The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current, April 04, 2000, Page 15, Image 15

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    linebackers ready to step up
LINE from page 16
We have a lot of athleticism in the
group,” Bohl said. “What we’re
beginning to see is some guys step
ping to the forefront collectively.
But right now we have'a lot of com
The 6-foot, 205-pound Stella and
the 5-foot-11, 210-pound Vedral are
both vying for the weakside position.
While 6-2, 225-pound Shanle and 6
fopt, 225-pound Baker are in a tight
race for the strongside spot.
Both races are among the most
intense on the team, but Shanle said
there was no animosity between the
different linebackers.
“We look at it as a friendly com
petition,” he said. “Whoever is first
is first and whoever is second is still
going to be helping out the guy who
is first and vice versa.”
The opposite is true at middle
linebacker where Polk is counted on
as being a leader both on and off of
the field with Burrow as his backup.
Last year the 6-foot-2, 250-pound
Polk ranked second on the
Blackshirts in tackles with 83 and
tackles for loss with 12 for 56 yards.
Polk said he’s been impressed by
the ability of the linebackers to learn
so many different defenses so quick
“I think they’re really picking
U Whoever is first is
first and whoever is
second is still going
to be helping out
the guy who is first
and vice versa.”
Scott Shanle
NU linebacker
things up fast,” Polk said. “In spring
ball things are thrown at you pretty
quick. And I think the younger guys
are responding well to the things that
have been thrown at them.”
The Nebraska football team went
through a full 2‘/2-hour workout in
cold, blustery conditions at
Memorial Stadium on Monday.
Coach Frank Solich said it was a
“very average” practice, and that it
was the first time this spring that the
team didn’t improve during the
He attributed the sloppiness of
the practice to the fact that it came
after a scrimmage, several players
were out with injuries and the condi
SLB Tony Ortiz "
SLB Brian Shaw
III J MLB Ben Buettenback
] WLB Eric Johnson
CO 'WLB Julius Jackson
If the spring to this pointis any
indication, the linebackers need
I work in all areas, although front line
injuries have exposed them a bit
more than usual. It’s a small unit,
and young. The incoming freshmen
will have an impact next season.
tions were less than ideal.
After reviewing the tapes, Solich
said the nearly 700 yards of offense
given up by the defense in Saturday’s
scrimmage looked just as bad as they
did in person. The main defensive
problem he noticed from the film
was the ability of the offense to over
come long yardage situations.
“I think our offense has the capa
bility to be able to overcome long
yardage problems and make big
plays to get first and tens,” Solich
said. “On the defensive side of it, we
expect our defense to be such that
people have trouble getting first and
tens on us, without overcoming long
yardage situations.”
Opening day fouled by weather
Ar - While Ken Unttey Jr. had a
damp debut, the weather was a factor
all over. The Houston at Pittsburgh
game was rained out, high winds
forced a pregame parachute jump in
Texas to be canceled and there was a
tornado watch in Atlanta.
At Turner Field, Braves reliever
John Rocker was cheered when he ran
out to receive his NL championship
ring. He then had to leave the field to
begin his 14-day suspension.
The World Series champion New
York Yankees played Monday night at
The three new stadiums in the
majors this year - Comerica Park in
Detroit, Pacific Bell Park in San
Francisco and Enron Field in Houston
- were not open yet.
The Tigers, Giants and Astros
eabh open on the road, part of base
ball’s idea to allow extra time in case
of construction delays.
Also new this season is baseball’s
plan to mix its umpiring crews, now
that the AL and NL offices have and
the Chicago Cubs started a two-game
series at the Tokyo Dome in Japan.
At The Ballpark in Arlington, 16
year NL veteran Gerry Davis was' the
crew chief for the game between the
Chicago White Sox and Texas
“Different ballpark,” Davis said.
“We had to get here early and go over
the ground rules, see if there were any
different nuisances to the ballpark.
Baseball is still baseball. You’ve got to
throw the ball over the plate and get
people out 1 1
“I think the adjustment will be
fairly quickly,” he said. “There are
new acquaintances to make. I’tn look
ing forward to that. It should be ftfa.*?
A lot of players had fun in new
places, too. *
After former President George
Bush threw out the first ball, Gabe
Kapler, traded to Texas in the deal that
sent Juan Gonzalez to Detroit,1
became the first player to homer hi his
first two at-bats as a Ranger. '
Kapler added an RBI single' and'
showed off some strong defense and
aggressive baserunning as Texas beat
the White Sox 10-4.
“I think today was huge,” Kapler
said. “It’s a really big deal for me.”
AL MVP Ivan Rodriguez also
homered twice and drove in five runs
to back Kenny Rogers, who signed
with Texas as a free agent.
Darryl Kile was the winning
pitcher and Fernando Vina had three
U He zig-zagged, and one of the zigs he
felt a catch back there and he knew it.
So we ’ll treat it and see how he is on
St. Louis Cardinals manager
hits in their Cardinals debuts, in a 7-1
win over the Cubs.
McGwire, who missed the last
two spring training games because of
a lower back strain, reinjured himself
in warmups.
“He zig-zagged, and one of the
zigs he felt a catch back there and he
knew it,” manager Tony La Russa
said. “So we’ll treat it and see how he
is on Wednesday.”
The festivities at Busch Stadium
began with St. Louis Rams owner
Georgia Frontiere throwing out the
first ball. This year, the balls bear the
signatures of commissioner Bud
Selig. The biggest cheer went to Super
Bowl-winning quarterback Kurt
Gwynn, however, was in no mood
to celebrate. The San Diego star
stayed in the game after befing hit by a
pitch from New York Mets lefty A1
Leiter but could be sidelined for a
‘When I got hit, I just thought I
would be sore a little bit,” Gwynn
Said. “They said go take X-rays. They
think it is a chip fracture. We’ll see.”
Gwynn is 18th on the career list
with3,067 hits. s
Cal Ripken, meanwhile, got hit
No. 2,992 with a bloop double in
Baltimore’s 4-1 loss to Cleveland. His
total is posted on big numbers on the
warehouse behind the right-field wall
at Camden Yards.
*• Jr -
Spartans throttle Gators
89- 76 in NCAA final
time there was no Magic, just Mateen.
Michigan State, with Magic
Johnson cheering in the stands, won
its second national championship as
Mateen Cleaves led the Spartans to an
89-76 victory over Florida on
Monday night
It was 21 years ago that the cham
pionship game between Michigan
State and Indiana State - Magic vs.
Bird - changed the landscape of col
lege basketball.
This one may not have the magni
tude, but it had the drama thanks to
Cleaves, the Spartans’ limping leader
who needed crutches for his injured
ankle after celebrating with his team
“He has the heart of a lion. He has
done it for four years, not just one,”
Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo said.
“That’s why you love him. He’s what
our program embodies.”
Cleaves, tne game s most out
standing player, rolled his ankle early
in the second half and had to go to the
locker room to have it taped. Earlier,
he helped the Spartans build a 43-32
halftime lead by scoring 13 points,
including going 3-for-3 from 3-point
range and negated Florida’s vaunted
full-court pressure with his ballhan
dling and passing.
“I told them he’ll be back. Let’s
not get our heads down,” Izzo said. “I
just knew.”
When Cleaves left with 16:18 to
play, the Spartans led 50-44. His
teammates got the lead to 58-50 by
the time he returned 4:29 later.
But the senior guard who missed
the first 13 games of the season while
recovering from a stress fracture in his
right foot was again the team’s emo
tional leader.
His long pass to Morris Peterson
for a layup made it 60r5Q. He was lev
eled while setting a screen a few min
utes later, but it was enough to spring
A. J. Granger for a 3-pointer that start
ed a 16-6 run that made it 84-66 and
' put the game away.
Michigan State had been on a
mission since losing to Duke in the
Final Four last season.
Anything short of a national
championship would have been a dis
“We made some promises. We
answered the promises,” Izzo said.
Cleaves certainly didn’t beat
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Florida by himself. Peterson finished
with 21 points on 7-for-14 shooting,
and Granger had 19 and was 7-for-l 1
from the field.
Cleaves was 7-for-l 1 from the
field - all the shots coming before he
was injured - and had 18 points and
four assists.
Cleaves returned for his senior
year after many thought he would go
to the NBA.
“This is what I came back here
for,” he said. “This is as storybook as
it gets for Mateen,” Izzo said. “He
gave up a lot of money, a lot of things,
to be back here.”
The Spartans (32-7), the only top
seeded team to reach the Final Four,
finished 33-for-59 from the field (56
percent), the best against Florida’s
frantic pace by far in the tournament.
The previous best was 43 percent by
top-ranked Duke in the regional semi
Michigan State never seemed
fazed by the pressure, beating it early
with long passes. The Spartans were
their usual efficient selves when they
did run their halfcourt game, getting
good looks and crashing the boards
when they missed.
The Michigan State bench was
considered a key to any chance the
Spartans had. Florida’s reserves had
outscored it 175-45 in the tourna
ment, but Jason Richardson had nine
points as the Spartans’ backups came
up big. c
Udoms Haslem had a season-high
27 points for the fifth-seeded Gators
(29-9), while Brent Wright added 13.
The 1979 final is still the highest
rated telecast of an NCAA basketball
game - the one that hooked the nation
on the NCAA tournament.
“I knew they were going to win,
especially when Mateen came back
this year,” Johnson said on the court as
the Spartans cut down the nets.
“It’s been tough waiting these 21
years, but they’ve been great the last
couple of years, and I knew they were
goingto win it all.”
Michigan State, which beat
Wisconsin 53-41 in an ugly all-Big 10
national semifinal, won all six
games on its title run by at least 11
points. ,
The Spartans closed the season
with 11 straight wins and are the
first Big 10 team to win it all since
Michigan in 1989.