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October 22, 2012 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 2012-10-22

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2B - October 22, 2012

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

The legend ofBear Gibbons, from zero to hero'

rendan Gibbons is an
anomaly.
Five minutes before
he would play hero, booting a
38-yard field goal in the wan-
ing seconds of the game to push
Michigan past Michigan State, the
redshirt junior placekicker paced
the length of
the Michigan
bench.
Behind
him, freshman
kick returner
Dennis Nor-
fleet was
whipping a STEPHEN J.
towel back and NESBITT
forth. Nor-
fleet because
5-foot-7 frame made it too hard to
see through the maze of players on
the sideline, had hopped up on the
bench, giving him the perfect van-
tage point to watch quarterback
Denard Robinson finally break'
loose for a 44-yard run deep into
Spartan territory.
But Gibbons wasn't celebrating
like Norfleet. He was preparing,
his helmet already on. Somehow,
he knew this would come down
to his left leg. The prolific Michi-
gan offense had stuttered and
stumbled in Michigan State terri-
tory all afternoon, leaving the job
up to Gibbons and backup kicker
Matt Wile.
This time was no different,
except they weren't even within
Wile's range. He instead had to
punt and pray that the defense
could hold. It did. Michigan got
the ball back for one last push
with two minutes remaining.
Gibbons was perfect from 24
and 21 yards, Wile from 48. But as
the clock wound down, Robinson
found junior wide receiver Drew
Dileo for a 20-yard gain down to
the Michigan State 21-yard line.
Robinson, with a menacing
gleam in his eye, spiked the ball
with nine ticks left on the game
clock and started to trot toward
the sideline. He knew he didn't
need to finish this himself

Redshirt junior kicker Brendan Gibbons waves during pregame warm-ups before Michigan's 12-10 victory over Michigan State on Saturday.

Why?
Michigan had seen this scene
twice before. The first time was
in the 11th hour of the Sugar Bowl
on Jan. 4, when Gibbons planted
- from just one yard closer - and
connected on the game-winning
field goal in overtime to topple
Virginia Tech.
The second time was on Thurs-
day. Running a situational offense
in practice, the coaching staff gave
the scenario that the Wolverines
trailed by two. They just needed to
get within Gibbons' range. They
did. He nailed it.
This had become routine.
It wasn't so long ago that Gib-
bons was a cursed name around
Ann Arbor. Or, more accurately,
a cursed name with a defective
left let.

As a redshirt freshman in 2010,
Gibbons was named Michigan's
starting kicker. After just one suc-
cessful field goal in four attempts
- and a missed extra point - he
was yanked. His backup, Seth
Broekhuizen, had no better luck. .
So, then-head coach Rich
Rodriguez just avoided the kick-
ing game. He even held midseason
tryouts looking for a potential
walk-on kicker. Michigan finished
the season dead last in the nation,
making just four field goals in 15
tries. Redshirt junior left tackle
Taylor Lewan tells the story of a
trip to Olive Garden shortly after
that 7-6 season came to a close
with a 52-14 loss to Mississippi
State in the Gator Bowl. (Rodri-
guez finally came back to Gibbons
in that game. He tried a field goal.
And missed.)
Lewan and Gibbons, room-
mates at the time, took a seat and

Lewan decided to test the server.
She probably knew Lewan was a
football player, but the kid across
from him looked like any other
college boy.
"So, what did you think of the
kicker this year?" Lewan asked
her.
"I mean, just make a kick," the
server answered. "What're you
doing?"
Lewan gestured across the
table and grinned.
"This is 34, our kicker," he said.
Lewan likes to look back on that
day and laugh. Oh, how things
have changed.
Gibbons has neverlet the
criticism get to him too much.
The West Palm Beach, Fla. native
is something of a free spirit. How
free? Well, he even gave himself a
nickname once, Lewan said.
The two were in the basement
playing video games one after-
noon when Gibbons glanced over.
"Call me Bear," he said.
Bear? Right, because of the
mangylook, the hair, the beard.
Nope.
"I love them, they're so cuddly,"
Gibbons said.
"Get over yourself," Lewan
said, laughing. "You can'tgive
yourself a nickname."
It stuck, sort of. It didn't really

spread throughoutthe locker
room, but Gibbons loved it. On his
Twitter account, he goes by "Bear
Gibbons" and his background
photo is of a bear cub. The cub's
got the left foot in front of the
right, maybe measuring up a chip-
shot field goal.
And when Michigan coach
Brady Hoke arrived, he gave Gib-
bons a gimmicky mindset that
matched the kicker's goofy per-
sonality. Think brunettes, Bren-
dan. After sealing the Sugar Bowl
with his game-winning kick, Gib-
bons was asked during the post-
game press conference what was
going through his mind as he lined
up the kick. Gibbons hesitated,
looked down the table to his right,
where Hoke sat and then leaned
forward toward the microphone.
"Uh, brunette girls," he said.
Only when the room burst into
laughter did he finally crack a
grin.
"Every time we were struggling
in kicking, (Hoke) always tells me
to think about girls on the beach
or brunette girls. So that's what
we did. Made the kick."
Staring a one-point deficit in
the eye, Gibbons lined up his kick

at the left hash as steady as can be.
Michigan State called a timeout to
ice him, but Gibbons wasn't fazed.
"It really doesn't affect me at
all," he said. "I think it is kind of
pointless."
Everyone else, though, was in
panic mode.
Robinson didn't watch as Gib-
bons lined up the kick again.
"Ijust took a knee and prayed,"
Robinson said. "I was just thank-
ing the man above for givingus
the opportunity to step on the
field today."
Craig Roh and Lewan had their
hands in the turf, blocking for
Gibbons.
"Nothing gets by you, Taylor,"
Roh shouted.
Lewan, anchoring the strong-
side edge, fired back: "I block,
that's what I do, so I'm going to
block for this field goal."(That's
the way he remembered the con-
versation after the game, anyway.)
Dileo took the snap, placed it
down and Gibbons tucked it just
inside the right upright, sending
the stadium into a frenzy. 'Team
133' spilled onto the field, mobbing
Gibbons and falling into a dog pile
with five seconds left on the clock.
"I told everyone on the sideline,
'Don't rush the field."' Roundtree
said. "And then I was the main one
on the field."
A far cry from the days when
Michigan avoided its kicker, Gib-
bons had saved his team once
again, givingthe program its
900th win and breaking a four-
year skid againstthe Spartans.
It was the first time the Wol-
verines had won a game without
scoring a touchdown since Nov.11,
1995, when Michigan beat Purdue,
5-0, with a field goal and a safety.
And this time it was from Gib-
bons, a long-haired, stocky kicker
who once seemed Michigan's
unlikeliest hero.
After the final whistle, the mid-
field handshakes and "The Vic-
tors," Gibbons had four cameras
circling him he jogged across the
field and up the tunnel.
Lewan pegged Gibbons's jour-
ney just right.
"It's a complete zero-to-hero
turnaround." Lewan said.
Bear Gibbons, Michigan's
long-haired, stocky kicker, is an
anomaly. But he's rightwhere he
belongs.
- Nesbitt can be reached
at stnesbit@umich.edu.

'M' downs RedHawks, 2-0

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By SHANNON LYNCH
For the Daily
The No. 15 Michigan field
hockey team has just one senior,
but that didn't mean it was going
to take Senior Day lightly. The
Wolverines instead dominated
in their final home game of the
2012 season, shutting out Miami
(Ohio), 3-0.
It was a fitting conclusion to a
unique home slate in Ann Arbor
and a testa-
ment to the MIAMI (OH) 0
importance MICHIGAN 2
of team
chemistry and leadership on and
off the field.
Riding the momentum of their
thrilling 4-3 victory over Indiana
on Friday, the Wolverines came
out strong. Michigan coach Mar-
cia Pankratz said her team was
eager to battle Miami and extend
its three-game winning streak.
"It's not easy to go on the road,
come home at two in the morning,
do all the stuff with recruits on
Saturday, and then turn around
and play a game Sunday," she said.
"It's easy to get distracted, espe-
cially with a young team, but they
were spot on."
Michigan was quick to find,
and keep possession, of the ball
for the majority of the first half,
outshooting Miami by a huge 16-2
margin. The team, though, strug-
gled to capitalize against Miami
goalkeeper Sarah Mueller.
"Their goalie had a really
good game," said junior forward
Rachael Mack. "She's solid, and
she came up really big for them, so
it wasn't necessarily the first shot
we got the goal off, and we had to
try for the rebound."
Miami's defense could only
hold off the Wolverines for so
long. Capitalizing on a corner in
the 26th minute, Mack got the

A

Freshman midfielder Caroline Chromik and Michigan topped Miami (Ohio).

0

ball to redshirt sophomore Les-
lie Smith, who snuck it behind
Meuller to give Michigan the lead.
The RedHawks were unable
to answer before halftime, and
Michigan went into the locker
room feeling confident but not
content.
"We had to make some adjust-
ments tactically," Pankratz said.
"We were struggling breaking the
ball out of the fence, and with the
adjustments we were able to get
going after half."
The Wolverines came out look-
ing stronger than ever at the start
of the second half, and it was obvi-
ous that though the team is young
- there are 11 freshmen on the
roster - both the veteran play-
ers and newest members share
a sense of composure and trust
each other to get the job done.
Michigan did exactly what it
had talked about in the locker
room, adding to itslead in the first
10 minutes of the second half.
Mack, who has been the top

scorer this season,blasted the ball
through Mueller's legs, extending
the lead to 2-0 in the 44th minute.
She struck again in the 60th min-
ute, rebounding off a corner slot-
ting the ball right over Mueller's
head. The lead became more pre-
carious for the Wolverines in the
last 10 minutes of play, as Miami
pulled five corners in a row, giving
the RedHawks ample opportuni-
ties in front of the goal. But they
were unable to find the back of the
net and compete with the aggres-
siveness of the Michigan defense.
Throughout the game, Michi-
gan was able to move up the field
in a series of well-played short
passes and fakes. The polished
style of play was a significant fac-
tor in securing the win.
The Wolverines lone senior,
Liesl Morris, was very pleased
with the way that the team was
able to come together and pro-
duce a successful home record
this season - Michigan finished
9-1 in Ann Arbor for the year.

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