Field Pass with Richard Retyi

Sept. 4, 2010

By Richard Retyi with special thanks to Brad Rudner

A New NCAA Attendance Record
An NCAA-record 113,090 fans packed the Big House today. Allow this author to confirm the science -- it's much louder on the field than ever before. For the last two seasons, this author has stationed himself on the field, writing behind-the-scenes features during each game. The author used to stand behind the team benches and hear coaches make adjustments to their charges. Today, he had to cover his ears on third down. Well done, fans.

Here's the Kicker...
Sophomore/freshman kicker Brendan Gibbons saw the first collegiate action of his career facing swirling winds and opening-day jitters. His opening kickoff squibbed to the UConn 33-yard line and Gibbons and the fans seemed a little disappointed in the effort. Last year's kicker, Jason Olesnavage, knew better.

"A lot of people think kickoffs are all about power," Olesnavage says. "It's more complicated than that. The coaches call deep kicks to the left, deeps kicks to the right, deep down the middle, sky kicks and squib kicks. That was a squib kick. Kicking off is just as hard, maybe even harder, than kicking field goals. The entire coverage is set for your kick, so if you're off, you can give up a touchdown."

Gibbons has a special maize shoe on his kicking foot, custom ordered by Wolverine equipment manager Jon Falk. "Your kicking shoe is about comfort," Olesnavage continues. "The less padding, the better. You want bone on ball."

Maybe it's no coincidence then that Olesnavage is airing out his own dogs in flip flops.

Gibbons gets another shot at kicking off after Michigan's opening score. The result? Touchback. Olesnavage looks pleased. Gotta be the shoe.

Denard Robinson's Opening Drive
In his first collegiate start, sophomore quarterback Denard Robinson stood behind center with the Wolverines backed up to their own four-yard line. Robinson drove the Wolverine offense past midfield and deep into UConn territory, overcoming a personal foul from one of his offensive linemen and converting two third downs to set up the first score of the game, a 12-yard TD run from sophomore running back Vincent Smith. Robinson finished the day with a record-breaking 197 yards on the ground -- the most rushing yards for a Michigan QB in program history. Robinson also completed 19-of-22 passes for 186 yards and a touchdown.

Mark Moundros is Captain Kickoff
In the 2009 season opener against Western Michigan, Mark Moundros sprinted down the field on the opening kickoff and assisted on the tackle, bloodying his head in the process and missing the rest of the game. In the 2010 season opener against UConn, Mark Moundros sprinted down the field on the opening kickoff and made the tackle, slightly smudging his eye black.

Moundros remembers 2009 differently. "Last year, I made the tackle on the opening kickoff AND the second kickoff," he contends, sitting in the locker room after the game. (Double-checking the official stats, Mark is incorrect, but we'll forgive him -- it was a long time ago and a big hit to boot).

How does Captain Kickoff get into position to make so many tackles on kickoffs? "Whoever's in my spot would make that play," he says. "Any other R3 would have done the same thing."

Captain Kickoff strikes again.

Martavious Odoms Loves Desmond Howard
During a break in the action, junior slot receiver Martavious Odoms watched the Michigan Stadium video boards as the No. 4 moment in the Big House history played on the screen. Earlier in the week, Michigan football fans voted for the top 10 moments in Michigan Stadium history on The No. 4 play, Desmond Howard's "Goodbye Desmond, Hello Heisman" return against Ohio State brought a smile to Odoms' face. When Howard struck the Heisman pose in the end zone, Odoms' eyes met a teammate's. They both nodded emphatically and Odoms' smile spread even wider.

After the game, Odoms elaborated on his feelings for Howard.

"He's a Michigan man," he says. "I got a chance to speak to Desmond at one of our games. He's short like me -- I look up to people who are my height and my size."

When asked what he wants HIS Michigan Stadium moment to be, Odoms thinks broadly. "Any big block, any big catch." A block? For a wideout? "ANY big block. ANY big catch," he clarifies.

Food, Glorious Food
On a day celebrating "new and improved" at Michigan Stadium, the food in the press box was no exception. Gone are the days of steamed hot dogs and mayonnaise and chicken sandwiches. Instead, press and game operations personnel chowed down on meatball sandwiches, chicken parmesan, green beans and two trays of cookies with more options than can be imagined.

"It was fantastic," said Detroit Free Press writer Mark Snyder. "Everything tasted great. It's about as good as any place I've ever been. The administration really gave it a good update."

Just another one of the many new features at the new Big House. (Bigger pairs of pants not included).

The Red Hat
At 13:07 of the fourth quarter, 113,090 people in Michigan Stadium booed a single individual. Not a quarterback or a head coach or a kicker, but the red hat. It's the red hat's job to communicate with the television crew in the truck and signal when play should resume after commercial breaks. It's one of the most stressful jobs on the field.

The red hat, today dressed head to toe in black (with a little white trim for flavor) stood on the yard numbers during breaks and waited for a voice on his headset to signal the resumption of play. A giant digital stopwatch on his left wrist helped count down the seconds to action.

At 13:07 of the fourth quarter Michigan kicked off but due to a miscommunication a cacophony of referee whistles blew the play dead. The referee's explanation: they had yet to return from commercial break. The red hat looked down at his feet. This author dared not seek the interview he'd been craving all afternoon.

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