Saturday, August 30, 2014

Devins, Two-Headed Running Attack Wipe Out Appalachian State

The Devin-to-Devin Show got the ball rolling.

Quarterback Devin Gardner connected with wide receiver Devin Funchess for three touchdowns before halftime, and tailbacks Derrick Green (170 yards) and De'Veon Smith (115) became the first Michigan tailback duo to rush for 100 yards or more apiece in the same game in seven seasons and took advantage of great blocking from the line spearheaded by center Jack Miller to complete a pounding of Appalachian State.

The balanced attack built a 42-0 lead en route to the University of Michigan football team's 52-14 victory in Saturday afternoon's (Aug. 30) season opener before 106,811 at Michigan Stadium.

And the defense limited the Mountaineers, who upset the Wolverines in 2007 in Ann Arbor, to 280 yards total offense, while the special teams provided a touchdown with Ben Gedeon's 32-yard return of a punt blocked by Mike McCray.

The common theme on each unit of the team was an urgency that permeated every play.

"We are just here to make our mark," Funchess said. "You only get one chance to make a first impression. That is what we did today. It shows all of our hard work from offseason. We came out and showed what we had today.

"We just worked hard. This offseason, we had a chip on our shoulder from last season. We went out there and gave our first impression. That first impression matters most because you only get one chance to do that." Now the challenge is to maintain that mentality over the next 11 regular season games.

The Wolverines also made a good first impression last year, dominating Central Michigan, 59-9, in the opener and beating Notre Dame, 41-30. But Michigan finished 7-6 and entered this season unranked in the polls for the first time in three years.

No. 1 is a long way off for this team, but it was acquired by Funchess, who on Saturday traded in the No. 87 jersey he was wearing to honor Wolverine tight end great Ron Kramer for the No. 1 first made famous by Anthony Carter.

"It was a great honor," Funchess said of getting the number reserved for special wideouts ever since Carter concluded his career in 1982. "I have been working hard. I asked Jake (Ryan) all offseason, 'Was I working hard? Did I earn it?' He said, 'Yes.' So, I went up and asked Coach (Brady) Hoke. Coach Hoke said he would think about it. I took the initiative to call Kurt Kramer, Ron Kramer's son, to ask him about the situation. He said that it was kay. I thanked him, and then Coach Hoke made the final decision."

Linebacker Jake Ryan wears No. 47 to honor Bennie Oosterbaan, a three-time All-American before coaching the Wolverines. Hoke asked Funchess to call the Kramer family before he would consider changing his number and then quizzed Funchess before finalizing the change.

"I asked him who has worn No. 1," Hoke said, "and he started with Anthony Carter and went down the list, so I think that he earned it."

Funchess rattled off his thoughts on Greg McMurtry, Derrick Alexander, David Terrell and Braylon Edwards -- the receivers who have continued to uphold the tradition of the number since A.C., a three-time All-American.

He watched videotape of all of them and became enamored with wearing the No. 1. Which was his favorite? "Anthony Carter, probably," Funchess said. "I have to go with him."

Bo Schembechler used the number to lure top recruits, but now the Wolverines have a system of rewarding players who produce at high standards with the numbers of the program's greatest players. And with Funchess, a 6-foot-4, 230-pound junior from Farmington Hills Harrison High, switching from tight end to split end, he switched legends.

When he spoke of the number, it was almost as if he felt it held special powers. But he dispelled that thought.

"Like you said, a number is just a number," Funchess said. "But it brings a different target for me."

Funchess did not attract much double coverage despite dominating the Mountaineers, but Hoke expects that to change in next Saturday night's (Sept. 6, 7:30 p.m.) game at Notre Dame.

"He's definitely someone you need to pay attention to," Hoke said. "I think as the year goes on, as he keeps working and as he keeps learning and keeps developing, I think that maybe more people will bracket him a little bit, put a corner over the top of him, run him a safety over the top. But then that helps (Jehu) Chesson and (Amara) Darboh and it helps (Dennis) Norfleet, and those other (receivers)."

Gardner hit nearly every pass he threw, missing only one of 14 attempts for 173 yards with nary a turnover. He has worn the No. 98 of 1940 Heisman Trophy winner Tom Harmon since last year's Notre Dame game.

Gardner looks to find more consistency with new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, who tutored outstanding quarterback AJ McCarron in a 2012 national championship season for Alabama.

Both Hoke and Gardner said the quarterback benefited from having Nussmeier on the sideline, exchanging strategy thoughts and tough love. Former offensive coordinator Al Borges worked from the press box on game days and communicated with Gardner via headsets.

"It helped me a lot in making adjustments during the game, the eye-to-eye factor," said Gardner, noting that the different run play he checked into at the line of scrimmage that resulted in Green's 62-yard run was what most pleased Nussmeier.

"He said it was the best play I made," said Gardner.

Gardner not only made the plays but checked into the right plays -- something he's been urged to do more of this year. Green rushed for 170 yards on 15 carries and Smith had 115 yards on only eight carries. Funchess caught seven passes for 95 yards.

"He's a lot more confident," Funchess said of Gardner. "And as a player, you have to bring swag to yourself. Today, he brought swag."

And together, they brought the house down on Appalachian State.

JABRILL PEPPERS UPDATE
Peppers, a five-star recruit playing as a true freshman, brought an attitude to playing the nickel back position on passing downs and a daring effectiveness in returning punts. But he left the game in the second quarter with what Hoke said was an ankle injury.

"He'll be alright," Hoke said. "I'll be honest with you, at halftime we just decided not to bring him out second half. He will be ready next week."

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