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Published: Sunday, 9/5/2004

Henne and Michigan get off to a fresh start

BY DONALD EMMONS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Michigan defenders Scott McClintock (36), Roy Manning (58), Leon Hall and Pierre Woods (99) smother Miami quarterback Josh Betts. The Wolverines forced seven turnovers. Michigan defenders Scott McClintock (36), Roy Manning (58), Leon Hall and Pierre Woods (99) smother Miami quarterback Josh Betts. The Wolverines forced seven turnovers.
MORRISON / BLADE PHOTO Enlarge

ANN ARBOR - Chad Henne arrived at Michigan with all the credentials of a can't-miss quarterback.

He threw for more than 7,000 yards and 74 touchdowns during a stellar high school career in Pennsylvania.

Some have pegged him as the next Dan Marino, perhaps the next Joe Montana.

Yesterday, Henne became the next Rick Leach by helping Michigan steamroll Miami (Ohio) 43-10 before 110,815 at Michigan Stadium.

Henne became only the second freshman in modern Michigan football history to start at quarterback in a Wolverines season opener.

Leach, who played at Michigan from 1975 to 1978, is the only other freshman to do so. He started in the Wolverines' season opener against Wisconsin in 1975, and led Michigan to a 23-6 win.

Henne, who was officially announced as the starter shortly before kickoff, completed 14 of 24 passes for 142 yards, including two touchdown passes to speedy wideout Braylon Edwards, and an interception.

"It went pretty well," Henne said. "For your first start there will always be those nerves going on. I think I handled it well. We slipped up a little bit in the first quarter but we came together and meshed the rest of the way."

Henne's surprising start came about after expected starter Matt Gutierrez was declared unable to play because of soreness in his throwing arm.

Michigan coach Lloyd Carr admitted the plan to start Henne developed on Thursday

after Gutierrez sat out two days of practice.

Carr, however, opted not to make Henne's historic start public until game day.

"I felt there was going to be enough pressure on him Saturday afternoon," said Carr, whose record improved to 8-1 in home openers. "I didn't want him to have to go through the other stuff."

Henne came far short of producing a mind-blowing performance, but it really wasn't necessary. He basically did what was asked of him and proved quite serviceable.

The Wolverines' defense ultimately made the difference in turning back a RedHawks team that entered the game with the nation's longest Division I win streak (14 games).

Michigan forced Miami into seven turnovers, including four interceptions thrown by starting quarterback Josh Betts.

Markus Curry picked off two passes while Ryan Mundy, Ernest Shazor, and Jacob Stewart accounted for one interception apiece.

"As long as we can force three turnovers or something like that each game that will be great," said Michigan linebacker Pierre Woods, who came up with one of two fumble recoveries for the defense. "Every game we have the same mind-set. We want to go out and play hard and try to get the win."

The RedHawks (1-1) kept it relatively close through the first half of the contest and were only down 10-0 at the half.

The only significant amount of offense Miami could show against Michigan came from the special teams, in particular, Central Catholic graduate Ryne Robinson and St. John's graduate Jared Parseghian.

Robinson was responsible for amassing 249 total return yards on his own, including a 70-yard punt return after halftime that set up the Redhawks' lone touchdown.

Parseghian nailed a 36-yard field goal with six minutes remaining in the third quarter to make it 24-3, ending Michigan's attempt at a season-opening shutout.

Robinson, a 5-10, 165-pound sophomore, had an apparent punt return touchdown called back in the first quarter because of a clipping call. It was the third time in two games he's scored on a punt return, only to have them negated due to penalties.

"We're probably going to lead the world in touchdowns called back again and that's frustrating," Miami coach Terry Hoeppner said. The Wolverines' first three scoring drives were set up by Miami turnovers.

Garrett Rivas gave Michigan a 3-0 lead when he kicked a 31-yard field goal with 6:53 left to play in the second quarter. Mundy came through with an interception to lead the Wolverines to their first score.

Curry followed with the first of his two interceptions moments later and returned the ball 16 yards to Miami's 9.

That led to David Underwood, who had 61 yards on 22 carries, scoring the first of his two rushing touchdowns. He scored the first of his two one-yard touchdowns by diving into the end zone on a fourth-and-goal play with 4:48 remaining in the first half.

Henne's first career touchdown pass came midway through the third quarter when he found Edwards on a 20-yard pass to give Michigan a 17-0 lead. The two would later team up for a 13-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter to stretch Michigan's lead to 36-10.

Edwards said the Wolverines never had any doubt about Henne handling the quarterbacking duties.

"Chad had already proven himself in two-a-days," Edwards said.

"He's a special kind of person who you automatically have faith in, you believe in what he can do. We just had to come out and support him and do what we were supposed to do and play better than normal.

"I would grade him 'A' for the simple fact that he's a true freshman starting in his first game in an environment like this."

Contact Donald Emmons at: demmons@theblade.com or 419-724-6302.



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