In the fourth quarter of Michigan's 35-12 victory over Western Michigan Saturday at The Big House, redshirt freshman free safety Earnest Shazor (6-4, 218) leaped and batted away a pass. A few minutes later, redshirt freshman Tim Massaquoi (6-4, 231) latched on to a pass from backup quarterback Spencer Brinton.
The two plays were emblematic of what Michigan gained out of playing a MAC foe and state rival like Western. The game, played in intense late-summer heat, provided the Wolverines a chance to look at some of their youngsters and build on their season-opening victory over Washington.
After Western mounted an early drive, only to be foiled by a missed field goal, Michigan built a 21-0 lead. John Navarre and Braylon Edwards clicked in the passing game. Navarre completed 14 of 23 for 174 yards. He tied a personal record and Michigan record with four touchdown passes. The best was an 8-yard dart to tight end Bennie Joppru. Edwards finished with four catches for 93 yards and two touchdowns.
The Wolverines racked up more than 400 yards total offense for the second week in a row, including 226 on the ground. Chris Perry notched his second straight 100-yard day. Tim Bracken and David Underwood ran hard, Bracken displaying some shifty moves. The `M' offensive line was too big and too powerful for the Broncos. At one point, Demeterius Solomon was in at right tackle and Tony Pape at left tackle. Could this be a sign of things to come?
On the defensive side, Dan Rumishek and Norman Heuer continued to play like all-Big Ten candidates up front. Victor Hobson nabbed his first career interception. Late in the game, Shazor showed why he'll one day be a force in the secondary. With his size, he reminds me of ex-Oklahoma and current Dallas Cowboy Roy Williams.
Western did move the football on a couple occasions. (They're a good football team, remember?) But more disturbing was the fact Philip Brabbs missed two more field goal attempts. He is 1-for-5, the only successful kick a 44-yard field goal that beat Washington on the last play. He's also a walk-on. He needs to relax. He needs a five chances to knock through kicks from in close to build his confidence.
Unfortunately, the schedule will not allow for much more tinkering. Next up, Michigan plays at Notre Dame. Then, it's Utah and the start of the Big Ten race at Illinois. In college football these days, scheduling can make or break almost any team. The Bowl Championship Series likely will lead to more breakfast buffets for the big-time contenders. Everybody wants to devour a few creampuffs. Few can risk an early loss.
"I love the big games if everybody would play them," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. "I like the intersectional games, but it goes back to me. We shouldn't be playing 12 games. What I don't like about our schedule is this: In the Big Ten Conference, we're playing four quality opponents. If we lose one of those games, it very conceivably, if we tie for the Big Ten championship, could cost us the Rose Bowl. That's the goal here.
"The goal is to go to the Rose Bowl. When you're scheduling, because of the face that you don't play two teams in this conference there is a good chance that there will be a tie. Some schedules in the Big Ten are tougher than others. I'm not saying that ours is so hard because there will be a time when our schedule will be easier than other teams. The bottom line is your football team has goals.
"They want to go to the Rose Bowl. They want to win the national championship. When by scheduling you put them at a disadvantage as compared to the people you're competing against, you have to wake up. You have to do something for the program."
In the Big Ten, Michigan does not face Indiana and Northwestern this season. Get Carr's drift?
Thanks for reading. Now I'll go back to my little korner of the world.
Michigan whips Western
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