Michigan 52, Appalachian State 14

Submitted by Ace on August 30th, 2014 at 4:12 PM

Coverage is irrelevant. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]

There was Devin Funchess, galloping through and leaping over the Appalachian State secondary. There were Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith, bursting through holes opened up by Ben Braden and Kyle Kalis. There was Devin Gardner, completing all but one pass. There was Dennis Norfleet, catching bubble screens and darting past defenders.

There was offense, making sense at last.

Sure, Michigan's 560 yards on 55 plays came against an Appalachian State team that went 4-8 as an FCS program in 2013, but the coherence and explosiveness of Doug Nussmeier's offense proved undeniable. Funchess more than earned his new #1 jersey, scoring on three of his seven receptions, including a spectacular leaping grab over two defenders in the back of the end zone. Gardner had no difficulty finding open receivers, connecting on 12/13 passes for 173 yards and those three TDs to Funchess before giving way to Shane Morris in the third quarter as the blowout continued unabated.

Green (15 carries, 170 yards, 1 TD) and Smith (8, 115, 2) became the first pair of Michigan running backs to crack the century mark in the same game since Carlos Brown and Brandon Minor accomplished the feat against a hapless Minnesota team in 2007. They found running room. This was to be expected against an undersized, overmatched ASU squad, but this was not to be expected because last year happened. The offensive line held their ground and then some, giving up just one sack and paving the way for 350 yards on 36 carries.

The production excited, but more than that it was the fashion in which Michigan got that production. Screens to Funchess and Norfleet* opened up both the running game and downfield passing. The emphasis on inside zone allowed the line to find their rhythm; after some early stuffed runs, they started opening up big creases, especially when Kalis entered the game at right guard in place of starter Joey Burzynski. Michigan got explosive plays—ten of their first 30 went for ten yards or more—and also showed that they could move the ball methodically; the first scoring drive, capped by a nine-yard touchdown to Funchess, covered 63 yards in nine plays.

De'Veon Smith displayed power and balance on his way to 115 rushing yards. [Fuller]

On the other side of the ball, the defense played up to their lofty expectations, forcing punts on each of ASU's first seven drives, including five three-and-outs. 171 of the Mountaineers' 280 total yards came on two second-half drives with the game well out of reach, as Greg Mattison liberally rotated through defenders. They came through on their promise to be more aggressive, playing lots of tight man coverage and putting ASU QB Kam Bryant under consistent pressure—Michigan's two sacks and four QB hurries don't tell the whole story.

The special teams even managed to chip in a scoring play, as Ben Gedeon caught a punt blocked by Mike McCray and managed to extend the ball just past the pylon to put U-M up 35-0 just prior to halftime.

Only two things came up as real concerns during the game. Jabrill Peppers missed the second half with an ankle injury; Brady Hoke confirmed after the game that his absence was precautionary, and he'll be back on the field next week for Notre Dame. Meanwhile, Jake Ryan looked uncomfortable at times at middle linebacker, getting overaggressive on run defense and allowing a big gain through the air when he didn't get enough depth on a zone drop. If your biggest defensive concern is Jake Ryan, however, your defense is in a very good place.

"We weren't competing against the score, we were competing against our abilities," Hoke said. At the very least, Michigan showed their ability to dominate inferior competition. They certainly drew up the blueprint for how they'd like this team to operate the rest of the year, too. Next week, we'll learn a lot more about just how far they've come.

For now, it's nice to sit back and enjoy a stress-free Saturday.

*Or "Little Fleetwood" as Hoke (accidentally?) called him in the postgame presser.



August 30th, 2014 at 4:23 PM ^

Welp, it doesn't change anything about 2007, but with that in the past and looking towards the future, that was about as good a first step for 2014 as anyone could have asked for*.

* blown redshirt opportunities notwithstanding.


August 30th, 2014 at 4:28 PM ^

I don't think that long pass over JMFR was his bust, or at least not his alone. If I were a betting man I would guess it was Hollowell that was supposed to carry that receiver. JMFR's first step and reaction to the guy running by looked a lot like he was trying to cover for Hollowell's mistake.


August 30th, 2014 at 4:38 PM ^

It was great to see the run game go forward.  I don't remember the last time I saw the Michigan running game that was that good.  The press man looked very good.  I want to see how they do against ND.

That being said, it seemed like every waggle immediately had a defender in the QB's face?  There were also quite a few inside runs by App State that went for pretty big yardage.  They need to get that cleaned up.


August 30th, 2014 at 4:49 PM ^

Comfortable wins are nice. Backs looked good. Funchess is a beast. When Butt is full speed he will add another dimension. Defense looks as advertised. I'm looking forward to the Maryland game where I will get to see it in person.


August 31st, 2014 at 7:40 AM ^

Agree with the other commenters regarding Butt.  I don't expect him to ever be at 100% this season, but still, I agree with you on impact.  I think Butt is going to make this offense a lot more dangerous with another option to dump the ball to if none of the other guys are open.  Maybe others don't agree, but I think he will be the best tight end we have by a decent margin this season.  Any upgrade at a position is good with me.


August 30th, 2014 at 4:58 PM ^

Great game by Michigan.  There are a lot of complaints about the cupcake games (not that anyone would have called this a cupcake game beforehand, given the history), but these games have been a good source of experience for the backups to get real game experience and rest the starters. I think part of why it's been so painful to rebuilding the program has been the lack of real comfortable wins where backups get significant playing time.  That said, last year we beat Central Michigan 59-9 and everyone played, so a big win in the opener doesn't really portend a great season.


August 30th, 2014 at 5:00 PM ^

1: Appy did get into our backfield to often, but they were made to pay. 

2: Defensive penetration was on again off again. Need that max effort all the time.

3: Gotta love Devon dragging tacklers for 2-3 years and Green just blowing through the holes.

4: Blocking is (as should be expected) hit and miss, although it was more ht.

5: Shane did a credible job, and I have no doubt will grow to become an amazing QB, but can we put to bed he's the better option? Devin turned a number of blocking blunders into yards solely on his own talent. If the line improves Shane's rocket of an arm will server well but at this point the insurance of Devin's legs is needed. 

All in all an excellent experience builder. On to ND. BURY them!



August 30th, 2014 at 5:20 PM ^

Are there still people that thing Morris is better?  I hope not.  I couldn't tell if the interception was a bad decision, a bad route or both.  The screen to Canteen was behind him.  It looked like a good throw would've made the play work.


August 30th, 2014 at 5:20 PM ^

Last year's opener:  59-9.  The score means nothing (well except, you know, that we won).

How, though, was encouraging.  They said they'd run inside zone and they did.  They ran constraint plays that complemented IZ.  Mattison said the D would be aggressive and it was.  None of this zone stretch clinic silliness without anything to complement it.

The approach promises to hold up better when the competition gets tough.


August 31st, 2014 at 11:42 PM ^

about the 2nd half drive that gashed the hell out of our defense, that was our starters all the way.  Beyer, Glasgow/Hurst, Henry, Clark across the front, with Morgan, Ryan, and a Nickle behind the line.  Beyer is the one that was caught hesitating while the RB kept running by him and it was Ryan that allowed the long reception over the middle.  The TD to end the drive saw Clark, Henry, and Beyer rushing for no pressure.

The second, second half drive, saw those same guys stone the Appy St running attack.  So it looked like they learned something from one drive to the next.