There was no upset in the making on Saturday afternoon as Michigan Football beat Appalachian State in dominating fashion, 52-14. The Wolverines took a 35-0 lead by halftime and never looked back. Michigan’s offense was far too much for Mountaineers to handle as the Wolverines offense doubled the production of Appalachian State, 560 yards to 280. Devin Gardner and Devin Funchess connected on three touchdowns to get the party started while Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith churned out a combined 289 yards rushing.
3. Devin Gardner: The senior quarterback was nearly perfect in Michigan’s season opener. In three quarters of action, Gardner threw for 173 yards and three touchdowns by completing 13 of his 14 pass attempts. He delivered the ball to the right receiver on every throw and did not commit a turnover. With the aid of offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, Gardner should have a great year as Michigan’s leader and quarterback.
2. Devin Funchess: The converted tight end didn’t waste any time in proving that he is well worthy of wearing the sacred number-1 jersey. His physical stature and supreme athleticism was too much to handle for Appalachian State’s secondary as he made seven catches, for 95 yards, and three scores. Funchess’ new role in the offense could lead to him becoming one of the top receivers in the country.
1. Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith: Michigan struggled to run the ball in the early stages of the game, but the two sophomore running backs weren’t contained for long. Green and Smith become the first pair of Michigan running backs to each rush for at least 100 yards since Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown did so in 2007. Green carried the ball 15 times for 170 yards and one touchdown, while Smith rushed for 115 yards one eight carries and two scores. Both backs had a run of at least 60 yards.
3 Key Plays
3. On their first possession of the game, Michigan faced a 3rd and 10 at the Appalachian State 31. Michigan needed to get on the scoreboard early to settle any jitters that may have been running through the stadium. Gardner completed a crisp pass to Jehu Chesson for a 19-yard gain down to the 12. The Wolverines faced another third down on the drive, and that’s when Gardner hooked up with Funchess for a 9-yard touchdown in the back of the end zone. Michigan took a 7-0 lead.
2. Michigan faced another important third-down conversion in their second series. It was 3rd and 1 at the App. St. 36, and Michigan had previously ran the ball on consecutive plays. Smith took the hand-off from Gardner for the third straight time and followed his blocks for a 2-yard gain. If they did not convert, the Wolverines would have been forced to punt or attempt a long field goal on 4th down. Instead, the very next play was a play-action fake that lead to a 34-yard touchdown pass to Funchess. Michigan now leads 14-0.
1. After taking a 14-0 lead, Michigan punted and missed a 48-yard field goal in their next two possessions. Although the Wolverines looked superior at this stage of the game, it could have taken a turn for the worst. Then, with six minutes left in the half, Green busted out a 59-yard run to put the Wolverines in scoring position at the 23. Two plays later, Michigan took a 21-0 lead on another Funchess touchdown reception.
Frank Clark, Jake Ryan, Desmond Morgan, Brennen Beyer, and Devin Gardner walked to mid-field together as Michigan’s captains for the opening coin toss.
Kyle Kalis came into the game at right guard to replace Joey Burzynski in the second quarter. In his post-game press conference, Head coach Brady Hoke wanted said that he wanted to get Kalis some reps with the first team after he had missed some time during camp.
Freshmen Jabrill Peppers did not return from the locker room after halftime due to an ankle injury. “He’ll be alright,” Hoke said. “To be honest with you, at halftime we just decided not to bring him out… he’ll be ready next week.” It looked like Peppers may have first tweaked that ankle while making a diving catch on a punt return in the first quarter.
Aside from his injury, Peppers looked like he is completely ready to play at this level, both in the defensive backfield and making plays in the return game.
When Gardner wasn’t connecting with Funchess, Chesson and Dennis Norfleet made some really nice catches and runs in the open field. The two combined for five catches and 52 yards.
A lot of the Wolverines success on offense came out of the shotgun formation, both running and passing.
Michigan’s defense gave up some big plays in the run game, however, Jake Ryan said after the game that App. St. didn’t do anything specific that the defense couldn’t stop, the holes were created due to missed assignments on Michigan’s side.
The first-team secondary played great against both the pass and run. Dymonte Thomas recorded five solo tackles.
Devin Funchess has recorded at least one reception in 15-consecutive games, dating back to 2012.
Gardner’s three scores gives him 37-career passing touchdowns, which moves him past Tom Brady (35) and ties him with Todd Collins for 7th-most in Michigan history.
Green and Smith both eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the first time in their careers.
Michigan rushed for more than 300 yards for the first time since October 13, 2012 against Illinois.
Mason Cole became the first true freshmen to start the season opener on the offensive line in Michigan history.
Gardner is 248 passing yards shy of passing Steve Smith for 8th-most in school history.
The last time Michigan blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown was against Central Michigan in last year’s season opener.
What It Means
Brady Hoke said it best in the opening statement of his post-game press conference; “It’s obviously good to win a football game to start the season”. Hoke went on to commend his team for working hard and playing hard before admitting that he is disappointed in his defense for not forcing any turnovers. It’s the season opener against a significantly-weaker opponent, yes Michigan won, but there were a few things that were missing that would have made this win a little more convincing. It’s a good start to the season, but the real test will come next week against Notre Dame.
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