Fitzgerald Toussaint and Devin Gardner
Fitz, how did you feel out there physically and mentally? You walked over to the spot you got injured last year. That was probably a meaningful moment.
Toussaint: "I would say physically, I feel great, but it was never really about the physical point. The mental point overtook all of that. I would say I feel really good mentally and I'm ready to play some more football."
Devin, there was a little bit of a hiccup with that interception, but otherwise you had a fast start. How important was it to get off to a good start?
Gardner: "I mean, it was very important. That's what the game is about early. Coach Hoke always talks to us about special teams and starting fast. You don't want to get behind, and you don't want to give a team like Central confidence where they would give you a really good game. They were a good team, but we kept on pounding away so they wouldn't have an opportunity."
[Rest after the jump]
- Three boo boos. Devin Funchess's injury seems to be just an unfortunately located cramp. He'll be okay. We'll have to wait for further news on Drake Johnson and Joe Reynolds. [Update: Johnson out for season].
- Thomas Gordon will definitely be back next week. Hoke seems to have forgiven him for whatever his trespass might have been, though no details about whoaterenowhy.
- The blocked punt was something they game planned for. The whole team knew about it, so when it worked it was pretty exciting.
- Michigan planned to play up tempo the first few drives with their Nascar offense.
"One thing I really want to do is thank our students and our fans. It was really neat to see that student section in the maize and all that stuff when we went out for our warmups and it just kept building. I want to thank our students because it's fun when they're there. They make the atmosphere and the game fun."
Cam Gordon had a really good game. Talk about his play?
"Well Cam is a guy who has matured in a lot of ways in his time at Michigan. At receiver and then coming in and going to safety. The work ethic he has showed during the offseason, his leadership and his teammates. The motor that he plays the game with. He's a better technician. He's bigger, he's stronger. It's a credit to him and what Aaron Wellman does in the weight room. He's also an intelligent football player and can handle a lot of things well."
It was great to be back on the sidelines yesterday! Here are some photos from the game.
Cam Gordon (Upchurch)
Jarrod Wilson (Fuller)
Devin Funchess (Upchurch)
Devin Gardner (Fuller)
Here are links to our individual galleries if you'd like to see all of the photos.
The feeling was boredom, interspersed with brief moments of Norfleet-related anticipation that ended an ankle-tackle away from being actual excitement.
Boredom, in this case, was a great feeling—a pleasant return to normalcy for Michigan. A home opener against a directional Michigan school, a 50-point lead heading into the third quarter, a fourth quarter spent looking up numbers of various freshmen and walk-ons while fretting about burned redshirts; this is how it's supposed to go, fergodsakes.
The Wolverines got on the board before the Big House crowd even got a chance to see the much-anticipated new offense, as freshman defensive back Dymonte Thomas screamed off the edge to block a Central Michigan punt on the opening drive of the game; senior receiver Joe Reynolds scooped up the loose ball and took it 30 yards to give Michigan a 7-0 lead.
A muffed punt by Dennis Norfleet, recovered by Delano Hill at Michigan's seven-yard line, led to an inauspicious start for Devin Gardner; after his first pass of the season was dropped by Devin Funchess, he telegraphed a quick out to Drew Dileo, and CMU's Jarret Chapman jumped the route for an easy interception.
Michigan's defense held strong, though, forcing the Chippewas to settle for a field goal. Gardner was in fine form on the subsequent drive, picking up a first down with his legs, then buying time for Drew Dileo to find a wide open hole in the Central defense on a 3rd-and-4 for a 36-yard catch-and-run. On the very next play, Gardner stood tall in the pocket, couldn't find an open receiver, and waltzed untouched into the end zone for a 22-yard score (right, Upchurch).
From there, the Wolverines didn't look back. A 38-yard run on a Dennis Norfleet reverse set up a one-yard touchdown run for Fitz Toussaint, who looked back to his old self—aside from missing a couple open cutback lanes—in rushing for 57 yards on 14 carries. After another Gardner hiccup—an overthrow to Gallon that resulted in his second interception—led to a second Jason Wilson field goal, cutting the lead to 21-6, the redshirt junior quarterback roared back with an 11-play, 76-yard drive capped by a 16-yard touchdown pass to his favorite target, Jeremy Gallon. After Raymon Taylor jumped an Alex Niznak throw to the perimeter, nearly taking the interception back for a touchdown, Gardner finished the first half with a four-yard scoring run, again making his trip to the end zone look downright easy. Despite the pair of turnovers—and a punt block for a touchdown that didn't count towards the yardage numbers—Michigan held a 243-139 edge in total offense and a 35-6 halftime lead.
The onslaught didn't stop there. Michigan's opening drive of the second half featured a 45-yard play-action pass from Gardner to Reynolds; two plays later, Toussaint tallied his second score of the day from two yards out. After another quick defensive stop, freshman running backs Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith combined to run on each of Michigan's ten plays, including a 30-yard Green scamper on a zone stretch and the five-star's first career touchdown on a goal-line scrum.
Sacks by Brennen Beyer and Mario Ojemudia forced another three-and-out, and from there the backups took over. Freshman quarterback Shane Morris quarterbacked the next drive, completing a 36-yard pass to Devin Funchess before Thomas Rawls rumbled into the end zone from five yards out, giving the Wolverines a 56-6 lead as the third quarter expired.
The rest, as they say, was academic. The fourth-quarter monotony was broken briefly by a 36-yard punt return by Norfleet, who was one man away from scoring; a Morris interception on a tipped pass; and a forced fumble by freshman cornerback Channing Stribling just two plays later, recovered by Delonte Hollowell. That third play led to a 30-yard Gibbons field goal—his 14th consecutive make, tying a school record held by Remy Hamilton*—that gave the game its final margin: 59-9, Michigan.
Funchess sporting his new Ron Kramer Legacy jersey (Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog)
Aside from the two picks, Gardner looked like the superstar he's expected to be in his first year as the full-time starter, averaging 10.8 yards per attempt and rushing for 52 yards on seven carries; CMU couldn't keep him in the pocket and couldn't stop him when he escaped, including one play in which Gardner comically olé'd an awaiting defender hoping to hit him on the sideline.
His ESP-level connection with Gallon showed, as well; Gallon caught four passes for 47 yards and had a second touchdown catch wiped out when Taylor Lewan
wandered downfield illegally rode his donkey too far even from the generous blocking zone they give linemen on play-action these days. Funchess and Reynolds both impressed, as well, and while each left the game due to injury, those dings appeared minor. Brady Hoke said after the game that Funchess left the game due to a cramp (an unfortunately-placed one, given the rather sensitive area he clutched after his long catch), while there was no report on the status of Reynolds.
Defensively, Beyer was a consistent presence in the backfield as a lineman in Greg Mattison's nickel package, tallying a sack and another TFL. Cam Gordon, playing in place of the injured Jake Ryan, looked fantastic in tallying a pair of sacks among his 2.5 TFLs, lining up at both strongline linebacker and defensive end and playing both well. Desmond Morgan took to his new position as the MIKE with aplomb, leading the team with seven tackles despite heavy rotation in the front seven. While the much-balleyhooed Frank Clark recorded a lone QB hurry, his backup, Mario Ojemudia, came up with a sack and looked like a very solid option at weakside DE.
Of the true freshmen to see their first action—and there were many—it was Stribling who impressed the most; he was Michigan's field corner when they went into the nickel package, and while he gave up a couple catches, he showed off his playmaking ability by stripping CMU's Andrew Flory after one of those receptions. Linebacker Ben Gedeon also played well in his first career action, tallying four tackles; "The Freak" didn't look out of place at weakside linebacker.
The only major points of concern were Gardner's two picks—hopefully those can be chalked up to opening-game rust, as he otherwise looked like a Heisman candidate—and the play of the safeties. Jarrod Wilson and Josh Furman blew a couple assignments, though there's a good chance that neither is starting by mid-September—strong safety Thomas Gordon sat out the game for a "violation of team rules" and Courtney Avery could factor in at free safety when he recovers from knee surgery, hopefully in time for next week's game but more likely for Akron. The offensive line had its moments, good and bad; Al Borges called for a lot of zone running plays instead of asking for his two new guards, Kyle Kalis and Graham Glasgow, to pull; Kalis played a very solid game, featuring a bone-crushing body-slam on Gardner's first touchdown run, while Glasgow and center Jack Miller had their ups and downs.
Michigan's fans trickled out of the stadium throughout the fourth quarter, content that their team took care of a MAC opponent like Wolverines should: devouring them alive. There was little reason to stay, more competitive football games to watch, and celebratory beers to drink. Cheers to a new season, a 1-0 record, and zero heart attacks.
*If you've just woken up from a three-year slumber, this is somehow not a joke.
"How we doin'?"
Great. Are you game ready yet?
"Getting there, yeah. We're getting there. Now that we've kind of shaved it down to the guys that we think are going to participate in a game, that's always kind of when you start making a little bit more progress. You're not working with your third team guys all the time. You're working with the guys that are actually going to play in the game. You can start getting a little chemistry, and it starts going better."
You have six running backs on the depth chart. How many do you think will actually get carries?
"Who knows? I don't know. Fitz [Toussaint] is going to be our starting running back, and we're going to play it by ear. I don't have an answer to that question because Fitz is going to be the running back and we'll just see how things go."
Have you ever listed six guys at running back before?
"I think so. At one point I did. It may not have been at running back. Yeah, I'm sure I have, yeah. At some place I've been. That's a lot, though. I will say that."
- Taylor Lewan, Courtney Avery, Jake Ryan, and Cam Gordon are your captains.
- Joe Reynolds, Graham Glasgow, and Joe Kerridge now have scholarships.
- Courtney Avery is out with orthoscopic [MGoI'mGoingToDoSoWellAsAnM3: ARTHROSCOPIC] surgery for some cartilage in his knee. Playing time and experience would say that Jarrod Wilson is the next guy in, but there's probably a three-way battle between him, Josh Furman, and Dymonte Thomas.
- Derrick Green and Deveon Smith made the traveling depth chart, and they will be expected to contribute either as backup running backs or special teamers. Their redshirts are toast.
- Starting offensive line is Lewan, Glasgow, Miller, Kalis, and Schofield.
- Blake Countess is starting cornerback and starting nickel. Next guy off the bench is probably Hollowell, but both Channing Stribling and Jourdan Lewis made it onto the depth chart, so there may be some competition there.
- Dennis Norfleet is handling all return duties.
"Okay let's get started. Thanks for coming out. We're five days away now. It is game week, and it's exciting. Our players, our staff, everybody involved has worked very hard since January to get to this point. We're excited about the opportunity to see where this team is, and we talk about never getting a second chance to make a first impression, so it's going to be exciting on Saturday.
"We voted our captains yesterday, and I think the four guys: Taylor Lewan, Courtney Avery, Jake Ryan, and Cam Gordon, are very deserving. At the same time I'll tell you that whole class has done a tremendous job as far as leadership and teaching and helping to help coach young football players. As you all know we are a young football team. We also had an opportunity last night to award three scholarships to guys that have walked onto the program and have set a standard for work ethic and set a standard for their toughness. Their love for their teammates and their love for Michigan. Joe Reynolds, Graham Glasgow, and Joe Kerridge were three guys most deserving. When you have an opportunity to do that as a coach, you always feel good because it obviously is helping their families out. More than that, the guys have earned it.
"Courtney Avery had arthroscopic surgery Thursday night. Cartilage. It should be a two-week setback, but everything went well. He is in great spirits and he'll be back on the field soon."