Wednesday, April 30, 2008

HBO’s Costas Now: Sports Media Thoughts


Last night at 10pm on HBO, Bob Costas hosted a 90 minute live show in front of a town hall audience, centering on sports and the media. If you missed the show, it will re-air frequently, including tomorrow (Thursday). It’s certainly worth watching (the best show on TV in a while). The show was split into five segments, featuring a 5 minute pre-taped video and a 10 minute discussion with 3 panelists for each topic. Let’s recap.

Segment #1: Sports Radio, panelists- Chris “Mad Dog” Russo (WFAN), Mitch Albom, Michael Strahan
The first topic looked at the negativity that has recently arisen with the growing media outlet of sports talk radio. Recently, sports talk hosts have become more known for shouting for coaches to be fired and players to be traded than anything else. The HBO piece discussed how sports talk radio can “beat a dead horse” and often says controversial things simply to drive up ratings. I thought that a good point was made in the pre-taped video on this topic, stating that in New York, the Super Bowl victory by the Giants are a 9 on a 10 point scale. Yet, the collapse by the Mets last September scored a 10. People that listen to sports radio have become angrier, with criticism and analysis happening on every game, every inning, and every play. I thought that the highlight of this segment was the argument between Russo and Strahan. The Giants defensive end lambasted Russo for discussions that took place on his show, namely Russo questioning the validity of Strahan’s record-breaking sack on Brett Favre and his recent decision to holdout from training camp. Strahan responded rapidly, telling Russo that “the last time you had a uniform on was when your mom took you trick or treating.” The primary debate centered on the lack of journalistic standards or qualifications frequently seen in sports radio. For instance, contests for fans to appear on air occur often. Moreover, if you are on the air and don’t have an opinion or take on every single issue, the assumption made is that you are afraid or scared to talk about the subject. Is that fair?

Segment #2: Internet/Blogging, panelists- Will Leitch (Deadspin.com), Buzz Bissinger, Braylon Edwards
Online blogs and websites can be an information overload, providing instant scores and constant updates. In addition, anyone can post anything on blogs, somewhat blurring the lines between commentary and insult. On the HBO show, the most talked about segment of the show will be the Bissinger-Leitch argument. Let’s just say that Bissinger, the author of “Friday Night Lights” is not the biggest fan of blogs. Bissinger called Leitch “full of sh--” and “dedicated to cruelty and dishonesty.” Bissinger also stated that blogs “piss the sh--out of me” and aid in the “dumbing down of our own society.” Well, that’s one opinion. By the way, Braylon Edwards added nothing to this segment. Shouldn’t he be at Browns mini-camp or something? Anyway, while I agree with the sentiment of Costas that the tone, mean spiritedness, and poor quality of some blogs is a problem, blogs are a different voice that need to be somewhat serious to gain increased readership. In addition, blogs add a sense of humor to negative sports stories, along with speed that makes reading the newspaper the next morning useless and act as a distraction from the duties of a day of work. Also, aren’t blogs just somebody’s opinion? Why do the words of someone on TV or radio have more meaning than someone else’s, like a blogger living in their mom’s basement? While opinion may be cheap, when compared with research, I have as a good of a chance, if not better, of picking the winner of the Sixers-Pistons Game 6 (Sixers!) on this blog than Skip Bayless does on ESPN’s Cold Pizza… I mean 2nd take, no First Take.

***Later tonight, I will post a recap of the final 3 segments of the show, focusing on sports and TV, the relationship between the media and athletes, and the always controversial topic of sports and the issue of race.

Baseball and Softball Snag Midweek Wins, Homerun Chase Continues

Both the #22 Baseball and #6 Softball picked up midweek non-conference victories this week. Baseball knocked off in-state foe Western Michigan and softball swept a doubleheader against Florida State.


Baseball used a strong offensive performance from Nate Recknagel to move past Western Michigan on Tuesday night. Recknagel went 3-4 with 2 runs and 3 RBIs to pace the Wolverines. He also doubled and hit his 18th home run of the year, good for 2nd place in the country. That shot also tied Samantha Findlay for the top total among all University of Michigan teams. The win moved the Wolverines to 31-10, and improved their MAC conference record to 5-1, which would be good enough to lead the MAC East division.

Softball used a strong pitching performance by freshman Jordan Taylor in game 1 and a powerful offensive performance by Samantha Findlay in game 2 to sweep Florida State on Wednesday night. Michigan won game 1 by a score of 6-2. Taylor picked up the win to move to 25-2 on the season. Alessandro Giampaolo also chipped in 3 RBIs to pace the Wolverines offensively. In the nightcap Michigan leaned on the bat of senior Samantha Findlay, who went 3-4 with 2 runs and 4 RBIs. Findlay also hit her 19th home run of the season, which ties her for 3rd place nationally. In addition she reclaimed the Michigan lead, breaking a tie with Recknagel. The win moved the Wolverines to 46-5 overall.

Michigan softball will finish out their regular season this weekend with two games at Penn State. Michigan remains tied with Northwestern atop the Big Ten standings, and if both teams finish this weekend with identical records, the Big Ten title (and home-field advantage for the conference tournament) will come down to a coin flip. Softball will also host Team USA in an exhibition game next Tuesday in a final tune-up before the Big Ten Tournament.

Baseball returns to action this weekend with a four game series against rival Ohio State as they look to extend their one game Big Ten lead over Purdue. Friday night's game will be the dedication of the newly renovated Ray Fisher Stadium, with Fred Wilpon on hand to throw out the first pitch.

All four baseball games against Ohio State, as well as the May 7th game against Ball State can be heard on the WCBN Sports Stream. In addition the softball game against Team USA will be broadcast on the Stream.

Here's the softball highlights: Michigan sweeps FSU

Quarterback Position Secured for 2009...At Least for Now

In addition to signing four-star stud at QB, Kevin Newsome, last week, Michigan picked up another four-star QB today in Shavodrick Beaver from Texas. Beaver is 6'2" 177 and is a dual threat just like Newsome. These are the Rodriguez type quarterbacks of Michigan's future and since Justin Feagin is the only quarterback in this classification that will be on campus this fall, this was the single most pressing issue for Michigan recruiting in the class of 2009. Before their senior seasons even start, Michigan has their commitments meaning Michigan fans can rest easy, at least for now. Both of these guys are taller than Feagin and are more highly regarded.

Beaver definitely has faced tough competition playing in Texas and is a pretty good passer over his running ability. In his junior season last year, Beaver completed 61% of his passes for 2,629 yards, 31 TDs and just 10 INTs. He also averaged 6.1 YPC for 462 yards on the ground and 5 TDs. Now what really stands out with Beaver is his production in the passing game. Those are huge numbers for a quarterback coming out as a pocket passer. Yet Beaver runs a 4.55 and tends to pass first and only run when he has to. His offense also seemed very similar to what I saw at Michigan's spring scrimmage. They ran a lot of quick screens to the outside where the offensive line would flood out to one side to block for the receiver. At the same time Beaver could throw the ball down field at times and look really quick and elusive when he needed to run. HOWEVA, Beaver's delivery is extremely questionable and looked forced. He has a side armed delivery and what I mean by "forced" is that it seems like he has to throw his entire body into the throw. This was common in every throw I watched of him on tape. That could be a major concern, but with his production through the air, its obviously working. He is only 177 poounds so perhaps if he puts on some muscle, he won't have to use his entire body in every throw and that would really help out his delivery.

Newsome, on the other hand, has a better delivery, but has not had quite the production of Beaver through the air. Newsome threw for around 1,600 yards and 12 TDs while rushing for 500 and 11 TDs. He also runs around a 4.55, but seems a little slower than Beaver on tape. But, Newsome is much bigger at 210 pounds and was very hard for defenders to bring down. At times it seemed as though Newsome had no where to go, but would barrel through defenders and break out for a big run. This escapability of Newsome is probably why he was Michigan's first target. While his passing numbers pale in comparison to Beaver's he has a much more fundamentally sound delivery, throwing over the top. He keeps his eyes down the field when he scrambled and is able to throw on the run. Newsome is the homerun for the Rich Rodriguez system.

While Newsome will most likely see the field before Beaver, if Beaver is able to put on some muscle and tweak his delivery at least slightly, he should compete as well. Having both of these guys ensures that Michigan will have an extremely reliable dual threat QB starting in 2009. 2008 is Steven Threet's year. He better make the most of it because a year later, there will be two guys with the inside track on taking his job. Again that is if they stay committed. Yes other coaches, even so called gentlemen like Jim Tressel (stealing an Illinois commit this week) can put on the ole wizard hat with their snake oil.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Unknown for Udoh


Michigan F/C Ekpe Udoh still has not made an announcement on his future at the University of Michigan. Udoh, who has been rumored to be looking at possible alternate schools, was thought to make an announcement by Tuesday but has yet to do so. Questions about Udoh sticking with the Maize and Blue originally surfaced when Coach Beilein was hired, as Udoh did not seem to be a good fit for the new system. A fraying relationship with the University (and head coach) also seems to have played a factor in Udoh's search. He averaged 6 points, 5 boards per game and had 92 total blocks on the year to lead the Big Ten.


I think this is a good move on Udoh's part. I think he has the potential to develop his game but won't do it at Michigan. For as much zone as Beilein likes to play, it will hurt his development as a interior defender. As for his offensive game, in a system that lives and dies by the three, there is no place for Udoh here either. This is not his game. He could be a great low post guy if he hits the weight room and improves his technique...neither of which he can accomplish in Ann Arbor.


And to make matters worse, niether Beilein or Michigan has been able to produce players that can make the jump to the NBA (And NO! Courtney Sims does not count. He is STILL trying to figure out how to pass out of the double team as we speak). The last pros to come from Ann Arbor and play significant minutes were Bernard Robinson Jr. (and if you think he's a bootleg choice, then its Jamal Crawford... and he was only there for a season!). I'll give Beilein credit for recruiting Joe Alexander, a kid who showed potential this past March to be a first round pick of the future... but even he didn't flourish until he was coached by Bob Huggins (a guy known for putting kids into the League).


Udoh has a lot to work on as far as his game is concerned... but he might be better served going elsewhere to do it.

NBA Playoffs 2008: The Power of Coaches

The 2008 playoffs in the NBA has shown us once again, that no matter how talented a team you have, in the end, coaching is always going to be a huge reason for teams winning the NBA Championship. The Celtics and Lakers were each picked to easily sweep their series as the #1 seed over the #8 seed opponent. The team led by Phil Jackson did just that, while the team led by Doc Rivers is struggling with an upstart Hawks team and is tied 2-2 after 4 games. Seriously, how can anyone think to claim that Boston and Detroit are the favorites to win the championship this year when the coaches for those two teams are Doc Rivers and Flip Saunders? Both coaches have proven once again that it takes coaching to win in the NBA, as we see both the Celtics and Pistons having trouble with much-less-talented teams in the Hawks and Sixers, respectively. If you don't believe in the power of the head coach, just look at the head coaches of the teams who won the last 20 championships:
  • Phil Jackson
  • Gregg Popovich
  • Pat Riley
  • Larry Brown
  • Rudy Tomjanovich
  • Chuck Daly
That's a list of 6 coaches who all are or will be in the Basketball Hall of Fame. This isn't a list such as Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks, where a solid quarterback who doesn't make mistakes can end up leading a team to a championship. In the NBA, head coaching makes the difference more times than not. Take for example the Detroit Pistons; here is a team that won the championship in 2004 with Larry Brown, has many of the same players, has arguably more depth, yet has had only one finals appearance since and is in trouble of not making it to the finals again this year.

So, as the NBA playoffs continue, remember that while the power is in the Western Conference for player talent, it's also there for coaching talent as well. The best teams in the Eastern Conference are led by Doc Rivers, Flip Saunders, Stan Van Gundy, and Mike Brown. In the Western Conference, the coaching ranks are loaded with Phil Jackson, Gregg Popovich, Byron Scott, Jerry Sloan, Rick Adelman, Mike D'Antoni, George Karl, and Avery Johnson. The worst of those coaches are the ones going home after the first round, yet most of those coaches would be leading one of the top teams if they were coaching in the East (as we've seen with Byron Scott, who led the Nets to the NBA Finals).

The Celtics and Pistons still have the talent player-wise to win the NBA Championship, and very well could, but if it came down to putting my money on the Celtics and Pistons or Spurs and Lakers, I would put it on the teams led by the better coaches, not the team with the better players as all of the teams mentioned have the talent to win the championship, it's the coach that puts them over the top, just look at the past 20 years.

(Side note: One of the youngest teams in the NBA just hired Larry Brown as its coach today. Now I'm not saying that the Charlotte Bobcats are the team to beat in the East, but if Larry Brown is given a few years in Charlotte, this is a team to fear in the Eastern Conference)

Edit (comment response): Charlotte is a very good team, I view them the same way I viewed New Orleans before they got Chris Paul. They are one great player away from being a top team, and with the addition of a great coach, they will be able to make the next step from lotto team to playoff team in the East, now this upcoming draft could give them the player that makes them that much better. Imagine this roster if Charlotte gets a little lotto luck: Felton at PG, J-Rich at SG, Gerald Wallace at SF, Okafor at PF or C, Beasley at PF or Lopez at C, with Jared Dudley, Earl Boykins, Matt Carroll, and Nazr Mohammad coming off the bench. Are you telling me this team couldn't make the playoffs in the East next year? Are you telling me that in a few years, after some playoff experience this team couldn't take the leap forward?

Monday, April 28, 2008

My Personal Quest

For those of you who aren't aware, I am on a personal quest to attend every single Michigan sporting event before I graduate (got one year left). Here's my list:

Completed (in order of completion):
1) Football
2) Men's Basketball
3) Wrestling
4) Baseball
5) Softball
6) Ice Hockey
7) Men's Track and Field
8) Women's Track and Field
9) Women's Basketball
10) Men's Swimming and Diving
11) Men's Tennis
12) Water Polo
13) Women's Tennis
14) Men's Golf

Still to come:
1) Rowing
2) Men's Soccer
3) Women's Soccer
4) Men's Cross Country
5) Women's Cross Country
6) Men's Gymnastics
7) Women's Gymnastics
8) Field Hockey
9) Women's Golf
10) Volleyball
11) Women's Swimming and Diving

Tomorrow i'll give you a little summary of each sport and the pros/cons of going to watch them

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Michigan Softball Splits with Northwestern

After a pair of games between the two teams tied atop the Big 10 standings, nothing has changed. Each team won a game today at Alumni Field in Ann Arbor. Northwestern took the opener 2-1 as Maggie Viefhaus struck out with the bases loaded in the seventh inning to end the game. Michigan came from behind, scoring three in the seventh to win it 3-2. Sam Findlay was the hero in game two with the walk-off two-run single. I have to go to the Tigers game so full recap will come later. For now, enjoy the highlights:

Michigan vs Northwestern Doubleheader Highlights

Arrington is a Saint


During Sean Payton's interview on ESPN with Trey Wingo, Trey informed him that his Saints had just traded up with the Green Bay Packers and were on the clock. Payton then informed Trey that his team was about to take "the wide receiver from Michigan." Seconds later, the Saints had officially taken Adrian Arrington, so he'll be fighting for a spot opposite Marques Colston. The Saints have a very good history with drafting WRs late in the draft (a la Colston), and Arrington joins a very explosive offense with Drew Brees and Reggie Bush.

Hart Off the Board

Mike Hart joins the group of 2nd-day Michigan draftees who get to laugh at the 1st-day draftees stuck in Miami. Hart was selected in the 6th round (36, 202 overall) by the Indianapolis Colts, and this may be the best possible situation for Hart. Hart gets to run behind a very good offensive line on a team who wins based on cerebral prominence, and he backs up a very consistent runner in Joseph Addai, while still getting ample opportunities given the amount of games in which the Colts run up the score early. With that having been said, take a look at what ESPN Scouts Inc. had to say about Hart:

"At one time he was a first-round prospect, but he dropped due to pre-draft workouts. He is a natural runner who displays great patience setting up his blocks. He is very slippery and is able to break arm tackles. But he is very undersized, lacks top-end speed and shows an inability to be very helpful in pass-protection."

That must be a joke... or it must be written by someone who simply never watched Hart play. First of all, Hart is slippery? Sure, he bounces off of tackles and is hard to bring down, but that's because he's strong. I've never seen Mike Hart shy away from a hit. That might be nit-picky, but the last portion of this blurb about Hart is simply absurd. Mike Hart is not "helpful in pass-protection"?!? Hart is an intelligent blocker who always impedes pass rushers, even if that means sacrificing his own body. I feel like so much of this draft was based around the Michigan-Ohio St. game, in which Michigan had to deal with playing the Buckeyes after a loss without Henne or Hart at full-strength. Was Vernon Gholston seriously worthy of the #6 overall selection because he came out to play against Michigan and beat Jake Long once? Watch his highlight reel on ESPN... over half of the clips are from that one game. In that game, Hart was beaten by Gholston a few times, and all of a sudden Hart is not "very helpful in pass-protection." Something is wrong here.

Adrian Arrington, the last Wolverine we expect to be taken, is still on the board. Serves him right for leaving the family behind. Jamar Adams is also a possible draftee, but I expect him to be a free agent acquisition after the draft.

Manningham and Crable Join Super Bowl Finalists

2 more Wolverines have been drafted, and no, they are not members of the Miami Dolphins. Rather than joining the worst team in the football, Mario Manningham and Shawn Crable have joined the two Super Bowl Finalists from the 2007-2008 season, with Crable taken by the New England Patriots (15th pick in the 3rd round, #78 overall) and Manningham taken by the New York Giants (32nd pick in the 3rd round, #95 overall). Crable figures to slot in nicely in New England's hybrid defense and play a great deal on special teams with his speed and athleticism, while Manningham, whose stock dropped considerably due to off-field concerns (plus he's not exactly the tallest WR in the draft), joins a deep WR core in New York, with Plaxico Burress, an aging Amani Toomer, and last year's 2nd round pick, Steve Smith from USC.

Mike Hart and Adrian Arrington figure to go next, with Hart most likely the first of the two off the board. Apparently scouts have figured out that Arrington exploited bad cornerbacks while teams focused on Manningham, and he is now projected as a 6th rounder. Meanwhile, Hart had some nice combine performances, but, despite his strength, still lacks NFL-worthy size and speed.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

NFL Draft Day 1 and Misc.

The painstaking first day of the NFL Draft has come and gone and only two Wolverines were taking in the first two rounds. Both Jake Long (1st Overall) and Chad Henne (2nd Round) were taking by the Miami Dolphins. Obviously, Bill Parcells and Tony Sporano like the chemistry that these two bring to the field. Henne's drop back style and strong arm could develop into the kind of passing game Parcells had with Drew Bledsoe and Phil Simms in the 90's. It'll be interesting to see the kind of competition he has with Jon Beck for the starting spot come this fall.

On the other hand, four other Wolverines were left waiting till Day 2 to find out their draft fates. Mike Hart, Mario Manningham, Adrian Arrington, and Shawn Crable are all still undrafted and waiting to hear their names called. For Manningham and Arrington, both players who had off-field troubles during their college careers, the decision to go pro early could prove to be a regretful one if they aren't drafted after Round 3. Stay Tuned.

Finally, congrats to Michigan Softball on another impressive victory over MSU. They take on Northwestern in a DH tomorrow, which can be heard live on the Stream or MGoBlue.com (Stu Zaas will have the call). After seeing the highlights and having attended a few games myself, this is one of the most entertaining events to attend at Michigan these days and tickets are very easy to get ( Home games end by mid-May, so hurry fast and catch the 6th Ranked team in the land).

Speaking of highlights, who is Robert St. Clair and did he really just ask Jordan Taylor if she likes pitching with a lead in the UM-MSU Video Report?!? Have you seen/played a game of baseball or softball in your life? In the words of Hamilton Porter in The Sandlot: You are killing me, Smalls!!!! Bring your A game, or I move for you to be replaced by crack Softball enthusiast (and WCBN's finest) Stu Zaas.

(In all seriousness, a big thanks goes out to the people at MGoBlue.com for allowing all of us to broadcast these games, which has been a great experience).

Alright, that's it for now. Time to enjoy some NBA action.

#6 Michigan 11 Michigan State 3 (5 Innings)

East Lansing, MI -- Michigan Softball defeated Michigan State 11-3 in a mercy-rule shortened five inning game for the second day in a row. After both teams went down in order in the first inning, the Wolverines put a nine spot up on the scoreboard in the second. All nine runs scored on homers, highlighted by Samantha Findlay's grand slam. Findlay now has an NCAA-leading 18th round trippers to go with 59 RBI on the season and is on pace to threaten her own single season records of 21 homers and 77 RBIs that she set back in 2005, her freshman season.

It was freshman Dorian Shaw who started the home run parade with a 3-run shot well over the left field fence at Old College Field. Two batters later, junior Teddy Ewing lined her first home run of the season over the left field wall. Findlay's grand slam which came on a first pitch fastball cleared the scoreboard beyond that left field wall and gave Michigan the 9-0 lead.

Freshman Jordan Taylor (23-2) struggled a bit with her command on a cold and windy day, surrendering three earned runs and five hits in five innings of work. The Valencia, CA native walked two Spartans and gave up all three runs after there were two out in the inning. Bianca Mejia provided the big hit for MSU with a 2-run homer 0ver the fence in straightaway centerfield.

Michigan will be back in action tomorrow afternoon in a matchup between the two teams atop the Big 10 Standings as #12 Northwestern comes to town. The Big 10 Network will televise both games of the doubleheader starting at 12:00. WCBN will have the games as well on the stream.

Here is the highlight mix from Michigan's series sweep of Michigan State

Friday, April 25, 2008

#6 Michigan 10 Michigan State 0

Michigan needed only 1:15 to blow past Michigan State 10-0 in a mercy-rule shortened five innings at Alumni Field. Sophomore, Nikki Nemitz (20-2) led the way pitching five shutout innings, lowering her ERA to 0.65 and picking up her 20th win of the season. Nemitz has won 20 games in each of her first two seasons as a Wolverines.

With the win, the Nemitz/Jordan Taylor duo became the fastest Wolverine tandem to reach the 20 win mark in a season as it took the pair just 46 games to do so. The previous record was set last season when Lorilyn Wilson and Nemitz each won their 20th in the 50th game of the season.

Sam Findlay started off the scoring for Michigan in the third inning as she parked a solo shot in the Spartan bullpen in left. Findlay is 2nd in the country now with 17 home runs. The Wolverines would add four more in the fourth, highlighted by Allie Giampaolo's double off the top of the wall in right-center.

Nemitz's success didn't end in the circle as she would help her own cause in a big way, going 2-3 with 5 RBI. Nemitz ended the game in the fifth inning blasting her 2nd home run of the season and her first ever grand slam over the foul pole in right. The celebration was delayed however, as the fans (and broadcasters) had to wait and see whether the ball would be called fair or foul.

Michigan will wrap up the home-and-home series against their cross-state rivals tomorrow at noon in East Lansing. The nation's ERA leader, Jordan Taylor (22-2, 0.53) will get the start for Michigan. The Wolverines then return home on Sunday for an important double-header with #12 Northwestern. First game starts at noon and it should be a great day of softball between the two teams tied atop the Big 10 Conference Standings. We'll have both games for you on WCBN.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Michigan’s Pat White?


Rich Rodriguez has found his quarterback. Kevin Newsome, a four star quarterback from Chesapeake, Virginia reportedly committed to Michigan earlier today, according to Rivals.com. Newsome is listed at 6’3” and 210 pounds. He is a prototypical dual-threat quarterback, having thrown for 1500 yards and rushed for 600 yards as a junior in high school. Newsome is the 39th rated player in the 2009 class and the fourth quarterback listed overall on Rivals.com. Newsome told rivals.com, “I love the winning tradition of Michigan. I really believe Michigan is the godfather of college football, and that’s what makes the Michigan-Ohio State game so notorious.” The verbal commitment by Newsome is a huge coup for Rodriguez. With the lack of quarterback depth on the current roster (Threet, Sheridan, Feagin, and Cone), Newsome could come in next year and play significant minutes. Well done, Rich Rod!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Benedict Boren

As predicted earlier this month, Justin Boren has made his transformation from "returning leader" to "traitor" complete, by signing transfer papers agreeing to play for OSU. Although he will sit for a season, Jim Tressel talked about how much he looked forward to having Boren on the team.

The thing that bugs me the most about this is the fact this story was put up as a headline on ESPN.com and Yahoo! Sports. A lineman of Boren's ability (and character, for that matter) did not deserve such publicity. He was a decent lineman with a low ceiling as far as potential. Regardless of the fact that some of the reason for the publicity is the UM-OSU rivalry, as a fan of this University, it is a slap in the face to have this headline sitting right below Jake Long's signing. Long is the second Wolverine to be selected 1st overall, the first player being Tom Harmon. Long's caliber of character and style has play has set the bar high for all players who come after him and put on the winged helmet.

It's ironic to see both headlines, each player from opposite ends of the spectrum, sitting right next to one another.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Destination: Denver...WCBN Style (Part 4)

4/12

6:30 AM MST

Christian and I decide we want to go skiing since neither of us had ever tried it and we figured Denver would be a pretty good place to give it a shot. Since he and I are both under 21, we convinced Tony and his 23 years to wake up and go rent a car for us so we could get to the mountains.

7:15 AM MST

Christian and I take off in our PT Cruiser towards Loveland Ski Area, encountering some beautiful scenery on our way. For as unprepared as we were, Christian and I had a blast, only wiping out a few times. We definitely proved the lady selling the rental equipment wrong as she told us, “under no circumstances should you buy a lift ticket.” We played around on the skis for about half an hour in the area in front of the lift before we decided that we might as well give the real hill a shot. We each whitewashed our share of times but walked away in once piece.

2:30 PM MST

The four of us make our way back to the Pepsi Center to take in the National Championship Game between BC and ND (Notre Dame, not North Dakota as Kevin Porter would have you think). Dinner was a delicious meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and vegetables.

5:00 PM MST

The Pepsi Center was again sold out as it was for both of the semifinal games. The North Dakota fans adopted Notre Dame giving the Irish the vast majority of crowd support. After a scoreless first period, BC scores three quick goals in the first ten minutes of the second period. Nathan Gerbe scores the first two and adds an assist on the third with a beautiful no-look pass to Joe Whitney who one-timed it off a Notre Dame defensemen’s skate and into the net.

Notre Dame appeared to close within one goal at 3-2 but it was waived off after video review showed that the Fighting Irish player had propelled the puck forward into the goal with his skate. BC would score a minute later, dealing the dagger as BC went up 4-1. ND would not threaten again as Boston College won the 2008 NCAA Division One Championship. Gerbe was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player for his five goal weekend.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Wow! Michigan Baseball Wins 27-6

Michigan took it to little brother, destroying Michigan State by a score of 27-6. The 27 run output ties a Michigan record for runs. They last scored 27 in 1995 at Georgia Tech. Previously to that, Michigan scored 27 in a game back in 1895.

Everybody hit for Michigan today as they pounded out 28 basehits on the afternoon. Ironically enough, this was a come from behind win as the Wolverines found themselves down 2-0 going into the bottom of the 2nd Inning. That's when the onslaught began as Michigan would cross the plate eight times in the second. Jason Christian's two-run triple was the big hit in that inning and the first of many big hits on the day. Christian would find himself just a double shy of the cycle by the time the fifth inning rolled around.

Michigan would score five more in the third thanks mostly to a Nate Recknagel 3-run blast to right, his 16th of the year and 3rd of the series.

Derek Vanbuskirk earned himself WCBN Player of the Game honors for his career day at the plate. Vanbuskirk went 4-5 with 4 runs scored, 9 RBI, and 3 home runs. Vanbuskirk hit a solo shot in the 5th, a tower grandslam over the brick monster in the 6th, and to cap it off, a three-run jack to dead center in the 7th.

Everyone got into the act as Michigan used 18 players in the game. Eric Katzman who came on to pitch in the 8th even drove a basehit into left in his first career collegiate at bat. Katzman just missed a homer on the previous pitch knocking it just a few feet to the foul side of the monster in left.

Michigan will be back in action next week as they travel to Indiana for a four-game series. Michigan now sits at 28-8 overall, 15-1 in Big 10 Place which gives them a three-game lead over second place Purdue.

and now back to finals...

WCBN Highlights:
Jason Christian Triple
Vanbuskirk Homer #1
Nate Recknagel Three-Run Homer
Vanbuskirk Grand Slam
Leif Mahler Home Run
Vanbuskirk Homer #3

Game Highlight Set to Music

Former Wolverine Update

The procrastination continues...my hometown hockey team is an AHL team who is currently in the AHL playoffs. I am from San Antonio, so naturally I follow the AHL and my local AHL team, the San Antonio Rampage. They are in the first round of the playoffs, playing the Toronto Marlies, and won Friday night to tie up the series at a game a piece as they head back to SA for games 3-5. The 6-3 win was thanks in large part to the line of Enver Lisin, Kevin Porter, and Chad Kolarik. That line scored two goals, each from Chad with assists directly from Kevin Porter. Chad also added a power play goal in the 2nd period to finish the night with a hat trick and Porter ended with two assists. The Coyotes got some great young players and the addition of Kevin Porter and Chad Kolarik could mean good things next year. At the very least, it means great things now and in the future for my San Antonio Rampage!

Misc. Note: Ryan Jones, the former Miami (OH) RedHawk, got his first pro goal last night as well, as he tallied the game-winner for the Houston Aeros in the second overtime of their AHL playoff game last night. I'm so glad to see him gone and on to a bright future with the Wild.

Michigan Baseball

While Michigan baseball continues another dominating weekend (most likely sweeping the Spartans as they are up 21-3 in the 6th in today's game as I type this), I decided to procrastinate from finishing my final essay, which is due tomorrow, to check out how the team is doing. I went to the Big Ten home page to check out the Big Ten standings and saw that the team was 14-1 in conference play going into today's game. I was further interested to see an article on the page titled "Michigan Made to Better Baseball". This of course interested me, so I decided to read it. In it, I found two names that were very familiar to me that I had no idea attended and played/coached for the Michigan Wolverines baseball team. Those names were George Sisler (who had the single season hits record until Ichiro broke it a couple years back) and Branch Rickey (the man who signed Jackie Robinson). Now as a baseball fan, I was drawn into the article, which I now highly recommend be read if you are interested in Michigan baseball or Wolverines athletics in general. It enlightened me on a couple of Wolverines who had a lasting impact on the game of baseball

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Basketball Practice Facility Coming to Michigan

Finally, the Women's Basketball Team will stop kicking us off the courts at the IM building for their practices as Athletic Director, Bill Martin announced yesterday on WTKA that plans are in the works to bring a much needed practice facility to Michigan.

The proposed facility would include two men's courts, two women's courts, and a renovation of Crisler Arena. Martin says he expects the plans to gain approval by the end of the year but declined to place a timeline on its completion

Friday, April 18, 2008

Bowman to Step Down as Michigan Swim Coach

Men's Swimming coach, Bob Bowman has announced that he will leave his position at Michigan after the Beijing Olympics this summer. Bowman plans to take over the CEO position at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club. Bowman has been with the Wolverines for the past four years, during which the team finished ranked in the top eight each season.

Assistant coach, Michael Phelps will follow Bowman to Baltimore, which happens to be his hometown.

Mark Mitera Named Captain for 2008-09

Head Coach, Red Berenson announced today that Defensemen, Mark Mitera will serve as the Wolverines captain for next season. Mitera, who will be a senior next season, was the alternate captain along with Chad Kolarick this year. There has been much discussion about whether or not Mitera would stick around for his senior season as he was a first-round draft pick (pick #19) in 2006 for Anaheim. Michigan has only had one other first-rounder stick it out for all four years and that was Eric Nystrom.

Assistants to Mitera will be named in the fall, but that doesn't stop us from speculating...

Top Candidates
1) Tim Miller - was an assistant for the first half of the season this year, will be a senior as well.
2) Travis Turnball - will also be a senior next year.
3) Chris Summers - will be a junior next year, as long as the Coyotes keep their dollars away

Other possibilities:
1) Danny Fardig - not too likely, but he will be a senior next season
2) Max Pacioretty - will step into the role of top scorer, but will be just a sophomore
3) Billy Sauer - keep in mind, we don't play anywhere near Denver next season...

UPDATE: The Michigan Daily is reporting that Mitera will return for his senior season

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Destination: Denver...WCBN Style (Part 3)

continued from part 2

4/11

1:00 PM MST

After Christian and I spent the morning working on papers, we met up with former WCBN Sports Director and current voice of the Wichita Thunder, Steve Schuster, who was in town watching the games. We spent some time walking down the 16th street mall, including a stop at the frozen four memorabilia tent. The most popular t-shirt was the North Dakota version which pretty much summed up the Fighting Sioux’s trip to Denver as their school was spelled ‘North Dakata.’ Must have been designed by a New Yorker. We had a delicious lunch at Johnny Rockets and then returned to the hotel to do some more paper writing.

4:45 PM MST

We leave the hotel to go see Michigan’s only win of the weekend as Kevin Porter takes home the Hobey Baker Award, edging out frozen four MOP Nathan Gerbe of BC and an unrecognizable Ryan Jones of Miami. Jones’s hair was finally long enough for him to donate to Locks of Love so none of us recognized him without his flowing locks. The entire team was in attendance with the exception of Billy Sauer.

6:00 PM MST

After enjoying a delicious dinner at the Pepsi Center (the dinners got better and better as the tournament went on), we watched as the All-American Team was named. Congratulations to Kevin Porter picked up first team honors and Chad Kolarik was named to the second team.

6:45 PM MST

The skills competition starts with men and women player from across all divisions represented the East and West. The competition featured a puck-control relay race, speed competition, hardest shot, accuracy, rapid-fire (for the goalies), and culminated with each team member taking a penalty shot. The penalty shot was the most exciting event as Eric Ehn of Air Force brought the crowd to their feet with his goal. He started from the right boards, came across the crease, dropped down to make a hand pass back to himself then went behind his back to slap the puck through the five-hole and into the net.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Mail Time!!

Finally! The weather is starting to break, the Tigers are beating the Indians into a bloody pulp, and the stress and agony over final exams are starting to subside. Spring is definitely here to stay. Blogging has been somewhat light recently but look for it to pick up as classes end.

I also want to thank everyone who has been regularly checking the blog and those who have been providing feedback. We work hard to keep the Blog as current as we can and really enjoy the comments from everyone who has been reading
Due to the recent surge in popularity of Maize and Blog, our faithful readers have been kind enough to send us their feedback. Having finally been able to sit down and go through the messages, here is the long awaited first "Mail Bag" of spring.

Who do you think deserves to be Michigan's Athlete of the Year?
-Mary Sue C., Ann Arbor, MI


As far as male athletes go, it has to be Kevin Porter. Although my distaste for hockey in general is high and its lack of popularity nationally makes it hard to follow, no Michigan athlete has done more with less this season. Most people wrote him, and his teammates, off in mid-October with 12 freshman coming in, but Porter put on the blinders and went to work as Michigan Hockey's Thoroughbred. He led the nation in points and goals, and was named National Player of the Year by multiple news organizations (including the Hobey Baker Award). The one person you could make an argument for here is Zach Putnam from Baseball, but his year isn't over and Porter would be hard to beat regardless.

For the Women: This one is a little more difficult. Jordan Taylor in Softball has played extremely well for a freshman in her first season, but it has yet to be seen what she can do down the stretch. That said, Katie Brudzinski wins my vote. She led the Volleyball team to the program's best record in its history and leaves Michigan as the all-time kills leader. She also wins this years "Wayyyyy too Excited to be interviewed for a student station" award thanks to an interview she gave for WOLV's Sportsnite program. Nevertheless, she's a great player and good person who is definitely deserving.
How good do you think my chances are at winning All-Conference honors my first season at Michigan?
-J. Taylor, Valencia, CA
I think your chances are similar to those of the Tigers in this game I'm currently watching: Really good, but stranger things have happened (Thank You, Jason Grilli). But if the Michigan women are Big Ten softball champions, you will be an instrumental part in that win and will not be overlooked by the voters.

Oh... and a word of advice: Make sure to eat the muffins at West Quad. WCBN cook and nutritionist Stu Zaas claims that the muffins will be a key to victory down the stretch and is working in conjunction with cafe personnel to make sure they are available before every start.


Of the new coaches (hired in the last year) at Michigan, who will have the worst season of all them? It's not me, is it?
-Rich R., Ann Arbor, MI

No, I don't think you will win "Goat-Coach of the Year" at Michigan next year (name change of this award to the "Amaker Award" is pending). I think Greg Ryan in women's soccer (formerly the U.S. national team coach)will have the worst season. You remember Ryan: He was the guy in last year's women's world cup who played 65 year-old Briana Scurry in favor of Hope Solo against eventual champ Brazil... and Solo just happened to be the tournament's best goaltender up to that point. It would've been just like what happened in Mighty Ducks 2, when Coach Bombay called in Julie the Cat for the shootout versus Iceland...if Julie the Cat had fallen on her face while skating from the bench to the net, and then gotten beat five-hole to lose the game. That's pretty much the equivalent to Scurry's performance in the U.S.A's 4-1 semi-final beat down. However, the outlook for the Michigan team is much better. They have a young, talented team, but are another year away from a breakout season. I think I might make it out to a couple matches, perhaps with my "Briana Scurry got you this job" sign.

Who will have more wins this season? The Lions or the Wolverines?... and sorry if this message gets cut in the middle. My hideout- er, I mean "off-season summer house in the hills" - doesn't get good Wi-Fi signals.
-M. Millen, undisclosed location

It's tough to say at this point. The Wolverines are a young team and the Lions just got rid of just about every recognizable player on the roster. They looked like the Florida Marlins of the NFL the way they were cutting payroll this past off season. I think it'll be a rough fall for either team, but I think Coach Rod's system will be one that Big Ten coaches aren't used to seeing from a Michigan team and will help garner a few surprise victories. But with the Lions... its the same crap, just different year. Maize and Blue with the edge.
If you would also like to contribute to the Mail Bag, post your questions in the "Comments" forum below. My e-mail inbox is undergoing renovations (making the big Gmail switch), so for the time being the Comments box will have to do.

Michigan defeats Eastern Michigan 31-5

Michigan Baseball and Softball rolled over Eastern Michigan by a combined 31-5

Michigan Baseball started off the afternoon with a 20-5 domination over Eastern Michigan. 23 players saw the field for Michigan, including a rare Ben Jenzen sighting in left field! Michigan's 20 runs came on 23 hits. Putnam, Recknagel, and Abraham the 3-4-5 hitters combined to go 8-12 with 10 RBIs. Recknagel and Oaks homered despite powerful winds blowing in from center.

Across the way at Alumni Field, Michigan Softball continued the onslaught beating Eastern 11-0 in a mercy-rule shortened 4.5 innings. Sam Findlay blasted her 14th homer of the season, a three-run shot to left in the third. With that home run, Findlay surpassed the 200 RBI mark for her career. Freshman Marley Powers provided the exclamation point with a towering grandslam to the bleachers in right.

Next up for baseball are games this weekend vs Michigan State. Friday is home at 6:30, Saturday is on the road, and Sunday is back home. Softball travels to Ohio State for games on Friday (6:30) and Saturday (1:00). We'll have those games for you on the stream. Highlights to come later...busy week with finals

Michigan Baseball beats Eastern on Walk-off Homer

Michigan struggled from the plate all day long against cross-county rivals? Eastern Michigan. Eastern carried a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth when Jason Christian connected on his fourth home run of the season off the scoreboard in right to tie the score at 3. After a Leif Mahler walk, Nate Recknagel hammered a walk-off shot to almost the same spot as the Christian homer.

Mike Wilson was phenomenal for the Wolverines coming on with two outs in the fourth and the bases loaded. Wilson struck out Steve Bradshaw to end the inning. Wilson would go on to face the minimum in 5.1 innings of relief, picking up the win to improve to 2-3 on the year. Wilson struck out five and walked just one. His next strikeout will be number 100 for his career.

Baseball is back in action today against Eastern at 3:00 at Ray Fisher Stadium. They are offering free gatorade and massages starting at 2. Admission is free for students so everyone should take a study break and go check out the #21 team in the country!

Michigan Softball will be in action later on today as they also take on Eastern Michigan. First pitch for softball will be at 6:05 and can be heard on the sports stream.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Destination: Denver...WCBN Style (Part 2)

Continued from part one

7:55 PM CST

After our new Michigan friend boards the plane, Andrew notices the Arizona Sundogs logo on the jacket of the young man sitting down the row from us named Mike Bartlett. He goes over and asks about it, discovering that this guy graduated from Notre Dame last year and was on the hockey team. Despite the obvious rivalry with Michigan set to take on the Fighting Irish in the national semifinal game we got to talking and discovered that he was trying to do the same thing as Andrew – get to Denver via stand-by to watch the hockey games.

8:06 PM CST

Andrew and Mike find out that the 8:00 flight is completely full, so the three of us head down to the gate that my flight departed from. That flight was the next and last chance for them to get to Denver that night.

9:25 PM CST

I board the plane for Denver, leaving Andrew and Mike behind. Andrew was planning on spending the night on the floor of O'Hare, so Mike offered to bring him back to his parents’ house which was just 20 minutes away to get a few hours of sleep on an actual bed before they tried to get out on the 6 AM flight the next morning.

Upon boarding, my hockey jersey yielded another friend as the man and his son sitting in front of me on the plane start talking to me about Michigan hockey. I find out that the family is from Buffalo and the kid takes hockey lessons from none other than the father of disgraced ex-Michigan defenseman, Kevin Quick.

10:57 PM MST

I arrive in Denver to find that I’ve missed the last shuttle to the airport. Not wanting to take a $50 cab I decide to look around and see what other options I can find. Eventually, I encounter a friendly shuttle driver who agrees to take me to my hotel for $20. It sounded like a good deal so I jumped in and waited for it to leave. After sitting for 20 minutes I feel asleep and proceeded to doze until the now empty van stopped in front of the Marriot which was not where I told the driver to take me. “Oh, I thought you were here for the frozen food convention.” My fault for falling asleep I guess.

4/10

3:45 AM CST

Andrew wakes up in Mike’s basement and gets a ride to the airport from Mike’s dad. Andrew starts his city-hopping strategy planning to Denver via Omaha while Mike holds out hoping to get on a direct flight.

6:35 AM CST

After a 35 minute delay, Andrew’s plane is finally ready to set off for Omaha…or is it? The captain comes over the PA system asking five people to move from the front to the back because the plane was too front-heavy. Then, the door reopens and a mechanic comes onboard to fix the headset of the pilot who had been unable to hear anything.

8 AM CST

Andrew arrives in Omaha to find his connecting flight to Denver delayed by three hours

12:00 PM MST

Andrew has finally joined Tony, Christian, and myself in Denver despite needing two different shuttle services to get out of the Denver Airport.

4:00 PM MST

We watch in shock as Nathan Gerbe, I mean, Boston College, destroys North Dakota 6-1. Gerbe picks up a hat-trick as BC jumped out to a 4-0 lead after the first period and never looked back.

6 PM MST

Ouch. That was a rough one.

Programming Schedule

Busy week for us as classes end and exams begin. Still, we are dedicated to bringing you Michigan sports, so here is what we have for this week.

Tuesday 4/15
Daily Sports Report 5:15pm
Baseball v Eastern Michigan 6:35pm


Wednesday 4/16
Daily Sports Report 5:15pm
Softball v Eastern Michigan 6pm

Thursday 4/17
Daily Sports Report 5:15pm

Friday 4/18
Game of the Week 7-10pm
We will be bringing you the Michigan baseball game against Michigan State live beginning at 7pm (you can hear the start of the game on the Sports Stream), followed by sports talk if time allows.

Saturday 4/19
Baseball at Michigan State (DH) 1:05pm

Sunday 4/20
Baseball v Michigan State 1:05pm

Monday, April 14, 2008

Destination: Denver...WCBN Style

Here is the first installment in our series documenting the WCBN trip out to Denver

Wed 4/9

12:30 PM EST

Andrew and I merge onto I-94 West in Ann Arbor on our way to Chicago Ohare Airport. I flew out of Chicago because flights were $250 cheaper than they were out of Detroit. Andrew’s dad is a pilot for United so he flies for free – with the catch that he has to fly stand-by. Ohare is a United hub which gave him the easiest route to Denver.

3:30 PM CST

Our Toyota Echo pulls into the Ohare parking structure having made great time, barely hitting any of the much feared Chicago traffic. We park in the “Chicago Bears” level and head towards terminal one.

3:31 PM CST

As we walk towards the terminal I do the standard pocket check to make sure I have the important things – wallet, cell phone, keys. Oops. Forgot the last item on that list. Sure enough I peek in the passenger window and see my keys sitting on the seat. Trunk’s closed, doors are locked, so I place a call to the Ohare parking services – figure we may as well get our money’s worth as we’re paying $30 a day for the car to sit there and listen to the Chicago Bears theme song on repeat. Lucky for us, we have five or six hours to kill and the service is complimentary!

3:45 PM CST

After checking in, we survey the departure board for perspective flights for Andrew. . Note: this was the day American Airlines decided to cancel 900 flights. This presented a problem for Andrew as all those AA customers jumped him on the stand-by list for the 8:00 and then the 9:40 flights. Also complicating matters was the fact that the 4:50 United flight to Denver was delayed for three hours while they searched for a pilot.

5:00 PM CST

Having not eaten all day, we decide to grab some food. The most appealing option at the time was Magic Wok. Since all the tables in the food court area were packed, we take our orange chicken over to the closest gate. Sure enough the flight out of gate C36 was bound for Beijing. So as we at our fake Chinese food in shame amongst the fine folks on their way to authentic orange chicken we decide to so some planning ahead and find out how to get from the Denver Airport to our hotel.

5:45 PM CST

We call our esteemed Sports Director, Tony Bolton, who had already arrived in Denver to inquire as to whether or not our hotel offered a free shuttle. While Tony couldn’t answer that question himself, he was able to provide us with the phone number so we could call the hotel ourselves…or so he claimed. After dialing the 5th number that Tony gave us (encountering a variety of SIDs and NCAA media relations people) I got through to the hotel and discovered that our best bet for a shuttle was going to run us $20.

7:15 PM CST

We head to gate C42 to await Andrew’s first chance to get on stand-by. Andrew is representing the fine people at United Airlines so he is well-dressed in khaki’s and a polo, but I’m all decked out in my maize Michigan hockey jersey. As we’re sitting, waiting, wishing (gotta love Jack Johnson whether he be the LA Kings defenseman or the Hawaiian singer) for Andrew to get on this flight, an older gentleman spots my jersey and walks up to us, striking a conversation about Michigan’s Frozen Four chances. We ask, “oh, so you’re a Michigan fan?” He responds, “Michigan Fan? Son, let me show you something,” pulling off the ring from his right finger and extending it out to us. “This is the 1979 Rose Bowl ring. I was the captain on that team, I played center for Ricky Leach for three years and then for Archie Manning for three more in the league.” As the conversation continues, we ask him what he thinks of Rich Rodriquez, he cuts us off mid-sentence, “Love him, absolutely love him, hell I got him that job.” Now this is pretty surprising to Andrew and I since the common perception is that the former players were against hiring a “non-Michigan Man.” He laughs that off saying that the alumni all love Rodriguez and then goes on to shock us when asked about Lloyd Carr, “We hate that son-of-a...” Apparently this former player used to coach high school football in Colorado and sent the tapes of five players to Carr with the hopes of eliciting offers from Michigan. Not only did they not get offers, but Carr refused to even watch the tapes. We continue talking to this former player for the next 15 minutes during which he offers several times to send us back a cocktail once we board the plane. After we tell him that Andrew is trying to get on the flight stand-by and I’m ticketed on the 9:40 flight, he laughs again and tells us to hand over our tickets, he’ll take care of it for us and get us on the flight as well as bump us up to first class. Well unfortunately, he was able to beat Ohio State, beat USC? but he was unable to get us on that plane. Big prize to whoever can guess the player that we met. Leave your answers as a comment below.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Spring Football Scrimmage: Team Shows Potential For Next Season

With most of the talent from last year's football team gone coupled with the drastic change in coaching philosophy, expectations are the lowest they have been in over a decade. Many are predicting a four or five win season which would mean the first time in over three decades that the Wolverines would not play in a bowl game. While most agree the defense should be pretty solid, most say the offense will be so lethargic that first downs will be rare let alone touchdowns.

Today's spring scrimmage from Saline High School, though, painted a picture a little brighter than the gray, gloomy picture that the fans above have been inclined to portray. Though the weather was cloudy, rainy, windy, and chilly, the football team, yes even the offense, provided flashes of sunlight to those who were there. The scrimmage was the traditional offense vs. defense with offense wearing the white and defense in blue. The first team would play one series from a certain starting point (own 30, 50, opp 30 etc.) and the second team and first team would rotate each series (both offense and defense).
The main question mark, of course, has been the quarterback position. While Head Coach Rich Rodriguez has maintained a competition between Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan, Threet took all the snaps with the first team (the ones, if you will, since the coaches maintain there is no "first team") with Sheridan confined to taking snaps with the second team. The others who typically lined up with the first team were running backs Brandon Minor and Kevin Grady, wide recievers Greg Matthews, Daryl Stonum, and Toney Clemons, tight end Carson Butler Jr., and offensive lineman (from LT to RT) Mark Ortmann, Tim McAvoy, Dave Moosman, Cory Zirbel, and Stephen Schilling.
On defense, there are not too many question marks as the defense returns 8 big time contributors. The defensive line was much deeper than I had anticipated although I did think it would be very good. Brandon Graham, Tim Jamison, Terrance Taylor, Will Johnson, Ryan VanBergen, John Ferrara, Marques Slocum, and Adam Patterson all saw time on the first team (order from most time to least time). As you can see that is 8 guys who were very adequate on the D-line. The linebacking corps was probably the biggest question on the defense and at that spot Jonas Mouton and Austin Panter were the two first team outside backers with Obi Ezeh at middle linebacker. The first team secondary, which should be very strong consisted of Morgan Trent and Donovan Warren at the corners and Stevie Brown and Charles Stewart at the safety spots.

Offense:
Overall, the defense was certainly better than the offense, but that is how it should be. Rich Rodriguez even said after the scrimmage, "If the defense isn't beating the offense then something is seriously wrong," reasoning that the offensive still has alot to learn. Having said that it was not all bad for the offense. Overall it was clear that Threet is head and shoulders above Sheridan for the job, at least right now. The offense involved a lot of quick rollouts and passes to the outside to one of the wideouts, mostly the slot guy which Clemons was playing. Threet was surprisingly quick and effective in these plays which made up most of the offense. The offense ran no-huddle the entire day, not huddling once during a series. Threet seems to be getting a great grasp on the offense very quickly leading the team in this no huddle. Most of those quick passes to the outside picked up about five yards and some broke for more. While Threet played very well there are two big weaknesses in his game that probably cannot be fixed by next season. 1. He has about a 3/4 delivery which means alot of passes were and will be batted down at the line and 2. He, at least today, absolutely cannot throw the deepball. Now the weather might have effected his ability to do #2, but Michigan will probably be better off sticking to the quick passes outside. Still, he seems more than an adequate leader to run this offense. Perhaps the most impressive thing about him is his maturity and the way he carries himself off the field. After the scrimmage, he was signing autographs for kids when I approached him. He was joking around with the kids and they all loved him. When they finally left, I got to speak to him and he is the most well spoken quarterback Michigan has had in a long time. Threet has a great attitude and should improve very quickly due to how smart he is(27 on the ACT, not too shabby). Sheridan did not look terrible, but he certainly is behind Threet. He is only 6'1" which hurts and made some questionable decisions. He certainly is better than David Cone though who got some snaps with the third team, which consists of alot of walkons, and he was pretty bad to say the least even against the third team defense. Bottom line, Cone is just way way too slow to even compete in Rodriguez's system. When Justin Feagin comes in in the fall, I expect his speed and athleticism to catapult him to #2 on the depth chart ahead of Sheridan. If Feagin can pick up on the offensive scheme quickly, he could take about 20% of the snaps and be very dangerous as a runner in place of Threet.

This offense will really be helped out in that area by the freshman coming in such as Feagin and the slot wide receivers like Terrence Robinson. The quick freshman such as Robinson will have a great opportunity to contribute early and they can prove really effective. Clemons was the main slot guy today and was able to catch the short ones and sometimes break out for some big gains. Matthews, though and outside receiver, also came back on some short hitch and slant routes and broke through for big gains. Unless Threet dramatically improves on his ability to throw the long ball, these short routes will be Michigan's offense and the speedy freshmen will have a chance to get on the field.

The offensive line, at least the first team, did a pretty good job overall protecting Threet and opening up holes for the running backs. They proved quick enough to run the Rodriguez offense and really surprised me. They seemed to favor the left side in the running game a little bit (Ortmann and McAvoy), but were also effective on the right with Schilling. Moosman did a great job at center going without one bad or mishandled snap. Moosman, Schilling, and second team center David Molk recieved Spring awards for their play and work ethic. Of course at times, with Michigan's very talented defense, the defense was able to get to the quarterback, but overall the o-line did a surprisingly good job. As the game went on, however, the defense started to break through more so conditioning will be big for the o-linemen this summer. The depth on the O-line is also a concern as the second team was not very impressive. With the exception of Molk and Tackle Perry Dorrestein, I am not sure if the other second-teamers will be reliable guys on the depth chart. That means freshman will probably make their way onto the two-deep.

In the running game, Kevin Grady was really impressive while Brandon Minor won a Spring award for his work in the spring, overall. Grady, though, showed a burst that we haven't seen from him, in addition to his strength and power, which we did see from him freshman year. What we didn't see was a fumble! Yes I am serious. Grady provided a great change of pace with runs straight up the middle that gained close to ten yards. While Minor ran mostly to the outside, Grady was able to gain tough yards and show his explosiveness. Even on the second team, Avery Horn was impressive as the scrimmage went on showing great quickness and an extra burst in the open field. Carlos Brown was out for the Spring, but with the play from Grady, Horn, and Minor throughout spring practice, the running back spot should be deep in the Fall.

Grade for the Offense: If I was judging them from the low expectations everyone had I would give them a B or B- because they really showed promise. But I will judge as they are any other team.
Grade: C-
Rodriguez's staff keeps stressing conditioning and getting faster. How they workout in the offseason will be key, especially conditioning. The no huddle will be able to wear teams down IF the offense has great stamina. If they work hard in the summer and are conditioned to where they can execute the no huddle in the second half, bump this up to a B-. The no huddle will be tough for Big Ten teams to handle and a well conditioned Michigan team could be the Big Ten's worst nightmare.

Defense:

There is not much to report on the defensive side. We paid more attention to the offense since that is the question mark for this team. They played much as we expected with only pleasant surprises. As mentioned earlier the defensive line seems much deeper than anticipated. Brandon Graham showed explosiveness off the end along with Ryan Van Bergen (RS Fr) who surprisingly played quite a bit with the first team. While Michigan has big interior guys like Taylor, Slocum, and Paul, the coaching staff sometimes switched it up putting slimmer guys on the interior. Overall, the defensive line was deep and very talented.

The linebacking corps was the big question and the Mouton, Ezeh, and Panter are relatively inexperienced. Those three, however, played very well today and Mouton especially caught my eye. He was very speedy for a linebacker and also showed the ability to tackle well. Ezeh, of course the most experienced of the group, will play in the middle and Panter did a good job at the other outside spot. Again, I apologize, but most of my focus was on the offense, but from what I saw the linebackers also look surprisingly good.

The secondary has a chance to shine this year especially if the D-line is able to pressure opposing quarterbacks. Trent and Warren at the corner spots did a great job confining the receivers to the short routes. They had great downfield coverage on Stonum and Matthews. At safety, Stevie Brown got a pick and looked very good. He also brought home two spring awards for his efforts throughout spring practice. Brown could step up to be a leader in the secondary along with Trent. Charles Stewart, who has been here forever, played the other safety spot, and though I didn't watch him too closely, he was pretty effective too. Artis Chambers on the second team had two interceptions with one coming off a very athletic play on the ball jumping and catching it as high as he could. He could step into some playing time. Add Boubacar Cissoko and some more quick freshmen, this unit could be one of the best if not the best in the Big Ten.

Grade for the Defense: While they played very well, with the offense changing so drastically I expected them to be even more dominant than they were. The first team offense got into the endzone, I believe, three times. Therefore, I think the defense also needs to get into better condition this summer. If they do that they get an A-. For now:

Grade: B/B+

Special Teams:

The coaches had a lot of guys kicking field goals in warm ups. The main guys who got a chance during the scrimmage, however, were #1 K.C. Lopata, #2 Jason Gingell (yikes) #3. Bryan Wright, who should be #1 or 1b. Lopata hit a couple, but Wright undoubtedly has the strongest leg. I will be surprised if Wright doesn't win the job, but Lopata could be effective too. Please never any Gingell.

Wright also showed a leg punting, but this is definitely Zoltan's job. This should be a key to a Michigan offense that will go through some growing pains. There was a scary moment when they simulated actual defense against the offense punting when the punt rush caught Zoltan's leg and he fell down after the kick. Zoltan got up and was just fine though.

Speaking of the above puntrush, Michigan might actually finally block some punts next year. They were able to get to the punter in those simulations almost everytime and it appears as though they will bring pressure. This is a great breath of fresh air for Michigan fans.

They did not simulate kickoffs today.

Special Teams Grade: This unit will definitely improve alot. Still, until I see Wright in that #1 spot I can't give too high of a grade.

Grade: B

The scrimmage today was very encouraging for next season. The team seems to already be adapting well to the new system. The offense is not disastrous as I thought and Rodriguez seems to be adapting perfectly to build the offense around Threet's abilities. If the team does what the coaches are asking them to do in the summer, being in contention for the Big Ten title is definitely not out of the question. Only time will tell if this team can exceed the low expectations next year, but if you listen to our shows (Extra Points on Monday at 6 PM on 88.3 WCBN) you probably know I'm optimistic.

Huh?

Apparently #8 Missouri and #12 Texas forgot what sport they were playing Friday. Although they were scheduled to play a baseball game the final score looked more like football season, with the Tigers winning 31-12 over the Longhorns. Even more surprising was the performance of Aaron Crow, Missouri's ace and one of the top 10 prospects in the upcoming MLB draft. Crow came into the game having not allowed a run in the last 42 2/3 innings, and was approaching the NCAA Division I record (the unofficial record is 47 2/3 innings, set in 1994 by, guess who, Todd Helton). That didn't last long, as he allowed 9 runs in his first two innings of work, although he still managed to pick up the win (amazing what 31 runs of support will do for a guy).

It should be noted that the primary cause for this monstrous offensive output was a brisk 36 mph wind blowing out to left field.

Kevin Porter Hobey Baker Acceptance Speech

Gotta love the slip-up at the end. "And I wish the best of luck to BC and North Dakota in the final"....oops

Kevin Porter Wins the Hobey Baker Award

video

Friday, April 11, 2008

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Live Game Blog: Michigan vs Notre Dame NCAA Semifinals

And there it is. Notre Dame is headed to the Championship game as Hogan gets beat for the game winner off the stick of Calle Ridderwall for the 5-4 victory. Kevin Porter is the first Wolverine over to console Hogan as he could only turn away so many shots before getting beat. Great game from Denver, unfortunatly, the Irish come away with the win to set up a Notre Dame vs Boston College Championship game on Saturday night. Thanks for tuning in, highlights probably won't be up until tomorrow. Great season for the Wolverines as they came up one goal short of the NCAA Championship

Another big glove save from Hogan keeps things knotted up for the time being. Notre Dame has been the more aggressive team here in overtime. It's only a matter of time before an Irish shot finds the back of the net unless Michigan can pick up their intensity.

A nail-biter here from Denver as we're down to 15 minutes left in overtime and Michigan's holding their own with a true freshman in Bryan Hogan in the net.

15:00 Overtime

The Wolverines have had all sorts of trouble staying onsides as they are called once again for crossing the blue line before the puck, taking away a scoring opportunity as Kolarik and Porter had a 2-2.

Hogan comes up with the first save of OT standing up to the pressure early on. Hogan had to turn away a number of good chances from the Irish including a 2-1 break for Notre Dame

Injury for the Irish right off the opening draw as Christian Hanson went down clutching his knee and had to be helped off the ice.

It sure seems like Berenson's move to pull Billy Sauer in favor of freshman, Bryan Hogan has paid off. Hogan let up just one goal through the second and third periods. The defense seems to have responded best to the challange, stepping up infront of their freshman netminder. While Sauer allowed the three first-period goals, the defense has to shoulder some of that blame as they allowed Notre Dame to break in untouched and get off easy shots on Sauer. Now we'll have to see if the freshman can perform under the pressure of overtime. I'm sure the last place Hogan expected to be when he woke up this morning was between the pipes as overtime was set to begin.

End of Regulation

We are headed to overtime from the Pepsi Center as Michigan has battled back from the 3-0 deficit to force OT! We'll play a 20-minute sudden death overtime period after this 15 minute intermission. The NCAA blogging policy does not tell me how many posts I get in overtime, so I'm going to assume that I get three like the other periods. We're going to go try to catch our breaths, we'll be back with you in a few minutes as OT begins.


Here's some NCAA Tournament overtime history for you: the last time that Michigan appeared in an overtime game during the NCAA tournament was back in 2004 when they fell to Boston College 3-2. Michigan is 6-8 all-time in overtime games while Notre Dame is 1-0 with that victory coming last year over Alabama-Huntsville in double overtime. The last NCAA semifinal to go to OT was back in 2003 as that game saw Michigan lose to Minnesota 3-2 in Buffalo, NY.

Notre Dame has killed off 89.1% of its penalties on the year but Michigan was able to score earlier this period when Kolarik knocked the loose puck into the net. Not so fortunate on this one as Notre Dame kills it without allowing a Michigan shot on goal.

Huge penalty here on Notre Dame as Hagelin is hooked so the Wolverines will be on the power play for two minutes. With just 2:51 to go, Michigan will have the one-man advantage for just about the rest of regulation. Kevin Keeth is the guilty party for the Fighting Irish.

3:28 3rd Period
Unbelievable!!! Goal for the Wolverines as Hagelin ties the game up 4-4 with a backhand that squeezed between Jordan Pearce and the near post! That was the 11th goal on the season for the Swede as Rust and Palushaj pick up assists. A bad goal for Pearce to give up with the one goal lead as he failed to seal off the post allowing Hagelin to bounce the puck in the net.



Big save for Hogan as Notre Dame almost took a two-goal lead. Hogan was able to pounce on the loose puck in the crease to allow Wolverine fans to breath again...not that breathing is easy at this point when you combine the altitute and the way this game has gone

Wolverines have their backs up against the wall now as there are just 7:00 left in their season unless they can come up with another goal to match the Irish. Hogan hadn't been tested until Deeth got in all alone and couldn't come up with the save. He'll have to be strong the rest of the way as another Notre Dame goal could be the dagger.


8:00 3rd Period
Goal for Notre Dame as Kevin Deeth beats Hogan stick side to give the Irish the 4-3 lead with 8:30 left in the game. The goal was the 10th on the year for Deeth as Kissel and Cole pick up assists.

Michigan has been doing uncharacteristically well in the faceoff circle winning 35 of the 54 faceoffs on the night.

Notre Dame with the only major scoring chance in the last five minutes but Hogan able to come up with the pad save.

The two semifinal games today were announced as sellouts. Interestingly enough, they announced 18,543 for the first game and 18,544 for the second. I wonder who that extra person was that decided to check out Michigan vs Notre Dame? There are plenty of empty seats here in the Pepsi Center as roughly half of the North Dakota fans left after their 6-1 loss but attendance is based on tickets sold, not people in the seats.

14:26 3rd Period
GOAL!!!!!!!!!! After Aaron Palushaj and Max Pacioretty pounded away at the loose puck, Chad Kolarik scored his second goal of the game, knocking the puck out of the air and around the far post from his position behind the net. Palushaj and Pacioretty pick up the assists. What a job by the Wolverines to claw their way back to an even score. The power-play tally is Kolarik's 30th goal of the season

3rd Period starts with a penalty to Notre Dame for too many men on the ice. Great opportunity for Michigan to even things up here, but they have not had any success on the power-play today as Notre Dame came into today #2 in the nation on the penalty-kill.

Unfortunately the internet is not strong enough for me to post the highlights as they happen, but as soon as we get back to the hotel, I'll get them up.

2nd Period Intermission
Michigan could not convert on the power-play as their best shot came from Caporusso but his shot missed wide. Hogan still has not been tested in goal and that credit goes to the Michigan defense which has figured something out from the first period.

Bryan Hogan has been strong in net and Michigan has seemed to regain their edge and equally important the momentum. Scoring update: Carl Hagelin has been credited with an assist on the Matt Rust goal and Bryan Hogan earned an assist on the Chad Kolarik goal. 3rd period just a few minutes away...I'll be back around the 15:00 mark.

Reminder, you can listen to our live broadcast by clicking here. Tony and Christian have the call of the third period

4:45 Second Period
Now Michigan will be on the power-play as Kolarik drawks a holding penalty. Michigan has done a great job to get within one goal, let's see if they can even it up before the next break.

Roughing penalty coming to Michigan here so Notre Dame will have another two minutes of a one-man advantage as Mark Mitera is sent to the box. After killing off the first thirty seconds, a great hustle play by Tim Miller results in a Notre Dame slashing penalty so we're back to a four-on-four for the next 1:20 or so and then Michigan will get about :30 seconds on the power-play. Miller chased the puck all the way down into the Fighting Irish zone and then beat the Notre Dame defensemen to the puck as Jordan Pearce decided to play it to his left instead of covering it up. Despite losing his stick, Miller stayed with the puck, pinning it against the boards with his skates and eventually drawing the slash.

Michigan is winning the faceoffs today as you can certainly see the change in momentum. Michigan is now the more aggressive team with most of the action occuring down in the Notre Dame zone. Bryan Hogan has held up his end in net as he came on to replace Billy Sauer after the first period. More credit should go to the Wolverine defense as after a poor first period they seem to have stepped up protecting the freshman goalie as they have kept Notre Dame from getting any good attempts on Hogan.

10:00 Second Period
GOAL! Michigan is on the board as Chad Kolarik scores his 29th goal of the season off the Kevin Porter assist and before the PA announcer here as the Pepsi Center could even finish announcing the goal, the Wolverines stike again as Matt Rust pokes one in with assists going to Aaron Palushaj. Michigan's right back in this one as the Notre Dame lead has been cut to 3-2 with two Michigan goals just :15 seconds apart! The Michigan crowd is back in it as well as the Wolverines have all the momentum.

Some chippiness here as Scooter Vaughen threw his man to the ice after a whistle but no penalty called. Michigan can't loose their heads as going shorthanded is no way to start a comeback.

Yet another missed opportunity for Michigan as Porter and Pacioretty got out ahead of a ND line change but Kolarik's pass missed it's mark.

14:42 Second Period
Michigan looking much more aggressive here as they realize that their season depends on it. Lots of looks, but still no goals for Mihchigan as it's 3-0 Irish.

Bryan Hogan tested early but is able to turn away a nice drag play from the Irish. Ben Winnet had a great chance of a rebound but missed just wide. You have to wonder what's going through the mind of Billy Sauer as after an outstanding weekend in regional play against Clarkson and Niagara he allowed three first-period goals to Notre Dame and finds himself on the bench in what could be the last game of the Wolverines' season.

1st Period Intermission
Michigan got a chance with a one man advantage as Brock Sheahan took an interference penalty with 2:27 to go in the period. Notre Dame showed why they had the second best penalty kill in the nation as the Irish easily killed off the penalty and then added a short-handed goal to boot. 3-0 Notre Dame as Thang got in on the act scoring unassisted with :34 seconds left in ther period. Michigan's in trouble as for some reason, Sauer can't stand up to playing in the city of Denver.

While the defense hasn't played well either, all three goals were certainly saveable. Michigan's got a tall task ahead of them if they plan on advancing as they'll need four goals against Jordan Pearce who is one of the best goaltenders in the country.

I guess it doesn't matter that the internet isn't strong enough for highlights as there sure haven't been any for the Wolverines.

As we get set to start the second period, Red Berenson has elected to pull Billy Sauer in favor of freshman Bryan Hogan. Wow.

3:44 First Period
Naurato had an open net as Jordan Pearce found himself out of position but could not get a stick on the puck. There have been some opportunites for Michigan in this period but they haven't been able to convert. Notre Dame is definitely the more physical team, not a style Michigan wants to play against trailing 2-0.

Notre Dame playing with a lot more intensity here in the first period as they are beating the Wolverines to all the loose pucks. You have to wonder if Michigan might have been looking past the Fighting Irish a little bit as many of the fans were. This is my last post of the first period, so more to come at the intermission.

8:08 First Period
Mitera is back on the ice for this penalty kill. Nice save by Sauer as he turns away the Irish attempt to poke one past. Michigan is taking a more aggressive approach to this kill as Hagelin got in on net shorthanded but couldn't get a good shot off. Michigan now back at full strength

Louie Caporusso tagged with a hooking penalty so Michigan is back on the penalty kill with 10:21 to play. Not the start Michigan wanted to get off to and as we saw out of the earlier game, Michigan's got to get something going soon or they're in trouble. You have to wonder if Michigan came in a little overconfident having beaten the Irish twice already this season.

Notre Dame on the power play as Winnet takes an obstruction/hooking minor at the 6:52 mark. Sauer needs to get something going as he has not looked good at all in this first period. Michigan cannot afford to go down 3-0 as Notre Dame is known for their strong defense. Good job killing off the penalty as Sauer had to come up with a few big saves to keep this game at 2-0. Winnet back on the ice as we're 5-5 again.

13:20 First Period

Early scoring opportunity for the Wolverines as Hagelin's shot went just over the net :43 seconds in.

Michigan appears to have traveled fairly well as the Wolverine cheering section occupies two of the corner sections in the Pepsi Center. What they lack in qauntity they make up for in quality as they have been loud during the games opening minutes belting out Hail to the Victors every chance they get.

Another oportunity for Michigan as Hagelin came in strong with Turnball, but the centering pass went a bit wide. Our internet has been pretty shaky so as of now, highlights aren't happening.

Bad news for Michigan as Mark Mitera appears to limp off the ice. More on this as we figure out what happened.

And with that, even more bad news for Michigan as Notre Dame has jumped out to an 1-0 lead behind a Calle Ridderwall goal. Assit to Justin White.

Just as I was about to hit the publish button, Notre Dame scores again. 2-0 Fighting Irish as this one will be credited to Mark Van Guilder with the assist from Ryan Thang. It should be noted that earlier this year when Michigan beat Notre Dame at Yost, they also came back from a 2-0 first period deficit.

We're here live from the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado as the second NCAA semifinal is a few
minutes away. We'll be complying with NCAA blogging policy so count on three posts per period. Listen to our broadcast live on the stream