In the aftermath of last Tuesday”s terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, football doesn”t seem like a particularly pressing issue.
Nevertheless, the season will continue this Saturday for Michigan (and every other team in Division I-A). The Wolverines are in their second week of preparations for Western Michigan the postponed game from last Saturday was rescheduled for this week, with the Big Ten opener against Illinois pushed back to Sept. 29.
The fact that a seemingly impenetrable building like the Pentagon was attacked has heightened anxieties amongst the Wolverines, and with good reason. The thought of a plane crashing into Michigan Stadium with over 110,00 fans packed in sent chills through the spines of just about everyone associated with the football program.
But the Wolverines sound determined to play on, attempting to get things back to normal.
“With all that”s going on, you”ve got to go out there and play this game to kind of show everybody that, as a whole, we”re moving on,” defensive tackle Dave Pearson said at yesterday”s media luncheon. “With everything shut down last week, I think it was good to mourn and remember everything that happened, but at some point, you”ve got to move on.”
So on Saturday, Michigan Stadium will once again be filled to the brim with fans. Although the odds of some kind of attack on the stadium are somewhere between slim and none, the fear of a possible strike may be in the back of some people”s minds.
Pearson, for one, thinks that such fears aren”t worth losing sleep over.
“I don”t think security is that big of an issue,” he said. “Sure, people wonder when you get 110,00 people in the stadium together. You know, I feel that if you”re going to cancel one game you might as well cancel them all, because the chances (of something happening) each week are just as likely.”
Getting defense: In Michigan”s 23-18 loss to Washington on Sept. 8, one of the many bright spots for the Wolverines was the play of their defensive line.
Washington tailbacks Rich Alexis and Willie Hurst were largely ineffective against Michigan, combining for only 91 yards on the ground. After the much-publicized defensive struggles of a season ago, the improvement along the front wall had to be heartening for fans and players alike.
According to the Wolverines, the secret to their newfound success on “D” isn”t much of a secret at all.
“It”s the offseason workouts, going in with a good attitude,” defensive end Shantee Orr said. “Everyone knows what kind of skills they need to work on to become a better player.”
The hard work in the offseason has started to pay some dividends on the field, and Orr went on to explain just how Michigan has stepped up its play.
“As a group, we”ve improved tremendously from last year, as far as our pass rush and getting a jump off of the ball,” he said.
Quick wit: Athletic director Bill Martin who is always quick with a joke or a friendly barb provided one of the few moments of levity at the media luncheon.
A reporter began a question to Martin by saying, “Bill, you aren”t the football coach ” at which point Martin interrupted the reporter and said with a laugh, “Thank God for Michigan.”