ANN ARBOR Yesterday s game was a bittersweet experience for Michigan junior center Adam Kraus.
The 6-foot-6, 307-pounder made his first career start for the Wolverines, and his family was there to see it.
But the main reason they were there was that the New Orleans family had to evacuate their home because of the devastating Hurricane Katrina.
My family is safe, which is awesome, Kraus said. Also, getting the opportunity to play today was amazing. I had a great time.
We won t know for a while [how bad their home is damaged]. People won t be able to go back to the city for a little bit. So, we re not really sure, but we re staying optimistic.
Kraus father, a pathologist, and mother, also a medical professional, had to flee to the Jackson, Miss., area from their home just three blocks south of the flooding Lake Pontchartrain.
The family was taken in by a family in Utica, Miss., near Jackson. Adam s sister, a student at New Orleans Tulane University, also evacuated and, because it is unknown just how long school will be out of session, has enrolled at UM.
I ve seen all the pictures, I ve been on the Internet, I ve seen it all and it looks horrible, Kraus said. But I m praying for everybody that s stuck down there.
Kraus was unable to make contact with his family until Wednesday. He still is unsure about the welfare of some relatives in the area.
I was able to focus, Kraus said of the week. The coaches helped me out a lot.
It s a horrible thing and, how he did it, I don t know, Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said.
BARRINGER GETS START: Former Scott High School standout Willis Barringer, a junior safety for Michigan, made his sixth career start yesterday and his second in a season-opener.
The 6-0, 207-pounder made four solo tackles, and also served his regular duty on special teams returns and coverage.
RYAN EXPRESS: Michigan kickoff specialist and punter Ross Ryan, a senior who just recently earned the starting punting duties, showed that his value extends beyond his right foot.
On one of the most pivotal plays in UM s 33-17 victory over Northern Illinois, Ryan proved that he either has great hang-time or superior speed. After his 41-yard kick (Michigan s only punt of the day) was fumbled by NIU s Shatone Powers, it was Ryan who arrived in time to recover the loose football 1:25 before halftime.
Once I saw the ball on the ground and everyone diving in, I just put on the burners and got down there, Ryan said.
Two plays later, UM freshman tailback Kevin Grady scored for a 27-10 halftime lead.
Ryan was even better on kickoffs, as NIU was able to return just two of seven, and those two for an average of 16 yards.
You don t see a punter running down the field 40 yards and recovering a fumble, Carr said. But Ross Ryan s a competitive guy. In high school he was an outstanding player, not just a guy who did nothing but kick.
CRYING ABOUT WOLFE: Carr maintained that he was happy with his team s defensive effort.
But one play that did trouble Carr was the 76-yard TD run by NIU tailback Garrett Wolfe.
The 5-7, 177-pounder broke free around left end, then cut back midway down field to complete the play, which pulled the Huskies within 14-10 on the first play of the second quarter.
We didn t get a [safety] outside, Carr said of the breakdown. With a back like that, if you don t get to where you re supposed to be, you give up a big play.