October 22, 2006

Win Some, Lose Some

Saturday was an active day for Michigan sports teams. Certainly the big focus was on U of M and the Tigers. I think the biggest news was the MSU game and the history making comeback against Northwestern.

As the No. 2-ranked Wolverines have rolled to their 8-0 record (5-0 in the Big Ten), extended by Saturday's 20-6 win over Iowa at Michigan Stadium, Hart has been the consistent force.

He's the one to whom they give the ball on the first drive to set a tone -- which didn't work well with a three-and-out Saturday -- and he's the one to whom they give it to close out the wins -- which he did with a two-touchdown, 99-yard second half.

"He's a great, great competitor," U-M coach Lloyd Carr said. "He's an unbelievable football player and one of those guys who makes everybody around him better. His teammates are inspired by him, and they all want to block for him. He's got a lot of guys around him that enable him to do some things, but he has an innate ability to see and not be afraid. He has no fear."

Record comeback erases 35-point deficit, rescues Michigan St.
The Spartans scored 38 points in about 25 minutes to mount the biggest comeback in NCAA Division I-A football history, a 41-38 victory over Northwestern sealed by Brett Swenson's 28-yard field goal with 13 seconds remaining in the game.

"We saved our season," said center Kyle Cook. "The bad thing is, we really should have come out and did that right away. We shouldn't have let it get to what it was. It showed a lot of character of our team that we were able to come in at halftime, ruffle a couple of feathers and come out and get it done."

The win may have saved head coach John L. Smith's job, or at least turned the temperature down on his hot seat. MSU still has to earn two more victories in its next four games to go to a bowl, but the fans who greeted the Spartans as they left the field had nothing but praise for Smith, as some chanted his name and applauded him as he walked into the locker room.

"The ones that really deserve the credit are (the players)," said MSU coach John L. Smith. "They played the game and believe in each other."

Analysis: Tigers veer off course while at bat
Anthony Reyes certainly was effective. Aggressive, too. And the box score of Game 1 of the World Series also indicates the St. Louis Cardinals pitcher was efficient, having thrown just 90 pitches when he left after allowing a leadoff home run to Craig Monroe in the ninth inning.

But if there's one factor to take away from the game, one potential trend that could play strongly into how this series develops, it's how much the Detroit Tigers contributed to Reyes' success.

The Tigers who showed up Saturday were the same Tigers hitters who were 28th in the major leagues in walks this season. They weren't the Tigers who saw an average of 143.25 pitches in their previous eight postseason games this month, who saw anywhere from 117 to 182 pitches in a 7-1 playoff run that turned a fading September team into a prohibitive late-October favorite. Patiently wading – and waiting – through all those pitches helped lead to a walks-per-game rate that has been 23% higher (3.25-2.65) in the playoffs than during the season.

Road not kind to Red Wings as of late
The Detroit Red Wings' current four-game western road trip got off to a flying start with a 3-1 victory Monday at Los Angeles, but things haven't gone so smoothly since.

The Wings have been dealt lopsided losses in back-to-back games, first a 4-1 setback to Anaheim on Wednesday and then a 5-1 drubbing at the hands of San Jose on Thursday. Poor execution on special teams, a recurring problem for Detroit during the early portions of this season, played a large role in both defeats.

Against the Ducks, Detroit failed to convert any of its eight power play chances while Anaheim made good on three of 10 opportunities with the man advantage. The next night, the Red Wings repeatedly got themselves in trouble with careless penalties that the Sharks took full advantage of. San Jose built a 3-0 lead less than 15 minutes into the game -- all coming on power-play goals -- and finished 5-of-13 with the extra skater for the night.

"The whole game we were shorthanded," said Detroit head coach Mike Babcock afterward. "We played really hard and really competed, we just never got any results."


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