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Published: Saturday, 9/6/2008

Big House not too daunting anymore

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

ANN ARBOR They call it the Big House for good reason.

Michigan Stadium s capacity is currently listed at 106,201 it temporarily lost some seats during this period of renovation and eventual expansion and an even larger crowd was announced for last week s 25-23 loss to Utah.

Ahem. The Big House is also supposed to provide a big advantage for the Wolverines, is it not?

With last week s defeat, the Wolverines have dropped two in a row at home dating to last year and four of their last nine. Don t think for one second Miami (Ohio) isn t planning on adding to that total today.

We re going to go up there expecting to play our best and win, RedHawks coach Shane Montgomery said.

The Wolverines are 373-111 at home since Michigan Stadium opened in 1927.

But dating to last season s opener, they ve lost in friendly confines to Appalachian State (34-32), Oregon (39-7), Ohio State (14-3) and Utah.

Not only were the Utes not intimidated when they came to the Big House last week, but they did most of their damage in the first half. They were certainly well aware of the recent success teams have had in Ann Arbor and probably thought: Why not us?

Wolverines coach Rich Rodriguez has coached all of one game at Michigan Stadium and said home-field advantage has to be earned.

The way you do that is play well and win, Rodriguez said. Nowadays very few kids go into a stadium wide-eyed and get intimidated. We probably have a better chance because of our atmosphere and the number of people we have in our crowd, but it still boils down to 11-on-11, who s playing better?

Miami, which tied for first in the MAC East Division last season, played in front of 18,398 fans in a 34-13 loss to Vanderbilt last week. The biggest crowds the RedHawks saw in 2007 were at Minnesota (45,383) and Colorado (45,243).

So, while confident in his current players abilities, Montgomery also knows his team hasn t played in an atmosphere like the one it will see today since 2005 at Ohio State (a 34-13 loss to the Buckeyes) or a 43-10 loss at UM in 2004.

Montgomery said the RedHawks, who are 14 -point underdogs, spent portions of practice this week preparing for the elements crowd noise, etc. they ll encounter at the Big House.

It s always difficult, but you have to do all you can not to put the focus on the size of the crowd, Montgomery said. You can t get caught up in distractions, but it s always a challenge. We just want to stay in the game as long as we can so when it comes down to crunch time we have a chance.

NOTE: Rodriguez announced at practice yesterday that Adrian High graduate Steven Threet will start at quarterback today.



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