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October 18, 2012 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2012-10-18

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8A - Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Michigan Daily = michigandaily.com

8A - Thursday, October18, 2012 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

Linemen in spotlight vs. MSU

Michigan finishes
14th in California

Daily Sports Editor
The hesitation on Elliott Meal-
er's shaggy-bearded face was
The fifth-year senior starting
center for the Michigan football
team was asked simply if the
upcoming matchup with in-state
rival Michigan State would be
the offensive line's toughest test
since the opener against Ala-
After briefly mulling it over,
Mealer decided to not give in
to the temptation to crown the
"I guess I don't know how
to answer that," Mealer said.
"We've played some really good
defenses and they've all been
different. I wouldn't say it is or
isn't, but we've got to be on our
A game. We've got to be ready to
go, because this is a good defense,
and we just got to be ready to go."
Whether or not Mealer or any-
one else wants to actually go out
on a limb and say it, the statistics
indicate that this is, indeed, the
Wolverine's stiffest challenge
since week one.
The Spartans lead the Big
Ten in just about every relevant
defensive category, including
total defense (270.1 yards per
game), scoring defense (15.7
points per game) and rushing
defense (a paltry 91.3 yards per
And they have a mental edge,
too, given their recent success
in this rivalry. The Michigan
offense has struggled to move the
ball each of the last four years in
this game, and not coincidentally,
each of those games ended in a
loss for the Wolverines. Michi-
gan was especially punchless last
season, when the team managed
just 2.3 yards per carry on 36
rushing attempts.
It all means that the Wolver-
ine offensive line will carry the
heavy burden of trying to rem-
edy the offense's recent struggles
against the Spartans.
The unit has improved rapidly

Fifth-year senior center Elliott Mealer and the offensive line have turned things around since the loss to Notre Dame.

since halftime of the Notre Dame tans come Saturday. Defensive
game - a 13-6 defeat - when ends Marcus Rush and William
Michigan's coaches decided to Gholston return, but Michigan
put the game on the offensive State had to replace its defen-
line and try to grind out drives on sive tackles after last season,
the ground against the Fighting most notably Jerel Worthy, who
Irish. It worked to an extent in left school early for the NFL.
the second half of that affair, and (Worthy, an Ohio native, is also
the line's been even better in the a friend of Mealer's from their
last two weeks - the Wolverines high school days)
put up rushing totals of 304 yards But if you ask Mealer or Mich-
against Purdue and 353 yards last igan coach Brady Hoke, Michi-
week against Illinois. But while gan State hasn't missed a beat.
players and coaches have been Mealer said the Spartan front is
complimentary of their first still very tough and disciplined,
two conference opponents, nei- and Hoke said "they've filled it in
ther has a defensive front that pretty well."
approaches the quality of Michi- Another important factor
gan State's. Mealer knows he could be Michigan's ability to
and his linemates will have to be keep the opposing defensive line
especially sharp on Saturday. off balance.
"Each week we've been get- Last season, Michigan State
ting better," Mealer said. "I was constantly able to jump the
guess you could say as each week snap count, meaning the Wol-
goes on, the margin for error is verines found themselves trying
expected to go down, and that's to block defensive linemen who
what we're hoping for this week were already charging upfield
and what we need to do to win when they had hardly gotten out
the game." of their stances.
The offensive line will be Mealer squelched those con-
greeted by a couple of new 'cerns, saying that the offense
faces when it hunkers down in addressed the issue and hasn't
the trenches against the Spar- had any problems since that

If that's truly the case, it just
comes down to whether the line
can just move the stout Spar-
tans off the ball and control the
line of scrimmage, something
the unit has done a much bet-
ter job of in recent weeks. That's
assuming, of course, that the
Wolverines' strategy will indeed
be to attack Michigan State's
front. When faced with the other
two tough run defenses on the
schedule, offensive coordina-
tor Al Borges elected to air it out
against Alabama and initially, at
least, against Notre Dame. Might
Borges ditch the ground-heavy
attack that's driven Michigan to
two straight dominant wins?
"Michigan State does a good
job as anyone does (stopping.the
run), but you can't abandon what
you do best just because of the
other team," Borges said. "You
have to do what you do, and have
the counterpunches that hope-
fully loosen them up enough that
you can do what you do."
And that means the offensive
line will have to play a cut above
how its performed each of the
four years.

For the Daily
A trip to sunny California
seems like a relaxing way to spend
Fall Break. But for the Michigan
men's golf team, atrip out to Fair-
fax, Calif. for the Alister MacK-
enzie Invitational proved to be
anything but a vacation.
The Wolverines, who conclud-
ed their second and final day of
play on Tuesday, finished 14th out
of 16 teams.
"We need to continue to get a
top-to-bottom team effort," said
Michigan coach Chris Whitten,
"We keep having some strong
individual performances and we
just need more consistency from
the entire lineup."
Senior captain Miguel Echa-
varria had a strong tournament,
and he matched his career-low,
shooting a 3-under 68 in the
second round on Monday. The
second-round tally for Echavar-
ria marked the third time he has
scored that low and also ties the
best round for a Michigan golfer
this season.
"The course wasn't terribly
hard, and I was able to get some
birdies," Echavarria said. r
Despite his success he
expressed frustration with the
team's play asa whole.
"The guys look at Miguel in a
lot of ways off the course to see
how he's going to react," Whitten
said. "With Miguel, his ball strik-
ing is always very good. It's just a
matter of whether he can capital-
ize on his good shots or not, and
he did that the best in the second
Freshman Chris O'Neill also
performed well on day one,
shooting a 2-under 69 in the first
round and a 1-under70 inthe sec-
ond round. O'Neill credited his
performance to his consistency,
highlighting that he played the
par-5's and par-3's better than

"It was in great shape," O'Neill
said of the course. "It was a
course where you could shoot a
good score if you were playing
Added Whiten: "Chris is get-
ting more and more comfortable
in the events. He's pretty close
to a complete player. He's a great
ball striker. He worked hard on
his putting before coming to this
tournament. ... I think the guys
are building some trust in him."
Sophomore Noori Hyun was
disqualified in the first round on
Monday for using an illegal club.
"He had a club that was altered
during the round, and the rules
say that once a club is bent you
can't use it again," Whitten said.
According to the coach, Hyun
was unaware of the rule. He was
allowed to play in the subsequent
second and third rounds with
his scores counting towards the
team total.
Despite some strong perfor-
mances on Monday, Michigan
finished just three spots from the
bottom, a position it held until
the end of play. The Wolverines
finished the tournament with a
team score of 868 (294, 286, 288),
well behind California, which
won the tournament with an
overall team score of a 46-under
Michigan will finish its season
at the Stanford Classic in Palo
Alto, Calif in two weeks. Whit-
ten knows the competition will
again be tough. One area he said
he'd like his team to improve in is
"We really want to be one of
the best putting teams in the
country," Whitten said.
Putting and a strong perfor-
mance from Echavarria and
O'Neill could result in the Wol-
verines getting the type of finish
they have been hoping for.
"We know we're good and we
know we can improve," Echavar-
ria said.



Each week, Daily sports staffers fill out ballots, with first place votes receiving 10
points, second-place votes receiving nine, and so on.
1. ALABAMA (21): The 6. KANSAS STATE: The
Crimson Tide is giving up Wildcats have outscored
just 7.5 points per game. , opponents by146 points this
Nobody is surprised. year.
- 2. OREGON (1): What's up 7. OHIO STATE: The
with the Ducks' 12-day vaunted defense gave up
hiatus? Very un-blur like, just 49 points to Indiana.
if you ask us. Good job, good effort.



3. FLORIDA: The Gators
whooped Vandy. Looks
like Vandy's James Franklin
needs to find assistants
with hotter wives.

blocked the Cocks in their
quest for an undefeated
season. The Cocks just
went soft.

4. NOTRE DAME: The 9. LSU: The Tigers pounded
Irish "stopped" Stanford the Cocks and both teams
at the "goal line" to have one loss, yet LSU is
hold on for the overtime ranked lower. Because we're
victory. very logical here.
first time,undefeatedBeavers Sooners basically made Texas
mount the Cocks inthe Daily coach Mack Brown cry after
Top-lopoll. Saturday's drubbing.



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