One drive was all it took to signal the return of Michigan football. After the defense stopped Western Michigan in three plays to start the game, freshman quarterback Tate Forcier took the field and marched the offense 52 yards in seven plays for the first touchdown of the 2009 season.
Forcier showed poise and confidence, throwing for 179 yards and three touchdowns and rushing 11 times for 41 yards.
The first touchdown, a 28-yard pass to redshirt sophomore receiver Junior Hemingway, saw Forcier roll out to his left, point Hemingway towards the end zone with his left hand, and deliver a perfect throw to hit Hemingway in stride and lead him into the end zone.
Forcier also hit sophomore tight end Kevin Koger in the back of the end zone in the second quarter and floated a perfect deep ball to Hemingway for a 44-yard touchdown strike.
It wasn’t all about Forcier, however, as fellow freshman quarterback, Denard Robinson wasted no time showing off the speed that has garnered so much attention in the preseason.
In his first snap at quarterback, Robinson briefly fumbled the ball, picked it up, ran to his right, cut back to the left, and took off. Once he hit full stride, no one was going to catch him as Robinson glided into the end zone to put Michigan ahead 14-0.
And just like that, two freshmen gave Michigan fans reason to forget about last season’s 3-9 debacle that often featured a lack of play-making ability at quarterback.
Robinson led the team in rushing with 74 yards on 11 carries, while senior Carlos Brown, who started the game at running back in place of injured senior Brandon Minor, rushed 10 times for 54 yards.
Hemingway became Michigan’s first 100-yard man of the season, racking up 103 yards on five catches to go along with his two touchdowns.
The Michigan defense stepped up and held Western Michigan senior quarterback Tim Hiller in check all day, sacking him twice and picking off two passes.
Hiller finished the game with 259 yards passing, nearly all of which came in the second half when the game was already out of reach.
Quote of the Day
“It's unbelievable. I can't thank the fans enough for how they supported this football team. They always have. Thousands and thousands of fans lined up for the Victor's Walk. It sent chills down all of our young men's spines. They were in the game from the very start. We have a tremendous fans support, and we felt it all week.”
-UM head coach Rich Rodriguez on the fan support following last week’s Detroit Free Press allegations of NCAA violations.
Quote of the Day II
“On the second touchdown, he [Denard Robinson] fumbles the ball, picks it up, and makes a very athletic move. We have to look over and tip your hat to him, he did a great job. I think with the speed of the game, it's just different. You go into [Michigan Stadium] and there are 110,000 people there.
"There's a lot going on. We were ready to play, but the speed of the game was a little bit different. You tell these kids that, but until you see it, it's hard.”
-WMU Head Coach Bill Cubit. It’s great to hear an opposing coach talk about Michigan’s speed. For years, commentators have talked about Michigan’s lack of speed in comparison to teams from other conferences.
Stat of the Day
Michigan didn’t lose a fumble for the first time in its last seven games. The last time Michigan went a game without losing a fumble was Oct. 11 last season against another Mid-American Conference team, Toledo.
Carlos Brown fumbled once, but Michigan recovered. Fumbles seemed to plague the team last season, so it was good to see the big blue take care of the ball today.
Stat of the Day II
Tate Forcier became the third true freshman in Michigan history to start the season opener. The other two, Rick Leach and Chad Henne, combined to win 74 games over their careers, an average of over nine wins per season.
Leach threw 48 touchdown passes in his career and finished third for the Heisman trophy following his senior year.
Henne threw for 87 touchdowns in his career and set Michigan records for career passing yards and touchdowns.
Suffice to say, Forcier is in good company.
Random Note of the Day
I went to my favorite local NYC bar, Bullpen, to watch the game with my wife because she's a Notre Dame fan, so we could watch both games. When I had the bartender turn on ESPN2, I was disappointed to see the Minnesota-Syracuse game going into overtime.
So instead of seeing the big blue run out of the tunnel and touch the banner, and instead of seeing the first kickoff of the season, I had to watch the end of Minnesota vs. Syracuse. I was pretty bitter about that. Thankfully, it lasted just one OT and ESPN2 switched over just in time to see Forcier's first touchdown pass. Crisis averted.
Five Go Blue Observations
1. It was great to see all the signs in support of Rich Rodriguez throughout the stadium. Nearly every time the TV cameras panned the crowd, you could see an “In Rod We Trust” sign. Many around the country were wondering how the Michigan fan base would respond to last week’s allegations, and I think the nation saw a unified Michigan family.
2. ESPN/ABC announcers Mike Patrick and Craig James didn’t mention the Free Press allegations much in the first half, but did talk about them a lot in the second half. James called it a “witch hunt” and both seemed to stick up for Michigan.
3. Is it just me, or does anyone else expect to see a Free Press headline demeaning Michigan’s win? I’m waiting for something along the lines of, “Michigan Exudes Too Much Sweat in Win; NCAA Should Investigate” or “Rodriguez Plays Too Many Freshmen; Current and Former Players Say It’s Not Fair.”
4. How good was Michigan’s tackling today? New defensive coordinator, Greg Robinson, made a focus on tackling a priority when he took over from Scott Shafer, and there was hardly a missed tackle all game. Last year, and even the past few years, it seems Michigan has forgotten the art of tackling, but not today.
5. I hardly saw Martavious Odoms the entire game, but he threw a great block on Denard Robinson’s touchdown run. He was lined up on the opposite side of the field, ran all the way across, and blocked a linebacker at the sideline to free up Robinson’s cut back. Great hustle for a kid that was one of the lone bright spots of last year’s team as a true freshman.
Five Non-Go Blue Observations
1. I think Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel almost cost the Buckeyes the game against Navy. Leading 29-14 with 6:30 remaining, Tressel elected to go for it on fourth-and-two from the Navy 15 yard line. A field goal would have put Navy three scores away. Instead, Ohio State didn’t convert and Navy connected on an 85-yard touchdown pass on the very next play to pull within a touchdown and two point conversion.
That’s the sort of thing that killed me with Lloyd Carr. He never seemed to put the other team away. I don’t advocate running up the score, but at least finish the game.
2. I feel bad for Greg Paulus. In his college football debut at Syracuse, Paulus threw for 167 yards, but made a huge mistake on the first possession of overtime, throwing an interception in the end zone. Minnesota then won with a field goal. I’m not a Duke fan or a Syracuse fan, but I sort of feel bad for the guy.
3. Notre Dame looked great today, especially offensively. However, let’s not forget that Nevada’s defense ranked dead last in pass defense last season. That being said, Notre Dame is in for a great season and I’m looking forward to next weekend’s showdown.
4. Oklahoma becomes the first big upset of the season, and I can’t say I’m disappointed. I tend to lean more towards Texas in the Big 12, and thought they deserved to be in the National Championship game last year instead of Oklahoma. The season isn’t over for the Sooners, but this is some good college football justice.
5. Is Iowa really as bad as it played this week, or will it be as good as expected? I didn’t get to see the game, but saw the score updates, and couldn’t believe Northern Iowa was sticking around, and even had a chance to win at the end.
And it was in Kinnick Stadium, which is considered a tough place for opponents to win. But alas, Iowa won, and the Big Ten went 10-1 on opening weekend.