BY DAN FELDMAN
Daily Sports Editor
Published September 7, 2008
When legendary Michigan coach Bo Schembechler came to Michigan from Miami (Ohio) in 1969, his assistants had to hang their jackets on nails. They complained they had better facilities at their old job.
But Schembechler scolded them, saying Michigan had tradition they wouldn't find anywhere else.
The latest group making the trek from Oxford, Ohio to Ann Arbor found out the Wolverines still hung onto atleast one tradition amidst a regime change — beating Mid-American Conference teams.
With its 16-6 win over Miami on Saturday, Michigan improved to 24-0 against MAC opponents. But the Wolverines still are not hitting on full cylinders yet. The previous 23 wins came by an average margin of 26.3 points per game.
“As I told the team in the locker room afterwards, I'd rather win ugly than lose pretty,” Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said. “It certainly wasn't pretty, but the guys played hard and we didn't execute it well.”
Despite struggling offensively for most of the game, the Wolverines (1-1) found the defensive spark they needed to give Rodriguez his first win with the program. Michigan's defense hasn’t allowed a touchdown in 90 minutes and 13 seconds of game time, despite being on the field for more than 54 minutes of that span.
On the Wolverines' first possession, it seemed like the offense had finally hit its stride after struggling against Utah last Saturday. Led masterfully by first-time starter Steven Threet, the Wolverines drove 77 yards in 2:04 for a touchdown. In a nearly flawless drive, none of Michigan's five plays went for fewer than five yards.
Threet, a redshirt freshman, hit freshman Martavious Odoms in the slot on Michigan’s opening play. Odoms raced 50 yards through space before finally being brought down.
On the drive’s fifth play, Threet faked to freshman Sam McGuffie and ran in untouched for the score from nine yards out. Threet was no Pat White, but except for a play where he fumbled the ball while trying to pass, he had four carries for 36 yards.
On the ensuing possession, Miami (0-2) fumbled on its own 36-yard line when RedHawk center Josh Satterthwait snapped the ball too early. Michigan used the short field to set up a 47-yard field goal by fifth-year senior K.C. Lopata.
A nine-play, 57-yard drive set up a missed 41-yard field goal on the Wolverines' next possession. But Threet failed to move the offense successfully after that and was pulled for redshirt sophomore Nick Sheridan for the final possession of the first half.
“I was hoping that one would just play so well that we just wouldn't have to, but right now, we are at a point where we are having some growing pains,” Rodriguez said.
Threet started the second half but was pulled after two drives — a three-and-out and one that ended when he overthrew an open Darryl Stonum on third down. Threet struggled to hit receivers on intermediate routes all day.
Sheridan finished the game, guiding Michigan on an 87-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. Junior running back Brandon Minor rumbled 15 yards, diving into the end zone, on his lone carry. The touchdown carry capped the drive, finally giving the Wolverines some breathing room.
Sheridan finished the game 4-for-5 with 40 yards. Threet was 6-for-13 for 63 yards, but 50 of those came on the first play. Neither threw a touchdown or interception.
“It's still like a Clint Eastwood movie — ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,’ ” Rodriguez said.
Sheridan took a knee twice in the final minute, allowing the Wolverines to celebrate their first win of the year.
“Game over, fellas,” redshirt freshman defensive end Ryan Van Bergen screamed as the final seconds wound down.
Then redshirt sophomore defensive end Greg Banks reminded him about a new tradition. The entire team ran over to the corner of the field and sang ‘The Victors.’ The song was surely sweet, but the win was just the first step for this team to prove itself after its loss in the season opener.
“There ain’t no redemption,” fifth-year senior linebacker John Thompson said. “There’s 12 weeks. We’ve got to win every week.”