Yesterday in Ann Arbor was the beginning of a new season—and the end of a very long one. Deep passes, long runs from scrimmage, and a quarterback that can scramble—check that, two quarterbacks that can scramble.
If the 31-7 win over Western Michigan is any indicator of the way the season is going, then Michigan's program, and its fans, will be redeemed this season. The overpracticing allegations now seem squarely in the rear-view mirror.
A decisive win in the first game of the 2009 season is a step in that direction, but the Wolverines still have a tough schedule and new spread offense to perfect before they'll back in the BCS picture. The Broncos were only a warmup for next week's Fighting Irish, who also looked good in their opener.
The biggest story of the game was the play of true freshman quarterbacks Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson and coach Rich Rodriguez's crazy idea of rotating all three of his quarterbacks throughout the game. So far, the plan has worked, at least as far as the freshmen are concerned. It was obvious that senior Nick Sheridan isn't made for this offense and is best suited to be holding the clipboard this season.
Forcier started the game and took the majority of the snaps, passing for 179 yards and three touchdowns. By enrolling in school early and having more time to grasp the playbook, he'll clearly be considered the "starter" this season.
Denard "Shoelace" Robinson also showed a lot of promise and a lot of flash in the game, taking his first snap, dropping it, picking it up, and still having the talent to dash past the defenders for a 43-yard touchdown run. Robinson will bring an explosive playmaking element to Michigan football that hasn't been seen since...well, ever.
Credit for the win also has to be given the defense, which looks like the one that Michigan fans were promised last year. Defensive coordinator Greg Robinson's overhaul of the unit was impressive, allowing only one first down in the Broncos' first seven drives. The only time there was a real breakdown was in the fourth quarter on a Tim Hiller 73-yard touchdown pass to Juan Nunez.
Even though Hiller is considered one of the best quarterbacks in the MAC and a possible high-round draft choice, he's no Jimmy Clausen. Next week, Clausen will have a lot more talent surrounding him than the Broncos had around Hiller.
All in all, it was a good day for the Wolverines and a much needed confidence builder. The fan support around the team and Rodriguez was apparent, especially after the first touchdown pass. I'm not sure if most of the alumni sold their tickets to undergrads or if the still-being-constructed luxury boxes are keeping more of the sound in, but Michigan Stadium was a lot louder than usual.
Hopefully, the exciting feeling that usually precedes Saturdays in the fall will replace the apprehension that Michigan fans have been feeling since last season.