The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Friday, November 8, 2013 - 7A
The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Friday, November 8, 2013 - 7A
What to Watch For: Nebraska
In third year, rugby
seeks Big Ten Title
By ZACH HELFAND
Daily Sports Editor.
1. Can Michigan find any consis-
There's a reason why Michigan
coach Brady Hoke still struggles
to name his team's identity. Name-
ly, that identity seems to change
every week. Heading into their
ninth week, the Wolverines have
still yet to find any sort of on-field
Many of the same problems
have plagued Michigan this year.
The offensive line has yet to play a
stellar game, or even close to that,
and the secondary has always,
been loose. But mostly, each week
has varied vastly from the one
preceding it, from the highs of
the Notre Dame victory and the
record-setting Indiana perfor-
mance, to the lows of Akron and
Penn State and Michigan State.
Some of that is on youth or
inexperience. Defensive coordi-
nator Greg Mattison says that,
often, nine guys will execute per-
fect on any given play. But all 11?
"We're not there yet," Mattison
said. "And we have to get there."
The frustrating part, he said,
is that a different player will err
on different plays. The key is get-
ting the entire unit to play in cho-
rus. The same can be said of the
It has been a turbulent ride so
far, and right now the Wolver-
ines are riding a downswing. This
team doesn't need to put up 751
yards of total offense each week,
as it did against Indiana. It just
needs to find something it can rely
2. Will the receivers have time
to get open?
Or maybe the question is, will
the line protect Gardner?
Michigan's offensive strength
is the passing game. That's no
secret. The Wolverines rank 10th
Fifth-year senior running back Fitzgerald Toussaint and the offensive line will be major factors on Saturday.
in the Big Ten in rushing yards per be another long day.
game, in front of just Illinois and
Purdue. 3. How will the sec
When they're successful, it is its leaks?
because fifth-year senior wide
receiver Jeremy Gallon and soph- The defense playe
omore tight end-receiver hybrid against the Spartan
Devin Funchess make plays considering the fiel
downfield. And even against the was given by a stag
stout Michigan State secondary, Against the run, the
those plays were there for redshirt held its own. Thep
junior quarerback Devin Gardner. was a slightly differe
"We have to get Devin a little The secondary
more of an opportunity because passing yards per ga
there were plenty of them down age. That's second t
the field," Hoke said Monday. Big Ten. Opponents
The problem, of course, was more passes per g
protection. The Spartans sacked Michigan (38) than
Gardner seven times and hurried other Big Ten team,
him seven more. For the routes that the Wolverines
that develop more slowly - think able there.
Gallon's double moves - Gard- On Tuesday, H
ner was hit before he had time to the secondary need
release the ball. up. The fact that
The coaching staff expects will field backup
more interior blitzes similar to Tommy Armstrong J
the ones it faced against Michi- freshman, will help.
gan State. And Nebraska averages Michigan's defensen
slightly less than three sacks per coverage is tighter?.
game, same as the Spartans. If the "I don't know," 1
offensive line doesn't adjust, it'll got to be. If I knewt
d position it
e front seven
me, on aver-
to last in the
ds to tighten
Jr., a redshirt
But how can
make sure the
he said. "It's
that, I would
probably feel a lot better about
that, but we have to. We have to
get tighter in coverage. We just
have to. We have to contest more
balls. And that's what we'll work
on very hard this week."
4. What's the answer to Ameer
Unlike the pass defense, Michi-
gan's rush defense has been
among the Big Ten's best this sea-
son. On ateam lacking much con-
sistency (see No.1 above), the rush
defense supplies some depend-
Still, . the Wolverines' front
seven has yet to see a back like
Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah. He's
the Big Ten's leading rusher with
1,108 yards. Multiple Michigan
players or coaches said he is the
best back Michigan will see this
If the Wolverines can at least
contain Abdullah - who hasn't
gone for less than 98 yards in a
game this year - the defense will
be OK. Abdullah has shown just
how difficult that is to do this year.
By MAX BULTMAN
Daily Sports Writer
At a school that prides its
teams on nothing if not tradi-
tion, it's fitting that the Michi-
gan club rugby team got its
battle cry from a 123-year-old
The first-ever issue of The
Michigan Daily featured an arti-
cle.previewing the rugby team's
upcoming clash with Cornell.
Somewhere inside the article's
now charmingly outdated ver-
biage lies a phrase that the team
has since adopted as its rallying
cry - soiled meat and sand.
The phrase is meant to con-
jure feelings of toughness and
grit within the players and has
become central to the team.
Before every match, the team
cries out "soiled meat and sand!"
The words even appear on the
header for the team's website.
"It really sticks with us," said
Michigan coach Matt Trenary.
"We're representing a lot of
people that have spanned a lot
Saturday, the 12th-ranked
Wolverines will represent their
long tradition of alumni at the
Big Ten Finals against No. 9
Unlike many sports, which
feature long tournaments at the
end of the season, Big Ten rugby
simply pairs the two top teams
in the standings for one winner-
In that type of high-pressure
environment, the Wolverines'
preparation will be key.
"We get a lot of benefit from
the intelligence of our players,"
Trenary said. "They have a blue-
collar attitude. They want to
Michigan's 'A' squad has only
lost one game this season, a
27-18 loss at No. 11 Wisconsin.
Senior captain Aiken Andutan
called the loss a good wake-up
call, saying it helped the team
Junior Sequoyah Burke-
Combs, who recently switched
positions from wing to flanker,
will be key to the Wolverines'
success on Saturday. Burke-
Combs is among the team lead-
ers in both tries (seven) and
points (35) and usually plays the
role of motivator for Michigan.
"He just tears up the field,"
Andutan said. "When he gets
the ball in hand, he can run over
anyone. He gets us all really
Andutan is soft-spoken off the
field and in interviews, but his
grounded nature keeps the team
together when things get tough
on the field.
"He doesn't get flustered,"
Trenary said. "It helps provide a
nice, even keel for the guys."
Andutan's five tries and 25
points have been important
to the Wolverines this season
and will be magnified against
an Indiana defense that hasn't
allowed a point since Oct. 5
The Hoosiers finished the
season undefeated and show-
cased their dominant capabili-
ties three weeks ago in a 96-0
win over Iowa.
Michigan won't be afraid
going into the match, though.
Andutan says the Wolverines
are preparing for this challenge
like they do every other, with
"We weren't as focused dur-
ing the bus ride to some of the
earlier away games," Andutan
said. "This time, we'll really
emphasize concentrating and
visualizing what we need to do
in the game."
Added Trenary: "It'll be a fun
and exciting game. This isn't
baseball where you get a bunch
of games. You just get one."
The undefeated Hoosiers
haven't been challenged much
this season, but Sunday they'll
be up against much more than
the men lined up across from
them. They'll be staring down
decades of=history and tradi
tion. They'll be goiig p against
soiled meat and sand.
Mustaches for a etter cause
By GREG GARNO including the players, the coaches
Daily Sports Writer and even the administrative staff.
"As a team, it's kind of just a fun
Sophomore forward Andrew thing for us," said junior forward
Copp predicts that Travis Lynch Alex Guptill. "We can raise aware-
will look the best. Senior defense- ness for this, and hopefully make
man Mike Chiasson, meanwhile, it into a big thing. Maybe, one day,
likes forward Andrew Sinelli as it will turn into something bigger
a quiet underdog who could sur- than this."
prise his teammates. Senior defen- Added Copp: "I think it's defi-
seman Mac Bennett believes he nitely a team-building thing that
could finish the strongest. we didn't do last year."
Freshman defensemen Michael Guptill has kept the idea float-
Downing and Nolan De Jong like- ing around for over a year, but it
ly won't have much to boast about, wasn't until the middle of July that
though. Neither will freshman the idea came to fruition. Guptill
goaltender Zach Nagelvoort. and Chiasson approached Michi-
It's not a competition on the ice. gan coach Red Berenson with the
In fact, don't call it a competition. idea of growing out mustaches for
Instead, call it one of the many men's health.
team-bondingexperiencesthe No. Since another popular move-
2 Michigan hockey team has had ment, Movember, has been trade-
this year. But this time around, marked, the Wolverines are
the Wolverines are working for working just to raise awareness
a cause bigger than their team - for issues like prostate cancer or
Mustaches for Men's Health. depression, as opposed to raising
Since the beginning of Novem- money. Updates will be regularly
ber, the Wolverines have been posted to the Athletic Depart-
growing mustaches - strictly ment's website.
mustaches, no beards - in an The hockey team is the first
effort to raise awareness for men's program among Michigan's 13
health. Everyone is on board, men's varsity sports to partici-
pate in such a movement for men's
health, though. Female programs,
like the softball team and women's
basketball team, have worn pink
on their uniforms to raise aware-
ness for breast cancer.
"Next year, hopefully we can do
something with other men's teams
on campus," Chiasson said.
For a team that has gone paint-
balling and organized trips to
the movies, events like these fur-
ther demonstrate a change in the
team's mentality from a team that
failed to make last year's NCAA
Tournament after 22 consecutive
The Wolverines joined together
at the beginning of November to
shave together, posing for pho-
tos where they pretended to use
skates as razor blades. Thus far,
much of the team has a noticeable
mustache forming. That includes
Berenson, whose gray mustache
is an unusual sight for the 30-year
veteran. According to Berenson,
1977 was the last time that he can
remember growing a mustache.
"It feels fine for me, but my wife
doesn't like it," Berenson said.
Near the end of October, the
captains - Bennett, Copp and
senior forward Derek DeBlois -
approached Berenson with the
idea to join his players in growing
a mustache. It didn't take long to
"I know you're not asking me to
join," he said at the time.
"Actually, coach, we are," Ben-
"Alright. I can do it," Berenson
Younger players like Downing,
De Jong and freshman forward
Evan Allen are struggling to keep
up with their teammates, some of
whom are nearly six years older.
Downing and De Jong were both
born in 1995, but also happen to be
"I told them they better get a
sharpie out," Guptill said.
Other players, like Bennett, can
grow out facial hair, but not neces-
sarily a successful mustache:
"He's got a little bit better chest
hair than facial hair," Guptill
But there might be one problem
with the month-long activity for
some members: the scruff could
make it hard to find a date.
cOURTESY OF MRUGBY.COM
Junior Drew Vecchio has started nine games this year for No.12 Michigan.
STUDENT LEADERS NEEDED
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Senior defenseman Mike Chiasson helped organize the Michigan Mustaches for Men's Health campaign. He currently has a filthy stache.