MICHIGAN HOPES FOR WIN OVER PENN STATE DESPITE LOSS OF MANNINGHAM

Chad Henne was confident he made the right choice when he picked Michigan over Penn State.

The junior quarterback hopes to validate his decision again Saturday when he leads the fourth-ranked Wolverines (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) on the road against his home state Nittany Lions (4-2, 2-1)

Online Sports Book Bodog.com has the Michigan Wolverines listed as -6 point favorites on the road against Penn State this weekend despite the loss earlier this week of star wide receiver Mario Manningham.

``It's not so much personal. I think it is just pride and wanting Michigan to win because this was my decision coming out of Pennsylvania,'' Henne said. ``You don't ever want to lose against them because you don't want to go home and hear, 'Oh I should have gone to Penn State,' and all that stuff. You just want to win so bad.''

Henne broke hearts back home last season when he threw a touchdown pass with no time left to lift the Wolverines to a 27-25 win over Penn State, the only loss it had in its comeback season.

Penn State coach Joe Paterno thought the former Wilson (Pa.) High School standout would be making those kind of plays for his team.

``We tried to recruit him and, in fact, he had committed to us verbally and then he changed his mind, which he certainly was entitled to,'' Paterno said. ``I can't point fingers, but he certainly was a heck of a high school football player. I think he has developed well.''

Henne said his decision to choose Michigan over Penn State did not have anything to do with the constant speculation about Paterno's retirement plans.

``I just felt a lot more comfortable here with Scot Loeffler and him developing me as a quarterback than Jay Paterno,'' said Henne, referring to Michigan and Penn State's quarterback coaches. ``I have nothing against them. I've always liked Penn State and enjoyed going up there. I just felt a lot more comfortable here.''

Henne played like it right away, despite finding out he would be Michigan's No. 1 QB in the days leading up to the 2004 season opener.

``It was kind of shocking and so the nerves start settling in and it is like 'Oh God, I'm taking over this big tradition. I don't want to screw it up,''' he recalled.

The first freshman to start an opener for Michigan - college football's winningest program - since Rick Leach in 1975 went on to become the first freshman QB in Big Ten history to lead his team to a conference championship.

He tied Elvis Grbac's school record with 25 TD passes two years ago while leading the Wolverines to the Rose Bowl. Then, without Braylon Edwards as a target and missing a healthy Mike Hart in the backfield last season, his production slipped and Michigan went 7-5 - its worst season in two decades.

``He's been through a lot of circumstances that have enabled him to gain a wide range of experience in a lot of different situations,'' Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said.

Henne worked on his game during the offseason and tried to become more a vocal with his teammates.

Standout offensive tackle Jake Long said he has noticed a new-and-improved Henne this season.

``You can see it in everything he does,'' Long said. ``He's so confident. He knows every part of the offense. He knows what to do if something breaks down. He's such a smart player. He's matured and he's become a great leader.''

Henne has completed 62 percent of his passes with 13 TD passes and just four interceptions this season. Against Penn State, he will not have his favorite target - Mario Manningham, who is out after having knee surgery this week.

That doesn't mean Henne will go back home lacking faith in his surrounding cast, which includes Pennsylvanian Steve Breaston, or in himself.

``The game is slowing down,'' he said. ``I can recognize coverages. I can see where the receivers are going and can anticipate where I'm going to throw the ball. With all that confidence building up and just me knowing everything, your physical ability just takes over.''

by: Anthony White - theSpread.com - Email Us

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