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Published: 9/7/2008

Wolverines Notebook: Offense's troubles start at QB

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

ANN ARBOR - Missed opportunities on offense were clearly on Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez's mind yesterday.

While stressing all facets of the offense were to blame for the Wolverines' struggles during a 16-6 triumph over Miami (Ohio), it was obvious that a key area for concern was UM's quarterback play.

Adrian High graduate Steven Threet started and led the team to 10 points but was off the mark on throws to open receivers streaking past defenders. Nick Sheridan made two relief appearances and put up solid numbers (4-of-5, 40 yards), but his throws were so short it's impossible to get a true gauge on any improvements he made from a shaky performance against Utah.

"I was hoping that one would play so well that we wouldn't have to [play both of them], but right now we're at the point where we're having some growing pains," Rodriguez said.

The offense looked crisp under Threet in the beginning, as he opened with a 50-yard completion to Martavious Odoms and later scored on a 9-yard keeper.

But what had appeared to be Threet's strength against Utah - throwing the deep ball - just wasn't there for him yesterday.

"That is disappointing because we have been hitting those in practice," Rodriguez said.

SING ALONG: Following yesterday's victory - UM's first under Rodriguez - the team gathered in front of the student section for a hearty rendition of "Hail to the Victors."

It's one of many new traditions established since Rodriguez arrived.

"Is that alright with everybody? I'm not upsetting the apple cart with that thing?" Rodriguez said. "Some of the players asked me about it before, and I thought it would be a neat thing and they enjoyed it. Hopefully we get to do it a few more times."

INJURY BUG: Starting left tackle Mark Ortmann left the game with a right elbow injury in the third quarter and did not return. He was replaced by

Bryant Nowicki.

Freshman speedster Michael Shaw tallied 45 yards on two carries in the first half, but a pulled groin prevented him from making any further contributions.

Running back Carlos Brown (shoulder) was in uniform but didn't play. Receiver Greg Mathews (ankle) didn't dress, and the Wolverines were already missing key offensive linemen in Cory Zirbel and Mark Huyge and freshman receiver Terrence Robinson when the season started.

"You don't see much of the coaches and players thinking the sky's falling," Rodriguez said, "but you step back and look and two linemen were out, and Mathews was out, and there goes Shaw. Carlos Brown's dinged up, and Ortmann, you know, what's going on? We've just got to keep going."

LINEBACKER SHIFT: The Wolverines opened with new starters at both outside linebacker spots.

Sophomore Jonas Mouton made his first-career start at weakside linebacker, while senior John Thompson made his fourth-career start on the strong side. Marell Evans and Austin Panter started at those spots, respectively, last week.

Thompson tied safety Brandon Harrison for the team lead with eight tackles, and Mouton was right behind them with seven stops.

CROWDED HOUSE: Yesterday's announced crowd of 106,724 marked the 210th consecutive game at the Big House in which more than 100,000 fans attended. However, the crowd total was also the smallest at a UM home game since the stadium's expansion prior to the 1998 season.



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