The fears of establishing the run early in the season appear to have eased a little bit... At least for now.
Michigan's running game got off to a hot start in the second half as both sophomores Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith paced the Wolverines to a 52-14 victory over the Appalachian State Mountaineers on Saturday. It was the first time Michigan had two 100 yard running backs in the same game since Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown did it against Minnesota on Oct. 27, 2007.
"I think our football team was ready," said Michigan coach Brady Hoke. "You could tell how they really prepared the whole week. I think it was important to get on the board first and for our defense to get on the field first. The offense feeds off each other a little bit.
"I still think coming out in the third quarter, we need to do a better job coming out just like we did in the first quarter."
Michigan started the second half strong when Green, the Wolverines' leading rusher, burst through the line for a 62-yard gain on its first drive. Green finished the drive off with a one-yard touchdown to extend the Wolverines lead by 42. Green would finish the day with 15 carries for 170 yards and one touchdown.
"(Saturday's performance) meant a lot. That was one of the big things heading into this game that we emphasize was running the ball and getting it downhill," Green said. "That's what our offense is about, that's what we try to do. Our offensive line did a great job getting off blocks and holding blocks."
For at least one game, the offensive line wasn't so much of a question mark as it was leading up to the season. Opening up big holes for Green and Smith to run through.
"They did a great job," Green said. "They were getting after it every day in camp and giving it their all. I feel like today, I give all my credit to them. Without them I wouldn't have the numbers I did and they just executed every play."
Saturday was also another record-setting day for a Michigan receiver. On a day where he was honored with the No. 1 jersey, junior Devin Funchess was the first receiver in Michigan history to record three touchdowns, all in the first half, in an opener. He finished the day with seven receptions for 95 yards and three touchdowns.
Funchess' quarterback counterpart, Devin Gardner, had an efficient game. Throwing a single incompletion, mid-way through the third quarter, he finished with 173-yards and three touchdowns. He also surpassed Tom Brady on the all-time career passing list with his 36th career passing touchdown.
"Number one we wanted him to manage the game and take care of the football," Hoke said. "I think he made some really good decisions and he changed a play or two at the line of scrimmage and I thought he played locked in to what was going on.
"I think Doug (Nussmeier) being on the sideline helps in this situation because of being able to talk to him between series and make adjustments."
The Wolverines went off to a hot start as they carved up the Mountaineer secondary through the air. Resulting in an easy Gardner to Funchess connection down the middle for a nine-yard touchdown. The two would hook up two more times in the first half to extend Michigan's lead to 21-0.
Smith capped off Michigan's next drive with two runs, one for 61 yards and his touchdown scoring 12-yarder, to extend the Wolverine's lead to 28. Smith would finish his very efficient day with eight carries for 115 yards and two touchdowns. He averaged about 14 yards per carry.
Michigan would go on to score again in the second quarter by the way of a Mike McCray blocked punt which was returned 32 yards by Ben Gedeon for a touchdown. The Wolverines would score 42 unanswered points until the Mountaineers would finally answer in the third quarter with a eight-yard touchdown pass from Kameron Bryant to Simms McElfresh to stop the streak, making the score 42-7. The Mountaineers would go on to score again during garbage time, capping off a long drive with a one-yard touchdown from Marcus Cox to make the score 49-14.
The scoring would end with a Matt Wile 18 yard chip shot to extend Michigan's lead to 52-14.
The Wolverines and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier making his debut on the sidelines finished with 560 total yards, 345 of those yards were on the ground with a nine yard average. The Mountaineers, who had trouble moving the ball all game long, finished with 278 total yards and eclipsed 100 yards passing late in the fourth quarter.
Michigan will head to South Bend next Saturday Sept. 6 to face Notre Dame under the lights. It is the last time the two teams will play for the foreseeable future.
"That's one of the big rivalries," said senior defensive end Frank Clark. "You've got Notre Dame and Michigan, (Michigan) State and Michigan and Ohio (State) and Michigan. For a team to opt out of that contract and to opt out of playing another team that's a rival and a big game, it's almost like a slap in the face.
"We have to do what we have to do to get the job done."