Field Pass with Richard Retyi

Sept. 18, 2010

By Richard Retyi

Dave Brandon, Rock Star
Dave Brandon and Lady Gaga have more in common than you might think. When Brandon walks along the sideline, fans yell at him like he's the Fame Monster. They cheer, they wave, they point. Brandon flashes them a smile or a rare six-shooter point with his forefinger. Even U-M senior Laura Swierzbin (chemical engineering and vocal performance major) is a fan. She's perched on the edge of the railing in the student section dressed in a blonde wig with red sunglasses, a homage to the Michigan Marching Band's halftime tribute to Gaga.

"He seems like a good guy," she says. "A good Michigan man."


Michigan's First Defensive Series
Jogging off the field after UMass opened the game with an 11-play scoring drive to take a 3-0 lead, Michigan knew the Minutemen came to battle. Mike Martin had a spot of blood on the number six on the front of his jersey and linebacker Jonas Mouton's shoulder pads were streaked with jagged white lines from UMass helmets.

On the bench, defensive line coach Bruce Tall diagrammed plays from the Minutemen's first offensive series, speaking in a measured voice over the crowd noise. "We're not tackling well," he said, pointing to the white board, a gridiron Picasso with the black dry erase marker.

Defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Greg Robinson is on a headset with his staff high above the stadium in the coaching box. Robinson writes plays on a sheet that looks like something you'd fill out at the DMV. "You'll make that play," he tells one of his linebackers. There's no panic in his voice.

Back with Tall's group, the d-line coach preaches control. "They're in control right now," he says. "We need to keep doing the little things and take control back."

A quote from Danish journalist and photographer Jacob Riis is stenciled inside the defensive line's meeting room in Schembechler Hall,

When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet, at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before.

"Keep chipping away," Tall says. The Wolverines nod and talk to one another. "Keep chipping away," Tall repeats.


The Mike Barwis Motivational Seminar (Sign Up Today!)
Early in the second quarter with the UMass offense rolling, the Minutemen called timeout and the Wolverine defense huddled on the sideline. Director of strength and conditioning Mike Barwis motored down the sideline and joined the clustered group of football hulks.

You had to have signed up for the Mike Barwis Motivational Seminar to hear the secrets he imparted during that one-minute pause, but it seemed to work, judging from the hard look in the Wolverines' eyes and a general increase in growling.

The defense rumbled back to the field and head beast Mike Martin drove UMass quarterback Kyle Havens into the turf for his first sack of the season, an 11-yard loss. Martin also made a big play on third down, tracking down the Minutemen's ball carrier for another tackle. With the crowd screaming its approval, Martin and the defense ran to the sideline to be greeted by their mentor, Mike Barwis.

Barwis pounded Martin on the shoulder pads and yelled a few more words of advice. The Mike Barwis Motivational Seminar. Sign up today!


The Origin of the Slippery Rock Score
Fans in the Big House have noticed a special return on the out of town scoreboard this year -- Slippery Rock University. They've joined the likes of Ohio State, Alabama and Boise State on the big screens. The tradition began in 1959 when public address announcer Steve Filipiak reported the scores to the Big House crowd. Filipiak announced the score every Saturday until his final season in 1971, but the tradition lived on.

Slippery Rock became so popular with Big House fans that they were invited to play at Michigan Stadium in 1979 against in-state rival Shippensburg. A crowd of 61,143 watched Slippery Rock fall, but it was a Division II attendance record. Slippery Rock played a second game at the Big House in 1981, drawing 36,719 fans in a 14-13 loss to Wayne State.

The tradition dropped off in recent years but was revived during the first year of Dave Brandon's tenure as athletic director, much to the delight of fans that remember the old days of Rock scores.


Still Got That New Stadium Smell
Associate athletic director for facilities Rob Rademacher is happy that the Big House still has that new stadium smell. He's got an All-Sport Access Pass, which three men in the world possess -- athletic director Dave Brandon, Rademacher and former Wolverine Tom Brady.

"This game has been so much easier from a facility standpoint," says Rademacher, leaning against the wall near the end zone. "We've been through it once, done it, exercised procedures and policies. We also had two weeks off to fix anything that needed fixing."

The impending issue for the second game in the improved stadium was weather. A large storm front was bearing down on Ann Arbor, set to arrive in 45 minutes.

"I'm hoping for a win with a lot of running plays," Rademacher says laughing before looking up to the sky.

And After All That...
The Wolverines ran up the tunnel to the locker room. A regular occurrence but after 60 minutes of smashmouth football, pretty hardcore.

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