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April 13, 2009 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 2009-04-13

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4B - April 13, 2009

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

4B - April 13, 2009 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom


Wolverines snatch
pennant in outdoor
version of The Dual


Daily Sports Writer
The Wolverines had their sights
set on the multi-colored pennant
at the Jesse Owens Memorial Sta-
dium in Columbus on Saturday.
Awarded to the winner of The
Dual, the flag, which combined
both schools' colors, stood at the
finish line for the duration of the
For the Michigan men's track
and field team, it served as a
reminder of the missed opportu-
nities to bring the pennant back
to Ann Arbor in the previous two
meetings between the teams.
The Wolverines made sure they
didn't leave empty-handed again.
Michigan defeated Ohio State
105-98 and celebrated by taking a
victory lap with the pennant wav-
ing above their heads.
With numerous injured run-
ners, Michigan coach Fred
LaPlante had to adjust his lineup
against the Buckeyes
"A lot times in track, there's not
a whole lot of strategy involved,
because a lot of meets aren't
scored," LaPlante said. "Here's
a meet where we as coaches are
a little bit more involved in the
outcome of the meet. It makes it
Beyond the coaching, it was a
total team effort for Michigan.
Five different individuals earned
two event titles each to spur the
Wolverines to the win.
Senior Lex Williams delivered
a performance that reversed the
outcome of the previous meeting
between tle two team in Janu-
ary. Last time, on an indoor track,
Ohio State dominated the dis-
tance events. On Saturday, Michi-
gan took the top spots.
Despite a strong headwind,
Williams earned victories in
both the 1,500- and 3,000-meter
runs. Using teammates to shield
against the gusts, redshirt junior
Sean McNamara wasn't too far
behind. McNamara crossed the
finish line second in the 1,500-
meter run and third in the 3,000-
meter run.
The atmosphere was more
like a football game than a meet.
But with the Ohio State march-
ing band in the stands, Brutus

the Buckeye dancing around the
track and an appearance by Ohio
State football coach Jim Tressel,
the Wolverines weren't intimi-
"(Tressel) was the honorary
starter for the last event (the
4x400-meter relay)," LaPlante
said. "Obviously, those are things
you don't typically see at track
The meet also gave the Wolver-
ines an opportunity to prepare for
the less-common events that will
be featured in two weeks at the
Penn Relays, which is the oldest
and largest track and field com-
petition in the United States.
The 3,000-meter steeplechase
was probably the most intrigu-
ing example. Runners not only
have to cover the distance but
also have to jump a total of 28
barriers and seven water jumps.
Senior Brandon Fellows finished
in first place (9:15.80), providing
the team with a strong start to
the running events.
But in the end, it was Michi-
gan's success on the track that
garnered all the attention.
Led by All-American senior
Adam Harris, the Wolverines
won eight of 11 track events to
secure the victory.
Harris's performances were
the highlight of the day for Mich-
igan. He cruised to victories in
the 100- and 200-meter dashes.
His times were good enough to
qualify for the NCAA regional
meet and impressive considering
the windy conditions.
It was Harris's .effort in the
4x100-meter relay that crushed
the Buckeyes' hopes of retaining
the pennant. In the closest race of
the afternoon, the team of senior
Andre Barnes, freshman Nicho-
las Neuman, junior Kyle Trepak
and Harris overcame a 10-meter
deficit heading into the final leg.
When Harris received the baton,
he took over. He gave the Wolver-
ines the victory in the event by
the smallest of margins - one-
hundredth of a second.
"The pennant has now taken
some pretty good significance,"
LaPlante said. "They won two
meets in a row. For us to have the
pennant on our bus, it was fun for
the guys."

Incoming freshman Denard Robinson and early-enrollee Tate Forcier met Saturday at the spring game. The two will compete for the starting quarterback job.

From page 1B
position in the summer - but
neither of them seems too wor-
ried about it. Forcier, who has the
advantage of an entire semester
in Ann Arbor and 15 spring prac-
tices with the team, impressed the
crowd with his swagger on Satur-
Forcier threw for three scores -
includinga50-yardbombto redshirt
freshman Roy Roundtree - and ran
for another. He seemed uncom-
fortable in the pocket in the early
goings, often scrambling instead of
progressing through his reads. But
by the end of the scrimmage, he had
settled down. His strong, accurate
arm and agile footwork were a wel-
come surprise for Michigan fans,
including one in particular.
"I'm still close with some of the
fifth-year seniors, and they tell me
thathe hangs out with theguys, he's
having a good time," said Forcier's
brother, Jason, a former Michigan
quarterback who was in Ann Arbor
to see the game and apply for the
SportsManagement Master's pro-
gram. "Despite being a freshman,
he's taking command of the team.
They told me he's got that moxie,
From page 1B
Before Saturday's football spring
game, it looked like the Athletic
Department might be at it again. All
it took was an offhand comment by
Rodriguez three weeks ago about
how he'd like to see more people at
the spring game, and all of a sud-
den, the press releases started roll-
ing. See the inside of the Michigan
football locker room! Kick field
goals to win textbook money!
Forget about last year's 3-9 sea-
But this time, the publicity blitz
worked - and it'll be a shame if
this hyped-up edition of the spring
game doesn'tbecome a tradition.
The whole day was a little surre-
al. Rodriguez set his goal at 40,000
attendees - chosen arbitrarily, I
learned from an Athletic Depart-
ment spokesperson later - and I
thought there was absolutely no
way that many people would come
to a spring game.
But after arriving at Michigan
Stadium shortly after the locker
room tours opened at 8:00 a.m., I
walked up the tunnel and saw the
line. It took 15 minutes to walk to
the end. The line wove around Cris-
ler Arena and down Stadium Blvd.,
curling back around Michigan Sta-
dium and halfway down Main St.
At the beginning of the game,
attendance was estimated at a little
less than 40,000. After the first set
of plays, Associate Athletic Director
Bruce Madej walked by our seats in
the press box.
"People are lined up outside.
They're still coming in," he said,
sounding sort of incredulous. The
final attendance estimate was
50,000-- about 44,500 more than
the estimated number at the last

that confidence."
Most point to Forcier's accuracy
and growth during spring practices
as reasons why he's got a leg up on
And Forcier is already seeing a
payoff from his time with the team
in the last few weeks.
"These extra practices help so
much," Forcier said. "The first day
I was here, I was lost. I just didn't
know what I was doing. But as time
goes, you get coached up by all the
coaches. You just see your whole
game slow down that much. Since
I've been here, I've felt so much
more comfortable with everybody.
We're on our way to a good start."
But Robinson isn't conceding the
starting job that easy.
A sprinter who recently ran a
reported 10.28-second 100-meter
dash at one of his high school track
meets, Robinson has been working
closely with Michigan quarter-
backs coach Rod Smith since Feb-
ruary. The two talk on the phone
almost every day, often discussing
plays and schemes.
Smith has even flown down
to Florida several times to teach
Robinson the spread-option attack
"I've got a pretty good chance,"
Robinson said about his oppor-
spring game under former Michi-
gan coach Lloyd Carr.
It was refreshing to see the foot-
ball program lighten upa little bit
and change the closed-door policies
that were so prevalent in the Carr
era. Some might think promotions
cheapen the experience. But dur-
ing a watered-down scrimmage
that was a prime opportunity for
marketing ploys, the Wolverines
executed them in a way that earned
some desperately needed positive
It wasn't only from the fans.
They got attention from alumni,
who came back in droves. Thirty-
eight former players were on the
roster for the flag football game,
and Steve Breaston, Mike Hart and
Desmond Howard, among others,
strolled around on the field. Even
current Pittsburgh Steelers line-
backer Larry Foote took a break
from his NFL conditioning to par-
ticipate in the game with limited
contact, contributing a one-handed
touchdown to his new team.
They got attention from recruits
- running back Stephen Hopkins,
impressed by the spectacle, verbally
committed right after the game.
"I've been to Texas A&M,
Nebraska, Alabama, Texas, Texas
Tech," he told GoBlueWolverine.
com after the game. "The atmo-
sphere here at Michigan blew me
out of the water."
They got attention from incoming
freshman quarterback Denard Rob-
inson, who walked the sidelines in
his high school varsity jacket. When
asked how he liked the atmosphere,
he looked around at the fans on both
sides of the stadium, nodded and
smiled - and didn't stop. It took a
few seconds for him to answer.
"It's good, it's good. It's got me
speechless - I don't really know
what to say," he finally said, looking

tunity for playing time in the fall.
"That's my gut feeling, but the
coaches are telling me I've got a
chance to start."
Robinson came up to Michigan
for a chance to meet the team, see
the spring game atmosphere and
prepare himself for the changes
he'll soon face. Robinson is mov-
ing to Ann Arbor two days after his
high school graduation on June 3.
That could be hard for the self-pro-
claimed momma's boy, who said the
hardest part about moving would
be "probably getting used to being
without my mom."
Robinson had a chance to sit
down with Michigan coach Rich
Rodriguez and others in the pro-
gram in Ann Arbor, and that inter-
action could help in Robinson's
transition tothe college game.
Rodriguez, who has given Forci-
er high praise all spring, can see
similarities in the two newcomers.
"He's kind of like Tate, one that
picks up concepts well," Rodri-
guez said. "When he gets here this
summer, he'll come by and see us
and want to talk a little football....
Some of the veteran quarterbacks
do a great job of getting together
and teaching some of the things,
so Denard will get thrown right
in the mix. I'm excited to see him

competing with the rest of them."
Rodriguez expects the competi-
tion for the starting job to last until
the fall, since he knows both quar-
terbacks will experience ups and
But Jason Forcier, who trans-
ferred to Stanford from Michigan
after the 2007 season, isn't con-
cerned about either quarterback
picking up Rodriguez's offensive
scheme. Jason never fit in former
Michigan coach Lloyd Carr's pro-
style offense, and he said a spread
is much easy for younger quarter-
backs to pick up.
"The spread offense is something
that, if you can get the base down,
you can add a lot of the ingredi-
ents later," Jason said. "You can do
variations of all kind of stuff off one
play. ... Compared to the pro-style,
it's much easier to learn, especially
because there's not as much verbage
in it. You're not saying a play that's
20 words long."
Even though neither seems to
be concerned about the other, both
are known to be fierce competitors.
Forcier and Robinson will fight
all summer for the starting nod.
The speculation surrounding next
year's starter will keep heating up
- but for now, let the introductions

Late-round surge key
in fourth-place finish

Daily Sports Writer
Tiger Woods and Phil Mick-
elson weren't the only golfers to
make late final-round pushes this
As the third round of the year's
first major professional champion-
ship was underway Saturday, the
No. 46 Michigan men's golf team
was battling for fourth place at its
last regular-season event - about
270 miles northeast of Augusta,
Ga. in Wallace, N.C.
The Wolverines were in a dog-
fight with No. 29 Wake Forest for
third place on the back nine in the
final round of the River Landing
The two-day, 54-hole event at
the River LandingGolf Course was
Michigan's final event until the Big
Ten Championships on May 1. The
Wolverines were bested by No. 45
and tournament winner Duke, No.
15 North Carolina State and Wake
Forest, which were all playing in
their home state.
After the first day of play, Mich-
igan trailed the same three teams.
It then struggled early in the final
round - sophomore Lion Kim was
the only Wolverine who shotunder
par on the front nine. But on the
back nine, all five Michigan play-
ers were under par, storming from
a potentially disappointing sixth-
place finish to a fight for third with
the Demon Deacons.
"I was proud of the way they
played, especially in the last six
holes or so," Michigan coach
Andrew. Sapp said. "We got in a
rally to make some birdies com-
ing in and turned what was a bad
round into a pretty good round."
Sophomore Alexander Sitom-
pul, who finished tied for third,
got off to a great startby shooting a
first-round, two-under score of 70.
His performance was highlighted
by a string of five consecutive bird-
ies on the back nine. Sitompul then
made two eagles in the second
round and added another in the
final round to finish five under in
the event.

"I basically just caught fire,"
Sitompul said. "I think it turned
out pretty good for us, considering
how bad many of the guys started.
So I'm just happy that we finished
the way we did overall after what
happened in the beginning (of the
third round)."
But Sitompul was not the only
Wolverine who helped his team to
a respectable finish.
Freshman Matt Thompson also
got off to a hot start, birdying four
of his final six holes in the first
round to post a one-under 71. He
finished tied for13th, and Kim con-
tributed ateam-low, four-under 68
in the final round.
Michigan made steady progress
throughout all three rounds of the
tournament. It posted a solid 289
and a 288 on the first day of the
event but saved its best for last,
tallying a 285 in the final round on
Saturday. Sapp said he was pleased
that multiple players were a factor
this weekend but still feels there
is ample room for improvement
heading into the postseason.
"That's the strength of our team
- our depth," Sapp said. "It's real-
ly beneficial when you got differ-
ent guys who will step up at times
and lead the team for us... (But) we
have to get everybody playing like
they're capable of leading the team
all at the same time. That's what
we have kind of been missing so
far this spring."
The Wolverines have a little
less than three weeks to get ready
for the Big Ten Championships in
State College. Even though. Sapp
wants improvement, he hopes his
team is prepared to play its best
golf in the postseason after second
and fourth-place finishes in the last
two regular-season tournaments.
"We're going in the right direc-
tion, but I think in the last two
tournaments, everybody would
say we haven't played our best and
yet we've had solid finishes," Sapp
"Hopefully, we're getting ready
to peak at the right time in the
postseason, and we'll have our
games sharp and ready to go."

A Michigan spring game record 50,000-plus people came to the Big House Saturday.

genuinely overwhelmed.
Saturday's game showed that
despite people complaining that
Michigan is losing all its traditions,
the core of the program is still
there. Alums are still invested in
the program. The rows of recruits
watching from the stands, the vast
majority from in-state, showed they
aren't all running to East Lansing
because they feel ignored by Rodri-
guez. The incoming freshmen and
new players are still just as awe-
struck by Michigan Stadium as they
were under Carr.
And when you mix the classic
elements of Michigan football with

a little bit of new tradition, the fans
should stop whining that the old
way is the only way.
"It's nice to have a positive
record, for once," Rodriguez joked,
referring to the Michigan spring
game attendance record set Satur-
day. "The fans were terrific - they
really were."
It's true that this time, the gim-
micks worked. But here's hoping
that like the basketball team, the
on-the-field football show starts to
speak for itself soon.
- Ratkowiak can be reached
at cratkowi@umich.edu.

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