Michigan Football: A Look at Wolverines' Season-Openers Since 2002

Adam BiggersSenior Analyst IIAugust 23, 2012

Michigan Football: A Look at Wolverines' Season-Openers Since 2002

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    The Michigan Wolverines open their 2012 season Sept. 1 against the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington in one of the most-anticipated—if not the most anticipated—games of the fall.

    That's regardless of level.

    The Wolverines versus the Tide is a major matchup, and a loss by either team could all but take it out of national title contention this season.

    While Alabama is favored to win, the Wolverines could pull off a huge upset if they execute a clean game plan. Some expect a blowout in Alabama's favor, while others feel Michigan could keep the game tight into the late stages.

    As college football fans eagerly await kickoff Sept. 1, why not take a look at the Wolverines' past season-openers. Games like 2002's duel with Washington was a classic way to start the year. Michigan's loss to Appalachian State in 2007 was an absolute shocker, and Denard Robinson put up gigantic numbers during 2010's 30-10 win over Connecticut.

    We'll go through each opener since that Washington game, all the way to last year's rain and lightning-ridden contest against Western Michigan.

    Follow Bleacher Report Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

2002 -- Michigan Sneaks by Washington Huskies Thanks to Brabbs

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    Michigan's 31-29 season-opening win over the Washington Huskies in 2002 was a back-and-forth battle that was decided by a kicker.

    Wolverines walk-on Philip Brabbs already missed two field goals prior to nailing the 44-yard game-winning kick as time expired. Needless to say, he was a pretty popular guy after that one.

    "I didn't know how to react,'' Brabbs told the Associated Press after the game. "I started doing circles around the field, then I got tackled by one of my teammates. Then I had 10 guys on top of me, then everybody piled on and I got scrunched.''

    Unfortunately, Brabbs was later diagnosed with cancer. You can show your support on his foundation's Facebook page or visit www.cancerkicker.org.

    Michigan running back Chris Perry had a field day on the ground, rushing for 120 yards and two scores against the Huskies defense.

    Quarterback John Navarre went 22-for-38, good for 268 yards, a touchdown, and one pick.

    Michigan finished the season with a 10-3 record and beat the Florida Gators in the Outback Bowl, 38-30.

2003: Michigan Serves Central Michigan a Grand-Style Beatdown

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    Poor guys.

    The Central Michigan Chippewas couldn't catch a break in 2003 during their season-opening, 45-7 loss to the Michigan Wolverines.

    Wolverines star running back Chris Perry went off—I mean, the guy really went off—by way of a 232-yard how-to-run-a-football clinic at The Big House. He averaged 10.5 yards per carry, making it look all too easy in the process.

    And he scored twice.

    It was hard to watch for Chippewas fans. But such is life.

    Michigan took it easy in the first half, leading just 17-0 at break. Then things shifted into high gear, and the Wolverines piled on 21 points in the third quarter to slam the door on their distant neighbors from Mt. Pleasant.

    Michigan finished the season 10-3 and lost 28-14 to the USC Trojans in the Rose Bowl.

2004: Michigan Slaps Miami-Ohio, Braylon Edwards Has a Little Fun

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    Braylon Edwards is a Michigan Wolverines football legend.

    And while he had much better games during his career, something about his six-catch, 91-yard showing in the Wolverines' 43-10 season-opening win over Miami-Ohio in 2004 stands out for some reason.

    Maybe it was the fact that he looked like he was toying with Miami-Ohio defensive backs. Maybe it was the fact that quarterback Chad Henne didn't have to throw the ball his way.

    The game stats suggest the game should have been much closer than it was. Michigan didn't really dominate any category with heavy-handed authority, but Miami-Ohio committed seven turnovers.

    "I thought the momentum was wearing white and I felt pretty good about our chances," RedHawks coach Terry Hoeppner said after Mike Smith's 1-yard touchdown run. After the PAT, the Redhawks trailed 24-10 in the third quarter.

    Well, a coach's optimism is to be appreciated, right? But the momentum was wearing Maize and Blue.

    Michigan finished the season with a 9-3 record and lost 38-37 to the Texas Longhorns in the Rose Bowl.

2005: Mike Hart Gives It to Northern Illinois

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    The Wolverines had a little trouble during their 2005 season-opener with Northern Illinois.

    Leading just 14-10 in the second quarter, Wolverines running back Mike Hart's 2-yard touchdown set off a 19-point scoring spree that led to a 33-17 victory.

    Hart finished with a 27-carry, 117-yard day on the ground to go with a four-catch 49-yard performance as a receiver.  

    After catching a screen pass in the first quarter, Hart sprinted for a 34-yard touchdown. He also got a little physical, laying out an inside linebacker that had a 50-pound weight advantage.

    "I knew Mike was fast, but he surprised me with his power when I saw him run that dude over," said Marlin Jackson, a former teammate of Hart's.

    Receiver Jason Avant hauled in nine catches, good for 127 yards.

    Michigan finished the year with a 7-5 record and lost 32-28 to the Nebraska Huskers in the Alamo Bowl.

2006: Mike Hart Proves to Be a Workhorse Against Vanderbilt

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    The offense just wasn't clicking in Michigan's 27-7 season-opening win over Vanderbilt in 2006.

    But Wolverines running back Mike Hart was there to carry the load. He toted the ball 31 times, gaining 146 yards, to push his team past the Commodores.

    "We made a lot of mistakes that were drive-killers," Hart said. "That's one thing we can't have in bigger games. Every time you win, you're going to be happy. But we need to improve a lot to be a championship contender."

    Michigan was indeed a national title contender that year. Then second-ranked, the Wolverines met the top-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes in one of the greatest college football games to date, but lost 42-39 on the final Saturday of the season.

    The Wolverines finished the season with an 11-2 record and lost 32-18 to the USC Trojans in the Rose Bowl.

2007: Appalachian State Shocks the World with Win over Michigan

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    There has been quite a buzz—pardon the pun—surrounding Michigan's 2007 season-opening loss to Appalachian State.

    The FCS power shocked the Wolverines at The Big House with a 34-32 victory in front of over 100,000 fans—fans that left in disbelief and humiliation.

    Appalachian State led 28-17 at the half, but scored just six points in the final two quarters. However, Corey Lynch helped the Moutaineers do the impossible by blocking Michigan's 37-yard field goal attempt in the fourth quarter.

    The block sealed the win.

    That game has been debated for five years. Was it a changing of the guard in Michigan football? Starting in 2008, the program then went through a three-year long dark period under coach Rich Rodriguez.

    How did Michigan fall to an FCS school? If you believe a story by Chat Sports' Ace Williams, the Wolverines met their demise because they weren't only unprepared, but some were reportedly under the influence of marijuana.

    The story says Michigan, according to one of its former players, was essentially so cocky and fearless that some of its athletes wanted to see just how badly they could defeat the Mountaineers while stoned.

    I'm not so sure about that report, though. Seems kind of odd for a former Wolverines player to come out five years later and make such damning remarks. Chat Sports says it'll reveal the name of the former player in November.

    But don't hold your breath.

    And if you post on MGoBlog.com, don't mention the Williams story. You will be banned. Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon dismissed the "report" as nothing but unattributed garbage.

    Give Appalachian State its respect; it came to play. Michigan, whether its players were high or not, simply wasn't ready.

    "It is one of the biggest losses ever, but give all the credit to Appalachian State," Wolverines running back Mike Hart said.

    Michigan finished the year with a 9-4 record and beat the Florida Gators in the Capital One Bowl, 41-35.

2008: Utah Escapes 'The Big House' with a Slim Victory

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    Back-to-back season-opening losses could never happen to a Michigan Wolverines team, right?

    Nope.

    The Utah Utes came into Ann Arbor in 2008 and left with a 25-23 win over the Wolverines, adding salt to a gaping year-old wound that was Michigan's loss to Appalachian State in 2007.

    Rich Rodriguez made his debut as Michigan's head coach that day. It's safe to say that the result wasn't what he was looking for.

    "They deserved to win," Rodriguez said of Utah.

    Utah quarterback Brian Johnson lit up the Wolverines secondary with 305 passing yards; he completed 21-of-33 passes and looked nearly unstoppable.

    Wolverines signal-caller Nick Sheridan completed 11-of-19 passes and threw for 98 yards.

    Michigan had arguably its worst season ever during Rodriguez's first fall, posting a shameful 3-9 record. No bowl game score to report for that year, obviously.

2009: Let the 'Force' Be with You Against Western Michigan, Tate

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    Michigan won its 2009 opener.

    Finally.

    Two straight season-opening losses were really starting to irritate the Maize and Blue faithful.

    It was a new season, a new day—the second season under coach Rich Rodriguez—and the Wolverines posted a 31-7 win over the Western Michigan Broncos.

    Quarterback Tate Forcier was the new sheriff in town; he was the answer, the hero Wolverines fans wanted. He completed 13-of-20 passes en route to passing for 179 yards and three scores against Western Michigan. Star receiver Junior Hemingway was on the end of five of those throws, hauling in 103 yards and two touchdowns.

    Things were coming together under Rodriguez, right? Michigan was on its way to forgetting a 3-9 record, but replaced it with a 5-7 mark. 

    Wolverines fans wanted Rodriguez's head on a platter after another very un-Michigan-like fall.

2010: Denard Robinson Goes to Work in Michigan's Win over Connecticut

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    Well, the Tate Forcier experiment didn't last long.

    Michigan needed a change of pace, so it summoned sophomore Denard Robinson to run the show during 2010's 30-10 season-opening win over Connecticut, or "UConn," for all you nickname lovers.

    Robinson couldn't be stopped. By anyone.

    He rushed for 197 yards and threw for 186 yards, scoring touchdowns by air and by ground in his first career start. He basically put his name right on top of the Heisman Trophy candidate list; it was only week one.

    The Huskies tried everything to hold Robinson, but nothing worked.

    "They were like, 'Take his shoe! Take his shoe!'" Robinson recalled. "They took them off, one of the plays, when I ran and got a first down.

    "They were trying to slow me down, I guess."

    Were those shoes untied, by chance?

    To this day, Robinson's exploits against the Huskies are romanticized by college football fans everywhere. The "Shoelace" phenomenon began, and No. 16 Michigan football jerseys flew off the shelves.

    Despite an electric opener by Robinson, Michigan struggled in 2010, posting a 7-5 record to go with a 52-14 Gator Bowl loss to Mississippi State.

2011: Rain, Rain Go Away; Michigan Beats Western Michigan in Hoke's Debut

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    Mother Nature didn't cooperate during Michigan's 2011 season-opening win over Western Michigan.

    Rain and lightning shortened the contest, but the Wolverines managed a 34-10 advantage in coach Brady Hoke's debut before the game was called.

    There weren't any blockbuster stats put up by the Wolverines that day: Denard Robinson threw for 98 yards, Fitzgerald Toussaint rushed for 80 yards and two touchdowns, and Junior Hemingway had a 37-yard catch.

    That was it, really.

    Nothing more tell about this one.

    Michigan finished the year 11-2 and claimed a 23-20 overtime win over Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl.

    Follow Bleacher Report Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81