Saturday, August 30, 2014

Mountaineers Fall in Season Opener at Michigan

Michigan broke open a 14-0 ballgame with three touchdowns in the final four minutes of the first half and went on to avenge its 2007 loss to Appalachian State University football with a 52-14 win over the Mountaineers on Saturday afternoon at Michigan Stadium.

Appalachian State (0-1) remained within striking distance for most of the first half but Michigan’s three touchdowns over a 3:11 span in the waning minutes before halftime squelched any hopes of the Mountaineers replicating their historic victory over the No. 5-ranked Wolverines seven season openers ago.

Michigan’s three-touchdown spurt was sparked by stopping true freshman Jaylan Barbour just short of a first down on third-and-seven from the Appalachian State 30 yard line more than halfway through the second quarter. On fourth-and-inches from the 37, App State was forced to punt after failing to get a play off and calling timeout.

On the first play after the punt, Michigan’s Derrick Green rushed 59 yards to the Appalachian State 23 and two plays later, Devin Funchess caught his third touchdown pass of the first half from Devin Gardner and U-M stretched the lead to 21-0.

The Mountaineers were forced to punt again on their ensuing possession and Michigan needed just two plays — 61 and 12 yard runs by De’Veon Smith — to make it 28-0 with 1:26 to go in the half.

Just 38 seconds later, U-M’s Mike McCray got a hand on a punt by Bentlee Critcher and Ben Gideon returned the block 32 yards for a touchdown that gave the Wolverines a 35-0 halftime lead.

After being limited to just 74 yards and no points in the first half, Appalachian State put together a pair of long touchdown drives after the break.

Midway through the third quarter, starting quarterback Kameron Bryant engineered an 11-play, 75-yard drive that was capped by an acrobatic eight-yard touchdown catch by Simms McElfresh in the back of the end zone that got the Mountaineers on the board.

In the final period, redshirt freshman Taylor Lamb led an impressive 19-play, 96-yard drive that culminated with a one-yard touchdown run by Marcus Cox.

However, the story of the game offensively for Appalachian State was redshirt freshman running back Terrence Upshaw, who rushed for 109 yards on 18 carries (6.1 avg.) in his collegiate debut. Cox, who did not start after missing much of the last two weeks of practice due to a lower-body injury, picked up 47 yards on 11 rushes (4.3 avg.).

McElfresh led the Mountaineers with five receptions while Barbour tallied a team-high 40 receiving yards.

Michigan was paced by Funchess, who had game highs with seven receptions and 95 receiving yards — including touchdown catches of nine, 34 and eight yards. In the process, he became the first Wolverine to ever haul in three touchdown receptions in a season opener.

Green (170) and Smith (115) both rushed for 100 yards for Michigan while Gardner completed 13-of-14 passes for 173 yards.

In all, the Wolverines doubled the Mountaineers up in terms of total yardage (560-280).

Appalachian State returns to action next Saturday when it opens the home portion of its first NCAA Division I FBS campaign versus Campbell. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. at Kidd Brewer Stadium.

NOTES: Appalachian State safety Doug Middleton led all tacklers with eight ... App State was 0-for-9 on third downs before McElfresh’s touchdown catch on third-and-goal midway through the third quarter ... the Mountaineers finished 5-of-17 on third downs while Michigan was 5-of-8 ... Appalachian fell to 3-9 in its last 12 season openers (all 12 have been played on the road) ... the Sun Belt Conference fell to 2-22 all-time versus Big Ten opponents ... the game was Michigan’s first ever against a Sun Belt member.

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