2B - October 19, 2011
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.cam
2B -Octber1, 211 Te Mchign Dily mihigadaiyco
SPORTS WEDNESDAY COWMN
Dirty game or not, Michigan has
to take care of its own
Merrill's future with
Wolverines in doubt
EAST LANSING -
W illiam Gholstonl
landed a right hook
and the Wolverines
hit the mat.
10 days untily
its next game
to figure out
days until its TIM
next Big Ten ROHAN
where on its
way down, Michigan lost itself.
In between Gholston jumping
on Denard Robinson's head andr
viciously twisting his facemask
and Gholston socking Taylor
Lewan after a play or one of sev-
eral Michigan State defensive
lineman hurling Robinson's help-
less body to the turf long after the
ball left his hand - somewhere in
that mess - the Wolverines forgot Michigan State defensive end WilliamI
about the fundamentals.
Brady Hoke decreed this would think twice the second time
never happen. No matter how around. But that's-not how Michi-
talented the opponent, how tal- gan State plays football.
ent deprived the Wolverines, his Spartan defensive tackle Jerel
team would always play with Worthy said the defense's game
fundamentals andtechnique. plan was to hit Robinson as many
Michigan's identity was forged, times as possible, knock him
and all else - the toughness, the around and put fear in his eyes.
opportunistic defense, the pro- You may call Michigan State
style offense - would be birthed dirty. They call it "Dominance."
from thatsingular belief. They wanted to inflict their
The indelible image of Rob- dominance over their opponent,
inson's body lying on the field Worthy explained it as if it were
in East Lansing - the first time common knowledge. Edwin
he appeared seriously injured Baker, Le'Veon Bell and their
all season as he exited the game offensive line play the same way,
with a bruised back - proved that running down opponents' throats
Michigan State hadn't forgotten until they've had their fill.
its identity. Gholston throwing a righthook
"Unnecessary roughness every or body slamming Denard Rob-
play - that's what we try to do," inson seems all part of the plan,
Michigan State defensive coor- considering the Spartans' identity.
dinator Pat Narduzzi announced "I don't think I prepared them
after the game. well enough to go into a physical
"Sixty minutes of unnecessaryw, football gameoir ioke said Monday.
roughness iaobjust-happy it didn't "You get punched in the mouth
get called every snap." and you come back and you punch
Six personal foul calls later, back - not literally. But you come
that is Michigan State football. back and keep fighting. You don't
Narduzzi distinguished lose the composure of my funda-
between stupid penalties like mentals and techniques."
Gholston's wrestling-match With how Michigan State
moves and aggressive penal- tossed Robinson around like a rag
ties, which he encourages. If he doll, senior captain Kevin Koger
were to yell at a defensive player admitted he had to restrain him-
for being flagged for a penalty self from retaliating.
of aggression, said player would "(But) you don't want to get
iGholston drew notional attention tsr his two tlagarant plays against Michigan.
a penalty and hurt your team,"
Koger reasoned. "If that happens,
you shouldn't be in the game for
No, Michigan should've coun-
tered Michigan State's antics
and physical play with a left jab,
another blow. Instead, Michigan
suffered from a high amount of
"game spasms," which Koger said
Hoke defined as mistakes a player
makes in a game they wouldn't
make in practice, likea missed
assignment or mental breakdown.
That's the most concerning
part about how the Spartans
whipped the Wolverines: how
everything we thought we knew
about this Michigan team went
out the window when the going
Tackling and blocking - two
staples of a fundamentally sound
football team - were Hoke's two
ibiggest issteswiththe game. :
They forgot to block a blitzing
cornerback on a crucial 4th-and-1.
And they couldn't take down a
receiver - twice.
"I was interested to see how
we would react as a team in that
environment going in," Hoke said
Monday. "Because you don't know
until you go through it and see
how we learn from it. And I know
one thing: you can't let one team
beat you twice."
The next time, if the Wolver-
ines keep their cool, Robinson
won't get KO'ed if Michigan picks
up the blitz. The defense won't
have to chase Baker all over. The
Wolverines will be throwing the
punches - figuratively.
It doesn't matter what Michi-
gan State does - or any opponent
- if Michigan takes care of its
own. Defensive coordinator Greg
Mattison turned a 100-some-
thing-ranked defense into a top-
10 scoring defense with the same
personnel. Al Borges is working
with Robinson on becoming a
true dual-threat, and he had a
technically sound line to rely on.
Being physical is fine. Fundamen-
tals are better.
"It's a focus," said senior defen-
sive tackle Martin said. "I think
guys get caught up in what the
otherteamisldoingand not (them- -:
selves). It's something that we can
fix and that's a good thing."
Dirty or not, Michigan State
was sure of itself. Michigan
All it took was one good punch
to the face to wake up the Wol-
-ohan can be reached
at firstname.lastname@example.org or @
TimRohan on Twitter.
Daily Sports Editor
Maybe he was just taking in a
hockey game. Maybe he was siz-
ing up his future team.
Whatever the reason, sopho-
more defenseman Jon Merrill
did not attend N
the No.1Mich- NOTEBOOK
team's practice on Friday, but
he did attend a Plymouth Whal-
ers game, according to several
unconfirmed reports. Plymouth
owns Merrill's OHL rights, and
Michigan coach Red Berenson
acknowledged that Merrill leav-
ing Michigan is a possibility.
The Whalers could not be
reached for comment.
Merrill is currently serving
a 12-game suspension leveled
prior to the season for violating
team rules. Under the policy, he
was eligible to return to practice
after two weeks. Friday marked
the end of those two weeks, but
he did not attend the practice
then or on subsequent dates.
"Right now it's still in a gray
area," Berenson said. "I can't tell
you that there is or there isn't (a
return date), but I think at some
point we'll have to either figure
that out or announce it:"
The choice to restore Mer-
rill's practice eligibility isn't
Berenson's alone. He said that
Michigan Athletic Director Dave
Brandon will also offer input.
"It's not going to be all my
call," Berenson said. "That's why
I can't give you an answer."
Merrill recorded 25 points
last season, which made him the
Wolverines' highest returning
point scorer entering this year's
campaign. He also earned sec-
ond team all-CCHA honors as a
freshman. The New Jersey Dev-
ils drafted Merrill with the 38th
pick in the 2010 NHL draft. If
Merrill opts to play professionlly,
he will be unable to return to
Michigan as a player.
SsheyWoldgriset ihatm gone
4.0 iihis absengegeod enough
for the No. 1 ranking the nation.
Senior forward Luke Glenden-
ing, Michigan's captain, said
that with Merrill's situation still
unclear, the team must play with
the assumption that he won't
"This is our team, as of right
now," Glendening said. "We don't
know what's going to happen
with that whole situation yet, so
as far as we're concerned, we'll
embrace him and whatever, but
this is our team."
SCOOTING ON HOME: Michi-
gan has had the proper amount
of players at practice this week,
despite Merrill's absence. That's
because practices this week have
had the new addition of an old
player, former forward Scooter
Vaughan took reps in the
teams' regular drills while
rehabbing a broken arm, presum-
ably in an attempt to continue
playing professional hockey. He
played on the same line as fresh-
man defenseman Brennan Ser-
ville and sophomore defenseman
Vaughan played in 137 games
as a Wolverine and tallied 39
points, 24 of which came as a
senior last year. He was picked
up by the San Jose Sharks in the
preseason but was released in
ICE, ICE BABY: If you live in
Marquette, Mich., you probably
like ice. Maybe that's why North-
ern Michigan decided to add 15
additional feet of it to the width
of its rink.
The Berry Events Center is
one of just eight Olympic rinks in
Division-I hockey, and Michigan
will have to adjust to more open
play when it makes the trip to the
Upper Peninsula for the weekend
The Wolverines will play just
four total games on Olympic-
sized ice this season - against
Northern Michigan this week-
end and against Alaska in
December - butthey did go 3-1-1
in the big rinks last year. That
included two wins to end the
regular season against Northern
Michigan to clinch first place in
"I think it plays to our advan-
tage," Glendeningsaid. "We have
a really fast team."
Berenson said the rink will
change play slightly, with both
teams having more time and
space in the offensive zone. Still,
he recognizes that Northern
Michigan is allowing just 2.25
goals per game through four con-
tests this season.
"It's stillhard to get to the net,"
Berenson said. "Their defense is
big and they're physical, and you
still have to pay a price when you
want to get to the net.
"The bottom line is, it's going
to be hard to score goals."
Alashe's chip-shot goal
downs No. 4 Akron Zips
By CHAZ ROTENBERG
For the Daily
On a chilly and drizzly Tues-
day night in Ann Arbor, junior
midfielder Latif Alashe gave the
Michigan men's soccer team a
1-0 overtime victory in a thrill-
ing game against Akron, the
national AKRON 0
champions. MICHIGAN 1
chip shot dropped over the hands
of Akron goalkeeper David
Mewes from 12 yards out last
night at the U-M Soccer Com-
plex. It was Latif's second goal
of the season and second-career
"I knew the goalie was out and
I knew their guys weren't on the
line," Alashe said. "I was trying
to get it over all of them and it
Heading into the match up
against No. 4 Akron, the Wolver-
ines (1-3 Big Ten, 4-10-1 overall)
were coming off a 4-1 loss to Big
Ten rival Indiana. The Zips (3-0
MAC, 10-1-2 overall) were hold-
ing onto a three-game winning
Michigan came out firing. In
the sixth minute, freshman strik-
er Matthew Rickard received
a pass from freshman Tyler
Arnone and struck the ball off
the fingertips of Mewes. The ball
then hit the post and bounced
out to Alashe, who blasted it way
over the bar.
The last time these two teams
faced off, Michigan suffered a
devastating 2-1 loss in the 2010
College Cup semifinals. Was this
a rematch of last year's loss?
"I wish that was the storyline,
but I really don't think it was,"
said Michigan coach Steve Burns.
"They've got a different team
and we've got a different team. I
think that we had a tougher time
(adjusting) just because of the
losses of the four kids that went
But there were other players
who stepped up for the Wolver-
"There were a couple of guys
that were unsung heroes for us,"
Burns said. "(Redshirt fresh-
men midfielder) Nick Lewin and
(fifth-year senior midfielder)
Adam Shaw in the middle of mid-
field did a great job today."
Along with Lewin and Shaw,
Michigan had two stellar perfor-
mances from freshmen midfield-
er Luca Schioppa and sophomore
forwardEzekiel Harris,who each
recorded a team save in near-
scoring opportunities for Akron.
"The focus is on putting
together complete games and
playing to our potential," Burns
said. "We saw it tonight and cer-
tainly a tough opponent helps
Heading into the weekend, the
Wolverines have tough games
against San Diego State and Big
Ten rivals Michigan State and
Northwestern. In each of those
games, Michigan will be the
"We've been having a rough
season," Alashe said. "That being
said, all the games we have lost
- eight of them have been by one
goal. We know we can play with
just about anyone."
Michigan coach Red Berenson has his 4-0 Wolverines atop the early season rankings with Michigan's CCHA play set to start this weekend at Northern Michigan.
Still untested, Icers take top spot in new rankings
By MATT SLOVIN
Daily Sports Writer
Monday was picture day for the
Michigan hockey team. There was
no shortage of adjectives - young,
scrappy, hungry, to name a few -
already being floated around to
describe the smiling group posi-
tioned in front of the home bench
at Yost Ice Arena.
But earlier that day, pollsters
added one more: top-ranked.
And while the decision wasn't
unanimous - the Wolverines are
ranked second in the USA Today
poll behind Boston College - one
has to wonder how the nation's
top spot in the USCHO.com poll
will affect a team that consistently
plays all eight of its true freshmen.
The only certainty, however,
is that just more than two weeks
into the season, the ranking has
no merit in the mind of Michigan
coach Red Berenson.
"I think everyone goes off
the team's records (nowadays),"
Berenson said. "Right now, every-
one's lost some games, so nobody's
really running away with any-
Everyone, that is, except for a
handful of teams including Michi-
But it's far too early to deter-
mine the best team in the con-
ference, let alone the nation. In
the CCHA preseason poll, Notre
Dame was deemed the favorite,
though Berenson's nod went to
Miami (Ohio). Both programs fin-
ished above the third-ranked Wol-
verines, who collected just one of
the 11 first-place votes.
Much of Michigan's starkest
competition comes from inside its
own state. Ferris State and Lake
Superior State have matched the
Wolverines' 4-0 start. But Beren-
son's squad has climbed steadily to
the top of the rankings by making
quick work of teams that it should
Powers like Miami and Notre
Dame, however, have been tripped
up early while getting reaccus-
tomed to the rigors of regular
season play. The RedHawks split
their first two series to Bemidji
State and Colgate.
Meanwhile, the Fighting Irish
split with defending national
champion Minnesota-Duluth and
Michigan has eased its way into
the schedule, allowing its young-
est skaters to build confidence that
Berenson says is good for morale,
"We haven't had that kind of
test yet," Berenson said. "So we'll
take (the ranking) with a grain of
salt. We've got a long way to go."
And that long journey begins
this weekend with the start of
CCHA play against Northern
Michigan - yet another in-state
The series against the Wildgats
represents the Wolverines' first
opportunity to prove themselves
as a serious contender for the con-
ference title and deserving of the
nation's top ranking.