While Penn State was busy gaining valuable momentum in its 34-31 win over Wisconsin in Madison last Saturday, Michigan quarterback John Navarre was letting his creative juices flow sitting in front of the TV with a dry-erase board.

Paul Wong
Michigan quarterback John Navarre spent the bye week preparing to face Penn State this weekend. Despite this sack versus the Illini, Navarre was more comfortable in the offense last week.

“You get a chance to draw stuff up,” Navarre said. “Whether it’s going to run or not doesn’t matter. You always want to be thinking of ways to attack the defense, and you want to understand why you’re doing things.”

Against Illinois, Navarre and his teammates finally found a rhythm in offensive coordinator Terry Malone’s scheme. Navarre, who threw for 264 yards and one touchdown, said that with each passing week, the game is slowing down in front of him, allowing him to make better reads consistently.

“We were playing well last week but now we have a chance to be more flexible as far as game planning,” Navarre said. “The reason why we played so well is because we prepared hard and really studied Illinois. If we go in there each week with confidence in our offense and have the awareness of what the defense is doing, we’re going to play well.”

Aside from drawing up possible plays with roommates Tony Pape and Dave Pearson, the bye week allowed Navarre to sit down with quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler and put together a tentative game plan one week earlier than usual.

“You can almost be an offensive coordinator as a quarterback,” Navarre said. “We can put a game plan in and watch another game and ask ourselves if we really want to do this or that. We have more time and more flexibility to do different things.”

Bye weeks have hurt Michigan in two of the last three seasons, as the Wolverines were upset by Illinois in 1999 and Northwestern in 2000 coming off of bye weeks. Fifth-year seniors Bennie Joppru and Julius Curry were both happy with how the team responded to the week off.

“While we were practicing, I thought that we did a good job of keeping up the tempo and making sure that we weren’t sluggish,” Joppru said.

Michigan coach Lloyd Carr “did a good job of organizing our practices and giving us time when we could watch film,” Curry said. “A lot of it wasn’t mandatory, but many of the guys were there doing it on their own because we are in this trying to get to the championship. If we don’t dedicate ourselves, then we won’t be successful.”

Defensive linemen Shantee Orr and Norman Heuer, who both sat out the Illinois game due to injury, had a chance to lick their wounds. Carr would not say whether they would be available to play against the Nittany Lions.

Zack will attack: Penn State quarterback Zack Mills, who did not practice earlier this week due to an injury to his right shoulder (non-throwing), said yesterday that he will play Saturday.

Mills is used to playing through pain.The redshirt sophomore hurt himself in the second quarter at Wisconsin, went to the locker room before the half was over , but then came back to complete the Nittany Lions’ victory in the second half.

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