants
as time ran out on another loss.

But when you're a senior and you
don't have the leadership to con-
sistently show your younger team-
mates how much that fight means
to you, you'll lose every time.
-Ratkowiak can be reached
at cratkowi@umich.edu.

I

Hockey team needs leadership

vote

For a few minutes, let's ignore
the Michigan hockey team's
technical problems in its
crushing 7-2 loss to Boston Univer-
sity.
The pow-
er-play unit
couldn't con-
vert in 64 sec-
onds with a "
5-on-3 advan-
tage, the
penalty-kill MICHAEL
team allowed EISENSTEIN
goals more-
often than not
and the defense collapsed to allow
18-of-32 shots from just feet outside
of the goalie crease.
Those statistics are irrelevant
right now. This team is talented
enough to fix those issues with hard
work, focus and more practice.
But there's still one looming
issue from Saturday's game against
the Terriers. What happened was
something this team never expe-
rienced last year: frustration that
snowballed out of control.
And the frustration reared its
ugly head because, even though
this team is more experienced than
last year's squad, it's younger in the
crucial on-ice leadership roles.
"I watched the film (from BU)
and I was really surprised, dis-
appointed, about how we came
unglued," associate head coach Mel
Pearson said.
Michigan and BU looked evenly
matched for the first 15 minutes of

the game before the Terriers scored
two quick goals in the opening
period's final minutes. In the sec-
ond period they tallied two more,
and added three in the third before
a boisterous Agganis Arena crowd.
Last year, then-seniors Kevin
Porter and Chad Kolarik bore the.
responsibility of keeping the team's
emotions in check. The team, with
much less experience, always had
teammates to look up to.
Porter and Kolarik were the
undisputed leaders of the Wol-
verines, and put the team on their
shoulders when things went wrong.
"Those two seniors were such big
figures in our locker room," Pearson
said. "Having those guys at practice
everyday in the locker rooms is like
having coaches in the locker rooms.
So we really miss them."
But with those two gone, and
with senior captain Mark Mit-
era and junior defenseman Steve
Kampfer both out for extended
periods of time, the burden that
usuallyfallsonupperclassmenison
the shoulders of the sophomores.
The team's top five scorers are all
sophomores, and the group is eager
to jump into this role. After all, the
class helped Porter and Kolariklead
the team to CCHA conference title
and came within one goal of playing
for a National Championship last
year. They know how to win.
But learning to fill in those big-
ger roles effectively could take a
while, and that's a much bigger
cause for concern than the flailing

power play or the team's slow first-
period starts.
"Eventhoughyouonlylose a cou-
ple players, the whole complexity of
the team changes dramatically,"
Pearson said. "There's no question
about that. Just having two or three
guys out of your lineup just changes
your whole team and the roles."
The lines are still being mixed
and matched to find chemistry.
More scoring will help boost the
Wolverines' confidence, and Pear-
son emphasized it's still early in the
season.
Saturday provided just a glimpse
of the vacuum Michigan has on the
ice right now. And this year's high
expectations certainly aren't mak-
ing this growing process any easier
for the sophomore class.
"I think that bar is up there and
all of a sudden you're the leaders,"
Pearson said. "All of a sudden we're
counting on you guys."
Last year, Michigan showed
youth could be overcome with
experienced leaders.
But even though most of these
Wolverines have another year of
experience under their belts, the
team as a whole is much younger
this season. Whether Michigan
can improve their special-teams
play shouldn't be the long-term
concern. The question is whether
the team's sophomores can quickly
step up into their new roles.
-Eisenstein can be reached
at mseisen@umich.edu.

In the Lone Star state, Heisman
hopefuls battle out Big 12 rivalry

By FELIX CARREON
DailySports Writer
Through 10 weeks of col-
lege football, eight teams remain
unbeaten.
Last season, just three had
unblemished records this late
in the season, but the top teams
are still worried about potential
upsets. Undefeated contenders No.
18 Ball State and No.19 Tulsa hope
to stir up the BCS standings with
wins this weekend. No. 1 Texas
looks to continue its winning
streak against ranked opponents
when it faces No. 6 Texas Tech.
And No. 5 Florida battles No. 8
Georgia for SEC East supremacy.
NO.1TEXASAT NO.6 TEXAS TECH
The Longhorns are coming off
their hardest-fought victory of the
season, besting No. 9 Oklahoma
State 28-24. The Red Raiders show-
cased their explosive play against
Kansas, winning 63-21. Expect a
shootout when the teams face each
other for first place in the Big12 and
an easier path to the BCS title game.
Texas quarterback Colt McCoy
could cement his case for the Heis-
man with another top performance
against a ranked opponent. But
McCoy isn't the only quarterback
eyeing the coveted award. Texas
Tech quarterback Graham Harrell
has thrown for nearly 3,200 yards
and 28 touchdowns, placing him
among the nation'sbest.
Expect special teams to be the
difference in a game highlighted by
high-powered offenses. Texas Tech
has had trouble with its kicking
game this season, which that could
prove critical in a close game.

Watch for: Each team's explo-
sive offense will match the other's
score for score and the game willbe
decidedby a turnover in overtime.
NO.5 FLORIDA VS. NO.8 GEORGIA
No. 8 Georgia is looking more
like the team everyone expected.
when the Bulldogs were awarded
the No.1 preseason ranking. Last
week, Georgia dispatched No. 19
LSU, 52-38, to hand the Tigers
their worst defeat of the season
and end their chances of repeating
as national champions. Not to be
outdone, Florida is coming off an
impressive 63-5 victory over Ken-
tucky.
Makingthetop-10matchupmore
contentious is what happened last
time these two teams played. The
entire Bulldogs team performed a
"gator stomp" after Georgia scored
on its opening possession. Florida
coach Urban Meyer has expressed
displeasure with the celebration on
several occasions. Expect the Flor-
ida defense to relay the message to
Georgia quarterback Matt Stafford
with lots of pressure.
Georgiarunningback Knowshon
Moreno will look to have anoth-
er show-stopping performance
against the Gators. If he's able to
replicate his 168-yard, two-touch-
down game against LSU, it willbe a
long day for the Gator defense.
Watch for: Meyer will call a fake
punt late in the fourth quarter,
which will set up the game-win-
ning touchdown. Then the Gators
will capture Uga VI, the Bulldogs
mascot, and hold him for ransom.

NO.23 OREGON VS. CALIFORNIA
It would be an understatement
to say that it's been a rough season
for the Pac 10. The conference has
just two teams in the top 25, No. 7
USC and No. 23 Oregon. The Big
12 alone has four in the top 10, and
even the Mountain West Confer-
ence has three.
The Ducks hope to build on an
impressive 54-20 victory over Ari-
zona State when they square off
against California. Oregon quar-
terback Jeremiah Masoli appears
to have secured the starting spot
after leading the Ducks last week-
end with 147 passing yards and
one touchdown, and running for
85 more with another touchdown
against the Wildcats. Also expect
Oregon running back LeGarette
Blount to have a solid performance
against the Bears. He leads the Pac
10 in touchdowns (12), and averag-
es 7.2 yards a carry - also a confer-
ence best.
But for California,awinover Ore-
gon would be a much-needed boost
with its game against USC around
the corner. For the Golden Bears to
win, they must stop a potent offense
that ranks first in scoring in the Pac
10, averaging 41.5 points per game.
California's offense features two
running backs, sophomore Jahvid
Best and freshman Shane Vereen,
who have combined for more than
1,000 yards and average more than
six yards per carry.
Watch for: The Ducks will have
trouble deciding which combina-
tion of their notorious uniforms to
wear, resulting in a delay of game
penalty.

I
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