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Brabbs can't seem to play like he practices

BY DAVID HORN
Daily Sports Editor
Published September 8, 2002

To Philip Brabbs' credit, there are very few collegiate kickers that can consistently knock in field goals from 47 and 51 yards. But the disappointment in the Michigan kicking game was not just that Brabbs missed twice on Saturday (leaving him just one-for-five on the year), but that the misses were so unsettlingly ugly.

"He's got to get into a rhythm," quarterback and holder John Navarre said. "He's got plenty of leg, if he just settles down and strikes it."

Navarre, the Michigan coaching staff and anyone else privy to Brabbs' practice habits swear that the kicker has had no problem knocking them in during the week. They suggest that the problem on Saturdays is in his head.

"It's a confidence and everyone just trusting their stroke," said fellow kicker Troy Nienberg, who missed a field goal of his own last weekend against Washington. "Phil just needs to hit those kicks like he does his extra points. He's got all the ability in the world, and mentally, he just has to hit them smooth and they'll go right down the middle for him."

Bracken in: Running back Chris Perry rushed for 120 yards last weekend against the Huskies; he followed up that performance Saturday with 118 yards - 90 of which came in the first half. Perry's success and Michigan's 21-6 halftime lead permitted coach Lloyd Carr the luxury to experiment with sophomore running backs David Underwood and Tim Bracken. Underwood carried 13 times for 35 yards and a touchdown. Bracken looked particularly impressive on the ground, rushing for 50 yards on just 12 carries.

"Coach told me I was going to go in, so I was just waiting for him to call my number," Bracken said.

Bracken's number was called for the final five plays of the game; he gained 27 yards on those five carries.

"He's got really good vision," Carr said. "He needed to get in a game, have some success."

O Captain, My Captain: Saturday was an outstanding day for Michigan's leadership. Linebacker and captain Victor Hobson had a fumble recovery and an interception, as well as a sack. Tight end Bennie Joppru caught three passes for 23 yards, including an eight-yard touchdown from Navarre that gave the Wolverines a 7-0 lead. Dan Rumishek - not a captain but a senior leader of the defense - had an interception, and rumbled 23 yards before finally being tackled by Broncos receiver Jermaine Lewis.

Rumishek "made fun of (defensive lineman Shawn Lazarus) a lot last year for getting caught from behind. So we'll have to tease him about that later," lineman Norman Heuer said.

The Infirmary: There was bad news and better news from the Michigan trainers on Saturday. Junior defensive lineman Grant Bowman and senior wide receiver Ron Bellamy both sat out Saturday's game with undisclosed injuries. Carr says they will likely play next weekend in South Bend, Ind. That was the better news. The bad news is that sophomore Roy Manning - a special teams regular for the Wolverines - had surgery on his knee and will miss the remainder of the season.