Michigan 59, Central Michigan 9 Comment Count

Ace August 31st, 2013 at 8:16 PM

Eric Upchurch/MGoBlog

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.


snarling wolverine

August 31st, 2013 at 8:21 PM ^

Huh, I thought only the fourth quarter was boring.  When we're marching up and down the field and scoring on every drive, that's never boring to me.  Agree about the feeling of returning to normalcy though.

Blue Durham

August 31st, 2013 at 9:40 PM ^

I think CMU's best shot at scoring a TD was only 1 minute into the game.

Ball on CMU's 41 yard line, with Furman 10 yards out over the right slot. Zone read fake, QB runs along the line to the right, Furman runs in and takes the QB; the slot does a wheel route along the right sideline and is WIDE WIDE OPEN 10 yards down field. Countess, the CB on the right WR, is able to barely get a hand on the pass only because the CMU QB does not put any air under the ball.

If the QB hits him (an easy throw) it is likely a TD as the other safety was lined up on the other hash mark. This was a great play design, but also a blown coverage by either Countess or Furman.


August 31st, 2013 at 8:55 PM ^

Frank Clark beat his man at least 4 separate times, even if he had the lone QB hurry to show for it. Wilson definitely blew at least one assignment, but looked good early in run support and would've had an INT had Countess not knocked him over. Morgan looked excellent, as did Gedeon and Beyer. And I'm definitely on the Stribling bandwagon. Cam Gordon looked like he really came to play today. I thought that PBU and near INT for a potential touchdown showed a lot.


August 31st, 2013 at 8:56 PM ^

Nice write-up, Ace!

I'm looking forward to reading the UFRs on this.  I think I'll learn a lot more from those than I did from watching grainy streaming on my laptop.

My sense is Gardner will be much better passing in the coming games. 

I really liked what I saw with Morris.   I think we'll be okay at backup QB.


August 31st, 2013 at 8:57 PM ^

Gardner looked very Robinsonesque, 2 incompletions and an interception. Then he did what Denard seldom was able to do, scramble and find guys open or break off long runs. Very encouraging.

I thought Clark did a good job getting pressure on the QB, despite his sack numbers. Countess looked sharp. He closed fast to prevent an early TD by helping knock the ball carrier out of bounds inside the 3 yard line.

Good to see a lot of guys get game action. Red shirts be damned. We are a young team and guys need to get experience. Plus getting a lot of players involved in the game is good for morale.


August 31st, 2013 at 9:00 PM ^

Yes. I only had to leave my tailgate 3 hours early to get good seats. I cannot wait for the line next week. GA kills the full game day experience for responsible students no matter what the rest of you think. ....


August 31st, 2013 at 9:26 PM ^

I disagree.  Gate 10 was extremely disorganized and they had trouble shuffling students to the right areas.  We'll have to get to the ND line by noon if we want anything below row 50.  DB is going to make it hard on students (outside of the diehards) to get interested.  One game was a short term investment.


August 31st, 2013 at 10:42 PM ^

You disagree with something that actually happened? I'm just reporting the experience of a few friends who were there an hour before kickoff and got the seats I mentioned.

Anyone claiming they had to wait 3 hours to get "good" seats TODAY is exaggerating. If you can't get a decent tailgate in by 2:00, you're sleeping in too late.

ND will probably be worse, but I think by the end of the season most people will realize that only the diehards show up super early and good views can be had with a more reasonable arrival time. Particularly for noon starts (if we ever have those again).

MI Expat NY

August 31st, 2013 at 9:04 PM ^

Can we not put the word "Heisman" anywear near Gardner for a little while, especially after a game where he threw two picks on 16 attempts?  We're living up to the entire college football world's stereotype of celebrating a "September Heisman."

It was a good game.  Offense dominated a very bad MAC defense, like they should.  Defense looked awesome with a good portion of CMU offense being attributable to backup safeties.  

I think it's really hard to take too much from this game.  Next week will be a much better barometer.


September 1st, 2013 at 1:27 AM ^

I think he has Heisman talent. He might not ever get that far, but he has no limitations. He's got size, speed, arm strength, pocket awareness, and the desire to get better. Truthfully, his biggest hurdle could be the receivers he has. If Braxton Miller is a candidate, then I don't see why Devin isn't.


September 1st, 2013 at 7:59 AM ^

Stop the talk about Gardner leaving early for the NFL? He's not remotely ready. An NFL caliber QB doesn't throw two picks against weak competition. And unfortunately, he is not playing within a well-conceived passing offense, which is going to hurt his numbers all year. There were dozens of QBs who had far better numbers and performances than Gardner did yesterday.


August 31st, 2013 at 9:19 PM ^

It must be because recruits' parents prefer Urban to Hoke as a father figure with his strong Christian values, ethics, and overall genuine and authentic nature.  Urban is a character guy who places academics and integrity first...a true molder of men.