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November 14, 2008 - Image 13

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2008-11-14

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6B - Football Saturday - November 14,2008
Cose matc makes special teams key

November 14, 2008 - Football Saturday - 3B

Seniors' final
season marred
by transit ion

Daily Sports Editors
Michigan rushing offense vs.
Northwestern rushing defense
With junior running back
Brandon Minor questionable
for the game, the burden will
fall on freshmen Sam McGuffie
and Michael Shaw to carry the
load for Michigan's ground
attack. Shaw broke a long run
against Minnesota and took
over the bulk of carries when
Minor exited. McGuffie hasn't
had much chance to return to
his pre-concussion form, but
made a big catch against the
Gophers. Freshman quarter-
back Justin Feagin showed he
could be a ground threat for
the Wolverines.
Northwestern's rushing
defense is ranked in the mid-
dle of the Big Ten, but it gave

up 244 yards to Ohio State last
week. The Wildcats have the
third-best red-zone defenses in
the conference (third), and the
Wolverines struggled to punch
the ball into the end zone last
week, instead settling for field
Edge: Push
Michigan passing offense vs.
Northwestern passing defense
Backed up against its own
end zone against Penn State,
the Michigan offense gave up
a safety. For many Michigan
fans, that was their last image
of Sheridan until the Minneso-
ta game. On a third down dur-
ing the first drive of the game,
the crowd noise at the Metro-
dome forced Sheridan to call a
timeout. He gained his compo-
sure after that. But it remains
to be seen whether Sheridan's
performance reflected genu-

ine development or if it was an
The Northwestern second-
ary is ranked ninth in the Big
Ten. The Wildcats gave up 300
yards passing in just one game,
and no Michigan quarterback
has even come close to that
number. Watch for Northwest-
ern defensive lineman Corey
Wooton to get pressure all
afternoon. The key to Michi-
gan's offense isn't to put up big
numbers but in limiting mis-
takes and making sound deci-
Edge: Northwestern
Michigan rushing defense vs.
Northwestern rushing offense
Wildcat quarterback Mike
Kafka started Northwestern's
last two games while starter
C.J. Bacher was out with an
injury. Kafka rushed for 300
yards in those games and could


be the next mobile quarterback disadvantage.
to give the Wolverines fits. Edge: Push
Minnesota running back
DeLeon Eskridge averaged 7.3 Special tear
yards per carry against Michi- Northweste
gan's 4-2-5 base defense. But struggled ini
Northwestern is down to its this year. It d
third-string running back, return of long
Stephen Simmons, because of or a punt retu
injuries. 18. This coul
If Kafka starts, the Wildcats of field pos
will have a slight advantage. If with the wind
it's Bacher, they'll have a slight ed Saturday a
disadvantage. Michigan le
Edge: Push net punting ar
punter Zoltai

rn has really
the return game
oesn't have a kick
er than 40 yards
rn of longer than
d become a game
ition, especially
Land rain expect-
eads the nation in
nd redshirt junior
n Mesko is one

Michigan passing defense vs. of the team's most consistent
Northwestern passing offense players.
Bacher is a much better pass- Edge: Michigan
er than Kafka, and both are
listed equally on the Wildcats' Intangibles
depth chart. The fifth-year Northwestern is 6-1 against
senior plays with great poise unranked teams and 1-2 against
and could handle the Wolver- squads in the top 25. The Wild-
ines' pass rush. cats have taken advantage of
Kafka may be a little more a weak schedule to post an
flustered by the rush, but he impressive record.
could always take off and run. Meanwhile, the underdog is
Although Michigan's pass 7-3 in Michigan's games. The
defense is last in the Big Ten, it Wolverines have been so up-
showed a marked improvement and-down this year, it's impos-
against Minnesota. Senior sible to know what to expect.
Brandon Harrison's nickel back Michigan is favored by four,
play was key in the turnaround, but should still have a chip on
and there's no reason the 4-2-5 its shoulder to end the season
shouldn't continue to work for on a positive note.
Michigan. Edge: Northwestern
If Bacher starts, the Wildcats
will have a slight advantage. If Prediction: Michigan 24,
it's Kafka, they'll have a slight Northwestern 21
From Page 5B
And even watching him in
college, the mother of one of
Michigan's top players still
feels the same way.
"I look at the pro game and
I'm like, 'Man, is he ready for
that?'" she said. "You'll be out
there getting all them hits over
and over and over again. But
I try to be in the back, let him
decide on his own or whatever
he's going to do. But man, it's
just that doubt in my head."
And just as Graham's
involvement in football starts
and ends with his family, his
response to his on-the-field
challenges and his mother's
doubts have been constant.
He always gives her the same
"He tells me, 'Mommy, I got
this,'she said. "I got this."

Amid struggles to
adapt to new coach,
veteran players sad
to leave on low note
Daily Sports Editor
Michigan football coach Rich
Rodriguez's first year has been
especially tough on the Wolver-
ines' seniors, who won't be play-
ing for Michigan if their coach
turns the team around in coming
"We're not NOrthWeStern
going to be here
next year, so we at Michigan
don't want to Matchup:
hear that it's a Northwestern
transition year, 7-3; Michi-
and this year gan 3-7
we're going to When: Tomor-
struggle, but row, noon
next year we'll .
be fine," fifth-W re:dMichi-
gan Stadium
year senior cor-
nerback Morgan TV/Radio:
Trent said. "We ESPN2
don't have that
time to enjoy next year, so it's
tough for us, because we want it
right now."
Like every Wolverine class,
this group has had its special
moments on the field: a win over
an otherwise-undefeated Penn
State in 2005, a Rose Bowl berth
after the 2006 season and a win
over double-digit favorite Florida
in the Capital One Bowl on New
Year's Day to send former Michi-
gan coach Lloyd Carr out with a
But this senior class, due in
large part to this year, also has 18
losses - tied for most of any class
in program history with the group
that played from 1934-36 (before
freshmen were eligible).
"I feel for those guys more than
anybody else," redshirt junior
right guard David Moosman. "I
almost feel it's unfortunate that I
have another year that they don't
The Wolverines will honor
their 16 seniors before tomorrow's
noon game against the Wildcats.

But Rodriguez may have gotten
in the way of Michigan extend-
ing its five-game winning streak
over Northwestern (3-3, 7-3) and
claiming a victory on Senior Day
- and not just because it's another
game in the Wolverines' transi-
tion to their new coach.
After former Northwestern
coach Randy Walker went 3-8 in
his first year with the Wildcats in
1999, he took his offensive staff
to meet with Clemson coaches
for a week and learn their spread
Rodriguez was the Tigers'
offensive coordinator at the time.
The next year, the Wildcats
went 8-4 and beat Michigan,
54-51, scoring the most points the
Wolverines have allowed since
1958. Rodriguez had a message
after the game for then-North-
western offensive coordinator
Kevin Wilson, who now holds the
same position at Oklahoma.
"I said, 'Kevin, at least you
could have used your own signals
and terminology,' " Rodriguez
told the Charleston Daily Mail at
the time.
Northwestern coach Pat
Fitzgerald is now in charge in
Evanston, and the Wildcats'
scheme has evolved since 2000,
but its roots still lie with Rodri-
But even if Saturday's game
becomes another loss in Rodri-
guez's disappointing first season,
which would clinch Michigan's
first season since 1962 that it
didn't win back-to-back games,
the seniors aren't showing any
"You know, these are the cards
we were dealt," fifth-year senior
tight end Mike Massey said. "Some
senior class had to be that first
senior class, and somebody had to
be seniors in that first year. Yeah,
I'll look back on it, and we'll all
look back someday and say, 'You
know, that was a foundation.'
"But you know what? We're
just as much a part as a team four
years from now or five years from
now, whatever, that wins a Big
Ten title or wins a national cham-
pionship, does whatever. I'll feel
just as much a part of that team as
those guys that are on it."

Fifth-year senior cornerback Morgan Trent makes a tackle in Michigan's 28-16 win at Northwestern last year.

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